Siege of Boston

Siege of Boston

Overview
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, in which New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

ed within. The Americans, led by George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, eventually forced the British to withdraw from the town after an 11-month siege.

The siege began on April 19 after the battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

, when the militia from many Massachusetts communities surrounded Boston and blocked land access to the then-peninsula
Peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

r town, limiting British resupply to naval operations.
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Encyclopedia
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

, in which New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army
British Army
The British Army is the land warfare branch of Her Majesty's Armed Forces in the United Kingdom. It came into being with the unification of the Kingdom of England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain in 1707. The new British Army incorporated Regiments that had already existed in England...

 garrison
Garrison
Garrison is the collective term for a body of troops stationed in a particular location, originally to guard it, but now often simply using it as a home base....

ed within. The Americans, led by George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

, eventually forced the British to withdraw from the town after an 11-month siege.

The siege began on April 19 after the battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

, when the militia from many Massachusetts communities surrounded Boston and blocked land access to the then-peninsula
Peninsula
A peninsula is a piece of land that is bordered by water on three sides but connected to mainland. In many Germanic and Celtic languages and also in Baltic, Slavic and Hungarian, peninsulas are called "half-islands"....

r town, limiting British resupply to naval operations. The Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 chose to adopt the militia and form the Continental Army, and unanimously elected George Washington as its Commander in Chief. In June 1775, the British seized Bunker and Breeds Hills
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

, but the casualties they suffered were so heavy that they could not break the siege. For the rest of the siege, there was little action other than occasional raids, minor skirmishes, and sniper fire. Both sides had to deal with resource supply and personnel issues over the course of the siege.

In November 1775, Washington sent a 25 year-old bookseller-turned-soldier named Henry Knox
Henry Knox
Henry Knox was a military officer of the Continental Army and later the United States Army, and also served as the first United States Secretary of War....

 to bring heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga occurred during the American Revolutionary War on May 10, 1775, when a small force of Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold overcame a small British garrison at the fort and looted the personal belongings of the garrison...

 to Boston. In a technically complex and demanding operation, Knox brought many cannons to the Boston area
Noble train of artillery
The noble train of artillery, also known as the Knox Expedition, was an expedition led by Continental Army Colonel Henry Knox to transport heavy weaponry that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga to the Continental Army camps outside Boston, Massachusetts during the winter of 1775–1776.Knox went...

 in January 1776. In March 1776, these artillery were used to fortify Dorchester Heights
Fortification of Dorchester Heights
The Fortification of Dorchester Heights was a decisive action early in the American Revolutionary War that precipitated the end of the siege of Boston and the withdrawal of British troops from that city....

, overlooking Boston and its harbor and threatening the British naval supply lifeline. The British commander William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

, realizing he could no longer hold the town, chose to evacuate it. He withdrew the British forces, departing on March 17 (celebrated today as Evacuation Day
Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
March 17 is Evacuation Day, a holiday observed in Suffolk County and also by the public schools in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War...

) for Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Background


Prior to 1775, the British had imposed taxes and import duties on the American colonies, to which the colonists objected, since they lacked representation in the British Parliament. In response to the Boston Tea Party
Boston Tea Party
The Boston Tea Party was a direct action by colonists in Boston, a town in the British colony of Massachusetts, against the British government and the monopolistic East India Company that controlled all the tea imported into the colonies...

 and other acts of protest, 4,000 British troops under the leadership of General Thomas Gage
Thomas Gage
Thomas Gage was a British general, best known for his many years of service in North America, including his role as military commander in the early days of the American War of Independence....

 were sent to occupy the city of Boston and to pacify the restive Province of Massachusetts Bay
Province of Massachusetts Bay
The Province of Massachusetts Bay was a crown colony in North America. It was chartered on October 7, 1691 by William and Mary, the joint monarchs of the kingdoms of England and Scotland...

. Gage, among other actions authorized by the British parliament
Parliament of Great Britain
The Parliament of Great Britain was formed in 1707 following the ratification of the Acts of Union by both the Parliament of England and Parliament of Scotland...

 in the so-called Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

, disbanded the local provincial government (led by John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

 and Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

), which reformed itself into a Provincial Congress
Massachusetts Provincial Congress
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress was a provisional government created in the Province of Massachusetts Bay early in the American Revolution....

, and continued to meet. The Provincial Congress called for the organization of local militias and coordinated the accumulation of weapons and other military supplies. Under the terms of the Boston Port Act
Boston Port Act
The Boston Port Act is an Act of the Parliament of Great Britain which became law on March 30, 1774, and is one of the measures that were designed to secure Great Britain's jurisdictions over her American dominions.A response to the Boston Tea Party, it outlawed the use...

