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Jonathan Eddy’s Account of the Attack on Fort Cumberland, November, 1776

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Jonathan Eddy’s Account of the Attack on Fort Cumberland, November, 1776

Jonathan Eddy and John Allan were New Englanders and supporters of the American Revolution. Allan, in particular, launched several attacks and intrigues against what is now New Brunswick from late 1776 to mid-1777, with the objective of developing support among the settlers, especially at Maugerville, and among the Indians.

One of the most aggressive assaults was Jonathan Eddy’s attack on Fort Cumberland in the late autumn of 1776. This affair has been thoroughly researched and the best account of it that I have seen is The Siege of Fort Cumberland, 1776: An Episode in the American Revolution by Ernest Clarke (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 1995). The telling of the story in this blog does not borrow from Mr. Clarke, but is from Eddy’s own report as found in Eastern Maine and Nova Scotia During the Revolution, Chiefly Compiled from the Journals and Letters of Colonel John Allan, …, compiled and edited by Frederick Eidder (Albany, N.Y., 1867).

Fort Cumberland

Fort Cumberland in 1778

By William Spry, from Library and Archives Canada

Following is Eddy’s report. It is truthful, except that it does not dwell upon negative aspects of the affair. For example, his kind interpretation of the conclusion was that “it was thought Proper by the Committee that we should Retreat.” In fact, they were a sorry lot by that time, and had little option.

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Eddy’s letter of Jany. 5, 1777

To the Hon. Council & House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts Bay:

I have Endeavored to inform your Honors in some part of my Proceedings since my Departure from Boston.

I left the long Wharf in Boston together with Mr Row & Mr How and arrived at Newbury the second Day, where we Chartered a small Vessell to carry us to Machias at which Place we arrived (after Many Unfortunate Accidents) in about three weeks from the Time of our setting out.

During my Stay at Machias I met with Col. Shaw, by whose Favor I obtained Capt. West & several other good Men, to the amount of about Twenty, to join me in the Expedition against Fort Cumberland. Then Proceeded to Passamaquoddy where I was joined by a few more; from thence to the River St John’s & went up the same about sixty Miles to the Inhabitants whom I found almost universally to be hearty in the Cause,—and joined us with Capt, 1 Lieut. & Twenty five Men, as also 16 Indians; so that our whole Force now, amounted to Seventy two Men, and with this Party I set off for Cumberland in Whale Boats and Canoes, and standing up the Bay arrived in a few Days, at Shepody in the sd County.

At Shepody we found and took Capt Walker and a Party of thirteen Men who had been stationed there by Col Gorham Commander of the Garrison at Cumberland, for the Purpose of getting Intelligence &c.—Thence we Proceeded to Memrancook, and there had a Conference with the French, who Readily joined us, although they saw the Weakness of our Party. We then marched 12 Miles through the woods to Sackville & there were met by the Committee who Expressd their Uneasiness at seeing 80 few of us, and those unprovided with Artillery, Never the less hoping that Col Shaw would soon come to our Assistance with a Reinforcement they unanimously joined us. The same Night I sent off a small Detachment who marched about 12 Miles through very bad Roads to Westcock & there took a Schooner in Aulack River, loaded with Apples Cyder, English Goods &c. to the Amount of about £300, but finding afterwards that she was the Property of Mr Hall of Annapolis, who is a good Friend to the Cause of Liberty, I discharged her. I afterwards sent another Boat Load of Men, as a Reinforcement to the first Party, making together about 30 Men, in Order to take a Sloop which lay on the Flats below the Fort, loaden with Provisions and other Necessaries for the Garrison: After a Difficult March, they arrived opposite the Sloop; on board of which was a Guard of 1 Sergt. & 12 men, who had they fir’d at our People, must have alarmed the Garrison in such a Manner as to have brought them on their Backs. However, our men rushed Resolutely towards the Sloop up to their Knees in Mud, which made such a Noise as to alarm the Sentry, who hailed them & immediately called the Sergt of the Guard: The Sergt. on comming up, Ordered his Men to fire, but was immediately told by Mr Row that if they fired one Gun, Every Man of them should be put to Death; which so frightened the poor Devils that they surrendered without firing a Shot, although our People Could not board her without the Assistance of the Conquered, who let down Ropes to our Men to get up by. By this Time the Day broke and the Rest of our Party made to their Assistance in the Schooner aforementioned & some Boats. In the mean Time Came down Several Parties of Soldiers from the Fort not Knowing the Sloop was taken (who) as fast as they Came, were made Prisoners by our Men & order’d on board: Among the Rest, Capt. Barron, Engineer of the Garrison, and Mr Eagleson, who may be truly Called the Pest of Society; and by his unseasonable Drunkenness the Evening before, prevented his own Escape and occasioned his being taken in Arms.

