European Waters in 1780 | Naval History


    About the author

    Gardner W. Allen
    Gardner W. Allen

    Gardner W. Allen (1856–1944) was an American naval historian known for his detailed studies of naval operations and ship histories. Allen’s most significant contribution is his work on American naval history, particularly during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. His notable publications include “Our Navy and the Barbary Corsairs,” “Our Naval War with France,” and “The Naval History of the American Revolution.”



      After his arrival at L’Orient in February, 1780, Captain Jones had to endure another long period of waiting on shore, but was occupied for some time in giving the Alliance a thorough overhauling; for lack of money this was less complete than he had hoped. In the first place the ship had been put out of trim by the arrangement of the ballast, which, Jones says, “Captain Landais has extended along the ceiling from the stern-post to the stem; an idea that I believe he may without vanity call his own.” Besides correcting this, repairs were necessary and Jones proposed to have the ship coppered. Another object of his desire was the purchase of the Serapis, and he says in the same letter, which was written to Franklin, February 13 : “I wish she could be made the property of America.” (Sherburne, 186.) He seems to have had an idea that the French government would bear the cost of repairs on the Alliance. Franklin wrote to him, February 19: “As to refitting your ship at the expense of this court, I must acquaint you that there is not the least probability of obtaining it, and therefore I cannot ask it. I hear too much already of the extraordinary expense you made in Holland to think of proposing an addition to it, especially as you seem to impute the damage she has sustained more to Capt. Landais’s negligence than to accidents of the cruize. The whole expense will therefore fall upon me and I am ill provided to bear it, having so many unexpected calls upon me from all quarters. I therefore beg you would have mercy upon me, put me to as little charge as possible and take nothing that you can possibly do without. As to sheathing with copper, it is totally out of the question. I am not authorised to do it, if I had money; and I have not money for it, if I had orders. The purchase of the Serapis is in the same predicament . . . Let me repeat it, for God’s sake be sparing, unless you mean to make me a bankrupt or have your drafts dishonored for want of money in my hands to pay them.” (Sherburne, 189, 190.) In spite of difficulties, however, the ship was in fine condition by the middle of April. Jones took on board of her twenty-eight eighteen-pounders and twelve nines, the guns that had been made for the Bonhomme Richard, but were not ready in time; besides which it had been decided that eighteens were too heavy (lbid., 221; Archives de la Marine, B1 89, 225. Probably these guns were to be transported to America, not mounted on the Alliance.) Jones expected to return to America in the Alliance, but wished before he left France to settle his own and his men’s affairs. His prizes had not yet been sold and his crew were without wages, without prize money, and without clothes. In order to expedite matters, Jones made another trip to Paris and obtained the promise of an early sale. Franklin advanced a sum of money to supply the immediate needs of officers and men. The French government loaned the ship Ariel of twenty guns to accompany the Alliance to America and assist in transporting a large amount of clothing and military supplies for the Continental army. Many exchanged American prisoners arrived from England who would be available for her crew. Jones was received in Paris with marked distinction and was presented by the King with a gold-hilted sword and the cross of the Order of Military Merit; the latter in the following year, after having obtained the approval of Congress (Sands, 247-262; Sherburne, 185-197; Archives de la Marine, B1 93, 45, 283, 285, B4 172, 176.)

