By Thomas F. Kehr

(Revised ed. © June, 2012, Thomas F. Kehr; All rights reserved to the author. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the author. This article updates, revises and supersedes the original and revised versions © Thomas F. Kehr, 2000, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2007, 2010. The article is periodically updated as additional information becomes available. See “Author’s Note” at end of article)

View of entrance to Fort Constitution.   View of Fort Constitution from the water.

Today’s Fort Constitution, New Castle, NH, formerly Fort William and Mary

( brickwork, gate, masonry and other features post-date the Revolution)

Photographs © Thomas F. Kehr, 2000

Thirteen unique rebellions against British authority simmered in America prior to April 19, 1775. Four months before the bloodshed at Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts, New Hampshire’s rebellion crossed the line into overt insurrection. On December 14, 1774, patriots faced gunfire to storm the colony’s provincial arsenal; a fort in the British empire’s system of American defenses, manned by soldiers who reported to a royal governor appointed directly by the Crown. In the violent course of their assault, the raiders gave three cheers, hauled down the British flag and made off with about 100 barrels of gunpowder. It was plainly treason and New Hampshire’s friends of liberty added to their crime the following evening. On December 15, 1774, they again raided the fort, this time absconding with small arms, miscellaneous military supplies and, above all, 16 cannon clearly marked as the property of the King.

These little-known and often misconstrued incidents marked the effective end of royal authority in one of Britain’s American colonies and warrant a place of honor in our collective memory of the struggle for American independence.

I. Prologue to an Insurrection

In 1770, New Hampshire’s young, popular and moderate Royal Governor, John Wentworth, mused that “[o]ur province is quiet yet, and the only one, but will, I fear, soon enter [protests]. If they do, they’ll exceed all the rest in zeal.” [1] The observation proved prophetic.

New Hampshire’s rebel/patriot movement was closely linked to patriot activity in nearby Boston, where in 1770 the slaughter of Americans at the hands of the British Army came to be widely publicized as the Boston Massacre. Unrest in the Massachusetts Bay Colony, particularly the 1773 Boston Tea Party, resulted in Parliament’s passage of the Coercive Acts, known in America as the “Intolerable Acts.” One of those laws, the Boston Port Act, closed commerce in Boston Harbor, wreaking havoc on the city’s economy. A rising level of organized revolutionary activity spread north from Boston, carried to New Hampshire by Massachusetts Sons of Liberty.

One of the matters that New Hampshire’s House of Representatives (the Provincial Assembly) addressed on an annual basis was funding for the company of soldiers stationed at the province’s only permanently manned military installation, Fort William and Mary. The fort, located on Great Island in the Town of New Castle, served as the provincial munitions depot and guarded the Piscataqua River passage to Portsmouth, New Hampshire’s colonial capital and seaport. Known generously as the “Castle,” Fort William and Mary was a compound with 6 to 8 foot walls (some of them crumbling) and, theoretically, 30 stations for cannon.[2]

The Castle held arms, ammunition and supplies provided by both the province and the Crown. On hand were scores of artillery pieces of various size. Some were on small-wheeled naval carriages which rolled on platforms, poised to defend the Piscataqua. Others were ready for quick deployment on mobile field carriages. Many were in storage, available for use by British forces on land or at sea. More than 100 barrels of gunpowder were also stored in the fort, primarily paid for with money raised by fees imposed by the Provincial Assembly on “foreign” shipping. The empire as a whole provided many of the other items, including the fort’s cannon. Despite its shortcomings as a fortification, the British military considered the Castle one of the few seaboard defenses of any consequence north of New York. [3]

In May of 1774, the increasingly liberty-minded Assembly approved funding for only three soldiers and one officer at Fort William and Mary. Governor Wentworth protested that the allotment was “inadequate” and that it was unsafe to entrust “so important a fortress” to the “care and Defence” of so few. [4] In fact, it was even fewer men than the Assembly had authorized in 1771, when a detachment from the fort had been called upon to defend the impounded brigantine Resolution. At that time, the fort’s captain, John Cochran, a native of Londonderry, NH, and four soldiers had been unable to hold back a mob of 50 armed liberty boys who descended on the ship in disguise to rescue untaxed molasses from the Piscataqua Customs Service.[5] The affair made the Resolution’s owner, Samuel Cutts, something of a hero among local radicals. In 1774, Cutts was a staunch patriot and a member of the assembly that considered the Governor’s objection to the size of the contingent at the Castle.

Before considering Wentworth’s request for additional troops, the Assembly turned to an even more contentious matter: whether or not to create a provincial committee of correspondence. The point of such a committee was to communicate with other colonies so as to present a unified response to British policies. In the eyes of loyalists, the establishment of this link in the patriot communication chain would signify that New Hampshire had “fatally joined the other provinces in what may be termed their revolt.” [6] The measure passed by a slim margin and Samuel Cutts was promptly elected to the new committee. The Assembly then grudgingly authorized a garrison at the Castle consisting of five enlisted men and one officer.[7]

Governor Wentworth responded to the Assembly’s creation of a committee of correspondence by adjourning the House, intending to call it back into session once moderate legislators had a chance to rally. During the adjournment, however, the colony was asked to send delegates to an extralegal Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Rather than run the risk that the Assembly might do so, Wentworth dissolved the House. [8] A new assembly was not convened until 1775; a fact that some patriots saw as proof of Wentworth’s antipathy to representative government. In July, patriots gathered at an officially unsanctioned provincial congress and elected John Sullivan of Durham and Nathaniel Folsom of Exeter as New Hampshire’s delegates to the Continental Congress.[9]

Discontent was mounting in New Hampshire. In June, Portsmouth patriots stopped the ship Grosvenor from disposing of her cargo of tea in the colony. In early September, they stopped the Fox from doing the same. [10] Meanwhile, even worse trouble erupted in Massachusetts.

In 1774, General Thomas Gage, the military governor of Massachusetts, became increasingly afraid that unrest and the profusion of arms in his colony would soon lead to bloodshed. In the early morning hours of September 1, 1774, he dispatched about 260 redcoats from Boston into the surrounding countryside. Their mission was to quietly retrieve a supply of Massachusetts gunpowder from the magazine at Charlestown (now Somerville), MA and confiscate two small cannon recently acquired by the militia at Cambridge. The operation occurred without incident but when the people of Massachusetts learned that Gage had placed their munitions under the control of the regular Army, they exploded in anger. Wild rumors of marauding redcoats and Royal Navy bombardments spread. By the second of September, thousands of men under arms were in Cambridge and thousands more were marching in from outlying areas. [11]

Gage was appalled by the beast that he had awoken and made matters worse by fortifying the approaches to Boston, where his Army was stationed. Since the Royal Navy had recently begun enforcing the Boston Port Act, it appeared to many Americans that Britain was preparing to go to war against Massachusetts. The colony resolved never again to be caught off guard. Following the September “Powder Alarm,” friends of liberty established a system of “express riders” to quickly spread word of troop movements. Local militia units were encouraged to form companies of men prepared to march at a minute’s notice. [12]

By the end of 1774, Portsmouth boasted a profusion of patriot committees. In December of 1773, on the very afternoon of the Boston Tea Party, the town established a local committee of correspondence. Among its five members were Cutts and merchant John Langdon, a liberty-minded former sea captain and opponent of the Wentworth administration. [13] The town also had two committees to deal with the importation of tea, various ad hoc committees and a “Committee on Ways and Means” (also known as the “Committee of 45”), the duty of which was to “keep up the good order, & quiet of the Town, & . . . to examine into every Matter that may appear unfriendly to the Interest of the Community.”[14] When Governor Wentworth hatched a plan to secretly provide General Gage with New Hampshire carpenters to build winter barracks for the redcoats in Boston, the Committee of 45 issued a proclamation suggesting that he was an enemy to the community. [15] In December, Portsmouth established a “Committee of 25” to enforce the “Continental Association”; the set of patriotic agreements adopted by the First Continental Congress. [16] Meanwhile, some of New Hampshire’s leading patriots, John Langdon among them, probably considered what to do if it ever appeared that the Army had its eye on the munitions at Fort William and Mary.[17]

II. Paul Revere’s Ride to New Hampshire

As winter approached, Governor Wentworth expressed fear that disturbances in Massachusetts would provoke additional unrest in New Hampshire. [18] His fears came to pass on the night of December 12, 1774. That evening, the Marblehead, MA Committee of Correspondence forwarded a disturbing message to Portsmouth. Marblehead had received word from Salem, MA (which received its intelligence directly from Boston) that King George III and his privy council had issued an order prohibiting the exportation of “Powder, arms and warlike stores” to the colonies. Worse, a regiment of Boston redcoats had presumably embarked on ships in utmost secrecy, “positively asserted” to be headed for Salem or Marblehead to execute the King’s Order in Council. Salem also forwarded a letter to Portsmouth, addressed to John Langdon. The implication seemed clear: Gage was again preparing to go after supplies of colonial gunpowder. Marblehead, took steps to secure its own military stores and recommended that Portsmouth do the same, “as undoubtedly the design of robb[in]g is universall and the Loss of so Great a Quantity as you Possess, would almost tend to our ruin.” [19] A somewhat misleading report appeared in the Salem Gazette the next day, stating that “[w]e hear that a Regiment of Troops embarked last Sabbath [December 11] at Boston, said to be destined for this Place, for the purpose of ‘arresting, detaining and securing Gun Powder.’” [20]

By the time Langdon received the messages from Marblehead and Salem, somewhat different intelligence was circulating in Boston. It suggested that Fort William and Mary’s stores were in immediate danger. The Boston Committee of Correspondence quickly dispatched Paul Revere 66 miles north to Portsmouth with a message for Samuel Cutts. The message, signed by Boston Town Clerk William Cooper, presumably on behalf of the Committee, in part advised that the British administration had forwarded a letter to each royal governor in America. It was speculated that this “circular letter” recommended “placing all the Fortresses of the Colonies into the hands of the King’s Troops.” Even more disturbingly, the message from Boston noted that troops had embarked in secret, reportedly for Newport, RI, but “suspected for yo[ur] place [Portsmouth] to take possession of the Fort there.” Rhode Island, it was said, had already moved its military provisions inland for safekeeping. [21]

At least one ship of the Royal Navy was indeed preparing to head for the Piscataqua, although not necessarily on the mission that the Sons of Liberty surmised. After receiving the Order in Council on December 4, 1774, Vice Admiral Samuel Graves ordered four warships, the Gaspee, Halifax, Lively and Canceaux, to prepare for sea. Gaspee and Halifax were to cruise a portion of the Maine coast and Lively was headed to Salem in order to guard against the smuggling of arms and ammunition prohibited by the Order in Council. Canceaux was headed to the Piscataqua to do the same. [22] In addition, Governor Wentworth, who had quietly been assisting the British Army in rounding up deserters in New Hampshire, had recently written to General Gage that any prisoners he apprehended would be brought “to the Castle, on Piscataqua harbour, where it wou’d be advisable a Vessel shou’d be in readiness to convey them to Boston, if one cou’d be spar[e]d secretly to await the event, which may possibly require a month to perfect.”[23] The Canceaux had not yet sailed by the time Revere rode north, but Governor Wentworth certainly knew that a warship was coming. On December 9, 1774 he wrote to an associate “I am in expectation of a man-of-war in this port next Sunday. It is said the American commerce is to be interdicted . . .”[24]

Revere arrived in Portsmouth at about 4:00 PM on the cold, snowy afternoon of Tuesday December 13, 1774 and attempted to locate Samuel Cutts. By chance, he encountered a man whom he had known in Boston, the aptly named William Torrey, on the Portsmouth Parade (now Market Square) and asked where Cutts could be found. Cutts happened to be passing by at the time and Torrey pointed him out. Revere caught up with the patriot leader and the two headed off to Stoodley’s Tavern, where they remained for about fifteen minutes. After Revere left the tavern, Torrey, curious about what word the messenger brought from Boston, confronted him. The communication was not particularly secret. Dispatches were then circulating among patriot committees in various communities and the very point of Revere’s ride was to alert Portsmouth to suspected British designs. Accordingly, Revere shared the contents of the communiqué with Torrey.[25]

Cutts attempted to convene the local committee of correspondence, probably by calling for an emergency meeting of the Committee of 45. [26] The 45 were generally responsible for inquiring into any matter “unfriendly to the Interest of the Community” and included all five members of the Committee of Correspondence. It proved impossible to gather a quorum and those who did show up could not agree on a course of action. It was eventually decided that matters would be deferred “till the next day, when a fuller meeting of said committee was expected.” Before that meeting could be held, however:

. . . two or three warm zealous members, having the good of their country at heart more than the others, and thinking any further deliberations on so important an affair unnecessary, gave out their orders early the next morning for the drums to be beat to raise volunteers to go and take the King’s fort (emphasis in original). [27]

Word of potential trouble spread through Portsmouth on the night of the 13th and either Torrey (who later provided a deposition about his conversation with Revere to the Governor) or another loyalist sympathizer alerted Wentworth. The Governor had some inkling that a plot was unfolding and sent a confidential message to the Castle instructing Captain Cochran to “by no means leave the Castle;” “exert the utmost vigilance” in maintaining his command; “refuse admission to any number of Men under any pretense whatsoever,” and, if possible, augment his contingent of soldiers with three or four additional men. An oral supplement to the message apparently noted that Cochran was to “be vigilant against all Force or Stratagem” and “examine every Person that came into the Fort.” [28]

It would have been difficult for Cochran to engage additional men in the little, patriotic town of New Castle late on a cold, snowy night in December. The Captain kept a close watch throughout the night of December 13, but it is unclear whether he also added men to his regular contingent at this time [29] As things turned out, a few more men would have made little difference.

III . John Langdon Rallies Portsmouth

At noon on December 14, 1774, Portsmouth’s most ardent friends of liberty, John Langdon and Thomas Pickering among them, marched through the streets, led by fifes and drums, loudly proclaiming their plan to seize the powder at Fort William and Mary. [30] It was open treason and Governor Wentworth dispatched his private secretary, Thomas McDonogh, and the Chief Justice and Secretary of the Province, Councilor Theodore Atkinson, Sr., to confront the crowd.

Atkinson demanded to know the purpose of the gathering. When no one answered, he announced that he believed that they planned to descend on the Castle and warned that:

. . . they were going about an Unlawfull Act to take away the Powder out of his Majestys Fort, and that it was the highest Act of Treason and Rebellion They could possibly commit, And that they would be answerable for such an Offence for twenty years to come - Nay, as long as they lived . . . [31]

Atkinson’s speech did not have the desired effect. In fact, Langdon – who would later become a governor of New Hampshire and the first President Pro Tempore of the United States Senate - publicly ridiculed the old Chief Justice before embarking with some of the crowd for New Castle, two miles down the Piscataqua. Pushing off for Fort Point ahead of them was a tidewater barge known as a “gundalow,” filled with about 50 would-be raiders. As the little flotilla made its way downriver, it was joined by boats filled with men from both the New Hampshire and Massachusetts (Maine) sides of the Piscataqua. Within 24 hours of Revere’s message, several hundred citizens of Portsmouth, New Castle, Rye, NH and Kittery, ME had openly, unlawfully and in utter disregard of British authority, gathered with the avowed intent of raiding a British provincial military installation. [32]

As Langdon’s rebels/patriots headed toward Fort William and Mary on the outgoing tide, still more men congregated in town. Governor Wentworth ordered John Parker, the Rockingham County Sheriff, to “send an Express for Intelligence of the Proceeding at the Castle,” but Parker could not find anyone willing to undertake the task.[33] Against the advice of his Council, the Governor resolved to personally intervene, hoping that his presence at the fort would quell the uprising. He called for his barge, but neither his own bargemen nor temporary workers could be convinced to take on the job of transporting him. Thwarted in his endeavors, Wentworth ordered Parker and two magistrates, John Fenton and Samuel Penhallow, to use “their utmost legal Powers” to “[s]uppress the Riot,” authorizing them to call on the militia if necessary.

Efforts to disperse the crowds were fruitless. Wentworth’s civil authority was fast evaporating and his military authority was faring no better. The Governor ordered Councilor Atkinson, who in addition to his other duties was major general of the provincial militia and colonel of its first regiment, to immediately call out the Portsmouth troops. An officer was instructed to put those troops at the ready but he might have saved himself the trouble. [34] Many members of the local militia regiment were at that very moment preparing to take Fort William and Mary.

IV. The Foiled New Castle Plot

Governor Wentworth’s message to Captain Cochran on the night of the 13th, as well as occurrences at New Castle on the morning of the 14 th, suggest that the leaders of the insurrection had a two-part plan for claiming New Hampshire’s gunpowder. As Langdon was rallying his men in Portsmouth, New Castle operatives were tasked with infiltrating the fort by trickery. Once inside, the plan was to abduct or detain Cochran and his five men. By timing operations to the tides, it was possible that New Castle might have the fort under control before Langdon’s volunteers arrived. The Portsmouth men could then simply load the booty onto gundalows and haul it away to safety. If, however, it proved impossible to take the fort by subterfuge, the intimidating show of force provided by Langdon’s volunteers might be enough to convince the garrison to surrender and turn over the powder without unnecessary trouble. If even that failed, there would certainly be enough men on hand to storm the little fort.

Some time between 11:00 AM and noon, two New Castle men, Stephen Batson and Henry Langmead, visited Captain Cochran at his post, professing to be concerned with a small matter of business. Since the two were locals, the visit seemed innocuous and “[i]t being very cold and not suspecting them of evil Designs,” Cochran graciously “suffered them to sit by the fire.” Within half an hour, they were joined by New Castle resident Samuel Clark, who claimed to be looking for Batson and Langmead. “[I]nstantly,” three more men, John Simpson, Robert White and Matthew Bell, also paid a visit. All of the men were local sea captains and Cochran, who had formerly been a sea captain himself, “had no suspicions of any Plot or Intentions against himself or the Fort or any thing therein.” That changed a few minutes later, when one of the soldiers reported that 4 or 5 men were approaching from various directions. It was now clear that something was amiss and Captain Cochran “first began to suspect there was some unlawful Scheme contriving.” He also belatedly remembered the Governor’s order to examine every person who came into the fort. [35]

Cochran asked his visitors, as a group, what brought them there and was told by Bell that they merely had some leisure time and chose to pay a social call. As Cochran wondered aloud why, in his nearly 4 years on the job, the men had never paid him such a visit before, his wife, Sarah, whispered that she suspected he was being “betrayed.” She punctuated her message by handing Cochran his loaded pistols.

