New Page #48!
On the night of March 4, 1776 George Washington used the cannon that Col. Henry Knox had delivered to Boston to fortify an advantageous position called Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor. For two days the Americans fired their guns though it was mostly just for the spectacle, not to really engage in battle… just yet. British guns answered in kind, though they, too, did little real damage.
(I’m glossing over that whole part about Knox going to Fort Ticonderoga to drag 120,000 pounds of cannon back through the snowy mountains of upstate New York. That’s a whole other adventure that we just won’t get to in The Dreamer but it sure is worth your time to pursue independently!)
The morning of March 5th brought the 6th Anniversary of the Boston Massacre. (A year prior Dr. Warren was giving his Boston Massacre Oration at Old South…)
The British woke up that morning to the annoying buzz of Americans digging atop their brand-new redoubt, complete with 20 guns… aimed at them. The situation was eerily similar to Bunker Hill.
Allegedly General Howe said, “My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months.”
Howe’s instinct was to attack, but just like when the fog would roll in later that year, nature intervened in the Americans’ favor. A sudden, horrible sleet and snow storm prevented the British from making the amphibious landing and it continued into the next day. Howe remembered Bunker Hill and made the decision (perhaps overdue) to abandon Boston and bring the fight to a better position.
It wasn’t just the British army that packed up to leave Boston. Large numbers of Loyalists fled the city as well. Families were forced to take whatever they could on a ship, in just a few hours, and leave the rest of their lives behind them. Looting ensued as there was chaos in the city.
On March 15th Howe tried to set sail for Nova Scotia. Due to more ill winds, they weren’t able to leave the harbor until March 17th. And, if you live near Boston, you’ll recognize that day as “Evacuation Day” not just St. Patrick’s Day.
There’s a little story I found over on Boston 1775 about the Americans realizing they could finally get into the city after the nearly year-long siege that began after Lexington on April 19th. General John Sulivan was an American who had his eye on the activity of British soldiers boarding the ships in Boston Harbor. From his perch at Charlestown Neck, he saw sentries still guarding Bunker Hill, “standing as usual with their Firelocks shouldered.” He got suspicious though, “finding they never moved,” and upon closer observation realized they were dummies. HA!
This convinced him that the British really had gone, and it was safe to go into the city.
Clever, clever Brits.
The first men to cross over into the city that afternoon were 500 men from Roxbury who already had smallpox and thus were immune. What’s Alan doing among them? Well, that’s another story for another day. (But it IS a story you can look forward to, drawn by Meg Syverud and written by yours truly.)
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* I’ll be at a Tristate Con in Huntington, WV on June 9th. *