      About this time the project of another cruise to the north, under the command of Commodore Jones, was formed. It is outlined in the following paper drawn up by Jones and dated June 10: “It is understood that a considerable Number of the King’s Frigates are likely to remain unarmed and unemployed in the Ports, through the Scarcity of French Seamen. To Man these the Government might ask of Congress the Services of Commodore Jones and of a sufficient Number of American Officers and Sailors, of which there are about 500 now Prisoners in England, whose exchange will naturally take place in two or three Months and who being arrived here might easily be engaged and retained for that purpose. Commodore Jones is now bound for America, from whence with the permission of Congress he might return in about four Months with the Alliance and probably with one or two other American Frigates, on board of which and of such Merchant Ships as would gladly put themselves under his Convoy he could embark and bring over a considerable number of chosen Supernumerary officers and Seamen to be joined with those expected from England and to such others as might be collected in France, and the whole employed in manning the French Frigates in Question, which during Commodore Jones’s absence might be put in some degree of readiness. Should the Serapis be bought by the King, it would be advisable to employ her in this Service. In this way a squadron of Frigates from America and of fast sailing French Frigates, sloops &c. manned by Americans might be easily formed, capable of rendering very essential services to the Common Cause, by destroying the Enemies Commerce, alarming their Coasts, taking their Towns &c. &c. It would be expedient to embark a few hundred of good French Troops on board the different Vessels of War, to serve as Marines and to assist in making descents &c. Commodore Jones can and at any time will point out to Government many desirable undertakings for the Armament in Question, but as the utmost secrecy is necessary to render them successful and as changes of Winds and a variety of circumstances may render it expedient to change the operations of this Force, he would desire and expect to be left at full Liberty to act according as situations and circumstances may in his own opinion appear for the best.” This proposition was favorably received by the French Ministry, but apparently owing to the inability of Congress to take the necessary steps on their part and to other circumstances, it came to nothing (Archives do la Marine, B4 172, 188, 199; Sherburne, 208-211.)

      During Jones’s absence from L’Orient, Landais, instigated by Arthur Lee, encouraged a spirit of discontent almost amounting to mutiny among the crew of the Alliance. The men were led to believe that Jones was responsible for their not receiving the prize money due them, and they demanded the restoration of Landais to the command of the ship. Apparently Jones here again, as on the Ranger, suffered from the lack of a warm personal regard for him on the part of his men, who, repelled by his demeanor, never understood his devotion to their interests. The former officers and men of the Bonhomme Richard, however, stood by him. Lee expressed the opinion that as Landais’s commission had not been revoked, nor had he been relieved by order of Congress, he was still legally in command of the Alliance. Jones wrote to Robert Morris: “I am convinced that Mr. Lee has acted in this matter merely because I would not become the enemy of the venerable, the wise and good Franklin, whose heart as well as head does and will always do honor to human nature.” (Wharton, iii, 821; Sands, 278.) In regard to the legality of Landais’s commission, the Board of Admiralty in a report to Congress a few months later observed that “Captain Landais regained command of the Alliance by the advice of Mr. Lee, notwithstanding his suspension by Dr. Franklin, who by the direction of the Marine Committee had the sole management of our marine affairs in Europe.” (Sands, 321.) John Adams, however, believed that the Marine Committee lacked authority to confer upon Franklin the power to remove the commander of a ship. Commodore Gillon of South Carolina, at that time in France, also took the part of Landais. The French ministry declined to take sides in the controversy. June 13, after Jones’s return from Paris but during his temporary absence from the ship, Landais went on board and took command. To avoid trouble which might be serious and lead to bloodshed, Jones relinquished his claim to the command (Ibid., 262-280; Sherburne, 197-207; Hale, ch. xvii; Archives de la Marine, B4 172, 166, 197, 198, 204-210, 231, 237-242, 244, 245, 248, 255, 261.)

      About the 1st of July the Alliance sailed for America with Arthur Lee on board as passenger, but without the clothing so much needed by the army. The conduct of Captain Landais became so erratic during the voyage that the safety of the ship, crew, and passengers seemed imperiled. After vain appeals to him it became necessary to relieve him forcibly of the command, which devolved upon the first lieutenant. This was on August 10, in latitude 41° 30′ north, longitude 59° west. The ship was then taken into Boston, where she arrived, August 16. Captain Barry was appointed to command the Alliance September 5. She remained in Boston Harbor during the rest of the year and on board of her was convened the court martial, of which Barry was president, for the trial of Captain Landais and his first lieutenant, James Degge. As a result, they were both dismissed from the navy (Pap. Cont. Congr., 193, 451-595, 597, 599, 631, 639, 655, 679, 705, 757, 773 (August 10, September 22, November 10, 29, 1780, January 5, 6, 25, 1781); Mar. Com. Letter Book, 328 (September 5, 1780); Lee MSS., August 5, 10, December 20, 1780; Boston Gazette, August 21, 1780; Archives de la Marine, B8 16 (Juin, 1780)

