Christopher Vail's Journal


I CHRISTOPHER VAIL of Saggharbour, Suffolk County and State of New York enlisted as a

soldier in Capt. John Hulberts company, it being the 3.d company and 3.d regiment of

Continental soldiers, and James Clinton Esq. Colonel, and John Davis 1st Lieut., & Wm

Havens 2nd Lieut. July 5th, 1775. [Hulbert's company formed July 2, 1775, at

Bridgehampton, enlisted 21 men initially, then three days later, 27 more, including Vail.

Some sources say the company eventually totaled 68 men.] I took a man's place after the

company was full by the name of Paul Pain, but always answered to my name. I enlisted for

six months, and was 17 years old. Our company amounted to 75 men. When the company was

full we embarked at Saggharbour for N. York, and from N. York we went up Hudson River,

bound to Canada, and after one weeks passsage arrived at the City of Albany: from there we

commenced our march to Fort George which lies on the west end of Lake George. From this

place we embarked in batteries for Ticonderoga where we emcampt one month. In the mean

time Chamblee [Fort Chambly, in southern Ontario, Canada] was taken, and about 400 British

prisoners arrived at this place. It fell to our lot to escort them on to the southward. A part of

them was left at Canaan, Connecticut, the other part was sent to the Jerseys. Our time of

enlistment being out we returned home by the way of White Plains, State of N. York. from

there to Rye, a town on the Sound. From there we crossed over to Oyster Bay and returned to

Saggharbour the 15 of Jan'y 1776. [Discharged 1/18/76.]


I enlisted again in a few weeks as a private in Capt. John Davis' company, [see "History of

Suffolk County 1683-1882," Bicentennial Reprint, p. 21 of Southampton section, which lists

Vail in militia company under Capt. David Peirson, not Capt.Davis] and Wm. Havens 1st

Lieut., in the continental service for twelve months, and was stationed at Montaug Point in

order to guard a large quantity of cattle which was kept there belonging to several towns.

Nothing extraordinary happened until 27th of August 1776 when we were informed that the

British had landed on the west end of the Island. We had our orders to march up the Island to

reinforce our troops, and began our march immediately, and after marching 40 miles distance

we were informed that the Island was captured after a hard battle was fought, and a great loss

on our side. We immediately began our retreat to Southold where we obtained vessels and

carried our company over the Sound. landed them at Saybrook in Connecticut. From there we

marched to New Haven and encamped, and staid there about one month. We at this time had

information of a company of Tories that was stationed at Sautucut L. Island. We collected

about 60 whale boats and manned them and cros'd over the Sound in a heavy blow from N.

West in the night in company with the armed schooner Spy of 10 guns, Capt. Niles and

arrived at the Island about 11 P.M. and divided our force so as to take their whole force by

surrounding their guardhouse and head quarters at the same time. On our arrival at the guard

house numbers fled to head quarters where the whole was taken. We killed 13 of the enemy

and brought off 40 prisoners, and made prizes of two sloops--we had one man killed, none

wounded, and the day following we returned to New Haven--We staid but a few days there

marched to Fairfield, from thence to Newtown and Danbury and on to Fishkill. We staid at

the latter place about a month from thence we were ordered to Fort Constitution, where we

staid about one month. from thence we went to Fort Montgomery. At this time about half of

our company enlisted for 3 years or during the war, the other part was put in Capt. Daniel

Griffing's company, and staid at Fort Montgomery until sometime in February, making 13

months service=1777, when I went in the barge with General Clinton our commander to the

Peeks-kills, to obtain money to pay off the troops as the time of our enlistment was up. We

landed at Fort Independence, and crossed over a small river on the ice to Peekskill, and in

returning that afternoon back on the ice it gave away. one of our company fell in. Fortunately

was saved. We then went back and marched up the river to a place called No. 2 at the head of

the river, but I being small the party out travelled me, and got out of my sight and I began to

faint, and could go no further. I sat down awhile till my fainting went off then got up and

travelled the road about half a mile. Then I took a by path which I supposed led to fort

Independence which I found correct, but I being so faint and weary and near a house called in

and got some refreshment and staid perhaps half an hour. Then I traveled on until I came to

the fort but when I arrived the barge had been gone about half an hour. I slept that night in

the barracks on a bench and a very cold night it was. The next morning I traveled along side

of the river in order to find a boat to cross over which I effected after travelling about one

mile, the snow being knee high. I crossed over to Rattle Snake Island, which was five miles

south of the fort, but I arrived at the fort during the day. I there received the information that

the general was disappointed in getting any money. The day following I took my baggage and

marched from the fort without any further ceremony with three of my comrades with me to

return to Connecticut. I traveled by the way of Norwalk, New Haven and on to West Haddam,

from there to Saybrook at the mouth of Connecticut River, making 13 months. I staid at

Saybrook not many days before the militia was called upon. I took the place of a Mr. Ayres

and marched for New Haven. Staid there but a short time and returned and was discharged. I

staid at Saybrook but a short time before the militia was called out again. I then took a tour

again to New Haven for Wm. Lines of Saybrook. We arrived at New Haven. This was in the

spring of 1778. [A mistake. 1777] While at New Haven we had information that a body of

refugees about one hundred in number was at Saggharbour on a foraging party with one

armed brig of 14 guns, and 13 coasting vessels in order to carry away what was collected.

Their business being about completed, and ready to depart when the information was given.

Immediately Col. Meigs provided a number of whale boats and proceeded with our force for

Long Island. We arrived at a place on the north side of the Island called Bailey's beach which

was 14 miles from Saggharbour. The afternoon following at this place the carrying place was

about 40 rods over. Here we took our boats by hand and carried them across and put them

into a creek called Mill Creek. From this place it was about 2 or 3 hours rowing to

Saggharbour. In the first part of the night we rowed across the bay and came to a neck of

sand which was about 4 rods wide to the water on the other side which led to Sag harbour,

and here we again took up our boats and carried them across this isthmus and again

embarked, at this time about one mile from the enemy. We landed on the west of the port

about half a mile and surrounded the village at once and proceeded down to their quarters

where we completely succeeded in capturing the whole force except one man. We burnt all

the coasting vessels which was all loaded and laid along side the wharf and a store that was 60

feet long that stood on the wharf. It so happened that they had completed all their business at

this place and the afternoon before they had received a months pay and had a sham fight and

damned the Yankies and wished them to come over for there never was a better time. Each

man had a wooden flint in his musket and after their sham fight they sent the greatest villan

belonging to their gang to Southampton to engage a dinner for the whole company the next

day on their march up the Island.They remained went to drinking &c. and all got pretty well

boozey. When we arrived we took ninety nine Tories. Some had nothing but his shirt on,

some a pair of trowsers others perhaps 1 stocking and one shoe and in fact they were carried

off in their situation to New Haven, and none escaped except the armed brig which was

anchored off and the men spoken of above. The whole of the time our troops was there the

brig was firing broadsides in every direction. We returned back to New Haven in about 60

hours with our gentry where they were all deposited in the town gaol. A few days after this I

was discharged and returned to Saybrook, and from thence I went to New London and

entered on board the continental schooner Miflin Capt. John Kerr. This was in April: our

cruising ground was up Long Island Sound. One afternoon being on shore at Stanford

observed 4 sloops running down Sound from N. York close in with Long Island. Toward

sundown the wind left them. One of them came to anchor. The other made fast to her. There

was an armed brig about two miles astern and a frigate 4 or 6 miles ahead at anchor. A little

after sundown we took 4 whale boats and rowed acorss the Sound, boarded the sloops and

brought them off. The people on board made their escape. We towed them across the Sound

that night and in the morning sent them into Norwalk. The next night we crossed over the

Sound again in whale boats and off Oyster bay boarded a sloop and took her off and while

towing her across the Sound in the night received a broadside from a frigate and brig that lay

at anchor. We immediately pulled to the eastward and made our escape and sent her into

Norwalk. This day being calm we discovered a sloop about one mile east of Eden [Eaton's]

Neck at anchor and a frigate the other side of the neck about 3 miles off. We immediately

pulled away for this sloop and boarded her. She had 2 guns and 11 men. They took to the boat

and left the sloop before we boarded her. On our coming on board, we cut her cables and

towed out side of the neck in sight of the frigate. She immediately fired an alarm gun and was

answered by the other frigate and brig; and immediately sent off ten boats after us. And they

were joined by the other boat that left us. And all pulled direct for us until within musket shot

when they commenced firing their muskets on us. We hove over one of the guns, set the sloop

on fire and made off. It still remaining calm, the night following we crossed over to Loyed

Neck, hauled our boats up into the bushes and marched 3 or 4 miles up the harbour in order

to discover what the situation of the enemy vessels was in. We found about 10 or 12 sail of

vessels close in shore and guarded by a strong force. Perhaps at this place the whole number

of vessels was not more than 40 rods from us, and every hour they sung out all is well. But

we found them too strong and returned back to the boats and launched them. Crossed over the

bay and hauled the boats up amongst some cedars undiscovered on Hog Island in order to

board any vessel that attempted to sail for New York, as they must all pass us. At this time we

was about 1 or 1 1/2 miles from the fleet on the west side of the bay. About 9 o'clock A.M. a

man was discovered walking towards us on the beach and very imprudently one of our party

ran after him. He immediately ran from us as fast as possible and hollered out to the enemy

that the rebbels was over, it being very calm. And still they could hear him very distinctly,

and immediately sent off two barges after us. We launched our boats as soon as possible and

rowed off from the shore. We had but just got out of musket shot from the shore before 10 or

12 people came down and fired away upon us but at too great a distance to injure us. When

we got a distance from the shore we hove to for the barges to come up, but they immediately

ceased rowing and lay'd on their oars. We then crossed the Sound again and on the following

day we crossed the Sound again to L. Isld and drove 2 sloops on shore. There appeared to be

hundreds of militia on the hills to protect the vessels. We gave them a number of shots from

our small pieces and returned to Norwalk & on the following day with a fresh breeze from

the westward set sail and from Norwalk with our little fleet and arrived at New London the

following evening. The next day went with our boats across the Sound, and landed at the

Canoe place on L. Island and hauled the boats up in the bushes and left them and marched up

the Island about 20 miles to a place called Speonk where we took possession of 8 or 10 whale

boats, and brought them off to New London.


