by Rick Winterson
Two and a half centuries ago – 250 years back, in 1768 – Lt. Col. William Dalrymple arrived from Nova Scotia to occupy Boston, per his orders from the King of England, George III. His ship arrived on Friday evening, September 30; his 2,000 red-coated troops disembarked at noon on Saturday, October 1, 1768, exactly 250 years and 10 days ago today, as you are reading this.
The British units comprised the 14th and 29th regiments, along with a detachment from the 59th and a train of artillery (two cannons). After forming up on Long Wharf, Dalrymple’s regiments marched to Boston Common in what Paul Revere called “insolent parade”, words he used on an engraving he had created. Over the next 24 hours, Dalrymple publicly read the King’s proclamation about taxes and demanded quarters for his soldiers. The British soldiers encamped, thus forcing the colonial militia off of the Common. Redcoat guards interrupted a church service at the South Church on Sunday morning.
This occupation by arrogant redcoats, 250 years ago, began paving the way for our War of Independence eight years later in 1776.
Last weekend’s re-enactment was very colorful and extremely well done. The British military units, who performed to perfection, are made up of history buffs from America. Their uniforms and gear are authentic; their demeanor was something to see. The “Thin Red Line” marched from Long Wharf to the Old State House. After a 30-minute pause while the Republic of China (Taiwan) Parade passed, they then marched up Washington Street for Col. Dalrymple’s proclamation at Franklin Street. The re-enactors encamped on the northwest corner of the Boston Common. Drills and parades took place there; Sunday morning saw conflicts in downtown Boston.
The re-enactment opens a multi-year program called “Revolution 250”. It is a program by the Massachusetts Historical Society made up of approximately 50 organizations from across the State of Massachusetts, and which is overseen by a volunteer advisory committee. Revolution 250 plans extensive historical happenings between now and eight years from now.
South Boston resident Bob Allison is a Professor of History at Suffolk University. When the “Insolent Parade” paused at Franklin and Washington Streets mini-amphitheater last Saturday, Bob spoke of the Revolution 250 plans. Over the next eight years, Boston will observe and celebrate notable historic happenings from 250 years ago, such as the Boston Massacre in 2020 and the Boston Tea Party in 2023. This will climax at the 250th Anniversary of our independence on Saturday, July 4, 2026.
Stay tuned for the best history lessons you and your family will ever receive. After all, the original events all happened right here in the City of Boston. And remember: the 400th Anniversary of the City of Boston’s birth (1630) is just four years later, in 2030. Much has been planned for that Anniversary already.