George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Samuel Huntington, 9 April 1780

Philadelphia April 9. 1780


Your Excellency will receive herewith enclosed an Act of Congress of the 8th Instant with Papers therein referred to No. 1 & 2, containing an Application from the State of Massachusets Bay for an Expedition to dislodge the Enemy at Penobscot.

This Application is referred to the Consideration of your Excellency and in the mean Time Continental Pay and Rations are to be allowed to any Body of Militia not exceeding eight Hundred which the State of Massachusets Bay may judge necessary to be raised for the Defence of the eastern Parts of that State. I am this moment favored with your Excellency’s Dispatches of the 7th Instant per Express. I have the honor to be with the highest Respect your Excelly’s obt hbble Servt

Sam. Huntington President

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


c. January 1780

A description of the extent, situation & state of the country eastward of Penobscot to the easterly boundaries of the State of Massachusetts bay as also the strength & situation of the british fort at Major Bagaduce.

From Penobscot to passamaquody, is about 127 miles the more easterly part of this extent as far westerly as Machias river, is generally barren on the sea coasts the islands & the bays round the river at & near passamaquody is generally fertile & good, the rivers are St Croix & Squadia produces great plenty of fish of all kinds, in the summer season, such as Salmon Shadd [Eleveves] &c. from Cross island (which lies at the mouth of Machias River) is about 12 miles the channel narrow & crooked, but deep water—The next bay and river westward of Machias about 4 leagues is Mispecky from thence about 3 1/2 leagues is pleasant river from thence one league distant is Narraguagas river from thence about 4 1/2 leagues is the harbour of Goldsborough between which and near said Goldsborough is a small bay or river called little river or No. 4 Goldsborough affords the best ship harbour on the coast out of which make two small rivers, about 4 leagues westward of this is Frenchman’s bay which lies within the island of mount desart—a large navigable bay out which there are three rivers Vizt Taunton river, Skilling’s river & Jordan river which empty themselves into said bay, the island of mount Desart is extensive & high land, good land sufficient for eight townships with the Crambays & Islands adjacent.

From Frenchman’s bay to Union river is four leagues distance which makes in against the western end of Mount Desart, from thence is blue hill bay is three & half leagues—from thence without Naskegg, and within Deer island thro Edgemmogin reach, to the mouth of Baggaduce river on the eastside of Penobscot Bay is 8 1/2 leagues the land from Machias to Penobscot with the islands adjacent on the sea coast is generally good & further back into the country, the land is much better, it abounds with great plenty of every kind of timber, masts, spars & yards. There are contained in said boundaries sixty one saw mills which amount to 100 Single saws—which if improved will cut 250 thousd Boards every 24 hours, and there is a great plenty of Cod fish in the summer season, but a small distance off—The land on the Sea coasts is sufficient for twenty two townships in front—There is no doubt the enemy had [these] advantages in view when they took post at penobscot as well as the securing the interest of the Indians, in that country which if accomplished must unavoidably secure the possesion of the whole as the river of penobscot communicates [out] branches a great distance back into the country, out of which an easy communication may be had, chiefly by water to Canada, and St Johns rivers where the British have now possession & to many other places east & west. Wherefore it appears evident that the West India trade & fishing (which have been a misery for seamen, & by wh:[ the] country have been enriched) must be amazingly curtailed.

By the late manoeuvre of the enemy’s at Penobscot every person in the least acquainted with the geography of this State must be sensible lumber must greatly fail as far as Kennebeck, which is only ten leagues westward of the mouth of Penobscot Bay—I have taken the liberty to [assist] in a late representation to the Honble Counsil that The bare land contained in the aforementioned boundaries will be sufficient to defray the expence of the American war.

I beg leave further to add that the bare loss of the lumber trade in that country in my opinion, will be most sensibly felt, & of more damage to the maritime towns [   ] this State, than their full proportion of the public burthen during the present war. Shall the Britons be permitted to accomplish this plan with a garrison consisting only of 400 men. The account of the number of inhabitants was taken in the several places aforementioned in May 1777 which

[   ]

The places & inhabitants on the left hand except those who moved off since the defeat are chiefly subjected by an oath of allegiance to the British King

[   ] [   ]
Fox Island 241 Mount Desart 580
Number 6 202 Goldsboro’ 293
No. 1 & 2 193 Narraguagus 263
Nasgigg 404 No. 4 117
Deer Island 348 Pleasant river 238
Blue Hill Bay 132 Mispecky 98
Union River 233 Machias 626
2192 Passamaquadia 206
4613 Total

Indians between St Johns & Penobscot—230 families chiefly supported & under the direction of Colo. John Allan.

