Owing to various causes the thirteen frigates provided for by Congress in 1775 were much delayed in fitting out and going into commission, and some of them never got to sea. The Warren and Providence were perhaps the first to be completed, but the difficulty of manning them and the occupation of Newport and the lower bay by the British kept them in port. Commodore Hopkins hoisted his pennant on the Warren early in December, 1776, perhaps before, and anchored her in the Providence River. He had with him also the frigate Providence, the ship Columbus, the brig Hampden, and the sloop Providence. January 2, 1777, Hopkins, having been informed that the British frigate Diamond was aground near Warwick Neck below the mouth of the river, went down to the vicinity in the sloop Providence. The Diamond managed to get off during the night; for allowing her to escape Hopkins was much criticized. Writing, March 13, to William Ellery, the commodore says in self-defense that as it was blowing very hard it was thought best not to try to get the frigates down the river. When he arrived on the scene in the Providence he "found the Diamond ashore on a shoal which runs off S. W. from Patience, about half a mile from that Island and a little more S. E. from Warwick Neck, and as there is about eleven feet of water on that shoal at low water and not a very hard bottom and the tide about half down, she did not careen. There lay about one mile and a half" away "a fifty gun ship with her top-sails loose and her anchor apeak, who, as the wind was, could have fetch'd within pistol shot of the Diamond, but the wind blowing so hard was I think the reason of her not coming to sail. The truth is the ships could not have got down, and if the wind had not blow'd so hard and they could, it would not in my judgment have been prudent, neither should I have ordered them down, as the enemy's ships could have come to sail with any wind that our ships could and a great deal better, as they lay in a wide channel and we in a narrow and very crooked one . . . I went ashore at Warwick and saw Colonel Bowen, who told me he had sent for two eighteen -pounders, and in less than half an hour they came. I went on board the sloop and we dropp'd down under the ship's stern a little more than musket shott off, it being then a little after sun sett. We fired a number of shott, which she returned from her stern chacers. The ship careen'd at dusk about as much as she would have done had she been under sail. After they had fired about twenty-six shott from the shore, they ceased and soon after hail'd the sloop and said they wanted to speak with me. I went ashore and was informed they were out of ammunition. I offer'd them powder and stuff for wads, but we had no shott that would do. They sent to Providence for powder and shott and I went on board the sloop and sent some junk ashore for wads. Soon after they hail'd again from the shore and I went to see what they wanted and gave Capt. Whipple orders not to fire much more, as I thought it would do but little execution, it being night and could not take good aim with the guns. When I got on shore, the officer that commanded there desir'd I would let them have some bread out of the sloop, which I sent the boat off for, but the people not making the boat well fast, while they were getting the bread she drifted away and I could not get aboard again. The ship by lightening got off about 2 o'clock the same night, and on the whole, as the ship was on a shoal almost under cover of a 50 gun ship and got off again before it was possible to have done anything with our frigates, I thought it of no moment." (R.I. Hist. Mag., October, 1886; Hopkins, 167-177.) Another ship took the Diamond's station and soon after this an abortive attempt was made to destroy her with a fireship (R. I. Hist. Mag., January, 1886, journal of Lieutenant Trevett.) Commodore Parker, commanding the British fleet at Newport, wrote to the Admiralty, January 7: "The Continental Fleet is in Providence River, beyond our reach at present." (Brit. Adm. Rec., A.D. 486. See also Ibid., December 11, 1776.)
Hopkins was ordered by the Marine Committee, January 21, to get the Warren and Providence to sea as soon as possible, to cruise from Rhode Island to Virginia. But the commodore's active sea service in the navy had already come to an end. As the result of a petition signed by some of the Warren's officers and of the Marine Committee's examination of one of them, Captain John Grannis of the marines, Congress resolved, March 26, that "Esek Hopkins be immediately and he is hereby suspended from his command in the American Navy." After passing the remainder of the year under suspension, the commodore was formally dismissed from the service January 2, 1778. April 4, 1777, Captains John B. Hopkins, Abraham Whipple, and Dudley Saltonstall were instructed to make every effort to get to sea with the frigates Warren, Providence, and Trumbull, in search of British transports and merchantmen; but these vessels were doomed to idle away the entire year in their native rivers (Hopkins, 185-203 ; Jour. Cont. Congr., March 26, 1777, January 2, 1778; Pap. Cont. Congr., 58, 225-230 (February 19, 1777), 235; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 50, 65 (January 21, April 4, 1777)
The plans of the Marine Committee for preying upon British commerce and the movements of American armed vessels in general might have been effectually hindered if the British commander had adopted the suggestions offered to General Howe by Lord George Germain, who wrote March 3, 1777, that the King was of the "opinion that a warm diversion upon the coasts of the Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire would not only impede the levies for the Continental Army, but tend much to the security of our trade, and indeed it scarcely admits a doubt but that these benefits must inevitably result from such an arrangement. For as on one hand, it is scarcely to be expected that those provinces will part with men when their presence must be wanted for the internal defence of their own respective districts, so on the other, a salutary check will unavoidably be put to the successes of the rebel privateers, when we have destroyed or taken possession of their ports. It is, therefore, the King's pleasure that Lord Howe and you take this matter into your serious consideration so far as your intended plan will admit." (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 58.)
Early in the year the Marine Committee had intended sending to the West Indies, and along the southern coast as far as Pensacola and the Mississippi, a squadron composed of the Alfred and Cabot, then at Boston, and the Columbus, sloop Providence and Hampden, in the Providence River, all under the command of John Paul Jones; but the project was not carried out, owing, as Jones believed, to the opposition of Commodore Hopkins (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 52, 54 (February 1, 5, 1777); Pap. Cont. Congr., 58, 117-121, 191, 197 (February 28, March 1, 1777) ; Sands, 58, 59, 64.) The Columbus and Hampden remained in Narragansett Bay several months. The sloop Providence, Captain Jonathan Pitcher, ran the blockade of the British fleet in the lower bay in February, passing "so near a 50 gun ship about 2 A.M. as to hear them talking on board." She went into New Bedford and then made a cruise to the eastward. Off Cape Breton she captured a transport brig with a small body of soldiers for Burgoyne's army. This vessel did not surrender, however, without resistance. John Trevett, lieutenant of marines on the Providence, says that the "brig bore down on us and began a fire at long shot; we ran from her about one hour, until we got in good order for action, when we took in sail and let her come up close along side. The sea being smooth, we cut away all her colors in forty minutes and they began to be slack, but in a few minutes they began to fire as brisk as ever and cut our sails and rigging badly; it lasted about forty minutes longer, when we cut away her main-topmast. We hailed them without a trumpet, being close on her starboard quarter, to know whether they gave up or not, and the answer was 'yes.' . . . We found she was direct from England and that she had 25 soldiers and two officers on board, besides the crew, and was loaded with King's stores and bound for Quebec." The Providence soon afterwards returned to New Bedford (R.I. Hist. Mag., April, 1886.)
The brig Cabot, Captain Joseph Olney, also cruised to the eastward, and in March, while off the coast of Nova Scotia, she was chased by the British frigate Milford. The captain ran her ashore and had just time to escape with his crew; they afterwards, it is said, seized a schooner and made their way back to Boston. The Milford, "after a wearisome struggle of 14 days, got the Continental Brig Cabot . . . off, and sent her to Halifax, where she arrived and is now fitting out with the greatest expedition for sea." (Boston Gazette, June 16, 1777 ; Continental Journal, April 10, 1777 ; Brit. Adm. Rec., Captains' Logs, No. 607 (log of the Milford.) The Cabot was taken into the British navy; she is believed to have been the first vessel of the Continental navy to be captured, except the Lexington, which was recaptured.
On April 23 the Marine Committee ordered to sea the Alfred, Captain Hinman, then at Boston, and the sloop Providence, which, after returning from her eastern cruise, had been put under the command of Captain John P. Rathburne. The vessels were to cruise separately "in such Latitudes as will be most likely to fall in with and intercept the enemies Transport vessels coming to reinforce or supply their Army at New York." Continuing their instructions the Committee wrote: "You are to use your true endeavours to take, burn, sink, or destroy as many of the enemies Vessels of every kind, as it may be your good fortune to fall in with. The Prizes you may be lucky enough to take you will send into such Ports of the United States as you shall think will be the safest and most convenient . . . It is expected from every Commander in our Navy that he use his officers and people well, still preserving strict discipline and decorum; that Prisoners be treated with humanity; and that great care be taken of the ships, their materials and stores, all which we desire you will carefully observe and advise us of your proceedings by every opportunity. We expect your most dilligent exertions will be used to execute these orders with all possible dispatch and in the best manner for the service of your Country." The Alfred was to return to port by July 1 and then receive fresh orders. The Providence was to cruise three months, and if, on returning to port, she found no further instructions, she was then to take in provisions and proceed on another three months' cruise (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 70, 71 (April 23,1777) The Alfred seems to have performed no important service under these orders. Indeed she probably did not go to sea at all before July; very likely she was unable to enlist a crew in time.
In June the sloop Providence sailed from New Bedford, and off Sandy Hook saw a ship, brig, schooner, and sloop standing to the southeast and followed them. "About 3 P.M.," says Lieutenant Trevett in his journal, "we came up with the ship, the other vessels being near to her weather bow, and hailed her. She had her pennant and ensign flying, but gave us no answer and we gave her a bow gun, intending to break her cabin windows. We drew very near her, but the wind being scant we found we could not get to windward, so we bore away and went under her lee, as near as we could, and gave her a good broadside. She immediately gave us as good a one and run us aboard on our starboard quarter and hung there about five minutes, until she broke all our sweeps that were lashed there. At the same time the brig of 10 guns and the schooner of 8 [guns] lost no time, all three of them firing into us at once. As the ship fell off she gave us her starboard broadside and we shot ahead of them with our sails and rigging much cut to pieces. We then bore away, all hands employed in fixing our rigging. We had but a poor crew at this time. Our loss was our sailing master, Capt. George Sinkins of Newport, who was killed, and only two or three men slightly wounded. We hove him overboard, got our rigging repaired as soon as possible, and made sail for the ship. We came up with her just after sunset with a determination to board her, for we well knew if we carried the ship that the rest of the vessels would fall into our hands. We ran within half Pistol shot and gave her a full broadside, but all three of them played their part so well we gave it up." The schooner was taken, however, and from her it was learned that the ship carried sixteen guns. After this the Providence cruised several weeks in the Gulf Stream. A sail was seen, acting strangely, and was chased, and upon coming up with her in the night, she was found to be an abandoned ship, evidently French, under full sail; rudderless, though otherwise in good condition. It being apparently impracticable to get her into port, she was burned to prevent her falling into British hands. The Providence returned to New Bedford in August (R.I. Hist. Mag., April, 1886.)
