Toward the end of May 1775, the British military inside Boston and the provincial militiamen outside started fighting harder for control of the natural resources in Boston harbor. First came the British raid for hay on Grape Island. Then, as described by Boston selectman Timothy Newell’s diary, the provincials moved to destroy resources the redcoats might seize from an island to the east:
May 27th. Our People set fire to hay and a barn on Noddle’s Island; a number of Marines went over.In addition to Israel Putnam, Dr. Joseph Warren took part in this fighting as a volunteer. But most of the fighting was done by ordinary Massachusetts farmers.
Our People Retreated over to Hog Island, the troops following, by being decoyed by our People down to the water, who then fired and the action continued all night (though very dark) also a Man of War schooner firing their cannon continually upon them which towards morning catch’t aground upon Winesimet ferry ways. Our people boarded her and finally burnt her
This action seems without a parallel, that, notwithstanding several hundred of the Kings Troops and the schooners were engaged all night and it is said 100 were wounded and fell—not the least hurt happened, except to three wounded of our People, who were commanded by General Putnam. The Lord manifestly appears on our side, and blessed be his glorious name forever.
Donald Haskell has posted his ancestor Caleb Haskell’s account of the skirmish, from the perspective of a Newburyport militiaman:
Today a party of the Massachusetts and New Hampshire forces, about 600, went over to Noddle’s Island to bring off some cattle. The enemy landed on the island, and pursued our men till they got back to Hog Island, at which time an armed schooner, belonging to the enemy came to their assistance, and to prevent our people from leaving Hog Island—which she could not effect. Our people put a heavy fire of small arms upon the barges. Capt. Foster came with two field pieces and began to play upon the schooner, which soon obliged them to quit her. She then caught on Winnisimot ferry ways. Our people set fire to her and burned her to the water. We saved all that was not burned. We took four pieces of cannon, a number of swivels and some clothing, and brought all the cattle off both islands. In the engagement we had not one killed, and but three wounded, and those not mortally.The Winnisimet Ferry went from the North End of Boston to Chelsea. It’s no longer possible to visit Noddle’s Island and Hog Island in Boston harbor. Thanks to landfills, they’ve become part of the mainland, and are known today as the neighborhood of East Boston.