Washington’s Fleet, 1775 and 1776 | 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.”



      General Washington took command of the American army at Cambridge July 3, 1775, and the siege of Boston was closely maintained at every point except on the water side of the town. Here the British received provisions and military stores without interruption. It was of great importance to intercept these supplies as far as possible with a view to distressing the enemy; and furthermore the scarcity of the munitions of war with the colonists suggested their capture from the British as the readiest means of obtaining them. In August, Washington had some correspondence with the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts as to the advisability of fitting out armed vessels for the purpose, but without immediate result (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 327.)

      Accordingly, there being no Continental naval establishment at that time, he determined to employ detachments of the army, for which he required no further authority than the general discretion allowed him for the effective prosecution of the siege. The regiments recruited in Salem, Marblehead, Beverly, and other shore towns were composed largely of seafaring men; the regiment of Colonel John Glover of Marblehead afterwards became noted for ferrying the Continental army across the East River to New York after the Battle of Long Island and across the Delaware before the Battle of Trenton. Washington drew upon these regiments of sailors and fishermen for the crews of the vessels fitted out in the fall of 1775.

      The first of these vessels was the schooner Hannah, and Captain Nicholson Broughton was put in command. His instructions, signed by Washington and dated September 2, 1775, were as follows: “You, being appointed a Captain in the Army of the United Colonies of North-America, are hereby directed to take the command of a detachment of said Army and proceed on board the Schooner Hannah, at Beverly, lately fitted out and equipped with arms, ammunition and provisions, at the Continental expense. You are to proceed, as commander of said Schooner, immediately on a cruise against such vessels as may be found on the high seas or elsewhere, bound inwards and outwards, to or from Boston, in the service of the Ministerial Army, and to take and seize all such vessels laden with soldiers, arms, ammunition or provisions, for or from said Army, or which you shall have good reason to suspect are in such service.” Broughton was to send his prizes into “the safest and nearest Port to this camp”; papers disclosing the enemy’s designs were to be searched for; prisoners were to be humanely treated, allowed to retain their private property and sent to headquarters under a guard furnished by the Continental officer stationed at the port; the apportionment of prize money was prescribed; armed vessels of the enemy were to be avoided, the sole object of the enterprise being the interception of supplies; a system of signals was to be established for communicating with other vessels to be sent out. The instructions concluded with the injunction “to be extremely careful and frugal of your ammunition; by no means to waste any of it in salutes, or any purpose but what is absolutely necessary” (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 633.)

      Broughton went to sea September 5; two days later he put into Gloucester and made the following report: “I sailed from Beverly last Tuesday at ten o’clock, with a fair wind; proceeded on my cruise. On the same day, about five o’clock, saw two ships of war; they gave me chase. I made back towards Cape Ann, but did not go in. Next morning I saw a ship under my lee quarter; she giving me chase, I run into Cape Ann harbour. I went out again that night about sunset and stood to the southward. Next morning saw a ship under my lee quarter; I perceived her to be a large ship. I tacked and stood back for the land; soon after I put about and stood towards her again and found her a ship of no force. I came up with her, hailed, and asked where she came from; was answered, from Piscataqua, and bound to Boston. I told him he must bear away and go into Cape Ann; but being very loth, I told him if he did not I should fire on her. On that she bore away and I have brought her safe into Cape Ann harbour, and have delivered the ship and prisoners into the hands and care of the Committee of Safety for this Town of Gloucester, and have desired them to send the prisoners under proper guard to your Excellency for further orders.” This prize was the ship Unity, loaded with naval stores and lumber (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 668,683.) It was the first capture made by a Continental vessel.

      Early in October Colonel Glover was instructed to procure two other vessels in Salem or Newburyport and fit them out as soon as possible. The Hannah was laid aside, and in her place another schooner was hired, “of better fame for sailing.” There was considerable delay in getting these vessels ready for sea (Ibid., 946, 948, 994.) Meanwhile Washington had received the instructions of Congress of October 5, to attempt the capture of the two brigs bound to Quebec (See above, p. 22.) Governor Cooke of Rhode Island was unable to give aid in this matter, one of the Rhode Island vessels being unfit for service, while the other, the sloop Katy, Captain Whipple, was on a voyage to Bermuda in quest of powder. For several weeks General Washington and Governor Cooke had been corresponding in regard to this enterprise. The scarcity of gunpowder in the American army caused Washington great anxiety, and at his solicitation the governor had dispatched the Katy to Bermuda, which at that time seemed to be the most likely place to get it (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 36, 69, 137, 461, 631, 653, 654, 682, 710, 718, 728, 808, 842, 1037.) The people of Bermuda were friendly to the popular cause in America and gave trouble to the British by their opposition to the enforcement of laws forbidding trade with the Revolutionists (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 488, No. 55, March 16, 1778.)