The Captain decided to get to the bottom of the matter by questioning the visitors separately. He called Simpson outside and asked “what was meant by so many Men of Newcastle Coming into the Fort.” Simpson replied on his word of honor that he had no idea why the other men had come but that he himself simply wished to pay a visit, adding (perhaps tongue in cheek) that he had heard the Captain “was soon to leave the Fort.” Cochran answered that he “knew no such Thing as yet” and that he was certain Simpson was lying. [36] He ordered Simpson out of the installation and began questioning Robert White. Even as he did so, Nathaniel Batson, Thomas Trunday and two other New Castle men entered the fort’s gate, presumably to visit the soldiers in their barracks. There were now 9 visitors inside the walls of Fort William and Mary; three more than the number of men on duty.

Cochran told White that he knew what the visitors were up to; that they planned to take the fort “by Stratagem.” White evidently assumed that Simpson had told Cochran their plan and responded by confessing that the group was in fact there to seize him “if they could,” but that he himself “abhorred such cowardly ways.” Cochran wasted no time in ordering White and the rest of the conspirators out of the Castle, proclaiming that he had no intention of being taken prisoner. As the men made their way out, Cochran “instantly pointed three Cannon toward the Gate and other Places where I thought they would be most serviceable to prevent Persons from Coming in as I then began to be apprehensive a sudden Attack was intended to be made upon the Fort.” [37]

The band of soldiers loaded cannon and muskets, fixed bayonets to their small arms and hastily made other defensive preparations. Within a few minutes, a local cooper, Meshech Bell III, arrived to offer his assistance in defending the Castle. Cochran accepted the offer and shortly thereafter yet another visitor, Elijah Locke, appeared, purportedly on some particularly ill-timed “private business.” He was immediately pressed into service. It is questionable whether either Locke or Bell ultimately proved to be reliable defenders. [38]

By this time, Langdon’s Portsmouth men were near at hand. Cochran posted his small contingent “in the most advantageous Station I could judge of, and ordered them not to flinch on pain of Death but to defend the Fort to the last Extremity, telling them that the Instant I saw any sign of Cowardice in either of them I would drive a Brace of Balls through his Body.” [39] No sooner had the Captain uttered these words than he saw a “Multitude of Men” coming toward his post from “Different Ways.” Save for narrow swaths of land outside the Castle’s walls, Fort Point was surrounded on three sides by water. Judging from where Cochran aimed his cannon and from the wide discrepancies in the estimated number of raiders, it seems likely that some of the patriots were at that time still making their way down the Piscataqua while others were milling about outside the fort’s walls.

At about 3:00 PM, a group of 10 or 12 men, organized in ranks and under the apparent command of sea captain William Wolcott, approached the sentry. Cochran asked their business and Wolcott answered that they simply wished to come in. Cochran refused to admit such a large number at once, but stated that if Wolcott had anything to say to him, he was ready to talk.

The New Castle plot had failed. For a short time, the men stood in the cold wind-blown snow discussing their options. [40] Hope for a quiet seizure of the fort’s supplies was fading as quickly as the winter daylight. If New Hampshire’s powder was going to be kept from the hands of the redcoats, drastic measures would have to be taken.

V . John Langdon’s Attack of December 14, 1774

In a final attempt to avoid a direct and perhaps bloody confrontation, John Langdon offered to enter the fort with one other man, tell Cochran their business and immediately exit if that was what Cochran thought “proper.” Cochran consented, provided that the two agreed to “go out again without being compelled.” They “solemnly declared they would” and Cochran admitted Langdon, accompanied by Robert White, the sea captain who had previously declared that he “abhorred” cowardly ways. Immediately outside the gate, John Simpson, Benjamin MacKay, Pierse Long, George Turner, Robert Parker, Nathaniel Folsom (the son of the Continental Congressman) and Robert Champney stayed close at hand. Other men congregated on every side of the fort, some loudly and repeatedly demanding surrender and threatening to put the soldiers of the garrison to death. [41]

Langdon and White bluntly informed Cochran that they intended to carry off “all” of the gunpowder in the fort’s magazine. The Captain knew that the only person in all of New Hampshire who had the authority to dispose of the fort’s munitions was the King’s representative, Governor Wentworth, and replied that if the men were going to take the powder, they would need to show him a gubernatorial order. Langdon replied - probably with a wry smile - that he “forgot to bring his Orders, but the Powder they were determined to have at all Events.” [42]

In the tense atmosphere of late 1774, the men at Fort Point could hardly have failed to realize that their actions had the potential to ignite wider American hostilities. Cochran nonetheless retorted that if the mob intended to take the powder, they would have to do so “by Violence for that I would defend it to the last Extremity.” As he ordered Langdon and White out of Castle, he issued a final ominous warning, telling them that “if they attempted to come into the Fort their Blood be upon their own hands for I will fire on you.” [43]

Almost before he had time to catch his breath, a signal was given to storm the fort. Cochran then fired what were some of the first shots of the revolution. Three cannon hurled solid four-pound shot at the patriot/rebel forces. The defenders followed up with a volley of musket fire, endeavoring to keep the raiders back while vainly attempting to reload the guns. According to Governor Wentworth, the balls went “whistling thro the party [and] cover’d some with the Earth where they struck.” One ball, presumably fired from the field piece aimed toward the gate, “went thro a warehouse.” A second ball, aimed either toward the seaward side of the fort or, more likely, toward the Piscataqua channel to Portsmouth, “pass’d thro a Sloop.” The final shot, obviously well-charged, sailed entirely across the Piscataqua and “lodg’d in an House in Kittery.” [44] Cochran later claimed that the rounds had no effect because they had been fired in such haste. Wentworth’s assessment of the matter may be closer to the mark. According to the Governor, the balls were “all well-aim’d but the assailants falling under walls as they saw the Match applied [to the touch holes of the cannon] escaped with life.”[45] As the Chief Naval Constructor of the United States later observed, Fort William and Mary’s walls were set out in a virtual square, without any protrusions or bastions. That configuration meant that an attacker could “get under the walls of it, and lay there, and not a single piece of cannon . . . [could ]. . . be brought to bear on them. . .” [46]

The attackers pressed forward as the defenders attempted to reload. “Before we could be ready to fire again,” Cochran reported, “we were stormed on all quarters . . .”.[47] Risking injury, death and the immediate initiation of war with one of the world’s great powers, hundreds of Americans stormed over the walls of Fort William and Mary. They met remarkably stiff and courageous resistance. In spite of at least 25 to one odds against them, the defenders of the fort resorted to hand-to-hand fighting. Captain Cochran placed himself against a wall and “was pressed upon, but kept them off a considerable Time with my firelock [musket] and Bayonet.” [48] He continued fighting with his bayonet alone after his musket was broken to pieces, wounding one unidentified patriot with a jab through the arm. [49] Ultimately, Thomas Pickering, a Portsmouth mariner who would later die fighting for the American cause, jumped from a wall onto Cochran’s shoulders, grabbed the Captain by the throat and declared that Cochran was a prisoner. The Captain knocked Pickering over but fell with him, seriously injuring his own wrist. At that, “the Multitude” seized him. One demanded the keys to the fort’s powderhouse, but Cochran bellowed that his attackers might as well ask him for his life as for the keys, because he would just as soon part with that. He was hauled off under guard to the house he shared with his wife and, presumably, his young children.[50]

Meanwhile, Cochran’s men were engaged in struggles of their own. Soldier Isaac Seveay was knocked from his position on a wall and disarmed. Seveay was located near the King’s colors and Captain Thomas Palmer “snapped a Pistol” at the unarmed soldier. The weapon was either unloaded or misfired and Seveay was ordered to fall to his knees and beg pardon for resisting the attack. He answered that he would kneel “when his Legs were cut off below his knees . . . but he would not before.”[51] For that, he was immediately knocked to the ground by other attackers. Meshech Bell, Jr. pummeled Seveay in the head with his fists. In another area of the fort, Soldier Samuel Rowell observed that one of the rebels was, surprisingly, “[o]ne Rowell, a soldier.” [52] Soldier Ephraim Hall was disarmed both by men he knew and by strangers. New Castle resident Abendigo Bell threatened that if he had a club, Hall would be unable to hold him back “for he would knock his Brains out.” [53] Some of the strongest of the defenders “parted with their Musquets in pieces only.” [54]

When Cochran’s captors reached the Captain’s house with their prisoner, they received a surprise. An enraged Sarah Cochran, seeing the Captain “in Such danger, snatch’d a bayonet and so spiritedly joined her husband, as to enable him to disengage, but they were both instantly overpower’d & disarm’d . . .”[55] Cochran and, presumably, his wife were kept under guard in their home for the next hour and a half, watched by Langdon and eleven other men. Meanwhile, raiders including Stephen Batson forced open the locked door of the powderhouse with axes and crowbars. [56]

The most startling aspect of Langdon’s raid occurred just as Cochran was being taken prisoner. With the fort under patriot control, the New Hampshiremen made it clear that they were engaged in an act of greater significance than the mere violent theft of provincial gunpowder. To Cochran’s undoubted horror, the rebels triumphantly “gave three Huzzas or Cheers” and hauled down the huge British flag that had, for more than a century, declared British possession of Portsmouth Harbor.[57] Eyewitness reports credit this symbolic act, unquestionably the first striking of the King’s colors at a military garrison captured by victorious American forces, to John Palmer of Portsmouth, presumably the son of the man whose pistol misfired in the face of Private Seveay. [58]

Loyalists were aghast. Said one commentator: “No history, I believe, will furnish us with an instance of a King’s fort being taken, and his colours struck by his own subjects in a time of peace, and without any cause or provocation.” [59] Governor Wentworth bemoaned both the incident and what was soon to be his meteoric fall from power. Two weeks after the events at Fort William and Mary, he wrote to an associate: “I know not what to say in instigation of the insult on the British flag, hall’d down with ignominy in N.H.; it grieves me to my soul, thus driven from my favorite stronghold of favorable representations by the mad intemperance of a few indiscreet zealots, who seldom want followers in folly.” [60]

The jubilant Americans seized about 100 barrels of gunpowder from the Castle’s powderhouse. [61] It was swiftly loaded onto gundalows and taken toward Portsmouth on the incoming tide. Some time around 5:00 PM, Cochran and his men were released from confinement. They returned to bitterly cold barracks, the attackers having extinguished all of the fort’s fires while engaged in the potentially dangerous task of liberating the gunpowder. Before leaving, the raiders (whom Langdon had previously declared would be taking “all” the powder) told Cochran that he should “go and take care of the Powder they had left.” Checking the powderhouse, he found that they had mockingly left him one single barrel. [62]

The Captain’s extraordinary day ended with his aged father, James Cochran, arriving at the ransacked fort for a remarkably-timed visit. [63] The elder Cochran’s arrival on this particular evening might have been coincidental, but James Cochran was as tough and loyal as his Scots-Irish forebears. It is possible that he rushed to the fort when he learned that trouble was brewing. He soon found himself in the thick of it.

VI . The Disposal of the Powder

Even before the raiders made off with the Castle’s powder, Portsmouth’s patriot leaders began calling on other towns to assist in what was becoming open and widespread rebellion against British authority in New Hampshire. A dispatch sent to Exeter before Langdon’s raid was quickly forwarded along the patriot communication chain to Josiah Bartlett of Kingston, who notified the patriots of Sandown. [64] By the time Sandown received word that British regulars might be on their way, the alarm had entered a new phase.

After leaving the Castle, Langdon’s men dropped the problem of what to do with the stolen gunpowder squarely in the lap of militia major John Sullivan, one of the colony’s delegates to the recent Continental Congress. Sullivan, a resident of Durham (a “country” town located on the Oyster River which flows into tidal Great Bay) was a solid supporter of the American cause but, by his own admission, knew nothing of the raid on the fort until “a messenger came to my house with a letter” from Pierse Long:

. . . and I think also signed by President Langdon, informing that 100 barrels of powder were sent to my care; that they had been to the fort and secured as much of the powder as they could; and desired me to come down with a party to secure the remainder, with the cannon and munitions of war, as they were in danger of being seized by the British ships. [65]

The message contained a jab at unsuspecting Major Sullivan. The “remainder” of the powder that Langdon’s men claimed they had been unable to haul off was, of course, the single barrel that they had advised Cochran to protect.

Sullivan was a lawyer who had been appointed to his post in the provincial militia by Governor Wentworth, with whom he was on relatively good terms. Now, whether he liked it or not, he was in charge of the ill-gotten provincial powder supply. He and his Durham cohorts immediately set to work making sure that it was delivered to places of security. Some quantity of powder was offloaded from the gundalows in Portsmouth and shipped by carriage to Exeter and Dover. Some was stashed in Durham.[66] By the 15th, the vast majority of it (72 barrels) was in the patriotic town of Exeter, where operatives made arrangements to consign small shipments to trusted allies. Splitting the stockpile served the dual purpose of supplying local militia units in other communities with munitions and making sure that the stolen powder would be more difficult for royal authorities to reclaim. [67] Meanwhile, the province’s second representative to the Continental Congress, Col. Nathaniel Folsom, a popular veteran of the French and Indian War, and other liberty-minded Exeter residents - shipbuilder James Hackett, Col. Nicholas Gilman, Dr. John Giddinge and, probably, Eliphalet Ladd - began making plans to render whatever assistance the Portsmouth leaders requested. [68]

VII. The Administration Responds

Sheriff Parker delivered the first official word of what had happened at the fort to Governor Wentworth during the early morning hours of December 15. It came in the form of a short, shocking dispatch from Captain Cochran, reporting that shots had been fired and that his post had been sacked. [69] The Governor hurried to notify General Gage in Boston, writing that about 400 New Hampshiremen had:

. . . by violence carried away upwards of one hundred barrels of powder belonging to the King, deposited in the castle. I am informed that expresses have been circulated through the neighboring towns, to collect a number of people to-morrow, or as soon as possible, to carry away all the cannon and arms belonging to the castle which they undoubtedly will effect, unless some assistance should arrive from Boston in time to prevent it. This event too plainly proves the imbecility of this government to carry into execution his Majesty's order in Council, for seizing and detaining arms and ammunition imported into this Province, without some strong ships of war in this harbor . . . [70]

Wentworth drafted a similar message to Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, but delivery of both letters was delayed by the Governor’s initial inability to obtain credible intelligence and by the tumultuous state of affairs in Portsmouth. The letters were not actually sent until the afternoon of December 15. When Admiral Graves received his copy late on December 16, he immediately made arrangements to send two warships to the Piscataqua. [71]

Early on 15th, Wentworth summoned his Council and a number of local magistrates to the State House. Councilor Atkinson, as colonel of the First Regiment of Militia, ordered the unit’s officers to meet him there as well. The Governor charged the civil officials to use their best efforts to “Suppress all tumult,” and commanded the eight military officers present to enlist or impress 30 men to defend the Castle from further outrage. He intended to personally lead them to New Castle that afternoon and again asked Sheriff Parker to call for his barge. At noon Col. Atkinson ordered his officers to recruit or impress the required men. [72]

The day was miserable, cold and rainy and the reports that Wentworth soon received were even gloomier. Sometime that morning, one of the militia officers reported that he had beaten drums to rally volunteers but could neither recruit nor impress a single man. In addition, just as had been the case on the 14 th, the Governor learned that his bargeman declined to transport him downriver. To top it off, word arrived at about 1:00 PM that more than 500 men were marching to Portsmouth with the intention of again raiding the fort. [73]

Among those arriving in town that morning were John Sullivan and thirty or forty tired patriots from in and around Durham. [74] Attorney Sullivan had spent the night unexpectedly hiding the provincial powder supply and was undoubtedly anxious to get answers to some of the many questions he must have had. Governor Wentworth wanted answers too. Evidently unaware that Sullivan himself had hidden the powder, he summoned the major to the Council Chambers and asked whether another raid was truly in the making.

Characteristically bold, Major Sullivan replied that hundreds of men were indeed on their way to town, determined to take the arms and cannon from the Castle because they understood that “the King’s Ships and Troops were order’d to seize them and turn them on the inhabitants.” [75] Although the intelligence that Revere brought to New Hampshire did not specifically state that Britain planned to use any confiscated munitions against the populace, the speculation seemed plausible in the tense atmosphere of late 1774. More and more warships were arriving in America; Gage’s Army was fortifying Boston; Massachusetts was being disarmed and troops were presumably coming to New Hampshire’s fort. If Britain was not gearing up for a war against New England, who then was General Gage planning to fight?

Wentworth protested that the story was “a wicked falsehood,” insisting that “no Such orders had come to me, but that it was a vile report calculated to alarm and lead the people into the most dangerous & destructive madness.” Sullivan was far more favorably inclined toward the Governor than was John Langdon and seems to have believed Wentworth. [76] The Major might have envisioned his own neck in a noose if it turned out that he had been an accomplice to a very grave mistake. When Wentworth ordered him and Justice Samuel Penhallow to go out to the gathering crowds and “prevail on them to return home in peace,” Sullivan agreed to do so but added that he believed it would be futile.[77] It was.

The agitated patriots who faced gunfire on December 14 were not about to call off what they saw as the remainder of their mission: protecting the fort’s cannon from the grasp of General Gage. At about 1:30 PM, Sullivan and Penhallow reported to the Governor that the crowds seemed calmer but that they were not going anywhere. At about this time Attorney Sullivan apparently thought of a potential solution to the entire troubling affair; one that got everyone, himself included, out of what looked like potentially serious trouble. He suggested that the men might be convinced to disperse if the Governor promised either a pardon or a suspension of any prosecutions for the raid of the 14th, presumably adding that “it might tend to recover the powder.” [78]

It is not known whether Sullivan, who was generally guided by his own lights, discussed the notion of returning the powder with anyone else before presenting it to the Governor. Indeed, it is not entirely clear whether the idea was in fact his. [79] Nonetheless, the thought of recovering the powder gave Wentworth hope that the entire explosive affair might still be defused. Differences of opinion soon began to arise in the patriot camp. Some men believed the Governor’s claim that the whole situation had been based upon a false report and concluded that any further action should be scrapped. Others were not so sure and were inclined to press for a second assault, particularly if there was not going to be a pardon for the affair of the 14th. Matters remained in flux throughout the day.

