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Account of General Howe' s Retreat From Boston



Cambridge, March 21, 1776.

Last Sabbath (the 17th instant) the British Army in Boston, under General Howe, consisting of upwards of seven thousand men, after suffering an ignominious blockade for many months past, disgracefully quitted all their strong holds in Boston and Charlestown, fled from before the Army of


the United Colonies, and took refuge on board their ships. The most material particulars of this signal event are as follow:

About nine o' clock, a body of the enemy were seen to march from Bunker' s Hill; and at the same time a very great number of boats, filled with troops, put off from Boston, and made for the shipping, which mostly lay before the Castle. On the first discovery of these movements, the Continental Army immediately paraded, and several regiments embarked in boats and proceeded down the river from this place. About the same time, two men were sent to Bunker' s Hill, in order to make discoveries. They proceeded accordingly; and, when arrived, making a signal that the fort was evacuated, a detachment was immediately sent down from the Army to take possession of it. The troops in the river, which were commanded by General Putnam, landed at Sewall' s Point, where they received intelligence that all the British troops had left Boston; on which a detachment was sent to take possession of the town, while the main body returned up the river. About the same time, General Ward, attended by about five hundred troops from Roxbury (under the command of Colonel Ebenezer Learned, who unbarred and opened the gates) entered the town on that quarter, Ensign Richards carrying the standard. The command of the whole being then given to General Putnam, he proceeded to take possession of all the important posts, and thereby became possessed, in the name of the Thirteen United Colonies of North America, of all the fortresses in that large and once populous and nourishing metropolis, which the flower of the British Army, headed by an experienced General, and supported by a formidable fleet of men-of-war, had but an hour before evacuated in the most precipitate and cowardly manner. God grant that the late worthy inhabitants, now scattered abroad, may speedily reoccupy their respective dwellings, and never more be disturbed by the cruel hand of tyranny; and may the air of that capital be never again contaminated by the stinking breath of toryism.

The joy of our friends in Boston, on seeing the victorious and gallant troops of their country enter the town, almost at, the heels of their barbarous oppressors, was inexpressibly great. The mutual congratulations and tender embraces which soon after took place between those of the nearest connexions in life, for a long time cruelly rent asunder by the tyranny of our implacable enemies, surpass description. From such a set of beings the preservation of property was not expected; and it was found that a great part of the evacuated houses had been pillaged, the furniture broken and destroyed, and many of the buildings greatly damaged. It is worthy of notice, however, that the buildings belonging to the Hon˙ Mr˙ Hancock, particularly his elegant mansion-house, were left in good order. All the linen and woollen goods, except some that might be secreted, were carried off by the enemy. All the salt and molasses which they could find were destroyed.

The enemy also destroyed great quantities of effects belonging to themselves, which they could not carry away, such as gun-carriages and other carriages of various kinds, house-furniture, &c˙, together with a quantity of flour and hay. All their forts, batteries, redoubts, and breastworks, remain entire and complete. They left many of their heaviest cannon mounted on carriages, and several of them charged; all of which were either spiked up or had a trunnion beat off. They also left several of their largest mortars. Quantities of cannon-shot and shells, numbers of small-arms, and other instruments of war, have been found in many parts of the town, thrown off the wharves, concealed in vaults, or broken in pieces.

In the fort on Bunker' s Hill, several hundred good blankets were found. It is said about fifteen or twenty of the King' s horses have also been taken up in the town; and it is thought about the same number of Tories remain behind, all the rest being gone with the fleet. We are told that the Tories were thunderstruck when orders were issued for evacuating the town, after being many hundred times assured that such reinforcements would be sent as to enable the King' s Troops to ravage the country at pleasure. Thus are many of those deluded creatures, those vile traitors to their country, obliged at last, in their turn, to abandon their once delightful habitations, and go


they know not where. Many of them, it is said, considered themselves as undone, and seemed at times inclined to throw themselves upon the mercy of their offended country, rather than leave it. One or more of them, it is reported, have been left to end their lives by the unnatural act of suicide. The enemy, previous to their going off, scattered great numbers of crow' s feet on Boston Neck and in the streets, in order to retard our troops in case of a pursuit; and with such silence and precaution did they embark, that a great part of the inhabitants did not know it till after they were gone. The prisoners who were long confined in jail were cruelly carried off in irons.

Our troops, the night before the enemy embarked, began an intrenchment on Nook' s Hill, in Dorchester, which commands Boston Neck. This, it is thought, hastened their retreat. They kept up a fire upon our men during the latter part of the night and in the morning, until just before they went off, but without doing any execution.

To the wisdom, firmness, intrepidity, and military abilities of our amiable and beloved General, his Excellency George Washington, Esq˙; to the assiduity, skill, and bravery of the other worthy Generals and officers of the Army; and to the hardiness and gallantry of the soldiery, is to be ascribed, under God, the glory and success of our arms, in driving from one of the strongest holds in America so considerable a part of the British Army as that which last week occupied the capital of tills Province.

Tuesday evening the enemy set fire to the block-house and barracks at the Castle; and yesterday they were employed at the same place in blowing up and demolishing the fortifications.

A part of the Continental Army are now employed in fortifying Fort-Hill, in Boston, to secure the town against any attacks which may be made by the enemy' s ships-of-war.