Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | April 20, 2022

An Approaching Storm

My latest novel has been written. It is now in the editing and looking for an agent and/or publisher phase. More on the novel later. So, I’m in a downturned writing mode. But I want to rejuvenate my Blog, Though I’m an author of prose, in times like this I occasionally dabble in poetry. So below is a poem I wrote several years ago while in Maine. Hope you enjoy it.

An Approaching Storm

A misty day.
The clock strikes three.
It’s in the afternoon.
Only zephyrs tussle leaves of birch trees.

Many miles to the south,
In the Caribbean Sea,
A colossal cyclops named Irma was born.

It’s been moving, scarfing costal shorelines,
Cranking westward, northward, then eastward,  
Devastating islands, beaches, and dwellings in her path.

We’ve been warned,
Irma is approaching

But here on the bluff,
Overlooking the Gulf of Maine,
The mist has thickened as it drifts into the bay,
Burying everything in its path,
Till only nearby firs can be seen.

The vaporous twilight dims.
But sudden flashes illuminate the haze.
Then, like empty barrels rolling in an attic,
Distant thunder grumbles.

Branches whiplash.
Watery splotches explode on the roof
As torrents are released.

Somewhere in the whitish mist,
A loon calls.
Its doleful song communicates assurance.

I curl into my blanket and pray,
Hoping devastation does not travel here.

I look up.
Watch the rain stream down the windows
And utter a prayer for those in the behemoth’s track.

Some photos to set the mood

Copyright © April 2022 by Richard Modlin

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | September 9, 2018

Battle of the Rim Reenactment



Patriots aligned for battle on White’s Point, Machias River, Machias, ME

The actual Battle of the Rim occurred August 13 & 14, 1777, when Great Britain sought to avenge the capture the HMS Margaretta, an armed sloop, by the Patriots—rebels as the British called them—of Machias, Maine. The British sent three Royal Navy frigates and a small armed brig to destroy the city and put an end to the rebelliousness of the colonial population. Machias, located about six miles upriver from the deeper Machias Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, was protected by shallow water, shoals and Fort Foster located on the Rim, a peninsula at the confluence of the East Machias and Machias Rivers. The frigates had to remain in the bay, but the British brig, HMS Hope, was able to come up the river. So, during high tide, on the 13th, the Hope towed seven barges filled with about 700 Royal Marines upriver to the Rim. There, in the afternoon, the British force destroyed Fort Foster and burned the farms located on the Rim. On the morning tide, the Hope weighed anchor, and with the marines in tow, headed toward the City of Machias. Forewarned, the Patriots, with the aid of the Passamaquoddy, Maliseet, and Penobscot warriors pelted the British forces, causing them to retreat down river.






The first reenactment of the Battle of the Rim was held on August 19, 2018, 241 years after this battle occurred. Reenactors from the City of Machias assembled on White’s Point where the actual confrontation between the Patriots and British took place (White’s Point is less than a mile from the heart of Machias). Several of the reenactors were decedents of the colonists whose farms located on the Rim were burned by the British marines. Others descended from the Patriots who took part in the Battle of the Rim and/or fought to capture of the HMS Margaretta in June of 1775. The two Passamaquoddy reenactors, Wilford Neptune, Sr. and his son Will, Jr. are the actual descendants of the Passamaquoddy, Chief Neptune, whose musket shot, from White’s Point, fatally wounded one of the British officers.

Wilford Neptune Sr. & Jr.


Since my latest “Jack Hollister” novel, Battle at the Rim, describes this battle in some detail, I felt honored to attend the reenactment and to be able to meet and interact with the men who performed in this reenactment.

Due to a very rainy Saturday, the reenactment was rescheduled for Sunday, August 19; a much better day, beautiful, cool, with not a cloud in the sky. The event was a complete success. Well over a hundred city folks and tourists attended. However, I did not envy the reenactor who portrayed the British officer who was shot by Chief Neptune. This reenactor had to feign being shot and fall out the “barge” and into the cold waters of the Machias River. The redcoat reenactors fished the poor fellow out of the river and laid him in the bottom of the barge. He lay there, wet, for about an hour until the event ended. If you examine the photos showing the redcoats in the boat, you’ll notice an arm dangling over the side. This is the dead officer.