Meanwhile Captain Jones remained on shore, having held out to him successively various promises of active employment afloat. The disappointment of his expectation of taking a squadron to sea occurred a few weeks after his arrival at Boston in the Alfred, in December, 1776. In March he was appointed to command one of three vessels which Congress had ordered to be purchased at Boston. In May he was directed to proceed to France in the ship Amphitrite, which had brought over military stores, and after his arrival there the American Commissioners were expected, by order of Congress, to procure for him the command of a frigate. These Plans were abandoned in turn; and June 14, 1777, he was given command of the new eighteen-gun ship Ranger, just built at Portsmouth. On the same day it was resolved in Congress: "That the flag of the thirteen United States be thirteen stripes alternate red and white; that the Union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation." Jones is said to have hoisted this flag on the Ranger for the first time it was ever raised on any man-of-war. For several months after that be was busy fitting out his ship. The Ranger was one hundred and sixteen feet long over all, twenty-eight feet wide, and measured three hundred and eight tons. She mounted eighteen six-pounders; she was pierced for twenty-six guns, but Jones considered her too light a ship for so heavy an armament (Sherburne, 36-40; Sands, 66-70; 7ones MSS., Jones to Morris, April 7, July 28, 1777; Remick's Kittery in the Revolution, 9, 10, gives the Ranger 14 nines and 4 sixes; Admiral Arbuthnot reported in 1780 (Brit. Adm. Rec., A.D. 486, May 23,1780) that she mounted 20 sixes.)
The Randolph, built at Philadelphia, was one of the first of the frigates to be ready for service, but the close blockade of Delaware Bay held her and other Continental vessels in port several weeks; then there was further delay due to ice in the river. January 30, 1777, the frigate was ordered to sail "the moment the Ice will permit," accompanied by the Hornet and Fly and a convoy of merchantmen, to be escorted "fairly off to sea." In these orders, signed for the Marine Committee by Robert Morris, Captain Biddle received general instructions as to his conduct. "For your encouragement in this service," says Morris, "I must observe that there are no Cruizing Ships an over match for you, except the two Deckers, for altho you think you have not seamen enough, yet that is just their case; except the Roebuck there is none of them half manned, therefore you have only to avoid two Deckers or engaging when there is more than one in sight. Any of their other single ships you need not fear, especially if you can persuade your men to board. Remember what a glorious exploit it will be, to add one of their frigates or 20 Gun ships to our navy in a few days after you get out, and if the Randolph has but Heels, I think you can and will do it; you will then get seamen Plenty. If your ship sails remarkably fast, you may take libertys with them. If she does not, be more cautious and try to find out her trim . . . You'l observe that many merchant vessels are expected in with valuable Stores to this port, therefore you'l afford them all possible protection and had best keep in their tract as long as you can." (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 49 (January 30, 1777) As soon as the ice would permit, about February 1, the Randolph, Hornet, and Fly proceeded down the river with their convoy and got safely to sea (Pap. Cont. Congr., 137, App., 4, 49, 57, 115, 137, 147 (Morris to Hancock, December 14, 30, 1776, January 3, 26, February 4, 10, 1777)
Morris wrote further instructions for Biddle February 15 and forwarded them to him by the Fly, which had returned to port. The Randolph was now to proceed to the West Indies. The Marine Committee had decided to send all the armed vessels at Philadelphia to those islands. Biddle was given letters to William Bingham, the navy agent at Martinique, and to other persons at St. Eustatius, Curacao, Cape Francois, and Mole St. Nicholas, to whom he was to apply in turn, until he had a full cargo of military stores and supplies for the army, to be brought back at once to the safest port. The Dutch government had prohibited the exportation of such supplies to America, but the traffic was still conducted on a large scale, in Dutch as well as French ports. Arms, ammunition, and clothing were brought from Europe to the West Indies for transshipment to the United States. It was hoped that these stores could be procured in sufficient quantity and without delay at Martinique. "These supplies are exceedingly necessary for the service of the ensuing campaigne and you cannot render your Country a more essential service than by bringing them soon and safe in . . . As you command the first American frigate that has got out to sea, it is expected that you contend warmly on all necessary occasions for the honor of the American flag. At every foreign port you enter, salute their forts and waite on the Governor General or Commander in Chief, asking the liberty of their ports for the ships of the United States of America. Take care that your people do not molest their Trade nor Inhabitants nor in any shape disturb that good understanding we have with them." Prizes were to be sent into Martinique, St. Eustatius, or other ports, where the cargoes might be sold, if to greater advantage, the vessels, however, being always brought to American ports. "As the British men of war on the West India stations are not often well manned, it would give great eclat to our Naval Service it you can make prize of one or more of them and if so, you will do well to tempt some of their best warrant officers, such as Boatswains, Gunners, Quarter Masters and their several mates, to enter our service, for we would wish you to bring both these and plenty of Common Sailors home, to assist in manning our other ships of war." Seamen from other prizes also, and in the various ports visited, were to be procured for the service when possible. "When your errand to the West Indies is compleated, you'l observe it is mentioned already that you are to return to some safe port in these United States of America. The uncertainty of the fate of war makes us cautious of saying positively which shall be the best port. There is little doubt but this [Philadelphia] will be the most convenient to receive the stores at, being most centrical and probably not very distant from the scenes of action, and as you are well enabled to defend yourself against most single ships and capable, we hope, of outsailing any of the enemies, it appears that you might venture to call at Cape Henlopen or Cape May for intelligence, without incurring the charge of rashness, and we will endeavour to keep out some small Cruizers about the time you are expected, to give you information." (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 55 (February 15,1777) Signals were prescribed for communication with the shore and with other vessels. Most unfortunately the Randolph had not proceeded far on her voyage before she encountered a heavy gale, in which she was dismasted and was obliged to put into Charleston in a crippled condition. Before arriving there a mutiny broke out among English sailors on board, but was soon quelled. March 29 the Sachem, Captain James Robinson, was sent to Martinique with duplicates of the dispatches for Bingham which the Randolph had not been able to deliver (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 55, 57, 58 (February 15, 17, 18, 1777), 59 (February 5, 1777), 64 (March 29, 1777); Pap. Cont. Congr., 137, app., 151, 177 (February 10, 19, 1777) ; Port Folio, October, 1809; Amer. Hist. Review, viii (July, 1903), 687.)
The Raleigh, Hancock, and Boston were the only others of the thirteen frigates that cruised at sea during 1777. The Virginia, built at Baltimore, was ready for sea early in the year, and her commander, Captain James Nicholson, received instructions in April to proceed to the West Indies, but, owing to the close blockade of Chesapeake Bay by the British, she could not get out. Repeated orders were sent to Nicholson to get the Virginia to sea, but she was forced to remain idle in port throughout the whole year (Ibid., 51, 66, 85, 86, 104, 108, 116, 117 (January 24, April 8, 29, May 1, October 23, November 6, December 2, 12, 1777) The occupation of New York and Philadelphia by the British, in 1777, prevented the frigates Montgomery and Congress, in the Hudson River, and the Delaware, Washington, and Effingham, in the Delaware River, from rendering active sea service; and the New York frigates were destroyed before the end of the year, to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy (Ibid., 65 (April 8, 1777); Pap. Cont. Congr., 137, app., 4, 9, 21 (December 14, 16, 21, 1776); Almon, v, 425-431.) The Trumbull did not leave the Connecticut River, where she was built, until 1779; and, as already related, the Warren and Providence were held in port more than a year after they were ready for sea.
In April, 1777, an expedition was sent by General Howe from New York against Connecticut under the command of General Tryon, the royal governor of New York. A landing was made at Fairfield, whence they proceeded to Danbury and destroyed a large quantity of public stores. Upon returning to their ships the British were harassed by a small force of Americans under Generals Arnold, Wooster, and Silliman. Arnold wrote to Governor Trumbull of Connecticut, April 30: "After the enemy reimbark'd they imediately weighed Anchor and stood for Huntington harbour, Long Island, where they doubtless are at this time. I think it very probable they have in Contemplation the Destroying the Continental Frigate [Trumbull] at Saybrook, which may be easily effected by a few small Tenders, as there is no Battery or Armed Vessell to Cover her. If she cannot be got over the Barr & secured in harbour, will it not be prudent to move her up the river to some place of greater safety? I know not If your honour or the Continental agents have the Direction of her; that she is greatly exposed & ought to be secured, there is no doubt. I should Imagine she might be easily got over the barr with proper lighters & an Easterly wind, & secured In Guilford, Sachems head, or New Haven, where she might be got in readiness for the Seas." (Trumbull MSS., vi, 90. See also Ibid., 87, 96, letters of General Silliman (April 29,1777) on the operations against Tryon and of Captain John Shipman (May 1, 1777) on the dangerous situation of the frigate Trumbull.)