Realistically, Wentworth could not pardon or ignore the offenses that had been committed. To do so might have opened him to a charge of misprision of treason.[80] Instead, without making any promises, he told Sullivan that “[e]very man must take the fate of his own Conduct,” but added that if “the Powder was immediately restor’d & the Tumult peaceably dispers’d,” he would faithfully represent it to the British authorities. [81] In other words, he held out the possibility that the very administration that had recently imposed the Intolerable Acts in retaliation for the Boston Tea Party might be lenient if the gunpowder was returned.[82]

Sullivan, positioning himself in a leadership role befitting a former member of the Continental Congress, returned to the crowd and reiterated Wentworth’s assurance that there was “no certain Intelligence of Troops being coming to take Possession of the Castle.” [83] Precisely what kind of reception he received from men who had already faced gunfire for the cause is uncertain, but at about 3:00 PM the Major appeared at the Governor’s home. This time, he was accompanied by four other men; Langdon, Portsmouth’s George Turner (a participant in the raid of the 14th); Durham/Newmarket’s Thomas Tash and, probably, Durham’s Ebenezer Thompson. The group was circumspect, but its approach might have been different from what Sullivan’s had been earlier. Noting that they had been informed by Boston that troops were on the way to secure the fort and that taking the munitions had simply been an act of self-defense, the men suggested that the crowds might disperse if pardons were granted or if prosecutions were suspended. They evidently said nothing about returning the stolen gunpowder. [84]

Wentworth was no friend of the Langdon family in general and replied that the committee’s “wickedness” was “augmented by their folly.” He emphasized “that I had never rece’d any intimation of Ships or Troops being destined to this Province, or any other Garrison intended, than the present which I was heartily sorry did not enable me to meet them on better Terms.” [85] The Governor’s curious turn of phrase (claiming that he knew of no ships or troops coming “than the present”) might suggest that he admitted that at least one ship of the Royal Navy was coming to New Hampshire, even if not to occupy the Castle and confiscate its munitions. If he did not admit that, he was lying to the committee. By the time of this meeting, Wentworth had either just dispatched his letters to Boston asking for military assistance or was about to do so. More than that, he knew that he had personally requested a vessel to pick up British Army deserters at the Castle and was aware that the Navy was sending a ship to the Piscataqua, presumably to enforce the nonimportation provisions of the King’s Order in Council. [86]

Be that as it may, Wentworth proclaimed that New Hampshire’s solitary little rebellion was about to be crushed, telling the committee that:

. . . the Report [of troops securing the fort, seizing its arms and potentially using them against the people] was false and groundless and the outrage [of the raid was] not only in every view ruinous but unwisely precipitate, That I wou’d by no means promise any pardon or Suspension of process whatever was the consequence, & that if they brought 5 men instead of 500 [seeking a pardon] I was resolutely determin’d not to give any Such Hope. I earnestly exhorted them to disperse the people and to restore the Gunpowder telling them it was the height of absurdity to Suppose this little Colony cou’d oppose the vengeance of Great Britain, or escape its just resentment for an insult upon its Honour & Government, which all the States of Europe wou’d not offer with impunity. I urg’d their impending destruction by every argument in my power, and concluded that I wou’d not hear or Speak any further. They departed & told the People assembled in the State House my Answer . . . [87]

For at least some friends of liberty, the Governor’s admonitions were fighting words.

VIII. Patriot Debates and the Rally of the Inland Towns

As evening fell, the crowds in Portsmouth gathered out of the cold rain in local taverns. Outside, officers of the First Regiment of Militia, looking for volunteers to defend the Castle, presumably paraded the streets, causing “the Drums to be Beat, & Proclamation to be made at all the Publick corners, & on the Place of Parade.” [88] At Tilton’s (Bell) Tavern on King (Congress) Street, where Sullivan paid for most of the drinking, the Major urged everyone to go home. [89]

John Sullivan was no coward and he was undoubtedly a patriot. As an attorney, however, he knew better than almost anyone involved in the affair that they were debating whether or not to engage in an overt act of treason. Not only that, they were doing so despite the fact that they had no certain information that their intelligence was accurate and despite an assurance from the Governor that it wasn’t. A second raid on the fort, particularly one that was designed to do more than simply take powder acquired with funds raised by the provincial legislature, would be a precipitous act. Just as Wentworth said, it had the potential to bring the full wrath of the British empire down on New Hampshire. Parliament had closed the port of Boston and rammed the Intolerable Acts down Massachusetts’ throat in retaliation for the actions of a handful of zealots who dumped private property into the harbor. For the past few months Gage’s army appeared to be readying for war. It was daunting to consider what Britain might consider appropriate punishment for a repeat assault on a military installation committed with the stated intention of taking arms that were clearly Crown property. [90] Moreover, it was questionable whether the rest of the colonies would rush to New Hampshire’s side, especially if it turned out that its actions were based on faulty intelligence. If Britain singled out New Hampshire for castigation, radical Massachusetts could be counted on for support, but colonies outside of New England might be considerably more reluctant. The situation had the potential to erode the hard-fought principle of American unity that had been forged at the Continental Congress which Sullivan had recently attended. There was ample reason to move with caution.

Andrew McClary, a popular patriot from Epsom who would later fall to a cannonball at Bunker Hill, took the opposite view, arguing that a second raid was imperative.[91] Neither his nor Sullivan’s exhortations to the crowd at Tilton’s are recorded, but both sides had compelling arguments. Sullivan’s view assumed that there was some reason to trust John Wentworth, or at least assumed that there was some reason to care about what the Governor or Great Britain thought. “Zealous” men like Langdon and McClary saw no reason to conclude that Wentworth was not lying, especially if intelligence from good friends of liberty in Boston suggested that ships were headed north. The Governor was the man who supposedly tricked New Hampshire carpenters into building barracks for Gage’s redcoats just after the Powder Alarm. For that, Portsmouth patriots had painted him as an enemy to the community. Even if he was telling the truth about what he knew, the British Army was under no obligation to share all of its plans with Wentworth. In the long run, it made little difference whether or not the “circular letter” declared that troops would immediately occupy the fort and secure its munitions. Gage had proven during the Powder Alarm that he was determined to deprive the colonies of their means of defense and he would undoubtedly try it again. [92] It was no stretch of the imagination to assume that Wentworth, the King’s representative who had provided the Army with carpenters, would, if asked, assist Gage in his plans. It was almost inevitable that the redcoats would one day try to strip the Castle of its arms. If men were on hand to prevent that calamity, it was time to act.

Why, in any event, should friends of liberty care about Wentworth? It was clear that he, like the administration overseas, was opposed to the principles of American unity and representative government that were at the core of the patriot movement. The higher echelons of his administration were filled with his relations by blood or marriage and when the Assembly voted to form a committee of correspondence to help unite New Hampshire with the rest of the colonies, Wentworth had adjourned and then disbanded the House. In December of 1774, the Province had been without an elected legislative body for more than half a year. Thanks to Wentworth’s actions, the people of New Hampshire had no choice but to think and act for themselves. That was what the raiders of the 14 th did, but the Governor made it clear that he saw their populist action as unpardonable treason. London would not be lenient. For John Langdon and his supporters, there was no reason to debate whether or not to cross some imaginary line; they had done so already and they were damned in the eyes of Great Britain regardless of whether or not they did so again. Every fiber of patriotism within them roared that it was better to be damned while striking another blow for American liberty than to be damned while capitulating to the Army, John Wentworth, Parliament and despotism.

Regardless of the patriotic appeal of more radical arguments, New Hampshire was generally a colony that thought before it acted. It had long known its Governor as a sensible man - a man who had once helped defeat the hated Stamp Act [93] – and John Sullivan was always a convincing speaker. As debates wore on, his arguments against a second raid seemed to be carrying the day. Eventually, some of the crowd (perhaps most of it) gave three cheers and started for home. [94] Before they could leave, however, an unidentified patriot suggested that they take a vote declaring that they “took part with, and approved of the measures of those, who had taken the powder.”[95] It was a clever move, probably indicative of one of the tactics used by Portsmouth’s friends of liberty.

Governor Wentworth observed that Portsmouth’s “acting People” sent messages to outlying towns encouraging a second raid so as to get others “into the same Scrape as themselves. . .”[96] Certainly, Langdon and Long attempted to pull Sullivan into the “same Scrape as themselves” by unceremoniously dropping the stolen powder supply at his feet. Sullivan could either become an accomplice to an act of treason or risk losing his position as a patriot leader. By their vote at Tilton’s Tavern, the “acting People” apparently intended to make sure that the colony hung together, lest Langdon and his raiders be hanged separately.

Portsmouth operatives encouraged men to stay in town even after the vote at Tilton’s, “[a]rtfully detaining the people & inflaming them with Liquor” until dispatches to the outlying towns brought in a more dedicated group of volunteers. Their efforts bore fruit at about 7:00 PM, when a man arrived to say that “more than one thousand Men were on their march into Town, also Six hundred from Berwick and Kittery in the Massa[chusetts] bay . . .”[97] With invigorated patriot blood on its way to Portsmouth and less hardy friends of liberty heading for home, support for a second raid grew.

Some men who initially responded to the alarm decided not to join in a second raid, but not one actually rallied to the side of the Wentworth administration. At 6:00 PM, John Dennet and James Stoodley, two of the officers of the First Regiment who had been attempting to drum up a force to defend the Castle, reported to Col. Atkinson that “no Person” had appeared to enlist and that they awaited further orders. [98] The volunteer militiamen who served as the backbone of New Hampshire’s provincial forces were busy preparing to again descend on Fort William and Mary, this time with the full knowledge that its commander was willing to open fire. Wentworth had effectively lost control of his colony’s military. The book was fast closing on the administration of the King’s representative in New Hampshire - and hence on the administration of the sovereign whose flag had already been torn from its mast.

John Sullivan might have had a change of heart when he learned that 1,600 men were on their way to Portsmouth. More likely, he saw the writing on the wall. Whatever his misgivings about a second raid, he was, in the end, a patriot leader; one with the commanding presence needed to productively harness the multitude’s actions. Some time around 7:00 PM, a few hours before the tide turned in the direction of the Castle, Captain Cochran “was inform’d” that men under Major Sullivan’s command were coming to take the fort’s cannon and military stores. [99] It is not clear whether the message came from Sullivan himself or even from anyone directly involved in the decision-making process. Cochran, however, knew Sullivan socially. The two were fellow members of Portsmouth’s lodge of Master Freemasons. [100] Cochran sent a reply directly to the Major:

. . . to Acquaint him that If he attempted anything of the kind I would certainly fire upon any Body of Men that should attempt to come within the Fort and that I was prepar’d to defend it. [101]

The Captain might have been personally prepared to defend the Castle, but he was also no fool. The events of the 14th amply demonstrated that any defense would be ineffective. Now, he and at least some of his men were injured; one of the fort’s regular soldiers might not have been on duty; the two additional men who had been present the day before were long gone; and no reinforcements were expected. [102] If another assault was made, Fort William and Mary would most certainly fall.

IX. John Sullivan’s Raid of December 15, 1774

Sullivan and an advance party of 70 to 100 men started down the moonlit Piscataqua toward the Fort Point lighthouse on the outgoing tide. Behind them, shivering in gundalows or still arriving in Portsmouth, were fresh volunteers from outlying towns. [103] Some time after 10:00 PM the Major and an unidentified companion walked up to the sentry at the Castle, Ephraim Hall, and asked for an audience with the Captain. Despite the events of the past day and a half, Cochran was cordial and invited the frozen travelers into his house to warm up before turning to business. [104]

Sounding more like an intermediary than the commander of an impending assault, Sullivan announced to Cochran that:

. . . he had no private business of his own but came to acquaint me that a number of Men wanted to carry away all the Province stores out of the Fort. I asked him what Men they were. He said they were all Men of property and were coming with intent to Carry off the Province stores . . . [105]

A heated debate followed. Private Hall, stationed by the gate, could hear Sullivan and Cochran “in a very Great Passion.” Private Seveay, who made his way into another room of the house, heard “several high threatening Words pass bewixt them.” [106]

Cochran’s threat to open fire did not look as though it was going to prevent another attack and the Captain had few options. He took his duty to protect the Crown’s stores seriously and reasoned that if he mounted an armed defense, as he had the day before, he stood the risk of losing everything. Cochran ultimately concluded that the best way to protect the most important military equipment in the fort (the King’s numerous cannon) was to negotiate a deal.

Sullivan claimed that the men descending on the Castle intended to carry off the “provincial” stores. That being the case:

After much warm Discource and finding it utterly impossible to make any defence, I [Cochran] consented to see a Committee of three of their People and to shew them what Stores might Possibly be put there by the Province or at their Expence which consisted only of forty or fifty old useless Musquets and some inconsiderable small stores of no value, hoping by giving up these to save all the rest, having no power to defend them. [107]

Sullivan might not have known what a small amount of matériel Cochran believed belonged to the province, but the deal seemed to make sense from all sides. The people would presumably take all of the property arguably belonging to New Hampshire; Sullivan could, if necessary, justify the raid as something less than an outright theft of the King’s stores; and Cochran would be able to hold on to at least some of his arsenal – the goods clearly belonging to the Crown. Sullivan agreed that after a three-man committee was shown the fort’s provincial goods, a group of no more than ten men would enter to haul the stuff off.[108]

Andrew McClary, Thomas Stevenson and Jeremiah Bryant came to the fort’s gate shortly after Cochran made his deal with Sullivan. McClary, perhaps agitated, attempted to speak but, according to Cochran, “[s]tammer’d so that I could not understand him. . .” Bryant stepped in and explained that they were a committee “[c]hosen in behalf of the Province to demand . . . all the arms and Warlike Stores that belonged to the Province. . .” Of course, “the Province” had nothing to do with the matter. The three were delegates from the people or, more accurately, delegates from a phalanx of irate friends of liberty. Stevenson interjected to make that point clear, telling Cochran that they were not a provincial committee but, more ominously, a committee from a body of about 1,000 men who were then nearby. [109] Whomever they technically represented, Cochran proceeded on the basis of the deal that he struck with Sullivan, showing the committee what he claimed were provincial goods and noting that all the other items were either personal or Crown property. According to Cochran, Crown property, such as the cannon, was easy to identify: “evry thing sent there by the King had the King’s mark upon them.” [110]

After seeing what Cochran proposed to deliver, Bryant protested that there were considerably more provincial stores in the fort than the committee had been shown. He left with Stevenson to consult with the men outside, leaving McClary - a giant of a man - to keep an eye on Cochran. About half an hour later, men began assembling around the Castle in military ranks. Approximately a dozen patriots led by Major Thomas Tash advanced and demanded the Province’s arms and stores. Cochran assumed that they were the men that Sullivan agreed would collect the goods and reiterated that he had shown the committee everything that belonged to the province. Evidently looking to Sullivan as the patriot/rebel spokesman, the Captain declared that he would let 10 men enter. Sullivan reaffirmed that agreement, noting that the men would keep good order. Cochran once more warned that they “must not at their Peril Meddle with or take away anything belonging to the King . . .” and the men “generally answered [that] they knew that very well . . .” [111] With that, the Captain opened the gate.

It is not clear whether Sullivan ever intended to adhere to his deal with Cochran. It is clear, however, that Cochran’s faith in American respect for the King’s property was misplaced. When the gate swung open, all of the companies outside pushed into the Castle and overran the installation, seizing all of the small arms, cannon shot, and other ordinance stores that they wished. Despite Cochran’s persistent warnings, they also seized 16 of the King’s duly marked cannon (15 four-pounders and a nine pounder), 10 carriages, the useless muskets that Cochran had pointed out, and 42 serviceable muskets with shot. [112]

The loyalist blood of the Captain’s visiting father, James Cochran, boiled, not least of all because Sullivan, who now appeared to be commanding the sacking of the Castle, had breached the agreement with his son. According to Governor Wentworth:

. . . when Major Sullivan was triumphing in the number, riches and prowess of his Party . . . The honest, brave old Man stop’d him short, call’d him and his numerous party perjur’d Traitors & Cowards, That his Son the Capt. Shou’d fight them two at a time thro their whole multitude, or that He would with his own hands put him to death in their presence, Which the Son readily assented to, but none among them wou’d take up the challenge, relying on and availing themselves of their numbers to do a mischief which they never wou’d have effected by Bravery. [113]

With regulars from Boston expected to arrive at any moment, the raiders worked against the clock and the tides. Foregoing any attempt to permanently occupy the garrison or remove its numerous heavy cannon, they worked through the cold night of December 15, struggling to load what plunder they could onto gundalows for the trip upriver. They were not on their way until 8:00 or 9:00 on the morning of the 16th. At least 70 heavier cannon were still in the Castle. Having crossed his personal Rubicon at the gate of Fort William and Mary, Sullivan’s initial reluctance about stripping the fort of its arms (whether that reluctance was real or feigned) evaporated. Before leaving, he warned Cochran that he expected that 1,500 raiders would soon arrive to carry away the rest of the booty. Someone else called out that the provincial treasury would also soon be taken. [114]

About 10 days after the second raid, Sullivan penned an address to “the inhabitants of British America” under the name of “A Watchman.” In it, he gave a rousing justification for securing whatever arms were available in America. “. . . I must here beg leave to recommend to the consideration of the people on this Continent,” he said, “whether, when we are by an arbitrary decree prohibited the having Arms and Ammunition by importation, we have not, by the law of self-preservation, a right to seize upon those within our power, in order to defend the liberties which God and nature have given to us . . .” He added almost gratuitously “especially at this time, when several of the Colonies are involved in a dangerous war with the Indians . . .” [115]

For the second time in less than 48 hours, a British provincial military installation in America had been captured and sacked by patriot/rebels. [116] Neither John Sullivan nor anyone else involved in the affair was about to apologize for it.

X. The Exeter Volunteers, the Stalled Powder and the Arrival of the Royal Navy

The morning of December 16 dawned cold and fair. [117] In Massachusetts, or still delayed on the New Hampshire side of the border, a messenger attempted to rush the first reports of the attack on Fort William and Mary to Admiral Graves. Portsmouth, according to Wentworth, was “full of armed men, who refuse to disperse, but appear determined to complete the dismantling of the fortress entirely.”[118] On the frigid Piscataqua, Sullivan and his men, their boats loaded with heavy weaponry, slowly made their way toward the provincial capital on the incoming tide. Capt. Thomas Palmer, the man who “flashed” his pistol at soldier Isaac Seveay, made his way in the other direction. That very day, he cleared Piscataqua Customs with 8 unidentified men aboard the 180 ton ship Elizabeth, bound for the West Indies. [119] At least some New Hampshiremen no doubt believed that the long-anticipated showdown with Great Britain was at hand. [120]

Companies of volunteers from Exeter, the town with perhaps the best-trained militia unit in the colony, began arriving in Portsmouth early that morning. One 25-man company, probably Nathaniel Folsom’s, rode in on horseback, armed with muskets and bayonets. By sunrise, the company was, to the astonishment of onlookers, having coffee at Stoodley’s tavern, awaiting orders. A few hours later, 50 or 60 infantrymen commanded by shipbuilder James Hackett, a sergeant in Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War, trooped into town, ready for action. Hackett’s men stationed themselves at the “haymarket” (now the corner of Court and Middle Streets). [121]

There is no doubt why the well-organized companies of armed volunteers were on hand. Given the time it took to haul the cannon onto gundalows, Sullivan’s party would almost certainly be stuck on the Piscataqua when the tide turned, making them easy prey for any loyalist force that Wentworth might gather to reclaim the stolen arms. Worse, Sullivan might be battling the tide when the Royal Navy arrived to secure the Castle. They would then find themselves face-to-face with British regulars or Royal Marines. The Exeter men were the true military arm of the insurrection. If necessary, they were prepared to square off against the forces of Great Britain in defense of New Hampshire’s rebellion.

