Machas Account of occupation in war of 1812

Machias Union 1881 War of 1812
Date: 97-09-16 03:53:15 EDT
From: (Ken)
(c) 1997 by Kenneth A. Dill
please send corrections to:
snail mail:
Kenneth A. Dill
581 Crown St #27
Meriden, CT. 06450

This is from the August 16, 1881 issue of the Machias Union (printed in
Machias, Washington, Maine)

Machias: War 1812

This town did not receive much notice from the British commanders till
in Aug. 1814: Castine and Eastport being in possession of the British
they planned an attack on Machias. In August or September five British
men of war heavily armed appeared in the river about three miles below
Machiasport and came to anchor near Birch Point. The British forces
numbered 700 regulars and two companies of Riflemen, between 800 and 900
in all.
The Americans had a force of 16 raw militia in the Fort on Sanborne's
Point under the command of Col. Samuel Morse. Nearer the shore and below
Morse's barracks was Fort Manning under charge of Lieut. Manning.
As soon as it was known at the village in Machias that the British
were preparing to move against the town, Col. Jeremiah O'Brien mounted
his horse and rode through the streets appealing to men to volunteer,
declaring that "If I can get twelve men to go with me, I will go to Col.
Morse's relief." O'Brien could not get a man! It is said he became so
incensed at the lack of patriotism that he galloped his horse across the
bridge and to the top of the O'Brien hill! uttering imprecations not of
gospel tone!
Meanwhile, the British Commander ordered boats and barges lowered and
manned, each barge carring a small cannon on the bow and officers and
troops to the number of about 800 commenced moving up river. Col. Morse
not being re-inforced as he had expected ordered evacuation and retreat
from Sanborne's Point to Machias village. The British took possession of
the Fort, burned the barracks and destroyed everything within reach, and
continued their march unmolested to Machias.
It is said that one Jones met the British officer near the Meserve
hill, and waved his hat in friendly salutation and rode on his horse in
advance conducting the British to town.
Mr Oliver W. Crocker, who was then about 18 years old, now living at
Marshfiels, was 84 years old April 10, 1881, and recollects distinctly,
went to Machiasport to see the British. When the British officer came to
Meeting House hill at Machiasport he seized young Oliver by the arm
saying "Show me the way to Machias!" Young Crocker had war in his heart,
and he feigned insufficient acquaintance with the road, but the
corporals with fixed bayonet kept him ahead and made him travel towards
the town!
The British took possession of Machias not a gun fired by the
Americans. The officers were tolerably well disposed while the troops
robbed the hens' roosts and pig pens and "cut capers" generally!
Most of the men in town were anti-war......[unreadable].....: Governor
Strtong refusing to call out troops for defense anywhere in
Massachusetts, and Maine was Massachusetts then. If the war had any
supporters they were in a minority and individual volunteers.
The O'Brien family, George Burnham, S.A. Morse, John Holway, Obadiah
Hill, Benjamin Harmon, Samuel Harmon, Simon Crocker, Henry Harmon, were
about all among the prominent men who supported the Federal government.
Years afterwards his political opponents reflected on Col. Morse's
courage and patriotism, unjustly as will be seen.
Early in commencement of the war S.A. Morse, John Burnham and others
fitted up a cruiser to prey on British vessels and merchandize on the
Coast between Quoddy and Mt. Desert. Their vessel was captured in the
early part of 1814, Burnham was carried a prisoner to Dartmoor and Morse
to Halifax. What became of their companions or who they were is not
known. Morse was paroled. He came direct to Machias and being full of
the war spirit he volunteered to take command of the forces on Machias
river, Jabez Sanborne a Corporal being in immediate command of the
militia in the Fort.
Col. Morse was aware that if he made useless resistance to the British
or made no resistance if captured by them, by the law and usage of war,
he would be shot without trial or ceremony, hence, prudence dictated
retreat in good order!
Morse was no coward! A coward on parole would not put himself
voluntarily in way of danger and certain death if captured by the enemy!
John Holway was outspoken in denunciation of the "cowardice" of some