In view of this clear statement of the frigate's situation, we learn with surprise that - apparently in response to the orders of April 4, but possibly to earlier orders that have not been preserved - Captain Saltonstall went to sea and on April 12 wrote a letter to the Marine Committee dated "on board the Continental ship of war Trumbull," off the Virginia capes, saying: "I have the pleasure to acquaint you that at one P.M. I fell in with two transports from England, one of eight, the other of ten guns. They engaged us three glasses, when they struck
their colours. They killed seven of our men and wounded eight more. We shattered them in a terrible manner and killed and wounded numbers of their crews. I have the pleasure to inform you that our people behaved well and with much courage." (Almon, v, 135.) It is obvious that Saltonstall's "Continental ship of war" could not have been the frigate Trumbull, which was securely shut up in the river. It is likely that, owing to the importance of the service to be performed, a vessel was impressed, chartered, or borrowed for the occasion, perhaps the ten-gun sloop Trumbull, a Connecticut privateer (The sloop Trumbull is known to have been in commission at this time. Saltonstall's name appears in a list of Connecticut privateers as commander of the Governor Trumbull, a 20-gun ship, though probably at a later date. See Conn. State Records, i, 567; Publ. R.I. Hist. Soc., viii, 212, 214, 225, 229, 231, 256; Papers New London Hist. Soc., IV, i, 28; Nav. Rec. of Am. Rev. (calendar) 478; Conn. Gazette, July 18,1777; Data from the Library of the Navy Department.)
Although the frigates Hancock and Boston had received cruising orders in the fall of 1776, such was the delay in fitting them out that they did not get to sea until May, 1777. The frigate Milford and other vessels of the enemy had long been a terror to American navigators in eastern waters and the need of regular fighting ships more powerful than the state cruisers and privateers was greatly felt. The General Court of Massachusetts resolved, April 24, that the Hancock and Boston ought to put to sea at once in pursuit of the Milford. It was arranged that the Continental frigates should be accompanied for twenty-five days by nine privateers, including two or three of considerable force, and by any others that should be ready by May 1. The commanders of these privateers, serving under Captains Manley and McNeill of the Hancock and Boston, were to be put upon the same footing for the time being as regular officers and their vessels were to be insured by the state (Mass. Court Rec., April 24, 26, 1777.) As a squadron, this assemblage of vessels amounted to nothing. With proper cooperation it might have constituted a force capable of meeting with some prospect of success any British squadron it was likely to fall in with. But the privateers took no part whatever in the cruise after the first few days; becoming separated, they were soon dropped behind by the frigates.
Another unfortunate circumstance, which may have had much to do with events soon to happen, was the lack of cordial relations between the captains of the frigates. Such being the case, it is perhaps not surprising that Dr. Samuel Cooper should have had forebodings when he wrote to John Adams, April 3, 1777: "Manly and McNeal do not agree. It is not, I believe, the Fault of the first . . . If they are not better united, infinite Damage may acrue." (Adams MSS.) Another of Adams's correspondents, Dr. William Gordon, wrote to him June 5: "The frigates have been sailed about a fortnight. Maritime affairs have been most horridly managed. We have beaten G. B. in dilatoriness & blunders. Where the fault hath lain I know not, but the credit of the Continent & Congress requires amendment." (Ibid.)
The squadron sailed from Boston May 21. Within six days the privateers had all parted from the frigates, some by choice, the others through bad weather. May 29 a brig was captured; she belonged to a fleet of transports under convoy of the Somerset, of sixty-four guns, and a frigate. "At break of day the 30th," says Captain McNeill, "we discover'd the Somersett and three large Ships under her Convoy. Capt. Manley was not convinced of the size of our Opponent untill she was within Shott of him, when very luckily for him the Hancock's Heels saved his Bacon. She nevertheless pursued him with great earnestness untill I tack'd upon her Convoy, who was a good way astern of her at that time. As soon as she saw me within random Shott of them, she left Capt. Manley & return'd to their protection; she then chac'd me about Six hours, but not being able to come up with me, she rejoin'd her Convoy just as night came on. Capt. Manley & myself then Steer'd to the Eastw'd and Northw'd in hopes of falling in with some others of the fleet, but saw no Enemy except a few miserable Fishermen untill Saturday June the Seventh, on the Morning of which day we fell in with the Fox, a British Frigate of 28 Guns Commanded by Capt. Patrick Fotheringham. She at first meant to Engage, but thought I was best to try her Heels, which would have effectually Saved her from me, but the Hancock coming up with her, an Action ensued which did not end untill after we came up, by which time the Hancock & the Fox were both very much damaged." (N.H. Geneal. Record, January, 1907 (McNeill to Marine Committee, July 16, 1777) A seaman on the Boston says of the fight: "At 6 A.M. Capt. Manly & she Exchanged some guns and then she Run & we in full Chace after her ... Betwixt the hours of 12 & one P.M. Capt. Manly Began to Engage Broadside & Broadside, our ship coming up fast as Posable; at last up we came and gave them a Noble Broadside which made them to strike a medeatly a Bout half after one." (N. H. Geneal. Record, January, 1907 (McNeill to Marine Committee, July 16, 1777)
According to the British account the Hancock was sighted from the Fox at five o'clock in the morning and the Boston soon afterwards. Captain Fotheringham says that after a half-hour's action with the Hancock, "I could plainly see that the other Ship to Windward was of nearly the same Force as the one I was engaged with, which was of thirty-two guns." He then tried to escape, hoping to fall in with some friendly cruiser or to draw the American ships apart, "but notwithstanding all the Sail I could make, the Ship I had before engaged came up with me about Noon and engaged me very close till a Quarter after one, when the other Ship came up and raked me and carried away my Main Yard," and did other damage. At half-past one the Fox would no longer answer her helm, and with one enemy on the bow and another on the quarter, she could not bring guns to bear on them. "I therefore at Quarter before two gave the Ship up in order to save my People." The Fox lost her lieutenant of marines and one man killed and ten wounded, two of them mortally; she was short of her full complement by thirty-three men (Brit. Adm. Rec., Courts Martial, No. 5309.) Admiral Montagu wrote from St. John's to Germain, June 11: "I was yesterday made very unhappy by a letter I received from Captain Fotheringham of his Majesty's ship Fox, acquainting me that he was taken the 7th instant by two American privateers on the banks, one called the Hancock of 32 guns and 347 men, the other of 28 guns called the Boston, full of men, the largest commanded by Manly, the other by McNeal." (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 69.)
Continuing his report of the cruise McNeill says: "The weather proving unfavourable for some time afterwards, we were severall days fitting the Fox & Capt. Manley his own Ship. I had sent my first Lieut. (Mr Browne) on board the Fox the day she was taken, but Captain Manley refused giving him the Command & I was finaly obliged to withdraw him for the sake of peace. I urged Capt. Manley to make the best of our way to Charlestown, South Carolina, there to Join Captain Biddle, fitt & clean our Ships, & then to Cruise for the West India Fleet untill towards the fall of the year, by which time our own Coast would probably be clear & we might return without any risque compared with what must be now Expected. He at first attended to my proposal, but afterwards did as he pleas'd; the event will prove whether I judge right or not. In short we loiter'd away three weeks or a Month before we sett our faces homeward, by which time the Coast of New England from Cape Sable as far as New York was so cover'd with cruisers that there was no escaping them.
"On Sunday the 6th of July, being 15 leagues to the Eastwd of Cape Sable, we took a Sloop from Louisburgh bound for Halifax, but delaying some time with her, we were chac'd towards evening by three Ships. We also being three, we did not make any efforts to avoid those Ships in Course of the night; on the Contrary Capt. Manley Tow'd the Sloop before spoken of untill next morning, by which time one of the Ships was a head of us and Tack'd upon us, the Second Ship, which was a two decker, was on our Lee quarter about three Leagues from us, and the third Ship about as far right a Stern. Capt. Manley then thought proper to sett fire to the Sloop & quitted her and endeavour'd to make the best of our way, but the first Ship being up within Shott about noon, we exchanged some Shott with her at a distance & then having spoke Capt. Manley, we agreed to tack and Engage her. We immediately Tack'd and Capt. Manley begun the Action with his head to the Northward & the Enemy on the opposite Tack, we being close under the Hancock's Stem, also fell in with the Enemy in our turn and Exchanged about five broad Sides with her. Her Shott was so well aim'd that some of them pass'd through our Ship under the wale, so that we could not Tack upon the Enemy untill we had stop'd those holes; this was however done in a few Minutes, but not before the two deck Ship had goten very near us. Unfortunately the Fox did not tack at the same time we did, by which means the Enemy got between her and us and she was obliged to pass under the fire of the first Ship above mention'd and the fire of the two deck Ship also. Capt. Manley seeing that the Fox was beyond Saveing, put about and stood to the Southd, the Fox bore away and run to the Eastwd, and we kept the Wind to the Northwd. The two deck Ship then put about and follow'd the Hancock, leaving the Fox and me to the other two Ships. The Fox fled and defended herself bravely, haveing also some advantage in point of Sailing; we were constrain'd to keep the Wind for our own Security, being neither able to run from nor fight such force as then appear'd to Leward." (N. H. Geneal. Rec., January, 1907.)
