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
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.