Battle at the Rim information on my two other books in the Jack Hollister series, which also describe poorly known American Revolutionary War encounters in Maine and New England, can be found on my blog site by clicking on “My Books.” All my books are available from Locally they can be purchased at the French Cellar and Machias Hardware in Machias, and Port O’ Call in Eastport.

© Copyright, Richard Modlin, September, 2018



Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | August 16, 2017

Foreword Magazine’s Clarion Review of Battle at the Rim


Reviewed by John M. Murray
August 16, 2017


This installment of the Jack Hollister series features thrilling elements and clever spycraft that should have universal appeal.

America declared its freedom but now needs to fight to stay free in a surprisingly small-scale historical fiction with larger-than-life characters and stellar writing.

In the early days of the Revolutionary War, the colonials are vastly outnumbered and underpowered. General George Washington receives news of an impending invasion and tasks Jack Hollister with infiltrating the British to feed intel back. As a British-citizen-turned-colonial-ally, Jack’s fate is highly uncertain. He must not only fool the British but also the revolutionaries along the way; despite having Washington on his side, both sides would hang him as a traitor. Thrilling naval battles, sparks of romance, and tense subterfuge tread close behind Jack as he walks a thin line.

The third entry in the Jack Hollister series, Battle at the Rim remains accessible and engaging. Jack is a fantastic character to follow, with ties to both sides of the historical conflict. More importantly, he is flawed and acts believably in any given situation, as when news of Nathan Hale’s execution reaches him. Jack’s initial reaction threatens to expose him as a traitor; later, he crumples in the privacy of his room. The pain of losing his friend highlights Jack’s humanity but also his potential fate should he make even a minor misstep.

Battle at the Rim effectively puts a human face on history, focusing on the day-to-day life of the people. George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Nathan Hale are all major characters, but the story shifts the spotlight to Jack and his encounters with the Dutch colonies hoping to stay out of the conflict, the scared recruits on both sides dealing with survival and serving their country, and the strain of a new nation tearing itself apart while fending off a superior enemy.

The writing is fairly polished and does not get too bogged down with unnecessary naval details—an issue inherent to the genre. Should any unfamiliar terms be used, sparse footnotes clarify without muddling the prose. Dialogue shines, with unique accents and speech patterns that make conversations between multiple people flow beautifully. One minor hiccup is when a French-speaking character rapidly switches between French and English without enough context or translation.

Fans of naval and historical fiction should pick up the Jack Hollister series. This installment features thrilling elements and clever spycraft that should have universal appeal.

Disclosure: This article is not an endorsement, but a review. The author of this book provided free copies of the book and paid a small fee to have their book reviewed by a professional reviewer. Foreword Reviews and Clarion Reviews make no guarantee that the author will receive a positive review. Foreword Magazine, Inc. is disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.

Available from


Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | May 3, 2017

Battle at the Rim

When Jack Hollister is asked by General Washington to infiltrate the British Army, Jack accepts—without question. Will Jack succeed…or will he be discovered and hanged?



The third novel in the Hollister/American Revolutionary War series, Battle at the Rim follows Jack Hollister as he infiltrates Britain’s army of redcoats upon the request of General George Washington. Although the British Army is hanging all suspected patriot spies without question, Jack bravely sets off, disguising himself as a journalist, sailor, and British loyalist, all to successfully work his way into the inner circle of British generals.

When Jack discovers the British are planning a vengeful siege on Jack’s home city of Machias, Maine, he pens a secret letter to be delivered to a friend, alerting him of the possible British invasion. Will Jack succeed in alerting the city of Machias?

This historical tale introduces readers to the true and little-known stories of pivotal battles and encounters during the Revolutionary War. It features appearances by such notable individuals as John Adams, Edward Rutledge, Benjamin Franklin, and—of course—George Washington. Lovers of history and adventure alike will revel in the third installment of Richard Modlin’s gripping series.