Majabagaduce where the Britains are now posted, lies on the east side of Penobscot Bay, nearly opposite, the upper end of Long Island in said bay, at the mouth & on the west side of Bagaduce river, the fort stands upon a neck or rather a peninsula projecting itself, southward, on high land well situated for defence, containing about one acre of land in circumference, well fortified the number of cannon mountd is rather uncertain but not more than eighteen pieces from 6 to 18 pounders, the garrison consisting of near four hundred men, the river Bagaduce which runs by said fort about north east & about three quarters of a mile wide good water for shipping from side to side more especially on the fort side a ship may run by the fort & lay safe, it seldom freezes in the winter season the harbour or river about the fort is sufficient to contain large numbers of Shipping, but commanded by the fort which stands about one third of a mile from the bank of the river bearing about east the same distance is a hill or eminence nearly as high land as where the fort stands, where an army might take post to a great advantage, another about W.N.W. where Genl Lovell had his advanced battery the 3d on the opposite side of Bagaduce river. Something more than one mile distance at each of these places, batteries may be erected against the enemy to advantage we are sure at present they have no out posts. Thus I have endeavoured to lay before your honors, the present state and condition of the country at & eastward of Penobscot, to the easterly boundaries of this state, and think I may add with some degree of certainty, that no part of that country eastward of Penobscot was inhabited by any englishmen until the year 1764 and in my humble opinion if the present disturbances had not taken place it would have been inhabited by double the number. I have the honor to be your honors Most Obt [&] Hbble sert

Alexander Campbell

For the perusal of the Hone Council of the State of Massachusetts Bay—

True Copy Attest. John Avery Depy Secy

Copy Chas Thomson secy

No. 1


9 February 1780

Extracts from Instructions to the Delegates of the State of Massachusetts Bay Dated Council Chamber Boston Feby 9th 1780.

The report of the Committee appointed to inquire into the Causes of the failure of the Unfortunate Expedition to Penobscot as also copies of the resolutions of the General Assembly, and of the Orders of the Council of this State relative to the same have been transmitted to Congress some time since.

That Expedition was undertaken upon a firm persuasion that the Expence attending the same would be paid by the Congress: This is more especially just and reasonable with respect to that Expedition, as the enemy had taken post at such a part of the Continent as rendered their removal of Vast importance to the United States, and to our Allies: For by this Manauvre they had gotten possession of the Mast Ground and were so situated as to interrupt, if not totally destroy the Fishery upon our Eastern Shores—two very important Objects, the preservation of which, most certainly claim the utmost Attention of the Continent. As the Enemy at New York and at Rhode Island were so in force at the time when this Expedition was undertaken, as to render it unsafe in the Apprehension of the Court, for either General Washington or General Gates to spare any of their troops for this service, they were not applied to, previous to this undertaking; but if it has been thought expedient in other respects there was not time for it, as the success of this attempt required the utmost Dispatch lest the Enemy should be reinforced before our forces arrived at Penobscot, in which case it would have been extreemly hazardous if not impossible to dislodge them. The Court therefore determined immediately & without the least delay to enter upon this Expedition, which was Considered as a measure necessary for the General defence, And they were Confident therefore that any Expence which might attend this Enterprize would be borne by the Continent in General. We presume therefore upon a full representation of this matter being made to Congress that they will think it just and reasonable that the Continent should be at the expence which has accrued, and will give the necessary Orders for the payment thereof. We Accordingly instruct you to make a full Representation of this Affair to Congress and apply to them for the same. The Accounts are preparing and will be compleated as soon as possible.

We now Enclose you a Copy of Col. Campbell’s description of the Extent, situation and State of the Country eastward of Penobscot, as also of the strength & situation of the British Fort at Majorbagwaduce, which will plainly show that it is of vast importance to the whole Continent As well as to our Allies, that we should have possession of that Country, especially when it is considered that our Enemies (it is highly probable) will attempt to take all possible advantage, at the Ensuing Treaty of peace, from their having taken post in Penobscot River. We would have you therefore submit to the Consideration of Congress whether it will not be absolutely necessary for them to take some effectual measures as soon as possible, for the removal of the Enemy from the post they now possess. It certainly is a very interesting Object and claims as we conceive the immediate Attention of Congress; And we are persuaded that no Exertions of yours will be wanting upon this Occasion.


C. Thomson secy

No. 2

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