      For the expedition to the Gulf of St. Lawrence two of the schooners recently procured were chosen. They were called the Lynch and the Franklin and were put under the command of Captains Broughton and Selman. Their orders were issued October 16: “The honourable Continental Congress having received intelligence that two north country brigantines of no force sailed from England some time ago for Quebeck, laden with six thousand stands of arms, a large quantity of powder and other stores, you are hereby directed to make all possible despatch for the River St. Lawrence and there to take such a station as will best enable you to intercept the above vessels. You are also to seize and take any other transports laden with men, ammunition, clothing, or other stores for the use of the Ministerial Army or Navy in America, and secure them in such places as may be most safe and convenient.” Captain Broughton was to command the expedition. If they found that the brigs had already passed, they were still to cruise off the mouth of the river as long as the season would permit and attempt to seize all vessels in the service of the British army. It was thought that in case of the capture of Quebec by the Americans, such vessels would be likely to come down the river. Canadian vessels, however, not in the British service, were not to be in any way molested. After some further delay the Lynch and Franklin sailed from Marblehead October 21 (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1068, 1075, 1076, 1083, 1109, 1134.)

      Soon after this, Captain Whipple returned from Bermuda, where he had been well received by the people, but found no powder. The Katy was at once fitted out for a cruise to the eastward. In the meantime work had been pushed on other vessels for Washington’s fleet under many difficulties, and by the end of October four, in addition to the Lynch and Franklin, were ready for service. They were the schooners Lee and Warren at Salem and Marblehead and the brigantine Washington and schooner Harrison at Plymouth. The Lee, commanded by Captain Manley of Marblehead, and Harrison, Captain Coit of Connecticut, were at sea October 29; the Warren, Captain Adams of New Hampshire, and the Washington, Captain Martindale of Rhode Island, got away early in November. Their services were needed, as the enemy’s transports continued to arrive in Boston. Colonel Joseph Reed, Washington’s military secretary, suggested as colors for the fleet “a flag with a white ground, a tree in the middle, the motto, ‘Appeal to Heaven.'” This, the New England pine-tree flag, was used on the floating batteries about Boston, and six months later was prescribed by the Provincial Congress for the Massachusetts navy (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1083, 1126, 1134, 1167, 1181, 1182, 1208, 1246,1250,1251,1345; Rec. Gen. Court Mass., April 29, 1776.)

      The Lynch and Franklin arrived in the Strait of Canso early in November and cruised in this neighborhood about two weeks, not being able to get further at that time on account of head winds. They took a few small vessels which were afterwards released, not being considered lawful prize. November 17 they appeared before Charlottetown, the capital of the Island of St. John’s (Prince Edward Island). This was the farthest point they reached. Here the conduct of Broughton and Selman showed a singular want of propriety for which their only excuse seems to have been the information they had received that preparations were being carried on there for assisting in the defense of Quebec. They supposed they “should do essential service by breaking up a nest of recruits intended to be sent against Montgomery, who commanded our forces in Quebeck.” In the excess of their zeal the Americans seized both public and private property and brought away as prisoners three prominent citizens, including the acting governor. Upon arriving at Cambridge, these men were promptly released and their property restored by General Washington, who severely reproved Broughton and Selman. Washington was disappointed and dissatisfied with the results of this enterprise, and believed that if they had gone farther and cruised in the mouth of the St. Lawrence, “all the vessels coming down that river must [have fallen] into their hands.” (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1337, 1379, 1407, 1419, iv, 158, 178, 181, 214, 451; Salem Gazette, July 22, 1856, quoted in Waite’s Origin of the American Navy.)

      Meanwhile the other vessels of Washington’s little fleet cruised with more or less success. The Harrison brought two prizes into Plymouth November 6; they were a schooner and sloop from Nova Scotia bound to Boston with provisions. As the season advanced and the weather became severe, some of these soldier sailors grew discontented and troublesome. William Watson, Washington’s agent at Plymouth, on November 23 found the crew of the Harrison “an uneasy set of fellows who have got soured by the severity of the season,” and on the 29th he wrote to the commander-in-chief “that the people on board the Brigantine Washington are in general discontented and have agreed to do no duty on board said vessel, and say that they enlisted to serve in the army and not as marines. I believe Capt. Martindale has done all in his power to make things easy. His people really appear to me to be a set of the most unprincipled abandoned fellows I ever saw. I am very apprehensive that little is to be expected from fellows drawn promiscuously from the army for this business; but that if people were enlisted for the purpose of privateering, much might be expected from them.” Washington wrote to the President of Congress December 4: “The plague, trouble and vexation I have had with the crews of all the armed vessels is inexpressible. I do believe there is not on earth a more disorderly set. Every time they come into port we hear of nothing but mutinous complaints. Manly’s success has lately, and but lately, quieted his people. The crews of the Washington and Harrison have actually deserted them, so that I have been under the necessity of ordering the agent to lay the latter up, and get hands for the other on the best terms he could.” On the same day, however, news of a fortunate cruise of Captain Manley having reached Plymouth, Watson wrote: “After repairing on board the brig Saturday night, inquiring into the cause of the uneasiness among the people and finding it principally owing to their want of clothing, and after supplying them with what they wanted, the whole crew, to a man, gave three cheers and declared their readiness to go to sea the next morning. The warm weather at that time and the news of Captain Manly’s good success had a very happy influence on the minds of the people.” (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1378, 1658, 1713, iv, 179, 181.)

