A historical thought on this July 4 from local historian Michael Laurano:
The Fourth of July is a good time to remember another great American misnomer – the oxymoronic term, the so called “Battle of Chelsea Creek” which in all truth was the “Battle of Noddle’s Island, Hogg Island and Chelsea”.
The series of skirmishes encompassed by that term which took place in late May of 1775 between the Americans and the British was never until the very late 19th century at the very earliest referred to even as the “Battle of Chelsea ” nor until 1906 as the “Battle of Chelsea Creek”. That was for good reasons. The bellicose actions took place on Noddle’s Island (East Boston), Hogg (or Hog) Island (Orient Heights) and Chelsea (today’s Beachmont, Revere, Winthrop and Chelsea), in 1775 Sales Farm, Rumney Marsh, Pullin Point and Winnisimmet.
Some of the fighting and the culmination by the burning of a British vessel, The Diana, certainly did place along the shores of the intervening waterway between present day East Boston and Chelsea now known as “Chelsea Creek”. That body of water was not however known as “Chelsea Creek” in 1775 nor for a half century afterwards. The term “Chelsea Creek” name was affixed to “Chelsea Reach” in the 1830s by Gen William H. Sumner the principal behind the development into “East Boston” of once bucolic Noddle’s Island, an oasis of culture and gracious civility in Boston Harbour burned and rendered barren by the bellicose events of 1775
“The designation “Chelsea Creek” appears on no legitimate contemporaneously drawn map of 1775 and nowhere else until the 1830s. No person actually at Noddle’s, Island Hogg Island or Chelsea who participated in the fighting in 1775, American or British, left written recorded reference to the “Battle of Chelsea Creek”. 1775 newspaper accounts of the skirmishes which sent an electrifying shock of courage throughout the rebellious American Colonies made reference only to the events “on Noddles Island”, or “on Hogg (sometimes spelled “Hog”) Island” or “at Chelsea” and never “Chelsea Creek” The American “rebels” who participated as belligerants there so recorded and 1775 British Admiralty records read the same as well.
That said, it is also true that on account of the determined efforts of some folk who have partisanly picked up on what was a mistake (one would like to think it was that, born only of ignorance and not deliberate) first made in 1906 by a New Hampshire magazine writer named Lamb have tenaciously promoted the “Battle of Chelsea Creek” mantra. Though that may be a rightful exercise in American free speech it is however still not the truth. Perhaps the erroneous term was first conceived in a spirit of compromise. In 20th century terms it would be an easy mistake perhaps to make.
In 1775 I shared in the same spirit of comprise at the BiCentennial celebration and referred to the “Battle of Noddle’s Island and Chelsea Creek”. However, given the 21st century internet’s revolutionary access to early maps and documentation from and contemporaneous with 1775 to allow this transgression to continue unchallened would be only be to continue to give license to a wrong. A truthful and accurate account of American history deserves better.
Many recent writers while acknowledging the many indisputable facts of the matter still continue to repeat this grave misnaming error which flies in the face of accuracy and truth.
One such recent writer of American history while accurately attesting to the focus of these events as having happened on Noddle’s Island judiciously says (the battle)…”has come to be called the Battle of Chelsea Creek”. To that this writer would add with emphasis…The Battle of Noddle’s Island, Hogg Island and Chelsea” vs. the “Battle of Chelsea Creek” is not over yet !
On this Fourth of July holiday of 2016 a salvo in this naming battle is issued in the form of the following threefold challenge to anyone who wishes to persist in promoting the misnamning error of the “Battle of Chelsea Creek”:
First: Produce a legitimate map of from the 1775 era drawn prior to the 1830s designating the tidal waterway flowing between what is now East Boston and Chelsea as “Chelsea Creek”.
Second: Produce a legitimate recorded account by any person who was actually there and participated in the skirmishes between the Americans and the British in 1775 that makes reference to “Chelsea Creek”.
Third: Produce a legitimate 1775 newspaper account of the events that took place on Noddle’s Island, Hogg Island and at Chelsea that made reference to “Chelsea Creek”.
Happy Fourth of July to all.
Michael A. Laurano
malauran (at) aol.com