The Sloop now beginning to float & the Fog breaking away, we were discovered by the Garrison, who observing our Sails loose thought at first, it was done only with an Intent to dry them, but soon Perceiving that we were under Way, fired several Cannon shot at us & marched down a Party of 60 Men to attack us, but we were at such distance, that all their Shot was of no Consequence.

We then sailed to Fort Lawrence, another Part of the Township, and there landed Part of the Stores on board the Sloop to Enable us to attack the Garrison.

Having left a small Guard on board the Sloop to secure the Prisoners, I marched the Remainder to Cumberland side of the River and Encamp’d within about one mile of the Fort, and was there joined by a Number of the Inhabitants so that our whole Force was now about 180 Men, but having several outposts to guard, & many Prisoners to take Care of, the Number that Remained in the Camp, did not Exceed 80 men;—I now thought Proper to invest the Fort & for this Purpose sent a Summons to the Commanding Officer, to surrender, (a Copy of which together with his Answer I have Enclosed) —

Upon Col. Gorham’s Refusal to surrender we attempted to storm the Fort in the Night of the 12th Novr with our scaling Ladders & other Accoutrements, but finding the Fort to be stronger than we imagined (occasioned by late Repairs) We thought fit to Relinquish our Design after a heavy firing from their Great Guns and small Arms with Intermission for 2 Hours, which we Sustained without any Loss (Except one Indian being wounded) who behaved very gallantly, and Retreated in good Order to our Camp.

Our whole Force in this Attack, Consisted of about 80 Men, while the Enemy were 100 strong in the Fort, as I learned since from some Deserters who came over to us; a greater number than we imagined. I must needs acquaint your Honors that Never Men behaved better than ours, during the engagement never flinching, in the midst of a furious Cannonade from the Enemy.

In this Posture we Continued a Number of Days and totally cut off their Communications with the Country, Keeping them closely block’d up within the Fort, which we Expected to take in a little Time by the Assistance of a Reinforcement from Westward.

In the mean Time on the 27th Novr arrived in the Bay a Man of War, from Halifax, with a Reinforcement for the Garrison consisting of near 400 Men & landed on that and the day following.

Nov. 30th The Enemy to the Number of 200, Came out in the Night by a round about March; got partly within our Guards, notwithstanding we had Scouts out all Night, and about Sunrise furiously Rushed upon the Barracks where our Men were quartered, who had but just Time Enough to Escape out of the Houses and run into the Bushes where, (notwithstanding the Surprise in which we were) our Men Killed & wounded 15 of the Enemy while we lost only one man who was Killed in the Camp.

