Naval Operations in 1781 | 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.”



      The frigate Alliance, Captain Barry, was made ready at Boston for another voyage to France as soon as the court martial of Captain Landais was over. There was the usual delay and difficulty in recruiting a crew for the ship and application was made to the state government for authority to impress seamen and to enlist soldiers. The former request was denied, but permission was obtained to enroll volunteers from the guard at the castle and it was again necessary to take a considerable number of British prisoners. A turbulent ship’s company was the consequence and a sanguinary brawl on Long Wharf with the crews of two French frigates was an early result. Some distinguished passengers were taken, including Colonel John Laurens and Thomas Paine. Several others obtained passage on condition that if necessary they should serve against the enemy or in quelling mutiny. Laurens was a son of Henry Laurens, still a prisoner in England, and was bound on an important mission to France. He was the bearer of a letter, dated January 15, 1781, from General Washington, addressed to himself (Laurens), discoursing on the objects of his mission; it was afterwards submitted to Vergennes. In this letter, first of all, the imperative need of money to carry on the approaching campaign was urged. Washington then says: “Next to a loan of money, a constant naval superiority on these coasts is the object most interesting. This would instantly reduce the enemy to a difficult defensive and, by removing all prospect of extending their acquisitions, would take away the motives for prosecuting the war. Indeed, it is not to be conceived how they could subsist a large force in this country, if we had the command of the seas to interrupt the regular transmission of supplies from Europe. This superiority, with an aid in money, would enable us to convert the war into a vigorous offensive. I say nothing of the advantages to the trade of both nations, nor how infinitely it would facilitate our supplies. With respect to us, it seems to be one of two deciding points, and it appears too to be the interest of our allies, abstracted from the immediate benefits to this country, to transfer the naval war to America. The number of ports friendly to them, hostile to the British, the materials for repairing their disabled ships, the extensive supplies towards the subsistence of their fleet, are circumstances which would give them a palpable advantage in the contest of these seas.” (Washington, ix, 106.) The Alliance sailed from Boston, February 11, 1781. On the voyage a small British privateer was taken and her prize, a Venetian ship, was released. The frigate arrived at L’Orient March 9 (Barry, ch. xii; Wharton, iv, 249, 250, 252, 279, 826; Has,. Court Rec., January 29,1781; Mass. Acts and Resolves, February 6, 1781; Boston Gazette, January 1, 1781.)

      The two main objects of Washington’s desire, indispensable at this critical period, were realized. Money was obtained and a French fleet soon set sail for America. March 29, the Alliance got under way for her return voyage in company with a large French letter of marque called the Marquis de Lafayette, loaded with military stores. Soon after sailing, a mutiny was discovered on the Alliance. John Kessler, mate of the frigate, who wrote a narrative of her voyages, says that “on March 30th an Indian, one of the forecastle men, gave Captain Barry information of a combination among the crew for the purpose of taking the ship, and pointing out three who had strove to prevail on him to be concerned therein. The three men were immediately put in irons and all the officers, with such of the crew as could be confided in, were armed and required to remain all night on deck. On the next morning all hands were called and placed on the forecastle, booms, and gangways, excepting the officers and such part of the crew in whom Captain Barry confided, who, armed, strongly guarded the quarter deck, the steerage, and the main deck, to keep the remainder of the crew together on the forecastle and boom. The three designated men were brought out of their irons on the quarter and, being stripped and hoisted by the thumbs to the mizzen stay, underwent a very severe whipping before either would make any confession. The names of 25 of their accomplices were obtained from them before the whipping was discontinued. As their accomplices were disclosed, they were called to the quarter deck, stripped and tied to the ridge-rope of the netting and the whipping continued until it was thought all were disclosed that could possibly be obtained, which proved to be. That it was intended to take the ship on her passage out by killing all the officers in the middle watch of the night, except the second Lieutenant, P. Fletcher, who was to navigate her to some port in Ireland, or on failure, to be destroyed. A quartermaster, one of the mutineers, was to have command. They had all been bound by an oath on the Bible administered by the Captain’s assistant cabin steward, and had also signed their names in a round robin so-called, but that they found no good opportunity on the outward passage and intended to accomplish the taking of the ship as aforesaid immediately on leaving France. But on coming out of L’Orient we lost a man overboard who was one of the chief ringleaders and they considering that as a bad omen, threw the round robin overboard and relinquished their designs. The three principles were placed securely in irons and the remainder, after being admonished by Captain Barry and on their solemn declaration to conduct themselves well, were permitted to return to ship’s duty.” (Barry, 133.) The three principals were afterwards tried and sentenced to death, but this penalty was not exacted.

      Kessler further relates that “on April 2nd, 1781, two brigs gave us chase and were permitted to come up. One ran close on board of us and without any hail fired the whole broadside at us and immediately every one run off her deck. We had commenced firing, but on discovering their retreat the firing ceased and we boarded them. She proved to be a brig with flush deck and 20 twelve pounders, two six pounders and 14 [four-pound coehorns], with 112 men, called the Mars and belonging to the Guernsey. The crew were taken aboard the Alliance and all put in irons without distinction, Captain Barry considering them as not meriting other treatment in consequence of their firing on us with no intention of bravely fighting. The other brig was a Jersey called the Minerva, of 10 guns and 55 men. She was taken possession of and manned by the Marquis de Lafayette, our consort. Soon after, in a gale of wind, we parted with our consort and the prizes.” (Barry, 134.) A month later two other prizes were taken. May 16, the Alliance was struck by lightning, which shattered her main topmast and burned several men.

