The Late Affair at Eastport

July 11, 1814
A correct and circumstantial account of the late affair at Eastport
from the Boston Patriot, as reprinted by the Nashville Whig, September 6, 1814

The editor of the Boston Patriot was something of a humorist, and often attacked the Federalists of Massachusetts for not moving against the British when they seized some towns in Maine (then still attached to Massachusetts). The British, under Sir Thomas Hardy, took Eastport on July 11, 1814.

“Several of the officers of the 40th regt. who were taken and paroled at Eastport, have arrived in town. They report that the Martin sloop of war, capt. Stonehouse, was the first ship that appeared, having a white flag. The Island of Campobello hid the approach of the fleet until they came within three miles of the fort. The flag ship came up within pistol shot of the wharf, and sent a boat on shore with a flag and summons to surrender the fort, otherwise the town would be laid in ashes. Maj. Putnam went out and received the officer and conducted him to his quarters. The flag officer stated to Major Putnam that he was allowed only five minutes to give his answer. Major P. replied he must read the summons, and the proposed articles of capitulation, before he could give any answer; after which the British officer said the time was expired, and demanded peremptorily, ‘Do you surrender the fort?’ Maj. P. replied, ‘As long as the American flag is flying, I do not surrender.‘   On which the officer returned to his boat, and proceeded to the ship. Major P. consulted his officers, as to the propriety of defending the fort. The selectmen also interfering respecting the inadequate means of defence, and the certain destruction of the town, he felt it to be his imperious duty to accept the terms of capitulation offered him, and the flag was accordingly struck.

Immediately after this, the British troops were landed at different points on the Island, and immediately marched into the fort, to the number of 700 men, when Major Putnam surrendered himself, 5 officers, and 59 privates, 11 of whom were sick, and immediately paroled. When Gen. Pilkington entered the fort, he addressed Major Putnam as follows:–‘I want your men.’ Major Putnam replied, ‘Here are my men.’–The British officer said, ‘I want all your men,’ ‘I want all yourcommand.‘–He repeated five or six times over, ‘I want all your men,‘ and was replied to by Maj. P. as before. Pilkington then went away, evidently chagrined that he had brought such a force to capture 59 men, and a small fort with 6 cannon; and well he might have felt mortified, when he found that his royal majesty had fitted out an expedition consisting of one 74, one 60 gunship, three sloops of war, and three transports with 2000 land forces and 3000 sailors, to capture 59 privates, (11 of them sick) and 6 officers, of the 40th regiment of infantry! Sir Thomas Hardy, commander of the naval forces, and Lieut. Gen. Pilkington, commander of the land forces which CONQUERED Eastport, will no doubt have a handsome notice of their brilliant exploits in the London Gazette Extraordinary–but when the people of England learn that his expedition has cost John Bull more than half a million of dollars, and has resulted in the capture of 43 full-blooded Yankees and 6 pieces of cannon, no doubt they will think it a glorious victory, every way equal to that obtained over the gallant Porter.” [David Porter of the U. S. S. Essex, captured in the neutral port of Valparaiso by the HMS Phoebe and the HMS Cherub in March, 1814]

* * * *

Sir Thomas Hardy, conformably to the terms proposed , gave the officers a chebacco boat of about 15 tons, in which they sailed for Portland, and arrived there after a passage of ten days.–On the passage, they were overhauled by a British privateer, when three shots were fired at them to bring them to; notwithstanding they had a white flag. The first shot was a 6 pounder, at a quarter mile distance; the third, of round and grape, at pistol shot distance, the grape flying all round them. The flag was standing towards the privateer the whole time they were firing at them. When they came within hail, the captain of the privateer ordered them to send their boat on board, or they would sink them.

Major Putnam went on board, informed them who they were, and were dismissed without telling them what privateer it was.

Such is the rise, progress and completion of this mighty conquest of 48 Yankees, by the renowned Sir Thomas Hardy and the gallant lieut. col. Pilkington. John Bull never appeared surrounded with so much glory, since he reigned over the British Gulls.”

About the Author

Mary Bowden is a researcher working at the Texas Collections Deposit Library at the University of Texas. A little-known but invaluable treasure of U.S. history and the history of American journalism is archived in the collection of bound United States’ Newspapers at the University of Texas at Austin. The collection began more than a century ago and has been stored in recent years in the Texas Collections Deposit Library on the campus of the University of Texas. The sizeable archive is currently in the early stages of being digitized before being moved to a more climate-controlled environment at the J.J. Pickle Research Campus of the University, on the north side of Austin.

Mary Bowden