June 2, 2006


Green's story, Day 5: Untrained men face a formidable foe (GERALD M. CARBONE, 6/01/056, Providence Journal)

On his return to Roxbury, Greene found the Rhode Island camp "in great commotion." Entire companies were threatening to march home, partly because of the corruption of merchants who won contracts to supply the army's food. A Providence baker sent barrels of moldy bread. The beef, too, was tainted.

On inspection, Greene found his troops hungry, dirty, poorly trained and undisciplined.

Greene cracked down. He drilled his troops on the parade ground daily, and insisted that they scrub their fire locks with hot water. In his general orders of June 4, he warned the officers to Supress as much as Posable all Debauchery and Vulgar Language Inconsistent with the Character of Soldiers. He banned card playing in camp because the losers resented the winners taking their money.

After stemming the insurrection in his camp, Greene again returned to Rhode Island in an attempt to muster more troops. This time he did get to see Caty, but after midnight on June 18, 1775, business called him from their bed. A courier carried the news that the British had marched from Boston and attacked the Americans' new position on Bunker Hill.

Greene rode all night, his horse's hooves pounding through Swansea, Dighton and Taunton along the post road to Boston. At daybreak he arrived at camp; looking down from his hill at Roxbury he saw smoke and flames smoldering from Charlestown, where many British regulars had torched the houses on their march toward Bunker Hill.

Greene missed the Battle of Bunker Hill, but he watched and heard the cannonading that went on after it:

The action began yesterday, continued all last night and Charlestown is burnt down, and they are now closely engaged today, Greene wrote to the Rhode Island Committee of Safety. The number of the slain and wounded on either side is not known, but very considerable.

At the end of the day the British held Bunker Hill, but at an enormous price. The Americans lost 441 men killed or wounded; British casualties totaled at least 828 wounded and 226 killed, including 92 officers.

Greene wrote to his brother, Jacob, back in Rhode Island: I wish [we] could Sell them another Hill at the same Price we did Bunkers Hill.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 2, 2006 5:24 PM

Bunker Hill was one more chapter in the story of the American Rifleman. British histories of the Revolution and of 1812 made much of American point-fire capability.

The rifle bullet was the precision guided munition of its day.

Posted by: Lou Gots at June 2, 2006 5:37 PM