Rare 18th Century Documents Reveal New Information about the Revolutionary War in Maine


The Maine State Museum has recently acquired several rare documents dating to the Revolutionary War and earlier.

William Moody was 23 years old when he signed on to be a drummer with the Bagaduce Expedition, the August 1779 effort by American forces (also known as the Penobsoct Expedition) to dislodge the British from their occupation of what is now Castine, Maine. He bought a journal for the occasion and wrote each day about his experiences in what was to become the worst naval defeat in American History until Pearl Harbor. Over forty ships were lost, burned and scuttled in the Penobscot River so that they would not be taken by the British. Along the way, William described skirmishes, accidents, burning Loyalists' barns and finally, abandoning and burning his ship before making his way on foot to Castine and later back to Falmouth.

William Moody's father, Enoch, was the chairman of the Revolutionary committee in Falmouth. He was also a joiner–or carpenter–and tradesman, who kept records of his business in a daybook. Ledgers this old are very rare. Enoch Moody used his daybook beginning in 1737. The museum also acquired his 1766 survey of "highways" in Falmouth and a copy of his 1813 estate. These documents will provide a wealth of information about life in what is now Portland before the Revolution into the early 1800s.

The Maine State Museum purchased the documents at a recent auction. Anticipating that the prices might exceed the museum's budget, Chief Curator of History Laurie LaBar worked to secure outside funding. "In the past, we have collaborated with other institutions to keep treasures in Maine. It was gratifying to know that other museums recognize this, and stepped up to help us save these rare documents," commented LaBar. In addition to several individual donors, the Castine Historical Society partnered with the Maine State Museum with a pledge to ensure these important historical records would stay in Maine and be digitized to ensure their availability to researchers and scholars.

The Maine State Museum's collection also includes artifacts from the Defence, one of the ships lost in 1779. New research into the Bagaduce expedition is underway. William Moody's experiences as a young American Revoltionary soldier will help museum curators and historians better tell the story of this historic battle.