Click above on My Books for information on Battle at the Rim,  Newfound Freedom and Patriot Apprentice, the first two books in this series.

© Copyright, Richard Modlin 2017

Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | April 20, 2017

Willa Cather’s Hideaway – Grand Manan Blog II

Grand Manan Island, the largest island off the coast of New Brunswick, Canada, in the Bay of Fundy, is not only known for its ruggedness, but also for its natural beauty and solitude. Willa Cather, early 20th Century American author, and her close companion, Edith Lewis, found this isle a place of seclusion and a place that allow them to muse and create without the chaos and interruptions of New York City.

Present Day Cather Cottage

Cather Cottage

Cather (1876-1947), the author of twelve novels and several short story, essay and verse collections, was born in Virginia. At the age of nine years, Willa moved with her parents to Nebraska. Here she received her elementary education, attended a prep school, and was admitted to the Nebraska State University. During these formative years, she observed, interacted with, and gained an appreciation for the pioneers and Native Americans who inhabited the plains of the Midwest and Southwest. These experiences provided her the fodder for her future writings.

Whale Cove, North Head, Grand Manan Island, N.B. Canada

Whale Cove, North Head, Grand Manan Island, N.B., Canada

After a couple of years as a journalist and high school teacher in Pittsburg, PA, Willa’s first collection of short stories, The Troll Garden, was accepted for publication by the publisher of McClure’s Magazine, Samuel Sidney McClure. A year after her book became public, McClure offered her a position on the editorial staff of his magazine. In this position, Willa met many noted American and English writers, Arthur Conan Doyle, Mark Twain, O’Henry, Robert L. Stevenson and others who honed her creativity. Willa left McClure’s in 1912 and took up residence in New York City, where she wrote and traveled for the next fifteen years. Willa considered these years her, “…best working years.”

Sitting Room

Sitting Room with view of North Cove

Fireplace 2

Kitchen and Bathroom








Cather wrote five novels during this period. One of her novels, a story portraying a WWI American Soldier titled, One of Ours, published in 1922, won a Pulitzer Prize.




Left Photo, Fireplace in sitting room. Right Photo, Kitchen and Bathroom

Shortly after the publication of One of Ours, Cather and Edith Lewis traveled to Grand Manan Island, an essentially unknown island, and rented a very rustic cottage at the Inn at Whale Cove located in the village of North Head. Electricity did not reach this cabin until eight years later. Nevertheless, Cather found what she craved, privacy. She and her companion, eventually purchased a piece of property a short distance from the original cottage and had designed and built a livable cottage. The two spent the next twenty-two summers in the solitude of this island. They ended these summer sojourns when the WWII began, because German U-boats made it too dangerous to ferry to the island. The Inn at Whale Cove purchased Cather Cottage and incorporated it into their vacation rental complex.

Willa Cather

Willa Cather. Portrait in Grand Manan Museum in Grand Harbor, GMI

Luckily, I visited the inn when the cottage was changing rental tenants. As such, the inn’s proprietor gave me permission to visit the cottage. I found Cather Cottage a short walk from the inn and its primary group of rental cottages. A birch forest surrounded it on three side. Sitting in an Adirondack chair on the small, open front porch, I had an expansive view across Whale Cove. Its waves washed a rocky beach below a precipice a short distance down a sloping meadow of waist-deep vegetation. A path led from the porch to the brink of the cliff. On the interior, the cottage was simply appointed, but comfortable, a place where a writer’s mind could run free.

Oliver up-strike Typewriter

Cather’s Oliver up-strike Typewriter

Except for a few pictures on the wall, very little of Cather’s presence remains in the cottage. But a room in the Grand Manan Museum, located in the village of Grand Harbor, displays her writings and artifacts.

– ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ –

© Copyright, Richard Modlin 2017


Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | October 21, 2016

Serene and Rugged Beauty – Grand Manan Blog I




North Head Community


North Head Harbor

In the first of my Jack Hollister novels, Newfound Freedom, the Royal Navy frigate HMS Buzzard takes up refuge off Grand Manan Island to wait out a weeklong fog event. Though I had seen the island from the coast of Maine—it is four to five miles away—at the time of writing this novel I had never visited it. From my perspective, I could see that the entire length of the island’s 25 mile western shore, from north to south, rose vertically from 100 to 200 feet from sea level to its forested summit. There appeared to be little evidence of protected coves or bays or any human habitation along this shore. Where could an 18th Century warship take sanctuary? A map downloaded from the internet suggested that the rugged western cliff-barrier gradually descended eastward to sea level.


Swallowtail Light North Head


North Eddy Light North Head

About a month ago I finally visited Grand Manan Island (GMI), the largest island in New Brunswick, Canada and located in the Bay of Fundy. Indeed the one and half hour ferry ride from Black’s Harbor, NB, Canada terminates on the east side of GMI at North Head, the picturesque community that developed along the rise where the coastal precipice rounds the north end of the island and declines to the Atlantic Ocean. From here the shoreline remain at or near sea level to just south of the community of Seal Cove, where it again uplifts rapidly to the maximum height of the spectacular western plateau.



Dark Harbor on the western side of GMI


Dark Harbor Bar from top of Cliff

Grand Manan Island is of volcanic origin with coves, bays, inlets, outlets, and marshlands along the eastern shore and a high-rise, ragged, tumultuous western shoreline. With its northern end lying in the Bay of Fundy and its southern toe in the Atlantic Ocean, the economy of GMI is centered in the fishing industry, Atlantic salmon aquaculture, lobster, herring and scallop fishing, clam and sea urchin dragging, whale watching (humpbacks, finbacks, porpoises, seals, and a variety of other larger marine vertebrates frequent the water around GMI).


Cliff at South Head of GMI


South Head Light

Though politically GMI operates as a single unit, its population is divided into six major commercial centers (communities), North Head, Castalia, Woodwards Cove, Grand Harbor, Ingalls Head, and Seal Cove. Each of these quaint, bucolic communities has its specialty:  North Head, tourism; Castalia, bird watching; Woodwards Cove, grocery store and gas station; Grand Harbor, entertainment, museum; Ingalls Head, ship building and large vessel repair, bird watching, and free ferry to White Head Island; and Seal Cove, picturesque remnants of early 20th Century herring processing industry. One minor enclave, the only community on the western shore, but of major economic importance is Dark Harbor. Access to this little ragtag fishing community is a drive down the 200-foot cliff to the beach. It is the center of lobstering and herring fishing in the gray zone, the body of water between Canada and the USA called Grand Manan Channel. But most important is the collecting of dulse, a nutritious red algae that is purported to be of the best quality in the world. And It is. I’ve tasted it. Great in salads, as a spice in soups, sauces, and seafood dishes, and when lightly fried, is the best tasting vegetarian bacon I’ve ever tasted. (More of the fascinating, poorly known dulse fishing industry in a later blog.)


Seal Cove 


Degrading Herring Processing Factories — Seal Cove

By the way, I haven’t forgotten, the HMS Buzzard anchored in the bay at Grand Harbor.


White Head Island scene


White Head Island Light

Newfound Freedom and Modlin’s other books are available from

© Copyright 2016 Richard Modlin




Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | December 26, 2015

Finding Nautical History at Moosehead Lake, Maine

This past September (2015) Marian, my wife, wanted to photograph some moose. So we decided to spend a couple of days in Greenville, Maine, a little city at the southern end of Moosehead Lake. This town is roughly located about midway on the southern perimeter of the vast northern fir/birch forest that extends almost unbroken across the upper part of state from I-95 on the east, and west to the Canadian border. Though photo-hunting moose can be exciting and great fun, Greenville and Moosehead Lake also satisfied my pursuit of nautical history.