      After the departure of the Alliance from France, Jones was occupied in getting ready for his own return to America. “He obtained a crew for the Ariel, that was ordered by government to be fully armed and equipped. He embarked such a quantity of arms and powder as with provision for only nine weeks filled the ship even between decks. He hoped to make the passage in a favourable season of the year, but was detained by contrary and stormy winds in the road of Groix from the 4th of September till the 8th of October. He then sailed with a fair wind and pleasant weather, but the next night the Ariel was driven by a violent tempest close to the rocks of the Penmarque, a terrible ledge between L’Orient and Brest. The ship could show no sail, but was almost buried under the water, not having room to run before the wind and having several feet water in the hold. Finding the depth of water diminish fast, Captain Jones in the last extremity cast anchor, but could not bring the ship’s head to the wind. Sometimes the lower yard-arms touched the water. Captain Jones now had no remedy left but to cut away the foremast. This had the desired effect and the ship immediately came head to the wind. The main-mast had got out of the step and now reeled about like a drunken man. Foreseeing the danger of its either breaking off below the gundeck or going through the ship’s bottom, Captain Jones ordered it to be cut away. But before this could be done, the chain-plates gave way and the main-mast breaking off by the gun- deck carried with it the mizen-mast; and the mizen-mast carried away the quarter-gallery. In that situation the Ariel rode in the open ocean to windward of perhaps the most dangerous ledge of rocks in the world for two days and near three nights, in a tempest that covered the shore with wrecks and dead bodies and that drove ships ashore from their anchors even in the port of L’Orient. It was perhaps fortunate that the Ariel lost her masts, since no anchors could have held her so long had the masts stood. By the help of jury-masts, erected after the gale, the Ariel returned to L’Orient.” (Sands, 294, journal prepared for the King.) It then took several weeks to refit the Ariel, and Jones made an unsuccessful effort to obtain a better ship. During this time he made further arrangements in regard to the prize money due himself and officers and men, which had not yet been paid. Franklin wrote to him, December 4: “I shall strongly solicit the payment of the prize money, which I understand is not yet received from the king. I hope soon to see an end of that affair, which has met with so many unaccountable obstructions. I enclose despatches for Congress, which are to be sunk in case of danger. I wish you to make the best of your way to America and that you may have a prosperous voyage.” (Sands, 299.) The Ariel sailed December 18 (lbid., 294-300; Sherburne, 211-213; Archives do la Marine, B4 172, 271-274, 277.)

      The account of this voyage is given in Jones’s journal. “After a variety of rencounters he, in the latitude 26° north and longitude of Barbadoes, met with a remarkably fast sailing frigate belonging to the enemy’s navy. Captain Jones endeavoured to avoid speaking with that ship and as night approached, he hoped to succeed, notwithstanding her superior sailing. He was, however, mistaken, for the next morning the ships were at a less distance asunder than they had been the evening before, although during the night the officers of the watch had always informed Captain Jones the sail continued out of sight. An action now became unavoidable and the Ariel was prepared for it. Every thing was thrown overboard that interfered with the defence and safety of the ship. Captain Jones took particular care, by the management of sails and helm, to prevent the enemy from discovering the force of the Ariel, and worked her so well as not to discover any warlike appearance or preparation. In the afternoon the Ariel fired now and then a light stern-chaser at the enemy from the quarterdeck and continued to crowd sail as if very much alarmed. This had the desired effect and the enemy pursued with the greater eagerness. Captain Jones did not suffer the enemy to come close up till the approach of night, when having well examined his force, he shortened sail to meet his approach.

