Battle of Hampden and the Castine Fund

Francis BROWN II‘s (1716 – ) son-in-law Josiah Hooke (b. 21 Oct 1774 in Salisbury, Essex, Mass.  – d. 18 Mar 1827 Castine Cemetery, Castine, Maine) Josiah served for 35 years as collector of the port of Castine, Maine on the mouth of the Penobscot Riber and was in charge of procurements for the fort there.  In those days, the position was appointed by the President and approved by the Senate.

Castine Map

In the War of 1812, the British captured the village of Castine in September 1814 and occupied it  for the rest of the war. The Treaty of Ghent returned this territory to the United States.  When the British left in April 1815,   they took 10,750 pounds obtained from tariff duties at Castine. This money, called the “Castine Fund”, was used  to create a military library in Halifax and  establish  Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Castine Detail Map

The Battle of Hampden, though a minor action of the War of 1812, was the last significant clash of arms in New England.  Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, led a British fleet out of Nova Scotia and defeated the New Englanders, naming the district “New Ireland” and occupying it for eight months.

Sir John Coape Sherbrooke (1764-1830) lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, was the overall British commander at the Battle of Hampden,

The subsequent retirement of the British expeditionary force from its base in Castine, Maine back to Nova Scotia ensured that eastern Maine would remain a part of the United States. Lingering local feelings of vulnerability, however, would help fuel the post-war movement for Maine statehood (Maine was part of Massachusetts until 1820). The withdrawal of the British eight months later represented the end of two centuries of violent contest over Maine by rival nations (initially the French and British, and then the British and Americans).

 Capture of Castine

On August 26, 1814, a British squadron from the Royal Navy base at Halifax, Nova Scotia moved to capture the Down East coastal town of Machias, Maine. The force consisted of four warships, HMS Dragon, 74 [guns], HMS Endymion, 50, HMS Bachante, 38, HM Sloop Sylph, 18, a large tender, and ten transports carrying some 3,000 British regulars (elements of the 29th, 60th, 62nd, and 98th regiments and a company of Royal Artillery). Under the overall command of Sir John Coape Sherbrooke, then lieutenant governor of Nova Scotia, Major General Gerard Gosselin commanded the army and Rear Admiral Edward Griffith Colpoys controlled the naval elements.

The intention of the expedition was clearly to re-establish British title to Maine east of the Penobscot River, an area the British had renamed “New Ireland“, and open the line of communications between Halifax and Quebec. Carving off “New Ireland” from New England had been a goal of the British government and the provinces of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia (“New Scotland”) since the American Revolution.  En route, the squadron fell in with HM Sloop Rifleman, 18, and learned the USS Adams, 28, Captain Charles Morris was up the Penobscot River undergoing repairs at Hampden. Sherbrooke changed his plan and headed for Castine at the mouth of the Penobscot.

Commodore Charles Morris (1784-1856) by Southworth & Hawes, circa 1850

He rendezvoused off Matinicus Island and added HMS Bulwark, 74, HMS Tenedos, 38, HMS Peruvian, 18, and HM Schooner Pictou. The formidable force entered the cove at Castine on September 1. The local militia melted away at the awesome sight and a 28-man U.S. Army contingent under Lieutenant Andrew Lewis spiked their four 24-pounders, blew the magazine, and withdrew to the north trailing a pair of field pieces.

As the first order of business, Sherbrooke and Griffith issued a proclamation assuring the populace if they remained quiet, pursued their usual affairs, and surrendered all weaponry, they would be protected as British subjects. Moreover, the British would pay fair prices for all goods and services provided. Next, Gosselin crossed the bay with most of the 29th to occupy Belfast, Maine and protect the left flank of the major operation to follow. Locals did not challenge the occupation, although some 1,200 militiamen gathered three miles outside of Belfast to await developments.

Battle of Hampden

Griffith assigned RN Captain Robert Barrie the task of going after the “Adams.” Barrie proceeded up the Penobscot with the DragonSylphPeruvian, the transport Harmony, and a prize-tender. The ships carried an armed contingent of some 750 men drawn from the four participating regiments, the artillery company, and Royal Marines. During the war, Barrie was one of the few British officers in America to acquire a loathsome reputation. He was about to reenforce this distinction.

Sir Robert Barrie (1774-1841)

When Morris entered the river late in August he moved past Buckstown (now Bucksport, Maine) and anchored at the mouth of the Sowadabscook Stream in Hampden, Maine on the west bank of the Penobscot some 30 miles inland. Anticipating an attack, he placed nine of the ship’s guns in battery on a nearby hill and fourteen on the wharf next to his crippled ship. Morris, commanding a crew of 150, called for help from Brigadier General John Blake, commander of the Eastern Militia at Brewer, Maine. Blake responded with some 550 militiamen and formed the center of a defensive line running along a ridge facing south, or towards Castine.   Lieutenant Lewis showed up with his two dozen or so regulars and two field pieces. Adding a carronade, he went in line to the right or west and commanded the north-south road, the expected route of British attackers.

