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 Derring-do of Sea Fencibles 
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Post Derring-do of Sea Fencibles
Could I, as a kick-off on this new section, point members in the direction of this entry I made a couple of months ago which illustrates well the derring-do of the Sea Fencibles.

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Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:17 am
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In THE TIMES of July 24, 1801, I came across another example of their duties:

" ...Captain Miles of the Royal Navy and about two hundred of the Sea Fencibles have gallantly offered to serve on board the guard-ship intended for the better defence of the Coast of Essex....."

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Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:25 pm
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On the hunt for more stuff about the Sea Fencibles, I came across this entry for sale at Bonham with reference to Charles Tyler.

If you have plenty in your pocket proceed to the bottom of the Bonhams page for more items in their Trafalgar sale. :lol:

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Wed Aug 10, 2005 1:48 pm
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Post Hoist upon their own petards
Though Adm. Popham, RN, introduced the concept of sea fencibles to the world and especially Britain, it came to pass that American sea fencibles employed the concept against the country that originated it.

SEA FENCIBLES REPORT

Information taken from History of Gloucester by John J. Babson, Town on Sandy Bay by Marshall W. S. Swan and Cape Ann Cape America by Herbert A. Kenny.

Sandy Bay was the Fifth Parish of Gloucester until 1840 when it became the Town of Rockport.

The War of 1812 created serious hardships on Sandy Bay and Pigeon Cove. At Sandy Bay a company of about 60 men called the Sea Fencibles were enlisted with initial barracks at the entrance of Bearskin Neck. In 1814 plans to build a fort out on the point were made. With donations (called subscriptions) from the townspeople around $60 was raised to erect a horseshoe shaped fort out on the point equipped with two cannons and nine guards who were housed in an adjacent watch house and were to be paid $8 a month. To the British cruising off the coast, it looked more formidable than it was as they planned to attack Sandy Bay.

A little historical background: In June 1812 the Congress of the United States declared war against Great Britain. The majority of the people on Cape Ann deemed this action unwise and unjust because they supported themselves and their families depending upon free use of the sea. The war affected the prosperity of the town. Fisheries were interrupted, commerce nearly destroyed and many citizens were made captives at sea and confined to English prisons.

During 1814 the enemy had several large ships cruising along our coast. Many Cape Ann families moved their valuable belongings to neighboring villages, as that summer was one of constant alarms.

On June 6, 1814 an English frigate sailed into Ipswich Bay and sent two barges into Squam Harbor to take or destroy vessels there. One was burned, one sunk and two laden with fish were carried off. A ship loaded with flour was chased onto the rocks at Eastern Point but the British were driven away by the Gloucester militia firing their guns at them before they could board the vessel.

In August an enemy cruiser, "Commodore Broke", came into Sandy Bay intending to take one or more vessels lying at anchor. She sent a shot into the village to scare the people. Our militia assembled on Bearskin Neck and fired back with their small cannon and small arms. Although a cannon ball entered under the transom, passed under the deck and came out of the bow of the ship above water, the ship escaped while being fired upon from the Neck as well as fired upon with muskets as it passed along the coast of Pigeon Cove.

On September 8 the British frigate, "Nymph", captured one of the Sandy Bay fishing vessels and forced her captain, David Elwell, to act as pilot for two barges full of men being sent in to get possession of the fort on Bearskin Neck. About midnight, in a dense fog, the barges were rowed with muffled oars toward the Neck, one entered "Long Cove" (Rockport's main harbor now), landed her men, marched to the fort, took the sentinel by surprise, made prisoners of 14 soldiers, stopped up the vents of the cannons with metal bars and threw them over the wall. The men taken as prisoners were taken back to the Nymph on the barge.

The other barge went into the Old Harbor (now called White Wharf) and soon encountered people of the village who had been roused by an alarm given by a sentinel on the Neck near the houses. It was now daybreak and a clear morning. Muskets were fired at this barge while receiving cannon and grape shot but there were no injuries.

To silence the alarm bell now ringing, several shots were fired by the British at the belfry of the meetinghouse (now the First Congregational Church). One cannon ball struck one of the posts of the steeple. A replica of the cannon ball is in the steeple now and the real one is inside the church. The cannon from the barge is on the church lawn.

That cannon shot was disastrous for the enemy because it loosened a plank in the barge, which soon began to fill with water and sank near the pier in Old Harbor.

The commanding officer jumped ashore, ran across the Neck with a few men, seized a boat and made their escape back to the Nymph. The other twelve or more men were made prisoners by the Sea Fencibles.

In the end, an exchange of prisoners was proposed and carried out. The British captain promised to allow the Cape Ann people to use the fishing grounds for the rest of the fall without being bothered by the British frigates and he kept his word.

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Thu Oct 27, 2005 5:28 pm
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