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Battle off Yarmouth (1777)
Part of the American Revolutionary War
USS Cabot (1775).png
USS Cabot
Date28 March 1777
LocationYarmouth, Nova Scotia
Result British victory
United States United States of America  Kingdom of Great Britain United Kingdom
Commanders and leaders
United States Joseph Olney
Lieut. Benjamin Knight
Kingdom of Great Britain John Burr (mariner)[1]
140 men 32 guns

The Battle off Yarmouth took place on 28 March 1777 during the American Revolutionary War. The battle is the first American armed vessel to engage the British Navy. The British vessel HMS Milford forced the American USS Cabot aground and the American crew escaped among the inhabitants of Yarmouth.[2][3][4][5]


During the American Revolution, Americans regularly attacked Nova Scotia by land and sea. American privateers devastated the maritime economy by raiding many of the coastal communities,[6] such as the numerous raids on Liverpool and on Annapolis Royal.[7]


Three American vessels (brigantines) – Massachusetts (Captain Fisk), Tyrannicide (Captain Jonathan Harriden) and the brig Cabot (Captain Olney) - were sailing toward Nova Scotia and were confronted at 11:00 pm by HMS Milford. They waited until morning before they decided to attack. During the morning hours Cabot had been separated from the other two ships. Then the weather became "thick and rainy" until 6:00 pm. When the weather cleared Milford pursued Cabot. The wind and waves remained high and the pursuit lasted for several days and nights. Captain Olney realized Cabot was being overtaken and steered to the Nova Scotia shore and beached the vessel near Chebogue River, a short distance from Yarmouth.


The crew of 140 got safely to shore and escaped into the village of Chebogue. Local residents Captain Zacharias Foot and his nephew Captain Richard Valpey housed and fed thirty of the crew for a few weeks until they were able to secure a vessel back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. One observer noted that Captain Foot's "unbounded liberality to American prisoners is Well known to many."[8] (On separate occasions, Foot and Valley were later imprisoned by the Americans. Captain Olney advocated for Foot's release, which was successful. After this period, Foot continued to trade with Boston the release of American Prisoners for other goods and supplies.[9][10])

Milford took 14 days to get the vessel afloat and then sent it to Halifax.[11]

American privateers remained a threat to Nova Scotian ports for the rest of the war. For example, after a failed attempt to raid Chester, Nova Scotia, American privateers struck again in the Raid on Lunenburg in 1782.

See also



Primary Sources

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