Naval Operations in 1779 | 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.”



      Taking into account the heavy losses of the last two years, the Continental navy still showed vigor at the opening of 1779 and rendered valuable service during the year. The British, in spite of their naval superiority, were not free from solicitude as to the possibilities of the American sea forces. Admiral Gambier reported that there were at Boston December 6, 1778, fifteen vessels of war, including five Continental frigates, and January 10, 1779, he wrote: “A Report prevails that one 40, four 32, one 28, and two 20 Gun Ships of the Rebels sailed about ten days ago from Boston; this Circumstance if true is very alarming, not only on Account of the probability of their falling in with our victuallers, but on Account of the present reduced numbers of our Ships, and they much divided, the Coppered Frigates could not without the greatest danger from Ice have been kept on this part of the Coast during the Winter Season.” He wrote later, on the authority of a privateer, that three frigates had sailed from Boston January 18, “in order to Cruise off the Chesepeak,” and that they had been seen ten days later, off the Delaware capes (Brit. Adm. Rec., A.D. 489, Nos. 19, 22, 25, December 20, 1778, January 10, February 3, 1779.) His information in regard to both these sailings was obviously incorrect.

      A few new Continental vessels went into commission or into active service, the most important of which were the frigates Alliance and Confederacy, of thirty-two guns each; the first was built in Massachusetts, the other in Connecticut. The Confederacy was a hundred and thirty-three feet long, with an extreme breadth of thirty-five feet, six inches, and was designed to carry twenty-eight guns on the main deck, six on the quarter deck, and two on the forecastle. These ships, which had been authorized by Congress two years or more before, encountered the usual difficulties and delays in getting ready for sea. The Marine Committee in their efforts to expedite matters issued many orders which, owing to slow communication and uncertainty as to the condition of vessels and the state of affairs in distant ports, were frequently modified or changed. On February 10th it was arranged that the Confederacy, Captain Harding, then at New London, should make a short cruise in Long Island Sound with two vessels of the Connecticut navy. Later she was to join the Queen of France in a cruise along the Atlantic coast, in which the Ranger was to take part. Captain Olney of the Queen of France, the senior officer, was ordered to “sweep in the first place this coast from the Southward of Cape May to the Bar of Charles Town and afterwards to Cruize in such Latitudes and Longitudes which are best calculated to give the greatest aid and protection to the Trade of Delaware, Chesapeake and Charles Town, and as often as circumstances and the safety of your Ships will admit of it, you are to enter the mouths of Delaware and Chesapeake for the purpose of destroying the small Armed Vessels from New York that lurk about the Capes to the certain destruction of almost every Merchantman that sails; you are at the same time to be extreamly cautious in continuing in any of these places so long as to render yourself a certain Object for the pursuit of the enemy. If in the Course of this Cruize you should meet with the Deane or the Confederacy or both of them, it is our orders that you and they proceed on this Cruize in Company, under the command of the Superior Officer, to execute these Orders; and least you should be seperated by Storms or other circumstances, it would be advisable to establish such Private Signals that when the Ships meet again they may be known to each other as friends. The great delay, expence and trouble in manning the Ships for Sea has induced this committee to direct and Order you to continue this Cruize as long as your Provisions and other circumstances will admit . . . The superiority of the Naval force of the enemy on this Coast and the misfortunes that have heretofore happened to some of our Ships will, we trust, make you extreamly vigilant and active; the confidence we repose in your fidility, courage and good conduct gives us every reason to hope for a successful Cruize. Most of the Armed Vessels from New York are inferior in force to yourself, which will put it in your power to aid the Trade of the Southern States by destroying many of them and thereby to render not only essential service to the Public, but to add to the honor and reputation of your own character. You are to keep these Instructions a profound secret and when the state of your Provisions requires, you will return into the Port of Philadelphia or some convenient one in the Bay of Chesapeake.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 195, 196, 197 (to Olney, to Governor Trumbull, to Harding, and to Navy Board, Boston, all dated February 10, 1779). The measurements of the Confederacy are taken from Wolcott MSS., February 12,1777.)

      A little later, orders were sent to the Navy Board at Boston to get the frigate Providence ready for sea immediately and again for her to cruise on the Atlantic coast. Then these orders were transferred to the Warren, and later still the committee decided to hold the Warren in port and fit out the Providence for a four months’ cruise; and then to send the Boston to the southern coast. Apparently in accordance with this last order, the Navy Board at Boston instructed Captain Tucker, April 6, to proceed with his ship, the frigate Boston, in company with the sloop Providence, on a ten days’ cruise in Massachusetts Bay and along the Maine shore and then to go south. It does not appear that any of these instructions were, at the time at least, carried out precisely according to the intentions of the Marine Committee. The delay in fitting out the Confederacy was so great that the committee determined to relieve Captain Harding from command, should he be found responsible. That frigate did not get to sea until the end of April (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 200, 201, 204, 206, 210 (February 21, 26, March 9, 21, 26, April 27, 1779, to Navy Board, Boston), 207 (April 17, 1779, to Harding), 211 (April 27, 1779, to Deshon); Tucker MSS., April 6,1779; Boston Post, May 8,1779.)

      Meanwhile the frigates Deane, Captain Nicholson, and Alliance, Captain Landais, sailed together from Boston January 14. Pierre Landais was a French naval officer of experience, having sailed around the world with the famous navigator Bougainville; he had embarked in the American cause and on the recommendation of Silas Deane had been appointed a captain in the Continental navy. The Alliance was bound to France and parted with her consort on the third day out (Publ. R. I. Hist. Soc., viii, 258; Wharton, ii, 387; Stevens, 1552.) The Deane soon captured an armed ship of the enemy which was sent back to Boston. “Last Thursday,” February 4, a newspaper announces, “arrived in this Harbour the ship Viper, taken by Capt. Samuel Nicholson, in the Continental Frigate Deane; she is a letter of Marque fitted out at Liverpool, mounting 16 Guns and 75 Men . . . Capt. Nicholson took and burnt a ship belonging to London in ballast from New York to Cadiz.” The Deane cruised about four months, most of the time in the West Indies. While there she fell in with the Continental ship General Gates, which had sailed from Boston in December and had taken several prizes. The Deane returned to the United States and went into Philadelphia April 17 (Publ. R.I. Hist. Soc., viii, 258, 259; Boston Post, February 6, May 1, 1779; Adams MSS., April 10, 1779, Vernon to Adams.)

      The Ranger sailed from Portsmouth for Boston
      February 24 and the same evening anchored in Nantasket Roads. The frigates Warren, Commodore John B. Hopkins, and Queen of France, Captain Olney, and the Ranger, Captain Simpson, having finally got ready for sea, sailed from Boston March 13. The log of the Ranger, under date of April 6, says: “At 6 A.M.,” being sixteen miles east of Cape Henry, “saw 2 sails, gave Chase to one of them; at 1/2 past 6 the Warren and Queen of France hois’d English Colours and fired a gun to Leeward, as did we, which she answered and bro’t too at 7. We brought too, found her to be the Hibernia, a Schooner of 10 guns, a british Privatier; sent 2 of Our People on Board to help man her and now She remains in Concord with us.” The next morning, ,at 1/2 past 5 saw a Fleet of 9 sails to the N. E., at 6 made sail and gave Chase, at 8 Tack’d Ship [by] Signal and made all the Sail we could, alow and aloft; found we gained on the Fleet, our Consort the Warren out sailing us all.” In the afternoon: “Pleasant gales and fair weather. The Warren, Queen of France & Our Selves in Chase of the Fleet; at 4 P.M. came up with” them. Hopkins reported to the Marine Committee April 18 that on the 6th “we fell in with the armed schooner Hibernia from New York, with 45 men, which we took; and on the 7th at 4 o’clock A.M. in latitude 36.40 discovered two fleets, one to leeward consisting of ten sail, the other to windward, of nine sail. We gave chace to the windward-most, and at about two o’clock took seven sail, consisting of the following vessels, viz.: Ship Jason, Capt. Porterfield, mounting 20 nine and six pounders, 150 men, convoy to the fleet bound from N. York to Georgia, having passengers on board as per the enclosed list; Ship Meriah, a letter of marque mounting 16 six pounders, 84 men, very richly laden with provisions, dry goods and accoutrements for a regiment of horse; Brig Patriot, brig Prince Ferdinand, brig John, brig Batchelor, schooner Chance, laden with provisions and goods for the army, to a very large amount. As soon as they were manned we thought best to stand to the eastward, having had intelligence of a large number of armed vessels being off Chesapeak and Delaware Bays.” Among the passengers on board the Jason were a colonel, a lieutenant-colonel, two captains and two lieutenants. The Ranger’s log for the 9th says: “Jogging under easy sail, to keep our little Fleet together.” April 10: “The Patriot being a heavy Sailer, the Warren at 7 took her in tow.” Hopkins’s report continues: “On the 16th instant I arrived in this port [Boston], having parted with the fleet on the 11th in a thick fog. The next day the Jason arrived, which is a very fine ship; also the schooner at Portsmouth, which is a very valuable vessel. Several vessels are now in sight, which I hope is some of the fleet. By the activity of Captains Olney and Simpson we manned the fleet in four hours.” (Penn. Gazette, April 28,1779.) The Queen of France arrived in Boston several days after the Warren and Jason, bringing in with her the Maria, Hibernia, and three brigs. The other two prizes were taken into Portsmouth April 21 by the Ranger. The Jason and Hibernia were afterwards fitted out as privateers and made successful cruisers. The Ranger returned to Boston harbor in June and anchored again in Nantasket Roads (Boston Gazette, April 19, 26, 1779; Boston Post, May 22, July 31, 1779; Log of the Ranger.)