      An action was fought, May 29, with the British ship Atalanta and brig Trepassey in about north latitude 40° and west longitude 63°, which is described by Kessler. “Towards evening [of the 28th] discovered two sail on the weather bow standing for us and which after coming near enough to be kept in sight, hauled to wind and stood on our course. Towards day it became quite calm. After it became light it appeared that they were an armed ship and brig, about a league distant. At sunrise they hoisted the English colors and beat drum . At the same time the American colors were displayed by the Alliance. By little puffs of wind we were enabled to get within short hailing distance.” At eleven o’clock the ships hailed each other. “The firing then began, but unfortunately there was not wind enough for our steerage way and they being lighter vessels, by using sweeps got and kept athwart our stern and on our quarters, so that we could not bring one-half our guns, nay, oft time only one gun out astern to bear on them, and thus laying like a log the greatest part of the time. About two o’clock Captain Barry received a wound by a grape shot in the shoulder. He remained, however, on the quarter deck until by the much loss of blood he was obliged to be helped to the cock-pit. Some time after, our colors were shot away and it so happened that at the same time such guns as would bear on them had been fired and were then loading, and which led the enemy to think we had struck the colors, and manned their shrouds and gave three cheers; by that time the colors were hoisted by a mizen brail and our firing again began. A quartermaster went to the wheel in place of one just killed there. At the moment a small breeze of wind happening, a broadside was brought to bear and fired on the ship and then one on the brig, when they struck their colors at three o’clock.” (Barry, 135, 136.)

      Captain Edwards of the Atalanta, testifying at his court martial, said of the Alliance that when “about two cables lengths to leeward she hoisted Rebel colours and fir’d a Shot across us. I immediately hoisted our colours, when she fired her broadside, wore, and as soon as on the other tack and her Guns woud bear, kept a constant Fire on us; our Firing began on her, but being at too great a distance, I ceast our Fire and endeavour’d to get nearer to her, which having effected she haild us, said she was the Alliance continental Frigate and desired we would strike.” Edwards tried to keep up a conversation until the Trepassey could get up, but the Alliance began the action again. The Trepassey was so anxious to get up that she passed under the stern of the Alliance “with too much way and in hauling under her Quarter, shot abreast of her; in this situation she received two broadsides.” The Atalanta was then brought under the frigate’s stern and got between her and the Trepassey. The Atalanta continued the action an hour and a half longer, nearly three hours in all; she was then so greatly disabled in masts, yards, sails, and rigging as to be unmanageable. It was accordingly necessary to strike and the Trepassey, unable to get away, struck also. The Atalanta’s mainmast soon went over the side.”(Brit. Adm. Rec., Courts Martial, No. 5319 (October 15,1781) The master of the Trepassey, describing the battle, says that the Alliance, at a distance of half a mile to leeward, “hoisted rebel colours and gave the Atalanta and us a broadside, we being then very nigh to each other; we then ‘bore up close alongside of her, the Atalanta on the starboard and the Trepassey on the larboard quarter, and began to engage. About an hour after the action began Capt. Smith of the Trepassey was killed.” (Almon, xii, 160.)

      The Atalanta, which carried sixteen guns and a hundred and twenty-five men, lost six killed and eighteen wounded ; the Trepassey, with fourteen guns and eighty men, lost six killed, including the captain, and eleven wounded. The Alliance mounted twenty-eight twelve-pounders and eight nines; her crew was reduced by manning prizes and weakened by disaffection and sickness. Her loss was five killed, including the lieutenant of marines, and twenty-two wounded, three of them mortally. Captain Edwards and a few other officers were sent on board the Alliance; also some of the wounded. Captain Barry agreed with the British to send the Trepassey as a cartel to Halifax with all his other prisoners, about two hundred and fifty in number, to be exchanged for Americans; before entering upon this service the Trepassey’s guns were thrown overboard. She arrived in due time at Halifax. The Atalanta, which had been dismasted in the engagement, was fitted with jury masts and put in charge of Hezekiah Welch, second lieutenant of the Alliance as prize master. Some weeks later, in the Vice-Admiralty Court at Halifax, Welch testified that he was ordered by Captain Barry “to take possession of the Atalanta and proceed with her to Boston, New England; that on their passage thither the 7th June last, being near Cape Cod, they fell in with His Majesty’s ships of War the Assurance, Charlestown, Amphitrite and Vulture, which retook the said sloop Atalanta, put a British officer & Seamen on board her & sent her safe into this Port of Halifax.” (Essex Inst. Coll., January, 1909.) The Marquis de Lafayette, letter of marque, which parted from the Alliance in April, was also unlucky. She fell in with the enemy’s Jamaica fleet under a strong convoy and after a hard fight of three hours was captured by a greatly superior force. The Alliance arrived at Boston, June 6. During the summer she was sheathed with copper on Barry’s recommendation (Barry, chs. xiii, xiv; Almon, xii, 158-160; Boston Gazette, June 11, July 9, 1781; London Chronicle, August 7, 1781; Lee MSS., July 15, 1782, report on loss of the Lafayette.)

