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

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. <p>


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.<p>