The vessel described by McNeill as a two-decker was the British forty-four-gun ship Rainbow, Commodore Collier, and she was accompanied by the ten-gun brig Victor. The third vessel, which appeared about the same time, was the frigate Flora of thirty-two guns. Collier says in his report that July 6, in the afternoon, being twelve leagues southwest of Cape Sambro, he first sighted the American squadron. Night came on, and the next morning the American ships, with a sloop in company, were five or six miles distant. They set fire to the sloop and at six o'clock another sail was observed "standing towards the rebel ships." This vessel was thought to be an American also and trying to join the others. "About Ten in the Morning the Enemy's Ships went away lasking, and Three Quarters of an Hour afterwards I was surprized to see several Shot exchanged between the sternmost of them and the Stranger who had last joined and whom I had hitherto looked upon as another of their Fleet. I then hoisted my Colours, shortly after which the two sternmost of the Rebel Frigates hawled their Wind, whilst the headmost kept away about two Points from it. This brought the English Ship (which I afterwards found was the Flora) more abreast of them, who passed to Windward, exchanging a Broadside with each and pursuing the Fugitive, who from the Alteration two or three Times of her Course, seemed uncertain which to steer. The Flora gained fast upon her, which she perceiving, hawled her Wind again and soon afterwards tacked and stood after her Comrades, exchanging a Broadside with the Flora as they passed each other. I was just putting about after the two Ships when I observed this Manoeuvre of the Rebel Frigate, which made me stand on something longer before I tacked, hoping to get her within Reach of my Guns as she passed us. I accordingly did so, but had not the good Fortune to bring down either a Mast or Sail by my Fire. I tacked immediately after her and soon afterwards saw the headmost Rebel Frigate put about; she passed me just out of Gunshot to Windward and appeared a very fine Ship of 34 Guns with Rebel Colours flying. One of the Gentlemen of my Quarter Deck had been a Prisoner lately at Boston and knew her to be the Hancock, on board of whom Manley commanded, the Sea Officer in whom the Congress place great Confidence and who is the Second in Rank in their Navy. The Ship I had fired upon I found outsailed me and soon after my tacking, went away lasking; whilst the other Frigate kept her wind. I then saw with Concern that one of the three must unavoidably escape, if they thus steered different Courses. I therefore judged it best to put about and follow the Hancock, which appeared the largest Ship. Whilst I was in Stays the Flora passed me very near, in Pursuit of the Ship I had fired upon. It was about Two o'Clock in the Afternoon of Monday the 7th of July that I tacked after Manley, who seemed at first rather to outsail the Rainbow, but I understood afterwards that to endeavour making his Ship sail better, he started all his Water forward and by that Means put her out of Trim. An Hour before the Close of Day he altered his Course and kept away large; however, we got so near to him before dark as enabled us by Means of a Night-glass to keep Sight of him all Night. At Dawn of Day she was not much more than a Mile ahead of me, soon after which we saw a small Sail to Leeward which we found to be the Victor Brig, who as we passed fired at the Rebel Frigate and killed one of the Men at the Wheel, but was not able from bad sailing to keep up or come near any more. About Four in the Morning I began firing the Bow chace upon her, with occasional Broadsides loaded with Round and Grape, as I could bring them to bear, some of which struck her Masts and Sails. Half an Hour past Eight I was so near as to hail her and let them know that if they expected Quarter, they must strike immediately. Manley took a few Minutes to consider and a fresher Breeze just then springing up, he availed himself of it by attempting to set some of the Steering Sails on the other Side. I therefore fired into him, upon which he struck the Rebel Colours to His Majesty's Ship, after a Chace of upwards of 39 Hours." (London Chronicle, August 26, 1777.)
To make the story more complete we may quote from the report of Captain Brisbane of the Flora. "On the 7th Instant at day break, Cape Sable bearing N. N. E. about fourteen Leagues, we discovered three Sail of Ships and a Sloop on our weather Quarter and a Sail on our Lee Quarter, standing to the Westward on the same Tack the Flora was. I thought it my duty to see what they were, tacked and stood towards them, upon which the Sloop, that was towed by the headmost ship, was cast off and set on fire. We passed within point blank shot to leeward of the three Ships, hoisted our Colours and fired a Shot at the headmost to show theirs, which they paid no attention to, fired a second at the Sternmost, stood on and as soon as we could fetch their wake, tacked and followed them.
At 9 A.M., Upon their finding that we weathered and came up with them, they formed a line ahead, hoisted Continental Colours, and began firing their Stern Chace. At 10 the two sternmost Ships shortened Sail, tacked and came close under our lee Quarter. Exchanging Broadsides as we passed each other, we stood on to the Ship who had not tacked, gave her our fire which she returned; she attempted to stay, missed and wore, which gave us an opportunity of raking her. We then wore and gave chace after her, the two other Ships being at this time close upon a Wind on different tacks. During this transaction we run considerably to leeward, which gave the Ship on our lee Quarter an opportunity of joining us fast, and upon her being abreast of our Chace, she tacked and proved to be His Majesty's Ship the Rainbow. She fired several well pointed Shot at the Chace, one of the Enemy soon afterwards tacked and stood to the South West, the Rainbow tacked and followed her; we continued standing to the northward after the Chace, who, upon the Rainbow's tacking, kept away more from the wind and set steering Sails and soon afterward began firing her Stern Chace at us. At 6 P.M. we came up close to her, upon which she struck her Colours and proved to be his Majesty's Ship the Fox, that had been taken a month before that by the Hancock and Boston, Continental Ships, on the Banks of Newfoundland. The Ship that we afterwards learned to be the Boston was, at the time the Fox struck, as far to windward as we could but discover the head of her Topsails out of the Water." (Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, August 28,1777, No. 2.)
The British took their prizes into Halifax. In his report Collier says the Hancock had two hundred and twenty-nine men on board, her complement being two hundred and ninety; and according to a letter of his to Germain, she carried thirty-two guns, chiefly twelve-pounders, and was "said to be the largest and fastest sailing frigate ever built . . . Manly seem'd filled with rage and grief at finding he had so easily surrendered to a ship of only 44 guns, believing all along that it was the Raisonable, of 64 guns, who was chasing him." (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 69, 70; London Chronicle, August 26, 1777 ; Boston Gazette, July 28, August 11, 18, 1777 ;Almon, v, 262; Brit. Adm. Rec., A. D. 487, August 28, 1777, Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, Captains' Letters, No. 1611.2 (Collier to Stephens, July 12, 1777), Captains' Logs, Nos. 360, 762 (logs of Flora and Rainbow). No report by Captain Manley appears to be accessible.) The Hancock appears to have been one of the very best and fastest of the Continental frigates, and if Manley had not made the mistake of altering her trim in the vain attempt to improve her speed, he might have escaped from the Rainbow. Failing in this, he should have made a spirited resistance, in which, by some lucky accident, he might possibly have succeeded in reversing the result; or by crippling his adversary, have been able to escape. Manley's record in the naval service up to this time had been excellent and his reputation was high among friends and foes. Collier, in his letter to Germain, says of him: "We have all long wished to get this man into our possession, from his talents and intrepidity, and fortunate it is that we have clone so, as he was beginning to shew the Americans what they had not been accustomed to, the seeing of one of his Majesty's ships in their possession, for he had just taken the Fox of 28 guns . . . Every body here is overjoyed at the capture of Mr. Manly, esteeming him more capable of doing mischief to the King's subjects than General Lee was." (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 70. General Charles Lee had been taken prisoner by the British several months before.) Manley rendered very efficient service also in the later years of the war, but on this occasion he failed to stand the test. He should not have feared to exchange a few shots, even in the belief that he was engaging the Raisonable, and would then soon have discovered that he had only a forty-four to deal with. We shall see that a few months later his fellow-officer, Captain Biddle, was not afraid to engage a sixty-four, with no thought, apparently, of striking his flag before the last extremity. Manley was sent a prisoner to New York, where he remained many months. The loss of the Hancock was almost a calamity. She was taken into the British service under the name of the Iris and fought only too effectually against her old companions in the Continental navy.
Meanwhile the Boston escaped and found her way to Wiscasset. In his report to the Marine Committee, which was dated at that place July 16, Captain McNeill relates his proceedings since losing sight of his consorts on the 7th: "In a few hours we saw two more of the Enemy about two points on our weather bow; from these we were obliged to tack to the Southwd . . . After Standing two hours to the Southwd we espied another Ship bearing S. W. of us, who appeared to be in chace towards us. I then hove about to the Northwd again & stood on untill Nine o'Clock the Evening; the chace coming down upon us very fast all the time. As soon as the Moon was down I tack'd and Stood to the Southwd and in less than an hour saw the Lights of the Chacing Ship Standing athwart our Stern about 3/4 of a Mile from us. On Tuesday Morning the 8th Current I saw five Sail of the Enemy to the Leward of me, three on the Lee bow and two on the Lee Quarter, at the same time saw Cape Sable bearing N.N.E., five leagues. The Wind coming to the Southwd I stood across the Bay of Fundy, determin'd to Shelter myself in the first port I could make and get intellegence, which happened to be this river where I arriv'd on Thursday the 10th Instant. On my arrival here I found that the Milford Frigate had been in about fourteen days past & that she had penetrated up as far as we now are, Namely at Wichcasset point. There is scarce a day, but one or two of the Enemys Ships are Seen off the Mouth of this river and the Coasting Vessells are very much distress'd. In this my present Situation I am much at a Loss what to do, my Ship's Company are so diminished by Manning the Fox & the Men otherwise Lost since we Sail'd from Boston; my Ship is very Fowl . . . and besides that, we cannot make her Sail fast, trim which way we will . . . We have certain Accounts of twelve Sail of the Enemys Cruisers between Cape Ann & Cape Sable, severall of whom are large Ships." (N. H. Geneal. Rec., January, 1907.) Perhaps the size of the British fleet cruising in eastern waters was magnified in McNeill's imagination. In due time he brought his ship back to Boston, where his reception was not cordial. He was severely blamed for not having come to the Hancock's rescue and was held by public opinion in large degree responsible for the loss of that ship. He was tried by court-martial and suspended (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 109 (November 12,1777); Adams MSS., October 9, 1777, McNeill to John Adams, complaining of conditions in the navy.)
