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New Brunswick History and Other Stuff

A War Journal from Majabidwaduce on the Penobscot

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From the blog at http://JohnWood1946.wordpress.com

New Brunswick pioneer Jeremiah Tracy was there, in 1779, when American revolutionaries landed at Penobscot with 43 war ships and transports and a landing party of 1000 men to dislodge a British military post. This was a disaster for the Americans and Tracy who were soundly defeated. They lost their entire fleet and were sent packing overland, to find their way back to Boston as best they could. Today, this is either celebrated by one side or mourned by the other while, as always, the many dead remain unnamed and silent. The story of the effect that this had on Jeremiah is told in “Jeremiah Tracy: Pioneer of the Village of Tracy, New Brunswick,” in this blog at https://johnwood1946.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/jeremiah-tracy-pioneer-of-the-village-of-tracy-new-brunswick/.

Dr. John Calef, who later practiced medicine in New Brunswick, was also there. He was a surgeon working with the British, and he kept a diary of events. Here, today, is Calef’s journal which records the battle as it unfolded. This is from his “The Siege of the Penobscot by the Rebels,” London, 1786, reprinted in The Magazine of History, Extra No. 11, New York in 1910.

Day of Judgement

The Tory’s Day of Judgement

The public mood that John Calef witnessed before becoming a surgeon to British forces, from StoriesfromIpswich.org

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A War Journal from Majabidwaduce on the Penobscot

On the 17th day of June, 1779, Brigadier-General Francis McLean landed at Majabidwaduce (Penobscot), with about 700 of his Majesty’s forces, composed of detachments from the 74th and 82nd regiments, to take post in the eastern country of New England. The time from this day to the 17th of July was taken up in clearing a spot to erect a fort and building the same, and a battery near the shore, with store-houses, etc.

July 18. Intelligence was received that a fleet and army were preparing at Boston to besiege Penobscot, of which but little notice was taken. Capt. Henry Mowat, of his Majesty’s sloop Albany, having been many years on the American station and well acquainted with the disposition of the inhabitants, and of the importance of the country of Penobscot to the Americans for fire wood, lumber, masts, cod and river fish, gave credit to the information, and ordered the three sloops of war into the best situation to defend the harbour, annoy the Enemy and co-operate with the land forces.

July 19. The intelligence of yesterday gains credit; whereupon the General, in order to make the proper dispositions for an immediate defence, desists for the present from his purpose of proceeding in a regular way with the fort; and prepares to fortify in a manner more expeditious and better suited to the present emergency; in doing which he shows the utmost vigilance and activity, giving everywhere the necessary directions, visiting incessantly by night and day the different parts of the works, and thus by his example animating his men to proceed, regardless of fatigue, with vigour and alacrity in their operations. The Inspector of the inhabitants begs leave of the General to call in the people to assist in carrying on the works; which being granted, about a hundred inhabitants came in (with their Captain at their head) as volunteers; and having worked three days gratis, cleared the land of wood in the front of the fort, to the satisfaction of the General, who returned them his thanks.

July 20. All hands busy at work, preparing to receive the enemy. At noon Capt. Mowat, having made every preparation in his power to secure the harbour, &c., sent 180 men on shore from the ships of war, to work on the fort.

July 21. Intelligence is received that a fleet of near 40 sail of vessel had sailed from Boston eastward. All hands at work day and night.

July 22. Nothing remarkable. All hands at work day and night. This evening a spy brought an account that 40 sail of vessel put into Townsend Harbour yesterday.

July 23. Every person busily employed. The Inspector calls a great number of inhabitants to work, who are employed in felling trees, raising an abatis round the fort, building platforms for the guns, &c. Saw three sail in the offing. Several canoes from the islands below come to advise the General of a large number of vessels being becalmed off St. George’s Island, standing with their heads to the eastward. All doubt of an attack from the Enemy is now vanished.

