Don’t Fire Until You See The Whites of Their Eyes!

The man behind the quotation that serves as the title of this post was William H. Prescott.  Born on February 20, 1726, Prescott served at the siege of Louisbourg in 1745.  In 1755 he participated in the taking of  Fort Beausejour on June 16 of that year.  As an experienced officer, Prescott was made a colonel of Massachusetts militia and placed in charge of the militia company in Pepperell, Massachusetts.  On June 17, 1775 he commanded the American forces at the battle of Bunker Hill.  One of the secrets of commanding relatively untrained men is to make your commands simple.  His statement about not firing until his men saw the whites of the eyes of the British troops was to make certain that they did not waste their ammunition, which was in short supply, and it worked.  During the three charges of the British the Americans held their fire until the British were close enough so that their vollies would have maximum effect.  General Thomas Gage who was observing the American position prior to the battle with a spyglass.  Noting that Prescott  seemed to be in command, he asked his aide who knew Prescott whether he thought the Americans would fight.  The aide replied:  “Prescott is an old soldier, he will fight for as long as a drop of blood is in his veins.”   Prescott and his men, although ultimately driven from the hill, and sustaining 450 American casualties, of which 140 were killed, inflicted 1,054 casualties, including 226 dead on the British.

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Published in: on May 17, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off on Don’t Fire Until You See The Whites of Their Eyes!  
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