At about 9:00 AM, John Langdon arrived at Stoodley’s to inform Folsom that Sullivan was passing upriver. Shortly thereafter, the tide failed, leaving the raiders stranded near the upper limits of Portsmouth. [122] The town was jittery as it awaited the arrival of the Navy and/or the turn of the tide. Some time around noon, a threatening detachment of about 80 armed infantrymen, drums beating, marched past the State House, where Wentworth was in session with his Council. The Governor sent Sheriff Parker and local magistrates out to make proclamation on the “Riot Act” but the crowd didn’t budge. [123] Instead, someone shot back that they were “Subjects of King George & not King James;” a reference to James II, the British monarch who, almost a century before, had trampled on the rights of his subjects, dismantled existing provincial governments and ushered in Britain’s “Glorious Revolution” of 1688. Wentworth quickly went home, after which he learned that “it was propos’d to load with Ball & kill all the Torys, meaning the Governor and Council. This scheme they were diverted from by some unknown caprice or other.” [124]

Elsewhere, Magistrate John Fenton, a retired British Army officer, was threatened when he attempted to do his duty as a justice and declare to the people “the folly of their conduct.” [125] Near the State House, about 100 men accosted a suspected loyalist, William Pottle, Jr. of Stratham, as he rode past. They chased Pottle through Portsmouth and unhorsed him near the docks, where he was “roughly handled” before being driven from town. [126]

Fortunately for Sullivan, the British Navy had still not arrived by that evening, when the tide again began to flow inward. Finally able to take their booty to locations further inland, the raiders were faced with the ice-choked waters of Great Bay and its tributaries. They spent the night and at least some of the next day hacking through ice, taking Fort William and Mary’s cannon further and further from the reach of any British warship. [127] During the cold, arduous ordeal, Sullivan’s home in Durham was “like an open Tavern.” [128]

By the morning of December 17, the raiders were far into New Hampshire’s interior and the Exeter guards concluded that it was safe to disperse. [129] It was good for them that they did. At about 8:00 PM, the 8-gun HMS Canceaux was within sight of the Fort Point Light. She was joined two days later by the 20-gun frigate HMS Scarborough. [130]

With two British warships and their contingents of Royal Marines on the scene to “protect the King’s Servants and Stores,” would-be raiders scrapped plans for a third attack on the Castle. [131] Nonetheless, like Massachusetts after the Powder Alarm, the Piscataqua armed. On December 20, a group of Portsmouth men “being desirous of attaining the Military Art” established an unauthorized volunteer militia company to train twice a week under the command of its own elected officers. [132] Governor Wentworth saw his once-peaceful colony changing before his eyes, reporting in a letter to the Secretary of State for the Colonies:

. . . I perceive the unlimited influence that the popular leaders in Boston obtain in this Province, especially since the outrage of the 14th instant. Insomuch, that I think the people here are disposed to attempt any measure required by those few men; and in consequence thereof, are arming and exercising men as if for an immediate war. [133]

On December 26, 1774, Wentworth, backed by the Royal Navy, issued a proclamation deploring the “treasonable Insults and Outrages” committed by the men who led the raids on the Castle; raids conducted “in open Hostility and direct Oppugnation of his Majesty’s Government, and in the most atrocious Contempt of his Crown and Dignity.” The Governor commanded that all civil and military officials:

. . . exert themselves in detecting and securing in his Majesty’s Goals in this province the said Offenders, in order to their being brought to condign punishment; And from Motives of Duty to the King and Regard to the Welfare of the Good People of this Province: I do in the most earnest and solemn Manner, exhort and enjoin you, his Majesty’s liege Subjects of this Government, to beware of suffering yourselves to be seduced by the false Art or Menaces of abandoned men, to abet, protect, or screen from Justice any of the said high handed Offenders, or to withhold or secrete his Majesty's Munition forcibly taken from his Castle . . . [134]

No one was apprehended and, after some delay, the Governor dismissed from provincial service all of the civil and military officials who were known to have been involved in the uprising. Nathaniel Folsom lost his office as a colonel in the militia and Sullivan lost his position as a major. [135] Folsom later became a general in New Hampshire’s revolutionary forces. Sullivan became a general in the Continental Army.

Wentworth was realistic about the odds of punishing the men responsible for the raids. Even before he issued the proclamation, he opined that if he caught the offenders “[n]o jail would hold them long, and no jury would find them guilty . . .” [136] The colony’s attorney general, Samuel Livermore, echoed that sentiment, observing that although the warships in the harbor might have prevented the initial “mischief” had they arrived sooner, their presence did nothing to secure the administration of justice. “Inter arma silent leges,” he noted: “in times of war, the laws fall silent.”[137]

XI . Aftermath and Conclusion

As the new and fateful year of 1775 dawned, Governor Wentworth watched as New Hampshire permanently slipped from British control. In January (the month that the colony elected John Langdon and John Sullivan to the Second Continental Congress), the Governor wrote to an associate that almost all of his provincial officials chose to “shrink in safety from the storm” during the raids on the fort. They had, he said, “suffered me to remain exposed to the folly and madness of an enraged multitude, daily and hourly increasing in numbers and delusion.” [138] That “madness” reached a frenzy four months after the attacks, when General Gage finally made another attempt to seize colonial munitions in Massachusetts. Immediately thereafter, newspapers heralded word of bloody melees at Lexington and Concord, and the men of New Hampshire again took to arms. A month later, the colony’s Fourth Provincial Congress (by then the de facto government of an evolving state) voted its thanks to “the persons who took away and secured for the use of this Government a Quantity of Gunpowder from the Castle called William and Mary in the Province.” [139] In 1781, the Continental Congress voted John Sullivan $100 in compensation for his expenses associated with securing the stores and ordnance at the fort “for the use of the United States.” Congress, evidently forgetting that New Hampshire’s armed rebellion began four months before the Lexington Alarm, mistakenly identified the year of Sullivan’s action as 1775. [140]

British authorities had no difficulty reaching the conclusion that the offense committed at the fort was high treason; a crime which Wentworth was advised could be tried either in New Hampshire or in England. [141] The Governor obtained depositions from the fort’s soldiers and held the five enlisted men aboard one of the warships in the harbor so as to make sure that they would remain available as witnesses for the Crown. [142] No trial ever occurred. For all practical purposes, and regardless of what happened in other colonies, royal authority was dead in New Hampshire as of December 14, 1774. King George himself opined that New Hampshire’s actions were a “very flagrant outrage” and suggested that whatever regional distinctions might be drawn as to whether the colonies were in rebellion “this cannot extend to New Hampshire.” [143]

In June 1775, less than two months after the fighting at Lexington and Concord, just before the Battle of Bunker Hill, John Fenton, then an exceedingly unpopular loyalist assemblyman, visited Governor Wentworth at his home in Portsmouth. [144] An irate mob formed outside the residence, demanding to speak to the visitor. When Wentworth refused, the crowd thrust a cannon (possibly seized in the raid on the fort) toward the door, vowing to fire inside. Fenton surrendered but the mob made it known that they intended to take the Governor, his wife, Frances, and their five month old son, Charles Mary, prisoner if they did not immediately leave Portsmouth. This, according to Mrs. Wentworth, “we did with great haste.” [145]

The Wentworths fled to the nearest place of protection: tiny Fort William and Mary, under the watch of British warships. There, the Governor and his family resided in the “small incommodious [captain’s] House without any other prospect of safety, if the prevailing madness of the people should follow me hither, than the hope of retreating on board his Majesty’s ship Scarborough, if it should be in my power. This fort although containing upward of sixty pieces of Cannon is without men or ammunition.” [146] Apart from the ships of the Navy offshore, Wentworth was protected only by his former popularity, the stalwart Captain Cochran, and a few guards. The latter were paid with money from the Governor’s own pocket. Soon, the sloop of war Falcon arrived to “dismantle this ungarrisoned Castle of all the ordinance, [and] stores . . . ”[147] Never again would a military engagement take place at Fort William and Mary.

New Hampshiremen exchanged shots with sailors and marines from the warships in the harbor on a number of occasions between May and August of 1775, earning Portsmouth a place on the list of New England coastal towns that the Royal Navy planned to level. [148] It never had the opportunity. The book closed forever on even the pretense of British government in New Hampshire in the late summer of 1775, when Wentworth boarded the Scarborough for Boston. [149] Shortly thereafter, two major fortifications, Fort Washington and Fort Sullivan, sprang up at a tight, narrow turn in the Piscataqua between Fort Point and Portsmouth (Henderson’s Point). They kept the town safe from Royal Navy incursion for the remainder of the Revolution.

Some sources claim that Captain John Cochran and his family were apprehended by volunteers under the command of John Sullivan the day after the fighting at Lexington and Concord, but if there is any truth at all to this assertion, they were quickly released. [150] The Captain ultimately fled to Boston with the Governor and remained with the British Army throughout the war, finally relocating with his family to New Brunswick, Canada.

As a directly-administered royal colony, the Province of New Hampshire had no official charter; its governmental structure being described only in the King’s commission and instructions to the Governor. That meant that the colony’s formal government disappeared with Wentworth. Provincial congresses, town governments and local patriot committees briefly filled the vacuum, but in October of 1775 New Hampshire took the unprecedented step of seeking guidance from the Continental Congress on the creation of an independent state government. Congress refrained from providing a specific recommendation, but essentially blessed this radical move. In late December, New Hampshire’s Fifth Provincial Congress voted to take up the reigns of government itself and, by its own authority, declared that it was the colony’s house of representatives. On January 5, 1776, six months before the Declaration of American Independence, the Fifth Provincial Congress/House of Representatives adopted a temporary constitution for New Hampshire designed to last for the duration of the war.[151] The colony held the world’s first popularly-elected constitutional convention in 1778 and a permanent state constitution was adopted by the people themselves in 1784. [152] Four years later, on June 21, 1788, New Hampshire had the distinction of casting the 9th and deciding vote for the adoption of the Constitution of the United States. John Langdon signed that document.

The attacks on Fort William and Mary have been all but forgotten outside of the Granite State. Even there, the events are ill-studied. While understandably overshadowed by the initiation of wider hostilities following the death of American citizens at Lexington and Concord only four months after the raids, the actions at Fort William and Mary deserve a prominent place in our national memory; a place that they have, curiously, never been afforded. The actions were daring, successful assaults by loosely organized bands of American patriots on a royal fort flying the King’s colors. The raiders of December 14, 1774 faced cannon and musket fire, inflicted and received injuries, took prisoners, captured military supplies and triumphantly hauled down the British flag. The raiders of the 15th showed equal distain for the existing government when they knowingly absconded with the King’s cannon in order to keep them from the clutches of the King’s own troops. The raids were more than simply a seizure of gunpowder and artillery. As the Continental Congress recognized when it awarded a stipend to John Sullivan for his role in the affair; as Governor Wentworth recognized when he termed the raids an “insurrection;”[153] and as King George III recognized when he declared them a “flagrant outrage,” the assaults on the fort were direct, unmistakable attacks on the established order. The cannon and musket fire that echoed on the shores of Portsmouth Harbor on that cold December day in 1774 warrant recognition as what New Hampshire has long known them to be: some of the earliest salvos in the thirteen rebellions that came to be known collectively as the American Revolution.

List of Participants in the raid on Fort William and Mary

(includes specific reference to particular individuals’ roles, with sources of information)


Fort William and Mary, renamed Fort Constitution in 1808, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It still stands on the shores of Portsmouth Harbor, on State land surrounded by United States Coast Guard Station Portsmouth Harbor, in the Town of New Castle. Today, the fort demonstrates an eclectic mixture of military architecture, spanning several centuries. Little of the Castle of 1774 remains. A World War Two watchtower looks toward the Atlantic and Civil War vintage gun emplacements stand empty behind unfinished granite walls facing the Piscataqua River passage to Portsmouth. Even as these walls were under construction, advances in military weaponry rendered the fortress obsolete and construction was abandoned. The interior of the fort boasts a large parade green, now devoid of the structures which once adorned it, affording a harborside recreation area for the scattered visitors who make their way to this little-known site. A quaint diorama depicting the raid on Fort William and Mary is located in the Visitors’ Center of the New Hampshire State House in Concord, NH (not to be confused with Concord, Massachusetts). In 2000, the National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution recognized descent from a documented participant in the raids on Fort William and Mary as potentially qualifying an individual for membership in the SAR.


The raids on Fort William and Mary are routinely mischaracterized and poorly understood. This article is offered on this website both to provide a ready source of information about these events and to invite inspection of the goals of the organization which sponsors this webpage. It is the product of many years of research and is offered in this format so as to be accessible to a wide audience, in hopes of correcting misconceptions about the opening of New Hampshire’s early revolution, and hence the opening of the American Revolution as a whole. Despite the article’s general accessibility, readers wishing to use it to support their own interpretations of these events should avoid plagiarism and cite to this article and author as the source of their information. A copy is also on file at the New Hampshire Historical Society in Concord, NH.

The first version of this article was produced in 2000. A reduced, unannotated, version of that early article (drafted before additional research provided new insights) appeared in the SAR Magazine, vol. 96, no. 2 (Fall, 2001), pp. 16 - 21. This article is periodically updated as additional information is discovered or as additional insights are obtained. Not all of the author’s primary source material and information regarding these events has been included here. Readers having additional information, comments or questions relative to the attacks on Fort William and Mary (or particular participants), as well as those seeking to expand upon any aspect or personality discussed herein are encouraged to contact the author.

For general resource materials relating to the raids, see Address by John Crawford to NHSSAR (April 11, 1894) entitled “Castle William and Mary,” Otis Hammond, ed., Proceedings of the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889 - 1897, published by the Society, Concord, NH (1898), pp. 78 – 88 and Charles L. Parsons, The Capture of Fort William and Mary, December 14 and 15, 1774, reprint of a paper delivered at the 77th Annual Meeting of the New Hampshire Historical Society (Proceedings of the New Hampshire Historical Society , vol. 4 [June, 1905], pp. 18 – 47), published by the William and Mary Committee of the New Hampshire American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1974). Both of these items gather in full (but sometimes poorly transcribed) format some of the letter and newspaper reports cited in this article. More importantly, readers are directed to Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” Historical New Hampshire magazine, vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975), pp. 178 – 202. This extraordinary resource sets forth the “depositions” of some of the participants in the events; witnesses who would presumably have offered testimony favorable to the administration had the incidents resulted in a trial. It should be noted that some of those individuals, particularly Sheriff Parker, supported the Wentworth administration in December of 1774 but did not harbor animosity toward the patriot cause. The original depositions are held by the British National Archives, Public Records Office, Colonial Office document CO5, 939. Almost as important to an understanding of the raids is the transcript of Governor Wentworth’s narrative of the events found in Paul Wilderson’s “John Wentworth’s Narrative of the Raids on Fort William and Mary,Historical New Hampshire, vol. 32, no. 4 (Winter, 1977), pp. 228 - 236. Why Mr. Wilderson’s remarkable finds went substantially unassessed by professional historians during the 25 years prior to the independent efforts of the author of this article remains a mystery.

One of the few readily accessible sources of general, accurate information on the attacks on Fort William and Mary is Governor John Wentworth and the American Revolution; The English Connection, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH (1994), pp. 245 – 250, again by Paul Wilderson. Virtually all other secondary sources mentioning the attacks misinterpret or misconstrue the incidents (sometimes severely). For a general assessment of the events as seen from a number of perspectives, see also Historical New Hampshire, vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1974) (issue devoted to various essays on the raids of December, 1774). Note, however, that this publication, as well as Parsons, The Capture and Crawford’s “Address,” were all produced before the publication of the depositions found by Wilderson. They therefore lack the benefit of more recent scolarship. Although useful, they should not be considered definitive.

General information concerning the situation in New Hampshire prior to the raids on Fort William and Mary can be found in Wilderson’s John Wentworth , supra; Douglas Sweet, “New Hampshire on the Road to Revolution: Fort William and Mary, A Decisive Step,” Historical New Hampshire, vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1974), p. 229 ff.; Richard Upton, Revolutionary New Hampshire, Octagon Books, New York, NY (1971) (reprint of 1936 Dartmouth edition, with new introduction); and Jere Daniell, Experiment in Republicanism, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (1970).


Mr. Kehr received his J.D. from Rutgers University School of Law (Camden) and his B.A. in History from the University of New Hampshire. He is a former president, historian and member of the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution. Through his efforts in 2000, the National Society, Sons of the American Revolution officially recognized participation in the raids on Fort William and Mary as American Revolutionary War service. Mr. Kehr is actively engaged in research, writing and lecturing on New Hampshire during the early Revolution. He is also known for his first person portrayals of Governor/Senator John Langdon, the Continental Congress’ Agent of Marine on the Piscataqua.

All rights reserved to the author, Thomas F. Kehr

Comments or corrections should be addressed to the author Thomas F. Kehr

[1] Letter from John Wentworth to Paul Wentworth, 2/27/1770, quoted in Lawrence Shaw Mayo, John Langdon of New Hampshire, Rumford Press, Concord, NH (1937) (hereinafter “Mayo, John Langdon”), p. 68. Although it is highly unlikely that any loyalist governor could actually have prevented his colony from ultimately embracing the patriot cause, at least one writer has opined that “[w]hen the Revolutionary troubles began . . . [Gov. Wentworth’s] . . . efforts to prevent a rupture were unwearied” and that had other loyalist governors been more like him “the Revolution might have been delayed.” Lorenzo Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, Little Brown & Co., Boston (1864), vol. 2, p. 411.

