The flag flying today commemorates a battle by American colonial forces.The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775 on Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War.
On June 13, 1775, the leaders of the besieging colonial forces learned that the British generals in Boston were planning to occupy the unoccupied hills around Boston. In response to this intelligence, 1,200 colonial troops under the command of William Prescott stealthily occupied Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill, constructed an earthen redoubt on Breed's Hill, and built lightly fortified lines across most of the Charlestown Peninsula.
When the British were alerted to the presence of the new position the next day, they mounted an attack against them. After two assaults on the Colonial lines were repulsed with significant British casualties, the British finally captured the positions on the third assault, after the defenders in the redoubt ran out of ammunition. The Colonial forces retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill, suffering their most significant losses on Bunker Hill.
While the result was a victory for the British, they suffered their greatest losses of the entire war: over 800 wounded and 226 killed, including a notably large number of officers. Their immediate objective (the capture of Bunker Hill) was achieved, but did not significantly alter the state of siege. It did, however, demonstrate that relatively inexperienced Colonial forces were willing and able to stand up to well-trained troops in a pitched battle.
Drag the cursor around in the Google Streetview screen below to view the area around the Bunker Hill monument.
Some controversy exists concerning which flag flew at the Battle of Bunker Hill in 1775, at the onset of the American Revolutionary War. An officer of the Royal Marines reported that no flags were used by the rebels. John Trumbull, an known for his historic detail who witnessed the battle through a spyglass, used a red flag with a pine tree in his painting The Death of General Warren at the Battle of Bunker Hill.
Another flag which commonly represents the battle has a plain blue flag and a canton quartered with cross of St. George (the symbol of England) and a tree in a quarter of the canton. Although possibly inspired by the Blue Ensign of the Royal Navy, the blue field is said to have been due to an error in a Wood engraving, causing confusion with painters. However, Benson John Lossing writes in Field Book of the Revolution that he interviewed the daughter of a Bunker Hill veteran who told her that he hoisted a blue flag on Breed's Hill prior to the battle.
Regardless of its authenticity, the blue variation of the New England flag has become the de facto symbol of the Battle of Bunker Hill.