      The Marine Committee were greatly pleased with the results of this cruise, sent a congratulatory letter to Hopkins, and proposed to purchase the Jason and Hibernia and take them into the naval service; but a more thorough knowledge of all the circumstances caused a change of sentiment. May 20, the committee wrote to the Navy Board at Boston: “Since ours of the 4th instant we are favoured with yours of the 28th Ultimo, whereby we find there is reason to conclude that Captain Hopkins has violated his Orders by returning into Port when he should have continued to Cruize and by not sending the Prizes he took into the nearest Port; and we find also that Captain Olney has acted contradictory to your Orders by comeing up to Boston when you had expressly required him to remain with his Ship in [Nantasket] road. We now direct that you immediately order a Court of Inquiry to inquire into the Conduct of those Two commanders during their late Cruize, and afterward if necessary a Court Martial. lf you find the prosecution of that business will produce any delay in getting the Ships again to Sea, it is our desire that you suspend the said Commanders and put in others, and in that case we recommend Captain Saltonstal and Captain Rathbourne to be appointed in their room. We deem it highly necessary for the good of the service that the orders of your Board should be obeyed by all Officers of the Navy under your direction, and we desire that you will cause Courts of enquiry to be held, when it is your Opinion the good of the service requires it, on the conduct of such Officers as may disobey your Orders or in any other manner may misbehave. We highly disaprove of Captain Hopkins sending an Officer to this place with a Letter contrary to the Orders of your Board, which disobedience of Orders in this as well as in other instances were unknown to us when we wrote him a Letter of approbation; and we consider it very injurious to the service for the Officers to get themselves appointed Agents for their men as well as dishonorable to such Officers.” As a result of this exercise of discipline Captains Hopkins and Olney were suspended from the navy and they seem never again to have held any command in the Continental service. Captains Saltonstall and Rathburne were appointed to command the frigates Warren and Queen of France. The sequel will suggest a doubt as to whether the change in the case of the Warren was to the advantage of the country (Mar. Com. letter Book, 213 (to Hopkins, May 4, 1779), 210, 213, 215, 216, 222 (to Navy Board, Boston, April 27, 30, May 20, 26, June 21, 1779); Adams MSS., May 25, 1779, Vernon to Adams.)

      After a successful cruise in the West Indies the Continental cutter Revenge, Captain Conyngham, sailed north and arrived at Philadelphia February 21, 1779. Here the Revenge was sold, but the purchaser fitted her out as a privateer and Conyngham was put in command again, under his Continental commission of May 2,1777. In April the Revenge was captured by the British frigate Galatea and taken into New York. Conyngham was sent to England in irons and treated with great severity. He was accused of piracy on the ground that his cruise in the Surprise in the spring of 1777 preceded the date of his commission. His first commission, dated March 1, 1777, had been taken from him at Dunkirk and sent to Versailles. Search was made for this earlier commission, but without success (This commission has come to light within a few years and is in the possession of James Barnes, Esq., of New York.) Franklin’s assurance, however, that it had existed apparently resulted in some amelioration of Conyngham’s treatment. He was removed to Plymouth and in November, 1779, after several unsuccessful attempts, he escaped from Mill Prison with about fifty others. He proceeded first to London and thence found his way to Holland (Penn. Mag. Hist. and Biogr., January, 1899; Outlook, January 3, 1903; Hale, i, 342-350; Almon, viii, 340; Maryland Journal, March 2, 1779; Penn. Gazette, August 4, 1779; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 201, 217 (March 10, June 2, 1779); Archives de la Marine B8 16 (Avril, Novembre, 1779)

      About the first of the year the sloop Providence, Captain Rathburne, took five prizes, all of which seem to have arrived safely in port. One of these was a ship from Glasgow which had been taken by an American privateer, retaken by the British, and then captured again by the Providence. Early in April the Providence was ordered to make a short cruise in Massachusetts Bay and along the coast of Maine in company with the frigate Boston. Later she was sent south of Cape Cod. May 7, at nine o’clock in the morning, while cruising off Sandy Hook, the Providence, now commanded by Captain Hacker, was seen from the British brig Diligent, whose captain, testifying at his court martial, says that about noon, “as soon as I had taken measures for fighting him on the Larboard side, the side his Boom was of, he Gibed & luffed across.” The Diligent luffed and received two broadsides and two volleys of musketry before returning the fire of the Providence. “Not an officer except myself unhurt, being deserted by the remains of my Crew except seven, five of them wounded . . . Masts, Rigging & Hull cut all to pieces,” was forced to surrender to the Providence. The Diligent carried twelve three- pounders and fifty-four men; the Providence, according to this English captain, six six-pounders, six fours, two twos, and eighty-three men. The Americans lost four killed and ten wounded; the British, eleven killed and nineteen wounded. The Diligent was taken into the Continental naval service (Boston Post, January 16, 1779; Independent Chronicle, January 21, 1779 ; Penn. Packet, May 25, 1779; Maryland Journal, June 1, 1779; Adams MSS. April 10, May 25,1779; Tucker MSS., April 6, 1779; Brit, Adm. Rec., Courts Martial, No. 5311 (August 21, 1779)

      In the spring the frigate Boston, Captain Tacker, in response to the instructions of March 26, came south to Chesapeake Bay and on April 27 was ordered to Delaware Bay. The Confederacy, after long delay, sailed from New London April 29, and a month later was in Delaware Bay. Meanwhile the Deane had arrived at Philadelphia from the West Indies April 17. The plans of the Marine Committee, which required frequent modification to suit the exigencies of changing circumstances, were defined for the moment in their letter of May 20 to the Navy Board at Boston. “We have lately had sufficient reason to lay asside the expedition intended against the enemys force on the Coast of Georgia, and the service the frigate Providence was intended for, is supplied by another Ship; therefore it is now our intention to place our collected Naval force in such a manner as to accomplish the double purpose of intercepting the enemies outward bound Transports for New York from Great Britain and Ireland & the homeward bound West India Ships. But if the Providence & Ranger should be ready for Sea more than a fortnight before the other Ships, that then you order those Ships to proceed to Cruize for the above purpose, marking out to them their Cruizing ground in such a manner as there may be the greatest possible certainty of being joined by the other Ships as soon as they shall be ready.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 206,215 (to Navy Board, Boston, March 26, May 20, 1779), 209 (April 21, 1779), 211 (to Tucker, April 27, 1779); Boston Post, May 8, 1779.)

