July 12, 1775, The British fitted out two armed schooners at Halifax foi- the purpose of re-taking the Margaretta, the Diligence and the Tapnaquish. O'Brien and Foster, however, were again successful, and the battle, July 12, 1775, resulted in their capturing both vessels and taking their crews prisoners.
In the following September the Provincial Congress gave him command of two cruisers, the Machias Liberty and the Diligent, which were known as the " Flying Squadron," and he served in this capacity, doing gallant service, until October, 1776. A little later, he had command of the privateers, Cyrus, Little Vincent, and Tiger, which continued until 1779, when be returned to his home in Machias and for several months served as Captain of a company ----------- (a) I am indebted to one of his descendants, Mrs. Josephine O'Brien Campbell of Cherryfield, Maine, for courtesies and assistance in compiling the data herein. (b) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 287. 184 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY of soldiers, known as the Machias Rangers, which served under Colonel John Allen in protecting the settlements from unfriendly Indians. During the year 1780 two of his brothers, John O'Brien and Joseph O'Brien, built at Newburyport, Massachusetts, a vessel which was fitted out as a privateer. She was named the Hannibal, and John O'Brien was her commander in her first cruise. John O'Brien, not desiring to serve longer, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to appoint Jeremiah O'Brien commander, which was done. On this cruise the fortunes of war turned against Captain O'Brien, and while off the coast of New York the Hannibal fell in with a fleet of British merchantmen under convoy of several British frigates. Captain O'Brien, after a futile attempt to re- treat, was obliged to surrender. He, with the other officers and crew of the Hannibal, was incarcerated on board the prison-sbip, Jersey. At the end of six months all of the other prisoners were exchanged, but he was transported to Plymouth, England, and placed in the Mill Prison, where he remained for about eighteen months, when he succeeded in making his escape. He had culti- vated the acquaintance of a French washerwoman, employed about the prison, who, with the help of her husband, rendered him valuable assistance. He crossed the English Channel to France in a frail row boat. The French people where he landed, upon learning who he was, were friendly and loaned him sufficient money to enable him to take voyage to New York, and he finally reached his home in Machias during the autumn of 1782.
Washington County Machias Maine “The Hornets Nest” Boarded
Maine Election Fraud: Irony of denying Machias key stronghold in
Washington County Maine, Cradle of 1776 Uprising, now prohibited from voting by Republican Party Paul, the story
Birthplace of 1776 US NAVY WASHINGTON MAINE NOT ALLOWED TO VOTE – details
There are probly 20 m mayf descendents
These are really ancient illustrious communities that are being disenfranchised humble peoples that bred sturdy yeomans to heroically stand down superior british forces – completely cut off from the rest of north America
The Burnham Tavern in a 1911 postcard
In Boston, Admiral Samuel Graves and General Thomas Gage both had reason to dobusiness with the town of Machias. Gage required lumber to build barracks for troops arriving in the besieged city of Boston. Graves wanted to recover the guns from the wreck of HMS Halifax, which had apparently been intentionally run aground inMachias Bay by a local pilot in February 1775. Graves authorized Ichabod Jones, aTory Machias merchant who had ships in the port of Boston, to take flour and other food supplies to the town of Machias aboard his two ships Unity and Polly in exchange for Gage's needed lumber. To guarantee that this would happen, Graves sent the armed schooner Margaretta (sometimes also spelled Margueritta or Marguerite in historical accounts), under the command of James Moore, a midshipman from his flagship HMS Preston to accompany the two merchant vessels. Moore also carried orders to retrieve what he could from the wreck of the Halifax, which they would pass on the way.
On June 2, 1775, Jones' ships arrived in the port at Machias,
while the Margaretta was delayed retrieving the guns from
the Halifax wreck.
Jones met resistance from the community by refusing to sell his pork and flour
unless he was allowed to also load lumber for Boston. Since this could be seen
as assisting the enemy, the town,
after first meeting on June 6 to discuss the matter, elected by vote to permit the trade, and the Unity was docked at the wharf to begin
Some of militia men boarded the docked Unity,
removed the remaining supplies, and also removed her sails. Others went around
by land near the place where theMargaretta was anchored, and demanded her
surrender. Moore refused, threatening to fire on the town. This threat was more bluster
than real, as Margaretta sported only a few mounted guns
capable of firing one-pound shot. More of the militia men rowed out to the Polly,
which was anchored downstream from the Margaretta, and attempted to tow
her into the harbor. This attempt failed when she ran aground, possibly due to
low tide. Moore raised anchor and came alongside Polly,
intending to recover her. However, after a brief and inconsequential exchange
of gunfire with the militia men on the shore, he again raised anchor and went
further downstream to a safe anchorage.
The Unity crew, about 30 Machias men, elected Jeremiah
O'Brien as their
captain, and then sailed out to chase down
the Margaretta. As the Unity was a much faster sailing vessel,
O'Brien's crew quickly overtook the crippled Margaretta, while the Falmouth
Packet lagged behind. Duncan and some other historians indicate
that both the Unity and theFalmouth Packet engaged
the Margaretta, but other sources, notably Drisko,
indicate that the Falmouth Packet either ran aground or never caught up
to the Margaretta, and that the men aboard
the Unity alone
battled the Margarettadirectly.