of his fellow townsmen!
The British officers made threats of burning Holway's and the O'Briens
houses and property. They failed to carry the threat into execution.
The only musket discharged at, towards or over the British troops on
their march by road or by barge on the river from Birch Point to Machias
was by one of the militia in the Fort named Dinsmore who came from
Narraguagus. He was so humiliated and so full of resentment that nothing
less than "One crack at 'em" would appease him.
William King, who was Provincial Governor, afterwards the first
Governor of Maine after separation from Massachusetts, did issue a
proclamation calling for volunteers and means of defense. Men and means
in the Eastern Counties in response to King's call were very limited.
The people were few and poor who sympathised with King.
Without reference to the sentiment that prevailed in Machias, whether
patriotic or otherwise, it was no doubt better for the people that
resistance was not made, as the town would no doubt have been captured
and probably destroyed.
Col. Morse proceeded to Hampden procured a small vessel had her
furnished and manned and very shortly captured a British merchant
vessel, which came under the "Bounty act" of Congress for such captures.
The bounty was not paid, however, until after Col. Morse's death in
1862, his heirs receiving its benefit.
In October 1814 while the British held Machias, they made a foraging
march to Jonesboro, intending to go to Pleasant River, Addison, but the
roads and bridges were so poor and few, so much woods to pass through,
not mentioning the whiz of a bullet now and then coming from some King
man's musket, they abandoned the march and returned to Machias.
The same fall, word came from the British officer at Eastport that
three of his soldiers had deserted. Expecting they would cross the
bridge at Machias three sentinels with shot guns and bayonets were
stationed on the bridge. Early in the morning they came to the bridge;
they were ordered to "halt," but not obeying the sentinels fired, one
fell dead and was buried in Machias; the remaining two were recaptured
and returned to Eastport.
Mr. Levi Bowker, now living (June 1881) who will be 86 August 20,
1881, was "Drummer boy" and Orderly sargeant, in the Fort.
Mr. Bowker remembers the pratice of troops in the Fort while out on
picket at Larrabee's Cove and Bucks Harbor; occasionally a musket would
be discharged indicating prospective quiet, no invader near. Again
"All's well" could be heard over the tree tops as passed from Sentry to
In Summer of 1814 while Morse was in the Fort his men captured a drove
of beef cattle from the western part of Washington and eastern part of
Hancock county destined for St. Andrews, supply for the British
garrison. Morse's men kept the cattle for several days in the woods near
East Machias and Machias. Sept. 19 when the British attacked and burned
the barracks they obtained possession of the cattle or so many as they
could find, Morse a few days previous having ordered the cattle driven
to Machiasport.
Machias was held by the British forces but two or three weeks. When
they evacuated the commander ordered all houses searched for arms,
ammunition, etc. The troops gathered all they could and the guns were
loaded on to a cart in the road near the site of the recent "Old Machias
House," and trucked to Machiasport, thence by transport to Halifax.
Some of the more patriotic hid their guns but the town was pretty
thoroughly "cleaned out."
A platoon of British soldiers fired on one man, who was making off
with his two guns. He had been down river bird hunting. When he came to
town not knowing of the British order being enforced he thought the men
"fooling", so he shouldered arms and foward.
The commanding officer was notified, meanwhile, the man with his
muskets had crossed to the westerly side of the river, so that when the
platoon (8 men) fired they had a long shot, the fleeing man fell over a
log, pretending that the shot had struck him; the British officer
ordered his surgeon to go across the river and see to the man who was
wounded over there, but before the surgeon arrived where he lay he
gathered up and made a hasty retreat to the woods beyond! He was not a
citizen of Machias, name not known.

Kenneth A. Dill
(c) 1997 by Kenneth A. Dill
please send corrections to:
snail mail:
Kenneth A. Dill
581 Crown St #27
Meriden, CT. 06450

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