Castle Island, Dorchester Heights – 4/16/17

Castle Island, off of Day Blvd in South Boston, was actually an island until 1928 when it was connected by causeways to the mainland. The first fort was built on it in 1634 as a harbor defense. Called Castle William in the 1700s, the fort served as the military base for the British during the colonial years. The rough and overwhelming numbers of Redcoats quartered in the city led to frequent arguments and skirmishes, culminating in the Boston Massacre in 1770. The Colonial Governor’s Council ordered the British troops to leave the city and stay at Castle William to calm the colonists on the verge of full rebellion – which came 5 years later at Concord & Lexington.

Now called Fort Independence, the fort on Castle Island is a state park with beaches, fishing pier, playground. In the summer, there are tours of the inside of the fort.

It’s always a great spot for walking and people watching, with views of East Boston, the airport, and some of the nearer harbor islands.

Here’s a view from the fishing pier of the obelisk honoring a shipbuilder, with the fort behind.

Mom on the fishing pier

There’s a statue in memory of the Southie troops who fought in the Korean War, with a glimpse of Thompson Island in the background:

And this marker, in memory of the unnamed 4 men who died at the end of the Spanish American War when the harbor mines they were transporting exploded:

Another side of the fort:

After circumnavigating this home of the Redcoats during the American Revolution, we decided to drive about 2 miles away to Dorchester Heights (actually in South Boston) to see the spot that forced the British to evacuate Boston on March 17, 1776.

marking the location of redoubts and fortifications

It was unassuming, pudgy 25-year old bookseller Henry Knox who led an expedition to Fort Ticonderoga, captured by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold, in upstate NY, to bring Ticonderoga’s canons to Boston. It took Knox “3 winter months to moved 60 tons of cannons and other armaments by boat, horse and ox-drawn sledges, and manpower, along poor-quality roads, across two semi-frozen rivers, and through the forests and swamps of the sparsely inhabited Berkshires to Boston. Historian Victor Brooks has called Knox’s achievement “one of the most stupendous feats of logistics” of the entire war.” [Wikipedia]

And then Washington’s troops, overnight, brought the canon under the British noses across Boston Neck up to Dorchester Heights which they quietly fortified with redoubts and earthworks, to the shock of the British the next morning. David McCullough’s history of that feat, in his book 1776, is an exhilarating read.

Controlling the heights effectively cut off the British supply routes in their 9th month of laying siege to Boston, and forced them to evacuate to Nova Scotia.

Marker with a plaque of a print of Knox’s use of oxen to transport the canon:

Dorchester Heights Monument

Architecture across from the Monument:

South Boston roofdeck


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