Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Boston falls to the rebels, 1776

On 5th March 1776 the American rebels made a move that forced the British to surrender Boston to them. This was when they mounted cannons on Dorchester Heights, overlooking Boston Harbour and the city, in such a way that the British could not fire back should they be discharged.

One irony of the situation was that the artillery pieces had been in British hands the year before, but had been captured by the rebels at Fort Ticonderoga. During the winter they had been hauled on ox-drawn sledges for 300 miles until they could be arrayed on Dorchester Heights, much to the surprise of the British general, Sir William Howe.

The brilliance of the move was that it was impossible for the British to raise their own cannon to a high enough angle to respond. Their only hope was to capture the cannon on the Heights via a night-time assault, but this proved impossible when the weather intervened with a heavy rainstorm that prevented troop movements.

Instead, on the following day Sir William offered to leave Boston, having promised that he would not burn the city before he did so, as long as his withdrawal was allowed to proceed without hindrance. This was agreed and the British sailed away ten days later.

New England was now in rebel hands, but the Revolutionary War was far from over, with six years of fierce combat still to come.

© John Welford