November 5 - 1778: British man-of-war shipwrecked in Provincetown

The Somerset wreckage reappears on Dead Man's Hollow beach in Provincetown occasionally
Thre wreckage of the Somerset near Dead Man's Hollow.

1778: British warship runs aground

The wreckage still reappears occasionally

On this day in 1778, residents of Provincetown and Wellfleet awoke to learn that the Royal Navy man-of-war Somerset had run aground at Peaked Hill Bars in a fierce two-day gale. 

According to Herman Jennings book on the subject, "twenty of her crew and two officers were killed while survivors were taken prisoner. Word was sent to Truro and a company of Militia from that place, with a company here, under the command of Captain Enoch Hallett, of Yarmouth, took the prisoners to Barnstable, and thence to Boston except for one -- the ship's surgeon Dr. William Thayer. Dr. Thayer --- who was paroled and stayed here to give aid to the people of Provincetown and Truro. He married Susan Rich, thereafter residing in Truro."

The frigate, "H.M.S. Somerset on the Peaked Hill Bars" in a painting by Spencer Parry Kennard., had played a notable role in the American Revolution. 

In April 1775, Paul Revere rowed past the Somerset at anchor in the Back Bay en route to his midnight ride to warn of a British attack. Longfellow later immortalized Revere's close brush with the warship in his poem, "The Midnight Ride of Paul Revere."  

Two months later, the Somerset served as British flagship during the Battle of Bunker Hill, which the British won but at a fearful toll in lives.

The wreckage returns

At least twice in the centuries to follow, the wreckage of the Somerset near Dead Man's Hollow in Provincetown was uncovered by storms, in the late 19th century and again in 1973, as shown in the photo.

Other resources: 

  • See the Cape Cod National Seashore brochure here.
  • See "Everything else which happened today" including 1639 - First post office in the colonies is set up in Massachusetts, 1933 - the Chicago Bears 30 game unbeaten streak ends to the Patriots (10-0) and 1946 - John F Kennedy (D, Mass) elected to House of Representatives here.

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