Massachusetts Historical Society
America's oldest historical society, founded 1791.

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Letter from J. Waller to unidentified recipient, 21 June 1775

Letter from J. Waller to unidentified recipient, 21 June 1775

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"Heavy and severe Fire"
Lieutenant Waller is the Adjutant of the 1st Battalion of Marines (later called the Royal Marines), which has already seen bloodshed on 19 April 1775. The Marines, under the command of Major Pitcairn, were part of the expeditionary force that marched to Lexington and Concord. Now, a little over two months later, Lt. Waller gives a detailed account of the Battle of Bunker Hill, an action "very fatal to the 1st Battalion."

Questions to Consider

1. What is a redoubt? According to Lt. Waller, why was it so difficult for the Marines to capture it?

2. How does Lt. Waller characterize the scene within the redoubt? What other words would you use to convey what he was describing?

3. By what word does Lt. Waller refer to the colonial forces? What does that tell you about the situation in the Boston area at the time?

4. Does this account give you any insight as to why the British troops set Charlestown afire? Provide evidence to back up your answer.

Further Exploration

5. The recipient of this letter is unknown. What can we tell about this person from the context of the letter itself?

6. Massachusetts Historical Society also holds Adjutant Waller's orderly book for the period March 1775-January 1776, which contains all the official orders received and issued by the Marines. What might this document tell us that would help us to understand how the events of 17 June fit into the larger story?