      John Manley was the most successful of the captains and was regarded by Washington with especial favor. He was about forty-two years of age and of English birth, but had lived since early manhood in Marblehead. His vessel, the Lee, was a seventy-two ton schooner carrying a large square-sail on the fore topmast; she mounted four four-pounders and ten swivels, and was manned by fifty soldiers from Glover’s regiment. Early in November Manley captured two or three small vessels. About the middle of the month a British frigate arrived at Boston with another vessel under convoy. It was learned that a third vessel which had been with them had not arrived. Manley, who happened to be at Beverly, received this information from headquarters and immediately went to sea in search of the belated vessel. On the 29th he sighted a sail which proved to be the object of his search, the brigantine Nancy, which when overhauled surrendered without resistance and was taken into Gloucester. The Nancy carried a large cargo of ordnance and military stores which were of the utmost value to the American army. Besides other things there were two thousand muskets, thirty-one tons of musket shot, three thousand round shot, several barrels of powder, and a thirteen-inch brass mortar, which promised to be most useful in the siege of Boston. A few days later the mortar was “fixed on its bed before the Continental Laboratory [in Cambridge]. It is called The Congress, and is pronounced to be the noblest piece of ordnance ever landed in America.” (N. E. Chronicle, December 7,1775.) Manley continued his cruise, and within a few days captured a three hundred ton ship called the Concord. A little later he took two other vessels and still another before the end of the year. On board one of these prizes were important letters of Lord Dunmore, the royal governor of Virginia (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1537, 1721, 1722, iv, 168, 179, 180, 181, 214, 227, 314; Coll. Essex Institute, January, 1909; Boston Gazette, December 4, 25, 1775 ; Mass. Spy, December 15, 1775.)

      In regard to the capture of the Nancy, Lord Sandwich, then at the head of the Admiralty, said: “The loss of the ordnance store ship is a fatal event, and by what Mr. Pringle tells me, has been most probably owing to the treachery of the master, who went out under convoy which he parted from on his passage and tho’ a frigate on the coast of America, which he met at sea, took him under her protection, he parted from her also and continued to be beating backwards and forwards near the shore till he was picked up by the enemy’s whaleboats.” (Hist. Manuscripts Commission, Stopford-Sackville MS., 20.)

      From the preceding narrative it appears that the close of the year 1775 found the Americans beginning in a resolute if somewhat feeble way to curtail in a slight measure the complete control of the sea held by their enemy. In a letter to Richard Henry Lee, dated November 27, before Manley’s more notable successes, Washington sums up the situation in New England waters: “In answer to your inquiries respecting armed vessels, there are none of any tolerable force belonging to this Government. I know of but two of any kind; those very small.” He doubtless alludes to the Machias Liberty and Diligent and to the provincial government of Massachusetts. “At the Continental expense I have fitted out six, two of which are upon the cruise directed by Congress; the rest ply about Capes Cod and Ann, as yet to very little purpose. These vessels are all manned by officers and soldiers, but how far, as they are upon the old establishment which has not more than a month to exist, they can be ordered off this station, I will not undertake to say; but suppose they might be engaged anew. Belonging to Providence there are two armed vessels, and I am told Connecticut has one.” (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1687.) As it was usual to call most armed vessels privateers, references to them in the newspapers and in correspondence cannot be relied on, but presumably some of those commissioned by Massachusetts had begun to cruise by the end of the year. Colonel Joseph Ward, writing to John Adams from the camp at Roxbury December 3, expresses his belief that naval enterprise on the part of the separate colonies will bring the best results (Adams MSS.)

