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Program 11: The Penobscot Expedition and The Revolution


The DefenceCannonballs

Defence was a new brigantine, built for Morris Brown, Andrew Cabot and Israel Thorndike in Beverly, Mass. as a privateer. Ships built specifically as privateers were usually fast and seaworthy. They were used to quickly cut a merchant or transport ship out of a convoy without being caught by its navy escort. She was 170 tons, approximately 78 feet long on the deck and carried 16 six-pounders (cannon that fires a six pound iron ball).

While Defence was being finished in Beverly, she was either hired or drafted into the Penobscot Expedition to convoy the transports and provide close artillery support to the troops when they landed. Capt. John Edmunds and a crew of 100 men sailed her to Maine to join the fleet.

At Castine, Edmunds supported the American's attack on Nautilus Island and the mainland with suppression fire from Defence's six-pounders. When the British relief squadron drove the Americans up the Penobscot River, Edmunds, with a local pilot aboard, sailed into Stockton Harbor to evade the British. Not fooled, Capt. Collins, on the British ship Camilla, boxed him in and tried to make a night attack against Defence with small armed boats. Edmunds set an explosive charge in the ship's stern, ordered his crew off, and lit fire to Defence. The ship's stern blew out when the flames reached it, and Defence settled to the bottom of Stockton Harbor. The British were denied a new ship and the Americans walked home along the coast of Maine.

In 1972, the faculty and students of a joint Maine Maritime Academy/Massachusetts Institute of Technology summer workshop found the ship's remains. Over the next several years a substantial body of material including armaments, supplies and personal gear was archaeologically excavated. The artifacts are now held by the Maine State Museum.



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