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must bring on a general action, as the enemy would inevitably attempt to drive him from it; but if in this he should be mistaken, he resolved to make the fortifications of the heights of Dorchester only preparatory to his seizing and fortifying Nook's Hill, and the points opposite the south end of Boston, which entirely commanded the harbour, a great part of the town, and the beach from whence an embarkation must take place in the event of a retreat.
To facilitate the execution of this plan, and in pursuance of the advice given in a council of war, a heavy bombardment and cannonade on the town and lines of the enemy, was commenced on the evening of the second of March, from the forts, which Possession tawas repeated the two succeeding nights. On the night of the heights of Dora fourth, immediately after the firing had begun, a considerable detachment of the Americans under the command of General Thomas, crossing the Neck from Roxbury, took possession of the heights without opposition; and though the ground was so hard as to be almost impenetrable, in consequence of which they were obliged to avail themselves of fascines, and other materials carried to the place, yet, by very great activity and industry through the night, the works were so far advanced by the morning, as in a great degree to cover them from the shot of the enemy. When day-light disclosed their operations to the British, a considerable degree of embarrassment appeared, and an ineffectual fire was commenced on the party in possession of the heights, who opened in turn a battery on them, and continued with unremitting labour to strengthen their position.
It was now necessary to dislodge the Americans from the
CHAP. IV; heights, or to evacuate the town; and the British general as had
been foreseen, determined to embrace the former part of the alternative. Lord Percy with part of five regiments, and the grenadiers, and light infantry, amounting to about three thousand men, was ordered on this service; and the next day the troops were embarked and fell down to the castle, in order to proceed from thence up the river to the intended scene of action ; but they were scattered by a furious storm which disabled them from prosecuting the enterprize at that time, and before they could again be in readiness for the attack, the works were made so strong that it was thought unadvisable to attempt to force them, and the evacuation of the town was resolved on.
In the expectation that the flower of the British troops would be engaged in the attack on the heights of Dorchester, General Washington had concerted a plan for availing himself of that occasion, to attack the town of Boston itself. Four thousand chosen men were held in readiness to embark at the mouth of Cambridge River, on a signal to be given, if the enemy should be out in such force, as to justify an opinion that an attack on the town might be made with a good prospect of success. These troops were to embark in two divisions, the first to be led by Brigadier General Sullivan, the second by Brigadier General Green, and the whole to be under the command of Major General Putnam. The boats were to be preceded by three floating batteries, which were to keep up a heavy fire on that part of the town where the troops were to land. It was proposed that the first division, should land at the powder house, and gain possession of Bacon Hill; the second at Barton's Point, or a little south of it, and after securing that post, to join the other division, and force the enemy's works and gates so as to give ad- CHAP. IV: mission to the troops from Roxbury,
Had this plan succeeded, the British army in Boston must have been entirely destroyed. Of its success General Washington entertained the most sanguine hopes, and very greatly regretted the storm which defeated the proposed attack on the heights of Dor-, chester, and consequently the residue of his plan, the execution of which was entirely dependent on that attack.
The General soon received information of the determination of the enemy to evacuate Boston. A paper signed by some of the select men of the town, and brought out with a flag, stated the fact, and was accompanied with propositions said to be made on the part of General Howe, but not signed by him, relative to the security of the town, and the peaceable embarkation of his army. As this letter was not addressed to the commander in chief, nor authenticated by the signature of General Howe, nor by any act obligatory on him, it was thought improper that General Washington should directly notice it, and it was determined that the officer to whom it was delivered, should return an answer stating the reasons why a more particular regard was not paid to it.
In the mean time, the determination to continue to advance on the enemy, and to secure Nook’s Hill, was changed. The reason assigned for abandoning this plan was, that it was not deemed advisable, now that the evacuation of Boston was certain, to press the retreating army too closely; because their em
CHAP. IV, barkation could not be prevented, and a longer delay would give
farther time to strengthen' New York, which the General still persisted to think would be their destination. In this opinion he
moved considerable detachments towards that place, before the Boston evacua- town of Boston was actually evacuated. This event took place
on the seventeenth of March, and was, probably in a degree precipitated by some works thrown up on Nook's Hill the preceding evening. As the enemy continued some time in Nantasket Road, so as to create a suspicion that they might possibly design to reland, the General thought it necessary to take possession of the heights around the town, and to erect fortifications on Fort Hill, a point of great natural strength, and commanding the place where an invading army would most probably debark. But in a few days, the whole fleet set sail, and the American army proceeded by divisions to New York.
The recovery of this important town was an event which gave very general joy. It was “ resolved, that the thanks of Congress in their own name, and in the name of the Thirteen United Colonies, whom they represent, be presented to his excellency General Washington, and the officers and soldiers under his command for their wise and spirited conduct in the siege and acquisition of Boston, and that a medal of gold be struck in commemoration of this great event, and presented to his excellency; and that a committee of three be appointed to prepare a letter of thanks, and a proper device for the medal.”
The town of Boston was left standing, and much less mischief was done to the houses and property of the inhabitants, than had
been apprehended. A great number of those who had been at- CHAP. IV, tached to the royal cause removed with the army, and transported their effects with them to Halifax. Several pieces of heavy ordnance were found, many of which the enemy had rendered useless by knocking off the trunnions, and the residue were spiked up
Other stores were also left, though not to a very considerable amount.