Moosehead Lake, the biggest lake in Maine, functioned as a storage area during this state’s great logging period. Tree trunks from the forest, cut during the summer, autumn and winter months, were stored on the lake until ice-out in the spring, then rafted to the West Bay and the Kennebec East Outlet (a stream that connects Moosehead Lake with Indian Pond). From there the logs were then floated, with the aid of high water, to the headwaters of the Kennebec River. Once on the river, logs drifted downstream to sawmills.

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MV Katahdin


During Maine’s logging heydays, the lake was home to more than fifty steamboats of various sizes that conveyed loggers, fishermen, hunters, and others to camps around the lake. In the summer some of the larger steam vessels transported prominent New Yorkers and Bostonians from the railhead at Greenville Junction to the plush Kineo Hotel, a resort at the base of Mt. Kineo. This resort was located about twenty miles up the lake from Greenville. These larger vessels reverted to their normal towboat responsibilities in the spring and pulled massive log-rafts (some many acres in size) from around the lake to West Bay.

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Of the many steamboats that once plied Moosehead Lake only one remains, the MV Katahdin or the Kate as she is known locally.

_DSC1571 (2)

Kate is the second vessel of its kind. The first Katahdin was a wooden hulled steamboat launched in 1896. But in 1913, she burned while trying to remove a log-raft off Sand Bar Island. Within a year a steel hull, built by the Bath Iron Works of Bath, Maine, was shipped in parts by rail to Greenville. This hull was assembled by the Coburn Steamboat Company’s shipyard and launched onto Moosehead Lake. The shipyard added the superstructure and christened the hull with the name of the vessel that burned.

This second Katahdin was 115 feet long, had a beam of 26 feet, and weighed 250 tons. It drew seven and half feet of water and was originally certified to carry five hundred passengers. It went into operation in August of 1914 and continued operating as did the original wooden-hulled Katahdin and the other steam powered towboats in the Coburn fleet. At some point the MV Katahdin’s steam engine was replaced with a diesel engine. Kate continued to tow log-rafts in the spring and haul tourists in the summer until the Last Log Drive on July 12, 1975.

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Today the Katahdin is the last passenger-carrying towboat of its kind in Maine—an over 100 year old functioning relic from the past. In 1977 she was donated to The Moosehead Marine Museum. With the support of several benefactors, the Kate was restored and repowered. She was recertified to carry passengers, but this time only 225 instead of 500. In 1985 the Kate began again carrying tourists on day cruises.

_DSC1579 (2)

During my visit to Greenville, I was not able to take a tour on the Katahdin, because we were there on Sunday and Monday. The vessel does not sail on these days and only once on most other days. The shortest roundtrip is to Sugar Island, a three hour cruise. But on some days, a 4.5 hour tour to Kineo Mountain and back can be made. Then there is an all-day, circular voyage to Northwest Bay, which takes eight hours. It is best to check the cruise schedule by visiting the museum’s website before attempting to ride on the MV Katahdin.

_DSC1573 (2)

ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ

© Richard Modlin copyright 2015



Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | August 11, 2015

Collembolan Insects of the Intertidal Zone


Yesterday (8/9/2015), while walking the shore off the cottage during low tide, I stopped to rest on a boulder. I scanned the gravel, stones, shells, and other debris that becomes exposed when the water recedes. At my feet lay a conglomerate mass of sand and small stones. This mass appeared to have formed when gravely debris became embedded in the glutinous secretions of filamentous alga and silt. The detrital ball, about the size of my fist, will become cemented together by a variety of processes and harden over many years to form the conglomerate stones found on ocean beaches.

“Once a biologist, always a biologist. Damn, one should never allow a retired marine ecologist beach combing privileges.”

I picked up the mass, examined it, and found that the granules could easily be broken off.  So this conglomerate seemed to be in its early stage of creation. Hyphae of a white mold formed a dendritic network over and through the moist area (underside) of the mass, which suggested the granules were still being bound together by an organic matrix. Also, after chipped off some grains, little millimeter-sized, gray, cylindrical organisms scooted around looking for cover. These I easily identified as some sort of insect. At first glance these little bugs looked like lice. But, no. Lice are very light colored and obligate parasites on mammals, birds, plants and other living things. Whatever these bugs were, they were feeding on the organic stuff in the gravel ball.

