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The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought 244 years ago today

Brandon Moseley

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The Battle of Bunker Hill was fought on June 17, 1775, during the Siege of Boston in the early stages of the American Revolutionary War.

The Revolution had begun on April 19 that year when British Army forces occupying Boston marched out in the night to seize stockpiles of arms that rural Massachusetts militias were storing. The militia members in Lexington and Concord resisted and open warfare ensued between the British crown and the colonies.

The British retreated to their headquarters in Boston. 15,000 colonial troops under General Artemas Ward began a siege of the port city. Boston was held by British troops under General Thomas Gage. While they were blocked from getting out of the city by land, the British Navy still controlled the sea so the British were able to keep their forces supplied indefinitely as long as they had control of the harbor. The British used their naval superiority to grow their Boston forces to 6,000 troops. Generals Henry Clinton, William Howe, John Burgoyne, and Sir Robert Pigot joined Gage in Boston and began preparing plans for a British break out.

The Americans under Henry Knox began moving artillery from Fort Ticonderoga to the Boston theater. Fortified artillery from the hills overlooking the city would make British use of the harbor difficult and their continued occupation of the city almost impossible.

On June 13, 1775, the leaders of the colonial forces learned that the British were planning to seize the hills surrounding the city as part of their planned breakout campaign. This would give the British firm control of Boston Harbor.

To prevent this from happening, Ward ordered Colonel William Prescott to seize Charlestown Peninsula and begin building fortifications on Bunker Hill with a force of about 1,200 colonial troops before the British did. Once in place, the colonials began hastily building fortifications including a redoubt on Breed’s Hill.

On dawn of the 17th, the British warship HMS Lively opened fire on the Americans constructing the fortifications on Breed’s Hill. When Gage became aware of what was happening, he ordered all 128 British guns in the harbor and his battery on Copp’s Hill to begin shelling the colonials.

General Clinton wanted to encircle the Americans and starve them out; but he was out voted by the other British generals, including General Howe, who was his senior officer. They wanted a direct assault on the American position on the Charlestown Peninsula across the harbor from the city of Boston.

Howe would lead the assault himself. 1,500 British troops were ferried across the harbor in longboats to the eastern corner of the Peninsula (Moulton’s Point). Once there, rather than attacking, Howe asked for more troops. His forces began eating lunch waiting for those re-enforcements, which took another hour. Seeing the British landings, Prescott sent for his own re-enforcements and worked improving his position.

As Howe’s forces advanced, they were fired on by snipers from Charlestown village. Howe asked the navy to help with the snipers; so they landed Royal Marines who torched the town. Even after torching the town, snipers continued to harass the British advance. Howe attacked the American left while Brigadier General Robert Pigot led a feint at the Colonial redoubt. The sizable British force was met be devastating musket fire from the now prepared lines of American militia. The militia’s lines held and the British were forced to fall back taking dreadful casualties. Because they were on a peninsula, the British wounded had to be ferried by longboat back to Boston. Undaunted, the British reformed their line and launched a second more determined assault. This also failed under the withering American musket fire.

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Colonial Major General Israel Putnam tried to get companies to move from Bunker Hill to the heavy fighting on Breed’s Hill with limited success. Determined not to give up, Howe asked for re-enforcements. General Clinton came with 400 fresh troops. Howe launched a direct assault on the American redoubt rather than trying to flank the position. The third British assault on the Breed’s Hill position also suffered from intense American musket fire, until the American defenders ran out of ammunition. The battle then turned into close quarters combat. Almost all the British troops had bayonets on their muskets, while few of the Americans did. Colonel Prescott was one of the last American defenders to retreat from the redoubt on Breed’s Hill. He had to resort to parrying thrusts from British bayonets with his sabre. Putnam tried to reform the American line on Bunker Hill, but once the American militias began retreating it was impossible to reverse that tide. Most American casualties were in the retreat. Five of the six American cannons were abandoned. The colonists retreated to Cambridge over Bunker Hill.

The British won the day and took the position, but at a very heavy cost. 226 British troops were dead and 828 were wounded, many of these were officers. It was the costliest single day of the entire war for the British forces.

General Clinton wrote in his diary afterwards, “A few more such victories would have shortly put an end to British dominion in America.”

The British officer corps in North America was decimated. General Gage wrote in his report 1 lieutenant colonel killed; 2 majors killed, 3 wounded; 7 captains killed, 27 wounded; 9 lieutenants killed, 32 wounded; 15 sergeants killed, 42 wounded; and 1 drummer killed, 12 wounded.

American losses included General Joseph Warren and Major Andrew McClary. Warren was President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. His appointment as Major General had not yet gone through so he died at Bunker Hill as a volunteer private. McClary was killed by a shell leaving the neck of the Peninsula. He was the last person killed in the battle. 140 American died and approximately 410 were wounded.

