The Siege of Boston refers to the eleven-month period from April 1775 to March 1776 during which the British, though they occupied Boston, were contained there by New England militiamen and the Continental Army commanded by George Washington. Ann Hulton, the sister of the British Commissioner of Customs in Boston, was living in the city at the time. She had accompanied her brother’s family to the colonies in 1767. In her correspondence with her friend Elizabeth Lightbody in England Hulton described life in Boston and environs from a Loyalist’s point of view. This is her account of the battles of Lexington and Concord (April 19, 1775) from a letter she wrote in late April 1775.
On the 18th instt. at 11 at Night, about 800 Grenadiers & light Infantry were ferry’d across the Bay to Cambridge, from whence they marchd to Concord, about 20 Miles. . . .
The People in the Country (who are all furnished with Arms & have what they call Minute Companys in every Town ready to march on any alarm), had a signal it’s supposed by a light from one of the Steeples in Town, Upon the Troops Embarkg. The alarm spread thro’ the Country, so that before daybreak the people in general were in Arms & on their March to Concord. About Day-break a number of the People appeard before the Troops near Lexington. They were called to, to disperse, when they fired on the Troops & ran off, Upon which the Light Infantry pursued them & brought down about fifteen of them. The Troops went on to Concord & executed the business they were sent on, & on their return found two or three of their people Lying in the Agonies of Death, scalp’d & their Noses & ears cut off & Eyes bored out—Which exasperated the Soldiers exceedingly—a prodigious number of People now occupying the Hills, woods, & Stone Walls along the road. The Light Troops drove some parties from the hills, but all the road being inclosed with Stone Walls Served as a cover to the Rebels, from whence they fired on the Troops still running off whenever they had fired. . . .
The Troops returned to Charlestown about Sunset after having some of ’em marched near fifty miles . . . The next day the Country pourd down its Thousands, and at this time from the entrance of Boston Neck at Roxbury round by Cambridge to Charlestown is surrounded by at least 20,000 Men, who are raising batteries on three or four different Hills. We are now cut off from all communication with the Country & many people must soon perish with famine in this place. . . .
[A]t present a Solemn dead silence reigns in the Streets, numbers have packed up their effects, & quited the Town, but the General [Gage] has put a Stop to any more removing, & here remains in Town about 9000 Souls (besides the Servants of the Crown).