A History of Nova Scotia Page

Book #2: Settlement, Revolution & War. TOC
Part 5, "The War Of 1812: Eastern Theatre." TOC
Ch. 15 - "The Penobscot Expedition."

At the same time that Major-General Robert Ross led the British forces which sacked Washington during August 1814, Sherbrooke, the governor of Nova Scotia, sailed from Halifax on the 26th, with the view to conquering American territory which we now identify as the northern part of the State of Maine. Sherbrooke had received orders to occupy so much of the District of Maine as should insure an uninterrupted communication between Halifax and Quebec.1 The British fleet consisted of three warships (Dragon2, Endymion3 and Bacchante), a sloop (Sylph4) and ten transports. The British fleet was to rendezvous off the coast of Maine at a comparatively remote set of islands, the Metinicus Islands. Sherbrooke had with him "1800 rank and file."5 Here they were joined by additional British warships (Bulwark, Tenedos6, Rifleman7, Peruvian and Pictou) which had come in from sea.8 The troops that Sherbrooke had with him "consisted of four regiments two of which had arrived the week before from the Mediterranean."9

On the 31st, the British fleet sailed up Penobscot Bay, reaching Castine the following morning. Thus it was, that on September 1st, 1814, the people of Castine looked out into the bay and saw a large British force. The American officer in charge of the military fort refused to surrender when called upon, but before the English troops could land he blew up the magazine and escaped; the fort was taken without opposition. Leaving a British garrison under a British flag at Castine,10 the British then sent a detachment up the Penobscot River.11 Fog had enveloped the way for the British, but they made there way up the winding channel of the river over a two day period. There were intermediate exchanges with the Americans who had taken up positions on the eastern bank. A British force of 150 was landed 3 miles below Hamden. The British ships kept station with the British troops as they continued up the river. They then arrived at a point where the American naval ship Adams was moored, it had been hoped, in safety. "The Americans were thrown into confusion by a rocket attack and burned the Adams before retreating up the road to Bangor where they later surrendered. Eleven ships were captured and six destroyed ..."12

In a letter to Bathurst dated September 23rd, 1814, Sherbrooke reported on the Penobscot expedition. Sherbrooke was absent 26 days from the province, returning "with most of his force to Halifax" having left two regiments at Castine. Sherbrooke laid out in a declaration13 the set up of a temporary government of the district occupied until the Regent's pleasure be known. Since "it has been deemed advisable to authorize a limited trade to the Port of Castine," he has requested the Collector of Customs to send someone to take charge of the Custom House at Castine.14 In a further letter dated September 27th to Major-General Gosselen, Sherbrooke gave details on the civil administration that had been put in place at Castine, including that "a Custom House has been established and he requires that every male above ten years of age take the oath of allegiance or become prisoners of war."15 The war having ended, the British gave up Castine on April 27th, 1815. We read in the DCB, in its entry on Sherbrooke, that the "eight-month occupation of Castine yielded customs revenues which were subsequently used to finance a military library in Halifax and found Dalhousie College."

[NEXT: Pt. 5, Ch. 16 - "Negotiations and A Lasting Peace."]

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