When Marian came by with her camera, she took some close-up photos of the mass, hoping that one of the photos might capture one of these little insects. And—three cheers for the photographer—the insects were photographically documented.

Though the extreme magnification made the images a little fuzzy, they were sufficient to ID the bugs as members of the insect Order Collembola that could possibly be in one of the following taxonomic groups: Ceratophysella, Hypogastura, or Proisotoma that are found in the U.S.A.

Insect in the Order Collembola

Insect in the Order Collembola

This is an order of small primitively wingless arthropods that are related to, or sometimes classed among the true insects. They have 6 abdominal segments, 3 pairs of legs, antennae, and sometimes a forked caudal furcula. Collembolans are found everywhere, especially in soil rich in organic debris, in rotting logs, on the surface of snow or water, and (a characteristic most important to me) in the intertidal zone—where I found them. Collembolans are commonly known as springtails. But the ones I found did not us their springer (an appendage found under the first abdominal segment called a collophore) that they can use to escape. Instead these little gray bugs scooted into crevices that separated the granules.

_MG_2293 (2)

_MG_2288 (3)

Collembolan-like fossils have been found in material dating back 400 million years, so the group is considered by some to be very ancient. Other taxonomists think they evolved more recently as an offshoot of the true flies Order Diptera. Presently there is very little known of the biology and evolution of this group of organisms.

The exciting thing for me is that I found an insect in a saltwater environment, a place where insects are rare—except for the Diptera. There may be more out there than we know. Because of their extreme primitiveness, it is highly possible they can tolerate oceanic waters, and live quite happily in the intertidal zone.

Well back to the beach. Perhaps I’ll find something a little less crawly.

ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ

© Copyright 2015 Richard Modlin




© Copyright Photographs 2015 Marian Moore Lewis

Check out Marian Moore Lewis’ recent book Southern Sanctuary, which contains many of her excellent nature photos. Southern Sanctuary is available from



Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | April 17, 2015

Review of Southern Sanctuary by Dr. Sue Brannan Walker

MEET MARIAN LEWIS.  Think SANCTUARY:   And thank you MARIAN LEWIS!  Sanctuary is not a word we hear much anymore – not before toast and tea on an ordinary April morning after a week of rain.  Perhaps we do not believe that there is such a place – a sanctuary – in our too busy, often too-frenzied world of meetings, assorted appointments, and daily to-do lists: call the Critter Getters; there’s a coon in the attic.  But wait!  Stop!  Sanctuary is a word synonymous with MARIAN LEWIS – who has just written a gorgeous book entitled “SOUTHERN SANCTUARY: A NATURALIST’s WALK THROUGH THE SEASONS” published in 2015 by the University of Alabama Press.  The walk begins in April – but here we are – or rather, here I am at my computer – and I haven’t yet had my cup of tea.  I’m too excited about this book called SANCTUARY. Indeed I am experiencing SANCTUARY – and I don’t have to leave my “perch” to take an excursion with MARIAN LEWIS as she writes: “Today I begin my first exploratory excursion into the bottom-land habitat that is to become my project and passion for the foreseeable future.”  A note says that her purpose on this April day is “to discover, photograph, and document spring in the Sanctuary.  I follow her words and scan the fabulous photographs, follow her “down the path past the red gates into the Sanctuary.  Song sparrows search for seeds. Listen.

In case you want to hear the Song Sparrow, it sings a rather loud, clanking song that consists of 2–6 phrases.  The song usually starts with abrupt notes and ends with a trill.  The song sparrow might add additional trills to a song that lasts a few seconds. The singer might add other adornments, other trills but note: the song patterns differ according to the species, and Marian’s birds might not sound quite like our birds – and especially so since we are listening vicariously through the pages of a book – a gorgeous book but WAIT!

MARIAN LEWIS will be giving a workshop at the Alabama Writers Conclave in Fairhope, Alabama (University of South Alabama Campus) on July 18, 2015.