, Gage closed the Boston port, which caused much unemployment and discontent.

When British forces were sent to take military supplies from the town of Concord
Concord, Massachusetts
Concord is a town in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the town population was 17,668. Although a small town, Concord is noted for its leading roles in American history and literature.-History:...

 on April 19, 1775, militia companies from surrounding towns opposed them in the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

. At Concord, some of the British forces were routed in a confrontation at the North Bridge
Old North Bridge, Concord, Massachusetts
The North Bridge, often colloquially called the Old North Bridge, across the Concord River in Concord, Massachusetts, is a historical site in the Battle of Concord, the first day of battle in the Revolutionary War....

. The British troops were again attacked in a running battle on their return to Boston, suffering heavy casualties. All of the New England
New England
New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

 colonies (and later colonies further south) raised militias in response to this alarm, and sent them to Boston.

Siege



Digging in



In the immediate aftermath of the battles of the 19th, the Massachusetts militia
Massachusetts militia
Militia of the Colony and later Commonwealth of Massachusetts.-List of Massachusetts militia units of the American Revolution:*Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts *Cogswell's Regiment of Militia...

, under the loose leadership of William Heath
William Heath
William Heath was an American farmer, soldier, and political leader from Massachusetts who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War....

, who was superseded by General Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward was an American major general in the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts...

 late on the 20th, formed a siege line extending from Chelsea
Chelsea, Massachusetts
Chelsea is a city in Suffolk County, Massachusetts, United States directly across the Mystic River from the city of Boston. It is the smallest city in Massachusetts in land area, and the 26th most densely populated incorporated place in the country.-History:...

, around the peninsulas of Boston and Charlestown, to Roxbury
Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868...

, effectively surrounding Boston on three sides. They particularly blocked the Charlestown Neck (the only land access to Charlestown), and the Boston Neck (the only land access to Boston, which was then a peninsula), leaving only the harbor and sea access under British control. In the days immediately following, the size of the colonial forces grew, as militias from New Hampshire
Province of New Hampshire
The Province of New Hampshire is a name first given in 1629 to the territory between the Merrimack and Piscataqua rivers on the eastern coast of North America. It was formally organized as an English royal colony on October 7, 1691, during the period of English colonization...

, Rhode Island
Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations
The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations was one of the original English Thirteen Colonies established on the east coast of North America that, after the American Revolution, became the modern U.S...

, and Connecticut
Connecticut Colony
The Connecticut Colony or Colony of Connecticut was an English colony located in British America that became the U.S. state of Connecticut. Originally known as the River Colony, it was organized on March 3, 1636 as a haven for Puritan noblemen. After early struggles with the Dutch, the English...

 arrived on the scene. General Gage wrote of his surprise of the number of rebels surrounding the city: "The rebels are not the despicable rabble too many have supposed them to be....In all their wars against the French they never showed such conduct, attention, and perseverance as they do now."

In the surrounded city of Boston, Gage turned his attention to fortifying easily defensible positions. In the south, at Roxbury
Roxbury, Massachusetts
Roxbury is a dissolved municipality and current neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts, United States. It was one of the first towns founded in the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630, and became a city in 1846 until annexed to Boston on January 5, 1868...

, Gage ordered lines of defenses with 10 twenty-four pound guns. On the peninsula of Boston itself, four hills were quickly fortified. They were to be the main defense of the city. Over time, each of these hills were strengthened. Gage also decided to abandon Charlestown, removing the beleaguered forces (that had retreated from Concord) to Boston. The town of Charlestown itself was entirely vacant, and the high lands of Charlestown (Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill) were left undefended, as were the heights of Dorchester
Dorchester Heights
Dorchester Heights is the central area of South Boston. It is the highest area in the neighborhood and commands a view of both Boston Harbor and downtown.-History:...

, which had a commanding view of the harbor and the city.

The British at first greatly restricted movement in and out of the city, fearing infiltration of weapons. Besieged and besiegers eventually reached an informal agreement allowing traffic on the Boston Neck, provided no firearms were carried. Residents of Boston turned in almost 2,000 muskets, and most of the Patriot
Patriot (American Revolution)
Patriots is a name often used to describe the colonists of the British Thirteen United Colonies who rebelled against British control during the American Revolution. It was their leading figures who, in July 1776, declared the United States of America an independent nation...

 residents left the city. Many Loyalist
Loyalist (American Revolution)
Loyalists were American colonists who remained loyal to the Kingdom of Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. At the time they were often called Tories, Royalists, or King's Men. They were opposed by the Patriots, those who supported the revolution...

s who lived outside the city of Boston left their homes and fled into the city. Most of them felt that it was not safe to live outside of the city, because the Patriots were now in control of the countryside. Some of the men, after arriving in Boston, joined Loyalist regiments attached to the British army.

