From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.
January 25. –We hear that the enemy, in Boston, the evening on which our troops burnt the houses at Charlestown, were entertaining themselves at the exhibition of a play, which they called the Blockade of Boston; in the midst of which a person appeared before the audience, and with great earnestness, declared that the Yankees were attacking Bunker’s Hill. The deluded wretches, at first, took this to be merely farcical, and intended as a part of their diversion. But soon convinced that the actor meant to represent a solemn reality, the whole assembly left the house in confusion, and scampered off with great precipitation.1
Lately, we have had several deserters from the enemy. One of them stationed at Charlestown mills, pitched his companion over the dam, and then ran for Cobble Hill.
Last Friday, General Clinton, with a considerable number of grenadiers and light infantry, sailed from Boston, and were supposed to be bound for Virginia. 2
1 Another account of Major Knowlton’s expedition is given by an officer in the king’s army: –On the 8th instant, between eight and nine o’clock at night, we were alarmed by some of the enemy, who came over a small neck of land by a mill upon Charlestown side, and came into some houses that were not destroyed on the 17th of June, where they surprised and took one sergeant and three private men prisoners, who belonged to a wooding party, after which they set fire to the houses, and retreated under a heavy fire of cannon and musketry from one of our redoubts. Among the rest they had got a stout fellow of ours (a grenadier) prisoner, who pretended to be lame, and could walk but slowly, upon which they made him deliver up his arms; and the rebel captain who commanded the party told his men to retreat, saying, “I swear I will take this serpent of a regular under my charge;” but upon his going over the neck of land, the grenadier struck the captain a severe blow on his face with his fist, took him up in his arms, pitched him headlong into the mud, and then ran off. But what is most extraordinary, a new farce was that night to have been acted at Boston, called The Blockade of Boston; the play was just ended and the curtain going to be drawn up for the farce, when the actors heard from without that an attack was made on the heights of Charlestown, upon which one of them came in, dressed in the, character of a Yankee sergeant (which character he was to play) desired silence, and informed the audience the alarm guns were fired; that the rebels had attacked the town, and were at it tooth and nail over at Charlestown. The audience thinking this was the opening of the new piece, clapped prodigiously; but soon finding their mistake, a general scene of confusion ensued. They immediately hurried out of the house to their alarm posts; some skipping over the orchestra, trampling on the fiddles, and every one making his most speedy retreat. The actors (who were all officers) calling out for water to wash the smut and paint from off their faces; women fainting, and, in short, the whole house was nothing but one scene of confusion, terror, and tumult. I was upon guard at the advance lines before the town of Roxbury, and we expected a general attack that night, but the rebels were not so forward, for in a few hours every thing was quiet. —Extract of a genuine letter from Boston, in the Middlesex Journal, February 27.
2 New England Gazette, January 25.