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The Whites of Their Eyes — Battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775

battle “The fire of the American troops, delivered at short range, was so overwhelming, that Pigot was forced to order a retreat. The same fate attended Howe’s attack on the left, where the same tactics were pursued by the Americans, with like success.”

Rare Books celebrates the 245th anniversary of the Battle of Bunker Hill with donations from our friend, Dr. Ronald Rubin. For years Dr. Rubin has been a generous and steadfast donor of pieces from his personal library. With each donation, he enhances our collection, deepening possibilities for historical context by adding breadth to already existing holdings. Thank you, Dr. Rubin, for keeping our eyes east to a strong heritage as we live the spirit of the West.

50th Anniversary, 1825

“Let us hold fast the great truth, that communities are responsible, as well as individuals; that no government is respectable which is not just.” – Daniel Webster, June 17, 1825

Bunker Hill Monument, ca. 1825
E241 B9 B868

“It was fought on this eminence; in the neighborhood of yonder city; in the presence of more spectators than then were combatants in the conflict. Men, women and children, from every commanding position, were gazing at the battle and looking for its results with all the eagerness natural to those who knew that the issue was fraught with the deepest consequences to them.” – Daniel Webster, June 17, 1825

Survivors of the Battle of Bunker Hill attending the Bunker Hill Monument ceremony were Phineas Johnson, Jonathan Harrington, Alpheus Bigelow, Levi Harrington, Ephraim Marsh, Peter McIntosh, William Wiggin, Jacob Elliott, John Palmer, Robert Andrews, Elijah Dresser, and Josiah Cleaveland. “Captain Josiah Cleaveland…was not only at Bunker Hill, but in the battles of Haerlem Heights, White Plains, Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth, and Yorktown, at the capture of Cornwallis. He entered as a volunteer under Col. Putnam, and was afterwards in Sullivan’s Brigade. He was born in Canterbury, Ct., Dec. 3, 1753, and now resides in Tioga County, New York. He has performed a journey of over four hundred miles to attend this celebration.” The memorial pamphlet states: “…the shouts that went up when the survivors of the Revolution turned down the street, were deafening.”

61st Anniversary, 1836

title-page for An Address delivered at Charleston...

“’Powder is scarce and must not be wasted: reserve your fire till you see the whites of their eyes; then take aim at the officers.’”

“What rolling clouds of smoke overspread the town? What sheets of living fire flash out from among them in all directions? Charlestown is in flames! The British General, annoyed at his first onset by the fire of a detachment stationed in the town, has ordered it to be burned…The ravenous element is now in full possession of the town. It devours with unrelenting fury house on house, and street on street. It reaches the church; envelopes the large edifice in its embraces, and ascends to the sky on its lofty spire, like the brilliant explosion of some vast volcano. Where now shall helpless age and infancy fly for refuge? Where shall the mother conduct her child, when death in all its various horrid forms surrounds her alike at home and abroad?”

An Address Delivered at Charlestown, Mass., on the 17th of June, 1836, at the Request of the Young Men Without Distinction of Party, in Commemoration of the Battle of Bunker Hill
Alexander H. Everett (1790-1847)
Boston: Printed by Beals & Greene, 1836
E241 B9 E92

Alexander Hill Everett was graduated from Harvard in 1806 with the highest honors in his class. He studied law in the office of John Quincy Adams (1767-1848) and accompanied Adams to Russia in 1809. In 1815 he was posted to the Netherlands. From 1825 to 1829, during the presidency of Adams, he served as the envoy to Spain. In 1843 President James K. Polk (1795-1849) appointed him commissioner to China, where he died on post. Throughout his career abroad and at home he was in high demand as a speaker. Several of his address were published in pamphlet form, including this stirring and graphic description of the Battle of Bunker Hill, which he delivered in Charlestown.

