Observed on March 17th annually in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, and the public schools in Somerville, Massachusetts, Evacuation Day is a holiday that commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston after the Siege of Boston. Some of the cities in Suffolk County include Boston, Chelsea, Winthrop, and Revere. This holiday also happens to coincide with St. Patrick’s Day.
The Occupation of Boston
On October 2nd, 1768, the British fleet first entered Boston Harbor with 1,000 soldiers. This began an occupation of the city of Boston that would last eight years. The number of British soldiers occupying the area grew over time. Boston residents were very upset over having an occupation force of British soldiers living among them, and this increased tensions between the two sides. On March 5, 1770, British soldiers fired upon a crowd of Boston residents while the mob was tossing oyster shells, clubs, and rocks at them. This event, known as the Boston Massacre, caused further tensions between both sides.
The Siege of Boston
However, on March 4, 1776, American Brigadier General John Thomas received orders from General Washington to lead a force of 800 soldiers and 1,200 workers to Dorchester Heights. Their purpose was to fortify the area. The sound of construction was masked by American cannons besieging Boston from a separate location. This allowed a dozen cannons to be brought into the Dorchester Heights fortifications from Fort Ticonderoga.
British General Sir William Howe attempted to bring British ships into Boston Harbor to attack the American position, but a storm broke out, and he had to wait. This allowed American forces to complete their fortifications and arm their artillery. When the British finally discovered that the American forces had made their position indefensible, the British withdrew 11,000 of their troops from the area on March 17th and sailed back to Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Evacuation Day Customs & Traditions
Since Evacuation Day also falls on St. Patrick’s Day, many people combine the two holidays into one big celebration. However, there are some Boston residents, especially those who live in Suffolk County, who celebrate Evacuation Day as a holiday in its own right. These people may attend re-enactments of the Siege of Boston, visit historically significant sites in the area, or participate in essay contests.