Throwback Thursday: When Lobsterbacks Pitched Tents on the Common

Thanks, Quartering Act of 1765.

Boston Common photo via Wikimedia/Creative Commons / Illustration by Madeline Bilis

Boston Common photo via Wikimedia/Creative Commons / Illustration by Madeline Bilis

Some 251 years ago today, Parliament laid down the law for the American colonies when it came to British soldiers.

Specifically, a law: the Quartering Act of 1765. It commanded colonists to house British soldiers (also known as redcoats, or more derogatorily, lobsterbacks) who were stationed within colony borders. This meant putting roofs over their heads in the form of barracks, and providing bedding, firewood, beer, and cooking utensils. The act specified that if there wasn’t enough room in the barracks—which colonies needed to build—soldiers would be able to stay in local inns, stables, and other types of public houses. It was a non-voluntary version of Airbnb, if you will.

As you might expect, residents across the colonies did not feel especially hospitable toward lobsterbacks, and disputed the law. Bostonians, who were especially displeased, resisted housing them altogether. This forced British soldiers out of public houses and onto the lawn—they pitched tents on the Boston Common and set up camp. This solution didn’t do much to ease tensions between Bostonians and redcoats, though, as the Boston Massacre happened five years later.

The Quartering Act of 1765 wasn’t the only time redcoats took to sleeping on the Common. They also camped out during the Revolutionary War, most notably during the 1775 siege of Boston. Whatever the reason for the tents, we can’t seem to find any complaints about the Common’s population of extremely bold squirrels.