Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Pratt Stories - The Bartram Family IX

Although our ancestor's involvement with the Defence ended in early 1777, I was curious as to the rest of her career and eventual fate. So I sort of rolled the dice and punched "Brigantine Defence" into Google Earth and Lo and Behold, it flew me to a remote bay in Maine and there was what turns out to be the wreck of a Brigantine Defence (as I have said before, those Google guys deserved to get rich). I enlisted the aid of nephew Allen Woodruff to research the story of the wreck and to try and determine if it is, in fact, the same brig on which Ebenezer Bartram sailed and fought in 1776.
The wreck lies in a small bay off Stockton Harbor, just south of Stockton Springs, Maine, a couple of miles off US 1. Pat and Geoff Geisler probably drove right by it on their summer trip to New England and the Maritime Provinces..
Here is the story of the battle that did the Defence in: In early July, 1779, a British naval and military froce sailed into the harbor of Castine, Maine, on Penobscot Bay, where they landed troops and began erecting a fort. Alarmed by this incursion Massachusetts dispatched a military expedition consisting of a fleet of 19 armed vessels (the Defence was one of them) and 24 transports and a land force of about 1,200 men to drive the British out. (Col. Paul Revere was in charge of ordinance). Although badly outnumbered, British soldiers of the 74th Regiment (Argyle Highlanders) managed to repel the American attacks for nearly three weeks.
 In mid-August, British reinforcements appeared at the head of the bay with several large warships. The Americans had to abandon the fight and retreated up the Penobscot River, destroying their entire fleet along the way to keep it out of British hands. For its part, the Defence was engaged by the British frigate Camilla and sought to escape by taking refuge in a shallow water bay where it was abandoned and scuttled to prevent its capture. The Defence came to this inglorious end on August 15, 1779. I don't know how or if the crew ever got home.
This proved to be the greatest American naval defeat until Pearl Harbor in 1941.
NEXT: Was this the brigantine Defence on which Ebenezer Bartram served?

Emailed Sept. 30

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