[2] See Report of Congressmen Langdon and Sullivan to the Continental Congress on New Hampshire defenses, 5/27/1775, Nathaniel Bouton, et. al, eds. New Hampshire Provincial and State Papers, (40 vol.s, 1867 - 1943), printed by the State (hereinafter “NHPSP”), vol. 7, p. 492; Letter from Wentworth to George Erving, 1/5/1775, quoted in Charles L. Parsons’ The Capture of Fort William and Mary, December 14 and 15, 1774, reprint of a paper delivered at the 77th Annual Meeting of the New Hampshire Historical Society (Proceedings of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vol. 4 [June, 1905], pp. 18 – 47), published by the William and Mary Committee of the New Hampshire American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1974) (hereinafter “Parsons, The Capture,”), p. 15; See also Sketch of Fort William and Mary appearing on James Grant’s chart of the lower Piscataqua, 1774, New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH. The wall facing upriver was little more than an earthen berm and the compound’s entrance was probably a simple swinging gate, protected by barriers. Inside the walls, the fort’s primary features (apart from gun platforms and perhaps a storehouse) were the soldiers’ barracks, the captain’s house, a new and an old powder magazine and a ship’s mast that served as a flagpole. In the language of the 18th century, the word “castle” was applied to any defensively fortified building or buildings. See C. T. Onions, ed., Oxford Universal Dictionary on Historical Principles (3rd ed.) Clarendon Press, Oxford, UK (1955), p. 273 (definition II, 1).

[3] Letter from General Thomas Gage to the Secretary of State for the Colonies, the Earl of Dartmouth, 6/12/1775, William Bell Clark et al, ed.s Naval Documents of the American Revolution, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (1964 - ) (hereinafter “NDAR”), vol. 1, p. 663. As to background on the fort generally, see J. Duane Squires, Fort William and Mary; From Colonial Times to the Revolutionary War, published by the Society of Colonial Wars in the State of New Hampshire and the New Hampshire American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1972); Benjamin W. Labarre, The Fort Belongs to the People; An Address Given at the Commemoration of the Raids at Fort William and Mary, Wentworth-By-The-Sea Hotel, 10/12/1974 , published by the New Hampshire American Revolution Bicentennial Commission (1975).

[4] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 366.

[5] Id., vol. 14, p. 28 (1771 – 1772 muster roll); Letter from Wentworth to the Earl of Dartmouth, 11/15/1771, K. G. Davies, ed., Documents of the American Revolution, 1770 – 1783 (Colonial Office Series) (21 vol.s), Irish University Press, Shannon, IRE (1972 – 1981) (hereinafter “DAR”), vol. 3, pp. 234 – 236; Mayo, John Langdon, p. 39

[6] Memorial of Woodbury Langdon, 2/7/1777, Mayo, John Langdon, p. 160.

[7] Id. ; NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 366 – 367; The men stationed at the fort were local citizens, not residents of Europe serving in the regular British Army. Like other members of the provincial militia (that is, all men in the colony ages 16 to 49 who were not exempt from service), they served the British governmental structure in the Province of New Hampshire under the authority of the colony's commander in chief, the Royal Governor. Unlike other elements of the provincial military, however, the men at the Castle were (poorly) paid, full-time, uniformed soldiers. Their pay came from the Provincial Assembly. But see Note 43 below. Since there were no units of the regular British Army in New Hampshire in 1774; since the soldiers at the fort were under the command of the King’s direct representative; and since they men enforced British policy, sometimes including the restrictions of the hated Customs Service, they were in effect the standing British military establishment in the colony. As a form of shorthand (or due to persistent misconceptions frequently perpetuated in secondary sources) they have sometimes been referred to as “British” soldiers. Given that Americans of the time were Britons, this is technically true, but the men of Fort William and Mary should not be confused with the redcoated regulars in Boston. They are better described as “provincial” soldiers.

[8] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 369.

[9] NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 407, 443. The First Continental Congress was held in Philadelphia from September 5 to October 26, 1774.

[10] Paul W. Wilderson, Governor John Wentworth and the American Revolution; The English Connection, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH (1994), pp. 230 - 231, 236 – 238; Richard Upton, Revolutionary New Hampshire, Octagon Books, New York, NY (1971) (reprint of 1936 Dartmouth edition, with new introduction), pp. 15 – 16.

[11] David Hackett Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride, Oxford University Press, NY, NY (1995), pp. 44 – 51; Christopher Ward,The War of the Revolution, Skyhorse Publishing, NY, NY (2011), pp. 18 -19; Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation; A History of the American Revolution, 1763 – 1776, Hackett Publishing Co., Indianapolis IN (2004), pp. 535 – 537; Bruce Lancaster, The American Revolution, Houghton Mifflin, Co., Boston, MA (Mariner Books ed. 2001), pp. 80 – 81.

[12] Fischer, Paul Revere’s Ride, p. 51.

[13] Portsmouth Town Records (hereinafter “PTR”) (N.H. State Library copy, Concord, NH), vol. 2, p. 279. The members of the Portsmouth Committee of Correspondence were Samuel Cutts, John Langdon, John Sherburne, George Gains and Jacob Sheafe. John Pickering and Samuel Hale were elected to the committee but declined to serve.

[14] PTR vol. 2, pp. 315 – 316; Letter from John Wentworth to the Earl of Dartmouth. 11/15/1774, Letterbook of Gov. John Wentworth, vol. 3, transcript of Halifax, NS original, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, NH (hereinafter “Letterbook 3”), p. 12. The list of members of the “Committee of 45” contained in Darryl I. Cathers’ “Powder to the People: The Revolutionary Structure behind the Attacks on Fort William and Mary, 1774,” Historical New Hampshire (hereinafter “HNH”), vol. 29, No. 4 (Winter, 1974), pp. 275 - 276 does not match the membership as listed in PTR vol. 2, pp. 315 – 316. The Cathers version omits Henry Sherburne, John Fernald, Nathaniel Folsom (the son of the Continental Congressman) and Jacob Sheafe, Jr.; adds John Fenton, John Moffatt, Thomas Moses and Nathaniel Jackson; and incorrectly identifies William Pearne as “William Pierce” and James Giouard as “James Groward.” The members of the “45” listed in PTR vol. 2, pp. 315 – 316 are Hunking Wentworth, Woodbury Langdon, John Sherburne, Jacob Sheafe, Maj. Samuel Hale, Thomas Hart, William Whipple, William Knight, John Penhallow, Gregory Purcell, Capt. John Langdon, Supply Clapp, Robert Parker, Neal McIntyre, “Peirce” Long, Samuel Sherburne, Joshua Brackett, John Pickering, John Beck, Richard Champney, William Pearne, Benjamin Mackay, Richard Shortridge, Edward Hart, Alexander Morrison, Elisha Hill, Richard Cutt Shannon, Samuel Cutts, George Gains, Benjamin Ackerman, William Langdon, George Hart, Henry Sherburne, John Fernald, Nathaniel “Foulsome” [Folsom], Samuel Drowne, Ebenezer Dearing, John Grant, George Turner, Joseph Bass, John Cutt, James Giouard, George Dame, Jacob Sheafe, Jr. and John Marshall.

[15] New Hampshire Gazette , 10/28/1774, p. 2, col. 2.

[16] PTR vol. 2, pp. 319 – 320. The members of the “Committee of 25” were Hunking Wentworth, Woodbury Langdon, John Langdon, Ammi R. Cutter, William Whipple, William Pearne, Samuel Cutts, Benjamin Akerman, George Hart, George Gaines, William Langdon, “Pearse” Long, Gregory Purcell, Joshua Brackett, Jacob Sheafe, William Knight, Joshua Wentworth, Samuel Sherburne, Samuel Penhallow, Thomas Hart, Supply Clapp, Jacob Treadwell, Richard Hart, Richard Champney, and Joseph Whipple. Cathers’ “Powder to the People, supra, identifies “Committee of 45” members who were also members of the “Committee of 25,” but contains significant errors. These include the failure to note that John Langdon was a member of the Committee of 25 and the misidentification of the Committee of 25 as the “Committee of Ways and Means” (a title that was actually applied to the Committee of 45, see PTR vol. 2, p. 331). It should also be noted that Cathers’ identification of only a handful of these individuals as “Sons of Liberty” is based upon membership in liberty groups established at the time of the Stamp Act in 1765 - 1766. See Pauline Maier, From Resistance to Revolution; Colonial Radicals and the Development of American Opposition to Britain, 1765 – 1776, W. W. Norton Co., NY (1991), Appendix I, pp. 307 - 308. If the term “sons of liberty” is applied more generally to persons highly friendly to the patriot cause, many of the members of the Committee of 25 would have been considered “sons of liberty” in 1774, regardless of what they did in 1765.

[17] Account attributed to Gideon Lamson, Charles H. Bell, History of the Town of Exeter, NH, J. E. Farwell & Co., Boston, MA (1888) (Heritage Books facsimile reprint, 1979), pp. 240 - 241. Lamson states that a “private scheme was laid by a few, the last of November, to get the powder and cannon from Fort William and Mary.” Id., p. 240. During the late 19th century, when misconceptions regarding the raids on the fort were rampant, Lamson’s account (which primarily relates to Sullivan’s escape up the Piscataqua) was often dismissed or questioned, including by Parsons and by Bell himself. In fact, it coincides remarkably well with what is now known of the incidents.

[18] See e.g. Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 11/15/1774, Wentworth Letterbook 3, p. 13.

[19] Letter from John Gerry of Marblehead to Portsmouth Committee of Correspondence, 12/12/1774, Langdon-Whipple Papers, Portsmouth Athenaeum, Portsmouth, NH, vol. 1, Athenaeum microfilm reel 115; Letter from Timothy Pickering of Salem to John Langdon, quoted in Douglas Sweet, “New Hampshire on the Road to Revolution: Fort William and Mary, A Decisive Step, HNH vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1974), pp. 245 - 246.

[20] NDAR vol. 1, p. 18. The report quoted only a portion of Lord Dartmouth’s “circular letter” to the American governors. The Secretary of State for the Colonies did not simply say that colonial gunpowder would be arrested, secured and detained. Rather, he stated that powder which the colonies attempted to import would be secured, telling the governors that “it is His Majesty’s Command that you do take the most effectual Measures for arresting, detaining & securing any Gunpowder, or any sort of Arms or Ammunition, which may be attempted to be imported into the Province under your Government . . .” (emphasis added). NDAR vol. 1, p. 10.

[21] The 66 mile overland “express” distance from Boston to Portsmouth is cited by John Wentworth in a July 6, 1774 letter to the Earl of Dartmouth. NHPSP vol. 7, p. 410. The content of Revere’s communication is from a portion of William Cooper’s message to Portsmouth which was transcribed by the Portsmouth Committee of Correspondence on 12/14/1774 in a message sent to the Exeter Committee of Correspondence (a document which Exeter subsequently forwarded to Josiah Bartlett of Kingston). The original is held in a private collection. See also deposition (affidavit) of William Torrey describing information conveyed to him by Revere (hereinafter “Torrey Dep.”), Paul Wilderson, “ The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975), pp. 186 - 187; Elizabeth Rhoades Akroyd, “Notes on the Raid on Fort William and Mary,” HNH vol. 32, no. 3 (Fall, 1977), p. 146. The message to Portsmouth might not have been authorized by a quorum of the Boston committee. An anonymous writer to Rivington’s stated that Revere was “sent express from only two or three of the committee of correspondence at Boston, as I am credibly informed, (of whom no number under seven are impowered to act) . . .” Rivington’s New York Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 2. According to William Torrey, Revere, who had personal knowledge of what information was circulating in Boston, stated to him “that Another Man of War had arived at Boston with a Number of Marines on Board, And that all the Governors upon the Continent had Accounts sent to them that Gunpowder and other warlike stores were prohibited from being exported from Great Britain, And that the Governor of Rhode Island had received such advice And in consequence of it had dismantled the Fort at Newport and had carried all the Powder and Cannon up to Providence, that the Sunday before he came Away from Boston there was a Number of troops imbarked on Board some ships then in the Harbour in the most secret Manner Possible, and that it was conjectured by the Inhabitants that they were bound for Piscataqua and One or two Men of War along with them in order to take Care of the Powder and Fort.” Torrey Dep., p. 186. A loyalist writer to Rivington’s New York Gazeteer, who suggested that he was quoting from an unidentified source, stated that the message delivered to Portsmouth said “That orders had been sent to the Governors of these provinces, to deliver up their several fortifications or castles to General Gage, and that a number of Troops had the preceding day, embarked on board the transports, with a design to proceed and take possession of said castles; that in consequence thereof the House of Assembly of Rhode-Island had caused their fort to be dismantled, and the guns, ammunition, &c. to be removed to Providence.” Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 2.

[22] Narrative of Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, 12/4/1774, NDAR vol. 1, p. 4; Letter from Graves to Secretary of the Admiralty Philip Stephens, 12/15/1774, id., p. 24. Note that the letter to Stephens was written before Graves learned of the attacks on Fort William and Mary.

[23] Letter from Wentworth to General Thomas Gage, 12/7/1774, Letterbook 3, pp. 26 – 27; See also Wentworth’s Orders to Hillsborough County Sheriff Benjamin Whiting, 12/13/1774, id., p. 30.

[24] Letter from Wentworth to Thomas W. Waldron, 12/9/1774, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th Series, vol. 4, published by the Society, Boston, MA (1891), p. 69. December 9 was a Friday. Wentworth could have been referring to December 11 as “next Sunday” but might instead have meant December 18.

[25] Torrey Dep ., p. 186; Weather conditions at Portsmouth, December 1774, New Hampshire Gazette, 1/6/1775, p. 1, col. 3. It has generally been claimed that there is no support for the assertion by 19th century writers that Revere rode to the home of John Sullivan. See Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975), p. 181. Likewise (although his text may suggest otherwise), David Hackett Fischer posits that Revere was in New Hampshire for only one day in 1774. Compare Fischer, Paul Revere's Ride, pp. 54 – 57 with id., p. 300. While it is true that, according to at least two accounts, Revere rode “express” to Portsmouth, and while it is equally true that Durham (where Sullivan lived), would have been off of Revere’s likely route, these facts, as well as Sullivan’s later recollections, suggest only that Revere did not visit Sullivan before the first raid on the fort. To the best of the author’s knowledge, there is no definitive evidence about precisely what Revere did after delivering his message to Cutts; nor about who in particular ultimately informed Sullivan of the raid of the 14th. As argued by researcher Peter Flood in his 2010 manuscript, A Week in December; Paul Revere's Secret Mission to New Hampshire, copy on file at the New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH, Revere’s bill for his ride to Portsmouth (sold at auction by Swann Galleries in 1996) may suggest that Revere was actually in New Hampshire for five days in 1774. Flood cites to a copy of the bill, which he located in Sidney Rosen, “Paul Revere’s Dash for Gunpowder, The First Act of Open Treason,” Manuscripts (publication of the Manuscript Society, Boston), vol. 47, no. 3 (Summer, 1995), pp. 242 – 243, showing 1 pound 10 shillings for “Horse hire to Portsmouth” and an equal amount for expenses. The bill also shows 6 shillings for horse hire for a ride from Boston to Dorchester and Watertown (a trip which should cover no more than a day). By converting the Portsmouth charge to shillings (20 shillings equaling a pound) Flood posits that the bill shows 5 days for the Portsmouth trip, beginning on December 12, suggesting that Revere was in the area until after John Sullivan’s raid. This leaves open the substantial possibility that Revere might have been in direct communication with Sullivan at some time during his stay, and that he might have been a witness to (or even a participant in) the incidents at the fort. See also Note 65 below.

[26] Paul Wilderson, John Wentworth's Narrative of the Raids on Fort William and Mary,” HNH vol. 32, no. 4 (Winter, 1977) (hereinafter “Wentworth Narrative”), p. 230; Letter to the editor dated 12/20/1774, Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 2; NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420.

[27] Letter to the editor dated 12/20/1774, Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 2. The letter was written by a loyalist sympathizer and the emphasis is sarcastic. See also Wentworth Narrative, p. 230.

[28] Message from Wentworth to Cochran, 12/13/1774, Letterbook 3, p. 30; Deposition of Captain John Cochran regarding events of 12/14/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “ Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774”), p. 189; Wentworth Narrative, p. 230. In some correspondence, such as his December 14, 1774 letter to General Gage, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420, Wentworth suggested that the raid occurred before he had any suspicions of what was afoot. His message to Cochran and other evidence belies that claim.

[29] Cochran was commissioned a provincial military captain in February of 1771. See Provincial Treasury Records, Box 9, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, NH, file for 1772 (Invoice of Theodore Atkinson for commission issued 2/7/1771). Although Cochran’s 12/14/1774 report to Wentworth implies that he added two men to his contingent on the 13th (see NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 420 – 421), other evidence suggests that he might only have done so on the 14th. It is unclear how many individuals actively defended Fort William and Mary during the December 14 and 15 events addressed in this article. First-hand accounts allow for several interpretations. The force allotted to the Castle by the Provincial Assembly was a captain and 5 enlisted men. Six persons swore oath to being present on December 14, 1774. Cochran’s deposition states that 2 men were either pressed into service or volunteered at the last moment on the 14th. No other “add-on” men are mentioned by any defender, including Cochran, despite his intimation to the contrary in his 12/14/1774 communiqué to the Governor. In that communiqué, Cochran also states that he had “only five effective men” with him on December 14. If all of the fort’s soldiers plus two “add-on” men actually defended the installation on that date, Cochran’s report should have referred to 7 men under his command, for a grand total of 8 defenders. Cochran’s deposition refers to six men “in all,” perhaps exclusive of the Captain himself. Depositions of the 5 soldiers of the fort (Isaac Seveay, Ephraim Hall, Benjamin Rowell, Samuel Rowell and John Griffiths) each refer to being “on duty” on the 14th. One deposition refers to “the Soldiers and two Men we had to assist us, being in all but five besides the Deponent.” Deposition of Ephraim Hall regarding the events of 12/14/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “Hall Dep. Re: 12/14/1774”), p. 199 (emphasis added). This seems to imply that there were 6 men (including the “add-ons” and possibly exclusive of the captain) defending the fort on December 14. Of the 5 soldiers who swore depositions, however, only 3 specifically state that they were actually on duty at the fort prior to December of 1774, raising the question of whether 2 of the soldiers (John Griffiths and Samuel Rowell) might have been recent recruits, possibly added by Cochran on the night of the 13th . Unsubstantiated New Castle tradition buttresses this possibility. John Albee, New Castle – Historic and Picturesque, Cupples, Upham & Company, Boston, MA (1885), p. 23, notes that the fort was defended by Cochran “and his five soldiers (two of them being recruited for this occasion).” By coincidence or not, two of the men who swore depositions (names currently unknown) later ran off from the warship on which they were being held to keep them available as witnesses in case of trial. Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 7/17/1775, Letterbook 3, p. 138. A reasonable synthesis of the available evidence seems to be that the captain, 5 soldiers (2 of whom might have been recent additions) and 2 impressed men were present at the fort on December 14 (a total of 8 men), but perhaps one or two of the men were either unable or unwilling to serve as combatants. As discussed at Note 38 below, there is a possibility that one or both of the “add-on” men were actually agents of the opposition forces. Moreover, although not included in anyone’s count, Captain Cochran's wife, Sarah, should certainly be considered one of Fort William and Mary’s defenders.

