The Day Fairhaven Kicked Some Redcoat Butt
When you think about American Revolutionary War battlefields, the Town of Fairhaven doesn't immediately come to mind. In fact, we do such a good job keeping our history a secret around here you probably didn't even know the British Redcoats attacked Fairhaven.
Well, they did. It happened in 1778. The British attacked present-day New Bedford and Martha's Vineyard as well.
American and British forces fought an inconclusive battle for control of Newport, Rhode Island in what became known as The Battle of Rhode Island on August 29, 1778.
British General Charles Grey and 4,000 of his men were en route to the conflict in Newport when the American forces fled. Grey and his men were diverted to Buzzards Bay and were ordered instead to attack the ports of New Bedford, Fairhaven, and Martha's Vineyard.
According to Wikipedia, Grey's Raid began on September 4, 1778, when "Grey's fleet proceeded up the Acushnet River toward New Bedford and Fairhaven." Wikipedia states, "Grey landed his troops at Clarke's Point on the west bank of the river," where they "spent the night and the next morning destroying vessels, warehouses, and wharves."
On September 5, 1778, a small garrison manning what is now known as Fort Phoenix fired on the British ships and "spiked the fort's guns and abandoned it, leaving their colors flying."
During the raid, Grey's men "destroyed storehouses, shipping, and supplies in New Bedford, where they met with light resistance from the local militia."
On September 6, 1778, Grey's forces marched on Fairhaven setting fire "to a few nearby buildings" but were met with a "whithering volley of musket fire" from the better organized Fairhaven militia in Fairhaven Village "and the British precipitately retreated to their boats."
The following week, Grey's men arrived at Martha's Vineyard where they confiscated thousands of sheep and oxen and weapons among other things.
Grey's attack on New Bedford and Fairhaven was re-enacted in 1976 as part of the nation's Bicentennial Celebration.