The survivors of the battle who were present at this memorial were: Colonel Richardson, of Newton; Simeon Tyler, of Camden, Maine; Captain Benjamin Webber, of Glouster; Israel Hunt, of New Hampshire; Major Isaac Andrews, of New Hampshire; Jesse Smith, of Salem; Micah Alcott, of Braintree; Enos Reynolds, of Boxford.

68th Anniversary and completion of the Bunker Hill Monument, 1843

Obelisk: Bunker Hill Memorial“The purpose of the following Work is, to give in a brief manner the results of experiments which have been going on, for the last seventeen years, in quarrying and working the Quincy granite; and also to give the plans, elevations, and sections of the Obelisk on Bunker’s Hill, which led to those experiments.”

Plans and sections of the obelisk on Bunker’s Hill with details of experiments made in quarrying the granite
Solomon Willard (1783-1861)
Boston: Charles Cook Lithographers, 1843

In 1824 Solomon Willard, with only an elementary school education but lots of hands-on experience in carpentry, carving, and modeling, was authorized to draw a plan for the Bunker Hill Monument and was formally appointed the architect and superintendent the following year. He moved to West Quincy, Massachusetts, in 1825 to take charge of the Bunker Hill Quarry and the furnishing of stone for the monument. Because of the unusually large size of the stones, Willard proposed and helped establish a railway to transport them.

elevation "construction"“It was finally concluded…to work our own quarry, and the result has shown, that there were important advantages attending it. In the first place, the work was obtained by the Association at prime cost; no profit being allowed to any one. And, secondly, it placed the Association in a position beyond the reach of any combination, that might have been disposed to extort a high price, for the difficult work which was required for the Obelisk.”

elevation "Hauling columns"“The experiments in the transporation of heavy stone have been entirely successful, the whole having been accomplished with much ease, and without any serious accident.”

Thank you, Dr. Ruben, for your gift.

75th anniversary, 1850

Obelisk-shaped Bunker Hill Monument rendering“Friends and fellow-citizens; we live at an eventful period. Mighty changes in human affairs are of daily occurrence, at home and abroad…Have you not noticed that in the midst of the perplexity and dismay, — of the visions and the hopes, — of the crisis, the thoughts of men have been turned more and more to what has passed and what is passing in America? They are looking anxiously to us for lessons of practical freedom, — for the solution of that great mystery of state, that the strongest government is that which, with the least array of force, is deepest seated in the welfare and affections of the people.” – Edward Everett, 1850

Battle of Bunker Hill
Edward Everett (1794-1865)
Boston: Redding and Company, 1850
E241 B9 E93

Edward Everett, a graduate of Harvard, was a Representative and Senator from Massachusetts. He was an ordained pastor of the Brattle Street Unitarian Church in Boston, professor of Greek literature at Harvard, Governor of Massachusetts, President of Harvard, Envoy to Great Britain, Secretary of State under President Millard Fillmore (after the death of Daniel Webster). He was a noted orator, remembered now for his two-hour long recounting of the three-day Battle of Gettysburg which was followed by Abraham Lincoln’s three-minute address. Of Bunker Hill he said, “The importance of the battle of Bunker Hill rests mainly on its consequences. Its influence on the success of the revolution lifts it up from the level of vulgar gladiatorial contests, and gives it a place among those few momentous appeals to arms, which have influenced the cause of liberty and the condition of man for ages.”

No veterans of the Battle of Bunker Hill, nor of the Revolution, participated in the 75th anniversary of Bunker Hill. Letters of regret for non-attendance included those from President Millard Fillmore, Daniel Webster, Winfield Scott, among several others. The letters were read at the dinner held after the ceremony.

