Fort Pownal, Colonial Maine, 1775


September 12, 2016
by Charles H. Lagerbom Also by this Author


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In early morning fog on April 15, 1775, just days before the momentous clash at Lexington and Concord, two innocent-looking vessels appeared off Cape Jellison in Penobscot Bay a few hundred yards from Fort Pownal (present-day Stockton Springs, Maine). The fort’s gunner, Jonathan Lowder, looked out upon the waters and saw two schooners. They turned out to be the armed 120-ton 6-gun topsail schooner Diana with thirty men, accompanied by the schooner Neptune with a contingent of the 64th Regiment of Foot. They had sailed from Boston for Fort Pownal on a mission and there was nothing innocent about them. The growing conflict soon to be the American Revolution had arrived in mid-coast Maine and Fort Pownal now became ground zero, a flashpoint caught in the eye of a brewing storm.

For the people of colonial Maine, 1775 proved a pivotal and monumental year. That season, down east Maine experienced very dry and cold conditions, which limited local food production. Tension, unease, worry and political unrest was rampant. Dependence upon supplies at Fort Pownal and their delivery from Boston became critical. In early April, General Gage heard about the cannon and munitions at Fort Pownal from Thomas Goldthwaite Jr., son of the fort’s commander Col. Thomas Goldthwaite Sr. His son happened to be in Boston at the time and thought it his duty to inform Gage of the status and situation at the fort, as witnessed by former province secretary Thomas Flucker. Gage recognized the possibilities at once and decided Fort Pownal’s armaments should be immediately secured for the King. He quickly composed a letter to Colonel Goldthwaite ordering him to allow naval forces to remove the fort’s guns and put in command a no-nonsense officer named Lt. Thomas Graves, nephew to Vice Adm. Samuel Graves, commander of British naval forces in North America.[1]

This attempt to secure the gunpowder and weapons of Fort Pownal was not the first of its kind. In a pattern of politically-charged “powder alarms” mainly to pacify and disarm the people, General Gage had ordered a series of military operations to forcibly seize munitions and weapons from the locals. The previous September, Gage had ordered a march to Cambridge for gunpowder stored at the provincial powder house. The operation went well in Gage’s estimation, except for the unbridled fury it aroused with the people of Massachusetts. Three months later in December, he ordered another operation, this time to Fort William and Mary in New Hampshire’s Portsmouth Harbor. None other than Paul Revere himself rode northwards in a snowstorm to warn local militia that Gage’s forces were coming by ship to disarm them. The militia quickly formed and stormed the fort, lightly guarded by six invalid British soldiers. After a spirited fight, arguably the first shots fired in the Revolution, the militia prevailed and seized the gunpowder and weapons. They were carried away and hidden before British ships arrived, which left Admiral Graves nearly apoplectic in rage. The British moved again in February 1775, when Gage ordered forces to Salem and Marblehead. Once again, locals were quick to remove and hide the weapons and gunpowder. After a tense stand-off with hastily assembled militia over a pulled-up drawbridge, the British returned to their ships empty handed.[2] With each of these moves and provocations, attitudes hardened, tensions escalated and the chance of outright violence dramatically increased.

When Gage decided to remove weapons from Fort Pownal, he knew he needed speed and secrecy. He purposely left Goldthwaite with little choice in the matter. Lieutenant Graves produced a letter to Goldthwaite from Gage that read,

Sir, Considering the present State of the Country, the most daring and illegal Attempts that have been made against his Majesty’s Government even to the Seizing and dismantling of his Forts. Lieut. Graves Commander of his Majesty’s Armed Schooner “Diana” together with a Detachment of His Majesty’s 64th Regiment, are Ordered to Fort Pownal, with directions to take onboard all the Artillery and spare Arms belonging to, and in Store at said Fort: and this is to require you to deliver said Artillery and spare Arms into the Charge of said Lieut. Graves, that they same may be secured for the present, and returned at a proper season.[3]

