March 4, 1776: Washington Occupies Dorchester Heights

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“The rebels have done more in one night than my whole army would have done in a month.”

General Howe, March 5, 1776
After Colonel Henry Knox brought the artillery from Ticonderoga to the siege lines around Boston in January 1776, Washington gathered together the powder and ammunition for the cannon.  By early March he was ready.  Occupying high points around Boston with artillery to divert British attention.  Beginning on the evening of March 2, he conducted nightly bombardments of Boston.  The bombardments continued on March 3 and March 4.  However, on March 4, he also had General John Thomas lead 2000 men to occupy Dorchester Heights to the south of Boston.  Hay bales were placed between the path taken by the Americans and Boston Harbor in order to muffle the sound of the movement.

By dawn the shocked British found the hitherto empty Dorchester Heights now under the occupation of the Americans, heavily fortified and bristling with artillery.  Washington expected General William Howe to launch an attack on Dorchester Heights, and Howe planned to do so, but a blizzard that began on March 5, canceled the attack.  After the blizzard Howe decided that an attack would be too costly in regard to a city that the British lacked the strength to hold long term.  Howe informed Washington by letter that Boston would be put to the torch if his army was not allowed to depart in peace.  The British completed their evacuated on March 17, 1776 and Washington had won the first major American victory of the Revolution.  Boston still observes this day, in tandem with Saint Patrick’s Day, as Evacuation Day.

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