~ The Battle of Penobscot Bay ~

Lt. John Moore

Several hundred American Loyalist refugees, driven from their homes had landed at Penobscot, Maine, but without protection, their situation was precarious.
So Brig Gen F. MacLean commander of British forces Nova Scotia was sent with one Scottish regiment and part of another in 3 sloops from Halifax (total of 640 men) to construct a fort which could both protect them and also act as a forward defensive position for his own territory.
But as soon as news of the enterprise reached Boston, Massachusetts, feelings against Loyalists and an offer of a bounty, encouraged a large number of men to volunteer and join an expedition organised by the likes of Paul Revere, who claimed it would be short, not too difficult nor too risky.

Three thousand men were enlisted, nineteen warships with a total of 350 guns and twentyone supply ships were commissioned and on 25th July 1779 the expeditionary force arrived off the 'far from complete' British fort.
As the Americans poured ashore, their overwhelming numbers forced the British to retreat behind their only waist-high earthworks, with the exception of a lone piquet of twenty men commanded by the seventeen year old, first time in battle, Lieutenant John Moore, (a future Sir and General) who with only rocks as cover resolutely stood his ground to frustrate their attack.
But after two days with over a third of his men having been killed and others wounded, Gen MacLean sent reinforcements forward to provide additional support and bring in the dead and wounded.

For well over a fortnight thereafter the British held out against the besieging force whose guns maintained a constant bombardment against the incomplete earthworks of Fort George, while Lt. Moore and his increased number of fifty men lay waiting ready to charge the American's flank should an assault be attempted.

Such an attack was never attempted, as the Rebels first wreaked havock on the Loyalists, then as poetic justice a British relief squadron of four frigates and the sixty-four-gun HMS Raisonable sailed into Penobscot Bay on the 14th August and caught them off guard. The American warships were unprepared and their attempt to line up for battle failed when all but two broke rank, firstly trying to put out to sea, then turn and sail up river, followed closely astern by the Royal Navy.
The Rebels ships became cornered and most were driven onto the river banks at Sandy Point where their crews jumped ashore and ran into the forest, but without shelter and provisions they quarrelled over the blame for the disaster.
Arguments developed into fights, fights into a general affray in which about fifty men were killed. The survivors then wandered away in search of sustenance, but most died in the wilderness without encountering the least sign of civilization
All bar one of their ships was either capturered or destroyed by fire.

Even an American account of the battle makes for pretty grim reading.


hits counter