      The Deane, Boston, and Confederacy being all in Delaware Bay by the end of May, a cruise along the Atlantic coast was planned for them by the Marine Committee. Instructions for the Boston and Confederacy were dated June 2. To Tucker the committee wrote: “The Ship Boston which you command and the Frigate Confederacy, Captain Harding, being now ready for Sea, they are directed to Sail in company with each other on a Cruize upon this Coast from the Latitude of Forty to thirty-five degrees and to take, burn, sink or destroy as many of the enemys Ships or Vessels of every Kind as may be in their power. The Prizes you will Order into the nearest and safest Ports, addressed to the Continental Agents in those Ports. And as this Committee have received authentic intelligence that a number of the enemys Privateers are Cruizing near the Latitude of 36, in expectation of falling in with a fleet of Merchant Vessels bound from the West Indies . . . it is their first Object to frustrate the designs of the enemy by Capturing or destroying their Vessels and to afford every aid and assistance in their power to the inward bound Merchantmen.” They were also to give their attention to two British frigates said to have been sent out from New York “to cruize upon this Coast . . . and we need not remind you how greatly it would redound to your reputation and the honor of the American flag to capture or destroy these ships. You are to continue cruizing for the space of three weeks from your Departure from the Capes of Delaware,” and then return to Delaware Bay for further orders. “As the Object of this Cruise is to take or destroy the enemys Privateers or small ships of war and give every aid and assistance to the Merchant men, the Committee direct you to confine yourself strictly to the Latitudes above mentioned and to such Longitudes as are best calculated to answer that purpose. But if from circumstances it should happen that the Public Service necessarily requires you to exceed those Limits, then you are at liberty to do it. The Ship General Greene, Captain Montgomery, belonging to the State of Pennsylvania, now in this Bay, will have Orders from His Excellency President Reed to act in conjunction with you during this Cruize. Captain Harding will be furnished with a Copy of these Instructions and will be directed to Obey your Orders as Senior Officer. It is expected that before you put to Sea you will fix with him a proper System of Signals for the Ships under your command. The Confidence we repose in your Courage and good Conduct gives us every reason to hope for a Successful Cruize.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 218 (to Tucker), 219 (to Harding, June 2, 1779) Ten days later, the frigate Deane being ready for sea, essentially the same orders were sent to Captain Nicholson. In case he should fall in with the Boston and Confederacy, he was to cruise in company with them, returning to the Delaware capes by July 1. “When joined to those Ships, you, being the Senior Officer, will have under your direction three fine frigates, which we doubt not will be judiciously managed and we recommend to you to cultivate strict harmony with the Commanders of those Ships as being essentially necessary for the Public good.” (lbid., 221 (to Nicholson, June 12,1779) Few details of this short cruise have been preserved. A number of captures seem to have been made, the most important of which was the British privateer ship Pole of twenty-four guns, taken by the Boston (Tucker, ch. vi; Penn. Gazette, June 16, 1779; Boston Gazette, July 5, 1779; Tucker MSS., June 28,1779, Nicholson to Tucker.)

      On the 18th of June the frigates Providence, Commodore Whipple, and Queen of France, Captain Rathburne, and the Ranger, Captain Simpson, sailed from Boston on a cruise to the eastward. The log of the Ranger records the capture of a vessel July 20 and another the next day; they were both from Jamaica. A midshipman on the Queen of France gives an account of falling in with a Jamaica fleet of a hundred and fifty sail one morning about the middle of July near the Banks of Newfoundland in a dense fog. Nothing could be seen, but the sound of signal guns and ships’ bells indicated the presence of a fleet. When the fog lifted, about eleven o’clock, the Queen of France found herself close by a large merchant ship from whom it was learned that the fleet was under convoy of a seventy-four and several frigates and sloops of war. Under the pretense of being a British frigate the Queen of France sent a boat to the English ship and quietly took possession of her, and then took another ship in the same manner. Commodore Whipple at first feared discovery and capture by the convoy, but was induced to remain in the fleet all day with his squadron. No alarm was excited among the Englishmen, and eleven ships were taken in this way by the Americans. They succeeded in getting away at nightfall without arousing any suspicion. Andrew Sherburne, a seaman on the Ranger, gives a somewhat different account of this affair. He says: “Our little squadron was in the rear of the fleet and we had reason to fear that some of their heaviest armed ships were there also … No time was to be lost. Our commodore soon brought to one of their ships, manned and sent her off. Being to windward, he edged away and spoke to our Captain. We were at this time in pursuit of a large ship. The Commodore hauled his wind again and in the course of an hour we came up with the ship, which proved to be the Holderness, a three decker mounting 22 guns. She struck, after giving her several broadsides. Although she had more guns and those of heavier metal than ourselves, her crew was not sufficiently large to manage her guns and at the same time work the ship. She was loaded with cotton, coffee, sugar, rum and alspice. While we were employed in manning her, our Commodore captured another and gave her up to us to man also. When this was accomplished it was nearly night; we were, however, unwilling to abandon the opportunity of enriching ourselves, therefore kept along under easy sail. Some time in the night we found ourselves surrounded with ships and supposed we were discovered. We could distinctly hear their bells, on which they frequently struck a few strokes, that their ships might not approach too near each other during the night. We were close on board one Of their largest armed ships and from the multitude of lights which had appeared, supposed that they had called to quarters. It being necessary to avoid their convoy, we fell to leeward and in an hour lost sight of them all. The next day the sky was overcast and at times we had a thick fog. In the afternoon the sun shone for a short time and enabled us to see a numerous fleet a few miles to windward, in such compact order that we thought it not best to approach them. We were however in hopes that we might pick up some single ship. We knew nothing of our consorts, but were entirely alone. Towards night we took and manned out a brig. On the third morning we gained sight of three ships, to which we gave chase and called all hands to quarters. When they discovered us in chase, they huddled together, intending as we supposed to fight us. They however soon made sail and ran from us; after a short lapse of time we overhauled and took one of them, which we soon found to be a dull sailer. Another, while we were manning our prize, attempted to escape, but we soon found that we gained upon her. While in chase a circumstance occurred which excited some alarm. Two large ships hove in sight to windward running directly for us under a press of sail. One of them shaped her course for the prize we had just manned. We were unwilling to give up our chase, as we had ascertained from our prize that the two other ships were … unarmed. We soon came up with the hindmost, brought her to and ordered her to keep under our stern, while we might pursue the other, as our situation was too critical to allow us to heave to and get out our boat. The stranger in chase of us was under English colors; we however soon ascertained by her signal that she was the Providence frigate, on board of which was our commodore. This joyful intelligence relieved us from all fear of the enemy and we soon came up with our chase . . . We now ascertained that the strange ship, which was in chase of our first prize, was another of our consorts, the Queen of France.” Three of the eleven prizes taken from the Jamaica fleet were afterwards recaptured, but the other eight, worth with their cargoes over a million dollars, were brought safely into port when the squadron returned to Boston about a month later. Whipple received the congratulations of the Marine Committee (Clark, i, 94; Memoirs of Andrew Sherburne, 21-23; Boston Gazette, September 27, 1779; Log of the Ranger; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 229, 233, 234 (August 24, September 7, 1779), 238 (to Whipple, September 19,1779)

      The Massachusetts brigs Tyrannicide, Captain Hallet, and Hazard, Captain Williams, did most of the cruising on behalf of their state in 1779, and with some success. The Hazard was in the West Indies early in the year, and on March 12 sailed from Martinique in company with the Continental ship General Gates, Captain Waters. On the 16th, off St. Thomas, the Hazard captured the privateer brigantine Active, from Antigua, after a “smart action for 35 minutes, yard arm and yard arm.” (Independent Chronicle, April 8, 1779.) The Active carried eighteen four-pounders and ninety-five men; she lost thirteen killed and twenty wounded. The American loss was three killed and eight wounded. The prize arrived safely in port. The Hazard also fought with a British ship of fourteen guns and eighty men, but did not succeed in capturing her. After having taken several prizes in all, Captain Williams returned to Boston in April. The General Gates returned about the same time and soon afterwards was sold out of the Continental service (Mass. Archives, cli, 271, cliii, 133, 150, 167, 208; Boston Gazette, February 22, April 12, 1779; Clark, i, 90; Publ. R. I. Hist. Soc., viii, 259; Massachusetts Mag., July, 1908; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 208, 219 (April 19, June 7, 1779)

