In an earlier blog post, I wrote about an old library book by The Maine Writers Research Club. The book is now long overdue at the library, but the library staff are lenient with me. I find if I put a dollar bill or two inside a book when I slip it into the overnight drop, not a peep is said about my delinquency.
I’ll return it today.
The Maine Writers Research Club published an earlier volume (1919) called Maine My State. The book’s foreword states “this book is intended primarily as a reader for the public schools of Maine. Further, “it is hoped that this book will teach history as well as reading; and what is of especial interest in this centenary year of the statehood of Maine, a love of the history of Maine.”
It’s a slim volume, full of quaint stories about the Pine Tree state. The Lisbon Community Library copy first belonged to Mildred Starbird (by the inscription) and if I’m not mistaken, she once lived somewhere along the river in Lisbon and might have been acquainted with Eloise Jordan. But don’t quote me because I’m working on a dim, early morning recollection.
My favorite story was “The Lexington of the Seas” by John Francis Sprague, a noted Maine historian. It’s an account of the Battle of Machias, the first naval engagement of the American Revolution. It’s a complicated story, and Sprague says “exactly what was the final cause for the battle which ensued is somewhat uncertain.” There were sloops, suspicions, and a “Liberty Pole” involved; some say the British demanded the pole be taken down, making this situation a real megillah.
The captain of the Machias vessel, the Unity, was Jeremiah O’Brien and his lieutenant was Edmund Stevens. The British ship, the Margaretta, was engaged and twenty of O’Brien’s crew boarded her “armed with pitchforks.” A “hand-to-hand conflict on her deck resulted in the surrender of the Margaretta to the Americans, and Jeremiah O’Brien hauled down the British ensign flying at her masthead.”
And what of Edmund Stevens?
That is another story for another day, but fortunately for me, my childhood best friend is descended from Stevens and will provide me with the insider’s information. With that lineage, I don’t know why she hasn’t made her application to the Daughters of the American Revolution yet.
Get on it, Sherry.
Machias hasn’t changed much, still a den of smugglers and thieves on the water, and Jones was a free-trade martyr (the untold history of the American Revolution is how many Tories were driven out so their wealth and land could be seized, and how they quietly returned to become the new nation’s ruling class). Alas, poor Midshipman Moore, not yet even a commissioned officer, didn’t have a crew that cared much for King and Country, or so it appears. Once he was shot there was no fight left, the men of Machias and the sailors who took the King’s shilling having more in common with each other than with abstract notions of the pursuit of happiness. Besides, pitchforks seem a pretty formidable weapon on the deck of a sailing ship, and Moore likely didn’t have more than a handful of marines (only marines were allowed muskets, heaven forbid a sailor touch one) to counter them.
Funny how a war turns pirates into heroes.
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