      On the 1st of January, 1776, Washington appointed Manley commodore of his fleet and he hoisted his pennant on board the schooner Hancock, which had just been added to the force. The terms of enlistment of the soldiers who had manned the vessels having just expired, new crews were recruited from the seafaring population along shore. All the vessels received new commanders. Daniel Waters took the Lee, Samuel Tucker the Franklin, Charles Dyar the Harrison, John Ayres the Lynch, and William Burke the Warren. The commissions and instructions of the first three of these captains were dated January 20; of the other two, February 1. The Washington, Captain Martindale, had been captured by the British frigate Fowey off Cape Ann in December, and taken into Boston (Coll. Essex Inst., January, 1909; Am. Arch., IV, iv, 257, 791, 793, 910; Sheppard’s Life of Tucker, 31-35, 49, 50; Boston Gazette, January 1, 1776; Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 485, December 15, 1775.)

      In January, Manley took two prizes off Nantasket and was convoying them to Plymouth when he fell in with a British eight-gun schooner and had a brisk engagement in sight of the enemy’s fleet in Nantasket Roads. The schooner sheered off and ran into Boston Harbor. Washington wrote to Manley, January 28: “I received your agreeable letter of the 26th instant giving an account of your having taken and carried into Plymouth two of the enemy’s transports. Your conduct in engaging the eight-gun schooner with so few hands as you went out with, your attention in securing your prizes and your general good behavior since you first engaged in the service, merit my and your country’s thanks.” He goes on to suggest appointing stations for the different vessels, so as to give a better chance of intercepting the enemy’s supplies, saying that the other captains, having been instructed to take orders from Manley, dared not disobey; “I wish you could inspire the captains of the other armed schooners under your command with some of your activity and industry.” (Ford’s Writings of Washington, iii, 382, 383.) A few days later Manley had another encounter with the enemy. As he was coming out of Plymouth January 30, an armed brig (which went from Boston for the purpose of taking him, as he supposed) gave him chase, upon which he ran his vessel on shore a little south of the North River in Scituate. The brig came to anchor and fired not less than four hundred times upon the privateer; but, very remarkable, no man was even wounded. One ball entered the stern and passed but about six inches from Captain Manly, who was confined by sickness in his cabin. The next day one hundred and thirty balls were found upon the adjacent shore. Besides the above, which is from a correspondent near where the affair happened, we hear that after the brig ceased firing she manned her boats, boarded Captain Manly’s vessel (the people being ashore) and endeavoured to set her on fire; but seeing our people coming upon them, they were glad to get off without effecting their design. She has since been got off, is refitting and nearly ready for another cruise.” (Am. Arch., IV, iv, 910 (letter from Cambridge, February 1, 1776) The Hancock took two prizes in March, one of which was armed and only surrendered after an engagement. The Lee and Franklin captured a large brigantine early in February and sent her into Gloucester (Am. Arch., IV, iv, 863, 883, 910, 936, v, 196, 834; Washington, iii, 382, 403; Tucker, 56; Coll. Essex Inst., January, 1909; Boston Gazette, January 22, 29, February 12, March 11, 18, 1776; N. E. Chronicle, February 1, 8, 1776.)

      Meanwhile, during the occupation of Boston by the British, other vessels than those of Washington’s fleet were cruising in Massachusetts Bay and to the eastward. In December the Rhode Island sloop Katy, Captain Whipple, captured one of the enemy’s ships. The privateer Yankee Hero of Newburyport cruised in February and March with success. Among the prizes taken was “a large Ship from and own’d in London, laden with Coal, Cheese and Porter, bound for the Ministerial Assassins at Boston.” February 26, 1776, fifteen prizes were advertised to be tried at Ipswich, and March 25, twelve others at Plymouth (Boston Gazette, December 11, 1775, January 22, February 19, 26, March 4, 18, 25, 1776; Mass. Spy, January 26, 1776.)

      The great event of the month of March was heralded with a joy which found expression in somewhat extravagant language. On the 18th the evacuation of Boston was announced in the “Gazette,” which was published at Watertown: “On Friday [March 15] it was reported they were plundering the town, breaking and destroying everything they could not carry away. And yesterday morning this last account was verified by the speedy and precipitate retreat of the whole of the Ministerial butchering, murdering and plundering Banditti of Lord North’s mercenaries.” March 22, Colonel Joseph Ward wrote to John Adams: “The 17th Inst. the Pirates all abandoned their Works in Boston & Charlestown & went on board their Ships, & on the 20th they burnt & destroyed the Works on Castle Island. They now lye in Nantasket Road waiting for a fair wind; we keep a vigilant eye over them lest they should make an attack on some unexpected quarter.” (Boston Gazette, March 18,1776; Adams MSS.)

