As soon as Lt. General Thomas Gage learned of the American fortifications, he ordered Maj. General William Howe to dislodge the Americans. While Howe organized and boarded his troops, British ships bombarded Breed's Hill with limited results. At Breed's Hill, the Americans were under the command of General Israel Putnam and Colonel William Prescott. Nathanael Greene, who would go on to become one of General George Washington's favorite generals, was also present. Finally, at three o'clock in the afternoon, British troops landed on Charlestown peninsula, formed up and began a steady march up Breed's Hill.
General Putnam had known that the Americans did not have a large supply of ammunition. He had ordered the men to not "fire until you see the white of their eyes." He had told them to be patient and make every shot count by picking off the officers first. The Americans waited as the British marched up the hill. Finally, the Americans opened fire at about 50 yards with an intense volley. The British were returning fire, but they were ineffectual as they aimed uphill. They were driven back under the continuous accurate fire of the Americans.
General Putnam now entreated the men to hold their positions, because he was sure that a second assault would come. He also rode to bring reinforcements from the far end of the peninsula, where they had remained because of the heavy cannon fire bombarding Charlestown Neck. Within a quarter of an hour, General Howe ordered a second assault, which met with similar results as had the first.
The Americans were now running low on ammunition and would have trouble withstanding another assault. General Howe ordered his troops to drop their extra gear, which weighed over 100 pounds, and only carry their muskets. Howe led the British up the hill for a third time. This time, because the Americans had spent their ammunition, the British were able to reach ramparts and drive the Americans from Breed's Hill with their bayonets. The British pursued the Americans as far as Bunker Hill.
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