      Meanwhile the Tyrannicide had sailed from Nantasket Roads, March 9, for Martha’s Vineyard, but encountered a gale off Cape Cod and ran off to the southward. March 29, in latitude 28° 30′ north, longitude 68° 25′ west, the British privateer brig Revenge of Grenada, carrying fourteen carriage guns, six- and four-pounders, four swivels and two coehorns, and sixty men, was seen “at 4 o’clock P.M. about 4 leagues to windward coming down upon us. Upon which,” says Captain Hallet, “I cleared ship and got all hands to their quarters ready for action, then stood close upon the wind, waiting for her till about half past six P.M., when she came up and hailing me, asked where I was from. I told them from Boston. I asked them where they were from and was answered, they were a British cruiser from Jamaica. I immediately reply’d that I was an American cruiser, upon which they ordered me to strike, but finding me not disposed to gratify their desires, they run up under my lee and saluted me with a broadside. Without loss of time I returned the compliment and dropping astern got under their lee, where our fires were so warm from below and from our tops and the shots so well directed, we dismounted two of their guns, drove the men from their quarters, and compelled them to strike to the American flag. The engagement lasted one hour and a quarter, during which we were not half pistol shot distant and some part of the time our yards were locked in with theirs.” (Boston Gazette, April 19, 1779.) “I had Eight men wounded, only two of which are Bad; amongst the wounded are my first Lieut. & Master. I intended to man her and keep her as a Consort during the Cruise, but having twenty wounded Men on board, of my own men & prisoners, I thought it Best to send her home, with all the wounded men on board under the Care of the Sergeon’s Mate.” (Massachusetts Mag., April, 1908.) The Revenge lost eight killed and fourteen wounded. She arrived safely in Boston and the Tyrannicide followed April 25, having captured two other vessels, one of them a fourteen-gun ship (Mass. Rev. Rolls, xliv, 408; Boston Gazette, April 19, 26,1779; Roston Post, May 1, 1779; Clark, i, 91.)

      Captain Williams, on his return to Boston in the Hazard, was met with certain charges brought against him by the Board of War, the nature of which is not stated. He was exonerated, however, by a joint committee of the General Court, and a few days later that body passed a resolve renouncing all claim on the part of the state to the privateers Active and Revenge “in testimony of their approbation of the spirit and good conduct of the said” Williams and Hallet and their officers and men. The Active was purchased by order of the General Court and taken into the Massachusetts navy. She was put under the command of Captain Hallet and in June was ordered on a cruise (Mass. Court Rec., April 20, 23, June 11, 1779; Boston Gazette, April 26, 1779; Massachusetts Mag., October, 1909.)

      In May the Hazard and the Tyrannicide, now commanded by Captain John Cathcart, were ordered to cruise in company alongshore, “first in the Vineyard Sound, then round the Island of Nantucket . . . to clear the Coast of the Picaroons that infest them.” (Mass. Archives, cli, 467, 468.) A party of British and tories had recently raided along the south shore of Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket; in September a proclamation was issued by British officers threatening the people of Nantucket with hostilities if they did not observe strict neutrality. In the Sound the Massachusetts vessels fell in with the Continental sloop Providence and brig Diligent and early in June, in Buzzard’s Bay, were joined by the Continental sloop Argo, Captain Talbot. June 15, Cathcart wrote to the Board of War that at half past eight that morning the Tyrannicide and Hazard chased a ship and brig, which “hove too for us & hauld up their Courses, upon which I spoke Capt. Williams & we agreed to Engage them, he to take the Ship & I the Brig, upon which I pass’d the Ship & gave her two Broadsides & then ran along side the Brig & after exchanging 6 or 7 Broadsides she struck, the Ship in the mean time having struck to Captain Williams.” (Mass. Archives, cliii, 229.) The brig was a letter of marque mounting twelve six-pounders; she got safely into New Bedford. The ship was a recapture, having been taken by two British privateers. Meanwhile, in order to insure continuous protection, the General Court had, on June 11, directed the Board of War to arrange a series of cruises in rotation by the different vessels of the state navy along the eastern and southern shores of the state (Mass. Court Rec., April 15, June 11, 1779; Mass. Archives, cliii, 219, 224, 229, 230; Boston Post, April 10, 1779; Independent Chronicle, April 15, 1779; Boston Gazette, October 11, 1779; Almon, viii, 268-271; Clark, i, 92.)

      The Connecticut navy lost its two most important vessels in 1779. In March the Defence was wrecked on the shore of her native state. The Oliver Cromwell, Captain Parker, sailed from New London June 3. On the morning of the 6th, Parker saw a sail and gave chase. Half an hour later he saw four other sail, three of them large ships. He then hauled close and one of the ships chased the Cromwell, the others soon joining in on signal from the first. They showed English colors and gained fast. “We found,” says Parker’s report, “that Fighting would be Inevitable. Therefore ordered the Ship to be Cleared and all hands to Quarters in good Season. Att about half after Ten A.M. we Began to play upon the Enemy with our Stern Chases and as She Closed up with us verry fast, in order the better to make use of our lee guns, we Shortened Sail by halling Down the Stay Sails and keeping before the wind. A pretty warm Action Ensued for about the Space of one hour, in which we had two men killed and one Mortally wounded, Two Slightly wounded. The Consequence of our keeping before the wind while Engaging (a Circumstance that could not be avoided) Brought the Enemies other Ships Close up with us verry fast; and as we found we had Considerably Disabled our Antagonist By Shooting away his main Topmast, we again halled our wind to the Northward, Thinking thereby to out sail him so much, before he could Repair his Damages, as to bring on night and if we could not avoid him, we hoped at least to have Seperated him from his other Consorts.” The Cromwell drew away from her antagonist, but by half-past two in the afternoon the English ship had repaired damages and renewed the chase. She gained fast and soon came up under the Cromwell’s lee quarter. Meanwhile the other ships had also gained. “We were under the Necessity of Shortening our Sail and keeping before the wind again, in order to Enable us to fight our lee guns. The Action began again about 3 P.M. and Continued till a little after 4 Do. In this last action we had two men wounded; one had his Right arm and Collar bone broke by a Splinter, the other a flesh wound in the thigh by a nine pound shot. The Damages Done to the Ships Hull were Inconsiderable. She had her main and fore Stays Shott away, with one or two of her main & Mizen Shrouds, her main and fore Braces, and a nine pound shot through the head of her Mizen mast. By which time the Delewar Frigate and Union Privateer were closing up with us so fast, we found no Possibility of avoiding a Contest with Treble our force. Both officers and men appeared to be Brave and undaunted. I had a short Consultation with my Principal Officers. We hoped we had Done our Duty, we hoped we had Done Enough to Convince our Enemies as well as Others that we Dare oppose them and, as we then thought, with Spirit too, though on Disadvantageous Terms.” (Trumbull MSS., ix, 237.) The Oliver Cromwell then lowered her colors. She was taken into the British service and her name was changed to Restoration (Trumbull MSS., ix, 93, 95, 237; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 39, 41, 42; Boston Gazette, September 20, 1779.)