      The presence in Massachusetts Bay of the British squadron which recaptured the Atalanta, and which the Alliance had the good fortune not to meet with, is explained in a letter of Admiral Arbuthnot to the Admiralty, dated off Sandy Hook, July 4, 1781 : “The rumours that had been abroad for a considerable time past, that a reinforcement of troops was daily expected from France, induced me to send a squadron into Boston Bay of superior force, as the enemy’s guard was reported to be only two frigates; the Assurance, Charles-Town, Amphitrite, Vulture, and Savage are employed on this service, and the Royal Oak, on her way to Halifax, was directed to take that route. I have since, by the channel of the Rebels, received intelligence that a few recruits and some storeships have notwithstanding got into Boston, with a French fifty gun ship and two frigates; but Captain Duncan of the Medea, which arrived from Halifax on the 30th ult., informs me that his Majesty’s sloop the Atalanta, which had been taken after a very gallant action by the rebel Frigate Alliance, of 40 guns, was retaken by that detachment in Boston Bay, and that he took a store-ship of near 800 tons, also a prize, on her entrance into the port of Halifax as he came out. It is believed that they have been much more successful, but I have no authentic advices of their operations . . . The Medea on her return captured two privateers from Salem, the ship Rover, of 18 six pounders and 140 men, and the sloop Revenge of 10 guns.” (Almon, xii, 158,159.)

      The frigate Trumbull, Captain James Nicholson, spent the first half of the year 1781 fitting out at Philadelphia for a cruise, under the accustomed difficulties imposed by lack of money and scarcity of seamen. The Deane, Captain Samuel Nicholson, the Confederacy, Captain Harding, and the Saratoga, Captain Young, cruised in the West Indies during the winter and early spring. They sailed, March 20, from Cape Francois bound north in company with a French frigate and a large convoy of American and French merchantmen. The Deane arrived at Boston about the middle of April. The Confederacy, on April 15, fell in with the British ships Roebuck, 44, and Orpheus, 32. In the face of so superior a force, and with the working of his ship hindered by a large cargo of military supplies, Captain Harding considered resistance useless and promptly struck his flag. Thus ended the brief and unlucky career in the Continental service of this fine frigate. She was taken into the British navy under the name of Confederate. Several of the convoy were also taken. It would appear that the Saratoga, after parting from her consorts, was lost at sea, for she was never heard of again (Pap. Cont. Congr., 37, 355, 411, 471, 475, 505 (February 7, April 28, May 5, June 6, 1781) ; Boston Gazette, January 29, March 19, April 16, 30, May 14, 1781; Continental Journal, March 22, April 19, 26, 1781; Independent Chronicle, May 4, 10, 1781; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 62; Navy Rec. Soc., vi, 109; Barney, 86.)

      The Trumbull got to sea at last and took her departure from the Delaware capes August 8; among her lieutenants were Richard Dale and Alexander Murray, a volunteer. She sailed in company with a twenty-four-gun privateer, a fourteen-gun letter of marque and a convoy of twenty-eight merchantmen. The same day three sail were discovered to the eastward, two of which gave chase to the convoy. Night came on rainy and squally and the Trumbull carried away her fore-topmast and main-topgallantmast. She was obliged to run before the wind and the rest of the fleet left her. Captain Nicholson reported: “The wreck of the topmast with the yard and rigging laying aback of the foresail and over the bows, the topsail yard arm came through the foresail and on the forecastle, so that with our utmost exertion we could not clear ourselves of the wreck until one of the ships came alongside and the other in sight. Immediately all hands were called to quarters; instead of coming, three quarters of them ran below, put out the lights, matches, &c. With the remainder and a few brave officers we commenced an action with the Iris for one hour and thirty-five minutes, at the end of which the other ship came up and fired into us. Seeing no prospect of escaping in this unequal contest, I struck, having my first and third lieuts. and Capt. Murray, a volunteer, with eight others wounded and 5 killed. My crew consisted of 180 men, 45 of whom were taken out of the new gaol – prisoners of war; they through treachery and others from cowardice betrayed me, or at least prevented my making the resistance I would have done. At no time of the engagement had I more than 40 men upon deck.” (Continental Journal, September 13, 1781.) The British thirty-two-gun frigate Iris had formerly been the American frigate Hancock, captured by the Rainbow in 1777. Her consort was the eighteen-gun ship General Monk, also a prize, having been originally an American privateer called the General Washington. The Trumbull was almost a wreck and was towed into New York by the Iris. She was not taken into the British service. A few weeks after this the Iris and another British frigate were captured by the French (Port Folio, May, 1814; Clark, i, 124; Almon, xii, 259, 260; Independent Ledger, October 8,1781; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 57, 58.)

