Meanwhile, in Boston, the British army found itself trapped; surrounded by an army of Massachusetts Yankees. On the evening of April 18, 1775, many of the residents of Boston already knew a military operation was in motion and thus, got little sleep. “I did not git to bed this night till after 12 o'clock, nor to sleep till long after that, & then my sleep was much broken, as it had been for many nights before.” Most were oblivious of plans to seize and destroy a supply depot and instead believed the British objective was the arrest of Samuel Adams and John Hancock. Sarah Winslow Deming recalled “the main was to take possession of the bodies of Mesrs Adams & Handock, whom they & we knew where were lodg'd. We had no doubt of the truth of all this.”
Over the next few days, as the American army surrounded the town and settled into a siege, scores of Bostonians discovered they were prohibited from fleeing the town. As Deming despaired “I was Genl Gage's prisoner -- all egress, & regress being cut off between the town & country. Here again description fails. No words can paint my distress.”
Representatives from the town voted to approach General Gage to secure his permission for Americans to evacuate. After a tense meeting, the general ultimately agreed on the condition they surrender their weapons.
Andrew Eliot was minister in Boston. Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, he was fortunate enough to have successfully removed his family from the town before the lockdown. However, he chose to remain behind to tend to his congregation.
In a April 25th letter to Thomas Hollis, Eliot described the dire conditions of Boston at the onset of the siege and the preparations of its residents to flee.
“Boston April 25 1775, Dear Sir, I wrote you by Capt. Robson & should not so soon have troubled you again, were I not impelled by the unhappy Situation of this Town, which by the late cruel & oppressive measures gone into by the British Parliament is now almost depopulated or will be in a few Days. Filled with the Troops of Britain & surrounded with a provincial Army, all communication with the Country is cut off, & we wholly deprived of the necessaries of Life, & this principal mart of America is become a poor garrison Town. The inhabitants have been confined to the city more than a week, & no person suffer'd to enter . . . At length the General hath consented that if the Inhabitants would deliver their Arms they should be sufferd to depart This proposal humiliating as it is, hath been complied with In consequence of this agreement almost all are leaving their pleasant habitations & going they know not whither-- The most are obliged to leave their furniture & effects of every kind, & indeed their all to the uncertain chance of war or rather to certain ruin & destruction . . . The last Week I thot myself in comfortable circumstances had a convenient dwelling well furnished, a fine Library made so very much by the munificence of our late most worthy Friend, attended by a large, affectionate, & generous Congregation, happy in a Consort one of the best of Women, & surrounded by a large Number of desirable Children; now I am by a cruel Necessity turned out of my House must leave my Books & all I possess, perhaps to be destroyed by a licentious Soldiery; my beloved Congregation dispersed, my dear Wife retreating to a distant part of the Country, my Children wandering not knowing whither to go, perhaps left to perish for Want, myself soon to leave this devoted Capital, happy if I can find some obscure Corner wch will afford me a bare Subsistence. I wish to God the authors of our Misery could be Witnesses of it. They must have Hearts harder than an adamant if they did not relent & pity us . . . Forgive Dear Sir these severe Reflections on the Parent Country my Heart is wounded, deeply wounded, almost to [illegible] Death. Surely there is a God that judgeth in the Earth, & what must the Contrivers of these Schemes have to answer for in another World, if not in this. But I know not why I should make you unhappy by reciting what we suffer.”