On this day in 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill (and Breed’s Hill) begins in Boston. Legend has it that it was during this battle that Patriot Colonel William Prescott gave soldiers this famous order: “Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes!”
This was in order to conserve limited ammunition supplies.
“Be of one heart…”
It is with certainty, however, in August of 1774, in the wake of the Boston Tea Party and the subsequent Boston Port Bill blockading the harbor, that William Prescott wrote the people of the city this note of encouragement:
“Be not dismayed nor disheartened, in this great day of trials. We heartily sympathize with you, and are always ready to do all in our power for your support, comfort and relief; knowing that Providence has placed you where you must stand the first shock. We consider we are all embarked in (the same ship) and must sink or swim together. We think if we submit to these regulations, all is gone. Our forefathers passed the vast Atlantic, spent their blood and treasure, that they might enjoy their liberties, both civil and religious, and transmit them to their posterity. … Now if we should give them up, can our children rise up and call us blessed? … Let us all be of one heart, and stand fast in the liberty wherewith Christ has made us free; and may he, of his infinite mercy grant us deliverance out of all our troubles.” (emphasis added)
Indeed, as Americans, whether we “sink or swim together” largely depends in how we collectively regard our lost founding.