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Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
January 4, 1894

GLIMPSES OF THE PAST

Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.

XCVIII – THE SEVENTY-FOURTH REGIMENT AT CASTINE.

[From a paper read before the Maine Historical Society, December 21, 1883, by Joseph Williamson.]

At the time of the siege of Penobscot, in 1779, the land forces at Castine were in command of General Francis McLean.

Apprehensive of a second attack, Gen. McLean labored unceasingly after the siege was raised, to complete Fort George, which name had been given to the fortress in honor of King George III.  Neighboring mechanics were employed and liberally paid.  The soldiers were kept on fatigue duty every day including Sunday, and by December the works had reached a good state of defence.  Bomb proof apartments were probably constructed in three of the bastions, and batteries erected at various assailable points.  As the peninsula contained few houses, barracks were built for officers and men.  Before winter set in the soldiers were well housed and always were well clothed and well fed.  Their situation was in striking contrast to that of the American army shivering in tents at Morristown.  The officers seem to have been mindful of the comfort of their men.  On one occasion, in a general order, the commandant regrets that ‘he is under the disagreeable necessity of restricting the garrison to two-thirds of their ordinary allowance of rum and butter’ until an arrival from Halifax, ‘when they shall have credit for what will be then due them.’  It became necessary, however, to limit the sale of liquors, and another general order provides that ‘no inhabitant shall in future sell any spirituous liquors to any non-commissioned officer or soldier, under the penalty of forfeiting all the liquors in his possession.  A duplicate copy of this order to be put on the fort gate so that no one can plead ignorance.’  This was the first ‘Maine Law,’ and doubtless more practically enforced than its numerous successors have been.

Many of the officers were men of education and refinement.  Gen. McLean was cool and determined, ‘a man of noble spirit.’  His generous conduct toward the distressed inhabitants caused him to be loved and respected by friend and foe.  After a few months’ service he was ordered to Halifax, where he died in 1781.  Colonel Campbell, his successor, remained several years.  He is said to have been a violent, impulsive man.  General Wadsworth wrote in the highest terms of the polite attentions which he, while a prisoner, received from Colonel Campbell and his officers.  Among the latter was Captain Craig, subsequently, as governor of Canada, known as Sir James Craig.  Lieut. Moore, then but eighteen years old, afterwards the distinguished Sir John Moore whose name has been immortalized by the beautiful lines of Wolfe, was then attached to Colonel Campbell’s staff.  He also acted as paymaster in the 74th Foot, a regiment raised by the Duke of Hamilton and called the Argyle Highlanders.

Detachments from this regiment remained at Penobscot till the post was broken up.  Lieutenant Moore, however, left during the first year.  Dr. John Caleff, formerly of Ipswich, Mass., was its surgeon, and a portion of the time acted as chaplain, holding services, according to the forms of the English church, which general orders recommended all persons to attend.

The month of January, 1780, proved intensely cold.  Penobscot bay was frozen to its mouth, and persons passed to the opposite shore on the ice.  One can imagine the isolated condition of the garrison, which then saw their only communication with the outside world entirely cut off.  Probably they resorted to the same expedients for keeping up their spirits as did Lescarbot and his companions at Port Royal, during the dreary winter of 1606.  Hunting and other outdoor amusements beguiled the days; and when night closed in, seated by generous fires and wide-mouthed chimneys, the song, the joke and the story inspired a comfort and a cheerfulness, which those bred to the profession of arms always most readily find, and most keenly enjoy.

Although life at Fort George was comparatively pleasant, the experience of almost every day indicated that the troops were by no means ‘carpet soldiers.’  Massachusetts, chagrined at the ignoble defeat which her arms had sustained there, was constantly devising vindication, and her movements could not have been concealed.  Hence the garrison was always prepared for an attack.  Sentinels manned the walls of the fort night and day; a complete line patrolled without the ditch after sunset; while a piquet guard environed the whole peninsula.

In 1780 an excitement was caused by the arrival in the bay of a French vessel of war, ‘His most Christian Majesty’s frigate, the Hermione, Captain La Touche,’ as General Heath informed Washington.  No shots were exchanged, although she came near enough to take a plan of the works, which was forwarded to the French minister at Philadelphia.  Probably this plan induced Rochambeau, the commander of the French fleet, to conceive the idea of re-taking Penobscot, at a time when he was idle at Newport, and he solicited the consent of Washington to do so.  Washington gave General De Choise, the officer who proposed conducting the expedition, a letter of introduction to the Massachusetts authorities; but he did not approve of the plan, and it was abandoned.

In 1783, the fort was much alarmed by a brilliant exploit made by Lieut. afterward Commodore, Preble.  In the night that officer landed and captured a privateer brig of more than equal force lying in the harbor.  A furious cannonade took place, but in the darkness the shots did not take effect, and he carried off his prize without loss.

The final evacuation of the port took place in the early part of the following year.


Correction: Article CII contains the following correction to this one: "It was the 82nd, not the 74th, which was known as the Hamilton regiment, (having been raised by the Duke of Hamilton in 1777 or 1778, for immediate service in America,) and it was to the staff of General McLean, who had command of the six companies of the Hamilton regiment sent to Castine, that Lieut. Moore, afterwards the distinguished Sir John Moore, was attached.  The last two sentences of the third paragraph would therefore read more correctly: ‘Lieut. Moore, …….. was attached to Gen. McLean’s staff.  He also acted as paymaster in the 82d, or Hamilton regiment, and returned with that regiment to Halifax in 1779.’  The following paragraph properly refers to the Argyle Highlanders, and should have contained no mention of Lieut. Moore."