At Charleston, where the Randolph had put in for repairs after being dismasted, Captain Biddle received orders from the Marine Committee, dated April 26 and 29, to cruise in the West Indies and later attempt to intercept a British fleet of merchantmen which was expected to leave Jamaica under convoy about July 26. In the first of these orders, April 26, the Committee wrote: "Your letter of the 14th instant is the only one we have received since the misfortune of carrying away your Masts or indeed since you left the Capes of Delaware, so that we are strangers to the cause and manner of that unfortunate accident . . . We observe with infinite concern that your people have been and remain Sickly'; this has happened in so many of our Ships that we cannot help atributing it to some cause that may with proper care & attention be removed. You should therefore insist that your Officers do frequently see the Ship thoroughly and perfectly cleansed, aloft and below from Stem to Stern, burn Powder and wash with vinigar betwixt Decks, order Hammocks, all bedding and bed Cloths and Body Cloaths daily into the quarters or to be aired on Deck, make the people keep their persons cleanly and use exercise, give them as frequent changes of wholesome food as you can, Fish when you can get it and fresh food in Port. Ventilate the Hold and between Decks constantly. In short, cleanliness, exercise, fresh air and wholesome food will restore or preserve health more than medicine and it is deserving the utmost attention of any or every officer to preserve the Health & Spirits of the men." (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 73 (April 26, 1777)
The Marine Committee planned to collect as many vessels as possible to act in concert against the expected Jamaica fleet, in the hope of capturing a number of them. General orders dated April 29 were issued, addressed to the commanders of vessels designated to take part in the enterprise. They were to rendezvous at Abaco, one of the Bahama Islands, July 25, the senior captain was to take command as commodore, and they were to hold a council of war and decide upon the best cruising ground, the most effectual disposition of their ships, and a code of signals. "The Commodore or Council of war are empowered to order or do anything they may think necessary or essential to enable the Squadron to perform the intended Service, whether pointed out by the Committee or not." All information obtained regarding the Jamaica fleet must be reported to the commodore. "These things done, and the sooner they are accomplished the better, the Squadron must weigh and sail under the Signals and Orders of the Commodore to the appointed Station, which we suppose will be near the Havannah." While waiting for the Jamaica fleet the time should be spent in drill and repeating signals. "The men should be constantly exercised at the Guns, and infinite pains taken on board every Ship to sweeten the Air and keep not only the Ship clean but the Men so in their Cloathing and Persons. During this Cruize there is little doubt but Prizes will be taken by the Squadron before the Jamaica fleet appears and such may be sent into Georgia or Carolina, but in doing this care must be taken that no ship is much weakened by sending away their men in such Prizes. Should they be of little value it may probably be best to burn them and encourage the seamen found on board to enter our Service by offering them share of Prize Money to be taken, Pay and allowance equal to those already engaged, and assurance of good treatment." Inasmuch as "the main object of this enterprize appears the Jamaica Fleet, it must be the business of the Commodore to keep the Frigates together until he finds out the strength of the Convoy, and if it be such as he judges he can cope with, with a tolerable prospect of success, he is to make the proper disposition for attacking to the best advantage and engage their ships of war, whilst all the smaller vessels are employed in attacking and taking the Merchantmen. It must be remembered that the enemy generally send home for Convoy such of their Ships of war as have been long in the West Indies. They are frequently foul and ill manned, which are circumstances favourable for engaging them, even if they should appear of superior force. If you can but make Prizes of the Convoy or any part of them, we think it will then be in the power of the Squadron to take any number of the Merchantmen, and such as cannot be manned and brought into Port may be sunk or Burned. Should the Convoy consist of such or so many Ships as it would be folly or rashness to engage, the Squadron in that case had best to seperate and hover after the fleet; for as we have little doubt but most of our ships will outsail theirs, being cleaner, you may in this manner pick up a vast many of their Merchant ships, altho protected by Superior force." If after this service the squadron should be too distant from the seat of government to receive fresh orders, the Commodore must call a Council of war of all the Commanders, with him, and any enterprize or expedition planned by that Council, that has for its object the service of the United States of America, to distress or disable the enemies of these States or to Capture their Ships of war or Merchantmen, will meet our approbation & if executed with vigour, will merit the praise of all America. Our ships should never be Idle. The Navy is in its infancy and a few brilliant strokes at this Era would give it a Credit and importance that would induce seamen from all parts to seek the employ, for nothing is more evident than that America has the means and must in time become the first Maritime power in the world." (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 78 (April 29,1777)
The Andrew Doria, Captain Isaiah Robinson, the sloop Surprise, Captain Benjamin Dunn, and the Fly, Captain Elisha Warner, were ordered in April to clear the Cape May channel of British ships, and a little later the Independence, Captain John Young, was instructed to warn vessels away from Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. In May the Andrew Doria and Surprise, together with the Columbus, Captain Hoysted Hacker, still blockaded in Narragansett Bay, were ordered to repair to the rendezvous at Abaco, where they were expected to meet the Randolph and cruise after the Jamaica fleet. This promising and well conceived project seems never to have been carried out or even entered upon, presumably because a sufficient number of vessels, especially frigates, could not be brought together (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 68, 69 (April 18, 1777), 73 (April 26, 1777), 77, 78 (April 29, 1777), 86, 88 (May 2, 1777), 90 (May 13, 1777), 91 (May 16, 1777)
The Randolph sailed some time during the summer and early in September was off Charleston. Biddle reported: "I have the Pleasure to acquaint You that on the fourth of Sept. 30 Leags. S. E. of Charles Town Barr I met with and took, after a little Resistance, the True Britain, Thomas Venture Master, of twenty six-pounders and seventy-four Men, the Brig Charming Peggy, Capt. Lyon, both Laden with Rum for the British Army and Navy and bound from Jamaica to New York, The Ship Severn, Capt. Henderson, of eight four-pounders, who had been taken by an American Cruizer on His passage from Jamaica to London And Retaken by the True Britain, Also a French Brig laden with salt going from the West Indies for Charles Town, Which Capt. Venture had made Prize of. There was a small Sloop in Company with those Vessels that made Her escape, the Weather being Squally, whilst I was Manning the Rest. I Arrived Safe here with my Prize the 7th inst. I have not laid Claim to Salvadge for the French Brig, as I thought it would be most agreeable to Congress to give her up. . . The Randolph's Bottom is very foul, having lain in this Port the three worst Months in the Year since We Cleared; And Being apprehensive that the Worms will Ruin Her Bottom unless they are soon destroyed, I have thought Proper and am preparing to heave Her down. I shall be as expeditious as possible and hope to be Ready to execute any Orders You may Please to send by the Return of the Express. I cannot omit telling You that My Officers have on every Occasion given me the greatest Satisfaction. Two better Officers are not met in the Service than Barnes and Mcdougall, My first and second Leiuts. And the Men I took from here behaved exceeding well." (Pap. Cont. Congr., 78, 2, 241 (Biddle to Morris, September 12,1777) The Marine Committee issued orders to Biddle, dated October 24, to proceed to France as soon as his ship could be made ready for the voyage. Upon his arrival there he was to report to the American Commissioners and await their directions, in the mean time making a short cruise in European waters, if it should seem advisable (lbid., 237,241; Mar. Cont. Letter Book, 105 (October 24,1777); Port Folio, October, 1809.)
Captain Thomas Thompson, of the frigate Raleigh at Portsmouth, received instructions, dated April 29, to cruise against vessels bound to New York until June, but if he could not obtain suitable guns for his ship he was to proceed directly to France for them; in July he was to open sealed orders. As late as May 22, according to information furnished to Admiral Howe, the Raleigh had only six or eight of her thirty-two guns mounted. At this time there were at Portsmouth, besides the frigate, the Ranger and three or four large privateers. The keel of the America of seventy-four guns had just been laid. It was nearly the middle of August when the Raleigh went to sea and set sail for France. Probably she had received her guns by that time and her voyage was in the service of Congress and the American Commissioners at Paris. She was accompanied by the Alfred, Captain Hinman, who had also received sailing orders in April, which directed him after cruising in the Atlantic to return to Boston for fresh instructions (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 70, 81, 84 (April 23, 29, 1777), 92 (June 1, 1777), 102 (September 6, 1777); Brit. Adm. Rec., A.D. 487, June 29, 1777, No. 10; Remick, 216 (list of Raleigh's crew); N. R. Geneal. Rec., April, July, October, 1905.)
The third day after sailing for France a small schooner from New York was taken by the Raleigh, on board of which Captain Thompson found "275 Spanish milled dollars, 137 counterfeited bills of 30 dollars each, in imitation of the bills emitted by Congress May the 10th, 1775, and 40 counterfeited bills of seven dollars each, imitating the Massachusetts sword-in-hand money; the whole making 4390 dollars which I shall commit to the flames after preserving samples. The schooner being of little value we burnt her." The most important events of the passage are told in Thompson's report, dated at sea September 28, 1777, in latitude 49° 35' north, Iongitude 13° 13' west: "At daylight Sept. 2 we took a snow called the Nancy . . . being part of the Windward Island fleet, which had outsailed her the day before. Having by this capture discovered the situation of the fleet and found that they were convoyed by the Camel, Druid, Weazel and Grass. hopper ships of war, the former a very large, lofty ship, carrying twenty-two 12-pounders . . . we made sail in quest of the fleet and next morning discovered them from the mast head. At sun-set we were near enough to distinguish the leading ship as well as their number, which was sixty sail, bearing East by North; the wind being then west, I made a signal as being one of the fleet left astern, for I had possessed myself of the signal from the prize. I hailed Capt. Hinman and told him my intention was to run into the fleet in the morning and attack the convoy, which I thought we were able to destroy; I therefore ordered him to keep close under the Raleigh's stern until we come alongside the Commodore, which ship we would both attack. Unluckily in the night the wind shifted to North; the fleet then hauled up close to the wind, which brought us to leeward; in the morning it came to blow fresh. At daylight we saw the body of the fleet bearing about N.E. at two or three leagues distance, steering East North East. We made sail and the Raleigh soon fetched up to the fleet under double reefed topsails, but the Alfred, being tender-sided, could not carry sail and therefore fell a great way to leeward and astern. I could not take in any sail for fear of being discovered to be a strange ship; we therefore kept our sails shaking in the wind, thinking the Alfred might come up, but Capt. Hinman made signal that his ship was overpressed with sail. Seeing no chance of his coming up and being fearful of being discovered, I determined to make sail and stand into the fleet and take my chance alone. While we were laying to, most of the merchant ships had got ahead into the fleet; however, I hauled in and passed a few of them and desired them to go under the Commodore's stern. By this they took us to be some British frigate which had joined the fleet. I stood on close to the wind, making for one of the ships of war which was to the windward of all the fleet, repeating the Commodore's signals. Our ports were down and our guns housed and we shot up alongside within pistol shot; then we up sails, out guns, hoisted Continental colours and bid them strike to the Thirteen United States. Sudden surprize threw them into confusion and their sails flew all aback, upon which we complimented them with a gun for each State, a whole broadside into their hull . . . Our second broadside was aimed at their rigging, which had its desired effect . . . In about a quarter of an hour all hands quitted quarters on board the British man of war, we cleared her decks totally; not a man was seen nor a gun fired on board her for twenty minutes before we left her. She lay like a log alongside of us entirely at the mercy of our shot, which flew very thick; we fired twelve broadsides, besides a constant fire from our musquetry. We were alongside of her forty-five minutes; when we left her she seemed to be water logged and in a most shattered condition. During this little engagement my officers and men behaved with the greatest fortitude and resolution, particularly the green hands . . . My intention was to sink the enemy's ship, if I could not bring her off, and I should have effectually sunk her in a few minutes more, could we have staid. Our firing had thrown the fleet into confusion. A squall prevented them from seeing us at first; when it cleared up, one was running one way and one another, some upon the wind and some before it. Their Commodore and the other ships of force tacked and stood right for us, but had not the wind favoured him and we drifted to leeward, he could not have fetched us and I should certainly have sunk the ship. However, I staid by her until he came pretty near, and we being in danger of being surrounded, I made sail and ran down to the Alfred, who was lying about four miles to the leeward . . . When we had got pretty near the Alfred, I took in top gallant sails and shortened sail to wait for the British Commodore, but he soon tacked and stood again into the fleet." (Almon, v, 403, 404.)
