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Will Colonel Grant believe now, that New-England men dare look Regulars in the face ? Eighteen hundred of their best men retreating with loss, before one-third of their number, seems almost incredible; and I think must be called an omen for good. In every struggle Heaven has, as yet, given us strength equal to the days; its hand is not shortened, nor its arm weakened.
We are now called upon to show the world “that whom we call fathers did beget us," and that we desire to enjoy the blessings they purchased for us with their lives and fortunes. We fix on our Standards and Drums, the Colony Arms, with the motto, “qui transtulit sustinet,” round it in letters of gold; which we construe thus: “God, who transplanted us hither, will support us.”
From recollections of the Connecticut Historical Society.
A letter from Capt. John Chester, written from the Camp at Cambridge, July 22d, gives a general account of the battle, and a more particular one of “his own concern in it, with that of his company.” This letter was first printed (from the original in the editor's possession) by Mr. Frothingham, in the Appendix to his “History of the Siege of Boston," pp. 389–391.
In the Courant of July 31st, 1775, “A friend to Truth” calls attention to the distinguished services of “Major John Chester of Wethersfield, now Captain of a Company in General Spencer's Regiment, and Lieut. Samuel B. Webb, who marched up to the lines with their men, and re-enforced the troops; [and who] by their undaunted behavior, and timely and vigorous assistance, it is universally agreed, are justly entitled to the grateful acknowledgments of their Country.”
From recollections of the Connecticut Historical Society.
An “Extract of a letter from Wethersfield, to a gentleman in Philadelphia, dated June 22, 1775," giving some account of the battle, “gathered by letters from the camp,” is printed in Am. Archives, 4th s. ii. 1060. The writer was, probably, Joseph Webb, brother of Samuel B. He says : “Captain Chester writes me, that before it was possible for him to get there, the battle had begun in earnest,” &c. “Chester and my brother were both in the engagement;” “My brother says “we were obliged to retreat to Prospect Hill," " &c.
AMERICAN ARCHIVES, 4TH SERIES, VOL. 2, PAGE 1062. Extract of a letter from Lieut. Sam’l B. Webb, to his brother, Mr. Joseph Webb of Weathersfield.
CAMBRIDGE, June 22, 1775. Last Friday night a detachment from our Army began an intrenchment on an eminence below Bunker Hill, about a mile to the northward of the centre of the Town of Charlestown.
The enemy appeared to be much alarmed on Saturday morning, when they discovered our operations; and immediately began a heavy cannonading from a battery on Copp's Hill, Boston, and from the ships in the harbour.
Our people, with little loss, continued to carry on the works till one o'clock, P. M., on Saturday; when they discovered a large body of the enemy crossing Charles River from Boston.
They landed on a point of land about a mile eastward of our intrenchment, and immediately disposed their Army for an attack; previous to which they set fire to the Town of Charlestown.
It is supposed the enemy intended to attack us under cover of the smoke from the burning houses, the wind favouring them in such a design; while on the other side, their Army was extended northward towards Mistick River, with an apparent design of surrounding our men within the works, and of cutting off any assistance intended for their relief.
They were, however, in some measure, counteracted in this design, and drew their Army into close order.
As the enemy approached, our men were not only exposed to the attack of a very numerous musketry, but to the heavy fire of the battery on Copp's Hill, four or five men-of-war, several armed boats or floating batteries in Mistick River, and a number of fieldpieces. Notwithstanding this, our Troops within the intrenchment, and at a breast work without, sustained the enemy's attacks with real bravery and resolution, killed and wounded great numbers, and repulsed them several times; and after bearing for about two
hours as severe and heavy a fire as perhaps ever was known, and many having fired away all their ammunition, they were overpowered by numbers and obliged to leave the intrenchment,treating about sunset, to a small distance over Charlestown Neck.
Our loss, from the best information we can obtain, does not exceed fifty killed and about twenty or thirty taken prisoners.
The Town of Charlestown, supposed to contain about three hundred dwelling-houses, a great number of which were large and elegant, besides one hundred and fifty or two hundred other buildings, is almost all laid in ashes.
The enemy yet remain in possession of Charlestown, and have erected works for their defence on Bunker Hill.
It is said they have brought over some of their Light-horse from Boston. Our troops continue in high spirits. They are fortifying a very high hill about a mile and a half from this Town, and within cannon-shot of the enemy on Bunker Hill.
From Joseph Webb to Silas Deane. Before this, you must know, I conclude, that there has been a battle, in which fell the honourable, the noble Doctor Warren.
