Skip to comments.The FReeper Foxhole Remembers The Penobscot Expedition (1779) - Jul. 22nd, 2004
Posted on 07/22/2004 12:00:11 AM PDT by SAMWolf
are acknowledged, affirmed and commemorated.
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July through August 1779;
Penobscot Bay, Maine
In June 1779, Royal Navy transports escorted by three sloops of war landed 700-800 soldiers and marines at Majabagaduce, a peninsula near the mouth of the Penobscot River. From this location, which was then in Massachusetts territory, the British intended to protect their possessions in eastern Canada from American incursions, raid the colonists' coastal shipping, and launch forays against New England cities and towns farther south. In addition, British commanders hoped to establish a colony of American loyalists.
Map of Penobscot Bay showing location of Fort George and the initial position of three supporting Royal Navy frigates. Source: Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution.
Upon learning of the British incursion, the Massachusetts General Court, then in session in Boston, authorized an expedition to destroy the Penobscot base. The General Court also petitioned the Continental Congress for assistance from three Continental Navy warships anchored in Boston harbor. Congress agreed, and Commodore Dudley Saltonstall, commander of the squadron, was picked to lead the naval portion of the expedition.
Armed vessels from the Massachusetts and New Hampshire state navies joined Saltonstall's force, as did 12 privateers cajoled into state service for the expedition. Overall, the amphibious task force boasted 19 armed ships mounting 344 guns and 24 transports. The latter vessels carried a landing force of approximately 1,200 men under Brigadier General Solomon Lovell. The bulk of these troops were Massachusetts militia, joined by 300 Continental Marines. Ultimately, the Penobscot expedition turned into the largest American naval expedition of the Revolutionary War.
Saltonstall's orders directed him to completely eliminate the British presence in the Penobscot. To do so, his superiors emphasized, he would have to "preserve the greatest harmony with the commander of the land forces, that the navy and army may cooperate and assist each other." It was guidance that the commodore would discount, to the detriment of the entire mission.
After delays in loading the transports - caused in part by reluctance among the privateer captains to partake in such an unremunerative operation - the task force sailed from Boston on 19 July. It first proceeded to the area of modern Boothbay to pick up reinforcements that never materialized. Underway once again, the American warships entered Penobscot Bay on 25 July. By this time, British naval commanders had good intelligence of the American force's composition and destination, and were preparing to find and destroy it.
When the Saltonstall's expedition first arrived in Penobscot Bay, British forces had only partially completed a dirt fortification, named Fort George, on the heights of the Majabagaduce peninsula. However, the three Royal Navy sloops, each mounting 18 guns, remained anchored in the bay nearby. A small party of British troops also had established a minor fortification on Nautilus Island just to the south of Majabagaduce peninsula. Hence, British gunners on land and on board the warships were able to engage in a desultory two-hour duel with the American expeditionary task force as it entered the bay, which inflicted little or no damage on either side.
Initially, things went well for the revolutionary forces. On the 26th, Marines and militiamen, under covering fire from the American warships, took Nautilus Island and captured several British cannon. Two days later, a U.S. landing force stormed ashore on the southwest end of the Majabagaduce peninsula after two privateers had shelled the heavily wooded area above the landing beach. The initial echelon landed in three divisions, with approximately 200 militiamen on the left and in the center and 200 Continental Marines on the right. The Marines faced stiff resistance from several companies of British troops atop a steep bluff overlooking their landing point. Nevertheless, they cleared the bluff in less than 20 minutes, suffering 30-35 dead and wounded in the assault. Ensconced ashore, the American troops moved their artillery to a position only 600 feet from Fort George.
At this point, the American force began to move more cautiously, taking time to first build its own fortifications. Militia and marines next launched a night attack, conceived by Saltonstall, to seize a part of the British breastworks closest to the bay where the Royal Navy frigates had taken shelter. This would, the commodore believed, cut Fort George's garrison off from communication with their naval support, allowing the Americans to finish off each force individually. The assault on the breastworks succeeded initially, but the British men-of-war eventually opened fire on the position, causing the American forces to retreat to their own fortifications.
The results of the night-time action reinforced Brigadier General Lovell's reluctance to commit his mostly green troops to an attack on Fort George while they remained exposed to potentially heavy land- and sea-based cannon fire. He urged Commodore Saltonstall to attack the sloops, which his fleet outgunned, and thus remove that threat. Once this had been accomplished, the fleets guns could be used to suppress artillery fire from the fort during a subsequent American ground attack. Saltonstall, however, insisted that this course of action was too risky, continuing the pattern of ultra-cautious behavior that he had exhibited since the start of the operation.