July 24. At 4 P.M. discovered a large fleet standing up the bay, which from various circumstances we believed to be the armament that, according to intelligence received, had been fitted out at Boston to besiege this place. On this account Capt. Mowat thought proper to detain the North and Nautilus sloops, which had been ordered for other service. At five, by signal from the Albany, the seamen who for some days past had been at work raising the S.E. bastion of the fort, repaired on board their respective ships (which were immediately cleared for action) and, as had been usual, were every evening exercised at their quarters. The Albany, North and Nautilus had dropped down the harbour and moored in a well formed and close line of battle across the entrance, immediately within the rocks on Bagwaduce point and the point of Nautilus or Cross Island; giving a berth, out of the line of fire, to three transports stationed and prepared to slip and run foul of the Enemy’s ships, should they attempt to enter the harbour. The troops were encamped about half a mile from the works; the well bastion of which was not yet begun, nor the Seamen’s quite finished; but on the appearance of the Enemy the works were put in a more defensible state, some cannon were mounted, and the little army was in garrison early the next morning. Guard-boats, during the night, watched the motions of the Enemy, who were discovered to have come to an anchor about three or four leagues off, in the narrows of Penobscot.

July 25. At 10 A.M. a brig appeared at some distance from the harbour’s mouth, and after reconnoitering the situation of the men of war, stood back into the fleet. At noon the Enemy’s fleet, consisting of 37 sail of ships, brigs and transports, arrived in the bay of the harbour; the transports proceeded about half a mile up Penobscot river, and came to an anchor, while the armed ships and brigs stood off and on and a boat from each ship repaired on board their flagship, which had thrown out a signal for that purpose.

At 3 P.M., nine ships, forming into three divisions, stood towards the King’s ships and, as they advanced in the line, hove-to, and engaged. A very brisk cannonade continued four glasses [four halves of an hour], when the Enemy bore up, and came to an anchor in the bay without. The King’s ships suffered only in their rigging. The fire of the Enemy was random and irregular, and their manoevres, as to backing and filling, bespoke confusion, particularly in the first division, which scarcely got from the line of fire when the second began to engage. The second and third divisions appeared to have but one object in view, that of cutting the springs of the men of war, to swing them from the bearings of their broadsides, and thereby to afford their fleet an entrance into the harbour. During the cannonade with the shipping the Enemy made an attempt to land their troops on Bagwaduce, but were repulsed with some loss. On the retreat of the Enemy’s troops and ships the garrison manned their works, and gave three cheers to the men-of-war, which were returned; and soon after the general and field-officers went down to the beach and also gave three cheers, which were returned by the ships.

Guard-boats and ships companies during the night lay at their quarters.

July 26. At 10 A.M. the Enemy’s ships got under weigh, and forming their divisions as yesterday, stood in and engaged the King’s ships four glasses and a half. The damages sustained this day, also, were chiefly in the rigging at the extreme ends of the ships; and the fire of the Enemy appears again to be directed to the moorings; which attempt not proving successful, they bore up and anchored without. The Enemy again attempted to land their troops, but were driven back with some little loss. At 6 P.M. the Enemy, having stationed two brigs of 14 guns and one sloop of 12, on the east side of Nautilus Island, landed 200 men, and dislodging a party of 20 marines, took possession of four 4-pounders (two not mounted) and a small quantity of ammunition. At 9 P.M. it being found that the Enemy were very busy at work, and that they had landed some heavy artillery which they were getting up to the height of the island, and against which the men-of-war could not act in their present station, it was judged expedient to move them farther up the river. This was accordingly done, and the line formed as before: the transports moved up at the same time and anchored within the men-of-war. Guard-boats and the ships companies, as usual, lying at their quarters.

July 27. Pretty quiet all this day. A few shot from some ships of the Enemy were aimed at the small battery on Majabigwaduce point, which were returned with a degree of success, one ship having been driven from her station. Observed the Enemy very busy in erecting their battery on Nautilus Island. The garrison being much in want of cannon, some guns from the transports and from the off-side of the men-of-war, were landed, and being dragged by the seamen up to the fort, were disposed of for its use. At 3 P.M. a boat passing from the Enemy’s ships to Nautilus island was sunk by a random shot from the fort. At 11 P.M. the guard-boats from the King’s ships fell in and exchanged a few shots with the Enemy’s.