Graves apparently anticipated trouble in this attempt, no doubt the earlier “powder alarm” humiliations and local defiance fresh in his mind. On the morning after both ships arrived off Fort Pownal, the captains mustered their men on deck, showed their weapons and proceeded to land troops. But first they sent an innocent-looking party ashore seeking milk for their breakfast. William Molineaux, described in one source as a Fort Pownal soldier, witnessed the event. He may have been son of William Molineaux, one of the radical leaders of the Sons of Liberty from Boston, who had died suddenly on October 22, 1774. His unexpected death prompted rumors of poisoning and assassination.[4] It is not clear why or how this Molineaux Jr. ended up at Fort Pownal in April 1775. Perhaps it had something to do with fellow Boston Massacre connection Francis Archibald at the fort. Archibald was the fort’s storekeeper and future son-in-law to Colonel Goldthwaite. Or perhaps Molineaux was there to secure the fort’s cannon for the growing rebellion, acting on behalf of his recently-departed father and in response to the earlier powder alarms. Gage’s quick and secretive action may have forestalled him. Regardless, young Molineaux witnessed the disarming of Fort Pownal and reported:

… on Friday evening April 13th came to Penobscot River a top-sail schooner which anchored near Fort Pownal which myself and others took to be a merchantman going up the river to purchase lumber and early the next morning we saw another schooner which came too and anchored near the other. Soon after came ashore some sailors to beg some milk for their breakfast. Presently after came on shore an officer who enquired for the commander of the fort and on seeing him presented an order from General Gage for the cannon and spare arms. He then returned on board and immediately appeared a large number of soldiers on the deck (which had not before been seen) who directly got into boats and came ashore, marched into the fort and went to work getting out the cannon which was carried on board.[5]

            Colonel Goldthwaite had only seven men with him in Fort Pownal at the moment, including gunner Jonathan Lowder. Acting on orders, Lieutenant Graves made it perfectly clear to Goldthwaite and everyone present he had orders to destroy Fort Pownal if anyone resisted. Lowder pointed out there was only a half barrel of powder in the magazine. As official fort gunner, he was ordered by Graves to itemize all items taken, while Goldthwaite busily composed a written protest to Gage. Lowder recorded they surrendered to Graves eight 6-pound cannon with carriages, beds, quoins and other equipment. They also took six cohorns, two small mortars with beds and gear, 308 6-pound shot, 176 4-pound shot, six rammers with sponges, seven worms, seven ladles, thirteen boxes of grape shot, fifteen boxes of canister shot, five boxes of charged cohorn shells, and forty-five small arms. Regardless, in just a few hours all the heavy guns and ordinance were transferred to Graves’s ships. Goldthwaite also composed an incident report for Thomas Cushing, member of the Continental Congress. When news of Graves’ action reached Boston, Colonel Goldthwaite was roundly vilified for allowing it to happen, an unfair verdict in light of the circumstances, but one which his rivals such as General Preble made use.[6]

Molineaux thought otherwise and wrote,

 … I am Convinc’d at that ‘twas not in Colo. Goldthwait’s power to have resisted them, with the least Degree of Success – having only 6 or 8 Men in the Fort and but half a Barrl powder which the Gunner show me in the Magazine … I would further add, that the Officers, which Commanded the party, said that if Colo G’t refus’d delivering the above Cannon &c. ‘twas his Orders to destroy the Fort &c immediately.”[7]

            News of the loss of guns along with events at Lexington and Concord quickly spread throughout down east Maine, greatly disconcerting both settlers and native populations. Twenty armed men from the St. George Committee of Public Safety arrived at the fort and demanded Goldthwaite’s answer as to why he had allowed cannon and equipment to be delivered up to Graves. Goldthwaite said that was a reasonable request and then read them Gage’s letter which had ordered the removal. He then explained he had had no choice, it was King George’s fort and weaponry after all, and then pointed out Graves’ threat to destroy everything if opposed. This explanation apparently satisfied the men, who then asked for some munitions of which they were short. They also voiced fears about an impending Indian attack coordinated from Canada. Goldthwaite replied he had little but supplied what he could, which included seven muskets, ten pounds of powder and twenty-four pounds of lead balls. After the invasion scares subsided, Goldthwaite sent a receipt to recover the munitions he had loaned as he was in need of them as well.[8]