      Lieutenant-Colonel Silas Talbot, after his capture of the Pigot in 1778, was employed in protecting the Rhode Island coast from the ravages of the enemy’s privateers, which did great damage along shore. The Pigot was taken into the Continental service and seems to have sailed in company with Talbot, who commanded a sloop called the Argo, mounting twelve six-pounders. He captured six privateers, some of them of superior force to the Argo, and a number of merchantmen. One of his prizes was taken from him by three brigantines from Philadelphia. A letter from Providence, dated August 10, says: “This moment an express arrived from New London with an account of the gallant, intrepid Talbot’s taking [the] infamous villain Stanton Hazard, in a Brig of 14 guns out of Newport, after a short action. Talbot was in a small sloop [the Argo] of 12 guns, and had an inferior number of men on board to the Tory privateer, which was fitted out on purpose to attack & take Talbot’s sloop.” (Boston Gazette, August, 16, 1779.) Hazard was a loyalist, a native of Rhode Island, who had made himself obnoxious to the people of that vicinity. September 17, Congress made Talbot a captain in the Continental navy (lbid., September 6, 20, 1779; Boston Post, October 2, 1779; Talbot, ch. iv; Pap. Cont. Congr., 37,193,197, 201, 209 (November 4, 11, 1779, February 28,1780) ; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 256 (January 25, 1779)

      Oliver Pollock, the commercial agent of Congress at New Orleans, had supervision of naval affairs on the Mississippi River and was authorized to commission both vessels and officers for the Continental service and for privateers. In commissioning and fitting out vessels and in otherwise executing the orders of Congress, Pollock was encouraged and assisted by the Spanish governor of Louisiana, Bernardo de Galvez, who was very friendly to American interests. In 1778, Pollock purchased the ship Rebecca, one of several prizes taken on the Mississippi by a party of Americans under Captain James Willing, who had come down the river from Ohio. A year later this vessel, renamed the Morris, had been armed with twenty-four guns, fully manned, under the command of Captain William Pickles, and ready for sea, when she was unfortunately destroyed by a hurricane, August 18, 1779, and eleven of her crew were lost. Governor Galvez then provided an armed schooner for the use of the Americans; this vessel seems also to have been called the Morris, or Morris’s tender. Pickles cruised in this schooner and “Captur’d in Septr. a Vessell of very superior force in Lake Ponchetrain, after a very severe conflict.” (Pap. Cont. Congr., 50, 9 (September 18, 1782) ; Sparks MSS., xli, 42.) The prize was a British sloop called the West Florida. She was fitted out by Pollock and under the command of Pickles cruised on Lake Pontchartrain during the fall and captured a British settlement. The surrender of the British posts on the Mississippi to Galvez soon followed. Later the West Florida assisted the governor in the capture of Mobile and then proceeded to Philadelphia, where she was sold out of the service (Pap. Cont. Congr., 19, 5, 193 (July 10, 1780), 37, 251, 535, 537, 541 (January 20, June 7, November 20, December 5, 1780), 50, 1-13, 66, 77-81, 97, 120-125; Jour. Cont. Congr., July 10, December 8,1780; Sparks MSS., xli, 7, 10, 16, 22, 23, 36, 41, 42; Penn. Gazette, June 7, 1780; Almon, ix, 359-365; Stopford-Sackville MSS., 122; Paullin, 307-311.)

      Through Commodore Collier, commanding a squadron in Chesapeake Bay in the spring of 1779, came the intelligence that “Capt. Henry, R. N., Senior Officer in Georgia, reports in letter dated April 16, 1779, from Savannah, Ga., that 2 Rebel Galleys, Called Congress and Lee, former of 1 18 Pounder and one 12 in her Prow, two 9 pdr and 2 Sixes in her Waste & manned with 100 Men; the other with 130 French & carrying one 12 and one 9 Pdr. in her Prow, 2 fours and 2 one Pounders besides swivels in her Waste, attacked H. M. S. Greenwich & Galleys Comet, Thunder & Hornet off Yamasee Bluff, & that action ended with Capture of Rebel galleys.” This was a death-blow to the Georgia navy, and its revival was made impossible by British control of the waters of that state until the end of the war (Brit. Adm. Rec., Captains’ Letters, No. 1612, 2 (May 22,1779); Almon, viii, 298; Paullin, 461.)

      Admiral Gambier sailed for England April 5, and the day before his departure, Collier “received a commission as Commodore and Commander-in-Chief of the King’s fleet in America.” Of the condition of this fleet he complained, saying that “the weak enfeebled state of the ships, both in point of numbers and of men, give me the most painful sensations. I ardently wish to prove myself deserving of the great trust I am honoured with, by the most spirited exertions.” These exertions were first directed towards Virginia, “the province which of all others gives sinews to the rebellion from its extensive traffick. (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 125, 126 (Collier to Germain.) The British fleet, which sailed May 5 from New York for Chesapeake Bay under Collier’s command, consisted of the sixty-four gun ship Raisonable, the Rainbow of forty-four guns, “the Otter, Diligent and Haerlem, sloops, and Cornwallis galley, together with several private ships of war and twenty-two transports having on board” about two thousand troops under General Mathew. The Diligent must have been captured before the squadron arrived in Chesapeake Bay. “At sunrise” on the 10th, says Collier, ,we saw some rebel ships and vessels in Hampton Road with their sails loose, who, as soon as the tide admitted of it, got under weigh and ran up Elizabeth and James rivers; our fleet also weighed and the Raisonable anchored shortly after in Hampton Road, her great draught of water not admitting of her going further with conveniency. I immediately shifted my broad pendant to the Rainbow and proceeded with the fleet up Elizabeth river, till a contrary wind and the ebb tide obliged us to anchor. The next morning being calm prevented the ships from moving with the flood, on account of the narrowness and intricacy of the channel.” The troops advanced, however, nearly to Portsmouth, supported by a galley and two gunboats; and a breeze springing up, the ships soon followed. The American fort on the river was evacuated. Much property was destroyed and many vessels were seized by the British, others being saved from the same fate by destruction at the hands of the Americans. The Otter and a number of other small vessels were sent up the Chesapeake. “The movements of this little squadron were so judicious that the enemy were much harrassed and distressed; they destroyed many vessels and captured others.” (Almon, viii, 290, 291, 293 (Collier to Clinton, May 16, and to Stephens, May 17, 1779) In a later report Collier says: “The fort was raz’d, the season’d timber for ship building burnt, the buildings and storehouses of the finest yard on this continent underwent the same fate; the sufferings of individuals I endeavoured to prevent all in my power and in general happily succeeded, and by it I hope have procured many friends to the royal cause.” (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 129.) Collier wished to remain longer and to keep possession of this valuable naval station, but General Mathew insisted that their orders required their return to New York. The two large men-of-war and the transports thereupon sailed out of the bay, leaving the others to continue their depredations. A hundred and thirty American vessels were destroyed or taken as well as a vast amount of property on shore (Almon, viii, 289-295; Penn. Gazette, June 9, 1779; Town’s Detail of Particular Services in America, 76-87.) Richard Henry Lee, writing June 26 to William Whipple of the Marine Committee, says of the operations of these smaller vessels, left in the bay: “They have already burnt several private houses and one public warehouse with between 2 & 300 hhds of Tobo. and carried off much plunder & many negroes. Soon as they see the Militia gathering they embark and go to another unguarded place. They have 6 Vessels: Otter, 16, Harlem, 12 Guns, King’s Vessels; Dunmore, 16, Schooner Hammond, 14, Lord North, 12 Guns, & Fin Castle, 2 three pounders. The 4 last are [Goodrich’s] Pirates. They say the orders are to burn and destroy all before them; an Eastern Man whom they had captured . . . escaped from them when they were burning the Warehouse and gave us the above account of their force, which is confirmed by others. They land between 60 & 70 men when they mean to do mischief.” (Penn. Mag. Hist. and Biogr., January, 1899.) Lee requests the Marine Committee to send two frigates into the bay, a force sufficient, he says, to destroy the enemy’s fleet. The Marine Committee had already issued orders for the purpose. As early as the previous November and again in January they had expressed a desire to capture or destroy “the infamous Goodrich,” and June 25, Captain Nicholson of the Deane was “directed to proceed in company with the Frigate Boston from the Capes of Delaware into Chesapeake Bay and on your arrival there, at Hampton or any Other way, endeavour to Obtain the best intelligence if any of the enemies Ships of war or Privateers are in the Bay, and if you find there are and of such force as you are able to encounter, you are to proceed up and attack them . . . taking or destroying as many of the said Vessels as may be in your power.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 223.) The Confederacy was ordered up to Chester to prepare for other service, but on July 2 was directed to cruise ten days longer with the Deane and Boston. Accounts of this service in Chesapeake Bay are lacking, but that it was performed may be inferred from Lee’s letter of August 8 to Whipple, saying: “We are much obliged to the Marine Committee for their attention. I see the frigates have taken and sent in two prizes, vessels of war.” (Penn. Mag. Hist. and Biogr., January, 1899; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 187, 193 (to Navy Board, Boston, November 16, 1778, January 9, 1779), 223, 224, 225 (to Nicholson and to Harding, June 25, July 2, 1779); Penn. Gazette, August 4, 1779.)