      In the summer of 1781 the Board of Admiralty ceased to exist and the management of naval affairs passed under the control of Robert Morris as Agent of Marine. He issued orders for a cruise together of the Alliance and Deane, which were now the only Continental vessels in commission. He wrote to Captain Barry, September 21: “When these ships are ready you will proceed to sea. The Ships are both under your command, the Captain of the Deane being instructed to obey your orders, wherefore you had best to furnish him a copy of these instructions, giving such in addition as you shall judge necessary for Keeping Company, respecting Signals, Places of Rendevous in case of Separation and all other things that tend to promote Success and Glory or secure Safety against superior force. It is my intention that you should go upon a cruize and therefore you will be ready to sail from the Harbour of Boston and use your best Efforts to disturb the Enemy. Such prizes as you may take you will send into the Port which you will find endorsed, a list of Persons in several Ports to whom to apply in Case you go yourselves or send your Prizes thither . . . I do not fix your cruizing ground nor limit the length of your cruize, because I expect you will know the most likely course and will be anxious to meet such events as will do honor to the American flag and promote the general interest. When you want provisions, I think it will be best that you should enter the Delaware and send up as far as New Castle, to which place they can best be sent in shallops. The latitude I have given precludes both the necessity and propriety of more particular instructions. Let me hear from you by every convenient opportunity and don’t fail to transmit to His Excellency the Commander-in-Chief of our Army, as well as to me, any intelligence that you may obtain which you think may in any wise affect his operations.” (Barry, 151.) October 17, the Deane not being ready, Morris sent orders to Barry to cruise alone in the Alliance, but the fall of Yorktown soon after this caused a change of plans and both ships remained in port (lbid., 150-154; Publ. R.I. Hist. Soc., viii, 273.)

      The quarrels of Jones and Landais in France in 1780, the failure of the Alliance to bring over the clothing and stores so much needed by the army, and other circumstances led to much dissatisfaction in and out of Congress, and in March, 1781, soon after his return to America in the Ariel, Jones was called upon to explain his conduct. The Board of Admiralty propounded a list of forty-seven questions covering all his movements since taking command of the Ranger in 1777. Jones answered these questions promptly and fully, and his replies cleared up all doubts as to his various transactions in Europe, naval, political, and financial. Influenced by the good impression he made in this matter and by the honors paid him in Europe, Congress resolved, April 14, 1781, “That the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled be given to Captain John Paul Jones, for the zeal, prudence and intrepidity with which he has supported the honor of the American flag, for his bold and successful enterprises to redeem from captivity the citizens of these States who had fallen under the power of the enemy, and in general for the good conduct and eminent services by which he has added lustre to his character and to the American arms; that the thanks of the United States in Congress assembled be also given to the officers and men who have faithfully served under him from time to time for their steady affection to the cause of their country and the bravery and perseverance they have manifested therein.” (Sherburne, 225.) A few weeks after this a special committee of Congress recommended Jones’s promotion to the rank of rear-admiral, but, owing to the jealousy and opposition of other officers, no action was taken. The Ariel was sent back to France in the summer or early fall of 1781 (lbid., 214-226; Sands, 321-328; Wharton, iv, 288-297; Logs of Serapis, Alliance, Ariel, 125; Barry, 149; Pap. Cont. Congr., 37, 401, 405; Royal Gazette, July 10, 1782.)

      The Massachusetts ship Mars remained in the river Loire about three months and then returned to Boston, arriving February 28, 1781, with a prize. The frigate Protector, during the early part of the year, cruised in the West Indies, part of the time in company with the Continental frigate Deane, and with some success. In the Massachusetts House of Representatives, March 3, the following action was taken: “Whereas by recent Advices received by express from the Eastward it appears that the Enemy with a Number of Armed Vessels are daily committing the most horrid Depredations and Cruelties on the Inhabitants who reside on or near the Sea Coasts in the County of Lincoln,” it was resolved to request the French admiral at Newport to send one or two frigates, to fit out the ship Mars immediately, and to grant bounties to privateers which should capture the enemy’s vessels (Mass. Court Rec.) On May 19, it was resolved to send an armed vessel with provisions for the relief of the garrison at Machias, and to reinforce the garrison. Conditions along the Maine coast continued to be a source of chronic irritation at the seat of the state government in Boston and strongly worded resolves were from time to time adopted in the General Court. Notwithstanding the Penobscot disaster of two years before, the possibility of driving out the British remained, with the more sanguine, a practical question. The Mars, under the command of Captain Nevins, and apparently unaccompanied by the French frigates asked for, cruised during the spring and took two prizes. The new ship Tartar seems to have met with great delay in building and it was proposed to sell her, but this was not done at the time; she was not ready for service until the following year. The sale of the Mars was also considered. In the summer a sloop called the Defence was added to the Massachusetts navy and made one cruise, after the return to port of the Mars and under the same captain, James Nevins. Another severe blow came to the Massachusetts navy in 1781, in the loss of its most powerful vessel, the Protector, which was captured, May 5, by the British ship Roebuck and frigate Medea (Boston Gazette, March 5, 19, April 30, May 14, July 2, 1781; Independent Chronicle, May 4, 1781; Massachusetts Mag., July, October, 1910, January, 1911, January, 1912; Mass. Court Rec., February 14, March 3, 6, 7, May 19, 1781 ; Mass. Rev. Rolls, xxxix, 45; Mass. Archives, clviii, 212; Fox, 79-88.)