This same incident was described by John Davidson, Belfast settler west of the fort. Years later, he recorded that he and another Belfast settler, James Nichols, approached Goldthwaite at the fort shortly after its disarming, concerned about their desperate need for ammunition. They were short of provisions and dependent upon wild meat they could only obtain with musket, shot and powder. Knowing there were supplies at the fort, even if they were not ample, the two men along with eighteen others traveled five miles to Fort Pownal and met Goldthwaite. Davidson said the fort commander would not relent and was quite obstinate, even when they said they were determined to take it by force. When other members of their visiting party came out of the woods, Goldthwaite “cooled down” and judiciously agreed to help. He provided each man a pound of powder, ball and flint.[9]

Aerial view of Cape Jellison's Fort Point, where Fort Pownal was located. The star shape fort remains can still be clearly seen.
Aerial view of Cape Jellison’s Fort Point, where Fort Pownal was located. The star shape fort remains can still be clearly seen.

Davidson disliked Goldthwaite from an earlier incident where the colonel apparently appropriated some cows from a settler named Stimson. Goldthwaite visited this man, who sometimes did work at Fort Pownal. As it was evening, Stimson’s cattle came about the house for feeding and, according to Davidson, Goldthwaite fixed his eye upon the best animal. He claimed the choicest cow, sent two men over for it the next morning and never offered payment or remuneration. Davidson noted that everyone lived under Goldthwaite’s subjugation and did pretty much as he said. He described this and other arbitrary acts of Goldthwaite’s perfidy as why they went to Fort Pownal and demanded ammunition. One source mentions that the inhabitants of Penobscot actually conferred about whether or not to seize Goldthwaite for the loss of the Fort Pownal guns and summarily punish him, under what was known as “swamp law.”[10]

In addition to its military function, Fort Pownal was a resource station for local Indians, to exchange skins and furs for goods and services, known as the truckhouse trade. This was a government operation rather than a private enterprise, and a truckhouse, akin to a trading post, was among the structures adjacent to the fort. In May 1775, the Massachusetts General Court officially censured Thomas Goldthwaite for the fort’s lost weaponry; he became a necessary and convenient scapegoat. The court also announced in a letter to Penobscot Indians that the fort’s loss was indeed grievous, especially how Goldthwaite had simply handed it over to the enemy, an unfair charge in light of the circumstances. Regarding trucktrade, the Penobscots were told to report to John Preble, son of General Preble, although Goldthwaite retained nominal command. The message effectively undercut Goldthwaite’s authority, rewarded a son of his political rival, and sowed uncertainty and confusion as to who was actually in charge of dealing with the local Penobscot Indians.[11]

That same month in Falmouth, zealous locals under leadership of Samuel Thompson captured Lt. Henry Mowat with the design of making him prisoner, part of what became known as Thompson’s War. Eventually freed at the insistence of more moderate town leaders such as Enoch Freeman and General Preble, Mowat returned to his ship with a promise to return the next day, which he did not. The captain would not forget or forgive this treatment at the hands of Thompson and these Falmouth rebels. That same month farther down east, the British armed sloop Margaretta with fourteen swivel guns was captured by American rebels. Zealous Machias residents, including Benjamin Foster and Jeremiah O’Brien, conceived of and executed the controversial and incendiary plan, which became known as the Battle of Machias.[12] Many sources falsely blame Mowat for dismantling Fort Pownal, but he was not involved nor present at Fort Pownal.

In June, General Preble weighed in on the dismantling of Fort Pownal. He probably felt the need to burnish his own patriotic credentials after his recent calls for moderation at Captain Mowat’s capture in May. Preble had insisted on the captain’s release. Now in June, those actions appeared less than patriotic. He used the Fort Pownal opportunity to settle old political scores and publicly denounced Goldthwaite. Preble wrote to Samuel Freeman of Falmouth, son of his fellow town leader Enoch, to urge the General Court to continue the Penobscot trucktrade and reinstate his son Jedidiah Jr. as truckmaster. He noted the arrival in Falmouth of four Penobscot Indians making their way to Boston and hoped they would be assisted with their mission. Preble also insinuated that Goldthwaite was not to be trusted. His machinations proved effective and by the end of the month, General Preble was empowered to supply the Penobscot Indians at the Penobscot Falls truckhouse, with his son Jedidiah Jr. widely regarded as truckmaster.[13] Thus began another period of uncertainty for the Penobscots as to who was actually in charge of supply operations.

