Fort William and Mary – DEC 13, 14 & 15, 1774 –
Boston’s Committee of Correspondence dispatched Paul Revere to Portsmouth with a message suggesting they had received intelligence from the British that all Forts of the Colonies were to be secured by British soldiers.
December 13, 1774 –
Paul Revere arrived Portsmouth on the afternoon of December 13th with the message from the Boston Committee of Correspondence and also information indicting more British were coming to Portsmouth. The HMS Canceaux was sailing to Piscataqua. Within 24 hours of Revere’s message several hundred patriots from Portsmouth, New Castle, Rye and Kittery were headed to Fort William and Mary with the intent of attacking a British facility. Many of these men were members of their local militias.
December 14, 1774
John Langdon leads his men through Portsmouth to seize the gunpowder stored at Fort William and Mary. The Fort is stormed by Langdon’s men. The Fort defenders fired three cannon shots and musket volley and did not hit anyone. Four hundred New Hampshire men stormed over the Forts walls with injuries inflicted to both sides, no deaths. The defenders captured, the rebels gave three cheers and hauled down the British Flag that for more than century the declared British possession of Portsmouth, the first to be hauled down at a Fort captured by Americans.
The New Hampshire men seized about 100 barrels of gunpowder loaded them onto gundalows and hauled away. The issue of what to do with the stolen gun powder was left to militia Major John Sullivan from Durham. Some of the gunpowder was offloaded from the gundalows and shipped overland to Exeter, Durham and Dover. The bulk of it 72 Barrels went to Exeter.
December 15, 1774
John Sullivan arrives on the morning of the 15th with 30 t0 40
patriots from Durham. As the day wore on, more than 100 more men from NH arrived and 600 from Massachusetts (Maine) to take part in the NH act of defiance that was begun the day before by John Langdon and his men. John Sullivan and his men knew that Boston’s act of resistance, the Boston Tea Party brought the wrath of the British down on Boston – closed the Port of Boston and passed the Intolerable Acts to punish Boston for the acts of their zealots. What they were contemplating had the potential to bring the full wrath of the British down on New Hampshire. What would the punishment be for a second assault on a British installation with the intention of seizing British arms? After debating the seriousness of impending their actions, John Sullivan leads New Hampshire and Maine men on a second assault of Fort William and Mary. Late in the evening of the 15th , they seized all small arms, cannon shot stores and 16 cannons, they could carry and loaded them onto gundalows to be hauled off. They were on their way by 8:00 the next morning, December 16th, but fighting the tide on the Piscataqua.
December 16, 1774
Companies of Volunteers arrive in Portsmouth from Exeter. These
men were the best trained militia in NH and were prepared to fight the British Regulars that were expected to arrive at Portsmouth. When the tide turned, the British had still not arrived and Sullivan was able to take the seized weapons and supplies further inland, primarily to Durham, up the iced choked Great Bay and its inland tributaries. On December 17th , at around 8:00 that evening the 8-gun British armed merchant ship HMS Canceaux arrives Portsmouth, followed two days later by 20-gun Frigate HMS Scarborough.
By the end of 1774, New Hampshire permanently slipped from British control. The
Colonial forces, always short of gunpowder and supplies needed the supplies and
gunpowder seized at Fort William and Mary. They were used by George Washington
and the Colonial forces to replenish the powder used at Bunker Hill and to conduct the Seize of Boston.