      Upon the return to New York, May 29, of the British fleet from Chesapeake Bay, says Collier, “I found Sir Henry Clinton on the point of setting off on an expedition up the North River and I immediately determin’d on assisting in it, carrying with me the Raisonable, Camilla, Vulture, three row galleys and two gunboats with the transports and troops.” This excursion up the Hudson resulted in the capture of Stony Point and other successes, which induced Collier to observe: “I hope I may now say with some confidence that rebellion is thrown on its back and that this campaign will be the last of this unnatural civil war.” (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 129 (Collier to Germain, June 15, 1779) Stony Point, however, was very soon recaptured by the Americans. About this time also the British sloop Haerlem was captured by an American privateer. The attention of the British was next directed towards Connecticut, where their trade in Long Island Sound was harassed by small privateers and armed boats. “The land forces,” says Collier’s report of his expedition against them, “consisting of 2600 men commanded by Major-general Tryon, I caused to be embarked in transports, and sending the Renown, Thames, Otter and two armed vessels to block up New-London and the East entrance of the Sound, I proceeded on the 3d [of July] from New York by the way of Hell Gates with his Majesty’s ships Camilla, Scorpion, Halifax brig and Hussar galley, together with the transports, and on the 5th landed the army in two divisions at the town of Newhaven, which after an irregular resistance from the rebels, was taken possession of by us together with a small fort at the entrance of the harbour, which latter we destroyed, after spiking up the guns, as also many warehouses filled with stores &c. together with several vessels and whale boats. The number of killed, wounded and missing on our side amounted to fifty-six; that of the rebels we are unacquainted with, but suppose the numbers considerable. We embarked the troops without loss and two days afterwards our flat boats, covered by the galley and gun boats, landed near Fairfield, though opposed by the militia and some continental troops; the rebels firing from the windows and tops of houses occasioned the band of loyal refugees to set several of them on fire, which communicating to others, burnt the whole town and also several whale boats. The troops embarked from thence without molestation and the third day following they were landed again in three divisions at the town of Norwalk, which, for the treacherous conduct of the rebels in murdering the troops from windows of houses after safeguards were granted them, was destroyed, together with five large vessels, two privateer brigs on the stocks and twenty whale boats.” The small town of Greenfield was treated in the same manner (Almon, viii, 295, 296, 299, 355, 356; Town, 90-98; Clark, i, 110.)

      The instructions of the Marine Committee, of June 25, required Nicholson, after disposing of the enemy in Chesapeake Bay, to sail at once with the Deane and Boston “on a Cruize in which you are to Choose such Station as you think will be best to Accomplish the double purpose of intercepting the enemies outward bound Transports for New York from Great Britain and Ireland and the homeward bound West India Ships. We are of Opinion that between the Latitudes of 36 and 41, and 100 Leagues to the Eastward of the Island of Bermuda will be your best Cruizing ground, but in this we do not mean to restrict you, leaving you to exercise your own Judgment, which probably may be assisted by information Obtained in your Cruise.” This was to continue until the middle of September, or longer if their provisions lasted, and then they were to return to Boston. “We have ordered the Continental frigates at the Eastward to Cruise for the same purposes you are now going on and we think it very probable that you will fall in with them. In that case you or they or any of them are hereby directed to Cruise in Company under the command of the Senior officer, and should you be joined by any of those frigates and find by any intelligence you may Receive of the situation of the enemys Sea force at Bermuda that it will be adviseable to make an attempt on their Shipping, we recommend your undertaking it . . . We now wish to draw your attention to the execution of the business before you. The great Expence and dificulty that attends the fitting and manning of our Ships must make you and every Commander in Our service fully sensible how much they Should exert themselves to employ them usefully while at Sea. This consideration we hope will have due weight in your mind and will call forth such active and prudent behavior as will be of Essential Service to your Country and add to your own reputation and the honor of our Flag.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 223.)

      The Deane and Boston sailed out of Chesapeake Bay, July 29, in company with two ships of the Virginia navy and a convoy of merchantmen, from whom they soon parted. A successful cruise of about five weeks was made by the two frigates, during which they captured eight prizes, including four New York privateers; but the most important were the ships Sandwich and Thorn, each of sixteen guns. The former was a packet carrying as passengers a number of army officers; the Thorn was a sloop of war. The frigates arrived at Boston, September 6, with two hundred and fifty prisoners, including a lieutenant-colonel, a major, and three naval captains. Nicholson received the congratulations of the Marine Committee (Boston Post, September 11, 1779; Boston Gazette, September 13, 1779; Penn. Gazette, September 22, 1779; Tucker, 119-121 ; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 237, 238 (to Navy Board, Boston, and to Nicholson, September, 18, 19, 1779)

      On September 21 and 22, the Marine Committee instructed the Navy Board at Boston to fit out the Deane, Boston, and Queen of France as quickly as possible for important service at Charleston, South Carolina. Shortly afterwards Admiral Arbuthnot at New York received information from Boston which led him to believe that these vessels were fitting out for an attack on the British post in Penobscot Bay (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 147 (Arbuthnot to Germain, October 10,1779) November 10, orders were sent for the frigates to sail at once. The Deane, perhaps because she could not be made ready in time, was subsequently detached from this duty, and the squadron, as finally made up under the orders of the Eastern Navy Board, November 20, consisted of the frigates Providence, Boston and Queen of France, and the Ranger, with Commodore Whipple in command. They set sail from Nantasket Roads, November 23, and cruised to the eastward of Bermuda. An officer on board the Providence wrote home that three days out from Boston they “met with a severe gale of wind, which lasted about 30 hours, in which time we sprang our mizen-mast; the Ranger shared the same fate and the Boston sprang the head of her mainmast. On the 5th [of December] we took a privateer brig of 12 guns called the Dolphin.” (Independent Chronicle, February 24, 1780.) The destination of the squadron was not made known until they had passed Bermuda. They finally arrived at Charleston December 23 (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 239, 245 (to Navy Board, Boston, September 21, 22, November 10, 1779); Tucker MSS., November 20, 1779; Log of Ranger; Penn. Mag. Hist. and Biogr., April 1891, journal of Lieutenant Jennison; Tucker, ch. vii.)

      On August 24 the frigate Confederacy was ordered on a short Cruise off the Delaware capes, keeping a lookout for the privateer Eagle of Philadelphia, expected from St. Eustatius. September 3 the Confederacy was again ordered up to Chester, and on the 17th received instructions for a voyage to France, taking as passenger the French minister, Gerard. The Eagle was a ten-gun brigantine sailing under a Continental commission in the West Indies. Whether or not she returned to Philadelphia at this time is perhaps uncertain, but she was in the West Indies in November and on attempting to get into St. Eustatius was headed off and chased by six British privateers. She took refuge under a fort on the Dutch island of Saba, but was cut out and captured by the privateers, taken to Nevis and condemned by a British admiralty court, in violation of the neutrality of Saba (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 230, 231, 235 (to Harding, August 24, September 3, 17, 1779) ; Pap. Cont. Congr., 44, 325-397 (June 12, November 13, 16, 25, 30, December 14, 1779, January 18, 20, March 21, 23, 1780); Massachusetts Spy, February 10, 1780.)

      In the orders of September 17, sending the Confederacy to France, Captain Harding was instructed to make the best of his “way to any Port which the Minister may think proper to direct and on your passage you are carefully to avoid coming to action with any vessel of equal or superior force. Your Ship being entirely designed for the Accomodation of the Minister, yon are in all things, as far as may be, to comply with his wishes and to treat him with the respect due to his character.” On his arrival in France he was to report to “his Excellency Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of Versailles.” After refitting his ship, he was to take on board “such Stores for the use of these States as may be offered by the Agents in France, so as not to incommode your vessel as a Ship of war, and when you have received the Orders of our Minister, you are immediately to make the best of your way back to this port or into Chesapeake Bay . . . If you can procure A Set of good 18 Pounders when in France and you are of Opinion that the Confederacy can bear them, you are at liberty to mount them and put those you have now on Deck into your hold. We desire you will be careful of the Confederacy, her Materials and Stores and that you will not delay any time unnecessarily in France, but be diligent for dispatch.” Under the same date the committee wrote to Franklin of the expected visit of the Confederacy to France (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 235, 236.) October 17, the Confederacy still lying at Chester, Harding received orders to take on board another distinguished passenger, John Jay, with his family. Jay had been appointed minister to Spain (lbid., 242.)