      The frigate Indien, which had been built at Amsterdam for the Continental navy and then sold to the King of France, later became the property of the Chevalier Luxembourg, who leased her in 1779 or 1780 to Commodore Alexander Gillon of the South Carolina navy. Gillon had been in Europe since 1778, employed in furthering the naval and commercial interests of his state. He made enemies and his reputation has suffered from statements concerning his financial transactions. He changed the name of the Indien to South Carolina, manned her largely with American sailors from English prisons, and armed her with twenty-eight thirty-six-pounders (Thirty-nine-pounders, according to the British account, Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 490, January 18, 1783.) and twelve twelves. He moved her from Amsterdam to the Texel during the summer and fall of 1780, the passage being much obstructed by shoal water. While on the way the South Carolina was joined by Lieutenant Matthewman, who had been engaged as master. This officer gives an account in his “Narrative ” of conditions on board the frigate during his stay. “In Rotterdam,” he says, “I saw Commodore Gillon, the commander of the ship, who gave me his directions. On my arrival on board the ship, then laying about half way between Amsterdam and the Texel, everything was in confusion, three of the Lieutenants were under arrest, and the ship like a mere wreck, her crew then about 250 men mostly Americans, who had made their escape and had got on board under pretence of giving them a passage to America; where they were near a twelve month . . . and were never allowed the liberty of slipping over the ship’s side. I myself was seven months on board, though master of the ship. On some disagreement I quit the ship and returned to Amsterdam.” (Mag. Amer. Hist., March, 1878.) The South Carolina remained at the Texel until August, 1781, when she was finally ready for sea. She had a crew of five hundred and fifty, including three hundred French marines. She cruised first in the North Sea, and on August 25, captured and burned a prize. September 1, she was off the Shetland Islands and on the 3d her log records: “Hove the Corps of a French Mareen over Aboard at 8 P.M.” On the 7th, she captured a sixteen-gun Liverpool privateer; the same day, “Put 2 French Mereens in Irons for Insulting Lieut. White.” By the middle of the month the South Carolina was making a southerly course, and on the 24th, “Mored att Carone in Spain.” October 17, she sailed from Coruna, and on the 21st, in latitude 37° 52′, “Brought Tew A Brigg; She Pruved to Be A Brigg from Newfound Land Called the Venus.” On the 31st, the South Carolina was off Teneriffe. She made a short cruise in the West Indies, then sailed north, and, December 31, was off Charleston. The next day, however, she “Bore Away for the Havannah.” (Log of the South Carolina; Paullin, 436-438 ; Wharton, iv, 546, 547; So. Carolina Hist. and Gen. Mag., January, April, 1900; Boston Gazette, November 19, 1781; Independent Chronicle, November 22, 1781; Royal Gazette, July 10, 1782; Lee MSS., July 5, 1779, June, 1780; Adams MSS., March 8, September 26, October 26, 1781.)