[30] See Extracts from Letters to Gentlemen in New York, December 16 and 17, 1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 423; Address by John Crawford to NHSSAR (April 11, 1894) entitled “Castle William and Mary,” Otis Hammond, ed., Proceedings of the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889 - 1897, published by the Society, Concord, NH (1898), p. 82; Isaac Hill’s July 4 Address at Portsmouth, NH, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, NH), 8/4/1828, p. 1, col. 4.

[31] Torrey Dep ., p. 187; Deposition of Rockingham County Sheriff John Parker, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “Parker Dep.”), p. 187.

[32] Wentworth Narrative, pp. 230 – 231; Letter from Wentworth to the Earl of Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, DAR vol. 8, pp. 248 – 251. Maine was part of Massachusetts (the “Eastern District”) until 1820. On December 14, 1774, Captain Cochran estimated that about 400 men attacked his installation. NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 420 - 421. Cochran's deposition dated December 29, 1774 (sworn on 1/15/1775), however, states that “upwards of 200 men” attacked the fort. See Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191.

[33] Parker Dep ., p. 187.

[34] Wentworth Narrative , pp. 230 - 231; Parker Dep., pp. 187 - 188. Parker appears to suggest that the Governor's request for his barge came on the 15th , but the Governor’s account suggests that he first made this request on the 14th and that he also sought a boat the following day. There is a surprising amount of detail available concerning various aspects of the incidents at the fort. For example, it is known that a striking array of colors (red, yellow and green) were used in painting the upper hull, masts and oars of the Governor’s white-bottomed barge. See Entry for May, 1771, Bill of Joseph Simes, New Hampshire State Archives, Treasury Box 9, 1772 folder.

[35] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , pp. 188 – 189. Review of the depositions of the soldiers at the fort suggests that the man who advised Cochran of the approach of the 4 or 5 men was Soldier Ephraim Hall.

[36] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 189.

[37] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 190. According to soldier Ephraim Hall, field cannon were wheeled around so as to point toward the gate “and the Corner of the Picketts.” Hall Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 199. Unattributed New Castle tradition claims that the “countersign” used “by the Sons of Liberty while preparing for the attack” was “[w]e are going to take a glass of wine; With Captain Cockerine, Cockerine.” See John Albee, New Castle – Historic and Picturesque, p. 23. A coded password might not have been necessary for the actual attack on the post, but it is certainly possible that the New Castle men used a secret signal to indicate that it was time to put their part of the plan into action. The content of the purported “countersign” meshes exceedingly well with what actually occurred in New Castle on the morning of the 14th, when Cochran’s New Castle neighbors paid him a duplicitous social call.

[38] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 190. While Cochran’s deposition states that Bell came in and offered his services, the Captain does not specifically note that Bell was “pressed” into service. Impressment was presumably unnecessary because Bell was a willing volunteer. The other man added to the fort’s contingent on the 14th is identified in the transcript of Cochran’s deposition as “Elizah Locke of Rye” (a woman’s name). Since Cochran states that Locke was “pressed” into service, the implication is that Locke did not volunteer. Locke, Bell or both of them might have been in sympathy with, or sent by, the attackers. Donald Hayes, longtime secretary of the Locke Family Association and a past president of the NH Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, has observed that the Locke in question appears to be either Elijah Locke or Elijah Locke, Jr. of Rye. Both Lockes signed the patriot-inspired Rye Association Test in 1776 and the younger Locke is known to have served in the Continental Army.See Donald Hayes, “Pressed into Service at Fort William and Mary: Was Eliza Locke of Rye a Patriot, a Tory or Hapless Bystander?” The New Hampshire Minuteman (newsletter of the N. H. Society of the Sons of the American Revolution), vol. 15, no. 2 (May 2003), p. 1. When depositions were obtained from the defenders of the fort, see Note 142 below, neither Bell nor Locke gave a statement; a fact perhaps indicative of their sentiments. Locke and Bell’s questionable loyalty might account for some of the numerical discrepancies discussed in Note 29 above. If Bell was not actually planted by the rebels, the attack on the fort appears to have divided the Bell family. A “Mesech Bell” and/or a “Mesech Bell, Jr.” were among the men who stormed the Castle and “Mesech Bell, Jr.” pummeled Soldier Isaac Seveay. The Bells involved in the raids were undoubtedly related to the recently deceased Thomas Bell, the commander of the Castle immediately before Cochran. At the end of the Revolution, a “Lieutenant Mesech Bell” became the fort's captain. See Harriet Lacy, “Fort William and Mary Becomes Fort Constitution,” HNH vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1974), p. 283.

[39] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 190.

[40] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 190; Hall Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, pp. 199 - 200. The weather in Portsmouth at sunset on December 14 was 31 degrees with “snow in the afternoon.” New Hampshire Gazette, 1/6/1775, p. 1, col. 3.

[41] Wentworth Narrative, p. 231; Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, pp. 190 - 191. Pierse Long’s first name is spelled various ways in various documents, but in letters which Long personally signed the spelling is “Pierse.”

[42] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , pp. 190 - 191. Wentworth and the Assembly had previously been in a dispute over the disposition of the “powder money” used to procure the stores that Langdon’s raiders planned to take. As the Council pointed out in a September 26, 1772 letter to the Lord Commissioners of Trade and Plantations in support of Wentworth’s position, [w]e suppose the whole Command, of all Forces by Sea, and Land, and of all Forts, and places of strength, with their Stores and Munition, ever were and are the undoubted right of his Majesty, and his royal Predecessors, and that both or either House of Parliament, can or ought not to pretend, to the same – And as the Act that grants the duty, is on Vessels not owned in this Government, for the express purpose of supplying his Majesty’s Fort, and Fortifications, within this Province, we humbly conceive, that his Excellency being his Majesty’s Representative, has the sole right of disposing, and is the only proper Judge on this side the Water, of the application of the same & is accountable only to his Majesty therefore.” NHPSP vol. 18, p. 633.

[43] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 191. Captain Cochran was as loyal a Briton as could be found in New Hampshire; so much so that the Assembly tried to force him from office by skimping on his compensation. Five months before the affair at the fort, Wentworth attempted to remedy this by asking the Earl of Dartmouth to arrange for Cochran to receive a stipend directly from the British Treasury. Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 7/13/1774, DAR vol. 8, p. 149 – 150. A few weeks before the hostilities at Lexington and Concord, Cochran learned that the stipend had been granted. The funds were to come from the Treasury in England, paid through the Army’s Commander-in-Chief in America, General Gage. Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 3/30/1775, Letterbook 3, pp. 77 – 78. Essentially, in addition to his provincial post, Cochran became an officer of unspecified rank specially attached to the British Army’s high command. In that capacity, he served as a combat officer during the Revolution.

[44] Wentworth Narrative , p. 231. In his haste (or perhaps as a concession to the fact that the men attacking the fort were his neighbors) Cochran did not use a standard anti-personnel artillery load: grapeshot. Assuming (as seems likely) that British ships did not offload artillery shot at the fort between 12/14/1774 and 6/28/1775, thirty one boxes of grapeshot appear to have been on hand in the fort’s arsenal at the time of the raids. See Cochran’s Inventory of Ordnance and Stores Brought from Fort William and Mary, 6/28/1775, NDAR vol. 1, p. 767. In addition to the balls fired from Cochran’s three field pieces, the fort’s volley probably consisted of, at most, 7 smoothbore musket shots and perhaps a shot or two from Cochran’s pistols. Despite occasional reenactments of the event that sometimes suggest the contrary, no first hand report of the incident describes the colonists as returning fire. The rebels appear to have relied upon their numbers, threats and muscle.

[45] Wentworth Narrative , p. 231; Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191; Report of John Cochran to John Wentworth, December 14, 1774, NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 420-421.

[46] George Preble, History of the United States Navy Yard, Portsmouth, NH, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC (1892), p. 25, quoting Report of Joshua Humphries, February 28, 1800. At that time, Humphries (whose title meant that he was in charge of ship construction for the United States) was scouting out a suitable location for a federal navy yard. The general configuration of the fort in 1800 was basically unchanged from its layout in 1774. At least one other possibility presents itself as an explanation for the absence of injuries. Any man injured in an overt act of treason four months before the fighting at Lexington and Concord might have been reluctant to publicize his injuries. The identity of the raider whom Wentworth later claimed was injured by a bayonet thrust (Wentworth Narrative, p. 231) remains unknown.

[47] Cochran report to Wentworth, 12/14/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 191.

[48] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191.

[49] Wentworth Narrative , p. 231. The wound may legitimately be see as having drawn the first blood of New Hampshire’s revolution.

[50] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 191.

[51] Deposition of Isaac Seveay regarding events of 12/14/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “Seveay Dep. Re: 12/14/1774”), p. 195. Palmer’s flintlock pistol certainly might have misfired, given the damp, snowy weather. Had it not, and had a vanquished soldier defending a British provincial fort been slain, it is likely that the date of December 14, 1774 and the name of Fort William and Mary would be well known to students of American history. It is also possible, however, that, rather than misfiring, Palmer’s gun was not actually loaded with a ball; a possibility supported by the fact that Governor Wentworth claimed that the weapon “flash’d.” This suggests that the powder in the pan ignited. If that was the case, either the powder in the barrel did not ignite due to a blockage in the touch hole, the powder in the barrel was wet, or there was no powder or ball in the barrel at all. Palmer might simply have been attempting to terrorize Seveay, simultaneously making it clear that his weapon was unloaded. Palmer temporarily departed the colony just after the raids. It is not know whether this was coincidental or instead indicative of something else, such as knowledge of the potential magnitude of his actions.

[52] Deposition of Samuel Rowell, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975), p. 199. The precise identity of the soldier named Rowell is unknown. It is, however, unlikely that Samuel Rowell was speaking of either himself or Benjamin Rowell, another of the soldiers at the fort. Had he been, their actions would presumably have been reported by Captain Cochran. Since no regiment of the British Army was stationed in New Hampshire in December of 1774, since the soldiers at the fort were the only full-time provincial soldiers in the colony, and since the attacker named Rowell seems to have been in sympathy with the raiders, it is conceivable that the soldier was actually a deserter from the British Army in Boston. At the time of the raids, Wentworth was rounding up deserters in the colony, informing his officials that any prisoners should be taken to Fort William and Mary. See Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/7/1774, Letterbook 3, pp. 26 – 27; Wentworth’s Orders to Sheriff Benjamin Whiting, 12/13/1774, id., p. 30.

[53] Hall Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 200.

[54] Wentworth Narrative , p. 235. No credible evidence has been found to support the highly suspect but oft-repeated contention (first posited in a 1774 letter from an unidentified gentleman of probable loyalist leanings) that the full-time provincial soldiers defending the fort on December 14, 1774 were “invalids.” See NHPSP vol. 7, p. 423. Similarly, it does not appear from first-hand accounts, as is sometimes claimed, that Captain Cochran (who engaged in hand-to-hand fighting when his post was stormed and who remained a staunch loyalist combatant throughout the Revolution) intentionally aimed over the heads of the attackers, or that he mounted a mere token display of resistance so as to claim that he attempted to defend his installation. If a pro forma show of opposition had been Cochran’s way, he would presumably have done the same thing at the time of Sullivan’s raid of the 15th. During that incident, however, he saw that the situation was hopeless and attempted to negotiate a resolution. The popular belief that there were no injuries (“casualties”) inflicted during the raids on Fort William and Mary is certainly incorrect.

[55] Wentworth Narrative, p. 231. The incident likely makes Sarah Cochran the first female loyalist combatant of the Revolution.

[56] Wentworth Narrative, p. 231; Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191; Seveay Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 195.

[57] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191; See Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774 , New England Historical & Genealogical Register (hereinafter “NEH&GR”), vol. 23 (July, 1869), p. 276. The flag at the fort was no doubt a well-known local symbol of British authority. Flags flying over seacoast forts were remarkably large. The “Star Spangled Banner” that flew over Fort McHenry in the War of 1812, for example, was 30 feet by 42 feet in size. Records of the Provincial Treasurer still in existence in the New Hampshire State Archives show that the British flag that flew over Fort William and Mary was an impressive 18 feet in width by 27 feet in length. See Provincial Treasury Records, Box 9, New Hampshire State Archives, Concord, NH, file for 1773 (6/10/1773 entry on bill of Thomas Martin for red, white and blue material and construction of 6 yard by 9 yard flag for the fort); Id., file for 1774 (invoice from Samuel Tripe, July, 1773, for making 6 yard by 9 yard flag for Fort William and Mary).

[58] Hall Dep. Re: 12/14/1774 , p. 200; Wentworth Narrative, p. 231.

[59] Letter to Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 3; Parsons, The Capture, p. 12.

[60] Letter from Wentworth to Thomas W. Waldron, 12/30/1774, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th Series, vol. 4 (1891), pp. 70 –71.

[61] Estimates vary as to the quantity of stolen powder. A frequently quoted (and misquoted) report from Portsmouth dated December 16 claims that 97 barrels were stolen. NHPSP vol. 7, p. 423. Historian Rev. Jeremy Belknap put the number at 100 barrels. Jeremy Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, Crosby & Varney, Dover, NH (1812 ed.), vol. 2, p. 289. John Cochran estimated that the quantity was “about” 100 barrels – and noted that the raiders left one single barrel behind. Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191; NHPSP vol. 7, p. 421. In a 12/20/1774 letter to the Earl of Dartmouth, Governor Wentworth also claimed that the number was “about” 100 barrels, but in a broadside published six days later, he referred to “above” 100 barrels. See NDAR vol. 1, p. 41 and Parsons, The Capture, p. 10. He gave the same estimate in a December 14 dispatch to General Gage. NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420. An anonymous writer to Rivington’s claimed that the number was 103 barrels. See Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/15/1775, p. 3, col. 2. The Essex Gazette of 12/20/1774 (Salem, MA) put the number at 106 barrels. NDAR vol. 1, p. 38. In 1785, John Sullivan claimed that he was placed in charge of 110 barrels. Otis Hammond, ed. Letters and Papers of Major General John Sullivan, vol. 3 (Collections of the NH Historical Society, vol. 15), published by the Society, Concord, NH (1939), p. 420. A highly misleading loyalist report essentially doubles the quantities estimated elsewhere. NHPSP vol. 7, p. 423. Strangely, lawyer-historian Elwin Page states that it is “generally agreed that ninety-eight barrels of gunpowder, each containing one hundred pounds” were taken from the fort. See Elwin Page, “What Happened to the King's Powder?” HNH vol. 19, no. 2 (Summer, 1964), pp. 28. While the quantity of powder in each barrel is likely correct, see Nathaniel Bouton, ed., “Records of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety,” Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, published by the Society, Concord, NH (1863), vol. 7, p. 7, Page appears to have accepted the 97 barrel estimate and to have added to that the one barrel left at the fort on December 14.

[62] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, pp. 191 – 192. An oral account of the December 14 raid by elderly Eleazer Bennet(t), (probably drawn in part from second-hand sources and almost certainly adjusted or misinterpreted by those who recorded it) stated that the raiders’ boats could not “be brought nearer than a rod from the shore, so that in landing and bringing off the stores the men were obliged to wade through the water. The cold was so intense that their clothes froze to them, and their discomforts were increased because the strictest silence was enjoined, no fire was permitted, and no one was allowed to wear shoes, lest an accidental spark from the nails in the boot heels might ignite the powder.” Ballard Smith “Early Settlers at Oyster River” from the Dover Enquirer, 8/5/1851, quoted in John Scales, ed., Historical Memoranda Concerning Persons and Places in Old Dover, NH, Collected by Dr. Alonzo Hall Quint and Others, Published in the Dover Enquirer from 1850 to 1888 , Dover, NH (March, 1900), vol. 1, pp. 78. Bennett’s various recollections of the raids should not necessarily be entirely discounted, see Note 65 below, but they should be approached with considerable caution. Bennett, a resident of Durham, appears to have claimed that he was a participant in Sullivan’s raid (not the raid in which the powder was taken), meaning that any information that he provided about that incident was at best based upon speculation. His story about the wearing of shoes is questionable; the raids were certainly not conducted in silence; and while John Cochran was captain of the fort he built a stone wharf 40 feet long, 20 feet wide and 6 feet high, as well as a 24 by 12 by 9 foot stone pier. Just as it is today, the station at Fort Point was designed to accommodate vessels that cruised the Piscataqua.

[63] Wentworth Narrative , p. 236. The name of Cochran's father is found in Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, vol. 1, p. 320.

[64] Portion of William Cooper’s message to Portsmouth, transcribed by the Portsmouth Committee of Correspondence on 12/14/1774 in a message to the Exeter Committee of Correspondence, subsequently forwarded to Josiah Bartlett (document in a private collection); Letter from Josiah Bartlett to the Citizens of Sandown, 12/15/1774, Frank Mevers, ed., The Papers of Josiah Bartlett, University Press of New England, Hanover, NH (1979), p. 11.