82nd Anniversary, 1857

statue of Joseph WarrenInauguration of the Statue of Warren
Bunker Hill Monument Association
Boston: By Authority of the Committee, 1858
E241 B9 B87 1858

“In the ranks of these veterans appeared a venerable relic of the Revolution, Mr. Benjamin Smith, of Shrewsbury. The old veteran is now ninety-four years of age, and was a fifer for three years during the revolutionary struggle…The old gentleman is still hale and hearty; says he can walk a mile as fast as any one, and can do light work on a farm with anybody. He appeared much pleased with the attention shown to him, and on his way to the carriage walked down the State House steps erect and prompt as a drum-major.”

Letters of regret for non-attendance were received from Washington Irving, John C. Fremont, President James Buchanan and former Presidents Franklin Pierce, Millard Fillmore, and John Tyler, among other dignitaries.

Engraved portrait of Everett“And, oh! My friends, let the lesson of fraternal affection…be repeated in the persuasive silence of those stony lips…and upon this sacred day, and on this immortal hill, let it proclaim a true to sectional alienation and party strife…” – Edward Everett, 1857

engraved portrait of Perkins“…Colonel Thomas Handasyd Perkins…alone has the great honor of being the originator of the Statue of General Warren. On the day of the battle of Bunker Hill, he was in the eleventh year of his age, and though then a mere boy, he was old enough to be deeply impressed by the striking occurrences of that day, as they were related to him at the time, and especially by the heroic death of the first great martyr of the American Revolution. After the lapse of three-quarters of a century, and upon the anniversary on which the glorious event was so appropriately commemorated by Hon. Edward Everett – the orator of that occasion also – Col. Perkins chose a fitting opportunity to make known to the Association his proposition that, should the question of a Monument to the memory of Gen. Warren come before them, he would subscribe one thousand dollars in aid of the object.”

100th Anniversary, 1875

front cover with drawing of patriot battle surrounded in clouds, partial cannon on ground below, framed in swords with names wrapped around shafts“They are marching, stern and solemn; we can see each massive column
As they near the naked earth-mound with the slanting walls so steep.
Have our soldiers got faint-hearted, and in noiseless haste departed?
Are they panic-struck and helpless? Are they palsied or asleep?”

Memorial Bunker Hill, June 17th, 1875
Boston: James. R. Osgood & Co., Publishers, 1875
First edition

This centenary memorial pamphlet contains the first printing of a poem by Civil War veteran and attorney Oliver Wendell Holmes (1841-1935) written expressly for the printing, with the intention that it would not be reprinted elsewhere. A small printing of the poem was produced two years later. The pamphlet has an engraved illustration on every page, those on the pages of the poem forming a frame. In 1902, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Holmes to the U.S. Supreme Court. Holmes retired in 1931, at the age of 91.

“Now! the walls they’re almost under! scarce a rod the foes asunder!
Not a firelock flashed against them! up the earthwork they will swarm!
But the words have scarce been spoken, when the ominous calm is broken,
And a bellowing crash has emptied all the vengeance of the storm!”

Thank you, Dr. Ruben, for your gift.

114th Anniversary, 1889

map of Bunker Hill area“Gov. Thomas Gage arrived at Boston May 13, 1774, and on June 1st, the Boston Port Bill, the first of the repressive acts of the British government against the discontented but not yet rebellious colonists, went into effect. In August 1774 Gage received the later laws, which provided that the Council should henceforth be appointed by the King, and that town-meetings, should be held only by permission of the governor.

The colonists regarded a legislature thus chosen, as entirely contrary to their charter rights, and as some new form of government was indispensable, they decided to call a Provisional Congress….”

A memorial of the American patriots who fell at the Battle of Bunker Hill…
Boston: Printed by Order of the City Council, 1889

battle“About 3 o’clock the British advance was ordered, their troops marching in two wings. The right under Gen. Howe aimed at the American left at the rail-fence. Their left under Gen. Pigot, consisting of the 5th, 38th, 43d, 47th, 52d regiments and the marines, attacked the redoubt. No phrase is more familiar to us that the watch-word of Putnam to his men, ‘Wait till you see the white of their eyes!”

Thank you, Dr. Ruben, for your gifts!





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