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Boston, Siege of


BOSTON, SIEGE OF, the military operations during which George Washington liberated the city from the British during the American Revolution. One day after the Battle of Lexington (19 April 1775), the Massachusetts Committee of Safety called out the militia. On 22 April the Massachusetts Provincial Congress resolved to build an army of thirty thousand men, half furnished by Massachusetts and the rest by the other New England colonies. Progress was slow. The old militia regiments could not be held together, and new ones had to be raised. The British victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June confirmed the military obstacles facing the rebels.

George Washington, chosen as commander in chief by the Continental Congress, assumed command on 3 July. The British held Bunker Hill and Boston Neck, and the Americans faced them, their left in Somerville, their right in Roxbury, and their center in Cambridge. Because the patchwork of provincial militias around Boston was clearly inadequate, Washington resolved to organize a Continental army. During the winter no serious operations were undertaken. The Americans, lacking artillery and ammunition, focused their energies on military organization and command. The British commanders could see no advantage in starting a campaign that they could not press to a finish.

The guns the Americans had captured at Ticonderoga on 10 May 1775 reached Cambridge in January 1776. On 4 March, Washington seized Dorchester Heights, from which his guns commanded the city and the harbor. The British forces were now in an untenable position, and on 17 January they embarked for Halifax. The Americans immediately occupied the city, and the siege of Boston was over.


French, Allen. The Siege of Boston, and of the Battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill. New York: Macmillan, 1911.

Frothingham, Richard. History of the Siege of Boston. Boston: Little and Brown, 1851.

Ketchum, Richard M. The Battle for Bunker Hill. Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1962.

Oliver LymanSpaulding/a. r.

See alsoBunker Hill ; Lexington and Concord ; Ticonderoga, Capture of .

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