The Provincial Congress in June ordered Goldthwaite to dispense 200 bushels of corn sent for people of Penobscot in exchange for cordwood or surety of payment. He was ordered to give up any remaining public arms and ammunition and divide them among the locals. Congress promised to send gunpowder for the settlers as soon as practicable so they could use game hunting to augment food supplies. That same month, Goldthwaite dutifully performed one of his last acts as port authority for Penobscot, certification of the sloop Seaflower. The vessel departed Penobscot for New London, Connecticut with 30,000 pine boards and 15,000 shingles. With Seaflower’s departure, Fort Pownal ceased to function as an armed garrison and center of colonial authority. Goldthwaite and his family remained there, while the soldiers, such as Jonathan Lowder, quietly ended their service by month’s end.[14]

Also that June, Penobscot leaders Joseph Orono, Jo Peare, Poris and another chief traveled to and met with the Massachusetts Provincial Congress at Watertown. Accompanying them was interpreter Andrew Gilman, originally from York County. In some sources, Gilman was considered to be a man of low instincts and morals. Maine historian William Williamson refers to him as inferior in mind and stature, although Gilman had some vivacity and cunning. He wrote that the only reason Andrew Gilman was commissioned lieutenant was due to his fluency and ease with the Indian language. One source states Gilman was around fifty years old in 1775 and was never married, although he fathered a son by a native woman. Another source states Gilman married Nabby Kow on March 6, 1778. In any regard, he appeared to hold great sway with the Penobscots, spoke their language, dressed in their clothing, and hunted and traded with them. On May 15, 1775, by order of Capt. John Lane and dutifully recorded by Francis Archibald, Gilman was given a coat, jacket, breeches and a handkerchief from the Fort Pownal store, perhaps to appear more suitable when meeting with Massachusetts officials. On July 4, Gilman composed a letter for the four chiefs after their return to Falmouth Neck from Cambridge, in which they pledged loyalty and service. Their visit to Boston produced good results and later that month, Massachusetts recognized Penobscot claims to territory extending six miles from the head of tide up both sides of Penobscot River. There was also a promise of £300 worth of ammunition, provisions and goods through the truckhouse trade, with furs and skins to be taken in exchange. Notably, however, no official truckmaster was named.[15] Confusion continued over who was in charge.

Capt. John Lane arrived in Penobscot at this time with orders from the Continental Congress to visit the eastern Indians and recruit as many as possible for Continental Army service. He arrived at Fort Pownal on June 1, 1775. Goldthwaite helped him secure an interpreter and some men to accompany him upriver to the Penobscot Falls truckhouse (present-day Bangor, Maine). Lane successfully recruited some Penobscots and enlisted Gilman to accompany them to Boston. As for the dismantling of Fort Pownal, Lane wrote that Goldthwaite had been misrepresented by some evil-minded people regarding fort armaments:

I am sensible, in my own mind, he could not have acted to the contrary, not because he was obliged to obey the Governor’s orders, but that there was not sufficient ammunition to defend it … And I don’t think that he ought by any means to lay under the scandalous report that has been spread abroad about his delivering the cannon.[16]

On June 17, 1775, British forces in Boston took the American-held redoubt on Breeds’ Hill at fearful cost, afterwards known as the Battle of Bunker Hill. Richard Gridley, who had started Lowder’s Masonic Lodge at Crown Point in New York during the French and Indian War, built the rebel breastworks which effectively repelled British attempts at a frontal assault until Americans ran short of shot and gunpowder. Within days of the battle, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress directed Jedidiah Preble Jr. to continue furnishing the Penobscot Indians with trade goods out of the Fort Pownal truckhouse “… as might suit the tribe and to continue a traffic with such as had been theretofore practiced.”[17]

On July 16, 1775, a small British naval force landed at Long Island (present-day Isleboro, Maine) and proceeded to load lumber. Rev. John Murray of Boothbay wrote to James Otis, president of Massachusetts Bay Council, and said the British were lumbering on Long Island off the Maine coast and Tories were active in the area. He feared they might make use of Fort Pownal and lamented it was still standing. Residents of Bristol in May had voted to tear down their old local fort, believing it posed a menace to them if taken by the British. Similar sentiments were now expressed about Fort Pownal. A force of two hundred militiamen under command of Col. James Cargill of Newcastle was dispatched to Penobscot to deal with the British marauding force.[18]

