We are now in the month of March and we have enjoyed two months of compatriotism at our January and February meetings. March figures prominently for us as Spring arrives along with Daylight Savings time and St. Patricks’ day, at one time an obscure religious holiday that has now swept the world and everyone can be Irish for a day.
A little research reveals that this date of March 17th was very important to the Revolutionary effort and to General Washington in particular. The patron saint of Ireland was credited with bringing Christianity to Ireland sometime during the early 400’s. The first recorded St. Patrick’s Day celebration in the colonies took place in 1737 in Boston where many Irish immigrants, mostly Protestants from Ulster, lived. They too had come to America to escape British oppression. Irish Catholics arrived in large numbers to America during the late 1840’s.
St. Patrick’s Day marks the day in 1776 when 9,000 Red Coats and 1,000 British loyalists evacuated Boston for Halifax. It became known in the colonies and in Boston as Evacuation Day. Four years later, during the harsh winter of 1779-1780, General Washington’s’ troops in Morristown, New Jersey had experienced the worst winter of the war and perhaps the coldest winter on record. Food was in short supply as well as suitable housing of the troops. Morale was low and the war could have turned in either direction. Washington knew he needed to provide a morale boost to his troops and declared on March 16th that March 17th would be a holiday and the men given the day off. It was the first day of rest in more than a year. “The General directs that all fatigue and working parties cease for to-morrow the SEVENTEENTH instant, a day held in particular regard by the people of Ireland” Washington also directed that “the celebration of the day will not be attended with the least rioting or disorder.” The libation the soldiers enjoyed was not green beer but it has been recorded that one Pennsylvania division was the recipient of a hogshead of rum provided by their commander. We can only assume that this holiday boosted the morale of the troops as their later successes brought independence to our country.
After the war in appreciation of his actions, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, a relief organization for Irish immigrants, named Washington on honorary member in 1782. So once again, the past provides us with knowledge and inspiration as we move forward in our lifetime pursuits.
Updated 18 March 2017 [top]