01.03.24

Celebrating Revere’s History – The Battle of Chelsea Creek 

Massachusetts is known as the birthplace of the American Revolution. Itt is widely known that colonial leaders in this area played major roles in the events leading up to the split with the British crown in the late 1700s. 

Many of the first protests that would lead to war happened on the streets of Boston and in communities across the Bay colony. The most notable of these are the Battle of Lexington and Concord where the “shot heard round the world” rang out, and the Battle of Bunker Hill, where colonists proved they could hold their own against the superior British Army. 

One Boston battle that is often overlooked that the City of Revere is particularly proud of is the Battle of Chelsea Creek. Let’s look at what happened in this pivotal early Revolutionary War battle and why it was so important in rallying the colonial troops for future skirmishes and battles with the British Army and Navy. 

Setting the Stage 

During the opening phase of the American Revolution, there was much skepticism about the skills and strategies of the colonists who were up against the mighty British Army and Navy, known to be the strongest in the world at this time. It was truly a David vs Goliath scenario playing out in real-time in colonial cities and towns including Boston, Massachusetts. 

The Battle of Chelsea Creek is now known as the first naval engagement of the American Revolution. The reason for its lack of prominence in the annals of American history is two-fold. One reason is that the battle occurred at night with few eyewitnesses and another is that it was one of many skirmishes that happened in the opening days of the Revolution. 

To give a little background of the time leading up to the Battle of Chelsea Creek, one needs to understand the situation in Massachusetts in the late 1700s. In the weeks before Lexington and Concord, Boston had become ground zero for colonial protests against the British crown’s harsh rule and lack of representation. For eleven months in 1775-76, Boston had been under siege by the British military. Life in Boston was harsh with provisions dwindling. This caused many Bostonians to flee to cities and towns on the outskirts and British Loyalists to move into the city for some sort of protection. 

With supplies short, both sides were looking for a way to use the lack of food, munitions and necessary items to their advantage. The Battle of Chelsea Creek was just such a moment. 

The Battle of Chelsea Creek 

In the dark of night on Saturday, May 27, 1775, American militiamen, led by Colonel John Stark as well as a militia from New Hampshire and Connecticut, raided Chelsea, on the northern shore of Boston Harbor. They were looking for livestock such as pigs, cattle, and sheep, along with any other supplies that could be used to gain an advantage. They planned to load up the livestock on Noddle’s Island and then burn anything the British could use including hay used for feeding their animals.  

When the colonialists were removing the livestock, a British schooner, the HMS Diana, was heading up Chelsea Creek during an unusually high king tide. Once the colonists were detected, the HMS Diana was ordered to support the British armed forces and to cut off any chance of escape for the colonials. The colonists retreated to Hog Island pursued by the HMS Diana.

As the tide began to recede the HMS Diana got stuck in the bogs and marshes, causing the British sailors to abandon the ship for cover. This spate of bad luck allowed the colonists to attack and seize any munitions, supplies and cannons on board before they set the vessel ablaze. 

The Importance of the Battle of Chelsea Creek 

Not only was the Battle of Chelsea Creek the first naval battle documented during the American Revolution, but it was a jubilant victory for the colonists. This victory showed the colonists that they could team together with regimens from other colonies and work as a unified militia to defeat the British. 

The colonists gained the much-needed confidence and motivation to continue attacking the British and would go on to fight in the coming weeks at Bunker Hill and eventually along the seaboard in multiple cities. 

Revere is proud to be a part of this national history right in our backyard. Visit Revere and take a look at the place where this exciting and momentous battle took place.