On Sunday the 12th, the neighborhood of Charlestown celebrated its annual parade for the Battle of Bunker Hill.
In recent years city officials have debated the budget and considered getting rid to two Suffolk county holidays that celebrate important moments during the early revolution war. It would be an attempt to save money as employers get the day off for these holidays which are extremely local. The first day is March 17th, known as Evacuation Day, when the British left Boston. People not in the know have joked Boston gave itself Saint Patrick’s Day off so people could drink the whole day. The second is June 17th, the date of the Battle itself. (The parade is always celebrated on the Sunday before the 17th, while the actual day is saved for an exercise at the Bunker Hill Monument.)
Politicians with local ties to the neighborhood come to the annual breakfast held before the parade and hosted by the Bunker Hill Associates. While the debate has waxed and waned on Beacon Hill, these politicians have picked up a sentiment stating that we couldn’t have had July 4th without June 17th.
Interestingly the holiday and parade celebrate a military defeat rather than a victory. The rag-tag Continental (or just Massachusetts) militia held Breed’s Hill through three separate advances by the larger, better trained British Army. When they finally gave up, it wasn’t for lack of trying, but because they ran out of ammo. The British, in taking what turned out to be a rather in consequential hill, suffered heavy loses and learned an important lesson. These patriots were serious and would not roll over.
Perhaps I’m biased as I have lived in Charlestown and experienced these celebrates my entire life, but I don’t think it’s a good idea to get rid of this holiday. However I disagree that the battle of Bunker Hill lead to Independence Day just over a year later. Considering the path the Colonial powers and the British were taking both before June 17th and after, the fourth of July and the Declaration of Independence would have happened in some way sooner or later.