As Midshipman Moore was grievously wounded, his second, Midshipman
Stillingfleet, surrendered the crew and vessel. Moore was taken into care in
Machias at the home of
Stephen Jones, the son of Ichabod Jones, but Moore died the next day. At least
three other members of Moore's crew were also killed, as was Robert Avery, the
colonist taken by the British. The remaining crew members of the British
schooner were held at Machias for about a month, and were eventually handed
over to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. There were
also reports circulated, likely exaggerated, that
as many as 100 British men died in this and other skirmishes in the Machias
The Machias community, expecting the full wrath of the British Empire in revenge, immediately petitioned the Massachusetts Provincial Congress for guidance, supplies and assistance. They organized for the defense of Machias and maintained vigilance in the event of British retaliation. Jeremiah O'Brien immediately outfitted one of the three captured vessels (sources disagree on which vessel; all three are named in different sources, although Unityis named most frequently) with breastwork and armed her with the guns and swivels taken from the Margaretta and changed her name to Machias Liberty. In July 1775, Jeremiah O'Brien and Benjamin Foster captured two more British armed schooners, the Diligent and the Tatamagouche, whose officers had been captured when they came ashore near Bucks Harbor. In August 1775, the Provincial Congress formally recognized their efforts, commissioning both the Machias Liberty and the Diligent into the Massachusetts Navy, with Jeremiah O'Brien as their commander.
Following rumours that an assault on Nova Scotia was being
planned, with stores stockpiled at Machias, a small British fleet carrying
1,000 men attempted to take Machias in August 1777; the troop ships were fought
off and no troops were landed. The rumors were only partly true; the idea had
been proposed, but no significant military planning had
Drisko, a local Machias historian, lists the following 55 names of Machias men for whom he found evidence of their participation in the attack on the Margaretta: Jeremiah O'Brien, John O'Brien, William O'Brien, Joseph O'Brien, Gideon O'Brien, Dennis O'Brien, Edmund Stevens, Richard Earle (a Negro servant to Jeremiah O'Brien), Samuel Watts, John Steele, John Drisko, Judah Chandler, John Berry, James Cole, Richard McNiel, John Hall, Jesse Scott, Wallace Fenlason, Ezekiel Foster, Joseph Clifford, Jonathan Brown, Josiah Libbee, Joseph Getchell, Joseph Getchell, Jr., James Sprague, James N. Shannon, Benjamin Foss, William McNeil, Jonathan Knights, Josiah Weston, Joel Whitney, John Merritt, Isaac Taft, James Coolbroth, Nathaniel Crediforth, Joseph Wheaton, John Scott, Joseph Libbee, Simon Brown, Beriah Rice, Samuel Whitney, Elias Hoit, Seth Norton, Obadiah Hill, Daniel Meservey, John Steel, Jr., Nathaniel Fenderson, John Mitchell, Will Mackelson, John Thomas, David Prescott, Ebenezer Beal, John Bohanan, Thomas Bewel and Abial Sprague. In addition to those who manned Unity and the Falmouth Packet, many others participated in the preliminary skirmishes from the shore and in smaller boats.
There is a widely-told story concerning this affair that Machias men erected a Liberty pole after meeting in the Burnham Tavern in Machias to discuss the battles of Lexington and Concord. This story has been shown to be fabricated by Machias resident John O'Brien in 1831. There is no mention of the Liberty pole in any earlier accounts, including the official report sent by the residents of Machias in 1775, and the letters of other participants in the events.
1. Duncan, p. 209
2. Duncan, p. 208
3. Drisko, p. 30
4. Harnedy, p. 8
5. Leamon, p. 68
6. Duncan, p. 210
7. Drisko, pp. 43–45
8. Duncan, p. 211
9. Drisko, pp. 45–46
10. Duncan, p. 212
11. Drisko, p. 47
12. Drisko, p. 57
13. Drisko, p. 46
14. Drisko, pp. 51–52
15. Miller, p. 35
16. Drisko, pp. 53–56
17. Duncan, p. 213
18. Drisko, pp. 48–49
19. Drisko, p. 50
20. Drisko, pp. 48–49
21. Edwin A Churchill, "The Historiography of the Margaretta Affair or How Not to Let the Facts Interfere With a Good Story," Maine Historical Society Quarterly, Vol. 15, No. 2, Fall, 1975, p61-63
THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS (Machias settlement in the American Revolutionary War) printed in John Sprague's Journal of Maine History (1913) Vol 1 page 157-164 & page 175 -184 Courtesy of Androscoggin Historical <http://www.rootsweb.com/~meandrhs> (c) 1998 <firstname.lastname@example.org> The Lexington of the Seas By John Francis Sprague (Published by permission of the Journal of American History.) On the nineteenth day of April, 1775, the intrepid farmers of Lexington fired the "shot heard around the world," and on the twelfth day of June, five days before the Battle of Bunker Hill, a sturdy Irishman on the easterly shore of the Province of Maine, with a handful of brave lumbermen, river-drivers, farmers, and sailors, their hearts burning with the same flame of patriotism, successfully fought the first naval battle of the American Revolu- tion, captured the first British war vessel, was the first to haul down the British flag and bring to death the first of her captains of the sea in that great conflict for human rights. As early as 1633 the English, perceiving that it would be of commercial importance for them to have possessions east of the Penobscot River, established a trading post on the westerly shore of Machias River a near where it empties into Machias Bay, and about where the village is now situated. Claude de la Tour and his son Charles were prominent figures in the history of Acadia and New England in the seventeenth century. This settlement had existed but a few months, when Charles de la Tour, then the French Commandant at Port Royal, regard- ing it as a trespass upon territory to which he held title, sent soldiers there who captured it and laid it to waste. After La Tour's devastation of the place, no further attempts were made to hold it as a trading and military post by either the French or English for about one hundred and twenty years, except one feeble move made by the French in 1664, which proved a failure. In 1688 Governor Andros took measures to