The war was not going well. After having spent the winter holed up in Cambridge, General George Washington was anxious to drive the British from Boston. His forces battered after their losses at Bunker Hill, were eager to fight and expel the British once and for all. Washington was no less anxious and was hoping for a decisive outcome. That solution was delivered to him by a 25-year-old bookseller-turned-soldier, named Henry Knox.
Months earlier in November 1775, Washington had sent the young Knox to bring to Boston the heavy artillery that had been captured at Fort Ticonderoga. In a technically complex and demanding operation, Knox brought the valuable cannons to Boston and in spite of horrible weather, he delivered them to Washington in late January 1776. In March 1776, the artillery pieces had been secretly positioned and now fortified Dorchester Heights (which overlooked Boston and its harbor), thereby threatening the British remaining one and only supply line, the sea.
Upon waking up on a frigid morning of March 17, 1776, the British commander, Sir William Howe saw the hills surrounding him brisling with cannon, all of which were pointing at him and his forces. At once he knew, Washington had thrown down the gauntlet and was prepared to destroy him and his army. Howe knew the British position at the foot of the hills surrounding him was indefensible and if he chose to fight, he and his army faced certain destruction. What Howe did not know was that Washington’s display of force was just that, a display. Washington’s men and weapons were ready to destroy the British, but lacked enough gunpowder to fire a single shot!
Having concluded surrender was not an option, Howe ordered the withdrawal of all forces occupying Boston and sent them to the British stronghold at Halifax, Nova Scotia. Following Washington’s siege, the port-city of Boston effectively ceased to be a military target, but became a center of revolutionary activities, including the fitting and provisioning of ships of war and privateers. Many of its leading citizens would eventually play important roles in the development of the future United States. And though, among the first of the colonies to fight the British and form a colonial army (incidentally under the command of John Hancock), Massachusetts did not ratify the Constitution and join the new Union until February 6, 1788.
To this day, Bostonians celebrate March 17th as Evacuation Day.
Hope is the strength in your moment of weakness, the light in the dark, the fire when it’s cold.
Hope is more powerful than fear, and is the only antidote to despair. For when we have hope, we can face even the most difficult challenges in our path. Like courage, hope offers us the belief that
failure is not fatal, but the strength to carry on when it is almost certain.
Dr. Rose has been a consultant with ForensicPathways, Inc. for more than two years. He provides clients both investigative and forensic consulting services. This piece is the introduction to a chapter in his forthcoming book: Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way: Inspirational Quotes and Thoughts from American Icons Who Changed our World. This book will be released later this year.