      The Confederacy sailed soon after this and cleared the Delaware capes October 26. In relating the story of this eventful voyage, Harding says that on November 7 at five o’clock in the morning, in latitude 41° 3′ longitude 50° 39′, “the ship unfortunately lost her Bow Sprit, Fore Mast, Main Mast and Mizen Mast,” in a gale. Six hours were passed in cutting away the wreck of spars, sails, and rigging, “after which all hands were imployed in clearing the Ship and preparing to get up Jury Masts, which would have been done with the Assistance of my Officers, who behaved themselves exceedingly well on the Occasion, in a Very short time, but the next day about 7 Oclock A.M. in addition to our misfortune found the Rudder to be gone, at least the head of it Wrung in such a manner that rendered it entirely useless, in which situation we lay Tossing and Drifting with the Wind and Current, making use of every Opportunity to secure the Rudder and Refit the Ship in order to proceed on her intended Passage till the 23d November.” During this time the ship had drifted eastward to longitude 48° 28′. “I, with the advice of Mr. Jay and Mr. Gerard, Call’d a Council of my Officers Relative to the Ship’s proceeding on her intended passage, who unanimously agreed that it would be very imprudent to approach the Coast of Europe in the situation she was then in; that it would be impossible for the Rudder to survive a hard Gale of wind without increasing the Leake very much, which was Occationed by the Rudder’s Striking against her Stern post; that if we should be Necessitated to part with it, should undoubtedly be thrown into Various Difficultys, in Consequence of which the Ship might Founder; that if we should be attacked by a Gale of Wind inshore, we must inevetably be Cast on Shore, and perhaps the greater part of us if not the whole fall a sacrifice to our own folly; and that if we should loose any of Sparrs or Rigging we had none to Replace them; that in the situation the ship was then in, thought it most prudent to proceed to the West Indias. After which I Consulted Mr. Jay & Mr. Gerard the latter declining to give any Opinion on the Subject, the former gave his Opinion that the sentiments of the Officers Corresponded with his and that their advice ought in his opinion to be followed.” (Pap. Cont. Congr., 78, 11, 487 (Harding to President of Congress, December 30, 1779)) Thereupon the ship was brought to Martinique, arriving at St. Pierre December 18. The two ministers continued their passage to France in a French frigate (Boston Post, February 19, 1780; Boston Gazette, February 21, 1780; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 61.)

      In the fall of 1779 a change was made in the administration of Continental naval affairs by placing them in charge of a smaller executive board. John Brown, secretary of this new body, in a letter to the Navy Board at Boston says: “Congress having dissolved their Marine Committee did by A Resolve bearing date the 28th of October … Constitute a Board of Admiralty and Appointed three Commissioners not members of Congress, together with two Members of Congress and A Secretary, to whose management All Affairs Relative to the Continental Navy are committed, subject nevertheless to the controul of Congress.” Instructions and suggestions concerning various matters are given in the letter. “As to the Continental Armed Vessels still remaining at Boston, you are hereby authorized and directed to send them out on a cruize in such Latitudes as you may think will be most likely to annoy the enemy by Captures.” (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 249 (December 10, 1779)

      Captain Manley, after his release from imprisonment and acquittal by court martial for the loss of the frigate Hancock, took command of a Boston privateer, the twenty-gun ship Cumberland. In December, 1778, he sailed for the West Indies, but after a short cruise was captured by a British frigate and taken into Barbadoes. With other prisoners he soon escaped, seized a sloop, got to Martinique and thence to Boston in April, 1779. In June he took command of the ship Jason, recently captured by a Continental squadron and fitted out as a privateer with eighteen six-pounders and a hundred and twenty men. The Jason sailed June 19 and off the Isles of Shoals was chased and nearly captured by a British frigate and brig. She was saved by a violent thunder squall, which, although it dismasted her, drove the British vessels out to sea. A seaman on the Jason wrote in his journal: “When the squall struck us it hove us all aback, when we clued down. In ten seconds the wind shifted on our starboard beam and shivered our sails. In a few seconds more the wind shifted on the starboard quarter and struck us with such force that hove us on our beam ends and carried away our three masts and bowsprit. She immediately righted and the squall went over.” (Narrative of Joshua Davis, 4.) The crew then insisted upon going into port to repair damages, but Manley, having quelled the mutinous, succeeded in having masts stepped and the ship completely re-rigged at sea in thirty-six hours; the new masts he procured at Portsmouth. He then continued his cruise. Off Sandy Hook, July 23, he fell in with two British privateer brigs of sixteen and eighteen guns. “The enemy hove upon the wind with his larboard tacks on board, run up his courses, hoisted his colours and gave us a broadside. Our Captain ordered the sailing master to get the best bower anchor out, so that the bill of it should take into the fore shrouds of the enemy. It was quickly done. The Captain ordered the helm hard a-port, which brought us along side. The anchor caught their fore rigging. Our Captain then said: ‘fire away, my boys.’ We then gave them a broadside which tore her off side very much and killed and wounded some of them. The rest all ran below, except their captain who stood on the deck like a man amazed.” The brig was then boarded and quickly captured. “When we got disentangled we bore away for the other privateer, that began to run from us. We gave her a few shot from our bow chasers and she hove too.” (Narrative of Joshua Davis, 6, 7.) The second brig then also surrendered. The British lost thirty killed and wounded; the Jason three wounded, one of them mortally. The prizes were brought safely into Boston Harbor. Fearing that his men would desert if he went up to the town, Manley procured stores at Hull and then continued his cruise. After escaping a British frigate off Nantucket Shoals with a large fleet of merchantmen under convoy, which he ran into in a fog, Manley cruised to the eastward. Off Newfoundland he captured an English brig. Here the Jason was chased by the British frigate Surprise, of twenty-eight guns and two hundred and thirty men. The frigate overhauled the Jason about eleven o’clock in the evening of September 30 and fired a broadside. “Our captain would not let us fire until they got abreast of us. They gave us another broadside, which cut away some of our running rigging and drove some of our men from the tops. We gave them a broadside which silenced two of her bow guns. The next we gave her cut away her maintopsail and drove her maintop-men out of it. Both sides continued the fire until one o’clock. Our studding sails and booms, our sails, rigging, yards, &c. were so cut away that they were useless. Lanterns were hung at the ship’s side, between the guns, on nails, but they soon fell on deck at the shaking of the guns; which made it so dark that the men could not see to load the guns. They broke the fore hatches open and ran below. Our captain sent the sailing master forward to see why the bow guns did not keep the fire up, but he never returned. The captain then sent the master’s mate on the same errand and he never returned. It was therefore thought needless to stand it any longer and the captain took the trumpet and called out for quarters.” (Davis, 11, 12.) The Surprise lost fifteen killed and thirty wounded, the Jason five killed and a few wounded. Manley was taken to St. John’s, Newfoundland, and afterwards sent to Mill Prison, England, where he remained more than two years (Independent Chronicle, March 4, 1779; Boston Gazette, March 8, November 29,1779; Boston Post, July 31, 1779; Essex Inst. Coll., January, 1909.)

      The private armed ship Hampden, of twenty-two guns, Captain Thomas Pickering, of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in the early spring of 1779 was returning from a cruise in European waters, having sent four prizes into France, when on March 7, at ten o’clock in the morning, in latitude 47° 15′ north, longitude 28° 31′ west, a sail was sighted. The Hampden gave chase. At five in the afternoon both vessels showed their colors. The stranger was a large ship carrying twenty-six nine-pounders and eight fours; at dusk she was lost sight of, but at daylight was seen again. “At 7 A.M. came under her lee quarter within hail, hoisted continental colours and gave her a broadside. She kept all her guns hous’d till just before we fired, altho’ we could tell her ports thirteen of a side, a very great distance apart; she return’d the broadside without any damage, with twenty-four nine pounders and eight four pounders and had the advantage of a spar deck to cover her men. Being a beautiful large ship with two tier of cabin windows we knew her to be an East Indianian and of much superior force, but supposing they were badly mann’d, were determined to fight her as long as we could. The engagement continued till half past Ten, close alongside, when finding our three masts and bowsprit very badly wounded, our starboard main shrouds totally gone, our rigging and sails cut to pieces, our double headed shott expended, and near twenty of our men killed and wounded, were obliged to our grief to leave her a mere wreck, her masts, yards, sails and rigging cut to pieces. Having ourselves only the foresail which we could set to get off with, the sheets being cut away, were obliged to use our tacks. During the action our brave and worthy commander, Capt. Pickering, was killed.” One other man was killed and seventeen wounded, two of them mortally. The Hampden arrived at Portsmouth April 20 (Continental Journal, April 20, 1779; Independent Chronicle, April 22,1779.)