One British officer wrote after the battle, “We have … learned one melancholy truth, which is, that the Americans, if they were equally well commanded, are full as good soldiers as ours.”

Clinton advised pursuing the colonials to Cambridge. Howe, whose general staff had been just about annihilated in the fighting, declined that suggestion.

The carnage at Bunker and Breed Hills shocked the British military.

Three days after receiving General Gage’s report in London, he was removed from his command and was eventually replaced by General Howe. The British leadership did however accept his recommendation that the British needed to hire large numbers of foreign mercenaries, particularly Hessians to increase their numbers. Following the battle of Bunker Hill, British commanders hesitant to use frontal assaults against fortified American lines and generally allowed American armies to retreat without pressing.

Several American officers were court martialed and cashiered for refusing to move from Bunker Hill to Breed’s Hill as ordered by General Putnam. Prescott believed that he could have repulsed the third assault if his forces in the redoubt been reinforced with more men, or ammunition.

13 months later the American Continental Congress signed the Declaration of Independence from Britain.

On the 50th Anniversary of the battle, the corner stone for the Bunker Hill Monument was laid by the Marquis de Lafayette. Daniel Webster delivered the address. The Monument was erected on Breed’s Hill. It is an obelisk that stands 221 feet. Lafayette was buried in Picpus Cemetery in Paris under soil from Bunker Hill.

The National Park Service operates a museum dedicated to the battle near the monument, which is part of the Boston National Historical Park.

(Wikipedia was referenced in the writing of this article.)

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Health

Three mental health crisis centers coming to Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville

“Today marks a culture change in Alabama for treatment of individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear said.

Eddie Burkhalter

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Gov. Kay Ivey Press held a press conference with Alabama Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear for the announcement of Crisis Center Awards Wednesday, October 28, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (Governor's Office/Hal Yeager)

Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced an $18 million project to create three new mental health crisis centers to be located in Mobile, Montgomery and Huntsville. 

These centers, once in operation, will reduce the number of people suffering from mental health crises who are hospitalized or jailed, Ivey said during a press briefing in front of the Capitol Building in Montgomery. 

“When these facilities are open and fully staffed, these centers will become a safe haven for people facing mental health challenges,” Ivey said. 

Lynn Beshear, commissioner of the Alabama Department of Mental Health, said during the briefing that the centers will provide “recovery based” care with “short term stays of a few hours, or up to a few days, to provide treatment, support, and connection to care in the community.” 

“Today marks a culture change in Alabama for treatment of individuals with mental illness and substance use disorders,” Beshear said. 

Beshear said AltaPointe Health in Mobile will operate one of the three facilities, and once built it is to serve Mobile, Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Monroe and Washington counties with 21 new beds, including 15 temporary observation beds. Altapointe will begin with a temporary space while constructing the new facilities, she said. 

Beshear said the Montgomery Area Mental Health Authority is partnering with the East Alabama Mental Health Authority and the Central Alabama Mental Health Authority to serve the 11 counties in Region 3 with 21 new beds, including 10 temporary observation and respite beds. 

“The regional crisis center will be located in Montgomery, and will be open to walk-ins and for drop off by law enforcement, first responders and referrals from emergency rooms,” Beshear said. 

Wellstone Behavioral Health in Huntsville was selected to open the third center, and will do so at a temporary site while a new facility is being built, with the help of an additional $2.1 million from local governments, Beshear said. That facility will eventually have 39 beds, including 15 for temporary observation and 24 for extended observation.

“There’s not a day that goes by that after-hours care is not an issue in our state,” said Jeremy Blair, CEO of Wellstone Behavioral Health, speaking at the press conference. “And so I applaud the Department of Mental Health and the leaders for their efforts in recognizing that and taking it a step further and funding our efforts here.” 

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Asked by a reporter why a center wasn’t located in Jefferson County, one of the most populous counties with a great need for such a center, Ivey said those residents will be served in one of the other regions. 

“Plans are underway to continue this effort. Today’s beginning, with these three crisis centers, is just the beginning,” Ivey said. 

Ivey added that request for proposals were sent out for these three centers and “it was a strong competition for the location of these three crisis centers.” 

Alabama House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter, R-Rainsville, said during the briefing that more than a year ago, Ivey asked him what the state should be looking at, and that he replied “we’re failing miserably in mental health.”

Gov. Kay Ivey Press held a press conference with Alabama Dept. of Mental Health Commissioner Lynn Beshear and House Majority Leader Nathaniel Ledbetter for the announcement of Crisis Center Awards Wednesday, October 28, 2020 in Montgomery, Ala. (Governor’s Office/Hal Yeager)

Ledbetter said Ivey asked him to take on the challenge of correcting the state’s response to mental health, and a team was created to do just that. 