Cargill was militia leader from Lincoln County where his family had lived for some generations near Sheepscot Bridge. He was referred to as good and natural fighter who did great service for the cause but was also criticized for showing imperious and unreasoning temper. During the prelude to the French and Indian War, Cargill and twenty volunteers rampaged against native inhabitants and killed and scalped a dozen men, women and children including respected Penobscot member Margaret Moxa and her infant and husband. Charged with her murder and eleven other killings, Cargill was found not guilty by a jury in 1757. He was even awarded the promised official bounty payment of £110 per scalp. In the early days of the Revolution, he was involved in another incident when he railed in public against Rev. John Murray, whom he called a liar and troublemaker. He also raged against the Massachusetts General Court, specifically damning William Jones and Andrew Reed for reasons even they did not know. This volatility may help explain Cargill’s subsequent actions.[19]

Cargill’s men arrived at Belfast on July 24 (another source says the night of July 21, another states the 23rd) but found the British had pulled back from the area. That did not stop him from seizing two schooners; another source says he took control of five vessels, all of which he stated were engaged in carrying goods to British troops in Boston. Cargill next sent part of his regiment to Fort Pownal. Upon arrival, they assisted Goldthwaite in removing his belongings from the fort and into the nearby chapel (another source states their actions were more in line with “capturing” Colonel Goldthwaite; Cargill himself mentioned nothing about Goldthwaite’s treatment, although it was most likely not polite, and Goldthwaite never mentioned his treatment either, so one is left to wonder). Cargill’s men ransacked the place and saved whatever shot, lead and old iron they found and then promptly burned Fort Pownal’s blockhouse, their reasoning being to keep it from being occupied by the British. They also torched the fort’s wooden works, which included flankers, pickets and bridge. Cargill’s troops then filled in and leveled many of the fort’s barriers. While Fort Pownal was basically out of commission at this point, storekeeper Francis Archibald continued to take and record store transactions. The following month, Jonathan Buck was placed in charge of what was left of the post and Goldthwaite and his family continued to live quietly near the fort’s remains.[20]

Archaeological evidence supports the idea that Goldthwaite and the fort occupants were given little time to gather their belongings before Cargill’s forces burned it. Not much else was done to the site for several years. Subsequent nearby occupations included a lighthouse and lighthouse station built in 1837 near the water’s edge on the south side of the point. A small bell tower was also later built in the general area, as well as a garage, parking lot and access road. It is suggested these later structures, including a four story hotel built just north of the fort in the 1870s, may be on top of the chapel remains and may have possibly destroyed evidence of domestic structures used by local settlers who resided near the fort’s walls.[21] With little post-occupation use, the fort today is pretty much the same as when Cargill’s forces destroyed it in 1775.

The rebel Massachusetts government heartily approved of Cargill’s capture of vessels and destruction of Fort Pownal. For men of the fort, including Jonathan Lowder, their service officially ended. Francis Archibald continued to record store transactions in his “Wast Book,” Goldthwaite and family took up residence nearby and Lowder relocated on a more permanent basis upriver to the Penobscot Falls truckhouse. As for Cargill, when his men entered Penobscot Bay to destroy Fort Pownal, he also seized desperately needed supplies of corn from local residents. These included Belfast settlers John Davidson and James Nichols, the two who had earlier approached Goldthwaite about needed ammunition. Nichols vowed to blacken Cargill’s eyes if he ever came across him again. A year later, according to Davidson, Cargill was once again in the area and Nichols met him at the door to a house where Cargill was approaching. True to his word, Nichols punched Cargill right between the eyes and had to be restrained by two other men from committing further violence on the militia leader. Davidson said he heard nothing more about Cargill in the Belfast area again and pointed out that that story perfectly illustrated the spirit of the times.[22]


[1] William D. Williamson, The history of the state of Maine: from its first discovery, A. D. 1602, to the separation, A. D. 1820, inclusive