ascertain the number of inhabitants between the Penobscot and the St Croix, and the entire number at Machias, all French settlers, was only nine, but these were not allowed to remain there unmolested, for in -------------- (a) According to Williamson it was formerly Mechisses. page ----158------- SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY I704, the English broke up their habitations and drove them away. In the summer of 1762 Isaiah Foster and Isaac Labree, hav- ing knowledge that there were extensive marshes of wild swail hay along the Machias River, went there with vessels for the purpose of cutting and transporting hay to their homes in Scarboro, in the Province of Maine. While there they made an exploration of the country, and finding a large belt of valuable pine timber, through which were flowing rivers and streams leading to the bay, they decided that sawmills could be built, and an advantageous lumber trade with Boston engaged in. The result was the beginning of the settlement of Machias the following year, and when Morris O'Brien went there from Scarboro with his six sons in 1765, and built sawmills, there were already about eighty inhabitants. The occupations of these early settlers were generally laboring in the woods, on the drives and in the mills, and aboard the sloops and schooners, which freighted their lumber, shaved shingles, beaver skins, and other peltry to the Boston market, and returned with cargoes of provisions, merchandise, West India goods, and New England rum. They lived quiet and peaceful lives, and their habits were simple and frugal. It is doubtful if there was in the entire domain of the Massachusetts Colony a community that would naturally have less incentive to go to war than this one. So far as known, only two of their number, Morris O'Brien and Benjamin Foster, had ever served in any army of the Colonial wars, these two having been at the Siege of Louisburg under General Pepperell. (a) Eastern Maine was then a vast, primeval wilderness, practically undisturbed by man's activities, and this little village was not connected with the outside world by highways, other than Indian trails, and had no way of communication with the inhabitants of their own Province or the Colonies, except over the trackless ocean. Farming did not in the first instance receive great attention, as the men attended more to avocations arising from the logging ------------------ (a) Maine at Louisburg, by Rev. Henry S. Burrage, D. D. (1910), PP. 52-133. THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS--------- page----- 159------------- and lumbering business, depending largely upon the Boston market for all kinds of food supplies. But artisans and others went there, among whom was Wooden Foster, the blacksmith, who, regardless of his christian name, was to hammer out on his anvil crude forks for pitching hay and grain, which were fated to be later used as quite powerful weapons against British marines. Then from Kittery came John Underwood,' who engaged in trade. Like all New England villages of that day, among the first buildings erected was a tavern and a house of worship. The meet- ing-house was a crude structure, long and narrow, an entrance at one end and a rude pulpit at the other end. In 1772, they settled a minister, the Reverend James Lyon, who, three years later, became chairman of the Machias Committee of Correspondence with the Colonial Government at Boston. Thus was begun a community, whose citizens a few years later were to write a page in their country's history inscribed with deeds of heroism and valor. One, whose name will be forever interwoven with the story of that stirring event, was Captain Ichabod Jones. In 1765 he was a shipmaster and a person of some means, living in Boston. During that summer, he made a trip in a schooner eastward, for both pleas- ure and profit, stopping at Mount Desert. While in that port, he learned for the first time of the Machias settlement and went immediately there, where he disposed of his cargo of goods, to good advantage, loaded his vessel with lumber, and returned to Boston. He made other voyages from Boston to Machias, and subse- quently entered into a partnership with Benjamin Foster, and others, to Wild a mill for sawing lumber. This mill was on the went bank of the East Machias River. He, or the partnership, also ran a store in connection with the mill business, and all of the time he was in Command of one or two vessels, engaged in the lumber trade between Machias and Boston. ----------- (a) Smith's Centennial Sketch of Machias. (b) The Capture of the Margaretta by Geo. F. Talbot, Maine Histori- cal Collections, Vol. 2, p. 5. (c) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 172. -------- 160 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY He continued to do an increasing and thrifty business along these lines until 1774, when the English Parliament passed what is known in history as the "Boston Port Bill," which was an enact- ment that no more merchandise of any kind should be landed at or shipped from the wharves of Boston. King George evidently labored under the delusion that the feeling of resistance to his tyranny was confined to the people of Boston, and that to crush it he had only to obstruct and demoralize their commerce. Later on, he and his ministry learned that this was a stupid error, but not until after the history of the world had been changed. This condition at the port of Boston necessarily interrupted Captain Jones' trade. The spring of 1775 found him at Machias engaged in loading his two sloops, the Unity and the Polly, with lumber; but giving Captain Horton of the Polly orders to touch at Cape Ann and Salem for a market, and, failing there, to proceed to some port in Connecticut. But, on arriving at Salem, Captain Horton found the whole coast in an uproar, and the inhabitants generally, especially in the large towns, in dire distress, and ready for almost anything except trade in lumber. Captain Horton put into the port of Boston, where be met Captain Jones. These two then concluded to return at once to Machias with their families, their own household goods, and also a quantity of merchandise for the people there, who had become in a great measure destitute, by reason