THE SECOND ENGAGEMENT OF THE REVOLUTIONARY WAR

  Forty days after the Battle of Concord and Lexington, the second land and first naval, conflict of the Revolutionary War was fought in Chelsea Creek on May 27, 1775. After the battle of April 19, 1775, the British troops were driven back into Boston. The Patriots put the British and Boston under siege by completely surrounding the town on the land-side denying General Gage access to hay, fresh provisions and other supplies. With the arrival of additional British troops to Boston, came an additional need of supplies. With a determination to completely isolate General Gage's army the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, advised that all animals and provisions be moved further inland beyond the reach of British foraging parties.

Henry Howell Williams was lessee of Noddle and Hog (East Boston) Islands comprising a farm and pasture. Williams did a profitable business with the British prior to April 19th. After April 19th his situation became perplexed. If Williams continued to sell to the British, he would be compromised to the Patriots, and if he refused to sell he would be subject to foraging parties.

On May 27, 1775 Colonel Stark of New Hampshire, received his orders to go to Hog Island and remove all animals in the vicinity. Colonel Stark with three hundred New Hampshire men, joined by volunteers from Chelsea and other towns of Massachusetts, crossed to Hog Island by way of a ford in the creek. Over four hundred sheep were removed from Hog Island plus a number of horses and cows. Thirty volunteers crossed the Hog Island-Noddle's Island inlet, known as Crooked Creek (which was knee deep at the time) and made their way to the Williams Farm. The Williams home and two barns were set afire to prevent use by the British. Many stacks of hay were set ablaze in the field. Horses, cows and beef cattle were moved to Hog Island. What could not be moved, was destroyed to prevent the British getting them.

A number of British Marines stationed on the Williams Farm charged Stark's men and a short skirmish ensued. General Gage had sent four-hundred British regulars to reinforce the marines on the island. The British heavy fire forced the Patriots to retreat to a ditch in the marsh. The British advanced slowly in drawn-up lines until they were a few feet from the waiting Americans. The entrenched Patriots opened with a deadly fire, killing and wounding a large number of the British. The British were forced to retreat. The Americans taking advantage of the break in hostilities, withdrew across to Hog Island. The British Regulars on Noddles Island began firing by platoons across the creek at the fleeing Americans.

The Americans hastily cleared all animals and themselves from Hog Island across to Chelsea "Neck". In the meantime the British schooner "Diana" firing her six 4-pounders and twelve swivel guns,was sent up Chelsea Creek to cut off the American retreat from the island. After the Americans were forced back to the mainland the "Diana" tried to put about and head for deep water but the wind had died. The "Diana" found herself in a precarious position, the wind had died, she was in shallow water, the tide was going out and the sun was setting. An attempt was made to tow the schooner by marine barges. About three hundred Patriot reinforcements arrived from Cambridge with two cannons. The Patriots subjected the British Regulars and the "Diana" to heavy musket and cannon fire. Shortly after midnight, the "Diana" was pulled solidly into the mud near the Winnisimmet Ferry. The schooner could not get herself loose no matter what means was tried. The exchange of musket and cannon fire continued. At 3:00 A.M. the schooner rolled on her side, the British crew unable to work her guns, or even stand upright on her deck, abandoned the "Diana".

The Americans boarded the "Diana" took her 6-four pound guns, twelve-swivels, contents of the sail locker and what ever else was valuable. Hay was piled under the schooner's stern and under her deck; the schooner was set afire. A ship of the King's Navy was burned and destroyed in Chelsea Creek, under the nose of the British fleet.

This was the first capture and destruction of an enemy war vessel by the Americans in war.

 

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