      Soon after the evacuation Washington went to New York with the main army, leaving General Artemas Ward in command at Boston. The fleet then passed under Ward’s orders. Captain Manley was appointed to command one of the new frigates authorized by Congress in December, 1775, and gave up the schooner Hancock to Captain Tucker; and the Franklin was commanded for a short time by James Mugford of Marblehead. The Hancock on May 7 captured two brigs off Boston Harbor in sight of two or three British men-of-war at anchor, which had remained after the evacuation. The prizes were taken into Lynn (Am. Arch., IV, vi, 396; N. E. Chronicle, May 9, 1776; Boston Gazette, May 13, 1776.)

      On May 17 the Franklin captured the ship Hope with a large cargo of military stores including seventy-five tons of powder. Mugford took his prize into Boston, running by the British fleet in the harbor. “The enemy on board the men of war below, intolerably vexed and chagrined that the above ship should be taken and unloaded in their open view, formed a design of wreaking their vengeance on the gallant Capt. Mugford, who took her. The Sunday following [May 19] Capt. Mugford, in company with Capt. Cunningham in the Lady Washington, a small privateer armed with swivels, blunderbusses and muskets, fell down in order to go out in the bay. The enemy observed their sailing and fitted out a fleet of boats for the purpose of surprizing and taking them in the night; and the Franklin’s running aground in the Gut gave them a good opportunity for executing their plan. The Lady Washington came to anchor near capt. Mugford, and between 9 and 10 o’clock he discovered a number of boats which he hailed and received for answer, that they were from Boston. He ordered them to keep off, or he would fire upon them. They begged him for God’s sake not to fire, for they were going on board him. Capt. Mugford instantly fired and was followed by all his men, and cutting his cable bro’t his broadside to bear, when be discharged his cannon loaded with musket ball directly in upon them. Before the cannon could be charged a second time, 2 or 3 boats were alongside, each of them supposed to have as many men on board as the Franklin, which were only 21, including officers. By the best accounts there were not less than 13 boats in all, many of them armed with swivels and having on board, at the lowest computation, 200 men. Capt. Mugford and his men plied those alongside so closely with fire arms and spears and with such intrepidity, activity and success, that two boats were soon sunk and all the men either killed or drowned. But while the heroic Mugford, with outstretched arms, was righteously dealing death and destruction to our base and unnatural enemies, he received a fatal ball in his body, which in a few minutes put a period to a life, from which, had it been spared, his oppressed country would undoubtedly have reaped very eminent advantages. After our brave men had maintained this unequal contest for about half an hour, the enemy thought proper to retire. The carnage among them must have been great, for besides the two boat loads killed and drowned many were doubtless killed and wounded on board the others. Great execution was done by the spears. One man with that weapon is positive of having killed nine of the enemy. The number of boats which attacked the Franklin was about 8 or 9. The remainder, to the number of 4 or 5, at the same time attacked Capt. Cunningham in the Lady Washington, who then had on board only 6 men besides himself. This brave little company gave the boats such a warm reception that the enemy were soon glad to give over the contest, after suffering, it is thought, considerable loss.” (Boston Gazette, May 20, 27, 1776; Am- Arch., IV, vi, 495, 496.)

      General Ward’s report of May 20 differs somewhat from the above as to the manner of Mugford’s death. He says: “Captain Mugford was very fiercely attacked by twelve or thirteen boats full of men, but he and his men exerted themselves with remarkable bravery, beat off the enemy, sunk several of their boats, and killed a number of their men; it is supposed they lost sixty or seventy. The intrepid Captain Mugford fell a little before the enemy left his schooner; he was ran through with a lance while he was cutting off the hands of the pirates as they were attempting to board him, and it is said that with his own hands he cut off five pairs of theirs. No other man was killed or wounded on board the Franklin . . . Mr. Mugford was not commissioned Captain of the Franklin, but Master; and as the other officers had left the schooner, he took command.” A week later Ward gave further details as to the part taken by the Lady Washington: “The Franklin had twenty-one men, officers included; the Lady Washington had seven, Captain Cunningham commander. She was attacked by five boats, which were supposed to contain near or quite a hundred men; but after repeated efforts to board her they were beaten off by the intrepidity and exertions of the little company, who gloriously defended the Lady against the brutal ravishers of liberty.” (Am. Arch., IV, vi, 532, 602.)

      In regard to the Franklin’s prize, General Howe wrote from Halifax, June 7, to Lord George Germain: “It is with concern I am to advise your lordship of another ordnance store ship, named the Hope, being taken in Boston Bay. She had a large proportion of entrenching tools on board and, it is said, 1500 barrels of powder. I understand the master was suspected of treachery before the ship left England and that Captain Dickson, commanding the Greyhound, gave information of the suspicion to the Lords Commissioners of the Admiralty, sometime before she sailed under his convoy.” (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 35.)

