Military Wiki
Raid on Charlottetown (1775)
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Date17–18 November 1775
LocationCharlottetown, Prince Edward Island
Result Privateer victory
United States United States of America  Kingdom of Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
John Selman (privateer) (Franklin)
Nicholas Broughton (Hancock)
Kingdom of Great Britain Phillips Callbeck (POW)
Thomas Wright (Surveyor-General)(POW) [1] Vessel belonging to Messs John Russell Spence and Higgins(POW)
2 brigs militia

The Raid on Charlottetown took place on 17–18 November 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. The raid involved two American privateers of George Washington's Fleet attacking and pillaging Charlottetown.[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]

In retaliation for the British Burning of Falmouth, in October 1775 Hancock and Franklin from Marblehead were ordered to intercept two brigs as they arrived in the St. Lawrence River from England. But the two schooners instead sought easier quarry off Cape Canso where five prizes of dubious legality were taken.


On 17 November 1775, two armed brigs the Hancock (Captain Nicholas Broughton) and the Franklin (Captain John Selman) sent a raiding party ashore into Charlottetown. They threatened to set fire to the town but Attorney General Phillips Callbeck convince them to refrain. Selman took Callbeck prisoner. They then searched for his wife Ann Coffin, seeking revenge against her father prominent Loyalist Nathaniel Coffin Jr. who ordered the cutting down of the Liberty Tree in Boston.[8][9][10] Failing to find her, they pillaged and destroyed Callbeck's house. They broke into two other buildings. They also took the surveyor of the colony Thomas Wright prisoner. They left after two days with their two hostages – Callbeck and Wright.


The privateers took more prisoners at Canso and then took their hostages to Winter Harbour in present-day Maine and then marched them to their headquarters in Cambridge.[11] Washington determined that the privateers had acted illegally and released the prisoners. The privateers were sent to serve in the Essex County militia. Callback returned and became the Commander for the St. John Volunteers in the Revolutionary War, investing heavily in the island's defences. The privateers continued to attack throughout the war and Loyalists were re-routed away from the Island to settle at Louisbourg.[12][13] In August 1777, 2 privateers invaded Saint Peters and killed livestock.[14]

The privateers pillaged the property of Wellwood Waugh and he was forced to move from Charlottetown to Pictou, Nova Scotia the following year. (In 1777, Waugh was himself implicated in an American Privateer raid on Pictou and was forced to move to Tatamagouche, Nova Scotia. He became a prominent inhabitant and Waugh River is named after him.) [15][16]

Major Timothy Hierlihy was ordered to be the commander of the defence of Prince Edward Island. (In 1778, Timothy defended the Spanish River coal mines in Cape Breton from American privateers - recapturing two vessels, retrieving loyalist property, killing one of the privateers and sending other prisoners to Halifax.[17] He later established Antigonish, Nova Scotia).[18]

See also


  1. Holman, H.T. (1983). "Wright, Thomas". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. V (1801–1820) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  2. Naval Documents of the American Revolution, Vol, 3, p. 2
  3. pp. 152-153
  4. PEI History Guy
  5. Naval Documents. Vol. 3, p. 125
  6. Benjamin Franklin also engaged France in the war, which meant that many of the privateers were also from France.
  7. Roger Marsters (2004). Bold Privateers: Terror, Plunder and Profit on Canada's Atlantic Coast" , p. 87-89
  8. Privateering and Piracy. The effects of New England Raiding upon Nova Scotia during the Revolutionary War, 1972, p. 43
  9. Coffin's wife Elizabeth Barnes.
  10. The Loyalists of Massachusetts And the Other Side of the American Revolution By James Henry Stark
  11. Naval Records of the American Revolution, p. 299
  12. Privateering and Piracy: the effects of New England Raiding on Nova Scotia, p. 124
  13. privateer Tyrannicide, log book, p. 35
  14. Privateering and piracy; the effects of New England Raiding upon Nova Scotia, p. 125]
  15. Kernaghan, Lois (1987). "Waugh, Wellwood". In Halpenny, Francess G. Dictionary of Canadian Biography. VI (1821–1835) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press. 
  16. Patterson, George (1877). A History of the County of Pictou, Nova Scotia. Montreal: Dawson brothers. p. 102. 
  17. For Cape Breton incident see Massey to Germain 3 June 1778. PRO CO 217/54, p. 54, 80-81
  18. (See Timothy Hierlihy and his times


Secondary sources

Primary sources

  • Selman, Captain John. Letter to Elridge Gerry. 18 March 1813. Printed in Salem Gazette 22 July 1856.
  • Phillips Callbeck to Lord Dartmought, 5 January 1776: PRO, CO 226/6, 78
  • Callbeck to Dartmouth, 5 January 1776, PRO, CO. 226/ 6, 79
  • Washington's letter to Elridge Gerry, March 18, 1813, reprinted in Salem Gazette, 22 July 1856.

External links

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