      “When the two ships came within hail of each other they both hoisted English Colours. The person whose duty it was to hoist the pendant on board the Ariel had not taken care to make the other end of the halliards fast, to haul it down again to change the Colours. This prevented Jones from an advantageous manoeuvre he had intended and obliged him to let the enemy range up along the lee-side of the Ariel, where he saw a battery lighted for action. A conversation now took place between the two ships, which lasted near an hour, by which Captain Jones learned the situation of the enemy’s affairs in America. The captain of the enemy’s ship said his name was John Pindar. His ship had been constructed by the famous Mr. Peck of Boston, built at Newburyport, owned by Mr. Tracy of that place, Commanded by Captain Hopkins, the son of the late Commodore Hopkins, and had been taken and fitted out at New York and named the Triumph by Admiral Rodney. Captain Jones told him he must put out his boat and come on board and show his commission, to prove whether or not he really did belong to the British navy. To this he made some excuses, because Captain Jones had not told him who he was, and his boat he said was very leaky. Captain Jones told him to consider the danger of refusing. Captain Pindar said be would answer for twenty guns and that he himself and every one of his people had shown themselves Englishmen. Captain Jones said he would allow him five minutes only to make his reflection. That time being elapsed, Captain Jones backed a little in the weather-quarter of the enemy, ran close under her stern, hoisted American Colours, and being within short pistol shot on the lee-beam of the enemy, began to engage.

      “It was past seven o’clock and as no equal force ever exceeded the vigorous and regular fire of the Ariel’s battery and tops, the action while it lasted made a glorious appearance. The enemy made a feeble resistance for about ten minutes. He then struck his Colours. The enemy then begged for quarter and said half his men were killed. The Ariel’s fire ceased and the crew, as usual after a victory, gave cries of joy. To ‘show themselves Englishmen,’ the enemy filled their sails and got on the Ariel’s weather-bow, before the cries of joy had ended on board the Ariel. Captain Jones, suspecting the base design of the enemy, immediately set every sail he could to prevent her escape, but the enemy had so much advantage in sailing that the Ariel could not keep up and they soon got out of gun shot. The English captain may properly be called a knave, because after he surrendered his ship, begged for and obtained quarter, he basely ran away, contrary to the laws of naval war and the practice of civilized nations. A conspiracy was discovered among the English part of the Ariel’s crew immediately after sailing from France. During the voyage every officer and even the passengers had been constantly armed and kept a regular watch, besides a constant guard with fixed bayonets. After the action with the Triumph the plot was so far discovered that Captain Jones confined twenty of the ringleaders in irons till his arrival. Captain Jones arrived at Philadelphia on the 18th February, 1781, having been absent from America three years, three months and eighteen days.” (Sands, 300-302; Sherburne, 213, 214; Boston Gazette, March 12,1781.)

      Among the American privateers in France commissioned by Franklin was one owned by Frenchmen in Dunkirk named the Black Prince, a small cutter armed with sixteen three- and four-pounders and thirty-two swivels, which proved such a prizetaker that the owners obtained from the American minister a commission for another, which they called the Black Princess. The latter at first carried eighteen two-, three-, and four-pounders and twenty-four swivels, but later a much heavier armament. These two vessels, manned chiefly by English and Irish smugglers with a few Americans, cruised with remarkable success during 1779 and 1780. There were disadvantages in giving commissions to vessels owned by foreigners and likely to be manned by the refuse of the seafaring population, but as Franklin said, “The prisoners brought in serve to exchange our countrymen, which makes me more willing to encourage such armaments, though they occasion a good deal of trouble.” (Wharton, iii, 364.) The Black Prince was commanded, for a time, at least, by Captain Stephen Merchant, who, after leaving her, returned to America, arriving in Boston about March 1, 1780. According to Merchant, “this ship was fitted out at Dunkirk under a Continental commission and colours . . . She went round the coasts of Britain and Ireland and in less than three months took 37 prizes; three of them were retaken, 4 burnt after taking out what was valuable, all the rest were either ransomed or arrived safe in port, by which the lowest men have made a little fortune. By instructions from Dr. Franklin the Captain was prohibited doing mischief above high water mark. This generous prohibition he punctually observed, though he had it frequently in his power to land and distress the inhabitants of Britain on their remotest coasts. He had not heard of their burning Fairfield in Connecticut, of which State he is a native, or he would have been strongly tempted to have transgressed his orders by a just retaliation. Being once in want of water and some refreshments on the coast of Scotland, he sent his boat to a small town and demanded a supply, promising security to the inhabitants and their property in case his demand was complied with. It was refused; upon which he approached the town with his ship and saluted it with a broadside. A white flag was immediately displayed by the inhabitants and the Black Prince was not only supplied with water, but with cattle, sheep, poultry and every refreshment the place could afford and the commander chose to receive.” (Independent Chronicle, March 9, 1780.)

