How were the Americans able to take Boston?

American commander General George Washington, 18th-century illustration, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

American commander General George Washington, 18th-century illustration, Jamestown-Yorktown Foundation.

Though Congress was not prepared to declare America independent of Great Britain in June 1775, it did proceed to make preparation for the defense of the colonies. On June 14, 1775, Congress ordered the creation of a Continental Army, appointing George Washington, one of its own members, as Commander and other generals to be his subordinates. Washington’s selection, proposed by John Adams, reflected a desire by Congress to unify the Northern and Southern colonies in this bold endeavor. General Washington took command of American forces in July 1775 in Boston, Washington and introduced greater discipline into the Army. He did not like the election of officers by the New England militias and began appointing his own senior officers. Washington also ordered a muster to determine the size of the army.

Washington also understood the importance of bringing the siege of Boston, Massachusetts to a successful conclusion. Boston had been under continuous siege since the bloody British retreat from Lexington and Concord in April 1775. Washington recognized the city could not be taken without siege guns. Colonel Henry Knox, a former bookseller, was dispatched to transport the cannon seized by the Americans during their capture of Fort Ticonderoga and Crown Point, to Boston. These heavy siege guns were transported by heroic effort during the winter of 1775-1776. The difficult movement of heavy guns during the winter gave the budding American Army a reputation for ingenuity and resourcefulness. After Knox delivered the cannon to Boston, General Howe, the British commander, moved up his evacuation plans and departed Boston with his troops and many of the city’s Loyalists in March 1776. The British evacuation of Boston was a major victory for the new Continental Army and convinced many Neutrals that an American victory was possible.