Saint Croix Courier, St. Stephen, NB
January 11, 1894
GLIMPSES OF THE PAST
Contributions to the History of Charlotte County and the Border Towns.
XCIX CAPTAIN HENRY MOWAT.
Capt. Mowat, who, as before stated,1 was commander of the armed vessels that warded off the attack on Penobscot in 1779, was afterwards, as commander of H. M. S. Assistance, in 1796, senior officer in command of the fleet on the North American station. According to family traditions, he was a cousin of Captain David Mowat, a grantee of St. Andrews, and Lieut. John Mowat, R. N., ancestor of the Mowats of Bay Side. He seems to have left no descendants in this country; nevertheless, from his connection with the event above mentioned, a brief account of his life and services2 may not be inappropriate.
Henry Mowat was born in Scotland in 1734. He was son of Captain Patrick Mowat, of His Majestys ship Dolphin. After an experience at sea of six years he was commissioned as lieutenant of the ship Baltimore in 1758. The certificate of his passing by the admiralty records sets forth that He produceth journals kept by himself in the Chesterfield & Ramilies (as midshipman), and certificates from Captains Ogle and Hobbs of his Diligence, etc.; he can splice, knot, reef a sail, etc., and is qualified to do the duty of an able Seaman and Midshipman. In 1764, he was promoted to be a commander and served as such on the Canceaux for twelve years. At the time of the destruction of Falmouth he was forty-one years old. His next vessel, the sloop Albany, was the flagship of the squadron at Penobscot. After a service of thirty years on our coast, he died of apoplexy, April 14, 1798, aged sixty-four, on board his ship, the Assistance, near Cape Henry. His remains were interred at Hampton, Virginia. He had three brothers in the navy, of whom two were killed in action on the London, off St. Domingo, and the other, Alexander, died in command of the Rattlesnake, in the West Indies, in 1793. He left a son, John Alexander, who entered the navy in 1804, and who is probably the one placed under the educational charge of Rev. Jacob Bailey the Episcopal missionary at Pownalboro.
Captain Mowat left no will, and no letters of administration on his estate appear on record in England. A short time before his death he wrote A Relation of the Services in which I was Engaged in America, from 1759, to the close of the American War in 1783. Probably it was never printed. An exhaustive search for it at the British Museum and in the principal libraries of the United Kingdom has been without success. Advertisements in the London Times, and in Notes and Queries, offering a liberal reward for information of its existence have proved equally unavailing. The last trace of its title is found in Rodds Catalogue of Books and MSS, published in London, in 1843, where it is described as a folio, and placed at eighteen shillings. Its discovery would shed much light upon our revolutionary history. We should learn from it the particulars of dismantling Fort Pownal soon after the battle of Bunker Hill, and should also be informed of the reasons which induced the occupation of Penobscot. We should also learn whether the author instigated the destruction of Falmouth, or acted under the strict orders of his superior officer; and whether the denunciations which have visited him for that act with as much warmth as if he merely gratified his private antipathies are or are not deserved. It is to be feared, however, that the lost manuscript has shared the fate of the Gorges papers, which Dr. Palfrey, the historian, says, It is not extravagant to suppose, may, undreamed of by their possessor, be now feeding the moth in the garret of some manor house in Somerset or Devon, or in some crypt of London, which vast city has always been the receptacle, often the final hiding place of such treasures.
Although little is known of Capt. Mowats private character, several incidents concerning him which have been preserved place it in a favorable light. His kindness to many suffering families on the Penobscot is not forgotten; while the letter that accompanied the commital of his son to Mr. Bailey contains sentiments of affection, kindness, and respect, and, as the biography of the latter suggests, is not the production of a brutal or ignorant man.
In personal appearance Mowat was a little above middle size, of good form, and with a fresh countenance. One who saw him soon after the siege says he wore a blue coat with lighter blue facings, and had his hair powdered.
2From the paper on the British Occupation of Penobscot, by Joseph Williamson, published in the Proceedings of the Maine Historical Society for October, 1890.
Addition: Article CI contains the following addition to this one: "The Mowatt MS. spoken of as lost has since been found in Edinburgh, and is published in the same number of the Proceedings. It contains no reference to the destruction of Falmouth, and adds little of special interest to the account of the siege of Penobscot."