The Beginning of the End for the British

On this day in 1783, British troops finally departed from New York City on Manhattan Island, marking the truest end of the American Revolutionary War. After the last pair of English boots stepped off the island on Evacuation Day, Gen. George Washington triumphantly led the Continental Army from his former headquarters, north of the city, across the Harlem River, south down Manhattan, through town to the Battery at the foot of Broadway.

The Big Apple had been in Redcoat hands since November 16, 1776, when Washington and his army evacuated Manhattan Island. They headed north for Westchester County, fought a delaying action at White Plains, and retreated across New Jersey in the New York and New Jersey campaign.

For the remainder of the American Revolutionary War, much of what is now Greater New York was under British control. New York City was the British political and military center of operations in British North America, David Mathews was Mayor of New York during the British occupation and many of the civilians who continued to reside in town were Loyalists.

Going deeper, in advance of the appointed date, More than 29,000 Loyalist refugees were eventually evacuated from the city, many to Canada. The British also evacuated over 3,000 Black Loyalists, former slaves they had liberated from the Americans, to Nova Scotia, East Florida, the Caribbean, and London, refusing to return them to their American enslavers and overseers as the provisions of the Treaty of Paris had required them to do.

The last shot of the war, then, was reportedly fired December 5, as a British cannoneer loosed round-shot at jeering crowds gathered on the shore of Staten Island as his ship passed near the Verrazano-Narrows; the shot fell well short of the shore. While it is said this was the last British military position in the US proper, the Brits held onto various outposts, including Fort Detroit and obscure Fort Mackinac, which remained in their hands until 1796, only to be re-captured by Brits again in 1812.

So as the Late and Honorable Richard D. Kuhn says, school is out.

Author: Bill Urich

A tail-end baby-boomer, Bill Urich was born in Cleveland to a grade school teacher and her Navy vet husband, and reared in Greater Detroit. Working his way through school primarily at night, Mr. Urich holds a Bachelor’s in Journalism, Phi Beta Kappa, and a Juris Doctorate from Wayne State University. In his legal career he has acted as an assistant state prosecutor, city attorney, special prosecutor, mediator, magistrate, private practitioner and mayor of Royal Oak, a large home-rule city in Michigan. Mr. Urich continues in private practice and municipal prosecution, is on faculty to DePaul University, pens regular contributions to political publications, and remains active in selected campaigns and causes related to labor, social and criminal justice. A father of three mostly-grown sons, he spends his precious free time on family, friends, the pursuit of happiness, beauty and truth, three rescue cats, and fronting the rock band Calcutta Rugs from behind the drum kit.

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