Since the siege did not blockade the harbor, the city remained open for the Royal Navy
Royal Navy
The Royal Navy is the naval warfare service branch of the British Armed Forces. Founded in the 16th century, it is the oldest service branch and is known as the Senior Service...

 under Vice Admiral Samuel Graves
Samuel Graves
Admiral Samuel Graves RN was a British Admiral who is probably best known for his role early in the American War of Independence.-Military career:Graves joined the Royal Navy in 1732...

 to sail in supplies from Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 and other places. Colonial forces could do little to stop these shipments due to the naval supremacy of the British fleet and the complete absence of a Continental Navy
Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...

 in the spring of 1775. Nevertheless, the town and the British forces were on short rations, and prices rose quickly. In addition, the American forces generally had information about what was happening in the city, but General Gage had no effective intelligence of rebel activities.

Early skirmishes


On May 3, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

 to raise forces for taking Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga
Fort Ticonderoga, formerly Fort Carillon, is a large 18th-century fort built by the Canadians and the French at a narrows near the south end of Lake Champlain in upstate New York in the United States...

 near the southern end of Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain
Lake Champlain is a natural, freshwater lake in North America, located mainly within the borders of the United States but partially situated across the Canada—United States border in the Canadian province of Quebec.The New York portion of the Champlain Valley includes the eastern portions of...

 in the Province of New York
Province of New York
The Province of New York was an English and later British crown territory that originally included all of the present U.S. states of New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Vermont, along with inland portions of Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Maine, as well as eastern Pennsylvania...

, which was known to have heavy weapons, and to be only lightly defended. Arnold arrived in Castleton
Castleton, Vermont
Castleton is a town in Rutland County, Vermont, United States. Castleton is about to the west of Rutland, and about east of the New York/Vermont state border. The town had a population of 4,717 at the 2010 census. Castleton State College is located there, with roots dating to 1787...

 (in what is now Vermont
Vermont
Vermont is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. The state ranks 43rd in land area, , and 45th in total area. Its population according to the 2010 census, 630,337, is the second smallest in the country, larger only than Wyoming. It is the only New England...

, but was then disputed territory between New York and New Hampshire) on the 9th, where he joined with Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen
Ethan Allen was a farmer, businessman, land speculator, philosopher, writer, and American Revolutionary War patriot, hero, and politician. He is best known as one of the founders of the U.S...

 and a militia company from Connecticut, all of whom had independently arrived at the idea of taking Ticonderoga. This company, under the joint leadership of Arnold and Allen, captured Fort Ticonderoga
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga occurred during the American Revolutionary War on May 10, 1775, when a small force of Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold overcame a small British garrison at the fort and looted the personal belongings of the garrison...

 and Fort Crown Point
Fort Crown Point
Crown Point, was a British fort built by the combined efforts of both British and Provincial troops in North America in 1759 at narrows on Lake Champlain on the border between modern New York State and Vermont...

. They also captured the one large military vessel on Lake Champlain in a raid on Fort Saint-Jean
Fort Saint-Jean (Quebec)
Fort Saint-Jean is a fort in the Canadian La Vallée-du-Richelieu Regional County Municipality, Quebec located on the Richelieu River. The fort was first built in 1666 by soldiers of the Carignan-Salières Regiment and was part of a series of forts built along the Richelieu River...

. They recovered over 180 cannons, as well as other weaponry and supplies that the nascent Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

 would find useful in tightening their grip on Boston.


In Boston, there was no regular supply of fresh meat, and many horses needed hay. On May 21, Gage ordered a party to go to Grape Island
Grape Island (Massachusetts)
Grape Island is an island in the Hingham Bay area of the Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area. The island is part of the territory of the town of Weymouth, Massachusetts. The island has a permanent size of , plus an intertidal zone of a further , and is composed of two drumlins, reaching...

, in the outer harbor
Boston Harbor
Boston Harbor is a natural harbor and estuary of Massachusetts Bay, and is located adjacent to the city of Boston, Massachusetts. It is home to the Port of Boston, a major shipping facility in the northeast.-History:...

, and bring hay to Boston. When the Continentals on the mainland noticed this, they took alarm, and the militia were called out. As the British party arrived, they came under fire from the militia. The militia set fire to a barn on the island, destroying 80 tons of hay, and prevented the British from taking more than 3 tons.

Continental forces, partly in response to the Grape Island incident, worked to clear the harbor islands of livestock and supplies useful to the British. On May 27, in the Battle of Chelsea Creek
Battle of Chelsea Creek
The Battle of Chelsea Creek was the second military engagement of the Boston campaign of the American Revolutionary War. It is also known as the Battle of Noddle's Island, Battle of Hog Island and the Battle of the Chelsea Estuary...