I was employed to carry despatches to Boston to the board of war, and returned to New

London and was discharged July 8. I entered on board the Warren frigate of 32 guns and

went to Boston where she lay. Very soon afterwards we sailed to sea and on the 2d of

September in the Gulf Stream in a hurricane was upset. We lost 2 men overboard who fell

from the main topsail yard and was dround. The ship lay for nearly half hour keel out when

she righted, the wind blowing all round the compass every ten minutes. We handed what rags

off the topsails that was left, battened down the hatches and housed the guns and secured them,

and in a minute was knocked over again. We attempted to hoist the fore topmast stay sail to

make her fall off. But before it was six feet high it blew all to pieces. We then top't the fore

yard, when she immediately fell off and righted. At this time the whole horrizon was like a

thick fog. The clouds and water all mixed together. And you could not hear a man which was

standing along side of you and halloring as loud as possible. The sea at this time as smooth as

a mill pond and no motion to it but as the wind got steady and blowed from the N.E. the sea at

once rose to a mountain. At 8 P.M. the whole ocean seemed on fire. It was my trick at the

wheel from 8 to 10 P.M. The sea that came tumbling after us looked to be half a mile high,

and would brake a part of it on our gangway and go 30 feet over the bows. All hands was

kept aft. We scudded 16 or 18 hours under bare polls when it moderated. And we put the ship

to rights again. The day following we took a brig laden with molasses from Jamaica bound to

Halifax. After this we chased 2 large ships and 3 brigs for three days. Upon a wind by some

accident or other we carried away our fore top mast and main top gallant mast and before we

could get up others we lost sight of the chass. The day following we spoke a ship from

Charlestown bound to Rotterdam who told us they had been boarded by the Revenge and

revenue privateers from N. London. That day and while their boats were on board her they

saw two large ships and two brigs standing S.E. We left the ship and stood S.E. several hours

but saw nothing of the said ships and brigs. We then stood to the northward and spoke the

Tyrannicide privateer brig from Boston. We agreed to go as consorts together and cruise off

Newfoundland. We stood to the north several days and struck sounding in 60 fathoms water.

We run that day and saw no land. In the night the brig being ahead she sounded and found 6

fathoms water. She fired a signal gun and we both hauled our wind to the westward. The next

morning we saw the Island of Sables bearing E.N.E. distance 2 leagues. We then stood to the

northward for several days. When a heavy gale of wind came on. We kept company that day

the wind being S.S.E. in the night following the wind shifted into the N.E. & blew a very

heavy gale. We wore ship [a nautical term meaning to change direction] and scudded to the

westward 50 hours. When it moderated, we then spoke a ship from France bound to Boston.

We parted with her. A few days after this we captured an English brig with a valuable cargo

of wine, fruit, &c. on board and order her into Boston. The latter part of October we arrived

at Boston. From there I traveled by land to N. London. I remained there until January 1,

1779, when I shipped myself on board the sloop Revenge of 10 guns Nath. Post commander,

bound on a cruise to the West Indies. We left N. London 6th Jan'y and arrived in the latitude

of Bardoes 1st Feb., after being knockt about in several gales of wind without capturing or

chasing any vessel from the time we left port. and on the 10 Inst. we was chased by a frigate

several hours. She gave us several shot but finally gave up the chase. And on the day

following we captured a schooner from Surrinam bound to Hallifax. I was put on board the

prize to carry her in to N. London. The 12th we made the Island of Descada. The 13th we

were in latitude of Antigua and saw the Island. We saw a ship which gave us chase and came

up with us and captured us. She proved to be the ship Retaliation from Liverpool. Jonathan

Townsend Commander. They fired into us after we had hove to and within hail. They then

boarded us with drawn swrds in hand. They immediately fell to work with their hangers and

drove us all out of the schooner into their boat. I think the distance which I jumped was 12 or

14 feet to avoid a cutlass. After all hands was in the boat they selected me out to steer the

schooner and look for the prize master and people. & from looking to the helm. I had been at

Antigua before the war, and they made me pilot her into St. Johns. I staid on board the

schooner that night: and the next day was taken with the rest of my comrads and landed and

put into a stone prison that was about 60 feet in length and 2 stories high and 20 feet rear with

2 side walls 16 feet high running back 100 feet. The lower part of the yard was the dungeon

with a flat roof 16 feet deep and just as high as the side walls. We being the first prisoners

confined there since the war. This was the 15th Feby 1779: this is the place where a man must

life on air and find himself. We had not been in prison 3 weeks before the ship Governor

Trumbull was taken and the prisoners put in with us. Our allowance per day was 1/4 lb. salt

beef and 3/4 lb. bread, and water that had been to Guinea and brought back again, and

millions of worms in it. Sometimes they gave us puddle water, but seldom rain water. I have

frequently weighed the beef and found it seldom to weigh over two ounces. And if a bony

piece you may say there was none of it. We then pounded the bone and sucked the substance,

as long as we could find any substance. We generally ate it raw, for if it was boiled it would

not be over an inch square. And no substance in it. The bread I supposed might weigh from 8

to 11 oz. in 2 small loaves. We drew our allowances generally between 8 and 10 in the

morning. And we was so hungry when it come that we generally ate it all at one meal and had

not a mouthful more until the next day. One day in the dividend of our beef a bony piece fell

to a poor Frenchman who immediately hauled up his shoulders and said no bone no bone,

which in English is no good. An Irishman standing by and one of the prisoners says in reply

to the Frenchman, by Jasus I think it is all bone. There was Americans, Frenchmen, Spaniards

and Negroes all confined together. The French, Spaniards, Negroes and boys had the liberty

of the yard in the day time, and was lockt in with us at night, but the poor Yankees was kept

in close confinement during the whole time we were there. I do not know that we had the

liberty of the yard 3 days. We tried every method that could be invented to make our escape

but very few got off the Island after breaking out. If you did not leave the Island that night

you was almost certain to be taken the next day, as there was 8 dollars a head allowed for

every man that made his escape out of the prison. and the Island so small, and such numbers

of black and white upon it that it be almost a miracle to escape.


The Island of Antigua is in Latitude 17° 30 minutes North. Longitude 62° West from London.

It is one of the Caribee Islands in the Atlantic Ocean sit. 60 miles East of St. Christ'r, 40 miles

north of Guadaloupe, being 20 miles long and as many broad. The chief produce sugar. The

greatest want is water, of which they have none but what they save in cisterns and reservoirs

in time of rains or fetch from other islands. Here the English governor of the Caribee Islands

generally resides.


The first attempt we made to break out of the prison probably would have succeeded if

managed right. By means of bars we raised the stones loose under the back corridor so that

we could taken them out with ease and escape over the back wall. At this time there was no

centinel in the back yard but it was thought the best way to bribe the centinel so that the whole

could get out with ease. no sooner had the centinal record the amount stipulated than he

ordered the window slats hove open. and if any man raised his head he would blow his brains

out. Our rooms that we was kept in was about 18 feet square and in each room stood 2

necessary tubs for our use which never was removed until filled which was very nauseus. We

generally kept up good spirits. We sold all our clothes, buckles, hats & in fact every thing that

would fetch a cent. As for myself I had nothing to wear but a pair of trowses worn off up to

the knee and no sleeves to my shirt, which was my complete prisoner uniform.


The next attempt made for escape was by cutting a hole through the rooff, and by lowering a

person down by a rope. But that did not succeed as we were too anxious and began too soon

and was detected and the first man shot.


The next undertaking was in the lower west room. The centinel in the front of the gaol always

walked as far as the west end of the gaol to see the west end which was on the corner of the

street. We got the mainspring of a watch, made it into a saw and sawed off 2 iron grates,

nearly off, and let them remain in that situation the crevice filled with dirt so as not to be

perceived by people who frequently came to the grates. It so happened one day that the gaoler

came to the grates, took hold of the very bar that was cut, and stood pulling himself

backwards and forwards for some time. Fortunately the bar remained firm. The night

following the bars was cut in two and took them out. About 12 or 14 made their escape in the

following manner. The front window was on one street, and the end window on another

street. We had a line stretched from one window to the other, and a centinel placed and when

ever the centinel had looked by the corner of the gaol and turned his back to walk the whole

length of the prison the string would be pulled and number get out. And as he returned, all

lay still until his return again. In this room the whole of the prisoners as well as several

debtors made their escape took a small row boat and committed themselves to the ocean in

order to go to St. Eustatia, which is about 80 miles west. They proceeded without victuals or

water. About 50 miles off the Island of Nevis they were captured by an English sloop of war

and kept on board.

Not long after this centinel was put into the back yard and the upper piazza in the rear

of the building. we found the front and rear guarded so closely and no chance of escape that

way that we fell upon another method to make our escape which was in the following manner.