Her workshop will show us how to employ Nature as a platform to creativity, to sharpen our observational skills, rekindle the thrill of discovery, and engage the senses in writing about Nature.  Attendees will have the opportunity to practice observational skills, explore approaches to publishing nature-nonfiction, choose a potential publisher, and write a book proposal, developing text, avoiding research pitfalls, and finally how to revise the final book.

I can’t wait!  Join the Alabama Writers Conclave.  We want to meet you in Fairhope – itself a SANCTUARY – especially with MARIAN LEWIS as our guide.

Dr. Sue Brannan Walker, President of the Alabama Writers’ Conclave and former Poet Laureate of the State of Alabama.

Southern Sanctuary is available from Amazon. Please visit

Information on the 2015 Alabama Writes can be had by visiting the AWC website at


Posted by: Sand Squiggles -- Richard Modlin's Blog | March 28, 2015


Broad Cove, located between Eastport, Maine on the east and Shackford Head State Park on the west, plays a minor role in my recent novel Newfound Freedom. This is where my fictitious Captain Francklin brings his frigate HMS Buzzard to anchorage at the very northern end of the cove known as Cony Beach. From here he sends off a contingent of Royal Marines to capture the survivors of the coastal schooner Pegasus, which wrecked on Maine’s Down East Bold Coast. The captain picked this cove not only for its location to the wreck, but also because of its extreme tides (18-22 feet). At low tide the frigate will sit high and dry on the mud and his crew can careen, clean, and repair the hull from the waterline to the keel.

In reality Broad Cove has a doleful reputation. Between 25 October 1901 and 13 May 1920, five proud decommissioned Civil War warships of the Union Navy were sailed into the cove, stranded off Cony Beach, stripped of useful items, and burned to their keels. Once the tide extinguished the flames and cooled the ashes, much of the metal used in the construction of these wooden vessels was easily salvaged.

Map of Broad Cove, ME

Map of Broad Cove, ME

The oldest of these ships was the 74-gun ship of the line USS Vermont, the only full sailing vessel to be burned. Her keel was laid on September 1818 in the Boston Navy Yard, but the Vermont saw little action during the War of 1812. During the Civil War the USS Vermont was re-commissioned and assigned to the South Atlantic Blockade. During this time she functioned as a receiving ship (warehouse, hospital, supply, etc.) in and near her home port of Port Royal, SC. The USS Vermont was burned 23 June 1902.

USS Vermont

USS Vermont

A steam powered 47-gun frigate augmented with sails, the USS Minnesota was built in the Washington Navy Yard. Her keel was laid in May 1854 and she was launched 1 December 1855. The Minnesota carried about 650 men and most notably saw action in the battle against the ironclad CSS Virginia (formerly the USS Merrimac) off Hampton Roads, VA on 8 March 1862. The Minnesota ran aground and suffered bombardment from shore batteries, but continued to fire against the Virginia, but to no avail. After the Virginia sank the USS Cumberland and forced the surrender of the USS Congress, the ironclad turned its guns on the Minnesota. However, because of shallow water, the confederate vessel could not close on the Union frigate. After dark the USS Monitor came to the aid of the Minnesota. In the morning, Captain John Worden of the USS Monitor shouted his famous words to the captain of the Minnesota, “I will stand by you to the last if I can help you,” and steamed his little iron vessel toward the oncoming CSS Virginia and blocked all but one of the shots the confederate vessel lobbed at the Minnesota. By noon the famous battle of the ironclads ended—better known as the battle between the Merrimac and Monitor. The Virginia steamed away and the Minnesota was refloated and repaired. She remained in service for the balance of the war as the flagship of the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron. Her end came by fire off Cony Beach on 25 October 1901.

