On March 17, 1776, British soldiers under General Howe were forced to evacuate Boston. In 1768, the first 4,000 troops had arrived in Boston.
By the time of the evacuation, that number had grown to 11,000.
Overnight on March 5th on Dorchester Heights, patriot soldiers under General George Washington constructed parapets and rifle pits along with cannon brought from Fort Ticonderoga by Colonel Knox. Gen. Howe awoke the following morning to extensive earthworks upon the strategically important hill.
Rather than risk another battle with heavy casualties such as Bunker Hill, Gen. Howe made the decision to withdraw his troops by ship never to return to Boston. The departing of troops was not only a military victory for the fledgling Continental Army, it was also a psychological victory for Boston and all the colonies.
The sacrifices and commitment of Boston citizens, the Militia throughout the countryside and Washington’s Army inspired the colonies to organize and fight for their freedom, eventually leading to the founding of the United States of America.
Saint Patrick’s Day parades have been held in Boston since 1876. Evacuation Day was not declared a holiday in the city of Boston until 1901.
The large Irish population of Boston played a role in the establishment of the county holiday. A 1941 law establishing Evacuation Day in Suffolk County was signed in both black and green ink.
Celebrated on March 17, only in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, (which includes Boston), Evacuation Day gives Boston area workers St. Patrick’s Day off from work.
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