Colonel William Prescott (1726-1795) was a prosperous farmer from Groton, (now Pepperell) Massachusetts. He served under the British in the French and Indian War; and rose to command a Massachusetts militia regiment at the time of Lexington and Concord. Over six feet tall, powerful and noted for his coolness under pressure; Prescott was an inspiring leader and one of the few officers the militia would unhesitatingly obey. On June 16th 1775, Prescott was chosen by General Israel Putnam to occupy Bunker Hill in Charlestown, MA, with the intention of provoking the British to attack. Prescott was to supervise the construction of the redoubt (fort) and would be in overall command of the action at the front. It was decided around midnight to fortify Breeds Hill, which was closer to Boston than Bunker Hill.

The story of the Battle is very well known and will not be recounted here. The command, “Don’t fire ‘til you see the whites of their eyes!’” was probably never given by Prescott or anyone else. However, the raw troops from New Hampshire, Connecticut and Massachusetts held their fire both at the redoubt and rail fence until the British were well within range to devastating effect. Prescott kept the troops in the redoubt composed even when they ran out of ammunition, and were forced to withdraw, first to Bunker Hill and then over the narrow Charlestown Neck to Somerville and Cambridge.

Later in the war, Colonel Prescott became commander of a Continental Line Regiment before age and an old farming injury led him to retire in 1777.

The statue of Prescott was sculpted by William A. Story in 1881. It was modeled by Prescott’s great-grandson and depicts the Colonel in the long coat and floppy hat he wore on June 17th 1775. The statue is located in a prominent place of honor on the South side of the Bunker Hill Monument in Charlestown, Massachusetts.