Monday, November 10, 2008

The Trees Were Dripping Blood

Moving as silently as the ants crawling under them, the regiment crawled slowly up the hill. Tasked with denying the invading British from taking the peninsula of Charlestown across from Boston Harbor, the men of the American Continental Army took up positions on Breed's Hill, building fortifications amongst the trees that consisted of bales of hay and cotton.

Consisting of only about 1,500 men, the Americans faced down a formidable opposing force made up of five full British infantry and artillery regiments, as well as a company of British Royal Marines. Stealth was the name of the game here in order to get their fortifications in place, but unfortunately the Americans' activities were spied by a British General aboard the H.M.S. Lively, which immediately began to shell the American positions.

Fire rained down from the sky and bodies were torn asunder, but the American force stayed put and refused to give the ground up to the British. Fear gripped the men as they extended their scant cover to the sea and more men arrived on the hill behind the main American force, an incline known as Bunker Hill. Try as he might, the American commander could not convince the men on Bunker Hill to move forward to Breed's Hill in order to swell the ranks of the soldiers holding there.

British General Howe landed his forces on the southern shore of the peninsula, ignoring the advice of his field commanders, who wished to go around to the other side and land their army behind the American positions. Seriously over estimating the superiority of his position and under estimating the Americans fighting ability and determination.

Launching a frontal assault on Breed's Hill with his infantry, Howe was shocked at the casualties he incurred and sent the entire body of his forces against the Hill. Harrassed by American snipers inside the city of Charlestown, Howe had his ships in the harbor bombard the American positions and completely burned Charlestown to the ground. This murderous action was seen by the American soldiers on both hills, and when a senior commander escaped from the conflagration and rode up to General Prescott atop Breed's Hill, he was asked how many dead and wounded there were in the town. The commander replied that the trees themselves were dripping blood, body parts littered the thoroughfares, and that he was probably the only one left alive.

The main body of British troops moved in line formation up the steep side of Breed's Hill only to be repelled once more with heavy casualties. It has been noted that the battle may never have lasted as long as it did had the British not made the foolhardy mistake of having only twelve pound shells and six pound guns. With no artillery fire to soften the American positions other than from the ships in the harbor, the only recourse was to attempt to overwhelm the Americans with sheer numbers. And so a third attack was launched all along the entrenchment lines. Exhausted and almost completely out of ammunition, the Americans retreated with no pursuit by the British.

All told, the British suffered about 1,500 dead and wounded while the escaping Americans' casualties were placed at 450 dead and wounded. Even though history records this battle as a loss for the American forces, it can also be seen as a victory of the spirit and tenacity of the military to come. The Americans never surrendered, and refused to yield until their very last bullet was gone.

This, the very first battle of The Revolutionary War in which the Continental Army took part, somehow ended up being placed into the history books as The Battle Of Bunker Hill, but the fact is, all of the fighting took place in Charlestown and the forward incline called Breed's Hill. In point of fact, when ordered to reinforce those on Breed's Hill, the soldiers on Bunker Hill refused, leading to an aftermath of confusion within the Continental Army's ranks, which in turn led to the Americans putting together one of the finest military machines ever to grace the earth.

Wars and more wars have followed on the heels of our victory in the Revolutionary War. From 1812, two world wars, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan, to the smaller conflicts called police actions by some, the United States Military has been the first ones in and the last ones out. None can match their superior skills in battle, and as the greatest fighting machine ever to grace the world stage, they are feared by our enemies.

Today we honor all of those who have come before, those who serve now, and also the ones who will guard the walls in the future. We always complain about the wars we get into, we're all guilty of it. Honoring and remembering those who have given their lives to keep us safe is the least we can do.

But what about the veterans who live among us? Who cares for them? We all see them every day as we scurry about our busy lives. We see the wheel chairs on the street corners, the cup and the sign outstretched. Who looks out for these broken lives who served and fought, who kept watch at the gate, and came home to find there was no further use for them, and were discarded? Think about this today. Ask yourself why we treat our finest and our bravest as they they were expendable pieces of meat. And then go back out and put some money in that veteran's cup, go home, and call your Congress Person, demanding that more money be allocated for veteran's services. Nothing else is even close to honorable, and nothing less will suffice. It is our duty to fully care for the wounded who can not care for themselves, those whose minds have deserted them because of what they've seen and done, those with families they can't afford to feed. They have served us with honor and we must now serve them back with the same degree of honor. Just imagine if no one decided to watch the gate and guard the walls.

Semper Fi.

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