MACHIAS, MAINE. 12 June 1775. On 2 June 1775 the British schooner Margaretta (four guns) entered the port of Machias, in the province of Maine, with two sloops (Polly and Unity) to get lumber for the British garrison in Boston. Determined to prevent the British from accomplishing their mission, local Patriots conceived a plan to capture the enemy officers while they were in church on 11 June. But Midshipman James Moore, commander of the Margaretta, and some of his officers escaped through the windows of the church and regained their ship. A hastily organized pursuit by about forty volunteers under Jeremiah O'Brien and Joseph Wheaton resulted in capture of the Unity on Sunday and of the Margaretta the next day (12 June). A considerable chase had ended with a brisk skirmish in which seven men were killed or wounded on each side. Midshipman Moore was among the dead. O'Brien became the first naval hero on the Patriot side, and the action is generally considered to be the first naval engagement of the war.
O'Brien was given command of the Unity, which was armed with guns from the captured schooner and renamed the Machias Liberty. A few weeks later he captured the British naval schooner Diligent and her tender off Machias without a shot, and, under his command, the two schooners became the first ships of the Massachusetts navy.
SEE ALSO O'Brien, Jeremiah.
Clark, William Bell, ed. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. Vol. 1: American Theatre, December 1, 1774–September 2, 1775, and European Theatre, December 6, 1774–August 9, 1775. Washington, D.C.: Naval History Division, 1964.
Fowler, William M., Jr. Rebels Under Sail: The American Navy in the Revolution. New York: Scribners, 1976.
revised by Harold E. Selesky