The legendary command, “Don’t fire until you see the whites of their eyes” has come to symbolize the conviction and determination of the ill-equipped American colonists facing the world’s most powerful army during the “Battle of Bunker Hill”, June 17, 1775. Most of the fighting actually took place on Breed’s Hill, the site of the existing monument, a 221-foot granite obelisk.
The Battle of Bunker Hill was the first major battle of the American Revolution. Despite the colonial army’s shortcomings, it was led by such capable men as Colonel William Prescott, Colonel John Stark and General Israel Putnam, who had experience fighting alongside the British in the French and Indian War. Although the British Army ultimately prevailed in the battle, the colonists greatly surprised the British by repelling two major assaults and inflicting great casualties. Out of the 2,200 British ground forces and artillery engaged at the battle, almost half (1,034) became killed or wounded. The colonists lost between 400 and 600 combined casualties, including popular patriot leader and newly-elected Major-General Dr. Joseph Warren, who was killed during the third and final assault.