of the unsettled state of business during the past year. At this juncture, Captain Jones was in rather a troublesome quandary. He realized the necessity of carrying supplies to Machias, and he had a great desire to take his family there as well. He also feared the ire of the Machias patriots when they should discover him in their port under the protection of the English flag, for, in order to leave the harbor, be was obliged to have a permit from Admiral Graves. This permit would be granted only upon condition that be return from Machias to Boston with lumber which the British ------------- THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 161 desired to purchase for barracks for troops, and he must also submit to making the trip under the protection of an armed schooner, the Margaretta. She was a cutter of about one hundred tons, carrying forty men, commanded by Midshipman Moore, and also equipped with four four-pounders, in the holds, several swivels mounted, and a "sufficient number of hand grenades" besides muskets, pistols, etc. (a) The object of this supervision of the cruise by the Margaretta was not only to see to it that Captain Jones carried out his agreement to return to Boston with the sloops; laden with lumber, but also to protect him from trouble with the Machias people, if any should arise. Most historians have assumed, and for what reason is not entirely clear, that Jones was a Loyalist, but evidence of this seems to be more traditional than otherwise. At any rate before he left Boston he fortified himself with further protection, so far as Machias was concerned, by obtaining a certificate from the selectmen of Boston, requesting the people there to permit him to return to Boston, as there were other dis- tressed inhabitants who also desired to be transported to Machias. It is a matter of some doubt whether the Boston authorities had any knowledge of the Captain's agreement with the British authorities to furnish them with lumber, or, on the other hand, whether the Admiral realized that he was in league with the selectmen to do them favors in consideration of their certificate of protection. If he dissembled with the two opposing forces, as seems quite probable, the troubles which such deception brought down upon his head were sufficient punishment for the wrong doing. Be that as it may, however, the two sloops convoyed by the armed Margaretta, flying the British flag, sailed into Machias Harbor June 2, 1775.(b) A lumbering community labors with much energy at certain seasons, but at other times there is enforced idleness. At this time the drives of logs had all come down the rivers and were safely in the booms. The small crops of the farmers had been planted, and the lumbering mills were not running as usual, for ---------- (a) Williamson. (b) Smith's Cen. Sketch, p. 38. ------------ 162 SPRAGUTE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY political troubles at Boston had paralyzed the lumber trade. It was a bright and tranquil June day when the fragrance of broad meadows and pine woods filled the air, and the birds sang sweet and joyous notes, and waters of river and sea were still, and all nature rejoiced, as nature always does on glorious June days. For some time past the inhabitants had been lounging around the shores and wharves, waiting and watching for the return of Captain Jones' sloops with the much needed provisions. On the after- noon of that day practically all of the inhabitants of this little hamlet we re gathered there. some sitting up- on fallen pine trees, which had once stood as majestic senti- nels along the river banks, gazing afar for the welcome sails. Just as the sun was receding in the Western horizon, and the skies were golden, and the waters around were tinted with hues of gold, an old seafaring man, whose anxiety had led him farther down towards the bay, shouted, "A sail! a sail !" and then all was excitement. Captain Jones was returning and the stores he was bringing would carry joy to every household, and besides they would also soon learn how fared their brother patriots in far-away Massa- chusetts. Their feelings of mingled fear, alarm, and consternation may be imagined when they discovered that their friend of the seas, whose coming they had for days awaited with anxious hearts, was escorted by a British war vessel, flying the hated British flag. At precisely what time the people of Machias were first apprised of the Battle of Lexington is not well settled. Williamson is silent on this point, but Smith says: "The news of the battle ----------- THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 163 reached Machias very soon after its occurrence." Sherman, a who frequently quotes from Smith's account of it, asserts that "It was not many days after the engagements at Lexington and Concord that the officials of Machias received the Proclamation of the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts," informing them of the fact. Joseph Wheaton, who was a participator in the capture of the Margaretta, in a letter to Gideon O'Brien, under date of April 23, 1818, says "Before the battle of Concord, April 19, 1775, the Margaretta, schooner, Captain Moore, sailed from Boston and came to Machias to convoy two sloops owned by lchabod Jones with lumber for Boston, and for the use of the British Govern- ment. While those vessels were loading, there came to Machias a vessel and brought the news of the battle of Concord, and com- municated it to the people on a Saturday evening. According to Drisko:(c) "One day in May" a meeting was held in the east room of the old Burnham Tavern, at which Morris O'Brien and his sons, Benjamin Foster and Josiah Weston were among those who were present, when it was decided to call a town meeting to see if the inhabitants would vote to raise a liberty pole. presumablv this would have occurred immediately upon receiv- ing the news. Yet Talbot, who was a very accurate historian, apparenth believes that their first intelligence of the Battle of Lexington came from Captain Horton of the Polly, some time after lie and Captain Jones arrived with their sloops. (d) It is plain that the discreet Captain Jones fully appreciated the difficulties of his situation, and that he faced danger whichever horn