Late on September 2, Barrie landed his force at Bald Head Cove three miles below Hampden and waited for morning. Early on the third, in rain and fog, led by Lt. Colonel Henry John, the British moved on Hampden. Skirmishers met with resistance at Pitcher’s Brook, primarily from the guns directed by Lewis. But John sent reinforcements, and the British stormed across the bridge. In short order, the full force was in position to continue against the American defensive line on the hill. The sight of the oncoming disciplined Redcoats, bayonets glistening, rattled the untrained militia. The center broke and fled to the woods toward Bangor, Maine. Morris on the left and Lewis on the right found themselves in untenable positions. About to be overrun, Morris spiked his guns and ignited a train leading to the Adams. With colors flying, the ship blew up before the British could intervene. Lewis likewise spiked his guns and withdrew to the north. Morris and his navy band made it to Bangor, crossed west through rugged country to the Kennebec River, and around September 9 arrived at their base in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. After two weeks, every sailor reported – not a man missing – a source of great satisfaction for Morris. 

At this point, Barrie detailed 200 men to take control of Hampden while he and the balance of his force pursued the Americans in the direction of Bangor. Eighty prominent men of the Hampden area spent a night as prisoners. Most were paroled the next day.

Sacking of Bangor and Hampden

Supported by three of his ships, Barrie entered an intimidated Bangor at midday. He called for unconditional submission. Provisions and quarters were demanded and readily turned over “since the commodore, who was a churlish, brutish monster,” according to a correspondent, “threatened to let loose his men and burn the town if the inhabitants did not use greater exertion to feed his men.”  Although Barrie ordered a ban on liquor for his troops, some men managed to acquire brandy by the bucket. Accordingly, Barrie ordered an officer to destroy all liquor in the town. This set off a wave of plundering. Six stores fell to the mob and $6,000 worth of property was damaged. Many citizens fled to the woods.  “We are alive this morning,” wrote a newspaper correspondent, “but such scenes I hope not to witness again. The enemy’s Soldiery … have emptied all the stores and many dwelling houses – they break windows, and crockery, and destroy every-thing they cannot move.”

During the night of the third, the British burned 14 vessels across the river in Brewer, Maine. Before the raiders could ignite Bangor vessels, the town’s selectmen made a deal. Fearful burning would lead to a conflagration, the selectmen offered Barrie a $30,000 bond and agreed to complete four ships on the stocks and deliver them to him in Castine. Barrie accepted the arrangement and carried away a packet, four schooners, and a boat. Before moving back down the river on the 4th, Barrie and John paroled 191 locals considered prisoners, including General Blake. Bangor selectmen estimated losses and damages totaled $45,000.

By no means did the Bangor diversion end the difficulties for Hampden. Barrie decided to spend more time in the town. Redcoats terrorized the village, killing livestock for sport and destroying whatever met their fancy, including gardens, furniture, books and papers. Two vessels off the town were burned. The rampage prompted a town committee to appeal to Barrie to treat the place with a little humanity. His shocking reply summarized his approach.

“Humanity! I have none for you. My business is to burn, sink, and destroy. Your town is taken by storm. By the rules of war we ought to lay your village in ashes, and put its inhabitants to the sword. But I will spare your lives, though I mean to burn your houses.”

Barrie did not follow through on his threat to burn houses, but he did secure a $14,000 bond on several incomplete vessels on the stocks in town. The terms required the completed vessels be delivered to the Royal Navy in Castine by November 1. In the end, the town estimated the value of its losses to total $44,000. The British slipped down to Frankfort, Maine and demanded considerable livestock and surrender of all arms and ammunition at that place. The locals were slow to comply, and before he moved along on the 7th, Barrie promised to return and make the town pay for its delays. The captain did not make good on this threat, and except for some nuisance sniping at the British as they passed Prospect, Maine, the Battle of Hampden was at an end.


Sherbrooke declared “New Ireland” (Eastern Maine) a province of British North America (Canada) and left Gen. Gosselin in Castine to govern it. For the next 8 months (from the fall of 1814 to the spring of 1815) the Penobscot River was essentially an international boundary. That Hampden and Bangor were on the wrong (American) side might have contributed to their rough treatment,

With the signing of the Treaty of Ghent in Dec. 1814, however, the British claim to Maine was effectively surrendered. The British were forced to evacuate Castine on April 25, 1815, and the pre-war boundary was restored. The final boundary between the inland, wooded portion of Maine and Canada would remain open to dispute until the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

Political Aftermath

Local memory of this humiliation contributed to subsequent anti-British feeling in Eastern Maine, which would find outlet again in the Aroostook War of 1838-1839. It would also contribute to the post-war movement for Maine’s statehood (given that Massachusetts had failed to protect the region) and to the building of a large, expensive granite fort (Ft. Knox) at the mouth of the Penobscot River starting in the 1840s.

Fort Knox Maine by Seth Eastman 1870– built from 1844-1869. It is located on the western bank of the Penobscot River in the town of Prospect, Maine, about 5 miles from the mouth of the river. It was the first fort in Maine built of granite (instead of wood).

