Yes, Happy Evacuation Day. Although, Evacuation Day was actually yesterday on the 25th of November, the same day it has been on since its inception. Here is the thing, none of you know, or most of you don’t know, anything about the holiday. This wasn’t some little podunk holiday either. Evacuation Day celebrates the withdrawal of British military forces from America in 1783.
The British would leave New York with their last contingent of troops on November 25, 1783 through Manhattan. The British would fire the last shots of the war as a gunner took some potshots at people on the shore, most likely out of extreme shame that the mighty British military had fought an asymmetrical war and had lost to far inferior guerrilla forces. Yay America.
George Washington paraded the Continental Army into New York as the British left and went down into Battery Park where the men tore down the British colors that were still flying and raised the Stars and Stripes. America now belonged to all of us. Nevermind the token forces of British troops holding down their positions in frontier forts as these were allowed concessions of the Treaty of Paris signed earlier in the year. It is important to note however that the British left something else behind when they left, the Prison Ship Martyrs.
During the war, the British used prison ships to hold captive Americans they didn’t execute. Although it could be argued that execution was the far more merciful. There were an estimated 4400-4500 deaths of Americans during the battles of the Revolutionary War. Over 11,500 men died as Prisoners of War on the British Prison ships during the course of the war. Everyday the British would haul the dead up and drop them in a shallow grave near Brooklyn in the Wallabout Bay. You wonder about the fortitude and dedication of these American patriots. Any man could have saved his own life, all he had to do was swear allegiance to Britain and enter into military service. They then would receive food, medicine, baths, etc. Recruiting officers visited the prison ships daily and offered this up to the men. Instead, they chose to die with honor than hurt the cause they fought for. This too is part of Evacuation Day.
This was a major holiday in America celebrated annually up through World War I, but by then it was waning in favor. This was because of Abraham Lincoln. Yes, President Lincoln, who in November of 1863, the 26th to be exact, declared a national day for Americans “in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a day of thanksgiving.” Thanksgiving would rise as a national holiday, gaining with popularity and finally turned into the third Thursday of November by Roosevelt in 1939. This would lock the holiday between 22nd and 28th of November in perpetuity. Since the holiday falls in the same area as Evacuation Day, one of those holidays becomes redundant. Wouldn’t you know it, apparently no one wants to remember driving the British from the shores and rescuing the men on the prison ships, we’d rather focus of the Turkey.
Well, I for one, will not forget Evacuation Day, and I in turn will share it with you.