of the dilemma he might grasp. Naturally the presence of the armed vessel aroused the suspicion of the people, and whether they had knowledge that the Massachusetts patriots had begun a revolution before Captain Horton informed them, or not, they certainly knew it then, and the fire of revolt was kindling in their breasts. ------------ (a) Life of Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, by Rev. Andrew M. Sherman (1902), p. 271. (b) Maine Historical Collection, Series 2, Vol. 2, p. 109. (c) Drisko's History of Machias, p. 34. (d) The Capture of the Margaretta, by George F. Talbot, p. 2. ------------- 164 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY His first move to secure the right to reload his vessel and engage in his customary trade was to exhibit the paper in his possession from the selectmen of Boston, and request them to sign a written obligation allowing him to proceed with his trade as usual, to carry lumber back to Boston, and to protect him and his property at all events.' Although they sadly needed the provisions in the vessels lying at their wharves, they hesitated about doing anything that could possibly be construed as a friendly act to the enemy. The Captain being extremely cautious, and they wary and apprehensive, this attempt at a compromise failed, and then he applied to the authorities to call a town meeting to act upon the matter. This meeting was held the sixth day of June,(b) and there was a full attendance. After a somewhat stormy session, a vote was finally passed to allow Captain Jones to sell his goods and load his vessels with lumber. Exactly what was the primal cause for the battle which ensued is somewhat uncertain. Smith appears to regard the reason for it as an apprehension by the citizens of Machias that the lumber, "then being loaded on Jones' sloops, was intended for the use of the British troops" and a determination on their part that they should never return to Boston with their cargoes. But it must be remembered that these same persons, after due deliberation in open town meeting, had voted to permit this to be done. No one has ever questioned their integrity, and it is not easy to conceive of their passing such a vote and then immediately organizing a force to prevent this very agreement from being carried out. Neither has any writer proven that Captain Jones deceived them regarding his intentions as to the disposal of the lumber, and, on the contrary, there is no evidence that they had actual knowledge, when assembled in town meeting, that it was ultimately to go to the British troops, or that they understood the full import of the Boston Port Act. (To be concluded in the January issue.) ------------ (a) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 280. (b) Sherman, p. 31. ------------- Sprague's Journal of Maine History Vol. I JANUARY, 1914 No. 5 The Lexington of the Seas By John Francis Sprague (Published by permission of the Journal of American History.) (Continued from Page 164.) The explanation given by Talbot seems to be the most reason- able of any: "But it is probable that the permission granted in the vote would have been carried out in good faith had Dot the Captain of the Margaretta, unnecessarily provoked a quarrel with the inhabitants,"' in ordering them to take down their liberty pole. There is sufficient proof that some days, at least, before the battle the people of Machias had, whether by a vote of the town, or not, done what hundreds of other little communities throughout the Colonies had done, and were doing : erected a " liberty pole. " Drisko (b) is very certain that it was accomplished by a vote in a town meeting, legally called. They selected a tall, straight, and handsome sapling pine tree, " leaving a tuft of verdure at the top, the best emblem they had at command of the flag they desired to fight for, live and die under. " This tree of liberty -,%-as planted amid the shouts of the assembled inhabitants, the discharge of musketry, and the sound of fife and drum. It was an occasion of much rejoicing, and around it the people " made solemn pledges to resist the mother country." When Captain Moore of the Margaretta learned of this and its significance, he ordered it to be taken down under the threat of firing upon the town." This was the last straw. All of their suspicions that Captain Jones had been equivocal in his dealings with them, all of their suppressed indignation and slumbering wrath at the presence of the Margaretta in their port, were enkindled anew. It was a crisis in the affairs of the Machias patriots. And yet they were deliberate enough to submit to the calling of another town meeting to see if the town (a) The Capture of the Margaretta, p. 5. (b) Drisko's History of Machias, p. 34. (c) The Capture of the Margaretta, p. 5. 176 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY would vote to remove the offensive pole, and after the town had voted unanimously in the negative, they even then agreed with Captain Moore through the mediation of one Stephen Jones, a nephew of Captain Jones, to await the action of another meeting, which was duly called. It can be easily understood that it was essentially for the interest of Captain Jones to maintain peace between the belligerent Moore and the aroused and infuriated citizens; and his nephew, who was himself a storekeeper, and in- terested with his uncle in business, was exerting all of his efforts, towards this end, and it seems that he had influence with Moore to dissuade him from attacking the town until after a second town meeting. But the day for temporizing had passed. In 1775, John Adams was a young school teacher in Connecticut. In his day, the first steps in the career of a great man was to keep a diary of the thoughts, impressions, opinions, and doings of himself, his neighbors, and his friends. So John kept one, and this is one of his entries " In another century all Europe will not be able to subdue us. The only way to keep us from setting up for ourselves is to subdue us." The determination to rebel against the innumerable acts of the Crown designed to destroy Colonial liberty permeated every nook and corner of the Province of Maine, and the sentiments so tersely expressed by young Adams grew and expanded everywhere. It