Gen. Blake and two other officers, Lt. Col. Andrew Grant of Hampden and Maj. Joshua Chamberlain of Brewer, grandfather of the later Civil War general, were court-martialed in Bangor in 1816 for their part in the defeat. Blake and Chamberlain were both exonerated, but Grant was cashiered.

(The elderly Blake was court-martialed first and cleared of charges. He in turn brought charges against his two subordinates in perhaps a move to clear his name. Grant was found guilty of actions unbecoming an officer before the enemy and banned from being re-elected as a militia officer. One report claims he ran from battle and changed out of his uniform into civilian clothes before eventually being captured and identified.)

Castine Fund

The British left in April 1815, at which time they took 10,750 pounds obtained from tariff duties at Castine. This money, called the “Castine Fund”, was used  to create a military library in Halifax and  establish  Dalhousie University, in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Cambridge Military Library Rebuilt in 1886

In the far corner of the Royal Artillery Park in Halifax, a diminutive red brick building, is the Cambridge Military Library. This building was the social and literary centre of military Halifax. The Library opened in 1817 at Grafton Street, as an alternative to the more notorious choices of city entertainment. It moved to its present location in Royal Artillery Park in 1886 and was renamed Cambridge Military Library in 1902. The library was funded in part from Customs receipts gathered during the War of 1812 at the Battle of Hampden.

Dalhousie University Halifax, Nova Scotia

Dalhousie is a coeducational university, with more than 18,000 students. Their varsity teams, known as the Tigers, compete in the  Atlantic University Sport conference of Canadian Interuniversity Sport.

Dalhousie was founded as a result of the desires of , George Ramsay, 9th Earl of Dalhousie, the Lieutenant Governor of Nova Scotia, to establish a non-denominational college in Halifax. The financing of the college had largely come from customs duties collected by John Coape Sherbrooke, Lieutenant-Governor of Nova Scotia during the occupation of Castine, Maine during the War of 1812, who invested  £7000 as the initial endowment and reserved  £3000 for the physical construction of the college.   The school was established in 1818, structured after the University of Edinburgh, which was located near Ramsay’s home in Scotland.  The college was allowed to falter however after Ramsay left Halifax shortly after its establishment to serve as the Governor General of British North America.  In 1863, the college reopened for its third time and was reorganized by another legislative act, which also added the word university into the school’s name, changed to “The Governors of Dalhousie College and University.

Dalhousie University

With his 35 year career, Josiah Hooke must have been the Customs Officer both before and after the war,

Josiah Hooke Customs Officer – Source: Annals of the United States 1824 Vol. 5

Josiah Hook Customs Collector, Catine, Maine. Josiah’s brother Benjamin Hook (1783 – 1862 ) was Deputy Collector and Clerk.  The figures were dollars and cents.

Castine After the War

With the growth of the postwar economy, the town became a prosperous place: the seat of Hancock County and a center for shipbuilding and coastal trading. By the 1820s, it had become a major entrepot for American fishing fleets on their way to the Grand Banks. It also prospered from the lumber industry, in which eastern Maine dominated the rest of the country before the Civil War.

121 ships, many owned and commanded by local people, were launched from Castine shipyards. Local ropewalks, sail lofts and ship chandlers provided all necessary goods and services for maritime trade that was carried on primarily with the West Indies and England. A salt depository supplied the Grand Banks fishing fleets. At times, hundreds of ships were anchored in Castine Harbor.

Castine Maine

During this period of growth and prosperity, many of the handsome Federal and Greek Revival style mansions that still grace the village’s streets were constructed.

Castine from Fort George, 1856, by Fitz Henry Lane

But Castine declined after the Civil War. Its fleet, which once sailed the globe, now carried coal, firewood, and lime to coastal ports, competing with railroads and steamships. Ambitious young people sought their fortunes elsewhere. The Hancock County seat moved to Ellsworth in 1838

Castine Downtown Today

By the 1870s, however, Castine’s quaint old architecture and cool summer air attracted “rusticators” — well-to-do urban families seeking rest and recreation. Its charms also drew cultural luminaries, including Harriet Beecher Stowe and Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, whose writings romanticized its past. By the 1890s, wealthy families from Boston, Hartford and Chicago were buying up old farms and sea captains’ houses. Hotels and inns opened as Castine became a flourishing summer colony.  In 1897 a golf course was added to Castine’s summer attractions, designed by the well-known Scottish course designer Willie Parks, Jr.

But in the 1930s, Castine reached its economic nadir. The Great Depression  and the automobile had killed off the hotel trade, the steamship lines that had linked coastal towns and islands, and the local fishing industry. Its fortunes did not revive until the 1960s, with the rediscovery of the town’s charms by a new generation of summer people.

The population was 1,343 at the 2000 census. Castine is the home of Maine Maritime Academy, a four-year institution that graduates officers and engineers for theUnited States Merchant Marine and marine related industries.

More than 100 historic markers can be found in this town characterized by its 18th century architecture. Major landmarks include Fort George, built by the British in 1779 and partially restored as a state memorial, and Fort Madison, earthwork remnants built by the Americans in 1811, occupied by the British during the War of 1812 and reconstructed during the American Civil War.

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