The prisoners over our head cut a scuttle [small opening] through the upper floor so as to let

down one man at a time into our room. by that means the whole could come below at any

time. We then cut a scuttle about 24 inches square through our floor. Removed the dirt under

the floor & dug down 6 feet deep to the bottom of the petition wall which was 2 feet thick and

6 deep when we got to the lower part of the foundation wall. We removed the stones so as to

make a passage through which we effected in two nights. We had then to dig under another

floor and across the room to the end of the gaol, and when we got there we had to work down

again to the lower foundation of the outer wall which we effected in a few nights. And got all

ready to put our project into operation and should have made the attempt that night. We was

to went out into small parties in the character of press gangs, take possession of some droger

[drogher, a sailing barge] and sail immediately for Guadaloupe, but by some unaccountable

means or other we were detected about 4 P.M. The gaoler came to the door in company with

a number of British officers, unlocked the door and came into the room turned us all out and

put us into the dungeon and kept us there three days until the gaol was repaired. They then

returned us back to our old lodgings.


A few days after this an accident happened which gave me much uneasiness at the time. As I

observed before the French, Spaniards and Negroes &c. had the liberty of the yard in the day

time, and was locked up with us in the night. as soon as they were locked up with us they

would immediately take their tinder box, strike fire and go to smoking, and continue nearly

all night, which made it very disagreeable to the Americans, and I was determined to put a

stop to it. And one day when the Spaniards were all out I went to one of their bags, took out

the tinder box. I then requested the centinel to give me a cartridge telling him at the same

time what I wanted it for. He immediately gave me one. I opened the tinder box and put in

about half of the cartrige of powder and stirred it up, put it back again into his bag and about

sunset as usual they were put into our room again & the door lockt. And as soon as they came

in they went immediately to their bags, took out the tinder box, opened it and struck fire to it.

he then put it up to his mouth and blew the fire. It immediately went out. He again placed the

box between his knees and struck fire into it which communicated to the powder and blew up

with an explosion as loud as a pistol. and capsized the old Spaniard and left him bottom

upwards in one corner of the room. And his face all in one sollid blister. The report of the

tinder box brought together 10 or 12 of the British officers. They immediately opened the

door and demanded who the person was who did the action, damning him at the same time

with threats &c. Others of them was more mild observing that it was not probable that any

person would do such a thing in earnest. The gaoler immediately observed to a prize master

and a gunner's mate that they were the damnedest rascals that there was in the prison, took

them out and put them into the dungeon for three days, then returned them back again. The

doctor was a mind to take the poor don to the hospital, but he would not go but staid on

purpose to hector us. A few days after this our tubs not being emptied and running over

nearly enduced a Mr. Ebenezer Williams of Saybrook to lay a stick on the tub to raise him up.

And he stript off his shirt and sat on the tub. I at this time seeing him sit in this situation took

hold of his two great toes, not thinking any harm and gently raised his feet. And by so doing

it made the stick roll which he sat on. He fell over and knocked over he tub which run thereby

all over the floor. By that means the door was opened and all hands had the liberty of the yard

for the day until the room was cleansed. During the time some person affronted the old Don

who immediately took up a brickbat and let fly at his head which it narrowly escaped. The

gaoler saw it and took his cane and gave the old Spaniard a severe drubbing, and carried him

off to the hospital. By that means we got rid of a troublesome companion.


After this we fell upon another plan of escape. We at this time was removed into one of the

upper centre rooms. The roof projected over the rooms so as to form a piazza in the rear of

the building on the second story. And in this piazza a centinel was placed, and one below in

the back yard and 2 others in the front. and during the winter months they frequently have 5

or 6 heavy squals of wind and rain in a night & at these times our centinel frequently left his

post and went below. We could hear them talking together.


About this time we fell upon another project to make our escape. The door was lockt

with a large stock lock from the outside. and a padlock in addition. We observed the door to

be three thicknesses. Outside and inside the boards went crosswise. The center went up and

down. We observed to the gaoler that in Norwich in Connecticut there was a bridge that was

90 feet long that lay across the river and that it had no standards nor braces below but was all

supported from the top by geometry work. And if they would give us some pine plank we

would make them a plan. The bait took exactly as we wanted it to be. The plank was provided,

the bridge begun. But our plan was to cut off the door above both locks and let it swing in.

And endeavor in some of the squals, when we found the centinel absent from his post, to make

the attempt and by working on he bridge, our shavings from the door was not noticed. We

continued the work and got the door so as to open it at any time. Finished the geometry

bridge which was handed out to them and suited them very well. The first opportunity offered

was a dark night a number of squalls rose. the centinel left his post and went below. At this

time we swung in the top of the door and 6 men got out softly. They were then 15 feet from

the ground and 2 centinels just below them. They stept upon the bannister rail of the piazza.

and reached up to the roof of the gaol and took hold of the spout that was under the eaves of

the roof and went 20 feet by their hands hold of the spout and nothing for their feet to rest on

until they got to the west end of the gaol. Where they lowered themselves down one story by

the waterspout that let the water to a gutter on the top of the wall. They then jumped off the

wall 15 feet high into a large bunch of Prickey Pears and made their way down to the water

edge at the harbour where they found a canoe with a Negro watching it. He had taken the

painter on shore which was secured to a stone, and laid down on it as a guard to keep it safe.

But our men did not like to disturb the poor negro and thought best to let him have his nap

out. Took a knife. Cut the painter. Took the canoe and paddled off to small droger on board

of which was one man. They cut the cable, made sail and went out to sea by the fort and man

of war and arrived at Guadaloupe. and sold the vessel for 50 half joes [or johs, slang for a

Johannes, an 18th Century Portugese coin named for the king of Portugal who first issued

them], and sent the man back again in a few days.


There was one man more that made his escape at the same time but too late to go with the

others, as the grand round of soldiers passt by obliged him to take another direction. And then

it was too late to attempt any thing further. The man found a lad that had been secreted a

week by a friend to the Americans. He provided a canoe. When they [were] 2 mi. no. [miles

north] [they] committed themselves to the open ocean without one mouthful of bread, meat or

water and no sails nor thole pins [a pair of pins set in the gunwale to serve in place of an

oarlock]. They tore up their shirts lashed their paddles to the side of the canoe and rowed for

St. Eustatia which was about 80 miles distant in a western direction where they arrived safe

after suffering for water and provisions.


There was one little anecdote that ought not to be omitted took place about this time; in one of

our attempts to escape 6 men got out. 5 of that number was caught again in a few hours. They

come across the 6th and challenged him. He told them he was a sailor from an English man of

war lying at the East end of the Island at English Harbour, and was sent to St. Johns on

business from his officer. They let him pass. He kept about skulling in different places in

order to escape but found no opportunity. Some time after this I was sitting at the front gate

with my feet sticking out, at the same time begging for the value of one cent and to my

surprize who should make his appearance but Fanning the man alluded to above. He came

boldly up to the centinel and enquired what countrymen was in prison saying he belonged to a

man of war. The soldier told him there was some Frenchmen and some Rebels. He asked him

if there would be any harm in it to speak to them. Perhaps he might see some of his old

acquaintances as he formerly sailed from Philadelphia. The soldier told him he might speak

with them. He immediately came up to the grate where I sat, told us his situation and wished

us to send his suit of long close to a certain house which was afterwards done. While

conversing with me along came the gaoler and stopped behind him and surveyed him all over.

Fanning cast his eyes partly behind him and saw Brown the gaoler. He immeditely staggered

off like a drunken sailor around the corner of the gaol and was out of sight in a minute.

Brown says to me, What man is that. I told him I did not know who he was but thought he

was a generous fellow as he gave me a quarter dollar to drink his health with. He then replied

to me that he never saw a man look so much like Fanning in his life. Afterwards Fanning

boarded a small sloop in the night, took her to Guadeloupe and sold her for 30 or 40 joes. I

then told Brown how he was deceived. Well said he I thought he favoured Fanning very



I found there was no exchange of prisoners and no chance of escape, and I being as ragged as

an Indian, neither bed nor bedding to lie down upon. And an empty stomach all the time, and

a ravenish appetite. I began to think what was to be done in my present situation in order to

relieve my wants. I took the resolution of drawing figures on paper and staining them with

my blood. I found I could make ready sale for my painting such as it was to children. And

frequently in the course of the day could sell 6d worth which was a very great addition to my

old allowance. But I soon lost my customers for there happened to be a schoolmaster with us

and he found I had opened a traffic. He took it up and accomplished the business so much

better than I did that he soon got all the custom from me. However I kept up my spirits and

determined to succeed in my support in some other manner. I accordingly took my knife, got

a piece of pine plank and commenced boat making. The plan answered exactly. No sooner was

the boat finished but a customer offered, and finally broke up the sale of the painting business.

And all men on boats. By this means I got the schoolmaster down again. Some boats was

handed into rigg, and for one of them I had a dollar, and found my capital increasing. By this

time I could have a dish of coffee in the morning bread and butter and at noon a yam with my

beef & some left for supper. After remaining here about 8 months there was a subscription

made up at St. Eustatia for the relief of the American prisoners in Antigua gaol. 80 half joes

was collected and sent to an agent to be distributed equally in rice, pork, rum and clothing.

