was still at the camp, when news from Maine
confirmed his interpretation of the purposes of the British
In the previous May, Mowat, a naval officer, had been held prisoner for a few hours, at Falmouth
, now Portland
; and we have seen Linzee
, in a sloop-of-war, driven with loss from Gloucester
; it was one of the last acts of Gage
to plan with the admiral how to wreak vengeance on the inhabitants of both those ports.
The design against Gloucester
was never carried out; but Mowat, in a ship of sixteen guns, attended by three other vessels, went up the harbor of Portland
, and after a short parley, at half-past 9, on the morning of the sixteenth of October, he began to fire upon the town.
In five minutes, several houses were in a blaze; parties of marines landed to spread the conflagration by hand.
All sea-going vessels were burned except two, which were carried away.
The cannonade was kept up till after dark; St. Paul's church, the public buildings, and about one hundred and thirty dwelling houses, three-fourths of the whole, were burned down; those that remained standing were shattered by balls and shells.
By the English
account, the destruction was still greater.
At the opening of a severe winter, the inhabitants were turned adrift in poverty and misery.
The wrath of Washington
was justly kindled, as he heard of these ‘savage cruelties,’ this new ‘exertion of despotic barbarity.’
‘Death and destruction mark the footsteps of the enemy,’ said Greene
; ‘fight or be slaves is the American
motto; and the first is by far the most eligible.’
was sent to fortify Portsmouth
, of Connecticut
, took thought for the defence of New London.