March 19, 2011

Cannonball Cake Anyone?

So, how was your Evacuation Day? Did you get together this past Thursday, like I do every year, with family and friends? Maybe Mom cooked a big ham and definitely some Boston baked beans. After dinner you probably went outside and played the annual game of “Chase the British Out of Town,” where whoever draws the short straw wears a red coat and gets chased out of the yard. Afterwards you all sat down in front of the flat screen to watch the Boston Cannons play lacrosse. Of course Aunt Helen brought her famous cannonball cake. Not only does it look like a cannonball, but lands like a lead weight in your stomach. I love it when Dad and all the uncles tell drunken stories of past Evacuation Days. That’s how it always goes in my family, probably yours too, right?

What? What do you mean you didn’t celebrate Evacuation Day? What do you mean you’ve never heard of Evacuation Day? Henry Knox? Cannons? British? No? Hmmm?

Well what else could you have been doing on Thursday? Oh, wait. were you eating corned beef, drinking green beer perhaps? I thought so. Well, since I’m Irish by descent and have a shamrock tattooed on my arm 24/7, 365, let me crack open my historical pot o’ gold and tell you about the holiday you missed.

Evacuation Day, first celebrated in Boston in 1901, marks the day in 1776 that the British troops left the city following the 11-month siege by the Continental Army. Henry Knox, who had returned from Fort Ticonderoga with his cache of artillery on January 26, 1776, began a bombardment of the city on March 2. The cannonade continued almost uninterrupted for days while the Americans stealthily setup new fortifications and gun-works on Roxbury heights.

Knox’s guns were now in such an advantageous position that General William Howe ordered the evacuation of Boston. On March 17, 1776 over 10,000 soldiers and loyalists left the city for Nova Scotia. Among the loyalist evacuees were Henry’s wife’s family. Lucy’s father Thomas Flucker, secretary to the Royal Governor of Massachusetts, her mother and her sisters left Boston never to return. Shortly after, the Continental Army took possession of Boston in what was arguably the first major victory of the American Revolution.

So, next year, when your looking for leprechauns out of the corner of your eye and busting out those shamrock-printed boxers, take a moment to remember the impact of Knox’s brave expedition. Maybe I’ll invite you over to watch the big lacrosse game and have some cannonball cake.

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