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By Scott Roberto / June 16, 12:00 AM
Peek at the Past: Bunker Hill Monument

Taking the mystery out of Boston history!


The sight of the 221-foot Bunker Hill Monument is no doubt a familiar one to many Bostonians. What is less certain, however, is if even locals know the real story behind this monument and the Revolutionary War battle that it commemorates.


In the early days of the uprising, the rebel colonists were a huge underdog in their fight against the vast and powerful British Empire. The pivotal Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775 was the event that started to change this perception, yet perhaps not for the reasons many might think. The outnumbered and outgunned patriots bravely repelled two major assaults from their fortified positions on the hill before ultimately losing to the British forces arrayed against them. They did, however, inflict far greater casualties on the redcoats than they experienced themselves, signalling to the Brits that these New Englanders were no pushovers.


One strange fact surrounding this momentous occurrence is that the conflict wasn’t fought on Bunker Hill at all, but on Breed’s Hill, which is just to the south of Bunker Hill. Confusion at the time between the location of the two hills—the minutemen were ordered to fortify Bunker Hill, but bypassed it in the dark—likely led to the misrepresentation, but for various reasons it has persisted.


As far as the monument itself, the obelisk that now stands on Breed’s Hill—thanks to The Bunker Hill Monument Association, which raised the initial funding—began construction in 1825. The project, which experienced significant delays, prompted some local ladies to hold a fair and bake sale in 1840, which partially funded the building’s completion. The subsequent dedication in 1843 was attended by more than 100,000 spectators, including President John Tyler, Daniel Webster and many war veterans.


To this day, June 17 is celebrated as Bunker Hill Day in the City of Boston, and many municipal offices are closed. Charlestown celebrates with a parade on Sunday, June 15, which begins at 12:30 p.m. and winds its way through the neighborhood’s streets before passing by the iconic granite edifice overlooking the city.

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