“Working together, today’s announcement will not only change Alabamians lives, but will help to save lives,” Ledbetter said.

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Health

Ainsworth returns to work after testing positive for COVID

Ainsworth’s office on Sept. 21 announced he had tested positive earlier that week, having been tested after someone in his Sunday school class tested positive for the disease. 

Eddie Burkhalter

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Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth speaks during a video message. (LT. GOVERNOR'S OFFICE)

Alabama Lt. Gov. Will Ainsworth on Wednesday announced that he was returning to work that day and had met public health requirements for quarantining after testing positive for COVID-19 some time last week.

Ainsworth’s office on Sept. 21 announced he had tested positive earlier that week, having been tested after someone in his Sunday school class tested positive for the disease. 

“While many have battled with coronavirus, my symptoms never progressed beyond some mild congestion that I usually experience with seasonal allergies,” Ainsworth said in a statement. “During the quarantine period, I participated in several Zoom calls, caught up on some office work, spent some quality time with my family, and completed a number of overdue projects on my farm.”

Members of Ainsworth’s staff who were in close contact with him haven’t tested positive for COVID-19 but will remain in quarantine for a full 14-day period as a precaution, according to a press release from Ainsworth’s office Wednesday. 

“Ainsworth once again urges all Alabamians to practice personal responsibility, which may include wearing masks, maintaining social distancing whenever possible, and taking other precautions to lessen chances of exposure to COVID-19,” the press release states.

Ainsworth still disagrees with Gov. Kay Ivey’s statewide mask mandate, he said. According to the release, he considers such orders “a one-size-fits-all governmental overreach that erodes basic freedoms and liberties while removing an individual’s right to make their own health-related choices.” 

The wearing of cloth or medical masks has been proven to inhibit the spread of COVID-19 and the more people who wear masks, the better. While not perfect, masks limit the spread of respiratory droplets that may contain infectious virus shed from the nose and mouth of the mask wearer.

It is possible — even likely — for symptomatic, pre-symptomatic and mildly symptomatic people to spread the virus. That’s why it’s important to wear a mask even when you’re not sick.

Cloth masks offer only minimal protection from others who are not masked, meaning that masks are not simply a matter of personal safety but safety of others. Masks are also only effective when worn over both the mouth and the nose. [Here’s a guide on how to wear masks properly.]

VIA UAB

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Dr. Deborah Birx, coordinator of the White House’s coronavirus task force, told Ivey after she announced the statewide mask order that it was a “brilliant” idea. The order has been credited by Alabama infectious disease experts as having dramatically reduced the number of cases, hospitalizations and deaths in the weeks after the order went into effect. 

Dr. Don Williamson, president of the Alabama Hospital Association, told APR on Tuesday that from personal observation he is seeing more people not wearing masks, or wearing them improperly, and said the state could dramatically reduce the risk of COVID-19 if the public regularly wore masks and wore them properly.

Hospitalizations of COVID-19 patients in Alabama on Monday crossed the 1,000 mark for the first time since Aug. 31 — a sign that Alabama may be headed for another peak in hospitalizations as the state prepares for winter and flu season.

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Elections

Faith in Action Alabama calls on law enforcement to protect voters from harassment

“In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.”

Micah Danney

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Nine clergy members from across the state have signed an open letter calling on local and state law enforcement to protect voters against intimidation and harassment at the polls.

The clergy are leaders in Faith in Action Alabama, a regional association of Christian congregations affiliated with the national group Faith in Action, the largest grassroots, faith-based organizing network in the country. It seeks to address a range of issues like gun violence, health care, immigration and voting rights.

This is their letter:

Across our country and here in Alabama, it is being seen that citizens are turning out in record numbers to vote early and by absentee ballots. It is very heartening to see so many of our fellow citizens energized and committed to exercising that most fundamental and critical duty of citizenship, the use of their franchise.  As servant leaders of an ecumenical association of nearly 2,000 faith communities across our state we are certainly encouraging our congregants to fulfill this duty either through early, absentee or day of election voting. For us this is not only part of our civic duty, but as people of faith obligation as well.

Unfortunately, it it also largely known that there are forces in our country that are actively, publicly and fervently at work to suppress the votes of some of our fellow citizens. We write to implore you to use the full authority of your office and department to ensure that those who seek to vote, especially on November 3, 2020 are not assailed or intimidated by illegal harassment in their polling places. We believe these threats are pervasive enough and real enough that proactive measures should be in place as citizens come to vote throughout that day. The strong, visible presence of uniformed legitimate law officers will hopefully prevent any attempts at confrontation or intimidation and violence.

The history of our state is marked by the efforts of tens of thousands of Alabamians who marched, protested, brought legal actions, shed their blood and some even gave their lives that every citizen of this state might have full and free access to the ballot box. In these harrowing days it is incumbent upon all of us as citizens and you and your colleagues as law enforcement professionals to do all we can to maintain this right secured by so much courage and sacrifice.