, the British Marines
Royal Marines
The Corps of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, commonly just referred to as the Royal Marines , are the marine corps and amphibious infantry of the United Kingdom and, along with the Royal Navy and Royal Fleet Auxiliary, form the Naval Service...

 attempted to stop removal of livestock from some of the islands. The Americans resisted, and, in the course of the action, the British schooner Diana
HM Armed Schooner Diana
HMS Diana was the first British vessel captured and destroyed by colonial forces during the American Revolutionary War.The 120 ton schooner was afloat for little more than a year...

 ran aground and was destroyed, but not before the Continentals recovered its weaponry. In an attempt to help quell the rebellion, Gage issued a proclamation on June 12 offering to pardon all of those who would lay down their arms, with the exception of John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

 and Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

. Instead of quelling the rebellion, it ignited anger among the Patriots, and more people began to take up arms.

Breed's Hill




Throughought May, the British had been receiving reinforcements, until they reached a strength of about 6,000 men. On May 25, three Generals arrived on HMS Cerberus
HMS Cerberus (1758)
HMS Cerberus was a 28 gun sixth-rate frigate of the Royal Navy.She was ordered on 6 May 1757 from the yards of Pleasant Fenn, East Cowes and was laid down on 13 June 1757. She was launched just over a year later on 5 September 1758. The ship was the target of an early torpedo attack by David...

: William Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

, John Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

, and Henry Clinton
Henry Clinton (American War of Independence)
General Sir Henry Clinton KB was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence. First arriving in Boston in May 1775, from 1778 to 1782 he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America...

. Gage began planning to break out of the city.

The plan decided on by the British command was to fortify both Bunker Hill and Dorchester Heights. They fixed the date for taking Dorchester Heights at June 18. On June 15, the colonists' Committee of Safety
Committee of Safety (American Revolution)
Many Committees of Safety were established throughout Colonial America at the start of the American Revolution. These committees started to appear in the 1760s as means to discuss the concerns of the time, and often consisted of every male adult in the community...

 learned of the British plans. In response, they sent instructions to General Ward to fortify Bunker Hill and the heights of Charlestown; he assigned Colonel William Prescott
William Prescott
William Prescott was an American colonel in the Revolutionary War who commanded the rebel forces in the Battle of Bunker Hill...

 the task. On the night of June 16, Prescott led 1200 men over the Charlestown Neck, and constructed fortifications on Bunker Hill and Breed's Hill.

On June 17, in the Battle of Bunker Hill
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill took place on June 17, 1775, mostly on and around Breed's Hill, during the Siege of Boston early in the American Revolutionary War...

, British forces under General Howe took the Charlestown peninsula. The British succeeded in their tactical objective of taking the high ground on the Charlestown peninsula, but they suffered significant losses. With some 1,000 men killed or wounded, including 92 officers killed, the British losses were so heavy that there were no further direct attacks on American forces. The Americans, while ultimately losing the battle, had again stood against the British regulars with some success, as they had successfully repelled two assaults on Breed's Hill during the engagement. From this point, the siege essentially became a stalemate
Stalemate
Stalemate is a situation in chess where the player whose turn it is to move is not in check but has no legal moves. A stalemate ends the game in a draw. Stalemate is covered in the rules of chess....

.

Stalemate


On July 3, George Washington arrived to take charge of the new Continental Army
Continental Army
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War by the colonies that became the United States of America. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies in...

. He set up his headquarters at a house in Cambridge
Longfellow National Historic Site
The Longfellow House–Washington's Headquarters National Historic Site, also known as the Vassall-Craigie-Longfellow House and, until December 2010, Longfellow National Historic Site, is a historic site located at 105 Brattle Street in Cambridge, Massachusetts. For almost fifty years, it was the...

 that would later also become well known as the home of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was an American poet and educator whose works include "Paul Revere's Ride", The Song of Hiawatha, and Evangeline...

. By this time forces and supplies were arriving, including companies of riflemen from as far away as Maryland
Maryland
Maryland is a U.S. state located in the Mid Atlantic region of the United States, bordering Virginia, West Virginia, and the District of Columbia to its south and west; Pennsylvania to its north; and Delaware to its east...

 and Virginia
Virginia
The Commonwealth of Virginia , is a U.S. state on the Atlantic Coast of the Southern United States. Virginia is nicknamed the "Old Dominion" and sometimes the "Mother of Presidents" after the eight U.S. presidents born there...