      In a letter, dated September 23, 1781, Captain Stirling reported the capture of his ship, a sixteen-gun sloop of war of the British navy, by an American privateer. “It is,” he says, “with the most poignant grief I acquaint your Excellency of the capture of his Majesty’s sloop Savage, late under my command . . . Early in the morning of the 6th instant, 10 leagues East of Charles-town, we espied a ship bearing down on us, who when about four miles distant, hauled her wind to the Eastward, showing by her appearance she was an American cruizer; her force could not be so easily distinguished. I therefore gave way to the pleasing idea that she was a privateer carrying 20 nine-pounders, whom I had intelligence was cruizing off here, and instantly resolved either to bring her to action or oblige her to quit the coast, for which purpose we gave chase, but were prevented continuing it long by her edging down, seemingly determined to engage us. Conscious of her superiority in sailing and force, this manoeuvre coinciding with my wishes, I caused the Savage to lay by till we perceived on her nearer approach she was far superior to what we imagined and that it was necessary to attempt making our escape, without some fortunate shot, in the course of a running fight we saw inevitable, admitted our taking advantages and bring on a more equal conflict. At half past ten she began firing bow chacers and at eleven, being close on our quarter, the action commenced with musquetry, which after a good deal of execution was followed by a heavy cannonade on both sides. In an hour’s time I had the mortification to see our braces and bow-lines shot away and not a rope left to trim the sail with, notwithstanding every precaution had been taken; however, our fire was so constant and well-directed that the enemy did not see our situation, but kept alongside of us till accident obliged him to drop astern. The Savage was now almost a wreck, her sails, rigging and yard so much cut that it was with the utmost difficulty we could alter our position time enough to avoid being raked, the enemy lying directly athwart our stern for some minutes. This was the only intermission of great guns, but musquetry and pistols still aid execution and continued till they opened again, which was not till both ships were almost on board each other, when the battle became more furious than before. Our quarter-deck and forecastle were soon now nearly cleared, scarce a man belonging to either not being killed or wounded, with three guns on our main-deck rendered useless. In this situation we fought near an hour with only five six-pounders, the flre from each ship’s guns scorching the men who opposed them, shot and other implements of war thrown by hand doing execution, when our mizen-mast being shot away by the board, our main-mast tottering with only three shrouds standing, the ship on fire dangerously, only 40 men on duty to oppose the foe who was attempting to board us in three places, no succour in sight or possibility of making further resistance, I was, necessitated at a quarter before three P.M. to surrender to the Congress, a private ship of war belonging to Philadelphia, who carried 215 men and mounted 20 twelve pounders on her main-deck and 4 sixes above, fourteen of which were fought on one side. She lost during the action eleven men and had near thirty wounded, several of them mortally; her masts, her sails and rigging were so much damaged that she was obliged to return to port, which partly answered my wishes prior to the action, as a great part of the Carolina trade was daily expected on the coast and this privateer we saw sailed remarkably fast. Three days were employed putting her in a condition to make sail and five for the Savage, who was exceedingly shattered. Indeed it is astonishing more damage was not done, as the weather was fine, the water remarkably smooth, and the ships never 30 yards asunder.” (Almon, xiii, 48, 49; Ann. Reg. (1781), 251.) Stirling reported a loss of eight killed and twenty-six wounded. The Congress was commanded by Captain Geddes and her loss was eight killed and thirty wounded. The Savage was recaptured by the British frigate Solebay (Clark, i, 125; Penn. Gazette, September 19, November 28, 1781; Brit. Adm. Rec., Instance and Prize Records, 44, 401. See further on privateering in 1781, Clark, i, 120, 127; Tucker, ch. viii; A. Sherburne, 37-49; Mil. and Nav. Mag. U. S., July, 1833; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 20; Massachusetts Mag., January, 1908; Boston Gazette. February 19, April 9, 16, 30, May 7, June 4, 25, July 2, August 6, September 10, 1781; Continental Journal, February 1, May 24, 1781; Conn. Courant, August 7, 1781; Freeman’s Journal, May 16, 1781; London Chronicle, May 10, 1781.)

      In addition to privateering upon the sea, active maritime warfare was carried on during the Revolution by means of boats alongshore and in harbors, inlets, and bays. Whaleboats, barges, and other small open craft were employed, with eight or more oars, sometimes as many as twenty-four, and also carrying sail, and with a swivel or heavier gun mounted in the bow. Their crews numbered from less than a dozen to thirty or more. A flotilla of four or five such boats made a formidable armament. Sometimes by surprise at night and sometimes by direct attack, they captured merchantmen, transports, and supply ships, and occasionally armed vessels of considerable force. Nantucket and Vineyard Sounds, Long Island Sound, Chesapeake Bay, and, most of all, the New Jersey shore and lower New York Bay were the waters chiefly frequented by these whaleboat privateersmen. The British and loyalists employed the same sort of boats in their predatory warfare along the shores of Chesapeake Bay and Long Island Sound; and boat expeditions were sent out from British men-of-war for the same kind of work. The most famous of the American flotillamen was Adam Hyler of New Jersey, who bore a commission from his state. He and others began their operations after the occupation of New York by the British in 1776. They cruised between Egg Harbor and Staten Island. Sometimes their boats were destroyed by parties sent from the British fleet, but new ones were soon built to replace them. Hyler was most active in 1781 and 1782 (Naval Mag., November, 1836 ; Mag. Amer. Hist., March, 1878, March, 1882 ; N. Y. Gen. and Biogr. Rec., April, 1891 ; Clark, i, 113, 120; Boston Post, October 17, 1778, January 23, February 6, 1779, May 11, 1782; Penn. Packet, May 2, 1780, May 29, 1781; Independent Chronicle, May 17, 1781, January 9, 1783; Freeman’s Journal, April 25, December 26, 1781, June 26, 1882 ; Salem Gazette, August 15, 1782; Boston Gazette, March 31, 1783 ; Pickering MSS., xliv, 162 ; Almon, xiv, 35; N. Y. Eve. Post, July 18, 1883, quoted in Proc. Mass. Hist. Soc., January, 1884.)

      Several marauding expeditions in Chesapeake Bay were conducted by the British during the Revolution. That of Collier and Mathew in 1779 has been noticed. In the fall of 1780, General Leslie, with about three thousand men and a naval force consisting of the Romulus of forty-four guns, the frigate Blonde, and some smaller vessels, including one of John Goodrich’s, seized Portsmouth, Virginia. December 30, the expedition of Benedict Arnold with sixteen hundred men, which had sailed from New York on the 12th with several frigates, arrived in Chesapeake Bay. During the early part of January, 1781, Arnold raided up the James River as far as Richmond and destroyed much property. Governor Jefferson of Virginia made strenuous efforts in the defense of his State. Arnold soon retired to Portsmouth where he remained until spring. Meanwhile, in February, a French sixty-four-gun ship and two frigates captured the Romulus and several small vessels of Arnold’s fleet. Another raid was made in April and May by twenty-five hundred men under Generals Phillips and Arnold. The expedition left Portsmouth April 18, fell down to Hampton Roads, and thence proceeded up the James and Chickahominy Rivers. April 27, the British met with firm resistance on the part of the Virginia navy on the James River; the most important of these vessels were the ships Tempest and Renown of sixteen guns each and the fourteen-gun brigantine Jefferson. This force, however, the invaders finally overcame, capturing a number of vessels that the Americans had not time to destroy. This nearly put an end to the Virginia navy. Phillips died May 13, leaving Arnold in command. Soon after this, upon the arrival of Cornwallis in Virginia, Arnold returned to New York (Almon, xi, 157, 322, xii, 60; Jefferson, ii, 391-410; Boston Gazette, March 5, 1781 ; Navy Rec. Soc., vi, 93-102; Dawson, ch. lxxx; Narr. and Crit. Hist., vi, 546; Virginia Hist. Reg., July, 1848, July, 1849, October, 1851; So. Lit. Messenger, June, 1839, March, 1857.)

