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This Day in Boston History

May 19th, 1775

Battle of Shirley Gut

On this day, Captain James Mugford of the privateer Franklin found himself grounded on Shirley Gut off Deer Island near Boston. Just two days earlier he had commandeered a huge British gunpowder ship stranded in the same location, gaining desperately needed gunpowder for the revolution.

This time the English navy was ready, and sent soldiers rowing whaling boats to board the Franklin and arrest Mugford. The Franklin opened fire on the approaching boarding parties. Her sailors had soaped the sides of the ship to make boarding difficult and easily repelled the English soldiers with sharpened pikes, while capsizing the smaller English row boats.

The only American casualty was Captain Mugford, whose heroism is memorialized near his Marblehead home.


England's Prime Minister never expected this tea tax to cause an outcry, let alone revolution. In 1767, England reduced its property taxes at home. To balance the national budget they needed to find a mechanism for the American colonies to pay for the expense of stationing officials in them. The officials would generate their own revenue by collecting taxes on all imported goods, and once paid affixing stamps on them. This Stamp Tax generated more in the way of protests and smuggling than added revenue.

Religion. Politics. Rebellion. Boston’s pedigree was forged back in England in the midst of religious dissension, where Puritans and Pilgrims sought religious reform, and Cavaliers and Roundheads vied for political power. The question isn't where did Boston get its name – but how.

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