      The ship General Mifflin, Captain McNeill, after cruising more than a year in European waters, returned in February to Boston, having taken thirteen prizes. She was also successful in home waters during the year and fought an engagement with a sloop of war (Boston Gazette, February 15, October 25, 1779; Boston Post, February 20, 1779.) The sixteen-gun ship General Pickering, Captain Haraden, of Salem, cruised successfully all the year, many of her prizes being armed vessels; among them a fourteen-gun brig named the Hope. In a letter to Timothy Pickering, dated Cape Henlopen, October 1, 1779, Haraden says: “I left the Capes at Sundown on Tuesday last and at Sunrising on Wednesday Morning I discovered Two sail to the windward. The Winds being light I hove out two Draggs to keep my Ship from going ahead and made all the Sail I could, as though I was running from them. They both gave Chace and at 5 p.m. they got nigh enough to discover that I was a Cruising Vessel. They both hove about and haul’d their Wind, I immediately hove about after them, they crowded all the Sail they could and Rowed at the same time. At sundown the Wind breezed up a little and as Night came on, I kept Sight of them with my Night Glass; at 8 P.M. they parted, one stood to the Northward & the other to the Southward. I kept in chace of the largest and at 9 P.M. She Hove about, being to the Windward; as she past me I hail’d her, but had no answer. Then I gave her a Broadside, but without any effect that I could perceive; then I Tackt Ship and gave her another Broadside and hail’d her. She answered from N. York. I Order’d her to haul down the Colours, which they Obey’d instantly; very peaceable people, like the Hope, though they Had 14 6 & 4 pounders and 38 Men. She proves to be the Royal George Cutter, a Letter of Marque out of New York last Tuesday Morning bound to the West Indies and was in Company with a Sloop of 8 Carriage Guns from the same place, she being Clean & a Fast Sailor got off clear, while I was in Chase of the Cutter.” (Pickering MSS., xxxix, 179.) In October, off Sandy Hook, the Pickering engaged three letters of marque at once – a fourteen-gun ship, a ten-gun brig, and an eight-gun sloop. After an action of an hour and a half she captured all three and took them into port (Penn. Gazette, September 29,1779; Maryland Journal, December 7, 1779; Boston Post, December 18, 1779; Boston Gazette, December 20, 1779.)

      The sloop Eagle of New London with other privateers captured three vessels early in the year and in May she took several more. Having manned these prizes, the prisoners on board the Eagle outnumbered her crew and took possession of her. They then murdered all the crew, except two boys, and took her into Newport (Boston Gazette, May 17, 31, 1779; Boston Post, May 22, 1779; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 10.)

      The British sloop of war Thorn, brought into Boston as a prize by the frigates Deane and Boston in September, was fitted out as a privateer; she was ship rigged and carried eighteen six-pounders. Captain Daniel Waters of the Continental navy, who had served in Washington’s fleet in 1776, was put in command of the Thorn; there were too few regular ships to give employment to all the Continental officers and it was common for them to sail in privateers. The Thorn sailed on a cruise in December. The journal of the first lieutenant relates that on the 24th at four o’clock in the afternoon, the wind being light, two armed brigantines were seen about four miles to windward. The Thorn stood off “in order to draw them within shot. At 7 P.M. almost calm, our ship in order, men at their quarters and in high spirits for engaging. Calm all night. The next morning, December 25, at 6 A.M. the two brigs were on our larboard beam about two miles distant, light breezes from the west; they, to appearance, were making preparations for engaging. At 9 A.M. the wind sprung up from the S. W.; made sail for them in as good order as circumstances would admit. At 10 A.M. Came up with the sternmost, as she was the heaviest, and he hailed: From White Hall, and ask’d Capt. Waters what right he had to wear the 13 stars in his pendant. Capt. Waters answered: I’ll let you know presently; then shifted our ensign and gave her a broadside within pistol shot, which she returned, as did the other brig on our weather bow. A warm engagement commenced on both sides for about two glasses, when the largest brig laid us on board on our weather quarter, whilst the other amused us on our weather bow, who kept up a regular fire; but she upon our quarter was soon convinced of her error, receiving such a warm and well directed fire from our marines and seeing his men running about deck with pikes in their backs instead of their hands, were undoubtedly glad to get off again. But soon shot alongside again and renew’d his cannonade with surprising spirit, but after two or three broadsides, was obliged to haul down what remained of his colours. There must have been great slaughter, as the blood was seen to run out of the scuppers. The other brig seeing her consort had struck, made what sail she could to make her escape, but they found us as ready to follow as she was to run, after Capt. Waters had ordered the captured brig to follow. This engagement lasted about four glasses. Capt. Waters received a wound in his right knee about one glass before the first struck. At 3 P.M. came up with the other, after firing several chace shot thro’ her quarter, when with reluctance they hauled down their colours. Capt. Waters ordered me on board to send the officers on board the Thorn & immediately make sail for the other brig, which was making from us. Fresh breezes and cloudy weather. At 8 P.M. the Thorn hove to, losing sight of the chace.” (Boston Gazette, February 21, 1780.) The next morning she was nowhere to be seen, but many oars, spars, and other wreckage were discovered floating and it was supposed that she had sunk. Subsequently it was learned that under cover of the night she had managed to escape. These two brigs were privateers from New York; one, the Governor Tryon, which escaped, carried sixteen guns – twelves, sixes, and fours – and eighty-six men; the other, the Sir William Erskine, carried eighteen six- and four-pounders, and eighty-five men. The Thorn lost eighteen killed and wounded, the Erskine twenty. Upon learning of this exploit, John Adams, then in Paris, sent to the French “minister a Boston Gazette of 21st February, in which is a relation of a glorious combat and cruise of my countryman Captain Waters, of the Thorn . . . There has not been a more memorable action this war, and the feats of our American frigates and privateers have not been sufficiently published in Europe. It would answer valuable purposes, both by encouraging their honest and brave hearts and by exciting emulations elsewhere, to give them a little more than they have had of the fame they have deserved. Some of the most skillful, determined, persevering and successful engagements that have ever happened upon the seas have been performed by American privateers against the privateers from New York, and have seldom been properly described and published even there.” (Wharton, iii, 650, Adams to Genet, May 3,1780.) January 13, 1780, the Thorn fell in with the British ship Sparlin of eighteen guns, bound from Liverpool to New York, and captured her after an action of forty minutes. The American loss was one killed and two wounded, the British lost three killed and ten wounded. The Thorn brought the Erskine and Sparlin safely into Boston, arriving in Nantasket Roads February 17, 1780 (Boston Post, February 19,1780; Boston Gazette, February 21, 1780. For further information about privateers and their prizes in 1779, see Boston Gazette, January 18, February 15, March 8, 22, April 26, June 14, August 2, September 27, October 4, 18, November 29, December 13, 20, 1779; Boston Post, February 6, April 10, May 1, 22, July 3, 10, October 2, 1779; Independent Ledger, May 10, October 11, 1779; Penn. Gazette, May 12, September 29, October 6, 1779 ; Penn. Packet, May 20, August 10, October 14, December 25, 1779 ; Maryland Journal, January 12, 1779; New York Packet, October 21, 1770 ; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 9-16; Proc. U. S. Nav. Inst., June, 1911; Maclay’s Moses Brown, chs. vi, vii, viii ; Barney, 77-80 ; Clark, i, ch. vii; Williams, 245; Pickering MSS., xvii, 267. For cruise of a Now York privateer, see Amer. Hist. Rev., January, 1902.)

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