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Wednesday, June 17, 2020

Evacuation Day

British ships leaving Boston Harbor
Unless you live in or near Boston, MA, you’ve probably never heard of Evacuation Day. But Bostonians celebrate it every March 17, since it marks the day in 1776 that the British forces finally left Boston, after being encamped there for eleven months. What prompted this final evacuation is a feat of human endurance, the likes of which we haven’t seen in years. There were cannons in Fort Ticonderoga, NY, over 300 miles away from Boston. General George Washington placed the transfer of these heavy cannon to the then 25-year-old Colonel Henry Knox. 
Henry Knox

They had to wait until the ground was frozen, otherwise the heavy equipment would become lodged in the soft dirt while in transit. The first part of the journey involved floating the fifty-nine cannons and mortars down Lake George, hoping to get them on land at the southern border of the lake before the water completely froze over. It took three days to traverse the lake. Then, the hard part began. The cannon parts were loaded onto forty-two sleds tugged by eighty oxen, over mountainous terrain. The journey took fifty-six days to accomplish. At the end of it, more than 1000 Bostonians gathered at Dorchester Heights overlooking Boston Harbor and reassembled the cannons. 
What the British didn’t realize was while the cannons may look dangerous to their troops in the harbor, the Americans had only enough gunpowder and cannon balls to issue warning shots. The fifty-nine cannons only looked impressive. Even more impressive was the fact some of the cannons facing the harbor were not cannons at all, but were logs painted black to resemble cannons, at least from a distance. 
The cleverness of the Americans was enough to do the trick, and the British forces left the harbor, finally. George Washington stood on the Heights above the city of Boston and watched as the ships evacuated the city and moved to Halifax, Nova Scotia. 
I write about Evacuation Day in A British Heiress in America, the first book in my new Revolutionary Women series. The heroine, Pippa, has to don a boy’s clothing to move about the city by herself, and in her disguise, she is recruited to help assemble the cannons and paint the fake cannons. Here’s an excerpt: 

Shots rang out from the direction of Cambridge.
“The distraction’s begun, men,” Henry Knox called out. “Let’s get these cannons to Dorchester.”
Daniel glanced up as the snow swirled around the line of sleds and oxen. Several thousand men, by his rough estimate, had come together to help and were lending a hand at each sled. “Thank God. We have reinforcements.”
Ben chuckled. “The Brits won’t know what hit ‘em.”
With little fanfare, the men started reassembling the cannons and rolling them into place. The gunshots continued to ring out from Cambridge. With any luck, the cannons would be in position before the fighting stopped.
They unloaded one sled after another, and the oxen were led away to the closest farm with a corral large enough to hold them. The oxen’s hard work was finished, but the waiting men, and the cannons still had work to do. The gun battle whimpered to a close and the cannons were all in place. The fake guns, made from painted logs, had been placed in the farthest spots, but they appeared real enough, at least from a distance. Daniel ran his hand down one of the logs, admiring the ingenuity.
“I painted that one myself.”
He’d recognize that voice anywhere. Daniel wheeled and Pippa stood next to him, dressed in her cabin boy clothing and with a smirk on her face.
He grabbed her elbow. “What are you doing here?”
“Isn’t it obvious? I’m doing my part for the Revolution.” She wrenched her elbow away from his grasp. “I’ve decided to side with America instead of England.”
Daniel’s drooping body was like a plant which had just been given a healthy dose of water. He straightened and stared at her. Even in her boy’s clothing, with her hair tied back in a queue, she was exquisite. “So, you’re not running back across the Atlantic at your first opportunity?”
She shook her head. “No. I’ll need to take care of my business from afar and hope for the best. But no, I can’t side with the British anymore.”

A British Heiress in America is available for pre-order now here:


  1. Love these pieces of history and I can see why Boston would celebrate. What a fun tidbit to add to a story. Doris

  2. Thanks, Doris. I like to ground my stories in actual events of the time, and obscure events like this are perfect little tidbits to work into a story line.

  3. Boston is one of my favourite cities, and it's so full of history. I love a woman disguised as a boy in a story too. It looks like a great read.

    1. Thanks, C.A. I've only spent a few days in Boston, back in my younger days when I could walk the whole Freedom Trail. But I didn't know about Dorchester Heights and Evacuation Day then. I must return soon, since, as you say, it's full of history.

  4. That's some amazing history I knew nothing about. I love the cleverness and bravado of the Americans against a formidable British navy. Great excerpt.
    I've already preordered this book.

    1. Thanks, Sarah, for ordering the book. I spent a while experimenting with different time periods before finding my niche. I love the Revolutionary War period. The strength it took to live through that time is what draws me in. Hope you enjoy reading this book as much as I loved to write it.