July 11, 1814: During the two-and-a-half-year War of 1812, a British fleet under the command of Commodore Sir Thomas Hardy arrives off Eastport and demands the surrender of Fort Sullivan.

Hardy gives the occupants only five minutes to reply.

Maj. Perley Putnam, the fort’s commander, responds by saying his men will defend it at any cost. Eastport residents beg him to reconsider, however, and he does, striking the colors and giving up without a shot.

The British seize the American guns, place all the surrendering American enlisted soldiers on a prison ship, dispatch their 102nd Regiment of Infantry and an artillery battalion to the shore, occupy the fort and hoist the Union Jack.

The conquest constitutes a step in the ultimately unsuccessful British effort to re-establish the crown colony of New Ireland in eastern Maine.

The conquerors also order Eastport residents to take oaths of allegiance to the British crown on May 16 or to leave the settlement within seven days. Two-thirds of the residents take the oath.

The war ends the following year, but the British remain in Eastport until 1818.

July 11, 1944: Maine experiences its worst-ever airplane disaster when 2nd Lt. Philip Russell of South Portland, a U.S. Army Air Forces pilot, accidentally crashes his Douglas A-26 Invader in that city while on his way home to visit his family.

Plane debris lies amid the burned wreckage of trailers in the Long Creek area of South Portland. File photo

The plane cartwheels into a cluster of government-run trailers housing shipyard workers, killing 17 residents there and destroying 16 trailers. Russell and his navigator also die in the crash.

The crash comes on the heels of another military plane disaster a few hours earlier. A B-17G Flying Fortress that left Nebraska that morning, bound for Dow Army Air Field in Bangor, crashes on Deer Mountain, northwest of Rangeley, killing all 10 members of its crew.

It is by far the deadliest day in Maine aviation history.

Presented by:

Joseph Owen is an author, retired newspaper editor and board member of the Kennebec Historical Society. Owen’s book, “This Day in Maine,” can be ordered at islandportpress.com. To get a signed copy use promo code signedbyjoe at checkout. Joe can be contacted at: [email protected]

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