      The Black Prince was afterwards commanded by Captain Dowlin, and in April, 1780, captured a Dutch ship called the Flora with an English cargo. Franklin at once ordered the removal and condemnation of the cargo and the release of the vessel with payment of damages, giving his reasons in a letter to Vergennes, dated June 18. It was just at this time that Russia and other maritime powers were forming the Armed Neutrality for the protection of their commerce from the interference of belligerents by enforcing the doctrine that “free ships make free goods,” always most obnoxious to England. This principle had been incorporated in a treaty which the United States was trying to negotiate with Holland, but which the Dutch had hitherto failed to accept. Franklin, therefore, felt justified in acting under the old law of nations, although he was well known to be a strong advocate of the principles of the Armed Neutrality.

      In his letter to Vergennes he explains his position on the subject of privateering and especially of vessels fitted out by Frenchmen under the American flag. ,I beg leave to observe,” he says, “that by the express words of the commission granted to them they are directed to submit the prizes they shall carry into any port in the dominions of a foreign state to the judgment of the admiralty courts established in such ports or states, and according to the usages there in force. Several of our first prizes brought into France were, if I mistake not, so judged; and it was not upon any request of mine that such causes were afterwards referred to me, nor am I desirous of continuing to exercise that jurisdiction. If therefore the judgment I have given in the case of the Flora is not approved and the Council of Prizes will take the trouble of re-examining and trying that cause and those of all other prizes to be brought in hereafter by American cruisers, it will be very agreeable to me and, from the very terms above mentioned of the commission, I think it will also be agreeable to the Congress. Nor do I desire to encourage the fitting out of privateers in France by the King’s subjects with American commissions. I have had many applications of the kind which I have refused, advising the owners to apply for the commissions of his majesty. The case of the Black Prince was particular. She had been an old smuggler on the coasts of England and Ireland, was taken as such and carried into Dublin, where her crew found means to break prison, cut their vessel out of the harbor and escaped with her to Dunkerque. It was represented to me that the people, being all English and Irish, were afraid to continue their smuggling business, lest if they should be again taken they might be punished as British subjects for their crime at Dublin, and that they were willing to go a privateering against the English; but speaking no other language, they imagined they might, if taken, better pass as Americans if they had an American commission than as Frenchmen if under a French commission. On these grounds I was applied to for a commission, which I granted believing that such a swift vessel with a crew that knew so well all parts of the enemy’s coasts might greatly molest their coasting trade. Her first success occasioned adding the Black Princess by the same owners, and between them they have taken and sent in or ransomed or destroyed an amazing number of vessels; I think near eighty. But I shall continue to refuse granting any more commissions except to American vessels; and if, under the circumstances above represented, it is thought nevertheless inconvenient that the commissions of the Black Prince and Princess should continue, I will immediately recall them.” (Wharton, iii, 802.)

