Putnam was everywhere active, and, after the fences were as well secured as time would allow, he ordered the tools taken to Bunker Hill for the establishment of a second line on higher ground, in case the first could not be maintained. His importunity with General Ward had secured the detail of the whole of Reed’s, as well as the balance of Stark’s, regiment, so that the entire left was protected by New Hampshire troops. With all their energy they were able to gather from the shore only stone enough for partial cover, while they lay down, or kneeled, to fire.
The whole force thus spread out to meet the British army was less than sixteen hundred men. Six pieces of artillery were in use at different times, but with little effect. The cannon cartridges were at last distributed for the rifles, and five of the guns were left on the field when retreat became inevitable.
Reference to the map will indicate the position thus outlined. It was evident that the landing could not be prevented. Successive barges landed the well-equipped troops, and they took their positions, and their dinner, under the blaze of the hot sun, as if nothing but ordinary duty was awaiting their leisure.
It was nearly three o’clock in the afternoon when the British army formed for the advance. General Howe was expected to break and envelop the American left wing, take the redoubt in the rear, and cut off retreat to Bunker Hill and the mainland. The light infantry moved closely along the Mystic. The grenadiers advanced upon the stone fence, while the British left demonstrated toward the unprotected gap which was between the fence and the short breastwork next the redoubt. General Pigot with the extreme left wing moved directly upon the redoubt. The British artillery had been supplied with twelve-pound shot for six-pounder guns, and, thus disabled, were ordered to use only grape. The guns were, therefore, advanced to the edge of an old brick-kiln, as the spongy ground and heavy grass did not permit ready handling of guns at the foot of the hill slope, or even just at its left. This secured a more effective range of fire upon the skeleton defences of the American centre, and an eligible position for a direct fire upon the exposed portion of the American front, and both breastwork and redoubt.