[65] Sullivan’s letter to the New Hampshire Spy, 3/17/1789, p. 2, col. 1, reprinted in Parsons, The Capture, p. 21. Langdon was “President” of the State of New Hampshire at the time of Sullivan’s letter. Secondary sources often state that Langdon’s men delivered the fort’s powder by gundalow directly to Sullivan’s dock. Elwin Page argued that, in light of the fact that most of the powder was in Exeter on the 15th, Sullivan’s memory must have “played him false” when he intimated that all of the powder was sent to his care. Page, “The Kings Powder, 1774,” The New England Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 1 (March 1945), pp. 86 – 87. Both contentions appear to be mistaken. Sullivan did not say that the powder was delivered to his house in Durham on a gundalow. Rather, he stated in 1789 that he received a message at his home saying that the powder was delivered to his “care.” See also Hammond, Letters and Papers of Major General John Sullivan, vol. 3, p. 420 (quoting Sullivan’s letter to the New Hampshire Gazette, 4/29/1785, p. 2, col.s 1 – 3 [misidentified in Hammond as 4/22/1785], stating that the raiders “sent in a gundalow one hundred and ten barrels to my care”). In other words, Sullivan appears to be saying that a messenger informed him that he was placed in charge of the powder on the gundalow. Period sources state that it was offloaded in Portsmouth and then shipped overland to other communities. See Unsent Letter of Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, p. 33 (stating that the powder was “disembark’d from the Gundalos, in this town [Portsmouth] & directly sent off in carriages to Exeter and Dover”); Letter from Portsmouth, 12/16/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 423 (stating that the raiders put the powder on gundalows “brought it up to Town” [i.e. Portsmouth] “and went off with it some distance into the country”). Given these statements (as well as Durham’s location by water; the appearance of 72 barrels of powder in Exeter on December 15; and the fact that Sullivan’s men were forced to chop through river ice when transporting cannon a day or two later) it is highly unlikely that the powder arrived at Sullivan’s dock by gundalow. As researcher Peter Flood pointed out in his 2010 manuscript, A Week in December; Paul Revere’s Secret Mission to New Hampshire, on file at the New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH, Sullivan stated that he learned of the raids from an unnamed visitor late on December 14. Flood posits that this might have been Revere himself and there is at least some ancient support for the proposition that Revere was in Durham. In 1886, Ballard Smith penned a generally unreliable account of the raids based in part upon his recollection of conversations with 101 year-old Eleazer Bennett three decades earlier. Bennett claimed to have been an actual participant and gave a number of oral accounts. Assuming that Smith might have misconstrued information that he heard from Bennett and did not simply invent facts from whole cloth, one version of Bennett’s tale claimed (in some detail) that Revere rode to Durham to inform Sullivan of the Order in Council. See Ballard Smith, “The Gunpowder for Bunker Hill,” Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, vol. 73, no. 434, (July 1886), p. 239. Smith’s article fills in details with romantic fantasy and appears to assume that any suggestion that Revere rode to Durham meant a ride directly from Boston. That clearly was not the case. If, however, Revere was in New Hampshire for several days after the delivery of his message to Cutts (see note 25 above), it is certainly possible that at some point (possibly after the first raid) he traveled to Durham to converse with the colony’s well-known Continental Congressman and that, as Bennett claimed, his horse was “nearly done.” Smith, “The Gunpowder for Bunker Hill,” p. 239. Some of Bennett’s story of the raids was undoubtedly based upon second-hand information; not all of his accounts mention Revere; all of his or his listeners’ accounts conflate the raids of December 14 and 15; and other aspects of his tale are highly questionable. Still, near the end of his life, Bennett evidently shared other portions of his story with a minister who concluded that Bennett “retained his memory and the full use of his mental powers.” In addition, at least some of his recollections (embellished though they may be) square with obscure but documentable fact. See Bennett’s obituary by Rev. Alvan Tobey, Congregational Journal (Concord, NH), 2/18/1852, p. 1, cols. 3 - 4 (in which Bennett recalled that “the arms were found to be defective and unfit for use”; evidently referring to certain useless provincial muskets Cochran attempted to hand over during Sullivan’s raid of December 15). Bennett’s tales should be approached with caution but, in light of Flood’s observation regarding the potential duration of Revere’s stay in New Hampshire, there is no longer reason to instinctively assume that either Smith or Bennett must necessarily have fabricated the entire story about Revere being in Durham.

[66] Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, p. 33; Sullivan’s letter to the New Hampshire Spy, 3/17/1789, p. 2, col. 1, reprinted in Parsons, The Capture, p. 21. At least some of the Durham powder was stored at Ebenezer Thompson’s house. Id. Aged Eleazer Bennett (born 1750) presumably informed Ballard Smith some time around 1849 that part of the Durham powder was held at Maj. Demeritt’s house at Madbury Corner, but that most or all of the remainder was stored under the pulpit of the meeting house near Durham Falls (near what is now the John Sullivan monument). Letter from Ballard Smith to unidentified recipient, 9/8/1849, Milne Special Collections, University of New Hampshire Library, Durham, NH (Durham Town Records, 1732 –1993, MC 149, IX. (Miscellaneous), A. (Various), Box 1, folder 1); See also Congregational Journal (Concord, NH), 2/18/1852, p. 1, cols. 3 –4; Ballard Smith, “Early Settlers at Oyster River,” Scales, Historical Memoranda, supra, vol. 1, pp. 78 – 79; Thomas C. Amory, The Military Services and Public Life of Major-General John Sullivan, of the American Revolutionary Army, Wiggin & Lunt, Boston, MA (1868), Appendix II, p. 295 – 296. The minister of the church (“meeting house”) in Durham, John Adams, was a participant in Sullivan’s raid of December 15 and, whether or not he stored powder at the church, it is possible that he had responsibility for at least some of the Durham supply. John Demeritt presumably hid his share of the Madbury powder by removing a wall in the cellar of his home, digging a hole, placing powder inside and then replacing the wall. Chandler E. Potter, History of Manchester, formerly Derryfield, New Hampshire, published by C. E. Potter, Manchester, NH (1856), footnote, p. 410.

[67] Letter from Dr. John Giddinge to Bartlett, 12/15/1774, Mevers, The Papers of Josiah Bartlett, p. 12; Bell, History of Exeter, pp. 241 – 242; See Page, The King’s Powder, 1774, The New England Quarterly, vol. 18, no. 1, p. 88. Tradition holds that the powder was stored in Exeter’s powderhouse but, if so, it was for a short time. The powderhouse would be an obvious place for royal officials to look for stolen powder. By April 21, 1775, Exeter’s 72 barrels were in the possession of various individuals. See Bell,History of Exeter, p. 242; Thomas F. Kehr, “Some Participants in the Raid on Fort William and Mary,” Section V., The precise disposition of the powder from the Castle has generated inordinate interest. Unshakable but generally mistaken Granite State tradition holds that the powder taken from the Castle was transported in bulk by Major John Demeritt to the New Hampshire Militia in Massachusetts in time for use against the King’s troops at Bunker Hill. The tradition does not appear in any official record, but it is ancient. Parsons, The Capture, p. 27, states that a program from the Portsmouth Bicentennial Anniversary celebration on May 21, 1823 (a time when some Revolutionary War veterans were still living) contains a toast to “Major Sullivan and Capt. Langdon, Our delegates to Congress in '75 who supplied Bunker Hill with Powder from his Majesties fort at Piscataquack.” In 1890, the NHSSAR’s Committee on New Hampshire at Bunker Hill noted, without citation, that John Stark distributed ammunition to his men which “Sullivan and Langdon had taken at Fort William and Mary, and which Deacon Demeritt had brought to Cambridge on a cart after the battle of Lexington.” Hammond, Proceedings of the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889 - 1897, p. 27. In the 1850’s a person who claimed to have heard of the raids directly from Major Demeritt stated that Demeritt provided him with some powder ostensibly seized at the Castle, insinuating that it was used at Bunker Hill. See Potter, History of Manchester, footnote, pp. 410 - 411. In 1964, former New Hampshire Bar Association President Elwin L. Page more or less demolished the tradition that Demeritt could have taken the powder from Fort William and Mary to Bunker Hill in bulk. See Elwin Page, “What Happened to the King's Powder?” HNH vol. 19, pp. 28 –33; See also Crawford, “Castle William and Mary,”Proceedings of the New Hampshire Society of the Sons of the American Revolution, 1889 - 1897, p. 86. That is not to say that no powder from the fort was used at Bunker Hill. New Hampshiremen certainly used the powder and arms captured at the Castle against the forces of the Crown, even if no large supply was delivered by Demeritt prior to that particular engagement. As noted by Page, 72 barrels were accounted for on April 21, 1775. Some of that (and/or some of the unaccounted-for barrels) likely went with the New Hampshiremen who took to arms following the Lexington Alarm, two months before Bunker Hill. That powder might have been used against the British at Bunker Hill or elsewhere.See also New Hampshire Committee of Safety’s order releasing a quantity of powder to the Continental Army at Medford, MA 8/7/1775, “Records of the New Hampshire Committee of Safety,” Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vol. 7, p. 14. By the same token, however, a number of the fort’s cannon were secured by the Royal Navy in 1775 for use by the British armed forces. Cochran’s Inventory of Ordnance and Stores Brought from Fort William and Mary, 6/28/1775, NDAR vol. 1, p. 767. In all likelihood, those guns were employed against Americans.

[68] Bell, History of Exeter, pp. 240 – 241.

[69] Cochran Report of 12/14/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420 – 421; Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, pp. 33 – 35. Despite the date appearing on Wentworth’s unsent letter to Gage, the contents make it clear that it was actually penned on the 16th. The error may suggest that the Governor was getting little, if any, sleep during the affair at the fort. Wentworth was writing the letter when he learned that an armed troop of horse had arrived in town (an event that occurred on the 16th). Shortly thereafter, he was informed of the outcome of Sullivan’s raid and scrapped his letter to Gage in favor of a shorter version that conveyed news of a second theft at the fort.

[70] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/14/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420. The editors of NDAR opined that Wentworth (a man who was generally careful with his words) probably intended to use the word “inability” rather than “imbecility” in a virtually identical letter to Admiral Graves. If so, he made exactly the same error in this letter to General Gage. Compare NDAR, vol. 1, p. 19 with NHPSP vol. 7, p. 420.

[71] NDAR vol. 1, pp. 19, 30; Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, p. 34.

[72] Atkinson’s Orders of 12/15/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 421; Wentworth Narrative, p. 232; Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, p. 34.

[73] Wentworth Narrative , p. 232; Parker Dep., p. 188. Weather conditions at Portsmouth, December 1774, New Hampshire Gazette, 1/6/1775, p. 1, col. 3.

[74] Letters to the public from John Sullivan, New Hampshire Mercury, 5/3/1785, p. 2, col. 1 – 3; New Hampshire Spy, 3/17/1789, p. 2, col. 1.

[75] Wentworth Narrative , p. 232.

[76] Sullivan, whose militia rank was bestowed by Wentworth in 1772, offered a deposition in favor of the Governor when disgruntled Councilor Peter Livius attempted to have Wentworth removed from office. Charles P. Whittemore, A General of the Revolution; John Sullivan of New Hampshire, Columbia University Press, New York, NY (1961), pp. 6 - 7. John Langdon’s older brother Woodbury (to whom John’s filial devotion was strong) was one of Councilor Livius’ most vocal supporters. Memorial of Woodbury Langdon, 2/7/1777, Mayo, John Langdon, pp. 161 -162.

[77] Wentworth Narrative , p. 232.

[78] Wentworth Narrative, p. 232.

[79] Unlike Wentworth Narrative, p. 232, which states that Sullivan himself suggested that the powder might be returned, the Governor’s unsent December 16 letter to Gage (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, p. 34, does not state that the idea was Sullivan’s, leaving open the possibility that the Major might not have been the first person to conceive the thought.

[80] The crime of misprision of treason is, in essence, a public official’s crime in concealing the existence of treason. Wentworth’s commission from the King gave him the power to grant pardons in all cases except those involving “Treason and Wilful Murder. . . in which cases you shall likewise have the power upon extraordinary Occasions, to grant Reprieves to the Offenders until, & to the extent Our Royal Pleasure be known therein.” Henry H. Metcalf, ed., Laws of New Hampshire, vol. 3 (Province Period, 1745 – 1774), Musgrove Printing House, Bristol, NH (1915), p. 417. Patriot Jeremy Belknap, who was personally friendly with Wentworth, stated that in order to “prevent any charge of misprision of treason” the Governor dismissed “from public trust, all those concerned in the assault of the fort, who had held any office under the government, and concerning whose proceedings he had any authentic testimony.” Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, vol. 2, p. 289.

[81] Wentworth Narrative , p. 232; Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774), Letterbook 3, pp. 34 - 35.

[82] There was at least some marginal basis for Wentworth’s suggestion. The Boston Port Act might have been lifted had Boston made amends for the Tea Party. See Mark M. Boatner, III, Encyclopedia of the American Revolution (third edition), Stackpole Books edition of David Mckay Company, Inc. publication, Mechanicsburg, PA (1994), p. 544. In 1775, however, it is questionable whether Parliament, the British Ministry or the King would have been willing to make a similar concession for a direct attack on a military installation like that committed by Langdon’s raiders.

[83] See Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, Letterbook 3, p. 44; NEH&GR vol. 23, no. 3 (July, 1869), p. 267 (same).

[84] Wentworth Narrative, p. 233; Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774) Letterbook 3, p. 35. Wentworth’s narrative does not give Thompson’s first name. It seems most likely that the Thompson in question was Durham’s Ebenezer Thompson (whom Sullivan later recalled initially responded to the alarm but who ultimately went home) rather than Portsmouth patriot Capt. Thomas Thompson, a friend of Langdon’s who is not specifically identified in soldiers’ depositions as a raider.

[85] Unsent Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774 (misdated 12/17/1774) Letterbook 3, p. 35.

[86] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/7/1774, Letterbook 3, pp. 26 – 27; Letter from Wentworth to Thomas Waldron, 12/9/1774, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th Series, vol. 4, p. 69.

[87] Wentworth Narrative , p. 233. Wentworth described his actions less forcefully in an official dispatch to Lord Dartmouth, saying simply that he would not promise pardons or suspensions of prosecution, but that if they dispersed the crowds and returned the powder he “hoped his Majesty may be thereby induced to consider it an alleviation of the Offence, [T]hey parted me in all appearance perfectly disposed to follow the advice I had given them. . .” Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, Letterbook 3, p. 45 It may have been at about this time that Chief Justice Atkinson told Langdon that if he did not immediately flee the country, his head would “be the button for a gallows rope before the expiration of a week.” Extract From Isaac Hill’s July 4 Address at Portsmouth, NH, New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette (Concord, NH), 8/4/1828, p. 1, col. 4. The comment was presumably interpreted by bystanders as a threat, and it may well have been. On the other hand, Atkinson, who supposedly had no personal animosity toward Langdon, was the Chief Justice of the province. It is surprising that an individual in that office would advise a high traitor to flee British justice. Had the comment been known in England, it is doubtful that the reactionary administration would have been pleased.

[88] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 421. It is questionable just how hard the officers tried to recruit volunteers. Sheriff Parker believed that they merely “pretended to attempt” to raise their companies and recruit men to defend the Castle. Parker Dep., p. 188. That may well be the case. One of the officers tasked with recruitment was John Dennet, a name that (whether or not the same individual) appears among the raiders of December 14. Cochran Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 191; Seveay Dep. Re: 12/14/1774, p. 195.

[89] Wentworth Narrative , p. 233.

[90] John Langdon’s more conservative brother, Woodbury, believed that it was impossible to predict how Britain might respond to the raids. He felt that there was at least the possibility that Portsmouth Harbor might be closed. Letter from Woodbury Langdon to Eastman and Webster, 12/17/1774, NEH&GR vol. 22 (July, 1868), p. 337.

[91] Wentworth Narrative , p. 233; See Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 3. The identification of this McClary as the Andrew McClary who later fell at Bunker Hill was made by Dr. Elizabeth Covart while she was an intern at the Bunker Hill Historical Site in Charlestown, Massachusetts.

[92] Gage did try it again: On April 18, 1775, he sent his redcoats to secure the munitions depot at Concord, MA and Paul Revere made another, more famous, ride.

[93] Wilderson, Governor John Wentworth and the American Revolution, p. 90.

[94] Rivington’s NY Gazeteer , 1/19/1775, p. 2, col. 3; Wentworth Narrative, p. 233.

[95] Rivington’s NY Gazeteer , 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 2 –3. The writer to Rivington’s stated that it was the “eloquent harangue of their Demosthenes,” that secured this vote. Sullivan is often credited as being this individual and it is possible that, although he did not argue for a second raid, he wished to show clear support for the raiders of the 14th. It seems more likely, however, that the patriot “Demosthenes” was Andrew McClary. Wentworth claimed that it was McClary who “strongly” argued that the fort should be raided. Wentworth Narrative, p. 233. The ancient Greek Demosthenes was, like Sullivan an eloquent attorney/orator. Presumably, however, he began life with a stutter, an affliction that Cochran later attributed to McClary and, nonetheless, at least one local source claims that McClary had a “stentorial” voice. Gilbert Knowles, The Life and Death of Major Andrew McClary, address at meeting of the Epsom Historical Society, Nov. 1971 (revised 1974). In addition, a loyalist who was present in Greenland for a series of patriot activities two days after the discussions in Portsmouth identified McClary (and Joseph Cilley) as just the type of “lazy, idle” fellows who would do such things as raise a liberty pole and support patriot resolves. New Hampshire Gazette, 12/30/1774, p. 1, col. 1. Moreover, if Sullivan pressed for the vote of unity with Langdon’s raiders, he did so just after he successfully argued that the crowd should disperse. It is questionable why Attorney Sullivan would, as an afterthought, ask men who were leaving to cast a vote that effectively served to incriminate him.

[96] Wentworth Narrative, p. 233.

[97] Wentworth Narrative, p. 233. Wentworth’s narrative suggests that the men were detained by Portsmouth operatives who were in favor a second raid. Actual payment for their drinking, however, appears to have paid for by Sullivan himself. Letter from Sullivan to the State Senate, 2/14/1785, NHPSP vol. 18, p. 749. This might simply suggest that Portsmouth operatives took advantage of Sullivan’s hospitality, but it might alternatively suggest that Sullivan had an early change of heart, or even (if perhaps less likely) that Wentworth received faulty intelligence about the position that Sullivan took at the Bell tavern. The anonymous writer to Rivington’s suggests that Sullivan and about 70 others simply waited around (“concealed themselves till the evening”) and then went to take the fort. Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 3. It is conceivable that Sullivan left it to the men at Tilton’s to follow their own conscience about whether or not to engage in a second raid and that he himself chose to wait for fresh blood.

[98] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 421.

[99] Deposition of Captain John Cochran regarding events of 12/15/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “ Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774”), p. 192. If Wentworth was correct in estimating that Portsmouth learned of incoming volunteers at about 7:00 PM and if Cochran was also correct in estimating that he received information about a planned Sullivan attack at about 7:00 PM, the timing is curious. It might simply mean that Cochran or Wentworth was mistaken as to the time, or that Cochran simply caught wind of a rumor that Sullivan was being pressured to lead an assault. It is not inconceivable, however, that Sullivan actually decided to secure the cannon before Portsmouth received word of the arrival of reinforcements. If the intelligence that Cochran received came from someone with knowledge of Sullivan’s actual plans (rather than from someone reporting what Portsmouth operatives wanted Sullivan to do), it might suggest that the Major was conflicted about whether or not to act and was feeling out whether Cochran might deliver the stores without the necessity of an actual attack.

