Thursday, March 15, 2012

March 17th in Boston ~ Evacuation Day or Saint Patrick's Day?

Dorchester Heights National Historic Site -- South Boston, MA
Jameslwoodward, wikipedia commons 

The traditionally Irish neighborhood in Boston is South Boston, near the hill called Dorchester Heights.  On March 17th the entire city erupts with Celtic music, parades, political breakfasts and the green beer flows.  However, the day is a holiday in Suffolk County not because of the good Irish saint, it is the anniversary of “Evacuation Day”.

On 17 March 1776 the Continental Army won its first victory of the Revolutionary War by faking out the British with a false fortress erected on Dorchester Heights.  Cannons captured from Fort Ticonderoga,  hauled across Massachusetts to Boston,  were aimed down at the British ships in the harbor.  The fort was built overnight of hay and wood overnight to surprise the British Navy .   British General William Howe decided to retreat to Nova Scotia, and hundreds of loyalists followed.  It was a big morale boost for the patriots.

In 1938 the Dorchester Heights Monument was constructed, followed by a 1941 law establishing the holiday.  The fact that it was largely an Irish victory to celebrate their patron saint’s day was not lost on the lawmakers, who signed the bill in green ink. 

There is also an Evacuation Day celebrated in New York, on the anniversary of 25 November 1783 when the British left Manhattan.

St. Patrick's Day Parade 2009
Dorchester Heights, Evacuation Day 2009 (or St. Patrick's Day?)

A link to my blog post about Fort Ticonderoga:

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo


  1. My fifth great-grandfather Thomas Pinkham was at Ft. Ticonderoga and helped schlepp those cannons to Dorchester. As a Bostonian, I will steer clear of Southie on Saturday. Too much time off and too much beer are two ingredients that don't go well together.

  2. Wow, I had never heard that-- guess you learn something new every day!

    My 2nd generation Irish-American grandmother never missed the St. Patrick'sDay parade. :-)

  3. So St. Patrick's day is the same as Evacuation Day for South Bostoners, faking out General William Howe. That is really cool. In 1776, no less. The first victory! A good nugget of historical information.

  4. Just got to pass this on to friends on the west coast. Thanks, Heather.