The vessel engaged by the Raleigh was the fourteen-gun sloop of war Druid. According to the report of Lieutenant Bourchier of the Druid, "on the 4th of September, in the latitude 40.33. N., longitude 50.17. W., at half past four in the evening, we discovered a strange sail on our larboard quarter, bearing West and steering for us. We were then (from the irregularity of the fleet) about five miles distant from the Camel, to windward, repeating the signal for the convoy to go under the Camel's stern and obliging those ships to bear down; the Weazle at a great distance to leeward and out of our sight. We cleared ship for action and turned all hands to quarters. At five o'clock she came within pistol shot, when I could plainly perceive her to be a rebel privateer mounting 38 or 40 guns, her decks and tops full of men. She hailed and desired us to strike to the honour of the Congress's colours, hoisted her ensign, and began to engage. The first broadside sent a shot through Captain Carteret's thigh bone and killed the master. I then took the command on the quarter deck and continued the action. At half past five she came close alongside and kept an irregular but very hot firing. At six she made sail ahead. I attempted to do the same and keep her broadside on, but the shattered condition of the rigging rendered the sails almost useless to the ship. As the head-sails only were of service, we edged away and kept her nearly on our bow till twenty minutes past six. She then had the wind abaft, sheared off, hauled down her colours, and made sail. I attempted to wear ship and rake her, but the rigging being entirely shot to pieces, could not bring her round. I then tried to make what sail I could and pursue the enemy, but found most of the masts and yards wounded . . . with four feet ten inches water in the bold. At half past seven we brought to, with our foresail and mizen on our larboard tack, to plug the shot holes between wind and water, clear the wreck and pump the ship out. I then perceived another rebel privateer laying to, bearing S.S.W. six or seven miles off, and by her appearance I suppose she mounted about 20 guns. The Camel was then in chace about two or three miles distant; soon after, the Weazle spoke to us and gave chace also." (Almon, v, 402.)
Conditions on board the Camel, the British commodore's ship, are set forth in her log. "Fresh Breezes & Squally Wr. At 1 P.M. fired 2 guns & made the Signal for the fleet to come under our Stern; the headmost Vessels paying no attention to the Signal, Fired 3 Shott at them to bring them to. At 5 fresh Breezes & Hazy Wr. Heard the report of a No. of Guns fired in the No. Wt. Quarter, which we imagined was an Action, from the unusual quickness of their Firing. Wore Ship with all possible speed & stood towards the report, when the Haze dispersing, we perceiv'd His Majesty's Sloop Druid in close engagement with a large Rebel Priva [teer] of 36 Guns, which she Beat off & upon perceiving us to be in chase of her, made off under all the Sail she could possibly Croud, as did another Rebel privateer which lay to Leeward of Her. Continued in Chase of them till Night, when we lost sight both of them & the Convoy." (Brit. Adm. Rec., Captains' Logs, No. 156 (log of the Camel); also No. 4172 (log of the Druid)
The Raleigh's loss was one killed and two wounded. The Druid had six killed and twenty-six wounded, of whom five, including the captain, died of their wounds. The Raleigh and Alfred followed the fleet several days, but without again exchanging shots with the enemy. Thompson says: "We have since challenged him for three days successively to come out of his fleet and engage us, but he declines the challenge. Himself and the other armed ships keep close together a little astern of the fleet and fine weather favours them; we wait for a storm and then, if any advantage offers, intend to make the best use of it, but we must not venture among them as they are now prepared, neither can we trust to the Alfred's sailing. Had she been a stiff ship and sailed equally well with the Raleigh, we should in all probability have destroyed the convoy and dispersed the whole fleet, badly manned as we are, having only 180 men, chiefly green hands. I cannot trust to working the ship were I to go into the fleet, but if the enemy will attack where we have room, we are able to defend ourselves or destroy them. I could at first have cut off several of the merchantmen, but must by that means have been discovered and thereby have lost our chance at the King's ships; and I am determined never to wax against merchantmen where I have an opportunity of waxing against the King. I should have preferred sinking that ship to the richest capture in the fleet." These excuses seem inadequate. John Paul Jones found the Alfred capable of giving excellent service. If Thompson had been an enterprising officer, it is difficult to believe that he would have allowed this rich fleet to get away without leaving a single prize in his hands. As to warring against merchantmen, American commanders had express orders to pursue fleets under convoy and make as many captures as possible. The ships and cargoes were needed by the impoverished Continental government, and every blow struck at the enemy's commerce helped a little to turn the scale in this closely contested war. In due time the Raleigh and Alfred arrived in France; also the sloop Independence, Captain Young, which had been sent out with dispatches (Almon, v, 401-405; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 99 (to Captain Young, July 5,1777)
Early in the year 1777 the sloop Revenge, American privateer of ten guns, Captain Joseph Sheffield, cruising to the windward of Barbadoes, is reported to have fought four hours with two British ships, each carrying fourteen guns, and to have captured one of them. The ship Thomas, a prize of the Revenge and presumably this same one, was recaptured by the sloop of war Unicorn while running into Newport, not knowing it was occupied by the British (Boston Gazette, February 24, 1777; London Chronicle, May 3, 1777; William's Liverpool Privateers, 195-198.) The report came from New York, March 24, that within two months the British men-of-war stationed about Chesapeake and Delaware Bays had taken seventy American ships and privateers (London Chronicle, May 10, 1777.) The frigate Pearl fell in with the privateers Teaser, 18, and Resolution, 14, with a convoy of three merchantmen. An engagement of an hour and a half followed, when a gun on the Resolution burst and she struck. The Pearl also took two of the merchantmen, but the other and the Teaser escaped (Ibid, June 10, 1777.)
The British naval schooner Prince William, of eight guns, was captured, and her captain, writing from Boston Prison, May 13, says: "In my last I acquainted you of my success in taking American prizes, but my fortune now is quite the reverse. On the 2d of this month, falling in with the Spy, an American privateer snow of 12 guns, my vessel was taken after an engagement of three glasses and brought into this port, where myself and crew are prisoners. Boston harbor swarms with privateers and their prizes; this is a great place of rendezvous with them. The privateersmen come on shore here full of money and enjoy themselves much after the same manner the English seamen at Portsmouth and Plymouth did in the late war; and by the best information I can get there are no less than fifteen foreign vessels lately arrived in the harbour with cargoes of various articles." (Almon, v, 173; London Chronicle, July 3, 1777.)
A letter from Nantucket, dated May 15, gives this account: "The 11th inst. Capt. Simpkins, commander of the Fortune, Provincial ship of war of 22 guns, 4 cohorns, and 18 swivels, fell in with the English brig Boscawen, of 18 six-pounders, near this port, and after an engagement of upwards of an hour the latter was taken and carried for Boston. We saw the action, which was continued a considerable time very resolute by both parties and seemed to us rather doubtful. The Captain of the brig was wounded and the officer that was second in command was killed." (Almon, v, 174.)
On the 12th of July the ship Pole of Liverpool, in latitude 50° north, longitude 20° west, "fell in with the Tartar, a rebel privateer mounting 20 nine-pounders on the main deck, 8 four-pounders on the quarter-deck and 4 four-pounders on the forecastle, full of men, supposed two hundred at least . . . She bore down on the Pole under English colours, enquired from whence she came and whether she was a King's ship. Being answered in the affirmative, the captain gave orders to hoist the Thirteen Stripes and fire away, on which the engagement began and continued from five until about twenty minutes past eight, when the privateer sheered off. Captain Maddock [of the Pole] had two mates and a passenger wounded and supposes that near one half of the people belonging to the privateer must be killed or wounded, he having cleared their forecastle of men three different times and says he heard dreadful cries among them. The Pole had 16 six-pounders and only forty people, passengers included." (Williams, 205 (quoting a Liverpool paper). In Williams's list of Liverpool privateers (Appendix iv) the Pole is given 24 guns and 100 men.)
