Evacuation Day

When is Evacuation Day?

Evacuation Day is a holiday dedicated to the retreat of British troops from Boston in the middle of the American Revolutionary War. This “evacuation” occurred on March 17, 1776. For this reason, Evacuation Day is celebrated in Boston every March 17th. The holiday is also recognized in other areas of the United States.

A Long British Occupation Ends

Boston was at the center of many significant events during the American Revolution. For example, the Boston Tea Party occurred in 1773 as a political protest against the British, in which the Sons of Liberty group destroyed a whole shipment of a tea that carried unauthorized taxation. According to History.com, the British occupied the Boston area for eight long years until March 17, 1776. A few weeks before, the Patriots constructed a new round of artillery that included previously captured cannons.

On the day of the “evacuation,” British troops were confident that they had the Patriots surrounded in Boston Harbor. However, they did not anticipate the newly constructed weapons, nor did they prepare for a severe storm that crippled their plans. The British were unaccustomed to severe storms of this nature and were thus ill-equipped to fight. This resulted in the mass “evacuation” of the British from Boston. In fact, History.com estimates that 11,000 troops and an additional 1,000 American “Loyalists” fled that day.

Creating Evacuation Day

March 17, 1776 was a significant day in American history because it marked the first major exodus of British troops from the colonies. While America wouldn’t officially declare independence until July 4th of that year, this was a major start in the beginnings of a new, separate country. Given the significance of the date, it’s hard to believe that it wasn’t declared an official holiday for quite some time. While many lawmakers fought to create the holiday in the 1800s, Evacuation Day wasn’t officially declared until 1901.

Since its establishment, Evacuation Day has held great importance in the Boston area. In fact, it’s even a public holiday in Suffolk County. This means that government offices are not open if the holiday falls on a weekday. Many businesses also choose to stay closed. Evacuation Day may be recognized across the whole country, but it is not a federal government holiday.

Evacuation Day coincides with another major holiday in Boston: St. Patrick’s Day. The latter holiday is celebrated in all areas of the United States and Ireland, but it holds special significance in Boston because the city has a deep history of Irish immigrants. There are still many Irish-Americans residing in the Boston area today, who often celebrate both holidays to commemorate their Irish and American heritages.

Other Areas of “Evacuation”

Evacuation Day primarily refers to the mass retreat of British forces and aides from Boston in 1776. However, other states have their own evacuation days to commemorate when the British left these colonies.  For example, New York used to celebrate Evacuation Day on November 25th to mark the retreat of the British in 1783. The New York celebrations are not as widespread, and most Americans recognize the Evacuation Day of the Boston area instead.

The concept of Evacuation Day has also spread internationally to areas who break free of the bonds of occupying armies. For instance, Libya recognizes the day when British forces left the country in 1970.