USS Minnesota

USS Minnesota

The keel of the USS Wabash, the sister ship of the USS Minnesota, was laid 16 May 1854 at the Philadelphia Naval Yard. Launched 25 October 1855 and commissioned about a year later, the Wabash did duty in the waters off Central America and the Mediterranean Sea before the Civil War. The 44-gun steam-powered sailing vessel moved about two knots faster than the USS Minnesota. Assigned to the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron, the Wabash saw action from Cape Hatteras, NC to St. Augustine, FL. Some of her crew were put ashore and manned the guns that fired upon Fort Pulaski, GA. In 1864 the Wabash returned to the waters off North Carolina and became involved in the attack of Fort Fisher, which guarded the entrance to Wilmington Harbor. After this battle she returned to the Boston Navy Yard and was decommissioned. But in 1871, the Wabash was overhauled and became the flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron, where she remained for three years. When this tour ended, the frigate returned to Boston and converted to a receiving ship. Her end came at Cony Beach on 26 June 1913.

USS Wabash

USS Wabash


Ten years elapsed from the time the keel of the USS Franklin (May 1854) was laid at the Portsmouth Naval Yard and the vessel launched on 17 September 1864. Another three years passed before the Franklin was commissioned, 3 June 1867. This wooden hulled, 44-gun, single screw steam-powered, sailing vessel had the distinction of having two smoke stacks that could be raised and lowered. Being commission after the Civil War ended, she did not serve during this conflict. However, the Franklin became the flagship of Admiral David Farragut during his command of the European Squadron. USS Franklin remained with this fleet until 1876, when she returned to Norfolk and was converted to a naval receiving ship. Decommissioned in 1915, this frigate met her demise at Cony Beach on 2 October 1916. Interestingly, the USS Franklin was the only of cremated vessel viewed by a future president of the United States. Franklin D. Roosevelt and his family came to Cony Beach from their summer home on Campobello Island—located across Friar Roads, the body of water that separates Campobello Island from Eastport, ME—to watch the burning. At that time FDR was the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

USS Franklin

USS Franklin

Last of the warships to be torched off Cony Beach (13 May 1920) was the sloop-rigged USS Richmond, the smallest of the five vessels, but the most notable. Differing from the other three larger wooden-hulled, steam-powered, single screw, sailing vessels, the Richmond only carried twenty two cannons on her deck. Her keel was laid 27 July 1858. She was launched 26 January 1860, and commissioned in October 1860. After a short tour of duty with the Mediterranean Squadron, she became part of Admiral Farragut’s Gulf Blockading Fleet and saw battles in the lower Mississippi River and along the northern coast of the Gulf of Mexico. When the USS Tecumseh struck an underwater mine—called torpedoes at that time—at the beginning (5 April 1864) of the Battle of Mobile Bay and sunk, the attack line of Farragut’s fleet was disrupted. Having no choice but to forge ahead into the bay, Farragut yelled his famous command, “Damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead!” The fleet regrouped. Farragut’s flagship, the USS Hartford, led the Richmond and the other Union ships of the line into Mobile Bay. The Battle of Mobile Bay extended for nearly a month. During this time the USS Richmond’s cannons almost continuously bombarded Fort Morgan. The little sloop of war sank or successfully blocked several Confederate ships from escaping to the open sea. The Richmond sustained little damage during the Battle of Mobile Bay, but returned to the Boston Navy Yard to be repaired and refurbished. For the next thirty four years the USS Richmond served duty in different Atlantic ports, e.g., as a member of various squadrons, a training ship, receiving ship, etc. In 1903 the sloop was sent to the Norfolk Navy Yard where she functioned as an auxiliary receiving vessel. The USS Richmond was decommissioned in 1919.

USS Richmond

USS Richmond

I have scoured Cony Beach for artifacts on many occasions. On one particular visit the tide was low, exposing a rockweed covered section of the keel of a large wooden vessel with pieces of its ribs still attached. Assuming that the USS Richmond was the last vessel to be cremated off Cony Beach—about ninety five years ago—these may be the remains of this proud vessel. Perhaps so, but I’ve asked around and no one seems to know or remember. I’ll keep checking.

Keel and Ribs of Wooden-Hulled vessel exposed at low tide off Cony Beach.

Keel and Ribs of Wooden-Hulled vessel exposed at low tide off Cony Beach.

ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ ʃ

© Richard Modlin Copyright 1915

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