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Program 11: The Penobscot Expedition and The Revolution

The Eastern Frontier : Machias and the "Margaretta"

Machias and the "Margaretta"

On June 12, 1775, the Down East community of Machias, Maine suddenly stepped onto history’s center stage. Only a dozen years before, a small group of English settlers had arrived mostly from Scarborough, Maine. They were drawn to the area by opportunities inherent in the abundant forests around Machias.

Because they were completely focused on lumbering, the Machias settlers relied on the outside world for many of their other needs. It was a satisfactory situation until the British occupied Boston and many American colonists refused to trade with the Britain. The highly patriotic Machias citizens were in a bind: They refused to trade with the British and they could barely live without British supplies.

Townsman Ichabod Jones had a solution. With his local connections and the desperation of the Machias residents, he believed that could easily convince them to trade. First, he brought a load of Machias lumber to Boston and traded it for English good, then, he brought the English goods back to Machias.

However, he made the mistake of asking the British to send a naval escort, the "Margaretta," to accompany him, just in case there was opposition. When Jones arrived on June 2, the people in Machias initially refused to trade. Within a few days, Capt. Moore of the Margaretta threatened to burn down the town. The inhabitants grudgingly relented. As the trading went on, the citizens gradually realized that Jones had been working with Moore and soon there were discussions about capturing both men.

On Sunday, June 11 Jones and Moore, who were in church at the time, saw a body of armed settlers heading their way and made their escape. Moore to the Margaretta and Jones to the woods. During the day, the colonists on the shore demanded that Moore surrender and turn over Jones, not knowing that Jones was on board; Moore replied that he would never turn himself over to such a band of villains. There was a steady exchange of gunfire but few casualties.

By the next day, the Machias patriots decided to capture the Margaretta and outfitted two vessels to give chase. When Moore realized what was happening, he tried to run to the open sea but his vessel proved a poor sailor and he was soon caught and boarded. During the battle, Moore was mortally wounded and three other individuals were killed. The Margaretta was brought back to Machias with great fanfare and soon afterwards, Jones surrendered. From then on, the small Maine community became a major target for British wrath.

First, the British launched an expedition to burn Machias. The plan was scuttled because of bad weather but the British attacked Falmouth instead. Two years later, the British made a second attempt to retaliate against Machias and sent a brig up the river to shell the community. But their timing proved to be disastrous.

One day before the scheduled bombardment, a large body of local Natives had come to Machias to visit John Allen, the regional Indian agent. For many reasons, tribal people tried to remain neutral during the Revolution, but in circumstances such as these, they felt obliged to help the man who had treated them well.

As the British brig came close to the village, the men aboard saw a long line of warriors standing near the shore along with some American patriots. Suddenly, the wind failed and the British commander sent some of his men out in a smaller boat to tow the brig up the river.

At that point, one of the Indians fired a long shot—some say as long as a mile—and hit one of the rowers. Instantly the whole group leaped up and loudly celebrated the event. The British sailors, having often heard tall tales about Native warriors, saw the incredible shot, panicked, and turned tail back to the brig.

The captain then attempted to steer the brig back down the river, but got stuck in the mud. There it sat for the next several hours waiting for the tide to come in. In the meantime, both sides were firing at each other with very little effect. Once the brig floated, it sailed away as quickly and the British never again took on those patriots from Machias.



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