British occupation of Belfast remembered 200 years later
Belfast — A small crowd gathered at Heritage Park on the Belfast waterfront Sept. 1 to commemorate the 200th anniversary of the British 29th Regiment's occupation of Belfast.
Megan Pinette, president of the Belfast Historical Society Museum, spoke about how the occupation was accomplished.
The British frigate Bacchante arrived from Castine and anchored off Steele's Ledge, and officers carrying a flag of truce rode a barge to shore, landing at about 5 p.m. They met with the president of the board of selectmen, Asa Edmunds, and informed him that British soldiers and officers would possess the town for a few days, and that if no force was used against them, Belfast citizens and their property would be respected. On behalf of the people of Belfast, Edmunds agreed to this arrangement.
At dusk, Pinette said, British troops arrived on transports from the frigate and marched up Main Street while musicians played "The British Grenadier."
Pinette made a point of including quirky and curious details, such as the fact that most of the 600 British troops that arrived were of equal height, and that some of the Belfast militia's weapons were hidden away in the Durham House on Upper Main Street, the same house some British officers were using as their quarters.
As the crowd walked up Main Street, Pinette described what buildings the British troops would have seen on their way up and noted where British guards were stationed during the occupation.
Belfast farmers and grocers were able to make a profit from their occupiers, and sold provisions to the soldiers at a mark-up. They sold beef for 8 cents per pound, milk for 10 cents per quart, and bread for 50 cents per loaf, Pinette said.
Four or five days later, she continued, the British departed for Castine "in the same quiet and orderly manner as the arrival."
Pinette quoted the diary of an unknown British soldier on whom Belfast had made an impression:
"Belfast, Hancock County, Maine, Massachusetts: A new town situated at the bottom of Penobscot Bay at the mouth of a river running into it over which there are in the two first miles three bridges, the lower one near a mile and a half long over which the Grand Road from the Eastern parts goes toward Boston.... Appears as though it would in time be a place of some importance."
After the walk was concluded, participants were encouraged to try Alexia Pizza's special "English Surrender" pizza and the special Marshall's Wharf brew "Bitter Truth ESB," available at several bars and restaurants around town.