American History Stories—Volume II - Mara L. Pratt

The Red-Coats Leave Boston

All this time, you remember, Washington’s army had kept the British imprisoned in the city. They had been unable to get out into the country for provisions, and now they were in real danger of starvation. They were short of fuel too. They had already chopped down several wooden houses, and had even been mean enough to chop down the “Old North Church” for firewood. These cowardly soldiers knew that these simple-hearted Puritans loved their meeting-houses as they loved their homes; and so they took great delight in showing all the contempt they could for these places. They liked nothing better than to break the glass and shoot into the windows as they passed along. The old South Church, which the Boston children know, and which still stands on Washington Street, was turned into a riding school. The pews were torn out, and the floor strewed with litter for the horses. One of the pews in this church, a very beautifully carved pew, they carried away to build a fence for a pig-pen. I could not begin to tell you of the needlessly cruel and insulting things these red-coats did to annoy the people of Boston.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - II by Mara L. Pratt


Faneuil Hall, now called “the cradle of Liberty,” because throughout the history of Boston, so many liberty meetings of all sorts have been held there, was made into a theatre: and there the British army used to delight to meet and listen to plays and songs which were sure to be full of jokes on the American colonists.

At one time the British were acting a play which they had named the “Blockade of Boston.” In this play was an actor intended to represent George Washington. He was dressed in some ridiculous manner, wore a funny looking wig, and carried a rusty old sword.

Just as this character was coming upon the stage, another clownish looking figure with another big rusty sword by his side, an officer rushed upon the stage crying, “The Yankees are attacking our works on Bunker Hill!”

At first the people thought it was part of the play; but when General Howe ordered, “Officers to your posts!” they began to realize that the play had indeed come to a sudden end. I fancy the hall was cleared quickly, indeed; and it was not many days before the British troop found that Washington’s sword was not so rusty as they had thought; at any rate it was able to flash an idea into the British general’s eye which made him think it worth while, not many days later, to take himself and his troops out of the town.

[Illustration] from American History Stories - II by Mara L. Pratt


At last the provisions had run so low it seemed to General Howe, who was then in command, that the best thing to do was to leave the city while there was a chance. Then, too, Washington had begun to fortify Dorchester Heights; and General Howe feared that soon his escape would be cut off. And so, after stealing all the blankets and woolen and linen in the city, after spiking their cannon and throwing it into the harbor—doing, in short, all the mischief they could, they marched away from the city of Boston. And even as they marched out, they scattered all about the entrance to the city little irons, with sharp points sticking out in all directions. These irons were called “crow’s feet,” and they scattered them about that the colonists, when they entered the city, might tread upon them and so disable their feet.

The people of Boston had been shut in all this time with the British and the disloyal Tories; and you can imagine how glad they were when they saw Washington marching in at the head of his army.