      Many transports sailed from England for America in the spring of 1776. It was reported by a shipmaster lately arrived from France that a fleet of about forty with five thousand troops on board had sailed from Plymouth March 10 (Adams MSS., April 30,1776.) Another fleet of thirty-three troopships conveying three thousand Highlanders sailed from Scotland for Boston before news of the evacuation of the town reached England. Some of them arrived while the British fleet was still in the harbor and were able to join it. One of them, however, early in June was so unfortunate as to fall in with the schooners Lee, Captain Waters, and Warren, Captain Burke, and was captured and taken safely into port. She had about a hundred soldiers on board (Papers of Cont. Congress, 152, 2, 45; Boston Gazette, June 10, 1776.)

      In a letter to Washington dated June 16, 1776, General Ward gives an account of the measures taken to make complete the evacuation of Boston. He says: “The thirteenth Instant at evening I ordered five Hundred men with proper officers, a detachment of the Train with a thirteen Inch Mortar, two Eighteen pounders and some small Cannon, under the Command of Colo. Whitcomb, to take post on Long Island to annoy the Enemys Ships; the necessary works were thrown up in the night and the next morning our Cannon and Mortar began to play upon the pirates, which soon drove them all out of the harbour. The Fleet consisted of thirteen in number, the Renown of fifty Guns, several smaller ships of War and some transports with Highlanders on board; as near as we could judge there were about eight hundred Troops on board the Transports. They blew up the Light house as they went off and then put to sea with their Fleet. I think it probable they will leave some Frigates to cruize in the bay. A number of the Colony troops and militia were to have thrown up some works the same night on Petticks Island and Nantasket head, but by some unfortunate obstructions they did not get their Canon ready in time; however, they gave the Enemy a number of Shot as the Ships passed through the Channel. Our shot cut away some of their yards and rigging and several sent into the ships sides, but the Shells from the Mortar terryfied them most; they returned a fierce shot from the Commodores ship without any effect and got under sail with all expedition.” (Pap. Cont. Congr., 152, 2, 99.) An officer of the militia, sent to Nantasket Head, says that, after great and unavoidable delay, guns were mounted on Quaker Hill. The fleet had already dropped down and anchored opposite the lighthouse. “The Commodore lay foremost and after firing the second shot he blew up the Light-House, and at the fourth round the whole fleet got under way a second time. Some of our shot we have no doubt struck him, as all the boats in the fleet were sent to tow him off. He fired but one shot, but we pelted him till out of reach of our cannon.” (Am. Arch., IV, iv, 946.) The British fleet, commanded by Commodore Banks, consisted of eight ships, two snows, two brigs, and a schooner. The Renown, with two other men-of-war and twelve transports, arrived at Halifax July 6 (Ibid., 917, 931, 945; Almon, iii, 201, 235, 236; Boston Gazette, June 17,1776; Continental Journal, June 20,1776; Adams MSS., June 16, 1776.)

      It is probable that some of the fleet of Scotch transports bound to Boston were intercepted by Commodore Banks and taken into Halifax with him; several of these ships got safely into that place eventually. But June 16, only two days after the last British vessel had been driven out of Boston Harbor, two of these transports unsuspiciously approached the port. The officer of militia stationed at Nantasket gives an account of what passed under his notice, as the vessels came within view of that point, saying: “On Sunday afternoon we saw a ship and a brigantine standing in for the Light House channel, chased and fired upon by four privateers.” One of these seems to have been the schooner Warren, Captain Burke, of Washington’s fleet. The combatants “frequently exchanged broadsides. We, supposing them to be part of the Scotch fleet, got every man to his quarters and carried one eighteen-pounder to Point Alderton on purpose to hinder their retreat should they get into the road, opposite where we had three eighteen pounders. About five o’clock the privateers left them and stood for the southward, when the ship and brig crowded all their sail for the channel. Our orders were not to fire till the last [the brig] got abreast of us. In tacking, she got aground just under our cannon, when we hailed her to strike to this Colony; they refused and we flred one eighteen-pounder loaded with round and canister shot, when she struck and cried out for quarters. We ordered the boat and Captain on shore and then fired at the ship, but being quite dark, we supposed she had struck. By this time the privateers came up. A Captain of the Highlanders in the brigantine’s boat came on shore. Some time after, the ship got under way and stood for the Narrows, when a fine privateer brigantine [the Defence of the Connecticut navy], commanded by Captain Harding of New Haven, . . . and five schooners gave chase. The brig came alongside, when a hot engagement ensued, which lasted three quarters of an hour, when the ship struck. The brigantine floating, took advantage of the confusion and attempted to follow, both supposing the enemy in possession of Boston.” (Am. Arch., IV, vi, 946; Continental Journal, June 20, 1776. )