could not have been otherwise than that this spirit of inde- pendence and these longings for freedom should also prevail ill this remote and ocean-bound hamlet. After the second town meeting was called and before it could be assembled, the situation had become acute. It is possible that Captain Jones had been entirely frank with the people, that they knew that he had obligated him- self to sell his lumber to the British authorities, and that the seriousness of their open or tacit acquiescence in such a performance was becoming vivid to them ; or it may be that they did not know of it with certainty, as appears probable from the second letter" of the Machias Committee to the Boston authorities, and so their misgivings regarding their acts In town meetings, and their fears that any lumber carried from their port to Boston by Captain (a) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 284. THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 177 Jones, under escort of an armed vessel of the British Navy, would be thus disposed of as a matter of course, were intensified. It is now impossible to determine exactly what were the circumstances but one thing is certain, that there was such a final culmination of their suspicious, fears, and apprehensions, that it resulted in the formation of a plan to prevent the return of the sloops to Boston laden with lumber. As we have seen, there were two Machias men, Morris O'Brien and Benjamin Foster, who had seen service in the army at the Siege of Louisburg, and both were citizens of substance and in- fluence. To these two the people looked for counsel and guidance. It is quite evident that some took a more conservative view of the matter, and in the first instance advised waiting until the ensuing town meeting, and allow the people to reverse their action of the former meeting, if they would. Benjamin Foster and Morris O'Brien and his sons, and some others, favored taking possession of the partly laden sloops of Captain Jones and making prisoners of the officers and men, and, while their counsels were divided, Foster and the O'Briens finally prevailed. It is said that Foster, weary of the debate, crossed a stream known as the " O'Brien Brook,"' near which they were standing, and called out to all who favored the cap- ture of the Mar- garetta and the two Sloops to follow him, and that in a few moments every man stood by his side. A plan of at- tack, a sort of impromptu cam- The Rubicon or the "O'Brien Brook." paign, was im- mediately agreed upon. This was on Sunday, June 11, 1775. It was known that the English officers would attend the religious services of good Parson Lyon in the meeting-house that morning, 178 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY and it was decided to surround the church and seize them during the services. Under this arrangement a part of the company re- mained with Foster outside to do this, when the critical moment should arrive, the rest dispersing to attend services in the meeting- house as usual. They had before the meeting opened, quietly secreted their arms in the building, a John O'Brien hiding his musket under a board and taking his seat on a bench directly behind Captain Moore, ready to seize him at the first alarm. This well prepared scheme would undoubtedly, have been successful if they had taken the negroes of the community, or at least one of them, into their confidence. London Atus was a colored man, the body-servant of Parson Lyon, and while the parson himself, and about every other member of the congregation, except the intended victims themselves, had, in all probability, knowledge, or a well-grounded suspicion of what was afoot, Atus was entirely innocent of the dynamic atmosphere about him. From his place in a negro pew he could see armed men (Foster's band) (b) crossing a foot-bridge that connected two islands near the falls, and coming towards the meeting-house. He gave an outcry and leaped from the window, wild with excitement. This broke up the meeting, and the officers, believing that an attempt was being made to entrap them, followed the example of the negro and made their escape. They hastened to their vessel, and by the time Foster's force reached the meeting-house they were aboard their vessel and weigh- ing anchor, and Jones, who wa's to have been made a prisoner, fled to the woods, where he remained secreted for several days. O'Brien and Foster had previously to this Sunday morning secretly invited"' the people of Mispecka and Pleasant River, be- ing neighboring plantations, to join them, and they had arrived and were in the woods near at hand, ready to engage in the capture of the officers. When Captain Moore and his associates escaped, it was quite a large number of people, greatly excited, who followed them down to the banks of the river, keeping up an harassing ----------- (a) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 281. (b) The Capture of the Margaretta, Talbot, p. 8. (c) Baxter Manuscripts, p. 281. THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 179 musketry fire, which was returned by occasional shots at the populace from the cutter, but at too long range to be dangerous to either side. They then resolved to seize Jones' sloops and pursue the cutter. One of these, the Polly, was not in available condition, but they took possession of the Unity, Jones' other sloop, and dur- ing the remainder of Sunday and that night made preparations for the attack. They sent scouts to the East River village and neighboring plantations for volunteers, arms, and ammunition. A messenger was dispatched to Chandler's River (a) to procure powder and ball, and, as the men of that settlement were all absent at Machias, two girls, Hannah and Rebecca Weston, nineteen and seventeen years old, procured forty pounds of powder and balls and brought them to Machias, a distance of twenty miles through the woods, following a line of blazed or " spotted trees, but did not arrive there until after the battle was over. In the early dawn of the following morning (June 2), the expedition started down the river in pursuit of the Margaretta. Foster had taken a schooner, the Falmouth packet, at East River with a squad of men, intending to join in the expedition, but his vessel unfortunately