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Research Guide: From the Secondary Source to the Primary Source


The information presented in the online exhibit, The Decisive Day Has Come: The Battle of Bunker Hill:, poses some interesting questions about life in the late 18th century. The Battle of Bunker Hill appears, at first glance to be a military engagement early in the American Revolution between the British forces who occupied Boston and the American colonists. Although the Battle itself is revealing, it represents much more than a military engagement. It may appear that the study of historical events, like the Battle of Bunker Hill, are simply facts, dates, and timelines presented in textbooks. History is biography. It is the cumulative story of individuals, families, nations, eras. At the beginning of your research you should try to place yourself within the society you are studying. Go back and read the accounts presented in the online exhibit and ask yourself these questions:

When did the Battle take place? Where did it take place? Who won?

What individuals were involved in the Battle? What was the Battle like for the soldiers? for their families? the townspeople?

Who are John Adams, Abigail Adams, and John Quincy Adams? What role did each of them play in their community, state, nation, before, during and after the Revolution? Who were the Warrens -- Mercy Otis Warren, James Warren, John Warren? Did the Warrens know the Adams family? Were they all friends?

What were the conditions that Revolutionary War soldiers fought under? What did they wear? What did they eat?

What events took place in the months prior to the Battle? How do these events compare to the events of June 17, 1775? What were the outcomes of each event? How were they the same? How were they different?

What was happening in the other colonies? The national scene, was there one?

What was Boston like in June 1775? What happened to the town of Charlestown in June of 1775?

What did the people in the surrounding towns in Massachusetts and other colonies think about the Battle? What did they have to say about it?

How did news about the Battle spread to other places?

Who were the Loyalists? Did they approve of the Battle?

Can the information presented in the exhibit answer all of these questions? Are there definitive answers to these questions? Is there more than one answer to these questions? Do these questions make you think of other questions to ask? What other sources of information can be helpful?

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