The Bunker Hill Battle Monument, by Elizabeth Rubel

view 2One moment I was in 1850, and the next it is 2014. The year had changed but from what I could tell, I am still the same Benson J. Lossing.[1] Looking around me, I note that I remain on Breed’s Hill, the same location that many brave soldiers gave their lives in 1775. A small band of rebel militia attacked the British army that was occupying the area. Although the rebels were defeated, the battle was still a vital step towards American freedom. Glancing up, the sight of a large obelisk looms. The Bunker Hill monument. As my eyes scale the massive structure, I experience a feeling of disappointment and regret. How was this point emerging from the ground at all related to the ground breaking battle that showed the British that we were a threat? There are no names. There are no images. There are no trenches. This battle should be celebrated and the soldiers hallowed.

I climb the monument so as not to waste my travels. Mind you, it is 294 steps to the summit. Panting at the last step, I instantly forget my bitter attitude. The views from the small windows at the top are worth a thousand miles of travel to see. Modern civilization stretches to the far horizon. Current and colonial architecture are intertwined, connecting the past and the present. Development is palpable in the air. I see automobiles, ships, trains and flying metal carriers, transporting thousands in such ways that I could never have imagined. If only others from my time could come to this lofty height and see how fast society has evolved! Would that the soldiers who fought on this same hill could see such growth and prosperity. Perhaps I spoke too soon of my disappointment at this monument.

As I emerge from the spiral staircase at the bottom of the monument, I turn back and look up at where I just stood. From here on the ground I see a beacon for the future. From the climb up I saw that something good is worth working for. From the top, I saw both where we began and how far we have come. Forgive me, I was wrong to accuse this monument of overlooking the battle. The battle is, rather, given new meaning by the monument. What I see is that the view changes and grows depending on where you stand.

[1] Benson Lossing (1813-1891) was an American historian. His Pictorial Field-Book of the Revolution, which he both wrote and illustrated, was published in 1853. In his research he visited the Bunker Hill Battle Monument, which he disdained on account of the absence of referents to the battle and battle field.