During the afternoon Ward sent his own regiment, as well as Patterson’s and Gardner’s, but few men reached the actual front in time to share in the last resistance. Gardner did, indeed, reach Bunker Hill to aid Putnam in establishing a second line on that summit, but fell in the discharge of the duty. Febiger, previously conspicuous at Quebec, and afterward at Stony Point, gathered a portion of Gerrishe’s regiment, and reached the redoubt in time to share in the final struggle; but the other regiments, without their fault, were too late.
At this time, Putnam seemed to appreciate the full gravity of the crisis, and made the most of every available resource to concentrate a reserve for a second defence, but in vain.
Prescott, within the redoubt, at once recognized the method of the British advance. The wheel of the British artillery to the left after it passed the line of the redoubt, secured to it an enfilading fire, which insured the reduction of the redoubt and cut off retreat. There was no panic at that hour of supreme peril. The order to reserve fire until the enemy was within twenty yards was obediently regarded, and it was not until a pressure upon three faces of the redoubt forced the last issue, that the defenders poured forth one more destructive volley. A single cannon cartridge was distributed for the final effort, and then, with clubbed guns and the nerve of desperation, the slow retreat began, contesting, man to man and inch by inch. Warren fell, shot through the head, in the mouth of the fort.
The battle was not quite over, even then. Jackson rallied Gardner’s men on Bunker Hill, and with three companies of Ward’s regiment and Febiger’s party, so covered the retreat as to save half of the garrison. The New Hampshire troops of Stark and Reed, with Colt’s and Chester’s companies, still held the fence line clear to the river, and covered the escape of Prescott’s command until the last cartridge had been expended, and then their deliberate, well-ordered retreat bore testimony alike to their virtue and valor.
Putnam made one final effort at Bunker Hill, but in vain, and the army retired to Prospect Hill, which Putnam had already fortified in advance.
The British did not pursue, Clinton urged upon General Howe an immediate attack upon Cambridge; but Howe declined the movement. The gallant Prescott offered to retake Bunker Hill by storming if he could have three fresh regiments; but it was not deemed best to waste further resources at the time.
Such, as briefly as it can be clearly outlined, was the battle of Bunker Hill.
Nearly one third of each army was left on the field.
The British loss was nineteen officers killed and seventy wounded, itself a striking evidence of the prompt response to Prescott’s orders before the action began. Of rank and file, two hundred and seven were killed and seven hundred and fifty-eight were wounded. Total, ten hundred and fifty-four.