Eastern Frontier : John Allan
Colonel John Allan played a dual role that was essential to the success
of the Revolution in Maine. Not only was he continental superintendent of
the Eastern Indians, but also the commanding officer defending Machias
against the British in Nova Scotia. He arrived in Machias in 1776, a
refugee from Nova Scotia where his energetic support for the American
cause forced him to flee with a price on his head. In America he soon
convinced Continental and Massachusetts authorities of the eastern Indiansí
importance to the American cause and the necessity of bringing Nova Scotia
(including New Brunswick) into the Revolution with an invasion from
Allan led a small advance force into Nova Scotia in 1777, but it was a
failure from the start. A similar attempt from Machias the year before had
met with disaster and dampened enthusiasm for Allanís scheme among
potential recruits. In the St. John River Valley, Allanís little group
ran into a much larger British force and escaped back to Machias only with
the aid of local Malicite ( St. John) Indians.
In retaliation, and to prevent further invasion attempts, the British
in Halifax launched a naval attack of their own against Machias in 1777.
It too failed; the townís defenses proved stronger than expected. In
addition, local Indians who were attending a conference in Machias that
had been called by Allan, joined in defending the town. Throughout the
rest of the war, Machias was the first line of defense against the enemy
to the east.
From Machias, Allan, engaged in a continuing diplomatic contest with
his British counterpart, Michael Francklin, over the allegiance of the
eastern Indians. The Passamaquoddies and Malecites in the St. John River
Valley and along the ill-defined border land between Maine and Nova
Scotia, were the prize.
Through subtle diplomacy, provisions and gifts, both Allen and
Francklin competed for their support. Bankrupt American governments had a
difficult time meeting Allanís constant demands for Indian supplies.
However, he enjoyed a particular advantage over his British rival when the
Franco-American Treaty of 1778 enabled him to obtain French-speaking
Catholic priests from French vessels anchored off the coast to minister to
the Indiansí spiritual needs.
Despite the influence of various gifts and religion, the Indians made
the most of their unique role as wavering neutrals and refused to be drawn
permanently to one side or the other. In the end all sides emerged as
winners in this diplomatic game: the Indians benefited from provisions and
presents from both sides, and their skillful neutrality spared all parties
from the horrors and expense of frontier warfare.
At the warís end, Allan surrendered his official titles, but not his
concern for the plight of the Indians. He continued to serve as a
negotiator for the tribes in an effort to work out post-war land
settlements with Massachusetts. In addition, he vigorously defended the
most expansive interpretation of his adopted countryís northeast border
until the Treaty of 1798 settled the boundary issue for the time being.
THE DEFENCE | THE EASTERN FRONTIER |
THE CASTINE LOYALISTS
INTERVIEWS | TRANSCRIPT |