Many privateers cruised in the West Indies, and besides those that came out from the United States, some were fitted out at Martinique under American commanders, with French and Spanish crews and commissioned by the American naval and commercial agent, William Bingham. Prices rose in the British islands on account of the large amount of property taken by Americans. Admiral Young, commanding the British station in the Leeward Islands, reported the capture of many of these privateers (Almon, v, 141-143, 168, 171, 198, 199; Boston Gazette, June 2, October 13, 1777; London Chronicle, April 22, August 5, 1777; Williams, 200, 201.) The privateer Revenge, Captain Isaac Freeborn, sailed from Martha's Vineyard for the West Indies December 9, 1777. "About ten Days after, we fell in with a Privateer Schooner, gave her a couple of Shot and she run. About 8 Days after, we fell in with and took the Ship York, from Glasgow bound to Barbadoes, laden with dry Goods, some Provisions, &c. which was sent into Martineco. About 4 Days after, fell in with a large English Ship of 18 Guns, which was too much for us. We afterwards came across a fleet of about 100 Sail, to Windward of Barbadoes, but they being convoy'd by 5 Frigates and it blowing a hard Gale, we could do nothing with them. We then bore away for Martineco, sprung our Mast and carried away our Topmast, but luckily got in and found our Prize safe." (Boston Gazette, March 9, 1778. For further accounts of privateering in 1777, see Coll. Essex Inst., July, 1890; Continental Journal, December 25, 1777; Connecticut Gazette, July 18, 1777; London Chronicle, March 18, April 10, 1777; Pickering MSS., xvii, 50; Engagements by Sea and Land, 78, 79.)
Under orders issued March 14, 1777, by the Massachusetts Board of War the brigantines Tyrannicide, Captain Jonathan Haraden, and Massachusetts, Captain John Fisk, of the state navy, sailed together March 24 on a cruise to the coasts of Ireland, England, and France. The brigantine Freedom, Captain John Clouston, had already sailed March 8, under the same authority and for the same cruising ground. April 1, in longitude 15° west, Clouston reported having taken three prizes. He arrived at Paimboeuf May 1, having made twelve captures in all. April 2 the Massachusetts and Tyrannicide, in latitude 41° 30' north and longitude 45° west, took the ship Chaulkly, and April 8, ten degrees farther east, the Tyrannicide took the bark Lonsdale after a three hours' engagement, while the Massachusetts was chasing another vessel. Just two weeks after this, in about 48° north and 16° west, they "fell in with a fleet of 9 sail bound to the Westward, one of 60 & one of 14 Guns, British Ships of War, with 7 Transports from Plymouth for New York. Being a Fresh gale we could not bare down on them; however, finding one Brig to lay a stern, we took the liberty to take her under Convoy. She had on board 63 Troops, Hessens Chussers, with their accountrements compleat." (Mass. Arch., clii, 165.) The Massachusetts arrived at Nantes May 21, and Fisk reported: "I have not the pleasure to acquaint you that the Tyrannicide is here with me, but am sorry to acquaint you that on the seventeenth Instant at Nine in the Morning we gave chase to a Ship standing to the Eastward and came up fast. At three got within two miles of the ship, then saw three Sail in the N. E. bearing down to us; one of said Sail brought our chase too & hoisted English colours. I bore away and made sail from them; the Ship gave me chase. Capt. Haraden bore away also; the ship came up with us fast. At Nine at Night I haul'd my Wind; Capt. Haraden bore away before the wind. At half after nine, lost sight of Capt. Haraden and soon after, lost sight of the Ship. At ten, saw three flashes of Guns, which I suppose the Ship fired at Capt. Haraden and I am afraid the Ship took him, as I have not heard nor seen anything of him since." (lbid., 216.) Fisk had taken eight prizes since leaving Salem. He sailed for home in June, having on board four passengers, including General Pulaski. July 12, from a schooner Fisk learned of Haraden's safe arrival at Bilbao, after having been obliged to throw overboard guns and stores to escape the British ship. The Massachusetts arrived at Marblehead July 23, forty-four days from Nantes. The Freedom had arrived at Boston two weeks earlier; she had taken sixteen prizes, of which six had probably been retaken. The Tyrannicide came later, getting into Boston August 30 (Mass. Arch., cli, 415, 416, clii, 134, 135, 144, 160, 165, 178, 182, 189, 216, 220, 230, 271, 292 ; Boston Gazette, June 2, 9, July 14, September 1, 1777; Continental Journal, June 12,1777; London Chronicle, May 3, 1777; Massachusetts Mag., April, October, 1908.)
In the Massachusetts Council, August 6, 1777, the following measure was adopted: "Whereas our Enemies have several small Cruisers upon this Coast, & even in Boston Bay, which have taken several of our Coasting Vessels & greatly Obstructed our Navigation; And as the Continental & State Vessels, as also most of the Private Vessels of War, are improper to be employed for Clearing the Coast of these Vermin, therefore Resolved, That the Board of War be & they hereby are directed, without Delay, to take such Measures for taking or destroying all such Cruisers as aforesaid, as they shall judge most proper." (Mass. Arch., Revolutionary Rolls, xliv, 268.) The day before, the Board of War had instructed Captain Fisk, who had returned from France two weeks before, to cruise in the track of homeward-bound West Indiamen and "to use your utmost Endeavours to take, burn, sink & destroy all armed and other Vessels, together with their Cargoes, belonging to the Subjects of the King of Great Britain, Enemies to the United States of America & the natural Rights of Mankind." (Mass. Arch., cli, 426.) Captain Fisk soon set sail again in the Massachusetts, and on the afternoon of August 19 "saw three sail to the Eastward. We gave chase [and] at 4 found them to be two Schooners and a Ship. We soon saw the two Schooners was attacking the Ship & after a few shot they fell a stern and the Ship tack'd & made sail for us. At 5 we came up to the Ship & found she wore British Colours; we gave her a Broadside [and] she struck to the American Arms." (lbid., clii, 271.) This was the ship Johnson, bound from Liverpool to New York, and the schooners were the privateers Speedwell and Active of Boston. August 31, in latitude 36° 28' north, longitude 51° west, the Massachusetts fell in with a vessel bound from St. Christopher to Belfast, which had sailed with a British fleet of a hundred and thirty sail under the convoy of four men-of-war. This was probably the same fleet that the Raleigh and Alfred fell in with a few days later. At this time Captain Fisk had three Massachusetts privateers cruising with him; they were the schooner Dolphin of Marblehead and the brigantines Hampden of Salem and Gloucester of Cape Ann. In October, Fisk reported the capture of two brigs (Mass. Arch., clii, 330, 362, 391; Massachusetts Mag., October, 1908.)
The brigs Tyrannicide, Captain Haraden, Hazard, Captain Simeon Sampson, and Freedom, Captain Clouston, cruised during the fall. The Hazard had just been added to the Massachusetts navy. The brig Independence had been captured by the enemy in the spring; and in September or October the Freedom was taken by the British frigate Apollo, and Clouston was sent to the prison-ship Felicity at New York. Regulations for the government of the Massachusetts navy, based on those of the Continental navy, had been adopted in March (Mass. Arch., cli, 430, clii, 414, cliii, 2, 3, clvii, 93, 103, 113; Mass. Court. Rec., March 21, 1777; Massachusetts Mag., April, July, 1908, January, April, 1909.)
The waters about Nova Scotia and Newfoundland were a favorite cruising ground, during the Revolution, for the armed ships and privateers of Massachusetts and other New England states, and many visits were paid to the Grand Banks and to the comparatively defenseless shores of those provinces. Admiral Montagu wrote from St. John's, June 11, 1777: "The American privateers have been very troublesome on the banks and have committed great depredations among the fishermen, notwithstanding I have dispatched the men-of-war as they arrived to the different parts of the fishing bank to cruize for their protection. It gives me great concern to be obliged to inform your Lordship that the privateers cruizing in these seas are greatly superior in number and size to the squadron under my command and without a large force is sent out to me, the bank fishery is at a stand." (Stopford-Sackville MSS., 69 (Montagu to Germain). The "privateers" which most worried the admiral at this time were the frigates Hancock and Boston.) In August, Commodore Collier having learned of a projected expedition against Nova Scotia from Machias, sailed for that place with the Rainbow, 44, the frigates Blonde, 32, and Mermaid, 28, and the brig Hope, 18. An important object of the enterprise was to serve as a diversion in favor of General Burgoyne, then approaching Saratoga. Collier's squadron arrived in Machias Bay on the 13th and the frigates anchored, as there was not water enough for them to ascend the river. The Hope, however, was sent up, and a contemporary account says that her commander, Lieutenant "Dawson, kept under Way till he came opposite a Breastwork thrown up about half a Mile from the Town, garrisoned with only twelve Men, when he saluted it with a Broadside which was returned from a two-Pounder and two Swivels several Rounds, when Dawson sent his Boat to go ashore, but a few of our Men being in Ambush just where they were about to Land, as soon as they came within Musket-shot an Indian, who desired the first Shot, fired and kill'd the Man at the Bow Oar, when they immediately put back for the Brig. After which a Number of Boats with about 300 Marines and Mariners went ashore and burnt two Dwelling Houses, two Barns full of Hay and a Grist Mill. By this Time about 150 of the Militia had Mustered, who attack'd and drove the Enemy off; on seeing which, Dawson weigh'd Anchor and was endeavoring to get down, when he luckily ran a-ground and our People attacked him, with Small Arms only, so warmly as not a Man durst shew his Head above Deck till the above Boats came to tow him off, which our People beat off, having killed upwards of 60 of the Enemy; and 'tis thought that if a very thick Fog had not arose, they would have near Kill'd all the Enemy, if not destroy'd Dawson. Our Loss was only one, Mr. James Foster, Killed, and Mr. Jonas Farnsworth Wounded, though not dangerous." (Boston Gazette, September 8, 1777.) The British reported a loss of three killed and eighteen wounded. The squadron, having accomplished little, got under way a few days later and sailed back to Halifax. Collier was much criticized for the failure of this expedition, which, according to General Massey, the commander at Halifax, "might have prevented the Misfortunes that attend'd Lt. Genl. Burgoyne's Army." Collier claimed a victory, saying that he took a fort and thwarted American designs against Nova Scotia (Almon, iv, 139, 140; Amer. Hist. Rev., x (October, 1904), 69; Coll. Maine Hist. Soc., April, 1895; Proc. Cambridge Hist. Soc., v (1910), 70, 71; N. E. Magazine, August, 1895; Engagements by Sea and Land, 108; Hist. Man. Com., Amer. MSS. in Royal Inst., ii, 156, 209 (Massey to Howe, November 26, 1777, March 15, 1778)
General Howe took possession of Philadelphia September 26, 1777, and Admiral Howe, who had brought the British fleet around from the Head of Chesapeake Bay after landing the army, arrived in Delaware Bay October 4, an advance-squadron of his fleet having preceded him. The Americans, however, still held the defenses of the river, which prevented the British fleet from approaching the city and establishing the communications necessary for supplying the British army. These defenses consisted of forts, obstructions, and vessels. On a small island near the west bank of the river just below the month of the Schuylkill was situated Fort Mifflin, and opposite, at Redbank, New Jersey, was Fort Mercer, while three or four miles below this, at Billingsport, New Jersey, was another fort; and halfway between these last two was a battery. The obstructions were planted opposite this lower fort and also between Forts Mifflin and Mercer. They were heavy frames of timber or chevaux-de-frise sunk in the bottom of the river, from which projected beams sharpened and shod with iron, pointing downstream. Of the floating defenses the Continental navy furnished the new frigate Delaware, of twenty-four guns, and the Andrew Doria, Hornet, Wasp, Fly and Racehorse, with possibly the Mosquito and Sachem; also the xebecs Repulse and Champion. The Pennsylvania navy contributed to the cause its whole fleet: the ship Montgomery and over forty smaller craft, including galleys, armed boats, floating batteries, and fireships. The frigates Washington and Effingham were up the river, above Philadelphia, were still unfinished, and could be of no service. The combined Continental and state fleet was under the command of Commodore John Hazelwood, of the Pennsylvania navy. The British fleet engaged comprised two ships of sixty-four guns each, one of fifty guns, one forty-four, two frigates, and a number of smaller vessels, including a ship which carried sixteen twenty-four-pounders. Howe's flagship, the Eagle, of sixty-four guns, remained below, opposite Chester.
