With the Fourth of July holiday fast approaching, Balladeer’s Blog makes with another often-overlooked item from our war of independence from Great Britain.
SECOND BATTLE OF MACHIAS – Previously I covered the First Battle of Machias from June of 1775. After that action Machias became a busy base for Privateering vessels. This second battle was fought August 13th-14th, 1777.
British Commodore George Collier learned of American Rebel plans to launch a second Siege of Fort Cumberland (Nova Scotia) after the first one – a nineteen-day stretch often called the Eddy Rebellion after Jonathan Eddy – had failed in November of 1776. To nip those plans in the bud, Commodore Collier launched an amphibious attack on Machias, ME, where supplies and troops for the new siege were supposedly gathering.
The supplies and men for a second siege of Fort Cumberland had not yet arrived in Machias, so the battle wound up instead being fought for possession of the town. Commodore Collier had five war vessels plus a force of 120-150 Royal Marines to throw at the seaside rebel village. The Americans, under Colonel Jonathan Eddy, fought back with an unknown total number of Militiamen as well as fifty or more Native Americans from the Maliseet, Penobscot and Passamaquody Tribes.
The American Militamen had floated a log boom across the Machias River to block the British ships and had constructed several redoubts along the riverbank, some sporting cannons commandeered from Privateer vessels.
On August 13th the British ships sailed up the Machias River but were halted at the log boom. A firefight broke out and lasted the rest of the day without the Red Coats being able to land any of their Marines.
Early the following morning, August 14th, firing from both sides resumed. The Royal Marines landed and dismantled the log boom, hoping to restore maneuverability to the five British ships.
Eventually the Rebels drove off the British. As usual with these minor actions in the Revolutionary War casualty counts vary wildly. Wikipedia, for instance, always goes with the absolute lowest numbers that are given.
For the Second Battle of Machias Wikipedia shows American casualties as “1 dead and 1 wounded.” That reflects a lack of further scrutiny. Yes, “1 dead and 1 wounded” were frequently the figures that the American Militias claimed publicly, but that was often just a mixture of propaganda and a desire to conceal their local Militia’s true remaining strength from the British.
The British figures are often unreliable, as well, for propaganda purposes (after all, we were just lowlife colonists to them) AND because their officers could get away with fudging the figures. Unlike in a European war, the Brits fighting in America were very, VERY far from any authorities who could disprove their claims or exercise actual oversight on their leaders in the field.
At Second Machias the British claimed to have lost just 3-6 dead and 18-21 wounded. Equally absurd, the Militiamen claimed to have killed one hundred Red Coats. Less gaudy claims put the British losses as roughly 9 dead and 31 wounded.