July 28. At 3 A.M. under their ships fire, the Enemy made good their landing on Majabigwaduce, and from their great superiority of numbers obliged the King’s troops to retreat to the garrison. The Enemy’s right pressed hard and in force upon the left of the King’s troops, and attempted to cut off a party of men at the small battery; but the judgment and experience of a brave officer (Lieut. Caffrac, of the 82nd) counteracted their designs, and a retreat was effected with all the order and regularity necessary on such occasions. An attempt was made to demolish the guns, but the Enemy pushed their force to this ground so rapidly as not to suffer it. The possession of this battery afforded their ships a nearer station, on which they immediately seized. At 6 A.M. the Enemy opened their battery of 18 and 12 pounders from Nautilus island, and kept up the whole day a brisk and well-directed fire against the men-of-war. The King’s ships cannonaded the battery for two glasses, and killed some men at it; but their light metal (six pounders) was found to be of little service, in comparison to the damages they sustained from such heavy metal brought against them. At 10 A.M., the Warren, of 32 guns, the Commodore’s ship, and which had not as yet been in action, got under weigh and with three more ships shewed an appearance of entering the harbour, but hauled by the wind at a long distance. A brisk fire was kept up for half an hour, when the Enemy bore up and came to an anchor again without. The Warren suffered considerably: her mainmast shot through in two places, the gammoning of her bowsprit cut to pieces, and her forestay shot away. Their confusion appeared to be great, and very nearly occasioned her getting on shore, so that they were obliged to let go an anchor and drop into the inlet between Majabigwaduce head and the point; where the ship lay this and the next day repairing her damages. The battery on the island still keeping up a heavy fire, and the ships crews being exposed without the least benefit to the service, Capt. Mowat thought proper to move further up the harbour; which was done in the night and the line formed again; he being firmly resolved to dispute the harbour to the last extremity, as on that entirely depended the safety of the garrison, whose communication with the men-of-war was of the utmost importance. The dispositions on shore and on the water co-operating, and perfectly supporting each other, foiled the Enemy in their purposes; their troops were yet confined to a spot they could not move from, and while the harbour was secure their intentions of making approaches and investing the fort on all sides could by no means be put in execution. The present station of the men-of-war being such as rendered it impossible for the Enemy’s ships to act but at particular periods, the marines (whose service in their peculiar line of duty was not immediately required on board) were ordered on shore to garrison duty, holding themselves in readiness to embark at a moment’s notice, which with ease they could have effected in ten or fifteen minutes. Guard-boats as usual during the night.

July 29. At 6 A.M, the Enemy’s ships weighed, and altering their positions, came to an anchor again. The State of the fortress requiring more cannon, some remaining off-side guns were landed from the men-of-war and dragged by the seamen up to the fortress for its use and that of the batteries; and though the task to be performed, up a steep hill, over rocks and innumerable stumps of fallen trees, was laborious, yet their chearfulness and zeal for the service surmounted every difficulty. P.M. the Enemy opened their batteries on the heights of Majabigwaduce, and kept up a warm and incessant fire against the fortress. The commanding ground of the Enemy’s works and the short distance from the fortress, gave them some advantages with their grape as well as round shot which considerably damaged the storehouse in the garrison. Six pieces of cannon at the half-moon battery near Banks house, and which belonged to the fortress, being now found necessary for its particular defence, were moved up to it and replaced with some ship’s guns, under the direction of the gunner of the Albany, with a party of seamen Capt. Mowat having obtained intelligence that the Enemy, in despair of reducing the King’s ships by the means of their own, or of getting possession of the harbour, had come to the resolution of joining their whole force in troops, marines and sea men, to storm the fortress the next morning at day-break, he judged it expedient to re-inforce the garrison with what seamen could be conveniently spared; and for this purpose, at the close of the evening, 140 men under the command of Lieut. Brooke, were sent into garrison: part of them were immediately detached to re-inforce the troops on the out-line piquets, others manned the facing of their own bastion, while the remainder were busily employed in raising the cavaliers in the fort. In all these operations a brotherly affection appeared to unite the forces both by sea and land, and to direct their views all to one point, much to their credit and to the honour and benefit of the service. During the night the Enemy threw a number of shells into the fortress. At 10 P.M. a few shot between the Enemy’s guard-boats and those from the King’s ships.

July 30. The Enemy’s ships preserve their disposition of yesterday. A brisk cannonade the whole day between the fortress and the Enemy’s batteries on the height, and a number of shells thrown on both sides. The storehouse being apprehended to be in danger, some seamen were ordered to move the provisions out of the fortress into the ditch in its rear; as likewise a quantity at another storehouse. Guard-boats as usual.