The provision to be dealt out twice a week which was one lb. pork, 1 quart rice, and 1 quart

of rum for each man. And that added to our former allowance we lived tolerably well. They

gave each man a shirt, trowses and blanket. I now began to grow rich, and had money on

hand. I will mention one more anecdote that happened just before my painting business

commenced. I was sitting one day with my bare legs hanging out of the front grating and

likewise my arms bare. seeing a black woman going along to market and her servant a

mulatto girl with her and understanding that she was formerly from N. York and was kept by

the Capt. of an English privateer, I took the liberty to address her on the Negro style saying

to her O Sisse. O come here. She immediately came and asked me what I wanted. I told her

that I was from New York and understood that she was. And I was much distressed for the

necessaries of life, and begged of her a trifle. She observed that she was very poor and went

on to the market. About 4 in the afternoon as I still sat at the grates I saw the girl servant to

the black woman coming toward the gaol with a very large waiter on her head, and soon after

her misstress following. She came to the gaoler and demanded entrance. The door of the

prison was unlocked and my black friend came into the room with a large waiter containing

one quarter of a small pig, well roasted, a dish of cucumbers, 6 small loaves of bread and

different kinds of vegitables with a pitcher of good punch. And about 20 cents in cash. All

which I very thankfully received and selected my particular friend and sat down with a

thankful heart. Nor never shall I forget the donor. She also gave me about 20 cents per week

during my stay at this place.


About this time I opened a new branch of business which was to buy a new blanket of a Negro

for 20/100 and give a tailor 20 cents more. and made them into jackets for Negroes and

generally sold at one dollar each. I had one jacket just finished when a Negro came to the

grates as usual and asked if I had any jackets for sale. I told him I had. He said Massa make

me see um. I handed out the jacket for his inspection. He says Massa how much for dis? I told

him one dollar. He said, Massa, no more than half dollar in the market. You no take um. I

told him to hand it in again. He says again you no take half dollar. I told him no and he

immediately started and run off with his prize and left me looking thro' the grates to see how

fast a negro could run.


Nothing extraordinary occurred until Jan'y 1780 when the English fleet fell in

with a French fleet of merchantmen convoyed by two frigates from the straits of Port Royal,

Martinique. When they succeeded in capturing the convoy and 26 sail of merchantmen, the

prisoners was brought to Antigua and put into prison. by which means the whole of the

Americans was taken out of prison and put on board the Aetna Bomb. Ship the 11 Jan'y which

makes 11 months and 9 days that we were confined in a tight gaol. And in a hot climate.

During the whole time we had but one man that died. It was observed by a tory Doctor Russil

from Boston that we lived so damned poor that the fever could not take hold of us which

probably might have been the case. When we was on board the Bomb. vessel we was stowed

in a small cabb. Tier 42 in number. And no light nor air. I soon became very weak and

hardly able to stand. They gave 4 of us liberty at a time to take the air for a few minutes, and

was then sent below again. The day following our ship got under weigh, and droppt down to

the English fleet of men of war when we were all distributed on board the fleet in different

ships. All commanded by Admiral Parker. It was my lot with a few more to be put on board

the Suffolk 74 gun ship. We immediately weighed anchor with the fleet and sailed to St.

Louisa. From there we went out on a cruise with 4 ships of 74 guns each. We cruised to

windward of Martinique and fell in with 15 sail of French line of battle ships and about 80

transports. They soon gave us chase and followed us 16 hours. We hove over great part of

our bread, beef, port, flour and knocked down all the stansceuls [stanchions?] in the ship.

They followed us close in with the Island of Descada when they gave up the chase. At this

time several of the french ships was not a mile off. They then hove to and let the transports

come up and the whole of the French fleet went into Dominica. After this we went into St.

Lucia, and the day after our arrival was joined by Admiral Rodney. The whole of the English

fleet at this time amounted to 22 sail of the line & 2 of them was three deckers and two ships

of 50 guns each & a number of frigates. And on the day following as we lay in St. Lucia the

French fleet made sail from Martinica and stood across the passage to Rosalie bay where we

lay and took a look at us. They then wore ship and returned to Port Royal Martinica. They

amounted to 23 sail of the line, all double deckers and two or three frigates. And on April 18

we had intelligence of the French fleet sailing. We weighed anchor, run over to Port Royal

bay, and found the french fleet had all sailed. We stood to the westward. In the course of the

afternoon we discovered the whole fleet to the leeward. We gave chase while night, then hove

to. The day following being 19th April we hove down upon them, as they lay in a line, and

engaged them 3 and half hours within musket shot. Then the French up helm and hove away

to leeward about a gun shot distance. Then the English up helm and run a short distance to the

leeward to the French, and hauled their wind to the south and the French hauled up to the

north. At the same time Admiral Rodney had his foretopmast, his mizzen mast and gib boom

all shot away. Our ship was the next to Admiral Rodney in the action. I counted 24 shot holes

that went thro' his ship between the two tier of guns, and so many above that I could not count

them. He had nine separate shot through his mizzen stay sail and was taken in tow by the

Venus frigate. The English by their own account lost 800 men. I saw pleanty of blood on the

Admirals ship's side after the action. We had an accident happened on board of our ship. A

number of cartriges took fire and blew up 36 men. We had a hole knocked through our side

as large enough to put a tierce [a 42-gallon wine cask] through. One shot lodged on board

which weighed 48 1/2 pounds. The day following there was some manoevering with the fleets,

but finally separated. The English went into St. Lucia and repared, left one ship in port, not

able to proceed and sailed again in one or two days and was joined by another 74 gun ship.

We cruised in the passage between St. Lucia and Martinico several days and beat up to the

windward of the two islands and discovered the french fleet to windward. A signal was hove

out by the Admiral for a general chase. We beat to windward of the Island about 60 miles

when the French hove down upon us with their whole fleet until they came within one mile of

us. They all hauled their wind. The next morning they were as far to windward as five

leagues. The following day they hove down again upon us and all formed the line for action.

They bore down as on the day before and hauled their wind again and got well to the

windward. They never swerved in this manner four days. When the French standing to the

northward and the English so far south that we could scarcely see the French of decks we then

hove about and stood for the French and lookt to the windward of the whole at the same time

French hove about. We neared each other very fast. About 5 P.M. we had orders to signal to

close the line within cables length. For they intended breaking through the French line. At the

same time the French closed their line, and began to weather us. But at 6 P.M. our van ship

struck about the centre of the French line but found it impregnable and bore away with the

loss of nearly 100 men as she took the fire of 4 ships at once. The second came up in the same

manner and was repulsed as the other. They came up in rotation one after another and

engaged, the French continually crawling to windward. After the 15th engaged the whole

French line weathered us. It was now quite dark. And it was reported during the night that we

had cut off part of the French fleet, but in the morning discovered them all to windward a

long distance. At 4 P.M. on the day following the whole line bore down on us again and

engaged. The van ship of the English then hauled their wind on the other tack and engaged

each ship as they passed. When the French Admiral Monsieur Delomatt Picot engaged the ship

ahead of us the ship shot away the slings of his main yard and the lifts. The yard fell down

and by the time the ship passed us the main yard was in complete order again. And after the

French engaged 16 of our ships they hauled off and avoided the other six ships astern where

was 2 of 3 decks. By that manoeuvre the French brought their whole force 23 sail of the line

to fight 16 of the English. After they all had passt Admiral Rodney and his fleet hove in stays

and stood for the French. And at the same time the French hove in stays and stood for the

British. They appeared all much together. The English then hove about and stood off without

firing a gun. We lost a great many men and our ships very much damage. After dark signals

of distress was hove out by several ships of the line which was sent in to St. Lucia

immediately in company with two frigates. The Cornwall 74 gun ship sunk in the harbour as

soon as she arrived. Our ship leakt so as to keep the chain pumps going all the time until we

arrived at Barbadose. The French fleet went in that night to Port Royal Bay. We stayed

several days in Barbadoes and reparred our fleet. Here I petitioned Admiral Rodney to go to

prison in Barbadoes or be sent prisoners to England but had no answer from our petition.

After about 5 days we sailed again in pursuit of the French and on our way to Martinico took

two Spanish transports with troops on board. We carried them into St. Louisa. We then stood

over for Port Royal Bay when a boat came off and gave us information of the arrival of 12

sail of the line belonging to Spain and had joined the French fleet and was then lying at



We had frequently been called to quarters and threatened several times to be punished if we

did not take an active part but we always refused the orders and risqued the consequences.

Our living on board was two thirds allowance which was plenty & by some means or other

got the right side of the steward who always gave us a full allowance of grog every day. The

officers in general behaved like gentlemen and we enjoyed ourselves as well as could be

expected in our situation. The first time that we were going into action with the French the

whole crew seemed elated being as they supposed sure of success. They told me that two

English ships could take three Frenchmen any time and very soon I should see it realized. The

action terminated as I have stated, and I really must acknowledge that they fought well, but

came off second best. After this I heard no more said about the French not fighting.