In the ensuing days, Lovell and his militia commanders - and even some of Saltonstall's subordinates - pleaded with the commodore to attack the British sloops, but to no avail. Reports that a Royal Navy force had sailed from New York to relieve the Pensobscot defenders, and that Fort George was becoming stronger by the day, still could not persuade the timid commodore. The continuing impasse poisoned interservice relations between the land and sea forces, all the way down to the unit level.
Continental Marines storm the heights at Dice Head, Castine, Maine in August 1779. Courtesy US Naval Historical Museum.
Meanwhile Lovell and his men had been sending messages back to Boston on board fast ships - something the Commodore Saltonstall saw no need to do. The latter's superiors on the Navy Board of the Eastern District eventually supported Lovell's position and ordered Saltonstall to attack the British sloops and complete the operation before the Royal Navy relief force could arrive in his area. Reluctantly, Saltonstall made plans to take some sort of action on 13 August.
But by then it was too late. On the 13th, two American warships acting as pickets spotted a task force under the command of Sir George Collier approaching the bay. Collier's force consisted of six warships, including a 64-gun ship of the line and four frigates. Saltonstall's warships still outnumbered the British and carried more guns, but the armament on board the Royal Navy ships outranged that of the Americans and their gun crews were far superior to their American counterparts.
Nevertheless, Saltonstall still had the opportunity to engage the British, damage some of their ships, and perhaps allow part of his own force to escape. At first, that appeared to be what he might try to do, as the American forces formed a defensive crescent across the bay. However, as the British moved closer, Saltonstall and his captains concluded that they could not overcome the enemy force. The entire American fleet turned tail and fled up the Penobscot River. Most crews ran their ships aground and set them afire.
One part of Tory doctor John Calef's two part map of the retreat. Castine is in the lower left hand corner and the map is oriented with north pointing to the right. The American fleet's difficulty getting up river is clearly depicted. From the Journal of Dr. John Calef, in Eyewitness Accounts of the American Revolution, 1779 Reprint (New York:The New York Times and Arno press, 1971).
Lovell's men fared little better. At word of Collier's approach, they evacuated their positions and reembarked their transports. These vessels ultimately joined their warship counterparts on the banks of the Penobscot. What was left of the American expedition - soldiers and sailors - had to travel overland through the dense wilderness to make their way back to Boston. In all, the Americans lost 43 ships and approximately 500 men. Massachusetts, which incurred a heavy debt outfitting the expedition, also suffered a major financial blow.
The committee of inquiry looking into the Penobscot fiasco placed most of the blame on the "want of proper spirit and energy on the part of the commodore," and Saltonstall was subsequently discharged from the naval service. Fundamentally, the expedition's failure highlighted problems with ambiguous command arrangements during amphibious operations. It also underscored the difficulty of mounting a large, complex expeditionary operation with a cobbled-together, untrained, and mostly nonprofessional force. In addition, the palpable mistrust and lack of communications between the naval and ground commanders - and their respective subordinates - demonstrated the importance of building a sufficient level of confidence and mutual understanding between land and sea warriors before an amphibious operation commenced.
The first American advance came at five in the morning on July 28th, when the transport ships dropped off the first part of the six hundred soldier attack force at Dyce's Head, on the west side of the peninsula. The American forces quickly overcame British soldiers stationed outside the fort and found themselves at the clearing before the fort. Seeing the forces grouping together at the edge of the woods, MacLean reached for the white flag while calling feeble defense orders. Speaking later on the mission, MacLean said, "I was in no situation to defend myself; I only meant to give them one or two guns... and then have struck my colors...." Victory seemed in the hands of the Americans.
"Soon", though, was not soon enough. As the Americans lost their momentum "digging in," the British worked hard to further fortify their position, strengthen walls and call in naval reinforcements. General Lovell and Commodore Saltonstall began to argue about a naval barrage versus a military siege, both taking on the infamous 'you first' attitude. On August 10th the two commanders finally agreed to a combined attack... but nothing happened. Lovell was prepared for a full assault, but Saltonstall wouldn't provide necessary reinforcements.
The true shame of the expedition, though, was not the loss of the fort -- which remained in British possession until after the war -- but the lesson that went unheeded: the need for more cooperation between military branches and less indecision disguised as patience. For as the Anzio campaign of World War II showed once again, indecision is surely paid for with lives.
Good night Snippy.
Good night Sam.
To all our military men and women, past and present, and to our allies who stand with us,
Good morning, Snippy and everyone at the Freeper Foxhole.
Read: Acts 8:9-25
Peter said to him,Your money perish with you, because you thought that the gift of God could be purchased with money! Acts 8:20
Bible In One Year: Psalms 31-32; Acts 23:16-35
Police officers in St. Louis have had at least one easy arrest. It occurred at the back door of the police station when a drunk driver pulled his car right up to the booking window, thinking he was at Burger King. After attempting to place his order at what he thought was a drive-up window, the surprised driver was arrested by the booking officer and charged with drunk driving.
