On the early morning of October 18, 1775, Captain Henry Mowatt (Moet) of the British Royal Navy announced to the citizens of Falmouth that at 9AM he was going to “execute a just punishment” on them for the state of rebellion in New England, following Vice Admiral Samuel Graves order to “lay waste, burn and destroy such Sea Port towns as are accessible to His Majesty’s ships.”
Mowatt gave the citizens (“human specie”) two hours to evacuate. Many began leaving immediately, escaping to Stroudwater and other towns in the vicinity.
At 9:40 AM, the naval bombardment began and lasted for approximately 8 hours. Not pleased with the outcome, Mowatt sent his troops ashore to burn the remaining buildings. By evening, “the body of the town was in one flame.” More than three-quarters (400) of the buildings and houses were destroyed or damaged, and more than 1,000 citizens were left homeless. None of the citizens were killed in the attack, and only one person was wounded.
The attack on Falmouth caused outrage amongst many New Englanders, galvanizing the Continental Congress to increased action and support within the colonies for self-rule and revolution.
- Goold, William (1873). The burning of Falmouth (now Portland, Maine), by Capt. Mowatt in 1775.
- Norman, John (1782). The town of Falmouth, burnt, by Captain Moet, Octbr. 18th 1775.
- Willis, William (1865). The History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864: With a Notice of Previous Settlements, Colonial Grants, and Changes of Government in Maine.