. Washington began the work of molding the militias into something more closely resembling an army, appointing senior officers (where the militias had typically elected their leaders), and introducing more organization and disciplinary measures to the encamped militias. He required officers of different ranks to wear differentiating apparel, so that they might be distinguished from their underlings and superiors. Toward the end of July, about 2,000 riflemen
Rifleman
Although ultimately originating with the 16th century handgunners and the 17th century musketeers and streltsy, the term rifleman originated from the 18th century. It would later become the term for the archetypal common soldier.-History:...

 arrived in units raised in Pennsylvania
Province of Pennsylvania
The Province of Pennsylvania, also known as Pennsylvania Colony, was founded in British America by William Penn on March 4, 1681 as dictated in a royal charter granted by King Charles II...

, Maryland
Province of Maryland
The Province of Maryland was an English and later British colony in North America that existed from 1632 until 1776, when it joined the other twelve of the Thirteen Colonies in rebellion against Great Britain and became the U.S...

, and Virginia. The accuracy of the rifle
Rifle
A rifle is a firearm designed to be fired from the shoulder, with a barrel that has a helical groove or pattern of grooves cut into the barrel walls. The raised areas of the rifling are called "lands," which make contact with the projectile , imparting spin around an axis corresponding to the...

 was previously unknown in New England, and these forces were used to harass the besieged forces.


Washington also ordered the defenses to be improved. Trenches were dug on the Boston Neck, and then extended toward Boston. However, these activities had little effect on the British occupation. The working parties, the soldiers who worked on the fortifications on the front lines, were fired on from time to time, as were sentries guarding the works. On July 30, in retaliation for an American attack, the British pushed back an American advanced guard, and burned a few houses in Roxbury. Four days later, on August 2, an American rifleman was killed, and his body hung up by the neck. In retaliation, other American riflemen marched to the lines and began to attack the British troops. They continued their sharp shooting all day, killing or wounding many of the British, and losing only one man. On August 30, the British made a surprise breakout from the Boston Neck, set fire to a tavern, and withdrew to their defenses. On the same night, 300 Americans attacked Lighthouse Island
Boston Light
Boston Light is a lighthouse located on Little Brewster Island in outer Boston Harbor, Massachusetts. The first lighthouse to be built on the site dates back to 1716, and was the first lighthouse to be built in what is now the United States...

 and burned the lighthouse, killing several British soldiers and capturing 23 at the loss of one life. On another August night, Washington sent 1,200 men to dig entrenchments on a hill near the Charlestown Neck. Despite a British bombardment, the Americans successfully dug the trenches.

In early September, Washington began drawing up plans for two moves; first, to dispatch 1,000 men from Boston and invade Quebec
Invasion of Canada (1775)
The Invasion of Canada in 1775 was the first major military initiative by the newly formed Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. The objective of the campaign was to gain military control of the British Province of Quebec, and convince the French-speaking Canadiens to join the...

, and second, to launch an attack on Boston. Washington felt that he could afford to send some troops to Quebec, as he had received intelligence from British deserters and American spies that the British had no intention of launching an attack from Boston until they were reinforced. On September 11, about 1,100 troops under the command of Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold
Benedict Arnold V was a general during the American Revolutionary War. He began the war in the Continental Army but later defected to the British Army. While a general on the American side, he obtained command of the fort at West Point, New York, and plotted to surrender it to the British forces...

 left for Quebec. Washington summoned a council of war, and made a case for an all out amphibious assault on Boston, by sending troops across Back Bay in flat-bottomed boats which could hold 50 men each. Washington believed it would be extremely difficult to keep the men together when winter came. After discussion, the plan was unanimously rejected, and the decision was not to attack "for the present at least."


September also saw the beginning of the Continental Navy
Continental Navy
The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. Through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron, John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, the fleet cumulatively became relatively...

, when on the 2nd Washington authorized the appropriation and outfitting of local fishing vessels for intelligence-gathering and interdiction of supplies to the British, to the extent possible. This authorization was in addition to authorizations of privateer
Privateer
A privateer is a private person or ship authorized by a government by letters of marque to attack foreign shipping during wartime. Privateering was a way of mobilizing armed ships and sailors without having to spend public money or commit naval officers...

ing activities by the provincial Congresses of Connecticut and Rhode Island.

In early November, 400 British soldiers went to Lechmere's Point
Lechmere Square
Lechmere Square is located at the intersection of Cambridge Street and First Street in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was originally named for the Colonial-era landowner Richard Lechmere, a Loyalist who returned to England at the beginning of the American Revolution. His lands were later seized...

 on a raiding expedition to acquire some livestock. They made off with 10 head of cattle, but lost two lives in the skirmish with colonial troops sent to defend the point. On November 29, colonial Captain John Manley
John Manley (naval officer)
John Manley was an officer in the Continental Navy and the United States Navy.-Early life:Tradition holds that John Manley was born in 1733 near Torquay, Devonshire, in south west England. As a young man, he settled in Marblehead, Massachusetts, eventually becoming the captain of a merchant...