became disabled and he was unable to accom- pany the Unity and was not at the engagement. The crew of the Unity, so far as known, numbered about forty, and one-half of these had muskets, with only about three rounds of ammunition. The rest armed themselves with pitchforks, (b) narrow and broad axes, heavy wooden clubs, mauls, etc. For provisions they had " a small bag of bread, a few pieces of pork and a barrel of water. " So sudden and impulsive had this undertaking been, that at first it was only an unorganized mob, but, while sailing down the river with a favoring wind, they were more contemplative, and completed their plans by choosing Jeremiah O'Brien as captain, and Edmund Stevens, lieutenant ; and, understanding that they had no powder to waste, they decided to bear down on the enemy's ship, board her, and decide the contest at once. (a) Talbot, p. 14. (b) John O'Brien's Account, Maine Historical Collections, Vol. 2, p. 242. 180 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY In all the history of war, on land or sea, it is doubtful if there is a record of any adventure which exceeds this one for dauntless courage and a bold defiance of death. Sometime, someone may undertake the task of compiling in one work how much this American Nation owes the Sons of Ireland. Their name is legion and their valiant deeds are in- scribed on every page of our country's history. That fair "Emerald Isle," ever suffering from the blight of oppression, has given us gallant heroes, brave and worthy, in our every war from the village green of Lexington to the tranquil waters of Manila Bay. And whenever that grand record is made up no name will receive more honorable mention than he, who, in the rays of the rising sun of that bright June morning, on the waters of Machias River, was made commander of this perilous and desperate expedi- tion. Here were forty undisciplined men in chase of a vessel, well armed and equipped with trained marines, without thought of peril or danger. One writer' has said that the Unity was " quickly seized and unloaded of her lumber, and equipped for battle," but this is doubtless an inaccuracy. It is more probable that, as stated by another author, (b) the lumber was allowed to remain and was utilized by the men for breastworks for protection from the enemy's fire. The Unity was well into the Bay when the Margaretta was first sighted off Round Island, and she, being the more rapid sailer, was soon along her side. The helmsman of the Margaretta, who was Captain Robert Avery, had fallen from a shot fired by an old moose hunter on board the Unity, by the name of Knight, and an immediate volley of musketry from her deck astonished and demoralized the enemy. The bowsprit of the Unity plunged into her mainsail, holding the two vessels together for a short time. While they were in this position, one of the O'Brien brothers, ,John, sprang upon the Margaretta's deck, but the vessels suddenly parted, carrying the audacious John alone on board the British (a) Lieutenant Edward Wilson, very late of the U. S. Navy, quoted by Representative Wiley of Alabama in a speech in Congress, February 16, 1904. (b) Sherman, p. 57. THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 181 vessel. It is said that seven of her crew instantly aimed and fired muskets at him, but he remained unscratched ; they then charged upon him with their bayonets and again he escaped by plunging overboard, and, amidst a storm of bullets from the enemy, re- gained his own vessel. Captain O'Brien then ordered his sloop alongside of the Margaretta. Twenty of his crew were selected to board her, armed with pitchforks, (a) and a hand-to-hand conflict on her deck resulted in the surrender of the Margaretta to the Americans, and Jeremiah O'Brien hauled down the British ensign flying at her mast-head. Before the battle, an American coaster, with Captain Robert Avery as skipper, was lying in Holmes Bay. Captain Avery was forcibly seized by Captain Moore and taken on board the cutter to act as pilot out of the river, and was killed in the first of the encounter, as we have seen. Captain Moore also received a mortal wound and died shortly after. Several of his men were wounded, but the exact number is not known. Two of the Americans, John McNeil and James Coolbroth, were killed. It is also known that of their number, three, John Berry, Isaac Taft, and James Cole, were wounded. The crew of the Unity, as near as can be ascertained, were as follows : Jeremiah O'Brien, Captain William O'Brien Dennis O'Brien Joseph O'Brien Samuel Watts John Stule John Drisko, Jr. Judah Chandler John Berry James Cole Richard McNeil John Hall Jesse Scott Wallace Fenalson Ezekiel Foster Joseph Clifford Jonathan Brown Josiah Libbee Joseph Getchell Abial Sprague Edmund Stevens, Lieutenant John O'Brien Gideon O'Brien Josiah Weston Joel Whitney John Merritt Isaac Taft James Coolbroth Nathaniel Crediford Joseph Wheaton John Scott Joseph Libbee Simeon Brown Beriab Rice Samuel Whitney Elias Hoit Seth Norton Obediah Hill (a) Maine Historical Collections, Vol. 2, p. 242. 182 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY James Sprague Daniel Meservey James N. Shannon John Stule, Jr. Benjamin Foss Nathaniel Ferderson Wm. McNeil John Mitchell Richard Earle William Mackelson (Body servant of Jeremiah O'Brien) John Thomas Jonathan Knight Joseph Getchell, Jr. David Prescott Ebenezer Beal John Bohanan Thomas Bewel Referring again to the assumption of some writers that Captain Jones was a Tory, it is evident that it has arisen from the second letter to Reverend James Lyon, Chairman of the Machias Committee of Correspondence, to Boston, July 7, 1775, in which he says : " We have discovered, upon examining the papers, that both Captain Jones' sloops were in the King's Service." We have already seen that, in order to obtain a permit from Admiral Graves to leave the port of Boston, he had agreed to return to Boston with lumber to be sold to the English. It is probable that evidence of this was found, but it would not seem to be sufficient grounds for the assertion that he was in the " King's Service, " to any further extent than his intention to carry out that transaction. Even this may cast some reflection upon his patriotism, but it may be remembered