      Franklin wrote to the President of Congress, August 10, that these two vessels had taken in eighteen months nearly a hundred and twenty prizes. In the summer of 1780 the Black Prince was wrecked on the French coast, but the Princess, under the command of Captain Edward Macatter, continued cruising, and between June 20 and July 10 made twenty-eight captures. Vergennes advised the recall of these privateers’ commissions. Franklin replied, August 15, that he had already recalled them and added: “I have had no other interest in those armaments than the advantage of some prisoners to exchange for my countrymen.” (lbid., iv, 33.) These two vessels were the only ones owned and fitted out in France that had been granted commissions by Franklin. In August it was ordered by the King that the prizes of American privateers should be judged by the French Council of Prizes (lbid., iii, 364, 682, 801-803, iv, 26, 33; Continental Journal, March 9, 1780; London Post, July 21, 1780; Proc. U. S. Naval Inst., xxxvii (September, 1911), 954-960; Hale, ch. xvi; Williams, 278.)

      The ship Mars of the Massachusetts navy sailed from Boston for Nantes about the 1st of August. On September 13, Captain Sampson reported to the Board of War: “I have the pleasure of informing you of my safe arrival at the Entrance of the River Loyer in the Ship Mars the 10th Inst., after a Passage of Forty-four days, and embrace the earliest opportunity to acquaint you of the same. During my Passage I had favourable Winds untill abt the Twentieth of Augt, when I had got as far to the Eastwd as the Long. 20.0 W., then taking the Winds to the Southd & Eastwd & having a very Strong Northwardly Current and my ship very foul and after trying her trim everyway, found her to sail very Indifferently; was drove to the northward of Ushant, wch greatly Retarded my Passage. During my passage I gave Chase to several Vessels wch I had every reason to believe them to be English, but to my great mortiflcation could not speak with any of them. On the 7th Augt I spoke a Dutch Ship from Curiso bound to Amsterdam and on the 11th with a Dean from St. Croix bound to Copenhagen. On the 31st, in Latt. 49.40 N., Long. 11. W., I gave chase to a Brig, who seeing me in Chase of her, hove too. She proved to be … from St. Jube bound to Cork loaded with Salt, Commanded by a Portugue. The Capt. came on board with his Portugue papers and told me his cargo belonged to himself. I sent an Officer on board him to search for more papers, who found concealed in the Captain’s State Room a number of Letters directed to Merchants in Cork [containing] Sufficient Papers to prove her Cargo was Consigned to [one of these merchants]; upon which I took the Captain & Seven Portugue out and sent [a prize master in her] to proceed for Boston. My Reasons for sending her to America was that her Cargo would not have been Valuable in Europe but would be in Great Demand in America … On the 8th Inst. at 25 Leagues to the Westward of Belle Isle at 10 A.M. I saw several Sail to the S. W. and a Ship and a Sloop under my Lee; I kept on my Cruise to the S. E. The ship & sloop Standing by the wind in order to speak to me, I perseved the Sloop to come up with me very fast. At 5 p.m. the Sloop, which was an English Cutter mounting twenty-two Guns, came along side of me and at 5 minutes past 5 P.M. the action began wch lasted One hour & 5 minutes, but my Ship being very foul and very heavy to work and not more than half Mand & a very large Swell running, gave the Cutter every advantage possible during the action, as she could sail round me at her pleasure, but after her engaging me rather better than an hour she thot proper to shear of to the Ship, & I having my Crotchet yard shot away and imagining her consort the ship to be an English Privateer and knowing it Impossible to come up with the Cutter, did not think proper to give her chase. During the Action my Officers and men behaved with great Spirit; my loss during the action was two men killed, viz. Mr. Nathan Haskell, Lt. Marines, and Thoms Ransford.” (Massachusetts Mag., October, 1910; Mass. Rev. Rolls, xxxix, 215; Mass. Archives, cliii, 400.) The Mars returned to Boston later in the year.