[100] Gerald D. Foss, Three Centuries of Freemasonry in New Hampshire, New Hampshire Publishing Company, Somersworth, NH (1972), p. 19.

[101] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 192

[102] All of Cochran’s men gave statements about the attacks on the fort, but Samuel Rowell’s relates only to events of December 14, suggesting that he was not present on December 15. Deposition of Samuel Rowell, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975), pp. 198 – 199.

[103] See Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 3 (referring to 70 men); Letter from Wentworth to Graves, 12/20/1774, NDAR vol. 1, p. 37 (referring to 100 men); Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, pp. 192 – 193.

[104] Deposition of Ephraim Hall regarding the events of 12/15/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “Hall Dep. Re: 12/15/1774”), p. 201; Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 192; Deposition of Isaac Seveay regarding events of 12/15/1774, Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, no. 3 (Fall, 1975) (hereinafter “Seveay Dep. Re: 12/15/1774”), p. 196.

[105] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, pp. 192 - 193. The reference to the men being property holders suggested that they were respectable citizens empowered to vote in provincial elections; that is, freeholders who might potentially be able to act on behalf of the province, and no mere mob. See generally Crackel and Andresen, “Fort William and Mary: A Case Study in Crowd Behavior,” HNH vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter 1974), pp. 203 - 226. The identities of far more raiders are known today than in 1974 when Crackel and Andresen produced their article. See e. g. Thomas F. Kehr, “Some Participants in the Raid on Fort William and Mary,” An expansion of their work is warranted.

[106] Hall Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 201; Seveay Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 196; Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 193.

[107] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 193.

[108] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, pp. 193 – 194.

[109] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 193; Hall Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 201; Seveay Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 196.

[110] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 193.

[111] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, pp. 193 – 194.

[112] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774 , p. 194; Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 276. Wentworth Narrative, p. 234; Rivington’s NY Gazeteer, 1/19/1775, p. 3, col. 3. The good muskets may have been those from the British arsenal at Crown Point, NY recently provided to Wentworth by Gage. See Letter from Gage to Lord Hillsborough, 5/6/1772, Clarence E. Carter, ed., The Correspondence of General Thomas Gage with the Secretaries of State, 1763 – 1775, Archon Books, Hamden, CT (1969), vol. 1, pp. 324 - 325. Wentworth’s proclamation concerning the affair, issued on December 26, claimed that the raiders “forc[ed]” the stolen cannon from the ramparts of the Castle and that the raiders took more than sixty “stand” of small arms. NDAR vol. 1, p. 41. A “stand” of small arms would be a full set of small arms for a soldier, intimating that accoutrements such as bayonets and equipment went with the muskets. A total of 82 to 92 muskets were taken (40 to 50 old useless muskets and 42 new, serviceable ones). Judging from the size of the cannon taken, it seems unlikely that all the guns were actually “forced” from the ramparts. At least some of the smaller 4-pounders, if not all of them, would likely have been on mobile field carriages.

[113] Wentworth Narrative , p. 236. The elder Cochran’s offer to have his son fight his foes “two at a time” came from a man who had once done just that. In his youth during Dummer’s (Lovewell’s) war, James Cochran had single-handedly killed two of the enemy who attempted to take him captive. Samuel Penhallow, History of the Indian Wars, facsimile reprint of the 1726 Wheelock edition, Corner House Publishers, Williamstown, MA (1973), p. 111.

[114] Cochran Dep. Re: 12/15/1774, p. 194; Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, Letterbook 3, p. 45; NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 276.

[115] Otis Hammond, ed., Letters and Papers of Major General John Sullivan (Collections of the New Hampshire Historical Society, vol. 13), published by the N.H. Historical Society, Concord, NH (1930), vol. 1, p. 53. The full quote was “I must here beg leave to recommend to the consideration of the people on this Continent whether, when we are by an arbitrary decree prohibited the having Arms and Ammunition by importation, we have not, by the law of self-preservation, a right to seize upon those within our power, in order to defend the liberties which God and nature have given to us; especially at this time, when several of the Colonies are involved in a dangerous war with the Indians and must, if this inhuman order has the designed effect, fall a prey to those savage barbarians who have so often deluged this land in blood.” The reference may be to the Quebec Act, which Sullivan believed encouraged the French and their native allies to descend on New England. Letter from Sullivan to John Langdon, 9/5/1774, id., pp. 47 – 48. A similar disingenuous justification for the raids was made by “A Lover of Order” in the New Hampshire Gazette of 12/23/1774, p. 1, col. 2. Alternatively, Sullivan’s reference might have been to the Battle of Point Pleasant in (West) Virginia in October, 1774, a significant engagement between American militiamen and Shawnee warriors. In 1785, Sullivan claimed that after he returned from the Continental Congress he “took the alarm, clearly perceived the designs of the British ministry, and wrote several pieces upon the necessity of securing military stores; which pieces were published in several papers.” Sullivan’s Letter to the “Impartial Public” New Hampshire Mercury, 5/3/1785, p. 2, col. 1. The earliest record that the author has found of such a letter is the “address to the inhabitants of British America,” which was evidently written in late December, 1774, after the raids. See New Hampshire Gazette, 1/13/1775, p. 1, col. 1. It was essentially offered as an after-the-fact justification for the assaults rather than as the call to action that Sullivan intimated it was in 1785.

[116] Tradition holds that John Sullivan’s clerk Alexander Scammell hauled down the British flag during the second raid. Theodore Chase, “The Attack on Fort William and Mary,” HNH vol. 18, no. 1 (April, 1963), p. 31. Scammell served as Continental Adjutant General during the Revolution and died of battle wounds in British captivity.

[117] Weather conditions at Portsmouth, December 1774, New Hampshire Gazette, 1/6/1775, p. 1, col. 3.

[118] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 422; Narrative of Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves, 12/16/1774, NDAR vol. 1, p. 30.

[119] Port of Piscataqua; Colonial Customs Records, 1770 – 1775, Portsmouth NH , Manuscript copy, Portsmouth Athenaeum (1983) (clearance number 57 for the quarter ending January 5, 1775, [12/16/1774]).

[120] Two days after the second attack, inhabitants of the Town of Greenland, NH erected a liberty pole and passed votes in support of the cause of liberty, vowing to defend American privileges with their lives and fortunes. See New Hampshire Gazette, 12/30/1774, p. 1, col. 1; Douglas Sweet, “New Hampshire on the Road to Revolution: Fort William and Mary, A Decisive Step,HNH vol. 29, no. 4 (Winter, 1974), p. 250.

[121] Narrative of Gideon Lamson, Bell, History of Exeter, pp. 240 – 241. Exeter was the home of the Exeter Cadets, of which James Hackett was a member. The Cadets were Governor Wentworth’s showcase militia unit. Id., p. 239. As to Hackett generally, see Thomas F. Kehr, “ Requiem for James Hackett,” Naval History, vol. 25, no. 6 (December, 2011), pp. 58 – 63.

[122] Bell, History of Exeter, pp. 240 – 241; Wentworth Narrative, p. 234.

[123] Wentworth Narrative, p. 234. Under the “Riot Act,” an official would “with a Loud Voice, Openly make Proclamation, in these or the Like Words. Our Sovereign Lord the King Chargeth & Commandeth, all Persons being here Assembled, Immediately to Disperse themselves, & Peaceably to Depart to their Habitations or to their Lawful Business, upon the Pains Contained in an Act of this Province, made in the twenty Seventh Year of his Majesty King George the Second, for Preventing & Suppressing of Riots, Routs & unlawful Assemblies.” Metcalf, Laws of New Hampshire, vol. 3, pp. 77 – 78.

[124] Wentworth Narrative , p. 234. When King James II was deposed, he was replaced by King William and his wife, Queen Mary, the sovereigns for whom the fort was named.

[125] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 422.

[126] Letter from Stephen Bordman Re: William Pottle, New Hampshire Gazette, 12/30/1774, p. 1, col. 2.

[127] Letter from John Sullivan, New Hampshire Spy, 3/17/1789, p. 2, col. 1.

[128] Letter from Sullivan to the State Senate, 2/14/1785, NHPSP vol. 18, p. 749.

[129] Wentworth Narrative, p. 234.

[130] Wentworth Narrative , p. 234; Andrew Wahll, ed. The Voyage of the Canceaux, 1764 - 1776 (abridged logs), Heritage Books, Bowie, MD (2003), p. 250; Letter from Graves to Stephens, 1/8/1775, NDAR vol. 1, p. 58; Captain’s Log, HMS Scarborough, 12/19/1774, (British Archives, ADM 51 867/159), Thomas F. Kehr, compiler, British Archives Materials (including selected logs of HMS Scarborough and Lively), copy on file at N.H. Historical Society, Concord, NH. The Scarborough, commanded by Lt. Andrew Barkley (Barclay), carried 20 six-pound cannon. The Canceaux, commanded by Lt. Henry Mowat(t), carried 8 nine-pound cannon. Scarborough (at times supported by the Canceaux and other vessels) remained on duty at Portsmouth Harbor for about 8 months, departing in late August 1775. Mowat and the Canceaux went on to infamy in October of 1775 when they burned Falmouth (Portland) Maine to the ground.

[131] Letter from Graves to Stephens, 1/8/1775, NDAR vol. 1, p. 58.

[132] Votes of Portsmouth Military Company, 12/20/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, p. 422.

[133] Extract from letter of Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/28/1774, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 277.

[134] Proclamation of Governor Wentworth, 12/26/1774, NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 423 - 424.

[135] Letters from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 3/10/1775, DAR vol. 9, pp. 70 – 71; 1/14/1775, Letterbook 3, pp. 52 – 53; Letter from Wentworth to Thomas W. Waldron, 1/27/1775, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 6th Series, vol. 4 (1891), p. 74. Wentworth cast a broad net when dismissing officers. He dismissed Col. Josiah Bartlett, who was home in Kingston at the time of the raids but who conveyed information along the patriot communication chain. See Mevers, ed., The Papers of Josiah Bartlett, pp. 11 - 12. On the other hand, he was lenient with at least one would-be raider, Ebenezer Thompson, who assisted in disposing of the stolen powder but who later decided against participating in a second raid. Thompson was purportedly restored to office when he swore that he was not involved in the thefts from the fort. Letter from “An Enemy of Deceit,” New Hampshire Spy, 3/6/1789, p. 2, col. 1; Letter from John Sullivan, New Hampshire Spy, 3/17/1789, p. 2, col 1 – 2.

[136] Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 12/20/1774, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 277.

[137] Letter from Livermore to Wentworth, 1/11/1775, DAR vol. 9, p. 29.

[138] Letter from Wentworth to George Erving, Esq., 1/5/1775, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 277; NHPSP vol. 7, p. 442.

[139] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 478.

[140] Entry for July 31, 1781, Worthington C. Ford, et al eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774 – 1789, (34 vol.s, 1904 – 1937) U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, DC, vol. 21, p. 819. When criticized for receiving the stipend, Sullivan claimed that it had been given to him over his objection, adding “[b]ut if I was called upon I could easily prove that no man in New Hampshire spent the hundredth part so much as I did in Securing those stores, I paid every farthing of expense in the Evening at Tiltons, before the Company set off; & the whole while we were at great Island, myself, three Clerks, a hired man & team; were several Days employd in cutting the Ice out of the River, getting up the Gundaloes & depositing the stores; during all this time my House was like an open Tavern . . .” Letter from Sullivan to the State Senate, 2/14/1785, NHPSP vol. 18, p. 749. A short while later, a supporter of Sullivan’s bid for the office of New Hampshire State President asked the presumably rhetorical question “[w]ho first formed an expedition against fort William and Mary, and took from thence those warlike stores which proved the preservation of the American army?” Letter from “Agricola,” New Hampshire Gazette, 3/4/1785, p. 4, col. 1. Detractors pointed out that Sullivan did not initially mount the expedition and Sullivan attempted to clarify his role. Seee. g. Letter from “Honestus,” New Hampshire Gazette, 4/15/1785, p. 2, col. 1; Letter from Sullivan to “The Impartial Public,” New Hampshire Mercury, 5/3/1785, p. 2, col. 1 – 2. The dispute erupted again in 1789, when Ebenezer Thompson noted that it was actually Langdon (by then one of Sullivan’s political opponents) who took the fort’s powder. See e. g. Ebenezer Thompson’s response to “An Enemy of Deceit,” New Hampshire Spy, 3/13/1789, p. 1, col 3 – p. 2, col. 1; Sullivan’s Response to Ebenezer Thompson, 3/17/1789, New Hampshire Spy, p. 1, col. 3 – p. 2, col. 2.

[141] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 2/13/1775, Letterbook 3, pp. 61 – 62; Letter from Dartmouth to Gage, 4/15/1775, DAR vol. 9, pp. 102 - 103

[142] See Belknap, The History of New Hampshire, vol. 2, p. 289. The depositions, transcribed in Paul Wilderson, “The Raids on Fort William and Mary: Some New Evidence,” HNH vol. 30, No. 3 (Fall, 1975), pp. 178 – 202, were not generally known to exist until 1975, a full two hundred years after the incidents. Wentworth did not believe that he could take action against the offenders unless two regiments of British regulars were deployed to New Hampshire to keep the peace. Letter from Wentworth to Dartmouth, 1/14/1775, Letterbook 3 p. 53. General Gage ultimately denied Wentworth’s request for those troops. In the end, he needed them to fight a war in Massachusetts. Some time before June 8, 1775, New Hampshire’s Fourth Provincial Congress was appalled to discover that the Governor was hoping to bring the hated redcoats to New Hampshire. Address from the Provincial Congress to Wentworth, 6/8/1775. NHPSP vol. 7, pp. 509 – 510. Not long after that discovery, Wentworth was run out of Portsmouth. See Wilderson, Governor John Wentworth and the American Revolution, p. 261.

[143] Message from King George III to Lord North, 2/3/1775, William Bodham Donne, ed., The Correspondence of King George the Third with Lord North, 1768 to 1783, published by permission of Queen Victoria by John Murray, London, UK (1867), vol. 1, p. 225.

[144] Fenton (ironically, an owner of property at Bunker Hill) was a provincial militia colonel and one of the magistrates who attempted to call for order in December of 1774. He was also one of the two magistrates who took statements from witnesses to the raids on the Castle. Fenton took the statements of Captain Cochran and privates Isaac Seveay, Benjamin Rowell, Samuel Rowell and Ephraim Hall. Samuel Penhallow took the depositions of William Torrey, Sheriff John Parker and private John Griffiths. In 1775, Fenton was elected to the New Hampshire House from the Town of Plymouth, a town which had not previously been allowed a representative. Over the strong objections of the Assembly, Wentworth granted representation to the newer towns of Plymouth, Lyme and Orford while choosing to deprive older, more established towns of an assemblyman. Fenton was so unpopular that he was forced to reside aboard the warship Scarborough in Portsmouth Harbor. As to Fenton generally, see Ezra S. Stearns, History of Plymouth, NH, University Press, Cambridge, MA (1906), vol. 1, pp. 68 – 79.

[145] Letter from Lady Frances Wentworth to Lady Rockingham, 6/13/1775 - 6/26/1775, Jere R. Daniell, “Lady Wentworth’s Last Days in New Hampshire,” HNH vol. 23, no. 1 (Spring, 1968), p. 22. See also Karen Andrésen, “A Return to Legitimacy: New Hampshire's Constitution of 1776,” HNH vol. 31, no. 4 (Winter, 1976), pp. 158 - 159.

[146] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 6/15/1775, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 278.

[147] Letter from Wentworth to Paul Wentworth, 6/29/1775, NEH&GR vol. 23, p. 278. The names of the guards (probably 6 in number) have not been determined but it is possible that they included Isaac Seveay, one of the Castle’s soldiers, who appears to have initially remained devoted to the governor. See Ezra Stearns, Genealogy and Family History of the State of New Hampshire, Lewis Publishing Co., NY (1908), vol. 2, pp. 814 – 815 (Isaac Seveay entry). E. Harold Young, History of Pittsfield, NH, published by the town (1953), pp. 360 – 361, relates certain anecdotes about a “Thomas Seveay” which seem to match the story of Isaac Seveay. Seveay later joined the American forces.

[148] Thomas F. Kehr, “The Piscataqua in Arms: New Hampshire’s Unknown Actions of the Revolution,” The Brigade Dispatch (Journal of the Brigade of the American Revolution), vol. 36, No. 4 (Winter, 2006), pp. 2 – 14 (copy on file at the New Hampshire Historical Society, Concord, NH). Of the nine towns on the list, a Royal Navy squadron led by HMS Canceaux actually burned only one: Falmouth (Portland), ME. New Hampshire made another sizable haul of cannon on May 30/31, 1775, when about 500 - 600 Seacoast residents under the leadership of Portsmouth’s Dr. Hall Jackson, descended on the unmanned artillery battery at Jerry’s Point (currently the site of Fort Stark in New Castle) and seized 8 large, unmounted cannon (two 32-pounders and six 24-pounders). Just before they did so, 30 to 40 men of the Scarborough came ashore and tore down breastworks and other structures at Fort William and Mary. American forces completed the dismantling of the fort about 3 months later. By that time, the Piscataqua’s main defenses were further upriver.

[149] Although Wentworth never again set foot on the New Hampshire mainland, he arrived off the coast, at the Isles of Shoals, in late September, staying just long enough to issue an order “proroguing” (essentially postponing) a meeting of the Assembly. Lawrence Shaw Mayo, John Wentworth, Governor of New Hampshire, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, MA (1921), pp. 161 – 162. The Assembly (by then usurped by the Provincial Congress) never met again. In 1792, Wentworth became Royal Governor of Nova Scotia.

[150] The claim is made in Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, vol. 1, p. 320. No mention of the incident has been found in period documents and Sullivan himself was not in New Hampshire at the time of the Lexington Alarm. He was travelling to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia. See New Hampshire Gazette, 4/7/1775, p. 1, col 3.

[151] NHPSP vol. 7, p. 703 - 704; NHPSP vol. 8, pp. 1 – 4; See generally Andrésen, “A Return to Legitimacy: New Hampshire's Constitution of 1776,” HNH vol. 29, no. 4, pp. 159 - 161.

[152] See Susan E. Marshall, The New Hampshire State Constitution; A Reference Guide, Praeger Publishing, Westport, CT (2004), pp. 4 – 12.

[153] Letter from Wentworth to Gage, 12/16/1774, NDAR vol. 1, p. 27.

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