Raid on St. John (1775)

The Raid on St. John took place on 27 August 1775 during the American Revolutionary War. The raid involved American privateers from Machias, Maine attacking St. John, Nova Scotia (present day New Brunswick).[5][6][7][8] The privateers intended to stop the export of supplies being sent to the loyalists in Boston. This raid was the first hostile act committed against Nova Scotia and it resulted in raising the militia across the colony.[9]

Raid on St. John (1775)
Part of the American Revolutionary War
A North View of Fort Frederick built by order of Hon. Col. Robert Monckton on the entrance of the St. John River in the Bay of Fundy, 1758 by Lt Thomas Davies National Gallery of Canada (no 6269).jpg
Fort Frederick (Saint John, New Brunswick)
Date27 August 1775
Result Massachusetts victory

Province of Massachusetts Bay

 Kingdom of Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Jeremiah O'Brien[1][2] Stephen Smith (privateer)[3][4] Kingdom of Great Britain Captain Frederick Sterling


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,[10] such as the numerous raids on Liverpool and on Annapolis Royal.[11]

In June 1775, the Americans had their first naval victory over the British in the Battle of Machias. In response to this defeat, in July 1775, the British sent two armed sloops, Diligence and Tatamacouche from Halifax to punish the Americans. On 12 July 1775, the British vessels confronted O'Brien in Unity and Portland Packet in the Bay of Fundy, where the Americans took the British ships.[12] The Machias Committee of Safety sent Captain Stephen Smith to capture the brig Loyal Briton at St. John, which was loading cattle and other supplies for the Army at Boston.[13]


On 27 August 1775, Captain Stephen Smith, in a 4-gun American privateer from Machias, along with 40 men raided St. John and burned Fort Frederick and took the brig Loyal Briton under the command of Captain Frederick Sterling. The brig had 120 tonnes of sheep and oxen for the British forces in Boston. He also took a corporal and two privates, with two women and five children prisoner. John Anderson Esqr was also on board the brig.[14] The brigantine was owned by John Sempill (Semple) and the navigator was David Ross, who both escaped. The prisoners were released at Boston and sent back to St. John.[15]


Captain Edward Le Cras of HMS Somerset and HMS Tartar proceeded immediately to Annapolis Royal to protect the town. The Governor requested two sloops-of-war to patrol the Bay of Fundy. Admiral Samuel Graves assigned Captain William Duddingston of HMS Senegal to the task. Graves also sent Le Cras to protect Halifax for the winter.[16] Governor Legge of Nova Scotia also called up militias from across the colony to be stood up.[17]

In retaliation for the raid on St. John, the British executed the Burning of Falmouth. American privateers remained a threat to Nova Scotian ports for the rest of the war.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Captain Jeremiah O'Brien, Machias, Maine, p. 88
  2. ^ Williamson, William D. (1832). The History of the State of Maine: From Its First Discovery, 1602, to the Separation, A. D. 1820, Inclusive. Vol. II. Hallowell, Maine: Glazier, Masters & Company. pp. 431–432.
  3. ^ "Military operations in eastern Maine and Nova Scotia during the revolution". 1867.
  4. ^ Sprag's Journal of Maine's history, pp. 30–31
  5. ^ p.63
  6. ^ Naval Documents of the American Revolution, p. pp. 445–446
  7. ^ Murdoch. History of Nova Scotial, Vol. 2, p. 554
  8. ^ Ropes ships
  10. ^ Benjamin Franklin also engaged France in the war, which meant that many of the privateers were also from France.
  11. ^ Roger Marsters (2004). Bold Privateers: Terror, Plunder and Profit on Canada's Atlantic Coast" , p. 87-89
  12. ^ "A History of American Privateers". D. Applenton and Company. 1899.
  13. ^ Naval Documents of the American Revolution, p. pp. 445–446
  14. ^ Naval Documents of the American Revolution, p. pp. 445–446
  15. ^ Naval Documents of the American Revolution Vol. 2, pp.4–5
  16. ^ pp. 68–69
  17. ^ Faibisy, John Dewar, "Privateering and piracy : the effects of New England raiding upon Nova Scotia during the American Revolution,. 1775–1783." (1972).p. 26


Primary Sources