The Bunker Hill Monument in Boston is an obelisk on Breeds
Hill. Why in the world would this battle be commemorated in this fashion? Does it have any significant historical meaning?
Did the designers just like the shape? And why is the monument on Breeds Hill and not Bunker Hill? Simple questions without simple answers. These were just a few of the questions I had about this obscure momument.
On June 17, 1775 a battle took place that would change the course of history. The British realized that they must secure the hills of Charleston and Dorchester Neck to take control over the rebellious colonists. When the Continental Army heard of this plan, Captain William Prescott led 1,200 men across Bunker Hill to Breeds Hill and built a dirt redoubt. It is possible that since Breed’s Hill is slightly higher than Bunker Hill that it was the hill that was chosen to build the fortification. In the light of the morning, the British army saw the fortification and prepared to attack. They set the city of Charleston on fire and began their attack. The Continental Army drove the British back two times before running out of ammunition and retreating off Breed’s Hill after a fierce bayonette attack.
The hill became recognized as sacred ground in the years following the battle but it wasn’t until 1794 that a monument was placed at the spot. The first monument honored Dr. Joseph Warren who lost his life in the battle. By the early 1800’s a group of Americans(The Bunker Hill Monument Association) began to solicit funds to build a monument to honor all who fought here. In 1825 the cornerstones were laid for the monument but by 1840, the obilisk was only half complete. Suprisingly, a group of women planned a fair and bake sale to raise funds. This lasted 8 days and raised $30,000. This along with donations from two wealthy men paid for the completion of the obilisk. The monument was dedicated on June 17, 1843 with over 100,000 people in attendance.
On that day of the dedication, Daniel Webster spoke: “the monument stands a memorial of the past, a monitor to the present, and to all succeeding generations.” This is the best description of the purpose of the monument. Why was an obelisk created to commemorate the battle? Maybe to symbolize the height ofthe hill, maybe to be a beacon that can be viewed from many areas of Boston. Whatever the reason, the monument was built to recognize all Americans who fought at the battle, even the 100-150 Native Americans and Africans who fought. It became important to Americans following the struggle for independence to remember those who fought and gave their lives for freedom. The Bunker Hill Monument serves that purpose.