Please be assured of our prayers for you and the men and women of your department who have the awesome responsibility of providing public safety and equal protection under the law for every Alabamian. If we, the members of Faith in Action Alabama’s Clergy Leadership Team, can be of assistance please do not hesitate to call upon us.

Sincerely,

Rev. Jeremiah Chester, St. Mark Baptist Church, Huntsville

Rev. David Frazier, Sr., Revelation Missionary Baptist Church, Mobile, and Moderator, Mobile Baptist Sunlight Association

Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Fifth Episcopal District of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church

Bishop Russell Kendrick, Episcopal Diocese of the Central Gulf Coast

Bishop Seth O. Lartey, Alabama-Florida Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church

President Melvin Owens, Alabama State Missionary Baptist Convention

Bishop Harry L. Seawright, Ninth Episcopal District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church

Dr. A.B. Sutton, Jr., Living Stones Temple, Fultondale

Father Manuel Williams, C.R., Resurrection Catholic Missions of the South, Montgomery

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National

Report: Alabama’s Black Belt lags behind state in economic prospects

Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses.

Eddie Burkhalter

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(APR GRAPHIC)

It took Marquis Forge five years and 18 banks before he and his partner were able to open their company, Eleven86 Water, in Autauga County, just north of the Black Belt, and a report released Tuesday shows how Black Belt counties lag behind others in economic prospects and investments in businesses. 

Forge, a former University of Alabama football player, told reporters during a briefing Monday that he considers Autauga County, which borders the Black Belt’s Lowndes County, part of the Black Belt, and said it shouldn’t have been so difficult to access the capital needed to start a business. 

The report released Tuesday by the University of Alabama’s Education Policy Center titled “Black Belt manufacturing and Economic Prospects” is the last in the center’s Black Belt 2020 series, and found that only four of the state’s 24 Black Belt counties, as defined by the center, are above the statewide average of 22.4 businesses per 1,000 residents, and just one, Montgomery County, was above the 2018 statewide average of personal income of $43,229. 

Researchers also found that just three Black Belt counties are above the state’s average in gross domestic product being produced by counties of $45,348. 

“To achieve Governor Ivey’s ambitious goal of 500,000 a million more Alabama workers with skills by 2025, all hands have to be ‘on deck.’ It will require higher labor force participation rates, particularly in the Black Belt, where the average is 20 points below the statewide average,” said Stephen Katsinas, director of the university’s Education Policy Center and one of the authors of the report. 

“Due to smaller economies of scale, our approaches to  education, workforce development, and community building will have to be different to reach Alabama’s Black Belt,” Katsinas continued. “In the longer term, we first must define the Black Belt, because you can’t measure what you can’t define. Then we must do what West Alabama Works is doing–go where the people are to bring hope by connecting them to a well-aligned lifelong learning system that makes work pay.”   

Donny Jones, COO of Chamber of Commerce West Alabama and Executive Director of West AlabamaWorks, told reporters Monday that one of the keys to helping the Black Belt will  be helping state and Congressional legislators understand the nuances of rural Alabama. 

Jones said the state should look at how colleges are graded, and that many smaller colleges don’t get credit for putting students through programs that get them short-term certificates that lead to jobs. 

“Those are some of the things on the statewide level that we can really start to work on,” Jones said, adding that they’ve already begun teaching modern manufacturing in Black Belt high schools that gives students college credits toward an associates degree while still in high school. 

“I think that’s very important for individuals to understand the impact that we can have in our higher ed and our K-12 system, really works hand in glove to move the needle for workforce development,” Jones said. 

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Jim Purcell, State Higher Education executive officer of the Alabama Commission on Higher Education, told reporters that it’s also important to look at one’s own community and identifying what is “unique and special,” and said he was recently in Autauga County, where he is from, and bought two cases of Eleven86 Water because he remembered how good the water there was. 

“I think that’s what you’ve done, is you’ve taken the gift that Autauga’s environment has and enhanced it, so that the people can benefit from it,” Purcell said to Forge. “I think that’s the key.” 

Asked what he’d tell state legislators to spur them to make changes so that other entrepreneurs wouldn’t have to struggle as hard as he did to open a business, Forge said he would ask for a clearer path for assistance. 

“Instead of digging down through a tunnel with a spoon I would have someone outline the tracks on getting funds and assistance from local, state and the national level, because there are funds out there,” Forge said. 

After going to 18 banks to get the financing he needed, he still had to liquify all his assets to make it happen, Forge said. 

“How many people are going to do that?” he asked. “We shouldn’t have to do that.”

To read all of the Education Policy Center’s reports on Alabama’s Black Belt, visit here.

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