, commanding the schooner
Schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

 Lee
USS Lee (1775)
The first USS Lee was a schooner under the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. She was named for General Charles Lee.-1775:...

, captured one of the most valuable prizes of the siege, the British brigantine
Brigantine
In sailing, a brigantine or hermaphrodite brig is a vessel with two masts, only the forward of which is square rigged.-Origins of the term:...

 Nancy, just outside Boston Harbor. She was carrying a large supply of ordnance and military stores intended for the British troops in Boston. On November 11, 1775, Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 wrote to Congress of an incident during the siege, in which Col. Woodbridge
Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge
Benjamin Ruggles Woodbridge of South Hadley, Massachusetts, practiced medicine and law, was a colonel in the Massachusetts militia during the American Revolutionary War, and was a commander at the Battle of Bunker Hill. He was also a farmer, and he owned a rum still, a wood lot, a grazing meadow,...

 and part of his 25th Regiment (Massachusetts)
Woodbridge's Regiment of Militia
Woodbridge's Regiment of Militia, also known as the "1st Hampshire County Militia Regiment" and "Woodbridge's Regiment" and "The 25th Regiment of Foot"...

 joined with Col. William Thompson’s
William Thompson (general)
William Thompson was a soldier from Pennsylvania and a brigadier general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.Thompson was born in Ireland and emigrated to Carlisle, Pennsylvania...

 Pennsylvania Regiment
1st Pennsylvania Regiment
The 1st Pennsylvania Regiment, also known as the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment and 1st Continental Regiment, was raised under the command of Colonel William Thompson for service in the Continental Army.-History:...

, defending against a British landing at Lechmere’s Point
Lechmere Square
Lechmere Square is located at the intersection of Cambridge Street and First Street in East Cambridge, Massachusetts. It was originally named for the Colonial-era landowner Richard Lechmere, a Loyalist who returned to England at the beginning of the American Revolution. His lands were later seized...

, and “gallantly waded through the water, and soon obliged the enemy to embark under cover of a man-of-war…”

As winter approached, both sides faced their own problems. The Americans were so short on gunpowder that soldiers were given spears to fight with in the event of a British attack. Many of the American troops remained unpaid and many of their enlistments would be up at the end of the year. On the British side Howe, who had replaced Gage as commander in October, was faced with different problems. Wood was so scarce that they began cutting down trees and tearing down old houses. To add to this, supplying the city had become increasingly difficult because of winter storms and American privateers patrolling the waters outside of Boston. The British troops were so hungry that many were ready to desert as soon as they could. Worse, scurvy
Scurvy
Scurvy is a disease resulting from a deficiency of vitamin C, which is required for the synthesis of collagen in humans. The chemical name for vitamin C, ascorbic acid, is derived from the Latin name of scurvy, scorbutus, which also provides the adjective scorbutic...

 and smallpox
Smallpox
Smallpox was an infectious disease unique to humans, caused by either of two virus variants, Variola major and Variola minor. The disease is also known by the Latin names Variola or Variola vera, which is a derivative of the Latin varius, meaning "spotted", or varus, meaning "pimple"...

 had broken out in the city.

Washington again proposed to assault Boston in October, but his officers thought it best to wait until the harbor had frozen over. In February, when the water had frozen between Roxbury and Boston Common, Washington thought that in spite of his shortage in powder he would try an assault by rushing across the ice; but his officers again advised against it. Washington's desire to launch an attack on Boston arose from his fear that his army would desert in the winter, and how easily he knew that Howe could break the lines of his army in its present condition. He had not yet learned how completely he could trust in Howe's inactivity; he abandoned an attack across the ice with great reluctance in exchange for a more cautious plan, to fortify Dorchester Heights using cannon arrived from Fort Ticonderoga.

In mid-January, on orders from London, British Major General Henry Clinton and a small fleet set sail for the Carolinas with 1,500 men. Their objective was to take a port in the southern colonies for further military operations in the Southern theater
Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War
The Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War was the central area of operations in North America in the second half of the American Revolutionary War. During the first three years of the conflict, the primary military encounters had been in the north, focused on campaigns around the...

 In early February a British raiding party crossed the ice and burned several farmhouses in Dorchester.

