Little Bits of History

March 3

Posted in History by patriciahysell on March 7, 2017

1776: The Battle of Nassau begins. When the US Revolutionary War broke out, Lord Dunmore was the British provincial governor of the Colony of Virginia. In order to keep arms and gunpowder out of the hands of the local militia, Dunmore moved them to the island of New Providence in the Bahamas. There was a desperate shortage of arms and ammunition within the Continental Army and so the Second Continental Congress organized a naval expedition to Nassau in the hopes of stealing what had been stored there. The official orders to Esek Hopkins, the fleet captain, were to raid along the Virginia and Carolina coastlines. A secret set of orders had the fleet move on to the Bahamas and secure the needed armaments.

The fleet left Delaware on February 17 and was the first cruise and one of the first engagements of the newly established Continental Navy and the Continental Marines. The eight ships carried 200 Marines under the command of Samuel Nicholas. They sailed into gale force winds and managed to stay together for two days before two of the ships became separated from the rest. One ship had to return to port for repairs, but the other caught up with the rest of the fleet. They made their way to Nassau and arrived at Abaco Island on March 1. They captured two ships there, but an informant was able to get away and alert the British about the rebel fleet.

On this day, while most of the fleet held back, three ships carrying the Marines headed into port, but this was a tactical error as they were visible against the sunrise. The guns at Fort Nassau fired on the advancing ships. The rest of the fleet came to their aid. They shifted their landing site and were able to make an unopposed landing between noon and 2 PM – the first landing of what would become the USMC. The forces were able to secure Fort Montagu, near their landing but did not advance toward the town where the gunpowder was being stored.

That night, the British loaded as much of the gunpowder as they could and sailed for St. Augustine. The next day, the Marines were able to take control of the poorly defended town, but most of the supplies they were after had been removed. They remained in Nassau for two weeks and took the rest of the remaining supplies with them when they left. They returned to Connecticut in early April after successfully capturing a few British supply ships. Hopkins met with censure on two counts. He did not distribute the spoils according to protocol and he did not follow his orders to patrol the Virginia shores. He was forced out of the Navy by 1778.

Man is a military animal, glories in gunpowder, and loves parade. – Philip James Bailey

We owe to the Middle Ages the two worst inventions of humanity – romantic love and gunpowder. – Andre Maurois

What gunpowder did for war the printing press has done for the mind. – Wendell Phillips

The real use of gunpowder is to make all men tall. – Thomas Carlyle

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