Little known outside of the Boston-area, today is not only St. Patrick’s Day but “Evacuation Day,” marking the retreat of English forces out of Boston during the Revolutionary War:
So what is Evacuation Day? On March 17, 1776, George Washington had fortifications and cannons placed on Dorchester Heights. The British troops occupying Boston at the time realized they were outgunned.
History.com tells us what happened next:
Realizing their position was now indefensible, 11,000 British troops and some 1,000 Loyalists departed Boston by ship on March 17, sailing to the safety of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The bloodless liberation of Boston by the Patriots brought an end to a hated eight-year British occupation of the city.
It also serves as an extraordinarily convenient holiday for Boston city employees (about the only place in Massachusetts, or the country for that matter, that marks the holiday) and Irish bar owners and workers as it falls on St. Patrick’s Day.
However, this year the Boston Globe’s Steve Safran brings up the important issue of evacuation in present day Boston:
Have you ever noticed the “Evacuation Route” signs around Boston? Ever wonder where they lead?
It’s Evacuation Day in Boston, and it’s a good thing the Redcoats didn’t follow our “Evacuation Route” signs, or they might still be here.
In a short article he brings up several important points relevant to cities across the country:
It’s hard enough finding Fenway Park by following street signs. Evacuating the city during an emergency would make our already clogged routes out of town that much more chaotic. The first thing you notice on the city’s official map of evacuation routes is that they all pretty much point the way you’d normally go if you were hightailing it out of town.
And he’s understandably a little pessimistic:
Boston area residents have to be at little skeptical about the plan. We’ve seen snowstorms tie up all the routes out of town for hours. Even regular rush hour traffic comes to regular standstills. It may be that you’d be better off trying to leave not by land, but by sea.
If you can’t escape by sea, perhaps sheltering-in-place is the best option?