End of the siege




Between November 1775 and February 1776, Henry Knox
Henry Knox
Henry Knox was a military officer of the Continental Army and later the United States Army, and also served as the first United States Secretary of War....

 and a team of engineers used sled
Sled
A sled, sledge, or sleigh is a land vehicle with a smooth underside or possessing a separate body supported by two or more smooth, relatively narrow, longitudinal runners that travels by sliding across a surface. Most sleds are used on surfaces with low friction, such as snow or ice. In some cases,...

ges to retrieve 60 tons of heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga
Capture of Fort Ticonderoga
The Capture of Fort Ticonderoga occurred during the American Revolutionary War on May 10, 1775, when a small force of Green Mountain Boys led by Ethan Allen and Colonel Benedict Arnold overcame a small British garrison at the fort and looted the personal belongings of the garrison...

. Bringing them across the frozen Hudson
Hudson River
The Hudson is a river that flows from north to south through eastern New York. The highest official source is at Lake Tear of the Clouds, on the slopes of Mount Marcy in the Adirondack Mountains. The river itself officially begins in Henderson Lake in Newcomb, New York...

 and Connecticut
Connecticut River
The Connecticut River is the largest and longest river in New England, and also an American Heritage River. It flows roughly south, starting from the Fourth Connecticut Lake in New Hampshire. After flowing through the remaining Connecticut Lakes and Lake Francis, it defines the border between the...

 rivers in a technically challenging and complex operation, they arrived back at Cambridge on January 24, 1776.

Fortification of Dorchester Heights


Some of the Ticonderoga cannons, which were of a size and range not previously available to the Americans, were emplaced in fortifications around the city, and on the night of March 2, the Americans began to bombard the city with those cannon, to which the British responded with cannonades of their own. The American guns, under the direction of Colonel Knox, continued to exchange fire with the British until March 4. The exchange of fire did little damage to either side, although it did damage houses and kill some British soldiers in Boston.
On March 5, Washington moved more of the Ticonderoga cannon and several thousand men overnight to occupy Dorchester Heights
Dorchester Heights
Dorchester Heights is the central area of South Boston. It is the highest area in the neighborhood and commands a view of both Boston Harbor and downtown.-History:...

, overlooking Boston. Since it was winter and the continental army was unable to dig into the frozen ground on Dorchester Heights, rather than entrenching themselves, Washington's men used logs, branches and anything else available to fortify the position overnight. General Howe is said to have exclaimed, "My God, these fellows have done more work in one night than I could make my army do in three months." The British fleet was within range of the American guns on Dorchester Heights, putting it and the troops in the city at risk.

The immediate response of the British was a two hour cannon barrage at the heights, which had no effect because the British guns could not reach the American guns at such height. After the failure of the barrage, Howe and his officers agreed that the colonists must be removed from the heights if they were to hold Boston. They planned an assault on the heights; however, due to a storm the attack never took place, and the British elected instead to withdraw.

On March 8, some prominent Bostonians sent a letter to Washington, stating that the British would not destroy the town if they were allowed to depart unmolested. Washington was given the letter, but formally rejected it, as it was not addressed to him by either name or title. However, the letter had the intended effect: when the evacuation began, there was no American fire to hinder the British departure. On March 9, after seeing movement on Nook's Hill on Dorchester, the British opened a massive fire barrage that lasted all night. It killed four men with one cannonball, but that was all the damage that was done. The next day, the colonists went out and collected the 700 cannonballs that had been fired at them.

Evacuation


On March 10, General Howe issued a proclamation ordering the inhabitants to give up all linen and woolen goods that could be used by the colonists to continue the war. A Loyalist, Crean Brush, was authorized to receive these goods, in return for which he gave certificates that were effectively worthless. Over the next week, the British fleet sat in Boston harbor waiting for favorable winds, while loyalists and the remaining British soldiers were loaded onto the ships. During this time, American naval activities outside the harbor successfully captured and diverted to ports under colonial control several British supply ships. On March 15, the wind became favorable, but before they could leave, it turned against them. On March 17 the wind once again turned favorable. The troops, who were authorized to burn the town if there were any disturbances while they were marching to their ships, began to move out at 4:00 a.m. By 9:00 a.m., all ships were underway. The fleet departing from Boston included 120 ships, with more than 11,000 people aboard. Of those, 9,906 were British troops, 667 were women, and 553 were children.

Americans clean up


Once the British fleet sailed away, the Americans moved to reclaim Boston and Charlestown. At first, they thought that the British were still on Bunker Hill, but it turned out that the British had left dummies in place. Due to the risk of smallpox, at first only men picked for their prior exposure to the disease entered Boston under the command of Artemas Ward. More of the colonial army entered on March 20, once the risk of disease was judged low. While Washington had essentially acceded to the British threat to burn Boston, and had not hindered their departure from the city, he did not make their escape from the outer harbor entirely easy. He directed Captain Manley to harass the departing British fleet, in which he had some success, capturing among other prizes the ship carrying Crean Brush and his plunder.