      The Defence had sailed from Plymouth in the morning. One of her lieutenants, Samuel Smedley, says that firing was heard in the direction of Boston. It was foggy, but cleared in the afternoon and the vessels in action were then seen. On account of light wind it was sunset before the Defence came up with the schooners, which were then making off, and learned that the strangers were transports. “We made the best of our way towards them and at eleven at night found them at anchor a small distance above where the Light-House formerly stood. We likewise ran close to them and anchored. Hailed them from whence they came. They answered from England. Captain Harding ordered them immediately to strike. They, like brave soldiers, refused and immediately a very heavy fire began and at the end of near two hours we made them surrender.” (Am. Arch., IV, vi, 1127.) According to this statement the Defence captured the transports without any help from the schooners, which Smedley accuses of cowardice and thinks should not share in the prizes. General Ward in his report says “that the Continental Privatiers have taken and brought into Nantasket in this Harbour a Ship and a Brig from Glasgow with two hundred and ten Highlanders on board.” (Pap. Cont. Congr., 152, 2, 99.) The losses are variously stated, the lowest for the Americans being three wounded, one of them mortally; for the British, four killed including a major, and eight or ten wounded. Two days later another vessel was taken, with one hundred and twelve Highlanders, but whether by privateers or by Washington’s fleet is not clear. There were now over four hundred soldiers, taken on transports, confined in the vicinity of Boston. It was reported that at just about the same time two more of these Scotch transports were taken by a Rhode Island privateer and sent into Dartmouth (New Bedford), and two others were captured by the Continental brig Andrew Doria (Continental Journal, June 20, 1776; N. E. Chronicle, June 20, July 4,1776; Boston Gazette, June 24, July 15, 1776; Letters of John and Abigail Adams, 95, 96; Tucker, 57-60; Stopford-Sackville MSS., 36; See ch. 6.)

      The capture of their transports was disturbing to the British authorities, and the Admiralty called upon Admiral Howe, who in 1776 relieved Admiral Shuldham in command of the North American station, for an investigation, to which he replied in February, 1777. In this report was inclosed a letter written by Shuldham in February, 1776, in which, referring to the earlier captures made by Washington’s fleet, he had suggested “that all Supplies to this Country might be sent in Armed Vessels, I mean such as our Old Forty Gun Ships with only their upper Tier of Guns, for however numerous our Cruizers may be or however attentive our Officers to their Duty, it has been found impossible to prevent some of our Ordnance and other valuable Stores, in small Vessels, falling into the hands of the Rebels, and here I must take occasion to say that in the course of my Service I never found Officers perform their Duty with so much perseverance and Vigilance as ours on this important Service; indeed the firmness with which they have resisted the rigor of this long and severe Winter in constantly keeping the Sea on their respective Stations is unprecedented and incredible. At the same time I must beg leave to observe to you the very few Ships I am provided with to enable me to co-operate with the Army, Cruize off the Ports of the Rebels to prevent their receiving Supplies, or protect those destined to this place from falling into their hands.” (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, February 26, 1776.) Howe’s inquiries brought out the fact that Shuldham in March, 1776, had detailed seven small cruisers to remain with Commodore Banks in Boston Harbor, in order to insure the safety of such transports as might arrive after the departure for Halifax of the main body of the British. Other service, however, prevented these vessels from being on hand when needed. The frigate Milford and two or three smaller vessels, with the Renown, made up the whole available force for the protection of the transports. Howe added that “respecting the Use that has been made of the Harbour of Boston as an Asylum for the Rebel Cruizers and their Prizes, their Lordships knowing the Nature and Circumstances of the Port will be apprised of the Impossibility to prevent an Enemy from profiting greatly by the Advantages of such a Situation.” (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, No. 24, February 20, 1777.)

      The vessels of Washington’s fleet continued to cruise in Massachusetts Bay during the whole of the year 1776. Captain Tucker in the Hancock and Captain Skimmer, who had taken Mugford’s place in the Franklin, captured the armed ship Peggy and two brigs in July. Tucker is said to have taken thirty or forty prizes in all, of which the last was brought into port in December and furnished the army with much-needed clothing. The operations of the fleet and of other American armed vessels were a good deal hampered by British cruisers in Massachusetts Bay. John Adams learned from a correspondent that “Our Bay is infested with 3 or 4 frigates which have retaken some valuable Prizes and interrupt our coasting trade.” (Adams MS., September 17,1776.) It was recorded in a newspaper that “Monday and Tuesday last the British Tyrant Frigate Milford was seen in our Bay, and to have two Schooners and a Sloop as Prizes. She has taken the Continental Privateer Warren, Capt. Burk, and is continually cruizing between Cape-Cod and Cape-Ann, that we apprehend she will intercept all our Trade. ‘Tis hoped that some of our American Frigates win come this Way and rid our Coast of this inhuman Plunderer.” (Continental Journal, September 5, 1776; Am. Arch., V, ii, 116.) The Warren is believed to have been the only one of Washington’s fleet to be captured, except the brigantine Washington taken in December, 1775. Early in the year 1777 the fleet was broken up by order of the Marine Committee; the Lee, however, continued to cruise several months longer. The vessels were disposed of as they were put out of commission, and some of the officers were taken into the Continental navy (Ibid,, i, 662, iii, 685, 799; Tucker, 61-65; Boston Gazette, July 8, August 5, September 9, 1776; Marine Committee Letter Book, 59, 62, 114 (February 7, March 21, November 22, 1777)