A man named Simon also got the surprise of his life. According to Acts 8, he was a former sorcerer in Samaria before becoming a follower of Christ. His surprise came when he walked up to the apostles and offered them money. He wanted them to give him the power to lay hands on people and impart to them the Holy Spirit. The apostle Peter emphatically refused, and accused him of being under the influence of something worse than alcohol.
Peter wasnt overreacting. Its dangerous to think that the power of the Holy Spirit is like a product that can be bought and sold. The Spirits work is a gift of God that is freely given on the basis of faith, and faith alone. He has given us His Spirit to accomplish His purposes, not ours. The Spirit cannot be bought or bargained for.
Thank You, Lord, for the gift of Your Spirit. Mart De Haan
HUZZAH for the freedomLOVING Poles.
Donald Bump for the Foxhole
Hoping that Duckie keeps getting better on you, sw
I just had time for a quick skim but the Penobscot Excpidition reminded me of the Anzio Landing in WWII.
On This Day In History
Birthdates which occurred on July 22:
1478 Philip I (the Handsome) 1st Habsburg king of Spain (1506)
1822 Gregor Mendel monk/geneticist, discoverer of the laws of heredity
1844 Rev William Archibald Spooner London, invented "spoonerisms"
1849 Emma Lazarus poet ("The New Colossus"-base of Statue of Liberty)
1784 Friedrich W Bessel, German astronomer (star parallax, Bessel Function)
1822 Hamilton Prioleau Bee, Brig General (Confederate Army) died in 1897
1822 John George Walker, Major General (Confederate Army), died in 1893
1834 Daniel McCook Jr, Brig General (Union volunteers), died in 1864
1887 Gustav Hertz German quantum physicist (Nobel 1925)
1888 Raymond Chandler Chic, mystery writer (The Long Goodbye)
1890 Rose Kennedy mom of JFK, RFK & Ted
1892 Arthur Seyss-Inquart Austrian chancellor (1930s)
1898 Alexander Calder sculptor (mobiles, stabiles)
1898 Stephen Vincent Benét US, writer (The Devil & Daniel Webster)
1908 Amy Vanderbilt authority on etiquette (Complete Book of Etiquette)
1921 William Roth (Sen-R-Del)
1923 Robert Dole (Sen-R-Ks Presidental candidate)
1924 Margaret Whiting Detroit, singer (Kreisler Bandstand, Strauss Family)
1928 Orson Bean actor/comedian (I've Got a Secret, To Tell the Truth)
1930 Yuri P Artyukhin cosmonaut (Soyuz 14)
1932 Oscar de la Renta Dom Rep, designer (Coty Hall of Fame-1973)
1939 Terence Stamp England, actor (The Collector, Alien Nations)
(Question, who was born on this day in 1940?)
Answer, Alex Trebek Sudbury Ontario, TV game host
1941 George Clinton rocker (Testify, Funkadelics)
1944 Estelle Bennett NYC, vocalist (Ronettes-Be My Baby)
1945 Bobby Sherman actor/singer (Seattle)
1947 Danny Glover, SF CA, actor (Lethal Weapon, Operation Dumbo Drop)
1947 Albert Brooks LA Calif, comedian (Broadcast News, Lost in America)
1947 Don Henley drummer (Eagles-Desparado)
1955 Willem Dafoe actor (Platoon, Roadhouse 66, Mississippi Burning)
1958 Sandra Elizabeth Greenberg Spokane Wash, playmate (June, 1987)
1965 Patrick Laborteaux LA Calif, actor (Albert-Little House on Prairie)
1978 Heather Noelle Jones, Miss Oregon Teen USA (1996)
The American Soldier, 1862
With the outbreak of the Civil War in the United States, a number of ethnically-oriented militia groups responded to President Lincoln's call for volunteers to preserve the union. One such unit to volunteer was a predominantly German-American unit known as the Citizens Corps of Milwaukee. On 25 and 27 April 1861, the unit officers, William Lindwurm, Frederick Schumacher, and Werner Von Bachelle were commissioned captain, first lieutenant, and second lieutenant of the company, respectively. By 10 May 1861, the company was officially mustered into the evolving 6th Wisconsin Regiment as Company F, bringing the total of German-Americans in the Union Army to almost thirty-six thousand.
In my best Homer Simpson voice...ummmm Donuuts
I see cinnamon rolls, filled powdered ones and at least one glazed round....ummmm
In a previous life I ran a donut shop, hehehe
Between the donuts and The Mayor's coffee I should be good to go this AM.