in his favor that the press- ing need of the Machias citizens for provisions, and the safety of his own family, necessarily concerned and influenced him when he entered upon that agreement. It is possible that Lyon himself might have been unduly exercised over the matter, and magnified it more than it deserved. Talbot described this person as "The able, highly educated and eccentric Parson Lyon. At about sunset of the same day the Unity returned, proudly sailing tip the bay and river to Machias Village, with her valuable prize, reaching the wbarf amid the tumultuous cheering and shout- ing of the people. They made a hero of Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, as he certainly deserved, for his most brilliant achieve- ment, and the rejoicing continued until long past midnight. Morris O'Brien was born in the city of Dublin, Ireland, in the year 1715, and claimed to have descended from one of the old Irish kings of that name. In his home on the banks of the Machias there was a portrait representing his ancient ancestor, Brian Borumba. In early life he learned the tailor's trade, and THE LEXINGTON OF THE SEAS 183 about 1738 sailed for America, landing in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. For a while he lived in Kittery, Maine. From Kittery he moved to Scarboro, and thence to Machias, where he lived until his death, June 4, 1799. His descendants had a prominent and enviable position in the early history of the State of Maine. One of them, Honorable Jeremiah O'Brien, represented Maine in the National House of Representatives in the Eighteenth, Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-first Congress. The Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, June 26, 1775, passed a Resolution, extending the thanks of the Congress to Captain Jeremiah O'Brien and Captain Benjamin Foster " and the other brave men under their command for their courage and good conduct in taking one of the tenders belonging to our enemies and two sloops belonging to Ichabod Jones. " (b) The Resolution further provided that the tender and sloops should remain in the custody and under the command of O'Brien and Foster, to be used by them for the " publick's advantage " and subject to the orders of the Congress. Naturally, the news of O'Brien's brilliant victory was heralded throughout the land, and it had a great effect in stimulating the Colonists everywhere to emulate his example. The subsequent career of Jeremiah O'Brien was a notable one. The British fitted out two armed schooners at Halifax foi- the purpose of re-taking the Margaretta, the Diligence and the Tapnaquish. O'Brien and Foster, however, were again successful, and the battle, July 12, 1775, resulted in their capturing both vessels and taking their crews prisoners. In the following September the Provincial Congress gave him command of two cruisers, the Machias Liberty and the Diligent, which were known as the " Flying Squadron," and he served in this capacity, doing gallant service, until October, 1776. A little later, he had command of the privateers, Cyrus, Little Vincent, and Tiger, which continued until 1779, when be returned to his home in Machias and for several months served as Captain of a company ----------- (a) I am indebted to one of his descendants, Mrs. Josephine O'Brien Campbell of Cherryfield, Maine, for courtesies and assistance in compiling the data herein. (b) Baxter Manuscripts, Vol. 14, p. 287. 184 SPRAGUE'S JOURNAL OF MAINE HISTORY of soldiers, known as the Machias Rangers, which served under Colonel John Allen in protecting the settlements from unfriendly Indians. During the year 1780 two of his brothers, John O'Brien and Joseph O'Brien, built at Newburyport, Massachusetts, a vessel which was fitted out as a privateer. She was named the Hannibal, and John O'Brien was her commander in her first cruise. John O'Brien, not desiring to serve longer, petitioned the General Court of Massachusetts to appoint Jeremiah O'Brien commander, which was done. On this cruise the fortunes of war turned against Captain O'Brien, and while off the coast of New York the Hannibal fell in with a fleet of British merchantmen under convoy of several British frigates. Captain O'Brien, after a futile attempt to re- treat, was obliged to surrender. He, with the other officers and crew of the Hannibal, was incarcerated on board the prison-sbip, Jersey. At the end of six months all of the other prisoners were exchanged, but he was transported to Plymouth, England, and placed in the Mill Prison, where he remained for about eighteen months, when he succeeded in making his escape. He had culti- vated the acquaintance of a French washerwoman, employed about the prison, who, with the help of her husband, rendered him valuable assistance. He crossed the English Channel to France in a frail row boat. The French people where he landed, upon learning who he was, were friendly and loaned him sufficient money to enable him to take voyage to New York, and he finally reached his home in Machias during the autumn of 1782. THERE are many points of important historical interest in the early history of Cherryfield, Steuben and Harrington in the his- toric old county of Washington which will be hereafter referred to in future issues in Wavfarer's Notes. One of the most important personages in the eighteenth century in the District of Maine was General Alexander Campbell of Steuben and Cherryfield, who was born September 16, 1731, and died in 1807. More relating to his eventful career will also appear in the Wayfarer papers. ------------- * * * * NOTICE: Printing the files within by non-commercial individuals and libraries is encouraged, as long as all notices and submitter information is included. Any other use, including copying files to other sites requires permission from the submitters PRIOR to uploading to any other sites. We encourage links to the state and county table of contents. * * * * The USGenWeb Project makes no claims or estimates of the validity of the information submitted and reminds you that each new piece of information must be researched and proved or disproved by weight of evidence. It is always best to consult the original material for verification.
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