      The Portuguese ambassador at Paris having complained of the seizure by the Mars of the vessel belonging to one of his countrymen and of alleged ill treatment, Franklin advised sending the claim to America, and wrote to the President of Congress, December 3, saying: “I hope the Congress may think flt to take some notice of this affair and not only forward a speedy decision, but give orders to our cruisers not to meddle with neutral ships for the future, it being a practice apt to produce ill blood and contrary to the spirit of the new league, which is approved by all Europe; and the English property found in such vessels will hardly pay the damages brought on us by the irregular proceedings of our captains in endeavoring to get at such property.” (Wharton, iv, 180.) Congress had already, on October 5, “Resolved, That the board of admiralty prepare and report instructions for the commanders of armed vessels commanded by the United States conformable to the principles contained in the declaration of the Empress of all the Russias on the rights of neutral vessels. That the ministers plenipotentiary from the United States, if invited thereto, be and hereby are respectively empowered to accede to such regulations conformable to the spirit of the said declaration as may be agreed upon by the Congress expected to assemble in pursuance of the invitation of her Imperial majesty.” (Wharton, iv, 81.)

      The privateer General Pickering of Salem, a ship of a hundred and eighty tons commanded by Captain Haraden, carrying sixteen six-pounders and forty-seven men, on a voyage to Spain fell in with a twenty-gun British cutter, May 29, 1780, and beat her off after an action of an hour and three quarters. Three days later, in the Bay of Biscay, the Pickering captured a schooner called the Golden Eagle with fourteen nine-pounders, eight fours, and fifty-seven men. June 4, while proceeding towards Bilbao, she fell in with the British privateer Achilles armed with twenty-two nine-pounders and eighteen other guns and with a crew of a hundred and thirty men. She was a very much larger ship than the Pickering. They fought nearly three hours at close range and the Achilles then sheered off and sailed away, the Pickering being unable to follow. This battle was fought close to the Spanish coast and was watched by a multitude of people (Independent Chronicle, August, 10, 17, 1780; Hunt’s Merchants, Mag., February, 1857; Clark, i, 114.)

      During the year 1780 the Continental navy suffered the loss of nearly half its fleet at the fall of Charleston: the Providence, Boston, Queen of France, and Ranger. Of the thirteen frigates provided for in 1775, the Trumbull alone remained at the end of the year, and this ship with the frigates Alliance, Confederacy, and Deane and the sloop of war Saratoga comprised the whole navy in commission, except the Ariel loaned by France and only temporarily on the list. The America and Bourbon were still far from completed and were destined never to go to sea in the Continental service. Little had been accomplished by the navy during the year; few prizes of any considerable value or importance had been taken. The hotly contested action of the Trumbull with the Watt enhanced somewhat the reputation of a service that had suffered from the shortcomings of zealous and brave but untrained officers.

      As the navy dwindled, privateering continued to thrive and grow. The number of private armed vessels commissioned by the different states doubtless increased considerably, though figures are not accessible. The Continental Congress issued three hundred and one letters of marque in 1780, ninety-two more than in 1779 (Naval Records (calendar), 217-495.) Although it is evident that privateers were increasing in numbers, there seem to be fewer accounts of their cruises than in previous years.

      The increase in the total number of ships of the British navy during 1780 was from four hundred and eighty-one to five hundred and thirty-eight; of these, three hundred and ninety-six were in commission at the end of the year, as compared with three hundred and sixty-four twelve months earlier. The navy employed eighty-five thousand seamen and marines, an increase of fifteen thousand. In the fall there were fifty-nine vessels of all classes on the North American station, including two of ninety guns each, eleven seventy-fours, five sixty-fours, three forty-fours, and fourteen frigates. Earlier in the year the number seems to have been considerably smaller. There were eleven vessels at Newfoundland and a strong fleet in the West Indies (Hannay, ii, 211 ; Schomberg, ii, 1, iv, 353-364; Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 486, September 30, 1780, List of Ships and Vessels Employed under the orders of Vice-Admiral Arbuthnot.)

      According to the table of losses and captures, already cited for previous years, the enemies of England in 1780 took five hundred and ninety-six of her vessels, of which fifteen were privateers and the rest merchantmen; of these, two hundred and sixty-two were retaken or ransomed. During the same time the British captured from their enemies two hundred and thirty-seven vessels including thirty-four privateers; of this total only four were recaptured (Clowes, iii, 390.)

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