July 31. At 2 A.M. the seamen and marines of the Enemy’s fleet landed to the westward of the half-moon battery, and under cover of the night attacked the piquet, and by heavy platoon firings obliged them to retreat; but an alert reinforcement of 50 men who were detached from the garrison, under the command of Lieut. Graham of the 82nd regiment, to the support of the piquet, drove the Enemy back with some loss in killed, wounded and taken, amounting on the whole, according to the best information, to about 100; the loss on the part of the King’s forces, amounting to 13 killed, wounded and missing, fell chiefly on the seamen and marines, who composed the piquet this night. Lieut. Graham unfortunately received a dangerous wound in this action.

August 1. A slack fire on all sides. At 4 P.M. the Enemy’s fleet getting under weigh, and the wind and tide serving them to enter the harbour, the embodied seamen were immediately called on board their respective ships; but it afterward appeared that the Enemy weighed only to form a closer line. Guard-boats as usual.

August 2. At 10 A.M. three of the Enemy’s ships weighed and came to an anchor nearer the harbour’s mouth. Some cannonading between the fortress and the Enemy’s batteries on the height. The outer magazine of the fortress being too much exposed, as lying in front and between the two fires, the marines were charged with the duty of bringing it to the magazine in the fortress; which was performed without any loss. P.M. a flag of truce from the Enemy, to treat for the exchange of a lieutenant of their fleet taken (wounded) at the half-moon battery on the 31st ult., but he had died of his wounds this morning. This day the Enemy posted some marksmen behind trees within musquet-shot of the fortress, and killed and wounded some centinels.

August 3. A slack fire the whole day. Perceived the Enemy busy in erecting a battery to the northward on the main above the King’s ships. By a deserter from the Enemy’s fleet we learn the force landed below the half-moon battery was 1,000 seamen and marines, joined on their landing by 200 troops; that their intentions were to storm the fortress in the rear while the army from the heights made their attack in front; that it was not intended to storm the half-moon battery, but that they had mistaken their road in endeavoring to get in the rear of the fortress, when they received the first fire of the piquet, which led them to suppose their design had been discovered, and that they were ambushed. The army also, believing this to be the case, retreated to their ground. At 2 P.M. some seamen were sent to the fortress to assist in working the cannon, and another party for the defence of the Seamen’s bastion, where a number of swivels from the men-of-war were planted, loaded with grape-shot, as a precaution against any attempt of the Enemy to storm the works. By request of the General a number of pikes were also brought from the King’s ships to the fortress, and put in the hands of the seamen, to prevent the Enemy from BOARDING their bastion. Guard-boats as usual.

August 4. The Enemy’s ships retain their former situation. A smart cannonading between the fortress and the batteries on the heights, and a great number of shells thrown on both sides. Some ships buckets for the use of the garrison brought on shore, in case the fascines at the well bastion, or store houses might be fired by the Enemy’s shells. At 9 A.M. the Enemy opened their new battery near Wescoat’s house, on the main, to the northward of the shipping. A brisk fire was kept up the whole day, and the men-of-war suffered much in their hulls and rigging; being too far from the battery for the light metal of the ships to produce any effect, their companies were ordered below. P.M. some skirmishing between the piquets, and trifling losses on both sides, on the Enemy’s some Indians were killed.

During the day several accidents happened by cannon shot in the fort; among others the boatswain of the Nautilus was wounded by grape, and a seaman belonging to the North killed by an 18-pounder, at the guns they were stationed at in the fortress.

August 5. Cannonading the greatest part of the day between the fortress and the Enemy’s batteries on the height, and from the north battery against the men-of-war, damaging their hulls and rigging. A.M. the remaining off-side guns from his Majesty’s sloop North brought on shore, and mounted in the cavalier in the fortress. P.M. the garrison, being much in want of wads and match, was supplied from the men-of-war, as also with some six-pound shot, in which it is deficient. The north battery on the main having the command of the opposite shore on the peninsula of Majabigwaduce, where the Enemy, under its protection, might make lodgements in their approaches toward the heights opposite the men-of-war and within shot of the fortress, and might thereby destroy the communication between them and the garrison, Capt. Mowat judged it necessary to erect a work in order to preserve this communication: a square redoubt was therefore marked out, to be manned with 50 seamen and to mount eight ships guns on barbette. Guard-boats as usual during the night.