(Hallowell, ME: Glazier, Masters & Co., 1839), 418; Henry Mowat, “A Relation of the Services in Which Capt Henry Mowat was engaged in America from 1759 to the end of the American War in 1783” Journal of History (1910), 334-343; “General Thomas Gage to Colonel Thomas Golthwaite Commander Fort Pownal, Penobscot, 8 April 1775” and “General Thomas Gage to Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, 8 April 1775” Naval Documents of the American Revolution Pt 2 of 8, v1 (1964), 172-173, 173; Sandra Gordon Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownall: A Military Outpost on the Maine Coast 1759-1775 MA Thesis, UMaine (1984), 74, 76; “Deposition, June 28, 1777” Audit Office 13/73, Folio 590, Public Records Office, London; “Col. Thomas Goldthwaite – Was he a Tory?” Maine Historical Society v2, (1896), 363; and Harry Gratwick, The Maritime Marauder of Revolutionary Maine: Captain Henry Mowat (Mount Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2015), 50-59.

[2] David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995), 44-46, 54-58, 58-64.

[3] Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 75; and Robert C. Brooks, “200 Years Ago: April 15, 1775 The Pacification of Fort Pownall,” The Republican Journal (10 April 1975), 4.

[4] Hiller B. Zobel, The Boston Massacre (New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1996), 49, 203-204, 297, 298; and “William Molineaux” Boston Tea Party Museum ( accessed 12/1/2015.

[5] Gratwick, The Maritime Marauder, 57.

[6] Williamson, History of the State of Maine, 418; Mowat, 334-343; “General Thomas Gage to Colonel Thomas Golthwaite Commander Fort Pownal, Penobscot, 8 April 1775” and “General Thomas Gage to Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, 8 April 1775”, 172-173, 173; Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 76; “Col. Thomas Goldthwaite – Was he a Tory?”, 363; and Gratwick, The Maritime Marauder, 50-59.

[7] Brooks, “200 Years Ago,” 4.

[8] “Letter from Col. Thomas Goldthwait, Fort Pownal 1775” Bangor Historical Magazine v6 (1891), 106-107.

[9] “Reminiscences of John Davidson” Geneaological and Historical Register v70 (1916), 170.

[10] “Reminiscences of John Davidson”, 171; and Alvan Lamson, The Christian Examiner and Religious Miscellany (NY: Crosby, Nichols & Co., 1857), 48.

[11] “Letter to the Eastern Indians, May 15, 1775” Bangor Magazine v14, 255-256; and Centennial Celebration of the Settlement of Bangor – September 30, 1869 (Bangor: Benjamin Burr, 1869), 37, 38.

[12] Williamson, History of the State of Maine, 422-425, 430-432; Mowat, 334-343; Gratwick, Captain Henry Mowat, 72-73; and Wilbur H. Siebert, The Exodus of the Loyalists from Penobscot to Passamaquoddy (Columbus: The Ohio State University, 1914), 7.

[13] “Letter from Jedidah Preble Sr., June 14, 1775” Bangor Magazine v14, 283; and George H. Preble, Genealogical Sketch of the First Three Generations of Prebles in America (Boston: David Clapp & Sons, 1868), 97, 98.

[14] Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 76-77; Bangor Magazine v14, 268, 284-285; and “Note Thomas Goldthwait – 15 June 1775” #GLC01412.63.05 Gilder Lehrman Collection.

[15] Williamson, History of the State of Maine, 426; Centennial, 38-39; Fort Pownall Wast Book 1772-1777: A Day or Waste Book Kept by Sergeant Francis Archibald Jr. (1750-1785), Penobscot Marine Museum, Searsport, ME, page 71; John E. Godfrey, “The Ancient Penobscot or Panawanskek” (NY: Henry B. Dawson, 1872), 7; John E. Godfrey, History of Penobscot County, Maine: The Annals of Bangor, 1769-1882 (Cleveland: William, Chase & Co., 1882), 520; “Soldiers of the American Revolution: Maine Indians in the Revolution” Sprague’s Journal of Maine History v1 (1918), 107, 108; Lamson, The Christian Examiner, 48; and Boston Marriages 1700 to 1800 Part II: Intentions of Marriage 1752-1761 (massachusetts/boston-ma-intentions-of-marriage-1778.htm).

[16] “John Lane to the Massachusetts Congress – June 9, 1775” Correspondence, Miscellaneous Papers, Proceedings of Committees, Etc. (2005).

