Today, March 17 and St. Patrick’s Day, is an official holiday in Suffolk county, Massachusetts. For you out of towners, that’s the city of Boston. Many people automatically think, Of course! All the Irish bars are doing great business!
Well, they probably are but that’s not the point of this piece.
As it happens March 17th is celebrated here as the day in 1777(?) that the British left Boston, never to return. It wasn’t their choice but one night a few days earlier some very fine cannon appeared on Dorchester heights overlooking the city. The cannon were captured at Fort Ticonderoga the previous autumn by a band of patriots led by Ethan Allen. Knox a 25 year-old book seller from Boston — as well as Nathaniel Green of Rhode Island — had never served in the army and what they knew of war came from reading. Nevertheless, Washington immediately saw in each of these men extraordinary ability and each quickly rose to the rank of General.
At any rate, Ethan Allen and his group of Vermont "Green Mountain Boys" captured the cannon without loss of life and Knox proceeded to drag them on sledges across New York and Massachusetts through the long winter. The effort was aided all along the route by locals who hitched up their oxen and horses in a kind of early American tag team. By March Knox was able to post his new guns in Boston to checkmate the hated British. It was an important victory for Washington in what would be a long war full of setbacks and disappointments.
St. patrick’s Day is special in Boston for all kinds of reasons. When I lift my first pint today I’ll be thinking of all those people dragging cannon through a long winter.