Friday, May 25, 2012

The Battle of Noddle's Island

From the Library of Congress G3764.B6S3 1775 .D4
g3764b ar090000

This was just a teeny skirmish during the American Revolution, but I love it because the marsh and the island where it happened belonged to some of my ancestors, and some of the people involved are right out of my family tree. As I tell the tale of the Battle of Noddle’s Island (sometimes known as the Battle of Chelsea Creek, or the Battle of Hog Island), I’ll point out the family ties.

Noddle’s Island is now where Boston’s Logan airport sits.  The land around it has been filled in, and it is no longer an island.  One of the first settlers to live here was Samuel Maverick, and in the 1630s his house was located near Maverick Square in East Boston, today.   There is a “Maverick Station” on the blue line of the T (the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) subway) in this part of East Boston.  Samuel Maverick (b. about 1602) is the brother to my 10 x Great Grandfather, Moses Maverick (1611- 1686). 

Chelsea Creek, Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point, all land near these islands, was settled by my Bill Family ancestors in the 1600s.  They lived and farmed also on the island that is now known as the town of Winthrop, Massachusetts.  Rumney Marsh and Pullen Point are in the current cities of Chelsea and Revere Massachusetts. Other ancestors from the Belcher, Cheever and Tuttle, and Hitchings families lived here, too.
Fast forward 150 years, and the second battle of the American Revolution happened here.  Or rather, a skirmish happened here.   The British were going up and down the coast causing trouble by confiscating gunpowder and supplies, including hay cut and stored on islands, as well as livestock that used to roam the islands safe from predators and poachers.  On 27 May 1775, just a bit more than a month after the Battle of Lexington and Concord, New Hampshire’s own General John Stark was in charge of burning the hay and supplies on Noddle’s and Hog Island so the resources wouldn’t fall into enemy hands.  The British saw the smoke from Boston, and came out to investigate.

British General Gage sent out the schooner Diana, which misjudged the depth of the marshy waters and foundered in the mud.  Dr. Joseph Warren (of Bunker Hill fame) and General Israel Putnam (married to my 1st cousin, 7 generations removed, Hannah Pope) arrived on foot with a troop of soldiers from Stark’s 1st New Hampshire Regiment.  Although the British tried to fire their cannons at the rebels, the cannons were pointed towards the mud because of the listing ship, and so there was a standoff.  When the British finally abandoned ship, the colonial soldiers stripped the ship of everything of value: artillery, guns, sails, money, anything not nailed down.  They put the hay the British wanted under the Diana and set it ablaze.

No one died.  It wasn’t much of a battle, but it was great for Boston’s morale to destroy a British warship.  Lord Percy wrote back to England “ "The rebels have lately amused themselves with burning the houses on an island just under the admiral's nose; and a schooner, with our carriage-guns and some swivels, which he sent to drive them off, [had] unfortunately [ran] ashore, and the rebels burned her."  [The Boston Harbor Islands: A History of an Urban Wilderness, by David Kales, The History Press, 2007, page 46]
The guns and supplies from the HMS Diana were used by the Americans at the Battle of Bunker Hill a few weeks later.

It is always fun to read more about these little skirmishes, and to find out who was there.  In the Chelsea, Massachusetts Historical Society there were many details about this battle, and also in the book A Documentary History of Chelsea, by Mellen Chamberlain, Jetty C. Watts, and William R. Cuttler, published by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1908. A few years ago, an article in the Boston Globe got me interested in learning more about the Battle of Noddle’s Island: “In Chelsea, hunt is on for remains of lost Revolutionary War ship”, by Steve LeBlanc, Associated Press reporter,  Boston Globe,  20 July 2009   Investigating this little story led to discovering the places, names and stories of many ancestors!

Copyright 2012, Heather Wilkinson Rojo

1 comment:

  1. Doncha just love this sort of thing? And to have it near your ancestors' land! How cool is that!