August 6. Slack fire between the fortress and batteries on the heights, and a few shot from the north battery against the men-of-war, cutting their rigging and dismounting a six-pounder on board the North. At 4 A.M. 70 seamen from the different ships, under the direction of Lieut. Brooke, of the North; sent on shore to raise the Seamen’s redoubt on the height. P.M. a quantity of musquet-cartridges (of which the garrison was in want) brought on shore from the men-of-war. Guard-boats as usual. At 11 a few shot exchanged between the guard-boats.

August 7. The Enemy’s ships preserve their positions. At 9 A.M. three of their brigs got under weigh and stood down the bay, supposed on the look-out. Some skirmishing between the piquets, with loss to the Enemy; Lieut. McNeil, of the 82nd, and one private, wounded. Slack fire between the batteries and the fortress, and the north battery perfectly silent. At 4 P.M. discovered a boat crossing the S.E. bay to Hainey’s plantation, where the Enemy kept a piquet. Lieut. Congalton of the Nautilus chaced with the boats from the men-of-war, and took her; but her crew, with those of a whaleboat and a gondola for transportating cannon, got safe on shore and joined the piquet. Capt. Farnham of the Nautilus, with Lieut. Brooke and 50 seamen, joined by a party of soldiers from the garrison, landed and scoured the woods; the Enemy fled immediately, and so effectually concealed themselves as not to be discovered; some had left their arms ammunition and blankets, which were taken and brought on board.

Guard-boats as usual during the night.

By a deserter from the Enemy we learn that General Lovell had sent out small parties from his army, round the country, and brought in a great number of loyal inhabitants, who were sent on board their fleet and thrust down the holds heavily laden with irons, both on the hands and feet; their milch cows and other stock killed for the Enemy’s use; all their moveables destroyed or plundered, and their wives and children left destitute of every support of life.

August 8. A constant cannonade the whole day between the fortress and the Enemy’s batteries on the height, and from the north battery against the men-of-war, but returned only with a musquet. At 10 A.M. the Enemy brought a field-piece to play from the main on the seamen working at the redoubt; but the facing towards the Enemy being the first raised, for the purpose of covering the party, it was impossible to dislodge them; and a covering party daily attending from the garrison prevented a nearer approach on any other ground. This evening the redoubt was finished, and to the credit of the seamen, met with the approbation of the General and Engineers. Guard-boats as usual.

August 9. Cannonading as usual. At 9 A.M. a new battery, on the left of the Enemy’s lines, was opened against the fortress, and its chief fire, as well as the shells, directed against the N.W. bastion, raised with fascines only. P.M. discovered the Enemy had moved their piquet from Hainey’s plantation, and given up their design of carrying on a work for two 18-pounders against the men-of-war.

Guard-boats as usual during the night.

August 10. The Enemy’s ships in the former position. A slack fire on all sides, and nothing material.

August 11. A smart cannonading from all the batteries, and some shot from the north battery well directed at the men-of war.

August 12. Slack fire on all sides, and no material operations the whole day; but at 9 P.M. a large body of seamen and marines from the Enemy’s fleet landed below Banks’ house to the westward, and setting fire to some barns, houses, and a quantity of lumber-boards, &c., on the beach, retreated to their ships again.

August 13. At day break some skirmishing between the piquets, but no material loss on either side. At 1 P.M. came in some deserters from the Enemy’s ships, who say the boat chaced on shore at Hainey’s plantation had in her their Commodore and some officers of their fleet, who, having escaped, returned to their ships after lying two days and a night in the woods; that one of the officers (Capt. Ross, of the Monmouth) had broke his leg in the woods; and that they were much disconcerted at the loss of the gondola, which was intended to carry over some 18-pounders to the battery on the plantation.

