The Courage of William Prescott

Part 2: The Battle Itself

Now, the British numbered 2,300, a little less than twice as many as the Americans. That was more than enough to overwhelm the troops at the top of the hill.

The British began to march up the hill. They didn't fire their guns at first. They marched up with bayonets fixed, prepared to do close combat with the stubborn Americans.

Colonel William Prescott was given command of the Americans, who had come from all over New England. Prescott knew that he had far fewer men than the British did. He also knew that he probably had far less ammunition.

Prepared for the worst, Prescott gave his men the famous order: "Don't fire until you see the whites of their eyes." Many historians think that he said this to conserve ammunition. It could also have been that he didn't want his eager troops to fire before the enemy was in range. Whatever the reason, the Americans held their fire until the Redcoats were in range. Then, shots rang out.

The British returned fire, then charged. They overwhelmed the American defenders, who retreated from the battlefield.

Next page > Courage Wins the Day > Page 1, 2, 3


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David White