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William Prescott
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Military Personnel
    (February 20, 1726-October 13, 1795)
    Born in Groton, Massachusetts
    Colonel in the Massachusetts militia and Continental Army
    Fought in King George’s War, the French and Indian War, and the American Revolution
    Commanded the defense at the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 17, 1775)
    Known for his order to his men ‘Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes’
    Grandfather of historian William H. Prescott
    Although he said ‘Do not fire until you see the whites of their eyes’ (or something similar), he was almost certainly relaying the orders of his superior, General Israel Putnam.
    For that matter, Putnam did not originate the idea either; for example, Frederick the Great reportedly told his troops at the Battle of Prague (1757), ‘By push of bayonets – no firing until you see the whites of their eyes.’
    Technically, he lost at Bunker Hill, as the British captured the hill.
    One of his memorials in Cambridge, Massachusetts, misidentifies him as a general.
    He was one of the last men to leave the defensive works at Bunker Hill, parrying baronet thrusts with his ceremonial sabre.
    He was credited with maintaining discipline among relatively poorly-trained militiamen.
    His forces inflicted more than twice as many casualties than they suffered, prompting one British officer to observe, ‘We have learned one melancholy truth, which is, that the Americans are full as good soldiers as ours.’

Credit: C. Fishel


 
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