From his headquarters, General William Howe looked through a spyglass over at the American lines. He was stunned! “The rebels have done more in one night than my army could have done in a month,” he grumbled.
What did he mean? A nearby hill appeared to be loaded with Patriot artillery!
A year earlier, in May of 1775, Ethan Allen, a militia leader, led a group of Patriots known as “The Green Mountain Boys” against Fort Ticonderoga. Being taken completely by surprise, the commander of the fort surrendered the fort along with about 100 cannons.
In January of the next year, Washington’s chief of artillery, Henry Knox, transported 52 of these cannons and mortars over 300 miles from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Knox had to cross frozen bodies of water and travel through deep snow and rough mountain ranges. Amazingly he didn’t even lose a single cannon! What an accomplishment for a group of men, with oxen and sleds in the snow! And what encouragement for men worn out from a six-month siege of Boston.
With these cannons now in his possession, Washington cleverly occupied the Dorchester Heights which neither of the commanders had previously utilized because of its barren and frozen condition. Using 20 of the cannons, he fortified the heights to appear more intimidating. Though he did not have enough powder or shot to actually defeat Howe, he began bombarding Boston.
Inside the city the siege had caused tremendous food and wood shortages. General Howe had wanted to leave months before, but Atlantic storms had locked him in Boston. Now because of Washington’s clever strategy, Howe was forced to respond. To escape the patriot guns, Howe’s warships anchored further away from the Heights. However, a storm came along, and the ships were blown together. Disappointed, he and his troops boarded the few transports they had, departing for New York. He was in such a hurry that he left around 100 cannons behind! Thus the siege ended on St. Patrick’s Day, of the same year, in the place where it had begun – and even without a battle!
So let us not be overwhelmed by our circumstances, but as Washington did, find ways to conquer otherwise impossible obstacles.
-Photo credit: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SiegeBoston.jpg
-McDowell, Bart. 1967 The Revolutionary War, National Geographic Society
-2016 American Revolution, A Visual History, First Edition, Smithsonian, New York, New York
-“Ethan Allen Captures Fort Ticonderoga, 1775,” EyeWitness to History, http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com (2010)