The Battle of Chelsea Creek was the second battle of the Boston Campaign. Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the British were bottled up in Boston but still had access to supplies at Noddle Island and Hog Island. General Artemis Ward ordered an aggressive raid on the islands and assigned John Stark with the task. After the first raid on the two islands was over, the British bumbled into a mess when the armed schooner Diana ran aground and could not be moved. Israel Putnam then launched a second raid, which secured supplies for the provincials.
The Battles of Lexington and Concord had left the British stunned and anxious. They were successfully repelled at Concord due to actions taken by Paul Revere, William Dawes, Joseph Warren, and others involved in the Middlesex alarm and then harassed all the back to Boston. This left the British bottled up and outgunned. Each day, the provincials reinforced their lines and began to spread them around the British army. Along with the reinforcements, officers such as John Stark and Israel Putnam arrived to provide leadership. It would not take long for either man to distinguish himself in the campaign.
The siege of Boston had bottled up the British but had not been able to stop the British from supplying their army. The British brought supplies in from Nova Scotia, Canada, and the provincials could not stop them since they did not have a Navy. The British were also able to supply their armies from Noddle Island and Hog Island with farmers who were stuck in a dilemma.
On Noddle and Hog Island were Farmers who were stuck in the middle of the rebellion. If they supplied the British, then they would be branded a loyalist, and if they refused, the British would take what they wanted and possibly kill them. This allowed the British to supply their army while waiting for shipments from Nova Scotia. Once Boston was placed under siege, the provincials began planning for a raid on these islands and stripping the British of this luxury.
The British Prepare and Stark's Orders
The British began fortifying their positions on Noddle and Hog Island in preparation for a provincial raid. Vice-Admiral Graves also placed guard boats around the island to counter any raid. These would prove to be ineffective.
General Ward gave John Stark an order to take 300 men and gather or raid the two islands. Stark began his preparations immediately and set out with his New Hampshire regiment. The British were unaware of his movements when his men crossed the Mystic River and marched to the northern part of Chelsea Creek. They would be able to forge the river at low tide and quickly cross without being noticed by the British. Stark and his men arrived on Hog Island around 10 a.m. and gave orders to his men to round up livestock. Once rounded up, they forded the river without alerting the guard boats.
While gathering livestock and fording the river, Stark ordered 30 men to cross over into Noddle Island and raid it. The men crossed over, broke into smaller companies, and began killing livestock and burning barns. Vice-Admiral Graves saw the billows of smoke from his flagship and ordered the armed schooner Diana down the river to stop the raids. 400 British marines were deployed to try to cut off the provincials before they could cross. The provincials applied the same tactic that was applied during the Battles of Lexington and Concord when they fired and fell back. This slowed the British movements. Finally, the 30 men found a well-fortified position and poured heavy fire into the British marines that stopped their assault and allowed the provincials to cross over into Hog Island.
Meanwhile, the British schooner Diana, under the command of Lieutenant Thomas Graves, ran aground during her attempt to cut off Stark and his men from crossing back to the mainland. Israel Putnam led the next assault when he and 1,000 men marched towards the schooner. By the time they reached her, the British had abandoned it. Putnam raided the ship, then burned it. The Battle of Chelsea Creek had ended.
The Battle of Chelsea Creek is a forgotten battle during the Boston Campaign, but it had five important results:
- Raised American Morale
- Gave them valuable artillery that would be used at the Battle of Bunker Hill
- Made it more difficult to supply the British army
- Promoted Israel Putnam to General and was the first of many slights to John Stark
- Once again proved that the provincial resolve in Boston was strong and would be a struggle for the British