The next time we was called to quarters was when we had the information of the

Spaniards joining the French. We were then called on the quarter deck and ordered to

quarters but we all as one refused to obey the orders. The captain then ordered us off the

quarter deck and said we all ought to be charged for rebels and said if you do not every soul

of you come to quarters tomorrow when the drum beats to quarters that he would flog any

man to the gang way. We told him that we were American prisoners of war and would not go

to quarters. He ordered us to the quarter deck and asked us if we meant to raise a mutiny. On

our return from the quarter deck I heard the boatswan observe damn them I like them the

better for their conduct. The next day came, the drum beat to quarters, but not one American

started an inch. There was nothing said or done to us afterwards until July 8, 1780 when we

were ordered to get our duds ready and go on board he Action 44 ship bound to England as a

convoy to about 40 sail of merchantmen and transports. On our arrival on board the Action

we found she was full of invalids. I suppose her crew amounted to 750 men. We had no kind

of birth [berth] or room on board. We were put on the upper gun deck between the main and

mizzen hatchway. Exposed to all the rain that fell in squalls, and nothing over our heads but

the ships boats and spare topmasts &c. and we were immediately divided and put into two

watches in order to do duty. The next morning after we was put on board half of our number

was called on to do the ship's duty, but they refused. The next morning the remainder was

called which also refused. And on the following morning a lighter came along side with

water. The people began to hoist it in. The Capt. came on the gangway and ordered us to take

hold of the fall and hoist in the water. We told him we were American prisoners & on two

thirds allowance, and should do no duty at all. He then ordered his under officers to beat us

until we would do duty. Each officer took a cane from an invalid or a crutch and came at us

like ravenous wolves. We all dispersed except Eb. Williams of Saybrook. They knocked him

down and beat him unmercifully. Myself and a R. Palmer run betwixt deck. One officer

followed us. After some time running around the lower deck, Palmer was caught and carried

to the steps in order to make him go on deck but when they got him about half way up Palmer

clinched the officer, give him an inside lock, and hove him, and then run himself. The officer

recovered himself again and gave us chace and finally caught Palmer the 2d time, lugged him

along to the steps in order to carry him on deck. But by the time they were half way up

Palmer hove him as before. At this time the boatswain piped all hands. Palmer and myself left

alone. I told Palmer we might as well go up as not. On our arrival on the upper deck I found

the gangway surrounded and a passage opened, and we pushed in there. I found Williams lasht

with his feet down to the grating. The Capt. then observed if we would do our duty it was

very well. If not he would flog every man to the gang way. We observed to him we were

American prisoners and chose to remain so. He observed we were a damnd sett of rebels and

he would flog us all until we would do duty and ordered Williams to strip. Williams observed

to him he should not strip on board that ship. The Capt. then ordered the boatswain mate to

strip him which he did, and lasht him up to the gangway and in this situation exposed his back

which was all beat black and blue by the officers a few minutes before. The Capt. observed to

Williams that he believed he had been used to this game by the looks of his back. Williams

observed that he never received a stroke in his life before he received it there. He then asked

him again if he would do duty. He told him no. The Captain then said Boatswain mate do your

duty and no counting a stroke. They gave him about 10 strokes and ordered the boatswain

mate to stop. Now says the Captain will you do duty. No says Williams never on board this

ship. The Capt. then said again dam him whip him until he will do duty. they gave him about

10 more, and ordered the boatswain mate to stop again. Now says the Captain will you do

duty. No says Williams, never on board this ship. The Captain then said dam him cut him in

two but what he will do duty. They gave him 8 or 10 more, and tho the poor man consented

after being cut into a jelly. now says the Captain you damned scoundrels take hold of the

tackle fall and hoist in the water yourselves. Not one of my people shall help you. We took

hold and it was as much as we could do to hoist in a cask. And on the 11th of July we set sail

from St. Lucia. The 14th we lost one of the transports which sunk in the sale rock passage a

few leagues west of St. Thomas. The 16th the Capt. asked the prisoners if any of us had a

mind to go on board a merchantman. Two accepted the invitation. The day following two

more was wanted to go on board a transport. Myself and J. Foster of Boston accepted the

invitation and went on board and left the Action. On board this transport I was treated very

well. The Captain conducted like a gentleman and all his crew was his apprentices. Our living

on board this ship was horrible beyond all description. The water was good and plenty. The

whole stock of provisions on board except the flour had been condemned six months before as

unfit for use but we had no other. It consisted of white bread, black beef, yellow pork, and

bunches of sour oat meal and blue butter. The bread you could take it in your hand and

crumble it all to atoms, and was full of weavels and worms. The beef all but rotten and black,

the pork nothing but yellow rust and the oat meal not fit for hogs. The butter had not even a

streak of light color in a firkin [one-quarter barrel]. Twice a week we had a plumb pudding

and every day a good drink of grog. We frequently toasted the biscuit and put on the black

butter and made it into toast. Other times made the oatmeal into mush, and put in the pickle of

the beef and seasoned it. We lived in this manner until we arrived in England. 12th August we

struck soundings in the Channel of England. 13th past 12 sail of the line of Russian ships. 15th

made the land with wind at East. Fetcht in off Plymouth Sound but the wind blew so heavy we

bore away and went in to Falmouth. We lay there several days until 1st Sept. I went on shore

in the boat at Falmouth after the captain. when I got on shore I saw the captain. He told me to

go down to the boat and he would be there directly. On my way down I observed a paper

stuck up at the corner of a street. I went and read it. It gave me information of a privateer

rendezvous being at the sign of the Kings arms. I accordingly went to the rendezvous and

found a Lieut. of the Amazon 20 gun ship a privateer bound on a cruise said for the West

Indies and offered 6 guineas in advance to enter on board. I engaged to go on board his ship

and I soon returned to the boat and the captain came down and we row'd off. And on my way

off the Capt. asked me if I had a mind to go to London. I told him I had no objections if I

could get any thing worth while for going. He observed a friend of his that commanded such a

ship wanted hands. I told him if he had no objections I would go on board an see what they

gave by the run. He told me I might go. I went and found they gave but 8 guineas which I

thought too low as I was almost certain I should be prest on board a man of war in the

Thames going up London River. At this time they prest from all protections. I returned,

stated to the captain the terms and observed if he had no objection I would go on board the

Amazon. He reply'd that he was going a gunning in the afternoon. I tho't that a good hint.

After dinner we landed the captain. Took the boat with one T. Foster and myself and got the

sailors to put us on board he Amazon. The next morning we were examined before the

captain who asked Foster what countryman he was. He answered an American. The captain

says what part America. From Boston. Well says the captain I suppose that you are a rebel

then are you not. Foster said no. Well says the captain are you willing to fight the French and

Spaniards. He answered yes. Well said he are you willing to fight the Americans. Foster says

yes. Then says he you will do. Then turn'd to me saying my lad, what countryman are you. I

told him I was from New York. By that the lieutenant that I saw on shore stepped up to me

and asked me my name. I told him Vail. Says he God damn you Vail. I know you very well. I

told him I thought he was mistaken. Says he to me did not your father command the sloop

Dolphin from New York and sailed to North Carolina at such a time. I told him he did. Well

says he you was with him. I told him it was my brother. He said he presumed it was, and

observed he knew my father as well as any man and went passage with him to Carolina. This

man proved my friend. This was 2d Sept. The 3d we went to sea in company with the brig

Alligator of 18 guns. 9th Sept. at breaking of the day we fell in with the French fleet of 36

sail of men of war and a number of frigates gave us chace but we outsailed them. The

Alligator they took. We stood for Plymouth in order to inform the British fleet that the

French was out, but off the harbor. In the night we was brought too by the Southampton

frigate. They sent their men on board in their yawl in order to press men. Among the number

I was one. They ordered me to pack up by duds and jump into the boat. I went below, packt

up my duds and stowed myself away until the next morning when I came out and no frigate in

sight. The day we arrived into Plymouth the Gibralter an 84 gun ships boat came on board &

prest 6 men. I happened to be the first man and when I went below to pack up my duds I hid

myself and they took another man in my room. The following day we went out to sea, was out

about one week and returned into Falmouth in a most tremendous gale of wind. We were

obliged to send down top gallant yards and topmast topsail yards & topmast, lower down the

main & fore & crutchet yard, got in the spritsail yard & gib boom & four anchor ahead we

dragged a long time but the gale abated and we brought up. We soon put the ship to rights

again and went to sea for a short time and returned and went into Torbay. We staid there one

week and then went to sea. I was stationed on the forecastle where I did my duty there and

steared my trick at the wheel. After this by being so exposed to storms and wet weather it

hove me into a fever and continued three weeks. During my sickness I had every attention

paid to me, perhaps as much as though I had been on shore. When I was strong enough to

receive nourishment they sent me tea every morning from the cabin chickens from the coops

and a pint of wine every day until I was able to do my duty. In November we went into

Madeira, supplied ourselves with wood water and wine. Staid there 4 days and went to sea

again. We cruised off the Desert Islands & off the coast of Barbary. We took one small

French schooner loaded with wine and flour which was manned and ordered for England. I

omitted mentioning our being at sea and an English frigate our consort. We fell in with two

strange sail the weather very hazy. We run from them all day. The captain observed one

appeared to be a great wallsided Frenchman and the other a Yankee all fire and guns. During

the night we lost them. The next day saw them again in full chase. The frigate hove too and

our ship likewise and let them come up. They proved to be two English privateers. One a ship

of 32 guns the other a brig of 14 guns. After this the Capt. of the frigate thought best to be

off as one of his Majesty's frigates and a twenty gun ship should be running from two

privateers. After cruising off the Barbary shore some time without falling in with any thing

we made sail to the northward made Cape St. Vincent. From there we steared for Lisbon but

narrowly escaped two large French frigates which chased us several hours and one in gun shot

we finally escaped them and got into Lisbon 30th Nov. After overhauling the ship completely

from stem to stern and taking in a new supply of water wood and wine for a three months

cruise, I got liberty one day to go on shore at Lisbon. As soon as I landed I inquired for the

French consul and went to his house. Found him a very agreeable old gentleman. He provided

me a dinner and a bottle of wine. In a few minutes after I arrived and after dinner examined

me as to the place I belonged how I got taken and how I came there. All which questions I

answered to his satisfaction in about two hours. After dinner he sent me with a servant to the

