Revolutionary War

Maine and the American Revolution

By the beginning of the American Revolution, Maine occupied a buffer zone between English Nova Scotia and the rebels in Massachusetts. The English cut off supplies of gunpowder and shot to both Indians and the insurgent Americans, influencing the tribes to side with America in the conflict. In return for aid against the British, the Americans promised the tribes a priest, protection, and hunting and fishing rights. The British occupied much of eastern Maine during, and for a time after, the war.

Machias was a stronghold of American sympathizers and rebels. When the British occupied and closed Boston in 1774, Maine towns could no longer ship their wood and fish to Boston and return with much-needed imports. Ichabod JonesJones, Ichabod Ichabod Jones

Boston lumber merchant who took two sloops to Machias in 1775 under escort of the British schooner Margaretta. Thirty one Machias citizens under the leadership of Jeremiah O'Brien captured Jones's sloop Unity and then proceeded to attack and capture the Margaretta, the first naval battle of the American Revolution.
, of Machias, was a LoyalistLoyalist

An American who sided with the British during the American Revolution.
lumber trader who decided to defy the his neighbors and sail into Boston Harbor. Since British authorities in Boston needed firewood as badly as Mainers needed food and other goods, they ordered the armed sloop HMS Margaretta to accompany Jones’ boats for protection. When Jones’ vessels returned to Machias, some settlers bought his goods, but most sided with rebel leader Jeremiah O'BrienO'Brien, Jeremiah
Jeremiah O'Brien

1744-1818 Leader of the Machias men who captured the British naval schooner Margaretta in the first naval battle of the American Revolution, June 1775.
who sailed out in pursuit of the Margaretta and seized her and two other British vessels. This was the first naval engagement of the American Revolution. O’Brien was dubbed the Machias Admiral. In retaliation, the British admiral in Boston, Admiral Graves, ordered Captain Henry MowatMowatt, Captain Henry Captain Henry Mowatt

1734-1798. Royal Navy officer active in New England during the American Revolution. In 1775, as a Lieutenant acting under orders to harass the coast, he burned Falmouth ( Portland). By 1779 he was a commander and with three small ships successfully defended Castine against the Penobscot Expedition. By 1796 he had become the senior officer in command of the North American station.
to burn Falmouth (now Portland.) He allowed the inhabitants one night to vacate the town, but rebellious militiamen fired on Mowatt, who fired back. At the end of the day, 400 buildings had been destroyed and the British had captured two American ships and sunk 11 others.

When the British occupied the St. John Valley in 1777, 500 MaliseetsMaliseet

One tribe of the Wabanaki Confederation now living in the St. John's River valley mostly in New Brunswick and Quebec, with one band in Houlton, Maine.
went south to Machias, where they joined with other tribal groups to fight the English. MicmacsMicmac

Also Mi'kmag.One tribe of the Wabanaki Confederation. The original inhabitants of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick with some living in Maine and Newfoundland.
gathered a force of 200 canoes, with which they attacked British coastal positions. The presence of so many Native Americans in Machias during the war helped that area remain securely within American control.

Benedict Arnold

Benedict Arnold was an American officer dispatched from Boston to lead an expedition to Quebec. Since 1759, Quebec had been under British control, and the Continental Army commanders wanted to rally French Canadians to the American cause. With 1,000 troops, Arnold sailed to Georgetown, Maine, and up the Kennebec to Gardinerstown. There his men transferred to about 200 bateauxBateau bateaux

French for boat. A term used in North America to designate various types of small craft. In Canada and New England, a double-ended, flat-bottomed rowing boat used on rivers and lakes; specialized bateaux were used by lumbermen in driving logs down rivers.
. Arnold’s men passed Augusta, Skowhegan, and Norridgewock, and then began an overland trek towards Quebec, using a difficult trail that was originally an AbenakiAbenaki

Native tribe of western Maine and Quebec. One member of the Wabanaki Confederation.
route. Nearly a third of Arnold’s men died, and another 100 were killed in the assault on Quebec. Although unsuccessful in capturing Quebec, Arnold’s march convinced the British to maintain a costly presence in Canada. It also illustrated the extreme obstacles Maine’s geography presents to travel—none of its rivers is navigable beyond Maine borders.