[17] Peter Oliver, Peter Oliver’s Origin & Progress of the American Rebellion: A Tory View (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1961), 129 n25; and Williamson, History of State of Maine, 426.

[18] Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 77, 78; and Francis B. Greene, History of Boothbay, Southport, and Boothbay Harbor, Maine 1623-1905 (Portland: Loring, Short & Harmon, 1906), 219-220.

[19] Greene, History of Boothbay, 223-224; and Michael Dekker, French & Indian Wars in Maine (Mount Pleasant, SC: The History Press, 2015), 120.

[20] Williamson, History of State of Maine, 426, 429; Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 78, 79; George Wharton Rice, The Shipping Days of Old Boothbay from the Revolution to the World War, with Mention of Adjacent Towns (Portland, ME: Southworth-Anthoensen, 1938), 401; Robert C. Brooks, “More on Fort Pownall” Letter to the Editor, The Republican Journal (September 4, 1974), and Siebert, The Exodus of Loyalists from Penobscot to Passamaquoddy, 7.

[21] Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 92-93, 114-115.

[22] Olson, The Archaeology of Fort Pownal, 78-79; The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay v19, 53; and “Reminiscences of John Davidson,” 171.


  • It is remarkable how much Revolutionary history the Penobscot Bay witnessed, and even more remarkable how little it is remembered. There was the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 (which represented a crushing defeat for the young American Navy — our worst until Pearl Harbor), and I’ve written here about the Williams eclipse expedition from Harvard in the following year.

    Thank you for this fascinating and informative article!

  • As the author cited in footnote 3, written 41 years ago, and as the transcriber of “Fort Pownall Wast Book 1772-1777. . . .” cited in footnote 15, I take the opportunity to “sharpen my pencil.”

    The opening sentence that the arrival on April 9th was not the day of arrival off Fort Pownall but was the day the two schooners sailed from Boston. There are copious entries to this event in William Bell Clark, ed., Naval Documents of the American Revolution, Vol. 1 (Washington DC: GPO for the Navy, 1964) which was the principal source for my article cited in footnote 3.

    The identification of the second schooner as the Neptune can only be identified from the log book of HMS Canceaux when HM Armed Schooner Diana and the Schooner Neptune “belonging to General Gage” arrived in Falmouth (now Portland) harbor. I disagree with the author’s interpretation of “belonging to” as meaning that it was “Gen. Thomas Gage’s personally owned schooner.” As the logbook was recorded from the naval perspective, I opine the phrase indicated it was a provincial or army vessel under the control of General Gage. I also opine that it was similar to another vessel, the Armed Schooner Spitfire, utilized during the “Battle of Bunker Hill” in June 1775 and the British bombardment of Falmouth, Maine, in October 1775.

    Colonel Thomas Goldthwait never signed his name as “Goldthwaite.”

    I erred when I wrote my account misidentifying narrator of the only extant eyewitness account, William Molineaux, as being the Boston Tea Party Patriot, and since had concluded that it was likely his son as has the author. He was not a soldier in the Fort garrison per the fort’s extant muster rolls. My best information is that Molineux was a trader from Camden, about twenty miles down the bay. I opine that the author is excessively speculative about the reasons for Molineaux’s presence at Fort Pownall. The waste or day book of Francis Archbald Jr. [correctly spelled], who traded locally, didn’t open an account with William Molineux until between January 4th and 19th 1776 for 197 pounds of coffee at £73.17.6d. which was nine months after Molineux’s deposition.

    As for the burning of the blockhouse, in my “200 Years Ago: The Burning of Fort Pownall,” [Belfast] The Republican Journal, issue of 24 July 1975, I attempted to reconstruct Colonel James Cargill’s march from Damariscotta to Fort Pownall, as probably arriving there the evening of July 23rd and the burning of the works on the morning of the 24th.

    Although in 1775 the revolutionary fever ran up and down the coast but, in general, few events could be connected directly to fort Pownall. In June the folks at Machias seized HM hired schooner Margueritta (locally known now as the Margaretta affair) and two merchant schooners belonging to a loyalist. Apparently those seizures were directly related to Colonel James Cargill and troops, while passing through Belfast, seized some merchant vessels. I see no relationship between Fort Pownall and “Thompson’s War” nor any direct relationship to the burning of Falmouth.

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