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Destruction of the American Fleet at Penobscot Bay, 14 August 1779
During the American War of Independence, 1775-1783, the British decided to establish a post on the east side of the entrance to the Penobscot River in Maine. On 16 June 1779 a detachment of 650 troops commanded by Colonels McLean and Campbell arrived by sea from Halifax and began clearing the ground to build a fort on a promontory by the mouth of the river. Before the fortifications had been completed the rebel Commodore Dudley Saltonstall laid siege to the British on July 25 with a fleet consisting of a frigate, 16 sloops and 24 transports. A British relief force consisting of a ship of the line, two frigates and three sloops, commanded by Sir George Collier left New York on August 3 and arrived in Penobscot Bay on the evening of the 13 August. He found Saltonstall's men-of-war anchored in a crescent across the mouth of the river, the transports behind them. The next morning the British squadron approached them and the whole fleet retired up the river where they were pursued by Collier's ships, aided by the three sloops which had convoyed the troops from Halifax. Saltonstall's entire fleet was burned and two associated ships, the 'Defence' and 'Hunter' were also dealt with. The 'Defence' was blown up by her crew and the 'Hunter' was captured.
The painting shows the bay viewed from the south. In the left background is the 'Raisonable' with a white ensign and broad pendant and firing into the 'Hunter'. Fires from the British fortifications can be seen in the distance beyond her. To the right are the rest of the ships of the squadron chasing the enemy, many of whose ships are already shown ablaze in the right background. The painting was engraved by Baily and published by Joyce Gold for the Naval Chronicle in 1814.
Dominic Serres, the Elder
- Image reference: BHC0425
- National Maritime Museum, Greenwich, London