Penobscot Expedition

Castine 1770

In June of 1779 the British constructed a fort at Bagaduce (now Castine). The Americans in Massachusetts were alarmed at the thought of an English headquarters so close. To retake Bagaduce, they sent 39 ships under the command of Brigadier General Solomon LovellLovell, Solomon Solomon Lovell

General Solomon Lovell was in charge of the American army that attempted to drive the British from Castine in 1779 in the Penobscot Expedition. The expedition failed.
and Commodore Dudley SaltonstallSaltonstall, Dudley Dudley Saltonstall

1738-1796. Boston captain and merchant, and privateersman in the French and Indian War. He became the 4th ranking Captain in the Continental Navy in the Revolutionary War in 1775, and was given command of the Alfred, Commodore Esek Hopkins' flagship which successfully raided New Providence in the Bahamas for cannon. In 1779 he was made Commodore of the Penobscot Expedition, which ended in a disaster for which he was blamed and dismissed from the Navy. He then turned profitably to privateering.
. It became the worst American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor in 1941—Saltonstall’s ship fled before reinforcing British vessels, and the Americans burned or scuttled every one of their own ships that was not captured. The British retained control of Bagaduce, a haven for LoyalistsLoyalist

An American who sided with the British during the American Revolution.
during the war, and also gained control of other towns in eastern Maine.

“Searsport’s Sam Houston,” was George Washington's aide, who crossed the Delaware with the General. His trunk and sword have been recovered, due to efforts of a local teacher in Searsport, and are now housed at the museum.

Henry Knox

Sabre and trunk of Samuel Houston

Henry Knox is a well-known name in Maine history. Actually from Massachusetts, Knox served with distinction in the Revolution and became the first United States Secretary of War in George Washington’s cabinet. He gained control of the Waldo PatentWaldo Patent

Land grant or patent also known as the Muscongus Patent. In 1630, John Beauchamp and Thomas Leverett obtained a grant of 36 square miles of land extending from the Muscongus River (Medomack) to the Penobscot Bay north to Hampden. It conveyed exclusive trading rights; about 1720 it passed into the hands of the Waldo family of Boston.
through marriage. Most of this vast land holding had been confiscated during the war, and when peace came midcoastMidcoast

In Maine, generally refers to the area between the Kennebec and Penobscot Rivers.
settlers assumed they would finally get control of their own properties. Knox, however, had visions of empire, and managed to increase the size of his lands for a while, though he eventually had to relinquish some holdings to William BinghamBingham, William
William Bingham

William Bingham, 1752 - 1804, was a delegate from Pennsylvania to the Continental Congress. After the American Revolution he used his wealth to purchase land, including about 2 million acres in Maine. This was known as the Bingham Purchase.


Home of General Henry Knox, in Thomaston, Maine.
, Knox’s mansion in Thomaston, was a huge estate of 12,000 square feet of living space in the main house. Knox and the other Great ProprietorsProprietors

Those to whom the British king granted exclusive control over a colony. This allowed the king to indirectly control the colony without investing. Sir Ferdinando Gorges became one of the proprietors of the Province of Maine in 1622, splitting it at the Piscataqua River in 1629.
had difficulty collecting rents or fees from Maine’s settlers, who as always pursued their difficult lives with great independence, regardless of the changing fortunes of wealthy landowners. Knox’s employees and surveyors encountered more and more violent resistance, and his estate on Brigadier's Island (now Sears IslandSears Island

The largest undeveloped island left on the east coast. Sears Island was originally called Brigadiers Island and was owned by Henry Knox. Later it was the site of a home belonging to David Sears, for whom the town of Searsport was named in 1845. Currently Sears Island is the subject of controversy about development plans.
) was ransacked. In 1805 Knox’s FederalistFederalist

A former U.S. political party that favored a strong centralized government.
seat in the Massachussetts assembly was won by a Democratic RepublicanDemocratic Republican

Political party founded by Thomas Jefferson and James Madison in 1802 to oppose the Federalists.
. Knox died in 1806, not living to see the defeat of other Federalists in Maine and the triumph of Democratic Republicans, who eventually brought Maine statehood. Montpelier was razed to the ground in the late 19th century, but rebuilt in 1929. It is open as a museum today.

Letter from General Knox

 Brigadier's Island 1770