Dutch consul's where I was again examined and answered agreeable to his satisfaction. The

old French consul asked me which way I wisht going either to Bilboa or to Cadiz. I told him

Cadiz. I was ordered to stay at this place concealed until passports could be obtained which

was in three days. He then sent his son to the Dutch consul's for me saying my passports was

ready and must come to his house where he would give me some money and clothes. On my

way to his house who should I fall in with but my old friend the Lieutenant who asket me

when I came onshore and who gave me leave &c. and asked when I was going on board. I told

him I was then going on board and asked him if the boat lay at Belille. He answered it did. I

told him I would go directly on board. He said that is right my good fellow and take as many

of the sailors along as I could. I told him I would and parted from this place. I immediately

went to the French consuls where a breakfast was provided and a boat likewise to pass the

Tagus [or Tejo, River], and he gave me 4 or 5 crowns and offered me cloathing. The money I

took but not the clothes, as I came off with two suits on. I omitted a circumstance that took

place off Cape St. Vincents. We chased a large ship one day and was near to her at dark and at

8 P.M. came along side and hail'd her but received no answer. She then lay with her topsails

to the mast. We got out our boat and boarded her. There was not a man on board nor any

papers. She mounted 20 guns which was all loaded and the matches lighted and a barrel of

brandy opened on the larbord side of her deck. We took possession of her & sent her to



After breakfast I took my leave of the consul in company with nine French sailors

that we captured in the French schooner and went into the boat with a fine breeze at West and

run across the Tagus about 9 miles from Lisbon. From there we travelled to St. Ubes which is

about 25 miles from Lisbon. We entered the gates of the town a little after dark and was met

at the gate by a French consul who took us to his house provided a good supper and each man

a bottle of wine. After supper a field bed was prepared where I slept very well. When we

turned out in the morning a breakfast was prepared and each man his bottle of wine and while

at breakfast the consul provided a boat to go up St. Ubes River. We paid our fare at this place.

It was 25 cents each man. We then left St. Ubes and went up the river to its head where we

breakfasted. From there we travelled by land one mile and then crossed a ferry. From this

ferry we had to travel 20 leagues to the River Guadiana that parts Portigal and Spain. We

were obliged to travel certain distance. During this distance, sometimes two, 3 and 4 leagues a

day on account of accomodation. The buildings in this country is very mean, the inhabitants

poor and the living wretched. After leaving St. Ubes I never was able to procure one

mouthful of meat for money for three days. The general living is cabbage and fish boiled

together and plenty of olive oil added to it. We had plenty of bread and wine and cheap. My

whole expense from Lisbon to Cadiz 300 miles did not cost me above $6.00. The houses of

entertainment has no floors nor furniture. The traveller and his beast all put up together

under the same roof. On one of the days travelling the distance called nine leagues and the

roads bad. At sunset we could see the village ahead, where we was to stop. There was several

Portugese horsemen in company bound to the same town which all had bells hung to their

horses. We were a mind to keep company with them and have them for our guides, as it was

growing dark with rain, thunder and lightening and was soon very muddy underfoot. Almost

every step it was up to the ankle. I soon began to miss the company I had with me, could not

see but one Frenchman and the horses some distance ahead but I could hear their bells. I

jogged on with the Frenchman. We got several falls in the mud. I at last left him behind and

came up with the horses, but found none of my companions which I supposed was behind. I

travelled on and arrived at the village about nine oclock at night. I went into a tavern and

called for supper and a bottle wine. And while at supper in came 4 of my companions and told

me they had found a house about a mile back and tried to get entertainment but could not. At

last they found a large oven and four of them jump in and staid all night. They came up with

us the next morning and we proceeded on our journey. In two days afterward we arrived to

the river Guadiana that parts Portugal and spain and about 60 miles from the mouth. We

traveled about half this distance by land then took a boat and arrived the day following at

Aamonte [Ayamonte] which is at the mouth of the river and a considerable village and a large

market in it. We staid in the town two days. Saw a great number of women making black lace

with bobbins. I was one morning in the market at this place when the host came along. The

whole number of people in the market fell on their knees and went to prayers except myself.

After the Fryar has past the doors came around me and appeared very angry as I did not

kneel, and I was unacquainted with their custom and religion. And on my return to the tavern

where I put up I mentioned the circumstance to the landlord. He observed to me when I was

in Rome I must do as the Romans does. I afterwards found him correct. Aamont [Ayamonte]

lies West Long. 8 drs. Lat. 37. A post town of Andelusia in Spain sit. near the mouth of the

River Guadiana 100 miles west of Seville and 85 miles N.W. of Cadiz. We took a passage

from this place in a packet boat in company with a large number of Spaniards. When we went

on board it was in the evening. One man climed some distance up the mast and secured the

cross. He then came down and all chanted a hymn then weighed anchor and run out the river

into the ocean. We were out until the 2d night when we arrived safe at Cadiz about midnight.

And the next morning I had to go on board a guard ship to show my passports. From there I

went on shore and inquired for an American agent or consul. I soon found Richard Harrison

Esq. from Virginia, an American agent who gave me orders to go to a boarding house and

stay until I could get an opportunity to leave the place and then inform him. Cadiz is West

Long. 6.40 Lat. 36.30 north, a city and part of Andalusia in Spain sit. on the N.W. end of the

Island of Leon opposite to port of St. Mary's on the continent is 270 miles S.W. of Madrid, 50

miles S.W. of Seville, 40 miles N.W. of Gibralter. The island it stands upon is in length about

nine miles broad and the N.W. end where the town stands is not two miles over. It has a

communication with the continent by a bridge and the opposite shore forms a bay 12 miles

long and six miles broad but on the middle of the bay are two points of land, one on the

continent the other the island. And on these points the forts stand called the Pantal and

Matigorda which commands the passage. And within these points is the harbor which it is

impossible for an enemy to enter until it had taken these forts. In this harbor lies all the

galleons belonging to Spain that brings a prodigious quantity of treasure from Mexico & Peru

and where their Royal Navy and merchant ships all lies. The city has about 5000 houses in it

and carries on the best foreign trade of any town in Spain. The city is walled in and on the

south side the walls are 90 feet high and no part around the city less than twenty feet. And a

battery of guns all round the place. It has but 3 passages to go into the city and as many out.

These passages are shut every night and opened every morning and immense quantities of

people passing out and in at three gates and all searcht for smuggled goods. I staid at this place

some considerable time. And while I was there I happened to relate to some of my

acquaintance the circumstance of the ships being captured off St. Vincent without any person

on board. The report by some means got to the authority of the city, and I was brought up

before governor O'Ryler and examined as to all the particulars, which was satisfactory. They

gave me 8 dollars for my information and discharged me. It appeared she was a Geneoes

[Genoese] ship from England bound up the Straits of Gibralter, and they suspecting us to be

Algerian took to their boat, landed at Cape St.Vincents and from there they went to Cadiz,

where by chance they got this information. About this time Gibralter was closely besieged by

the Spaniards by land. And while I was there 36 sail of the line besides a number of frigates

left this port to go to Gibralter to blockade the port. But soon afterwards the place was

relieved by 12 sail of the line from England, and the Spanish gun boats that attack the rock

was all destroyed in a few hours by hot shot from the English batterys.

Sometime in Februrary I entered on board a French ship of 800 tons burthen. I then

informed the agent Mr. Harrison who gave me 4 dollars to purchase some necessaries. This

ship was bound to Bourdeau in France. She mounted 14 four pounders and 2 long 12

pounders. 2 of the four pounders were bow chases and 2 were stern guns. we had six

Americans on board and about 34 foreigners of different nations and left Cadiz with what is

called a Levanter or heavy N.E. wind. We stood to the westward three days. And when off

Cape St.Vincents the wind shifted directly ahead and blew a heavy gale which obliged us to

lay hull too for some time. And while lying the wind abated and we made a brig under our lee

under close reef topsails on a wind after us. Our captain ordered the topsails close reeft and

set likewise the foresail and bore away before the wind to run back, which soon brought the

brig into our wake. She made sail for us and came up very fast, and when within 1/2 mile

distance, run up American colours. The captain says brave American. I told him it was an

Englishman, for no Americans cruised there. At this time we were all to quarters. the 12

pound cannon and opposite was assigned to me as capt. of the gun--we had no yards slung for

action. and no stopper on the topsail sheets--she run down within 15 rods of us, rounded too,

gave us a broadside under American colours. We at the same time with the French flag flying.

