History of the United States of America, from the Discovery of the Continent - Vol. 3

By George Bancroft | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER XIV.
BUNKER HILL.
June 16–17, 1775.

THE army round Boston was “a mixed multitude,” as yet “under very little discipline, order, or government.” Ward was enjoined to obey the decisions of the committee of safety, whose directions reached him through the council of war. Of the private men, great numbers were able-bodied, active, and unquestionably brave, and there were officers worthy of leading such men. But a vicious system of granting commissions to those who raised companies or regiments had opened the way to officers without capacity, and the real strength of the army was inferior to the returns. From an insufficient supply of tents, troops were quartered in the colleges and private houses. There was a want of money, of clothing, of engineers, but, above all, of ammunition. “Confusion and disorder reigned in every department.”

Each colony had its own militia laws, so that there was no uniformity in discipline. Of the soldiers from the other colonies, only the New Hampshire regiments had as yet been placed under the command of Ward. Of the men of Connecticut, a part were with Spencer at Roxbury; several hundred at Cambridge with Putnam, the second brigadier, who was distinguished for bold advice, alertness, and popular favor, and was seen constantly on horseback or on foot, working with his men or encouraging them. He repeatedly but vainly asked leave to advance the lines to Prospect Hill. Yet the army never doubted its superiority to its enemy; and danger and war were becoming attractive.

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