In the midst of such a Tumult they at length proceeded about 6 Miles into the Country to the Place where they imagined our stores &c. to be & in the Course of their March burnt 12 Houses & 12 Barns in some of which the greater Part of our Stores were deposited. In this Dilemma My Party being greatly weakened by sending off many for Guards with the Prisoners &c. & our Stores being Consumed, it was thought Proper by the Committee that we should Retreat to St. Johns River & there make a stand, till we could have some certain Intelligence from the Westward, which we hope we shall have in a short time by the Favor of the Committee, who are gone forwards—And as it appears to be the opinion of the Committee of Cumberland and St Johns River that I should Remain here, I am determined to make a Stand, at this Place, till I am drove off, which I believe will not be Easily done, unless the Enemy should send a Force from Halifax by Water on Purpose to subdue this Settlement, as I am continually Reinforced by People from Cumberland & the Neighboring Counties, so that I believe we shall be able to Repulse any Party that may be sent from the Garrison at Cumberland, though I imagine we shall not be troubled by any Irruption from them this Winter as the Reinforcement is chiefly gone, having left only about 200 Men in the Fort, and those in a bad Condition for the want of Clothing; and if 200 men could be sent us by Land this winter we could Reduce the Garrison by cutting off their Supplies of wood which they are obliged to go 8 or 9 Miles for through a Country full of small Spruce, Fir & such like Wood, Consequently very Convenient for us to lay an Ambush, as we are perfectly acquainted & the Enemy Strangers thereto; And this your Honors may Easily Conceive, as we Destroyed a Number of Houses the Property of Friends to each Side, which lay adjacent to the Fort & the Commanding Officer having given orders to pull them down & carry the Timber into the Fort for Firing, the Committee ordered me to Prevent it by firing them which I did accordingly; and left them destitute of anything to burn within some Miles. On this River are a considerable Number of Indians, who are universally hearty in the Cause, 16 of whom together with the Governor Ambrose accompanied me in the Expedition and behaved most gallantly, but are a little uneasy that no Goods are yet arrived for them from Boston, agreeable to the late Treaty with them, which was Ratified by Coll Shaw in Behalf of the States, & I should be very glad if your Honors would Satisfy them in this Point as soon as possible, as they have been Extremely faithful during this Contest; and if this is done I am confident I can have near 200 of them to join me in any Expedition against the Enemy.

All my Transactions in this Affair have been done by the Authority of a Committee of Safety for the County of Cumberland & many Difficulties having arisen for want of Commissions I hope your Honors will send some blank ones for the raising of a Regiment in this Province if the Hon. Continental Congress should think fit to Carry on the War further in this Quarter, so that Proper Regulations may be make & many disorderly actions prevented.

I am &c.

Jonathan Eddy

Maugerville on the R. St John, Jany 5th, 1777.

ATTACHMENT #1: Jonathan Eddy’s call upon the fortress to surrender:

To Joseph Gorham Esq. Lieut Colonel Commandr of the Royal Fencibles Americans Commanding Fort Cumberland

The already too plentifull Effusion of Human Blood in the Unhappy Contest between Great Britain and the Colonies calls on every one Engag’d on either side, to use their utmost Efforts to prevent the Unnatural Carnage, but the Importance of the Cause on the side of America has made War necessary, and its Consequences, though in some Cases shocking are yet unavoidable. But to Evidence that the Virtues of humanity are carefully attended to, to temper the Fortitude of a Soldier; I have to summon you in the Name of the United Colonies to surrender the Fort now under your Command, to the Army sent under me by the States of America. I do promise that if you Surrender Yourselves as Prisoners of War you may depend upon being treated with the utmost Civility & Kind Treatment; if you refuse I am determined to storme the Fort, and you must abide the consequences—

Your answer is expected in four Hours after you receive this and the Flag to Return safe.

I am Sir

Your most obedt Hble Servt

Jona Eddy

Commanding Officer of the United Forces

Nov. 10, 1776

ATTACHMENT #2: Lieut. Colonel Gorham’s reply to the call to surrender:

Ft. Cumberland, 10th Novr 1776


I acknowledge the receipt of a Letter (under coular of a Flagg of Truce Signed by one Jonan Eddy Commanding officer expressing a concern at the unhappy Contest at present Subsisting between great Britain and the Colonys and recommending those engaged on either side to use their Endeavors to prevent the too Plentifull effusion of human Blood and further Summoning the Commanding officer to surrender this Garrison—

From the Commencement of these Contest I have felt for my deluded Brother Subjects and Countrymen of America and for the many Innocent people they have wantonly Involved in the Horrors of an Unnatural Rebellion, and entertain every humane principle as well as an utter aversion to the Unnecessary effusion of Christian Blood. Therefore command you in his Majesty’s name to disarm yourself and party Immediately and Surrender to the Kings mercy, and further desire you would communicate the Inclosed Manifests to as many of the Inhabitants you can and as Speedily as possible to prevent their being involved in the Same dangerous and Unhappy dilema—

Be assured Sir I shall never dishonour the Character of a Soldier by Surrendering my command to any Power except to that of my Sovereign from whence it originated.

I am Sir

Your most hble servt

Jos. GORHAM Lt Col. Comst

R.F.A. Commanding Officer at Fort Cumberland

Written by johnwood1946

October 1, 2014 at 9:40 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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