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June 20, 2013

Genealogy Corner: Finding Nathaniel - Survival of the Family, Part III

PLAISTOW – It is October 1775, Falmouth, Mass Bay Colony (now Maine, and just 82 miles away from the hamlet of Plaistow). It was growing colder and windier with each passing day: the leaves are falling fast, the landscape was stark, bare, and foreboding. Our early New England brothers and sisters were in preparation for the coming snow and winter. And the threat from the British Captain Henry Mowatt to bomb Falmouth was real indeed.

According to some historians, a small contingent from Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) rowed out to the Command ship Canceaux to plead with Captain Henry Mowatt, who replied for them to give up their arms, and he would see what could be done. The Falmouth townsfolk brought forth some muskets to appease Captain Mowatt - a half-hearted attempt at best. Captain Mowatt was eager for payback time and the muskets did nothing to sway his course. The townsfolk all left in a panic including Nathaniel, Mary, and Joseph just a year and a half old and baby Polly, just seven months old along with the rest of their relatives that lived along India Street. They fled in horror taking only what they could, by wagon and wheelbarrow running inland and away from shore.

The bombing of Falmouth begins; it was at 9:40 a.m., on October 18th that the warships Canceaux, Symmetry, Spitfire, and Halifax commenced firing incendiary shot, an iron frame canvas bag ignited by its content of pitch, tallow, and turpentine with the intent to burn wooden structures. Some say the shots were high to allow time for residents to get out. This was followed with Grape Shot that resembled grapes; its intent was to kill inhabitants and followed by shot of every size.

The ships ceased fire at 6:00 p.m. Not satisfied with the destruction, Mowatt then sent a contingent ashore to burn what was still standing. When darkness fell the shoreline was ablaze in orange flames, smoke clouds billowing as far as one could see. After 8 or more hours of bombing and burning amazingly, no one was killed on either side. To make matters worse, as folks returned to scavenge remaining belongings, a cold torrential rain ensued causing flooding and further damage to what was left of Falmouth. The word was received by General Washington of such a cowardly act that it gave a strong measure of resolve to fight even harder against a tyrant King. Parts of Falmouth away from the village were large wooded areas indeed and encompassed land called “Saccarappa” at the falls along the Presumpscott River later re-named Westbrook, after Colonel Thomas Westbrook, a commander in the Wabanaki - New England war 1722 -1725.

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