General Howe, when his fleet finally left the outer harbor, left in his wake a small contingent of vessels whose primary purpose was to intercept any arriving British vessels. While they successfully redirected to Halifax numerous ships carrying British troops originally destined for Boston, some unsuspecting British troop ships landed in Boston, only to fall into American hands.

The British departure ended major military activities in the New England colonies.
Washington, fearing that the British were going to attack New York City, departed on April 4 with his army for Manhattan
Manhattan
Manhattan is the oldest and the most densely populated of the five boroughs of New York City. Located primarily on the island of Manhattan at the mouth of the Hudson River, the boundaries of the borough are identical to those of New York County, an original county of the state of New York...

, which would begin the New York and New Jersey campaign
New York and New Jersey campaign
The New York and New Jersey campaign was a series of battles for control of New York City and the state of New Jersey in the American Revolutionary War between British forces under General Sir William Howe and the Continental Army under General George Washington in 1776 and the winter months of 1777...

.


Fate of the British Generals


General Howe would be severely criticized in the British press and Parliament for his failures in the Boston campaign. General Gage was never given another command. General Burgoyne would see action in the Saratoga Campaign
Saratoga campaign
The Saratoga Campaign was an attempt by Great Britain to gain military control of the strategically important Hudson River valley in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War...

, a disaster that saw his capture, as well as that of 7,500 troops under his command. General Clinton would command the British forces in America for four years (1778–1782), only to be recalled.

Fate of the Loyalists


Many Massachusetts Loyalists left with the British when they evacuated Boston. Some returned to England to rebuild lives there, and some returned to America after the war. Many stayed in Nova Scotia, settling in places like Saint John
Saint John, New Brunswick
City of Saint John , or commonly Saint John, is the largest city in the province of New Brunswick, and the first incorporated city in Canada. The city is situated along the north shore of the Bay of Fundy at the mouth of the Saint John River. In 2006 the city proper had a population of 74,043...

, and many became active in the future development of Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia
Nova Scotia is one of Canada's three Maritime provinces and is the most populous province in Atlantic Canada. The name of the province is Latin for "New Scotland," but "Nova Scotia" is the recognized, English-language name of the province. The provincial capital is Halifax. Nova Scotia is the...

 and New Brunswick.

Fate of the City of Boston


Boston effectively ceased to be a military target. It continued to be a focal point for revolutionary activities, with its port acting as an important point for fitting ships of war and privateers. Its leading citizens would have important roles in the development of the future United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Boston and other area communities mark the March 17 end of the siege as Evacuation Day
Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
March 17 is Evacuation Day, a holiday observed in Suffolk County and also by the public schools in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War...

.

See also

  • Battle of Gloucester
    Battle of Gloucester (1775)
    The Battle of Gloucester was a skirmish fought early in the American Revolutionary War at Gloucester, Massachusetts on August 8 or 9, 1775. Royal Navy Captain John Linzee, commanding the sloop-of-war HMS Falcon, spotted two schooners that were returning from the West Indies. After capturing one...

    , capture of British seamen attempting to enforce blockade in Gloucester
    Gloucester, Massachusetts
    Gloucester is a city on Cape Ann in Essex County, Massachusetts, in the United States. It is part of Massachusetts' North Shore. The population was 28,789 at the 2010 U.S. Census...

     Harbor
  • Battle of Machias
    Battle of Machias
    The Battle of Machias was the first naval engagement of the American Revolutionary War...

    , Boston-based ship captured in Machias Bay
    Machias Bay
    Machias Bay is a bay in Washington County, Maine that opens into the Gulf of Maine.The bay was the scene of the Battle of Machias — the first naval battle of the American Revolution, occasioned by the British need for lumber for Boston....

  • Burning of Falmouth
    Burning of Falmouth
    The Burning of Falmouth was an attack by a fleet of Royal Navy vessels on the town of Falmouth, Massachusetts . The fleet was commanded by Captain Henry Mowat...

    , Falmouth (modern Portland, Maine
    Portland, Maine
    Portland is the largest city in Maine and is the county seat of Cumberland County. The 2010 city population was 66,194, growing 3 percent since the census of 2000...

    ) burned in retaliation for Patriot activity
  • Evacuation Day
    Evacuation Day (Massachusetts)
    March 17 is Evacuation Day, a holiday observed in Suffolk County and also by the public schools in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts. The holiday commemorates the evacuation of British forces from the city of Boston following the Siege of Boston, early in the American Revolutionary War...

  • Fort Washington, Massachusetts, surviving colonial position used during the siege