"Great Shipwrecks of the American Revolution"

Description: New England folklorist John Horrigan will present a chronology of great shipwrecks that took place during the American Revolutionary War. The weather along the American Atlantic coast did more damage to British war ships than any naval engagement during the Revolutionary War.

Beginning with the Gaspée Affair of June 9th, 1772 and the burning of the Diana, Horrigan will provide a brief chronology of American, French and British ships that were wrecked in battle, scuttled by privateers or lost to severe weather.

He will provide a detailed account of the destruction of the HMS Somerset, a massive 70-gun ship that was battered by two gales in 1778 and subsequently ran aground at Peaked Hill Bars off of Cape Cod. Most of its sailors were taken prisoner and forced to walk from Provincetown to Boston! He'll also recount the harrowing ordeal of the American man-of-war General Arnold, that ran aground on a sandbar off of Plymouth on Christmas Eve of 1778. Many lives were lost when American crewmen literally froze to death in what is now tagged as "Magee's Storm". Horrigan will give an hourly account of this tragedy, speak of the Independence Hurricane and the Triple Hurricanes of 1780, and conclude his talk with the loss of the Dutch ship Erfpins.


  • HMS Gaspée sailed into Rhode Island’s Narragansett Bay in June of 1772 and was captured and burned by the colonists.

  • The 'Providence Hurricane' or 'Independence Hurricane' of 1778 nearly killed French Admiral d'Estaing after his flagship Languedoc was destroyed. Had the weather not changed to hurricane strength, the French fleet might have done severe damage to Admiral Howe's fleet at Newport, RI.

  • The HMS Somerset, integrated into the American Revolution by shelling Charlestown, ran aground off of Provincetown in 1778. Over 100 of its men were taken prisoner and forced to walk back to Boston, a distance of over 125 miles!

  • The remains of the Somerset would reveal themselves after a storm in 1886, and again in January of 2008.

  • The American brigantine General Arnold ran aground on White Flat, off of Plymouth, Massachusetts on Christmas in 1778. 72 of the crew either froze to death or drowned as icy waters flooded its hull.

  • Most of the General Arnold's victims were buried in a mass grave in Plymouth, known as 'Burial Hill'.

  • Thousands of British sailors drowned, and dozens of British warships were destroyed by three successive hurricanes that roared through the Carribean in 1780.

  • The huge Dutch battleship Erfpins lost over 300 hands when it took on water off of the New England coast in 1783.


  • Organization: Lincoln Minutemen
  • Contact: Steve McCarthy
  • Date: February 2nd, 2010
  • Location: Bemis Hall - Lincoln, Massachusetts
  • Email: click to email

  • LISTEN TO THIS LECTURE right click - Save Target As - to download

    Running Time: 56 minutes Size: 51 MB


    THE HURRICANE OF 1782 right click - Save Target As - to download

    Recorded on July 9th, 2008 in Watertown, Massachusetts. John reads from Sidney Perley's Historic Storms of New England about a tornado that swept across western Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire in June of 1782. Running Time is 3:19. Size is 6 MB.

    THE BURNING OF NEW LONDON (1781) right click - Save Target As - to download

    Recorded on July 15th, 2008 in New London, Connecticut. John interviews New London Town Historian Sally Ryan about the burning of New London during the Revolutionary War on September 6th, 1781 by turncoat Benedict Arnold. This the most comprehensive recording of the New London Fire. Running Time is 52 minutes. Size is 47 MB.

    THE FRENCH STORM (1778) right click - Save Target As - to download

    Recorded on February 1st, 2010 at Watertown, Massachusetts by John Horrigan, who tells the story of a storm that helped British fleet escape the wrath of the French Navy. Time is approximately 3:08 and the size is 3 MB.

    REVOLUTIONARY WAR SNIPER (1776) right click - Save Target As - to download

    Recorded on February 2nd, 2010 at Bemis Hall in Lincoln, Massachusetts for the Lincoln Minutemen by historian Jim Hogan, who tells the story of the greatest sniper in Colonial America. Time is approximately 3:41 and the size is 4 MB.