      When the American and French armies marched south in August, 1781, General Clinton sought to divert them from their purpose by sending Arnold on another marauding expedition, this time to Connecticut. Having collected a force on the Long Island shore at a point about thirty miles from New London, Arnold weighed anchor early in the evening of September 5. He had about seventeen hundred men on board twenty-four vessels. Captain Bazeley was in command of the fleet. They appeared off New London early the next morning. The force was landed in two divisions, nine hundred men on the west side of the Thames River and eight hundred on the east. Arnold led the western division and had little difficulty in taking New London; the town was burned. Fort Griswold, at Groton, on the east side of the river, made a strong resistance, but it was finally captured by the British and loyalists and a massacre of the garrison followed. A very large amount of property on shore was destroyed; also all the shipping, except a few vessels that escaped up the river. The expedition then returned to New York (Almon, xiii, 53,58; Dawson, ch. xcviii; Narr. and Crit. Hist, vi, 562.)

      The most important naval event of 1781 was the culmination of the struggle for naval supremacy in American waters on the part of the French and British, which decided the outcome of the war. In December, 1780, war between Holland and England was declared, and in February, 1781, Admiral Rodney, the British naval commander-in-chief in the West Indies, seized the Dutch island of St. Eustatius, with a vast amount of property both public and private, thereby breaking up a depot for the supply and transshipment of goods and military stores, which had been during the war of great importance to the Americans and an invaluable aid to their cause. After the capture, through the very questionable expedient of leaving Dutch colors flying, Rodney was able greatly to increase the amount of booty by decoying into the roadstead many unsuspecting vessels. He wrote to Germain, March 26: “I may speak within bounds when I say that since taking this island upwards of two hundred thousand pounds in value of tobacco has fell into our hands.” The spoils were sent home to England in thirty-four ships, most of which were fortunately captured by the French in the English Channel. Before the end of the year, St. Eustatius also was captured by the French (Mahan, 382; Channing, iii, 323-327; Almon, xi, 260, xiii, 119; Amer. Hist. Rev., viii (July, 1903), 699-708; London Chronicle, March 15, 1781; Boston Gazette, April 2, 1781 ; Navy Rec. Soc., xxxviii, 123-126; Stopford-Sackville MSS., 202, 207 (Rodney to Germain, March 4, 26, 1781); Letters of Lord Rodney. Rodney’s letters disclose the vindictiveness which marked his conduct at St. Eustatius.)

      The French fleet in Newport, now commanded by Commodore Destouches, sailed for Chesapeake Bay early in March, closely followed by Arbuthnot from Gardiner’s Bay, who by superior sailing arrived off the capes in time to head off the French. A battle followed in which Destouches had the advantage and yet he ran out to sea, allowing Arbuthnot to enter the bay undisturbed and form a junction with Arnold. Reinforcements under Phillips were then sent from New York to the army in Virginia. The operations of these officers on the James River, already mentioned, then took place. Late in March the Comte de Grasse with a powerful fleet sailed from Brest for the West Indies. Rodney being still occupied at St. Eustatius, the French on their arrival late in April had to deal only with Rear-Admiral Hood, whose force was inferior. If Rodney had been less intent on prize money he could, perhaps, have given De Grasse a reception that might possibly have upset French and American plans. He would neither go out himself to meet the French nor allow Hood to do so. De Grasse did not make full use of his advantage, however, and beyond releasing four blockaded French ships at Martinique he accomplished little. He anchored at Cape Francois late in July (Mahan, 382-387; Almon, xi, 310-315; Stopford-Sackville MSS., 207 (March 28, 1781) ; Navy Rec. Soc, iii (Hood’s Letters), 15-18; Rodney’s Letters, 58-62.)