For fear you may not have the particulars, I will endeavour in part to relate to you how the affair was, according to the best accounts I can gather by letters from Col. Chester and brother Sam.
Last Friday afternoon orders were issued for about eighteen hundred of the Provincial Troops, and two hundred of the Connecticut, to parade themselves at six o'clock, with one day's provision, equipped with packs, blankets, &c.
Their orders were given at nine o'clock, and they marched with their teams, trenching tools, &c., on Bunker's Hill, to heave up an intrenchment, which you are sensible is near the water, ships, &c. They worked most surprisingly that night, and were discovered at sunrise by a sailor from the mast-head.
The British Army commenced a heavy fire from Copp's Hill, near Cutter's Church, in Boston, and from all the ships which could be brought to play; which continued till near night. About one o'clock, A. M., the Americans at Cambridge, heard that the Regulars were landing from their floating batteries. The alarm was sounded, and they were ordered down to the breastwork at Charlestown; and Captain Chester writes me, that before it was possible for him to get there, the battle had begun in earnest, and cannon and musket balls were plenty about their ears.
Chester and my brother, were both in the engagement.
They re-enforced our men who had left the breastwork in fine order, though they passed through the cannonading of the ships, bombs, chain-shot, ring-shot, &c.; but then the enemy's superior number of artillery and men (for they were three to one,) forced our men to retreat, after a warm engagement of an hour and a half.
Thank Heaven, but few of our men fell, considering the advantages they had over us,-our men being much fatigued with working at the intrenchmeats, and I believe not in the best preparation to meet an enemy.
The British Troops, to their eternal disgrace, shame, and barbarity, set Charlestown on fire with torches.
My brother Sam says, “we were obliged to retreat to Prospect Hill, (alias Winter Hill,) where we made a stand, and declared we would all die, before we would retreat any farther; but the British Troops did not think fit to come out from under the protection of their shipping. The loss of Americans is supposed to be, of wounded, missing, and slain, about one hundred and twenty.
“A large genteel, well dressed gentleman, who first mounted our breastwork, was overset by one of our impudent Americans; who took so good aim as to prevent his ever mounting another, as he tumbled him into the intrenchment just as he cried, the day is our own.' We greatly rejoice to hear of the coming of the good, the brave, and great George Washington; and shall receive him with open arms."
The following letter, written to Silas Deane, at the age of twenty, exhibits a precociousness which appears to have been characteristic of the men who achieved our independence.
Samuel B. Webb to Silas Deane.
WETHERSFIELD, Monday Evening, Octo’r 10, 1774. DEAR SIR:—By my Brother's letter from you, per Jemmy, this evening, I notice you mention my not writing you, since my leaving Philadelphia; but I have frequently heard that a man without any business, is the most busy man in the world. This I give as one reason why I have not written you
return. But the principal reason is truly this,—that my brother, as I suppose, had given you all such intelligence as would be necessary, amusing, or worth paying postage for. But as it seems you desire I should write, I risk the chance of its being acceptable or amusing, and wish I may find anything to say that may meet with the wished-for approbation,—and I take this early opportunity, for fear I may not have leisure again between this and next post.
My continual uneasiness and anxiety on account of my Sisters, who are now in Boston, has determined me to pay them a visit, and if some unforeseen incident does not prevent, I intend setting off the last of this week. I shall take Newport, Providence, &c., in my way; and will, if anything new or interesting occurs, write you from each place; but more particularly, from the present seat of noise and confusion—say Boston; the true situation of it and of the fortifications which are now erecting at the only entrance of that large capital. My brother seems more at ease about our sisters, than you, (by your letter) or I do. May all his conjectures be right. That “they are as safe there as here,” is my most fervent wish; but much I fear. On the first hostility, such as blood shed by the Troops in Boston, this Colony will most undoubtedly, be immediately under arms and march for Boston. The Light Infantry at Middletown, to which I for two years belonged, have now a very fine stand of arms which I purchased for them in New York, on my return home from Philadelphia. They have given me an invitation to make one of their number, should any emergency demand their appearance in the field; which, with my whole heart I shall readily accept, if occasion offers. But Heaven forbid we may ever arrive at such an unhappy Crisis ! But all have drawn their arms; and myself among the rest.
On my return, I personally waited on Mr. Davenport at Stamford, and upon the Selectmen of every Town which I passed through, in that county; and have the pleasure to inform you, that the Spirit of Liberty, which has so long been buried in silence, seems now to rear its head. Fairfield has had a meeting, and entered into good and spirited resolves; and they are now collecting grain for Boston. Greenwich, I am informed, and Stratford, are