The captain says footer the American. I again told him it was an Englishman. He then put up

his helm, run down within one rod where he rounded too and hove his topsails to the mast and

fired another broad side under American colours, which cut away our main yard and cut the

main mast very bad. He then hauled down his American colours and set an English ensign. We

then gave him a salute which did considerable execution. By this time we were yard arm and

yard arm. The first time I discharged my gun I broke the britching and she came in with such

force as to break the maintopsail sheet bitts. We then managed her with crows, handspikes and

relieving tackles. We soon shot away her ensign and she run up another. The sailors run from

their quarters. I hullowed to them several times to stick to it like goodfellows. The sailing

master as I took it to be struck them several times with a hanger. Every time I fired I was

very careful and took good aim. and when I fired, the captain says huzza for the American 12

pounder. We finally shot away his other ensign, his maintopsail tie, & his peak tie. the topsail

came down and the peak of the mainsail. He then fill'd away and run off. He laid along side

for 3 1/2 hours. I fired my gun 24 times with round Dutch headed and grape shot, so near

that I could have pitched a cent on board at any time. He left 24 of 12 lb shotts sticking into

our side. One went through. We should no doubt have been captured if our quarters had not

been bullet proof and as thick as a frigates sides. After the action we were completely cut to

pieces. The captain gave every man a bottle of wine. We then repaired the ship and bore away

for Cadez to refit. The next day we were brought to by a large fleet of Spanish ships of war.

and after some detention departed and arrived safe at Cadiz where the captain made us a

present of $40 to drink his health. The brig that we engaged carried 16 twelve pound

canonades and full of men. After this I left the L. San. Pariel which was the ships name, and

took passage in a letter of marque ship of 9 guns called the Thomas and bound to Salem,

Francis Bowman commander, and sailed again with a fresh lavanter. Nothing extraordinary

happened until we were nearly up with Madeira where in the morning we discovered several

sail and one in chase of us. At this time we had stormy sails out below and aloft, wind east and

light. We found she gained on us very fast. We prepared for action. We had on board 40 men.

We stationed some in the fore and main top quarter deck and forecastle to use muskets, the

others to manage the cannon. We showed 16 guns, five of which was of wood so that by

shifting our guns we could fight 8 of a side. We took in all our light sails and got the 8 guns

on the side he was to come. By this time we discovered him to be an English cutter of 16 guns

and full of men. She came within 40 rods of us and gave us a broad side. We had each our

colours flying. She elevated high. Every shot went above the tops. We then returned her a

salute. We could fire three broadsides to her one and after firing about 9 to 12 broad sides

and 40 musket shot each she took up her sweeps and row'd off . Our captain took up his

trumpet and hailed them in these words. You damned scoundrels come back and take your

charge. But the poor fellows was glad to go off without any more charge than what he had

received. During the action nor after it did the captain offer us one drop of spirits of any kind

to drink nor did he even thank us for our services, altho' we fought his battle without any

compensation. We then proceeded on our passage, and the 22d day struck soundings on the

banks of New Foundland. And at this time it was very cold. Not a drop of spirits allowed, and

our bread was principally dust. In 10 days from that we arrived at Salem. I staid there and

help discharge the ship and returned to New London 5 May 1781 which makes 2 years 4

months and 5 days absence. I staid at New London but 2 days only before I entered on board

the brig Dean, Dan Suffield commander, May 7. We were out 25 days, took nothing, and

returned into port again. June 2 entered on board the sloop Jay of 16 guns, Wm. Havens

commander. We took two English privateers, one of 10 guns and 40 men, called the Fox, the

other 6 guns and 30 men called the St. Patrick and seven more vessels, all which we got safe

into N. London. We concluded to alter the sloop into a brig as she was 149 tons, and too

heavy for a sloop. Every thing being prepared and should have had her out in a short time but

on Sept. 6 at day light what should make its appearance but an English fleet off the harbour,

and at 8 o'clock 500 men was landed from the fleet at the harbour's mouth, three miles from

town on the west side of the harbour and 500 men on the Groton shore & immediately

commenced their march for N. London. The west division commanded by the notorious

Benedick Arnold and the eastern division by Col. Montgomery. When Arnolds party came up

as high as the fort a sergeant guard was sent to take it. The battery had not a gun to bear on

the land side, and not more than 12 or 14 men in the fort. They immediately left the fort in 2

whale boats and pulled for Groton fort. One boat surrendered. The other got over and the

men went into Fort Griswold. The town was surrounded very quick by 30 or 40 men while

the main army marched direct into town. We had no force there. The vessels in the harbor

run up Norwich river. A small party of our people engaged the small party and killed several.

We had 2 or 3 killed. The town was full of merchandize and in a short time after the British

arrived nearly the whole town was in flames. And by 3 P.M. they were in a full retreat to

their ships. By this time the country was alarmed and the militia began to come in. They

immediately went on board on the on the side of the river. It happened otherwise. The party

come against Fort Griswold, was opposed by 120 of the inhabitants commanded by Col.

Ledyard. The fort was in no situation for defence but they were drove back a distance from

the fort and rallied and came on again. They were the 2d time repulsed and retreated. They

formed and came up again and when they were about retreating the 3d time the halliards of

the flag was shot away. And the colours on the fort fell half way down. That encouraged the

British again and they came up to the ditch. Our people hoisted the flag again. At this time the

battle became hot. Our people fought with cold shot and every thing they could use for their

preservation. But the British finaly succeeded and entered the fort. Col. Ledyard immediately

delivered up his sword which they received and run him through the body and killed him with

it. And a general massacre here took place. Every man run into the barracks to save himself

but was pursued and murdered. I know of one man who told me they put the muzzle of the

musket to his mouth and fired down his throat. The ball came out about 3 inches below the

jaw. A cousin of mine in the fort had his skull cut open in 3 places, his back cut to the bone in

3 or 4 places and 10 bayonet wounds in his body. After the massacre was over 74 of our

citizens, heads of families, within 4 miles laid dead. The wounded was all put into a wagon

which stood at the fort on the top of the hill and then the wagon was set a rolling down the

hill I suppose 50 or 60 rods where it brought up against a rock. The people told me they

shock hurt them more than their wounds. I went over to the fort in the evening and saw 34

British soldiers lay dead that the British had buried in the trenches, and their commander

Montgomery was one among the number slain. The next morning their fleet sailed for New

York. I think this action was 6 Sept. and on the 9th of September I volunteered myself on

board he brig Dean, Dan Scoffil commander, mounting sixteen six pounders and 70 men. we

were at sea some time and had a heavy gale of wind. After this we stood in to make Long

Island and in standing in made two frigates. They immediately gave us chase, and gained upon

us. Towards night we hove over our guns and started the water but all to no effect. They

came within gun shot about ten o'clock at night and continued firing until day light, when they

came along side and we surrendered. And was put on board one of the frigates and stowed

away in the cable tier without light or air, And our knives all taken from us. They gave us hot

pea soup to eat without any way to get at it only by the smell and after you had got it you

must drink it. They immediately sailed for New York, where we arrived in a few days, and

after our arrival we were all put on board the Jersey prison ship lying at the Wallibout. Here

we suffered very much for food and fresh air. We were in No. 1150 on board and all put

down between decks. At sun down there was as many people lay on deck as to touch each

other all round the deck and as many hammocks as could sling over head. And the fore part

of the ship full of sick prisoners with the fever. There was only one passage to go on deck in

the night, one foot square through the grates, and two people was allowed to go on deck at a

time. And if a man should attempt to raise his head above the grate he would have a bayonet

stuck into it. Many of the prisoners was troubled with the disentary and would come to the

steps, and could not be permitted to go on deck, and was obliged to ease themselves on the

spot. And the next morning for 12 feet round the hatches was nothing but excrement. A

number was let up to wash the upper deck in the morning and when that was done all hands

on deck. Our allowance was not bad provision but very small allowance. We drew meat three

times a week. The other days was called Banyan Days when you received bread and pease &

butter and oatmeal. When we came to receive our burgoo, as it was called, which is mush

made of oatmeal, the head of my mess went with his tubb to receive his allowance. They were

all arranged in ranks and took turns in receiving their burgoo. Two soldiers was placed

around the coppers to prevent confusion. The coppers was placed in the galley under the

forecastle, and generally when the messes was about half served there would be a tub hove

into the copper from the forecastle. The soldier would stab at them and while stabbing above

others would heave in tubs below, and in this manner it soon became all confusion. The

soldiers would damn them and leave them to provide for themselves. And by these means

many messes got nothing. One morning the steward gave out no butter, and was to give pork.

A barrel was hoisted up and carried into the galley and sot ahead and before the steward could

open the barrel it was stove in & every piece taken out and either eat or hid. for all hands

were called up immediately and searched above and below for it but could not find a

mouthful. There was all kinds of business carried on. Some playing cards, others swearing,

stealing, fighting, some dying &c. When a man died he was carried up on the forecastle and

laid there until the next morning at 8 o'clock when they were all lowered down the ship sides

by a rope round them in the same manner as tho' they were beasts. There was 8 died of a day

while I was there. They were carried on shore in heaps and hove out the boat on the wharf,

then taken across a hand barrow, carried to the edge of the bank, where a hole was dug 1 or 2

feet deep and all hove in together. It is reported that 11,700 and odd was burried at this place

& in this manner. I was there when Cornwallis surrendered at Little York. We heard the

firing of cannon from the Jersey for rejoicing and whenever our people fired the British

would fire from their batteries so as to confuse that people should not be informed of

Cornwallis capture. But it soon came out and in a few days after this a cartel arrived from N.

London and I was exchanged.

I was on board this cartel when the Banetta sloop of war arrived in New York from

Little York. The ship was suffered to depart from Lord Cornwallis without searching and was

full of Tories and treasure that was plundered by their army. After this we sailed for N.