Capt. Mowat also (by his usual diligence) obtained in formation that a degree of mutiny prevailed in the Enemy’s fleet against their Commodore who, notwithstanding the resolves of several councils of war and urgent solicitations of the General to make another attempt on the King’s ships, had hitherto declined it through fear of losing some ships; but that, in consequence of another council held this morning on the Warren, it was determined to force the harbour next tide and take or destroy the men-of-war; that five ships were destined for this service, one of which was the Warren; but that the Putnam, of 20 guns, was to lead, and that each ship was doubly manned with picked men. This information was confirmed at noon by five of their fleet getting under weigh and coming to an anchor in a line, the Putnam being the headmost ship. The marines were now called on board their respective ships, the barricades strengthened, guns double-shotted and every disposition made for the most vigorous defence. The St. Helena transport had been brought into the line and fitted out with what guns could be procured, and the crews of the transports (now scuttled and laid on shore to prevent them from falling into the Enemy’s hands), turned on board to fight her; and the General had also advanced five pieces of cannon, under cover of an épaulement, to salute them as they came in. But at 5 P.M. the appearance of some strange sails in the offing disconcerted the Enemy’s plan, and the five ships, getting under weigh again, stood off and on the whole night. Guard-boats watching the motions of the Enemy’s fleet, and the ships companies standing at their quarters until daylight. This night had been fixed upon to storm the north battery with 60 seamen under the command of Lieut. Brooke, supported by Lieut. Caffrac of the 82nd, with 50 soldiers; but the Enemy’s operations, and the appearance of the strange fleet, prevented the execution of it.

August 14. At day-break this morning it was discovered that the Enemy had during the night moved off their cannon, and quitting the heights of Majabigwaduce, silently embarked in small vessels. At 4 A.M. after firing a shot or two, they also evacuated Nautilus island; and leaving their cannon spiked and dismounted, got on board a brig lying to receive them, and made sail with the transports up Penobscot river. The whole fleet now got under weigh, and upon one of the brigs heaving in sight off the harbour’s mouth, with various signals aboard, they bore up with all sail after the transports. There now remaining no doubt but the strange fleet was the relief expected, the off-side guns of the Albany, North and Nautilus were got down from the fortress, and being taken on board, the three ships slipped their stern moorings, hove up their bower anchors, and working out of the harbour joined in about the centre of the King’s fleet, in pursuit of the flying enemy, who were now crowding with every sail they could set. The Hunter and Hampden, two of the Enemy’s ships, of 20 guns each, attempted to escape through the passage of Long Island, but were cut off and taken; the former ran in shore all standing, and was instantly deserted by her crew, who got safe on shore; and the Raisonable, Sir George Collier, being the sternmost ship in the fleet, took possession and got her off, and came to an anchor near her. The rest of his Majesty’s ships continued in chace of the Enemy until it grew so dark as to render the narrow navigation exceedingly dangerous; and they were obliged to anchor for the night, while the Enemy, having good pilots, ran some miles further up the river. The Defiance brig, of 14 guns, ran into an inlet where she could not be pursued, and was set on fire by her crew. During the night the Enemy set fire to several ships and brigs, which blew up with vast explosions.

In short, the harmony and good understanding that subsisted amongst the Forces by sea and by land enabled them to effect almost prodigies; for so ardently did they vie with each other in the general service that it may be truly said not a single Officer, Sailor or Soldier was once seen to shrink from his duty, difficult and hazardous as it was. The flying scout, of 50 men commanded by Lieut. Caffrac of the 82nd, in particular distinguished themselves to admiration, marching frequently almost round the peninsula, both by day and by night, and with drum and fife playing the tune called Yankee, which greatly dispirited the Enemy, and prevented their small parties from galling our men at the works. In one instance they even drove back to their incampment 300 of the Enemy who had been sent to storm an outwork.

The manoeuvres of the three Sloops of War, under the direction of Capt. Mowat, were moreover such as enabled the King’s forces to hold out a close siege of 21 days, against a fleet and army of more than six times their number and strength; insomuch that on the first appearance of the reinforcement from New York in the offing, the Enemy debarked their troops and sailed with their whole fleet up Penobscot river, where they burnt their shipping and from thence marched to their respective homes; and the loyal inhabitants, who were taken in the time of the siege and cruelly treated on board their ships, had their irons taken off and were set at liberty.

Thus did this little Garrison, with three Sloops of War by the unwearied exertions of Soldiers and Seamen whose bravery cannot be too much extolled, under the judicious conduct of Officers whose zeal is hardly to be paralleled, succeed in an enterprise of great importance, against difficulties apparently insurmountable, under circumstances exceedingly critical, and in a manner strongly expressive of their faithful and spirited attachment to the interests of their King and Country.

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Written by johnwood1946

June 8, 2016 at 8:22 AM

Posted in Uncategorized

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