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In the Shadow of the Lighthouse: North Atlantic

Boston Light, Little Brewster Island

The Boston Light played an important role in the economy of the colonies by guiding thousands of trading ships to Boston wharves. It was involved with the struggles leading up to the Revolutionary War, as well as a strategic post during the war itself. It was the prosperity from trading that convinced the British to impose the tax on tea of the colonists’ famous Boston Tea Party. In turn the British blockaded Boston Harbor.... the Minutemen formed and soon Paul Revere made his famous trip.

The Lighthouse was the scene of several important battles during the Revolution. First, the Minutemen set fire to the lighthouse in July 1775 to strike back at the British blockade. But damage wasn’t as great as they hoped, and the British sent workmen to repair it. General George Washington sent a second raiding party to the island, under Major Benjamin Tupper. They caught the British by surprise and destroyed their work and set fire to everything that would burn. But when they set to leave, the tide had gone out and they were stranded. They had to shove their whaleboats over rocks to escape, but a British flotilla arrived and they engaged in battle. Although there were far more British, they panicked when one of their boats was hit. The small American troop only lost one man in battle.

In another battle devised by Samuel Adams, on June 13, 1776, the Americans showered bullets on the blockaders and drove them away. However, one of the British boats anchored at Little Brewster and soldiers set gunpowder in the lighthouse, which exploded. The lighthouse was rebuilt in 1783. The present tower has been standing for more than 200 years.

In the War of 1812, lighthouse keeper Jonathan Bruce and wife Mary watched the battle between the Navy’s U.S.S. Chesapeake and English warship HMS Shannon, in which Captain Lawrence ordered "Don’t give up the ship." but was ultimately forced to surrender. (Roberts p. 67)

Many shipwrecks, including the U.S.S. Alacrity in 1918, when keeper Charles Jenning pushed his dory over ice to rescue 24 crewmen.

Legend of "Ghost Walk" -- area several miles that no foghorn can penetrate. MIT students lived on Brewster Island summer of 1893 to try experimental foghorns. None could reach the area.

Block Island Southeast, Rhode Island

In 1939, a Texaco gasoline tanker was wrecked in a thick fog near the bluffs, creating a burning gas slick. The ship was later sunk by the Coast Guard and remains a favorite scuba diving site.

There is a story of Mohegan Indians who in 1590, attacked the Block Island local Indians. The local warriors defeated the Mohegan tribe, drove them to the bluffs and threw them over the cliff.

New London CT, New London Harbor Light and New London Ledge Light

Mystic Seaport, a few miles west of New London, is an authentically restored nineteenth-century coast village. The seaport boasts more than 300 antique vessels, and a lighthouse -- which is actually a reproduction of Brant Point Light on Nantucket. Historic homes, shops and trade building promote an understanding of life in a seaport during the mid-19th century. The last of the wooden whaling ships, the Charles W. Morgan, and other boats can be boarded.

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Lighthouses of Cape Henry -- Old and New Cape Henry, Virginia Beach, Virginia

In the shadow of the lighthouses there is some of the most modern navigational equipment in the world. There is a four story tower that overlooks the beach and the shipping lanes that is operated by Maryland and Virginia Pilots Association. The juxtaposition of these old aids to navigation and these new state of art tools is intriguing.

Thomas Point Maryland

St. Michaels is a charming seaport town whose history dates back to colonial times. In 1631 it was a trading outpost known as Shipping Creek, according to William Claiborne, who founded the first settlement in Maryland on Kent Island in 1629. The town was an important center of shipping and shipbuilding in the late 18th & early 19th centuries. In the War of 1812, the British set out to destroy its shipyards, but the people of St. Michaels blacked out all light in town, preventing the British from finding a target. This earned the town the name, The Town that Fooled the British. There are many nice places to visit, including the famous Inn at Perry Cabin, which you can see from Hooper Strait.

Assateague Island Light, Assategaue Island, Viriginia

The Assateague Island National Seashore spans 12 miles of exquisite unspoiled beaches along a sandy chain of barrier islands off the Eastern Shore. It stretches from just south of Ocean City, Maryland to Chincoteague, Virginia. Maryland’s beach area is a state park, while the National Park Service and the Department of the Interior maintain the larger Virginia section, which includes both beaches and 9,000 acres of preserve that is home to snow geese and mergansers, osprey and herons, ibis and egret, deer and hundreds of other species of birds and animals. Almost universally, the sight that delights visitors most is that of the free-spirited ponies that roam the refuge. Legends say that the ponies are descendants of mustang horses that swam ashore from a wrecked Spanish galleon four centuries ago. Though their growth has been stunted by a sparse diet of marsh grasses and bayberry leaves, the shaggy sturdy small horses have managed to thrive. At present there are two herds, a small one of about 40 horses in the Maryland part of the park and another of about 130 horses in the Virginia section. The ponies travel in packs of from 2-20 horses, with the smaller ones often protected by a stallion.

A spectacular sight drawing thousands of spectators is the pony swim and sale held annually the last Wednesday in July. The Chincoteague Volunteer Firemen round up the ponies and swim them across the channel to town, where the excess are sold at auction. The swim takes about 5-7 minutes. It is in about 12-feet of water. They rest the ponies for about an hour, then drive them to the fair grounds for the auction.

The sale helps to keep the herd down to a number that can be supported by the vegetation at Assateague and at the same time supports community projects. As a result of selling the ponies, there is no local fire tax; the only community in Virginia where that is the case. The population of Chincoteagaue swells from 3500 to about 50,000 during pony penning time.

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