      Upon his arrival in New York in April, 1776, General Washington began to fit out another but much smaller fleet for the defense of the neighboring waters. He was aided by the cooperation of the New York Committee of Safety. Two sloops, the General Schuyler and the General Mifflin, were fitted out. Other vessels, wholly or partly under Washington’s control or under the New York Committee, were the schooner General Putnam, the sloop Montgomery and the galleys Lady Washington, Washington, and Spitfire. The galleys were used in the defense of the Hudson and the two last named came from Rhode Island. The larger vessels cruised, mostly about Long Island and along the New Jersey shore, with some success. In June one of the transports which had been captured by the Andrew Doria, as has just been related, was retaken by the British frigate Cerberus and was then taken again by the General Schuyler, under the command of Lieutenant Joseph Davison. In the same month the Schuyler, cruising in company with the Montgomery, recaptured four prizes of the British frigate Greyhound (Am. Arch., IV, vi, 410, 545, 563, 564, V, i, 141; N. E. Chronicle, July 4,1775; Washington, iv, 167, 318; Jour. N.Y. Prov. Congr., i, 416; R.I. Colonial Rec., vii, 582; Pap. Cont. Congr., 152, 2, 131 (Davison to Washington, June 27, 1776)

      On August 3, Lieutenant-Colonel Benjamin Tupper reported to General Washington the operations of a flotilla of five galleys on the Hudson: “I am now to inform your Excellency that my flag being hoisted on board of the Washington, I came up with the Ships [Phoenix and Rose] & attacked at 1/4 past One this Afternoon. The Phoenix fired the first Gun, which was return’d by the Lady Washington, whose Shot went thro the Phoenix. Upon my Orders the Lady Washington put about to form a Line; the tide was such that the Washington & Spitfire was exposed to the Broad Sides of the Ships for 1/2 of an hour without Suffering mutch Damage. We engaged them an hour & a half and then we thought to retreat to Dobb’s Ferry about 4 miles below the Ships.” (Pap. Cont. Congr., 152, 2, 337 (Tupper to Washington, August 3, 1776); Am. Arch., V, i, 766.) The Americans lost one killed and thirteen wounded, one of them mortally.

      Another account says that the Washington “came within grape shot of the ships and sustained their whole fire for a quarter of an hour before the other ships could come up, the Lady Washington falling into the line according to orders. The Spitfire advanced to the assistance of the Washington and behaved well. We had as hot a fire as perhaps ever was known for an hour and a half. The Washington, on board of which I was, had her bow guns knocked away, many of her oars, and some shot in her waist. The Lady Washington had her bow gun, a 32 pounder, split seven inches. The Spitfire was hulled between wind and water. The Phoenix was hulled six times. We had four men killed and fourteen wounded. Our force was very inferior to the enemy; the lower tier of one side of the Phoenix was equal to that of all gallies. Yet our Commodore resolved to attack them, and for six small gallies to lie near two hours within grape shot of one ship of 44 guns and another of 24 guns is no contemptible affair.” (Almon, iv, 49 (letter from Tarrytown, August 4, 1776) ; Am. Arch., V, i, 751.)

      The British account says that at one o’clock six of the Rebels’ schooners and Row Gallies attacked us. We began and kept up a constant fire at them for Two Hours, at which time they Row’d away down the River and came to an anchor in sight of us.” One of the galleys was seen to have sustained considerable damage. The Phoenix, which had received only two shot in her hull, prepared to run down to the American flotilla, but the wind shifted and the pilot advised against it on account of the narrowness of the channel (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, August 4,1776. See Mag. of History, November, 1905.) Two weeks later the Phoenix and Rose, at anchor in the river, were attacked by fireships (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, August 17, 1776. See ch. 5.) Movements in the immediate vicinity of New York were brought to an end after the occupation of that place by the British in August, 1776.

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