By Rich Pezzullo | The Save Jersey Blog
Most of America will be wearing green and drinking heavily – but there’s more than just St. Patrick to celebrate today.
On this day in 1776, the liberation of Boston by the Patriots brought an end to a hated eight-year British occupation of the city, known for such infamous events as the “Boston Massacre,” in which five colonists were shot and killed by British soldiers.
From April 1775 to March 1776, in the opening stage of the American Revolutionary War (1775-83), colonial militiamen, who later became part of the Continental army, successfully laid siege to British-held Boston, Massachusetts.
The siege included the June 1775 Battle of Bunker Hill, in which the British defeated an inexperienced colonial force that nevertheless managed to inflict heavy casualties.
In July 1775, General George Washington arrived in the Boston area to take charge of the newly established Continental army.
The British fleet had first entered Boston Harbor on October 2, 1768, carrying 1,000 soldiers. Having soldiers living among them in tents on Boston Common–a standing army in 18th-century parlance–infuriated Bostonians.
In early March 1776, Washington’s men fortified Dorchester Heights, an elevated position just outside of Boston.
British General Sir William Howe hoped to use the British ships in Boston Harbor to destroy the American positions, but a storm set in, giving the Americans ample time to complete the fortifications and set up their artillery.
Realizing their position was now indefensible, 11,000 British troops and some 1,000 Loyalists departed Boston by ship on March 17, sailing to the safety of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
The Americans won the Siege of Boston by surrounding the British, cutting off their supply routes and then forcing them to abandon Boston by outgunning them with the captured cannons. For his brilliant actions in defending and ultimately liberating Boston, General Washington, commander of the Continental Army, was presented with the first medal ever awarded by the Continental Congress.
Freedom isn’t free – and the eight year Siege of Boston was just the beginning of a war that would spread through the colonies and continue for another eight bloody years.