Sir: It is with the greatest pleasure I inform you that on Sunday last the 17th. Instant, about 9th O'Clock in the forenoon the Ministerial Army evacuated the Town of Boston, and that the Forces of the United Colonies are now in actual Possession thereof. I beg leave to congratulate you Sir, and the Honorable Congress on this happy event, and particularly as it was effected without endangering the Lives and property of the remaining unhappy Inhabitants. 44
[Note:"We saw the ships under way about 8 in the morning and the River full of boats armed with soldiers. This gave an alarm and some suspected they were about to land at Dorchester, but having a full view of them with a glass from Plowed Hill, I found they were going on board the ships. 1 then took my horse, and rode down to Charlestown Neck, where I had a clear view of Bunker's Hill. I saw the sentrys standing as usual with their firelocks shouldered, but finding they never moved, I soon suspected what regiment they belonged to; and upon taking a clear view with my glass, found they were only effigies set there by the flying enemy. This convinced me that they were actually fled, for if they meant to decoy us, they would have taken away every appearance of man. By this time, I was joined by Colo. Mifflin, who, with my Brigade Major agreed to go up, sending two persons round the works to examine whether there was any of them in the rear of the works, while we went up in the front. I at the same time sent for a strong party to follow us on to the hill to assist us in running away (if necessary). We found no person there and bravely took the fortress defended by lifeless sentries. I then brought on a party to secure what we had so bravely won, and went down to the other works where we found all abandoned, but the works not injured in any part. We hailed the ferry boat, which came over and informed us that they had abandoned the town. We then gave information to the general, who ordered me with the troops under my command to take possession of Charlestown, and General Putnam with 2000 men to take possession of the works in Boston; and on Monday Morning his Excellency made his entry into Boston, and repaired to Mr. Hancock's house, where we found his furniture left without injury or diminution." -- Brigadier General Sullivan to John Adams, Mar. 19, 1776.
The fleet of the British consisted of 78 vessels, and carried all of Howe's army, about 8,900 men, and more than 1,1000 refugees. -- Ford. ]
I have great reason to imagine their flight was precipitated by the appearance of a Work which I had ordered to be thrown up last Saturday night, on an eminence at Dorchester, which lay nearest to Boston Neck called Newks Hill. The Town although it has suffered greatly, is not in so bad a state as I expected to find it, and I have a particular pleasure in being able
As soon as the Ministerial Troops had quited the Town, I ordered a Thousand men (who had had the small pox) under command of General Putnam, to take possession of the Heights, which I shall fortify in such a manner, as to prevent their return, should they attempt it; but as they are still in the Harbour, I thought it not prudent to march off with the main body of the Army, until I should be fully satisfied they had quited the Coast. I have therefore only detached five Regiments besides the Rifle Battalion to New York, and shall keep the remainder here 'till all suspicion of their return ceases.
The situation in which I found their Works, evidently discovered that their retreat was made with the greatest precipitation. They have left their Barracks and other works of wood at Bunkers Hill &ca. all standing, and have destroyed but a small part of their Lines. They have also left a number of fine pieces of Cannon, which they first spiked up, also a very large Iron Mortar; and (as I am informed) they have thrown another over the end of your Wharf -- I have employed proper Persons to drill the Cannon, and doubt not I shall save the most of them.
I am not yet able to procure an exact List of all the Stores they have left. As soon as it can be done I shall take care to transmit it to you. From an estimate already made, by the Quarter Master General, of what he has discovered, they will amount to 25 or 30,000£.
Part of the Powder mentioned in yours of the 6th Instant has already arrived; The remainder I have ordered to be stop'd on
[Note:On March 6 Brig. Gen. John Thomas was promoted to major general and assigned to the command in Canada. (See Journals of the Continental Congress. ) ]
[Note:In the writing of William Palfrey. Through inadvertence Washington did not sign this letter. ]