London. We buried one or two men by the way before we arrived. The morning after our

arrival at New London I went on board with a pitcher of preserves for the sick. I went into

the hole among them & gave every one of them a spoonful. I then left them and in a few days

I was taken down with the prison fever on my way up Norwich River. When I arrived at

Norwich I left the vessel for the house where I was to board at. I staggered and realed like a

drunken man. I got to the house that evening. I soaked my feet in warm water and I soon lost

my senses for 27 days. I knew nothing during this time except in one instance. I recollected

the doctor felt my pulse, looked very serious and told the people where I lived that I must

have blisters drawn on me. But when they put them on or took them off I knew not until the

above time. After this I began to recruit [recuperate] and in about six weeks was able to walk

about and was asked whether I should go to sea any more. I told the person who asked me that

I never would if I begged my bread from door to door. I staid at Norwich until 14th March

following, when I travelled to N. London, which was 14 miles. I fainted as I went into town,

but before I left New London I shipped myself on board the sloop Randolph of 16 guns and

70 men commanded by Nicholas Fosdick. We soon went to sea. The first day out took a sloop

under Gardner's Island. I was put on board prize master and arrived the next day at Norwich.

The privateer cruised some time afterwards and sent a brig loaded with rum and one with

flour. This was 11th April 1781. And came in herself & refitted and on 9th June we sailed

again to cruise off Sandy Hook. On our second cruise the 16th we captured the copper

bottom'd brig William laden with tobacco bound from New York to Liverpool. She mounted

8 carriage guns. I was put on board of her as a prize master to carry her into N. London. She

had a Capt. Williamson & lady on board which was passengers, and was the 2d time that he

had attempted to go to England and each time was captured. The next morning after leaving

the privateer I was chased by a cruiser, a schooner. She gained on me very fast but I made use

of a stratagem to get clear of her. I knew if she came along side and was an enemy I should be

captured. I immediately hove in stays and gave him chase. The plan succeeded. He hove about

and run from me. I continued the chase until he was nearly out of sight. I then bore away and

at 3 A.M. that day made Block Island bearing north. at the same time a frigate and brig was

off Montaug Point. It came on very foggy and a quick breeze from the southard. I reeft my

topsails and stood N.W. for the Race, & night came on and so dark and foggy that we could

not see the length of the vessel. About midnight I heard a heavy roaring similar to a surf. I

hove the lead, got no bottom. we gained on the roaring very fast. Still heaving the led as fast

as I could sling it, all at once I was in the midst of it, and found it to be the Race tide. The

wind died away very quick and it lighted up a little and I discovered the little gull Island, and

found myself drifting out again to sea. We continued drifting about one hour when the breeze

sprang up again. I altered by course to N.N.W. allowing two points lee way for tide,

calculating that course would carry me into N. London. but whether I went ahead or stern I

could not tell as I could not find bottom. But at 3 in the morning I struck soundings in 11

fathoms water and rounded to and came to anchor. It continued foggy until 11 A.M. when it

cleared off and I found myself off Goshen Reef. The wind sprung up at the same time I got

under way. Run into N. London. From there we carried the brig to Norwich where we

discharged her. The privateer captured several prizes and arrived back into port safe.


July following I went out a cruise in the galley John, Jonathan Alden commander. The third

or 4th days cruising gave chase to a sloop and came up with her and received a broadside

from her. We had but one gun and 24 men. we could count on board the sloop 10 guns & 45

men. We immediately hauled off and spoke a small schooner from Stonnington. Capt.

Sheffield, who thought we had better board her. She shew American colours, we observed to

him. There was a whale boat crew on Fishers Island who would come off if we hoisted an

English Jack at the main mast head. He thought we had better have the boat to come off to

make us sufficiently strong. We immediately hove out the signal for the boat as did likewise

the schooner. And no quicker done than the schooner bear away with the English colours

flying. We did the same. And no sooner had we got in within gun shot she hauled up the tack

of her mainsail, down foresail, hauled over the gibb sheet to windward then gave us a

broadside. At the same time our bold Stonnington Captain hauled his wind and run thro' the

race near Gull Island. We hauled to the northward the wind at East. We soon got out of his

way. And he fetched in off Goshen reef and hove about and stood off. At the same time we

hove about and stood off. As soon as he could weather the reef. He hove in stays again and

run for us. We left him fast until we got off the eastern shore of N. London where the land

prevented the wind from being so fresh. It soon brought the privateer within shot and she

commenced firing round and grape shot at us for some time. She gave us about 60 shot. By

this time she was within hail of us and ordered us to heave to. Still both had American colours

flying. We told him if he was a friend to haul off. He observed he would be damned if he did

not sink us if we would not heave to. We were determined to run the galley on shore and

risque our lives among grape shot rather than surrender & be carried to New York and then

be put on board the old Jersey. We had no idea but that she was an English privateer. She by

this time came along side of us. She proved to be an American privateer of 10 guns from

Rhode Island, Isaiah Cahoon commander. We run up the harbour and 10 of our crew which

volunteered to go out left us. Our galley lying so low that the whole of the shot fired at us

went over us and did no damage. The day following we sailed again and went off Block

Island, saw nothing of consequence & returned to Stonnington in the afternoon late. At the

time we run in there was several coasting vessels run down fishers Island Sound, and seeing us

run in they all followed us in. In the evening we boarded one of the vessels that we found was

cleared out from New Haven bound to Providence loaded with flour, flax and iron. They

being very fond of our taking something to drink caused a little suspicion. We called for a

spike gimlet and board [bored] into a barrel said to be flour. But by some means or other the

flour had turned into inkstands. We immediately put a prize master on board and ordered her

for N. London where she arrived safe. And on unloading her found her loaded with dry

goods, flour, iron & flax valued from their invoice found at L4000. On the next night we had

information that some traders was expected from Long Island into Pocatic River. We laid our

galley in the channel of the river. It came on foggy, and very soon the supposed boat came in.

We just had a glimpse at her when she immediately disappeared. We gave her a shot and she

returned it and lost sight of her. Towards day we took a small craft laden with provision and

supposed bound to L. Island. We put a prize master on board and sent her in but she was

cleared. This was in August. After this I remained on shore until November when I got

married and remained at home until the next spring, when peace took place.

There was one circumstance that took place while I was out in the Jay which ought not to

be omitted. When our time had expired we were standing to the northward and made a large

ship to the westward. She appeared to be a barque reg'd ship. The wind was east and very

hazy. We soon lost sight of her, we we still standing to the northward. The sailors began to

grumble because we did not go along side the ship. Our Capt. said nothing. But after the ship

had disappeared about one hour the Capt. thought best to gratify the sailors and ordered the

helm put up and all sail made and stood directly for the ship. We soon made the ship again

and run down upon her, until within gun shot of the ship, when the Captain took his spy glass

and came forward and took a look at her and found her to be a frigate of 28 guns. He

immediately ordered the square sail and topsail down and the sloop hauled on a wind, it

blowing very fresh. and no sooner was our helm down than the frigate rounded to and gave

us a broadside. Some shot went over us some short, others ahead and stern. We elevated one

of our guns and gave her a shot. We found the ship sailed faster than we did. She got ahead

some distance and hove about for us. We immediately hove in stays again. And when the

frigate came under our lee she gave us several broadsides until she passed us again, and her

shot rather falling short of us. She stood to the northward some time and hove about again for

us and we immediately hove about again. And all the shot fell far short. She continued turning

to windward after us until 9 o'clock at night when she bore away for New York. We

afterwards heard she was the Amphitrite frigate of 28 guns and had then a privateers crew on

board belonging to Norwich. After this I heard no more gumbling among the sailors. I found

they were pretty well satisfied with the discovery made. The next night was pleasant and we

under easy sail we made a brig close on board off under our lee. We immediately haul'd our

wind. The brig shew a tier of port holes and lanthorns at each port. We found she sailed as

fast as we did. At this time we had but one match lighted, our yard not gaft not slung nor no

stoppers on our ties. The captain ordered the helm put up and run down for the brig. The

lieutenant observed to the Captain that we were not prepared to go along side the brig, for

our matches was not even lighted. The Capt. s'd he knew what he was about, and in a few

minutes we were along side of a large brig of 16 guns. The Captain immediately hailed us,

and asked what sloop that was. ur Captain said, Ah, Ah, what brig is that. His answer was the

brig Dean of N. London & immediately again asked what sloop that was. Our Capt. replied it

was the good old man of N. London. The Capt. of the brig said how dare you come along side

of such a brig as this in the night. Our Captain replied, Dan, dont you know that I never made

a practice running from any two masted vessel. We kept company a few hours and parted

towards day light. It being very thick weather, we passed close on board a brig. They did not

observe us. We bore away until day light when we immediately haul'd our wind and came

along side of a large armed brig of 16 guns. We hailed her and found her to be the Marquis

Lafayette from New London, Elisha Hinman Commander. He came on board to breakfast, and

while on board it lighted up and we discovered two brigs not far off. The Capt. went on

board immediately and we gave chase. It soon came on foggy. We set the chase by the

compass and could not see our consort until about 10 A.M. It lighted up. We saw 3 sail that

loom'd up like large ships. We soon found two to be engaged. We immediately bore down

upon them when we found one of them to be our consort, the other a brig of 10 guns which

struck her colours just as we came along side. She was a tender to the other brig which he said

was the Swallow sloop of war of 14 guns and 120 men. We left our consort to board the prize

and we continued the chase until midnight when we gave it up and hauled our wind. and when

day light came on the wind very light and a brig close on board, we made sail and hove out

English colours and run for her. He had an English ensign at his peak, but it did not blow out.

They hauled it down and made it fast to a pole & wafted them. By this time we were along

side. They hail'd us and asked where from. We told them from N. York on a cruise and asked

them where they were from. They answered from Waterford bound to N. York. Our Captain

told him he might lay down his colours and immediately hauled down the English ensign and

hoisted the American. They immediately hove down their colours and surrendered. We found

her to be loaded with beef, port, butter, candles, & soap. we put a prize master on her and

went in to N. London.

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