      Meanwhile Washington and Rochambeau, having united their forces near New York, were prepared to move on that place or against Cornwallis in Virginia, according to whether the one or the other movement could most advantageously be supported by the French fleet. Having been apprised of this situation upon his arrival at Cape Francois, De Grasse decided on the Chesapeake and promptly dispatched a frigate to notify the generals. They at once moved the allied army to the head of Chesapeake Bay and thence by transports to the York Peninsula, where Cornwallis in his camp at Yorktown was soon invested. De Grasse sailed north, August 5, and anchored in Lynnhaven Bay, just inside the capes of the Chesapeake, on the 30th. There was no English naval force in the bay at this time. Arbuthnot had departed long before, returning to England on leave, and a few days before, Hood, sent north from the West Indies by Rodney, had passed the capes, and seeing no French had kept on to New York, where he joined Admiral Graves, now in command of the North American station. August 31, Graves sailed with the whole force for the Chesapeake, and upon arriving off the capes, September 5, saw De Grasse inside. The English had nineteen ships of the line, the French twenty-four. De Grasse got under way and ran out to sea to meet his adversary, and five days were spent in manoeuvring and desultory flghting. This gave an opportunity for another French fleet to get into the bay. This was the Newport fleet, now commanded by Commodore De Barras with a convoy of transports carrying siege artillery for the use of the array before Yorktown, which it was most important to conduct in safety. Graves, overmatched, was obliged to return to New York. De Grasse again entered the bay, where he found De Barras safely anchored. The action of September 5 was a subject of controversy among British officers. Graves fought the battle under a new system of instructions, and believed that his want of success was due to the failure of his captains, bound by tradition to the old system, to interpret his signals intelligently. Hood sharply criticized the management of the fleet and has been charged with purposely failing to get into action and with a willingness to see Graves blunder (Mahan, 387-400; Almon, xii, 283, xiii, 33-48, xiv, 36; Boston Gazette, October 1, 1781 ; Stopford-Sackville MSS., 212-215; Navy Rec. Soc., iii, 24, 28-36, 40, 44, vi, 111-127, xxix, 213, xxxii, 120, 121, 124, 125, 129, xxxv, 53-55, 260, 261; Clowes, iii, 488-502; Channing, iii, 334-339, 345; Doniol, iv, chs. xiii, xiv; Chevalier, ch. viii. See article on Rochambeau, by J. J. Jusserand in Harvard Graduates’ Mag., December, 1912.)

      The naval supremacy of France at the seat of war was now complete, the sea power so much desired by Washington had been won for the allies. The situation of Cornwallis seemed hopeless, although if he had held out a few weeks longer, it is possible that Clinton’s efforts to relieve him might have been successful. He considered his position untenable, however, and surrendered to the allies, October 19.

      Before the end of 1781, the Continental navy was reduced to the lowest point it reached during the war. Three vessels had been lost within the year: the frigates Confederacy and Trumbull and the sloop of war Saratoga. The Trumbull was the last of the original thirteen frigates of 1775. The frigates Alliance and Deane now constituted the whole strength of the navy in commission. The America of seventy-four guns and the frigate Bourbon were still on the stocks, with no likelihood of their being finished for a long time to come. On the list of officers were twenty-two captains and thirty-nine lieutenants, and of marine officers twelve captains and twelve lieutenants (Pap. Cont. Congr., 37, 473. This list is dated September, 1781, and is doubtless inaccurate.) The great majority of these officers were either unemployed or serving on board privateers; several were prisoners of war. The administration of naval affairs continued to be in charge of Robert Morris as Agent of Marine until after the end of the war.

      Five hundred and fifty letters of marque were issued to private armed vessels by the Continental Congress in 1781, a much larger number than in any other year and an increase over the figures for 1780 of two hundred and forty-nine (Naval Records (calendar), 217-495.) This indicates a decided activity and enterprise on the part of American privateers. A correspondent of John Adams wrote to him early in the following year: ” It is true that a large number of our private armed ships to the Eastward have been taken in the course of the last season, but in every other respect we have been successful. And indeed we have captured a number of valuable ships belonging to the enemy.” (Adams MSS., January 18, 1782.)

      During the year 1781 the number of vessels of all classes in the British navy increased from five hundred and thirty-eight to five hundred and fiftyone, a much smaller growth than in the previous years of the war. The number in commission reached three hundred and ninety-eight at the end of the year, an increase of only two over the figures for the first of January. The number on the North American station seems to have varied considerably and to have been largest in October, when Graves had forty-five in his fleet; there were about forty in the West Indies. The total number of seamen and marines in the navy was ninety thousand (Hannay, ii, 211; Schomberg, ii, 36, iv, 376-384.)

      According to the table of losses and captures before referred to, the British lost six hundred and twenty-five vessels, of which thirty-eight were privateers and the others merchantmen; of these, two hundred and seventeen were recaptured or ransomed. England took from her enemies three hundred and seventeen, including forty privateers, and ten of them were recaptured (Clowes, iii, 396.) Another correspondent of John Adams, writing from Boston, says: 11 The British frigates have done more damage to Our trade the last Season than any time since the Warr; that confounded Penobscot is a handy resort.” (Adams MSS., January 23, 1782.)

      John Paul Jones wrote to Washington, May 7, 1781: “Our Navy has been badly conducted; it has ever been without a head and is now almost entirely lost . . . I have pointed out many desirable operations that promised success and would have taught the barbarous Britains humanity, but my voice has been as a cry in the desert. The importance and necessity of a marine establishment does not appear sufficiently impressed on the minds of our Legislature.” (Sparks MSS., xii, 247)

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