Immediately upon occupying Philadelphia the British erected batteries along the river-front for the defense of the city. The frigate Delaware, Captain Alexander, and a number of smaller vessels promptly advanced and opened fire on the batteries before they were finished. The Delaware anchored within five hundred yards, and unfortunately, on the ebb tide, she got aground and was exposed to such a heavy fire from British field artillery that Alexander was induced to strike his flag and the frigate fell into the enemy's hands; by far the strongest American ship in the river was thus lost at the very outset. The advance-squadron of the British fleet, led by the Roebuck, 44, came up the river as far as the lower obstructions soon after October 1. On that day the fort at Billingsport, being weakly garrisoned, was abandoned by the Americans on the approach of a detachment of the enemy's army. Two days later the fort was taken possession of by the British under the fire of American galleys. Meanwhile the ships had been and continued to be attacked night and day by American fire-rafts and galleys and were forced to drop lower down the river. The log of the frigate Liverpool for October 1 says: "At 7 P.M. the Rebels sent a Large Fire Raft down the River to burn us & from their Gallies fir'd Several Shot at us; weigh'd & Dropt a Little lower Down & fir'd a number of Shot at their Gallies." The same log mentions nine fire-rafts being sent down the river under cover of galleys on the night of October 14, and other logs note frequent instances. There seems to have been little difficulty in grappling these rafts from boats and towing them ashore. Beset with such impediments the British proceeded to remove the lower chevaux-de-frise and finally succeeded in cutting away a part of it, affording a passage for their largest ships. On October 15 this passage was made seventeen fathoms wide, and on the 19th the channel through the obstruction was buoyed.
By the 22d the fleet had warped through. Late on that day three battalions of Hessians under Colonel Donop assaulted Fort Mercer at Redbank, but were repulsed with heavy loss by the garrison of six hundred men under Colonel Christopher Greene; Donop was mortally wounded. The British attempted to aid this assault by sending some of their vessels up to bombard the fort. The Augusta, 64, the Roebuck, the frigates Pearl and Liverpool, the sloop of war Merlin, and a galley "work'd up the River in order to engage the Rebel Vessels and prevent their firing on our Troops, who appear'd to be much gall'd from the Enemies Shipping; 1/2 past 5 the Rebel Galleys &c. began firing on us, which was return'd by the Roebuck, Augusta & Cornwallis Galley." (Log of the Pearl.) The British ships were checked by the American fleet, which also greatly annoyed the Hessians during their advance and retreat. During the night the Augusta and Merlin got aground. Early the next morning, October 23, Fort Mifflin was attacked by the British fleet and by batteries thrown up on the Pennsylvania bank of the river. Aided very effectually by the American fleet, the fort made a successful resistance. About ten o'clock the Augusta took fire, in what way is not certainly known; she blew up about noon before all her crew could be saved. The Merlin was set on fire and was also destroyed. Commodore Hazelwood, in a report to the president of Pennsylvania, says: "On the 22d, about 4 o'clock, the attack was made on the Fort at red bank, in which a part of our Galleys was engaged in flanking the Enemy round the works and was of great use there; the rest of the Galleys and floating batteries were at Billingsport some time before. The ships that came was the Augusta, a new 64, the Roebuck, 44, two Frigates, the Merlin, 18 guns, and one Galley of a 32-pounder, all of which we drove down, and in going down the Augusta and Merlin ran aground below our upper chevaux de frise, which we discovered early in the morning of the 23d. I immediately hoisted the signal to engage them and soon after, the engagement became general. We had engaged our 12 galleys and the two floating batteries and all behaved extremely well; the rest of our Fleet could not be brought timely to act with us. We had against us the Augusta of 64, who had her broadside below and aloft constantly playing on us, with the Roebuck and two Frigates and their Galley; and had the Roebuck laid fast, she would have shared the same fate, but she was drove from her station before the Augusta got on fire." (Sparks MSS., 1, 108, 109 (October 29,1777)
After this repulse the British erected more powerful batteries on the shore opposite Fort Mifflin and mounted on them heavy guns from the fleet. A second attack was made November 10. On the 15th the fleet came up for a general assault, and the armed ship Vigilant, mounting sixteen twenty-four-pounders, was brought into the narrow western channel within a hundred yards of Fort Mifflin. This stronghold was nearly destroyed by the tremendous bombardment that now followed, and during the night was evacuated by the garrison, who passed over to Fort Mercer at Redbank. Commodore Hazelwood and his officers were criticized for inefficient naval support given to Fort Mifflin. Lack of cordial cooperation between the Continental and Pennsylvania forces and between army and navy was doubtless the cause. A few days later Fort Mercer was also evacuated. The American fleet was now left entirely without protection. Several of the galleys and smaller vessels of the Pennsylvania navy ran by the city in the night and escaped up the river. All the others were destroyed to prevent their falling into the hands of the enemy, who now completely controlled the bay (Dawson, ch. xxix, xxx; Clark, i, 55-60; Bradford, chs. xxv, xxviii-xxxvii; Almon, v, 426-430, 499-503; Annual Register, xx (1777),133, 134, 137-139; Penn. Archives, II, i; Mag. Amer. Hist. March, 1878; United Service, September, 1890; Penn. Mag. Hist. and Biogr., April, 1887, April, 1902; Brit. Adm. Rec., Captains' Logs, Nos. 157, 293, 548, 675, 906, 931, 1100 (lop of the Camilla, Eagle, Liverpool, Pearl, Somerset, Strombolo, and Zebra), Masters' Logs, No. 1633 (log of the Camilla); Pickering MSS., v, 60. In Narr. and Crit. Hist., vi, ch. v, and in Bradford, are interesting maps.)
In December, David Bushnell made an unsuccessful attempt to destroy some of the British fleet in the Delaware by means of floating torpedoes. In his account of the affair Bushnell says: "I fixed several kegs under water, charged with powder to explode upon touching anything, as they floated along with the tide. I set them afloat in the Delaware, above the English shipping at Philadelphia, in December 1777. I was unacquainted with the river and obliged to depend upon a gentleman very imperfectly acquainted with that part of it, as I afterwards found. We went as near the shipping as we durst venture; I believe the darkness of the night greatly deceived him, as it did me. We set them adrift to fall with the ebb upon the shipping. Had we been within sixty rods I believe they must have fallen in with them immediately, as I designed; but as I afterwards found, they were set adrift much too far distant and did not arrive until after being detained some time by the frost. They advanced in the daytime in a dispersed situation and under great disadvantages. One of them blew up a boat with several persons in it, who imprudently handled it too freely and thus gave the British that alarm which brought on the battle of the Kegs." (Amer. Philosophical Transactions, iv, 303, quoted in Clark, i, 71. See Barry, 60.) It was said that the British were apprehensive of further attempts of the same kind.
The Continental sloop Providence, Captain Rathburne, which had returned to New Bedford in August, set sail again in November and cruised off the coast of South Carolina. On a bright moonlight night a sail was seen and "in a few minutes," says Lieutenant Trevett, "she run under our lee quarter, gave us a broadside without any courtesy and run ahead of us. Capt. Rathbone ordered the boatswain to call all hands to quarters as still as he could and not use his call. The Privateer, as she proved to be, bore away and coming up again was soon alongside; we were all ready for them and as soon as they made the first flash, we gave them a yankee welcome with a handsome broadside. They up helm and ran to the eastward and not having a man hurt of any consequence, we made sail after them." The chase showed a lantern and we knew by their throwing out that signal that there was an enemy not far off and we fired no more cannon at her, but we continued the chase and found we gained on her every hour. Day appeared and the look-out man reported a large ship under the land . . . About sunrise we neared the Privateer so much that the Lieut. from the round house fired several times at us." His fire was returned, "as he made a fine mark to be shot at, standing on the round house. We had not fired more than three shot before we saw him fall and instantly the Privateer got in the wind, and we were alongside of her in a few minutes, when we boarded her and found it was her Lieutenant we had shot and he fell on the man steering at the wheel. He had a handsome brace of pistols at his side when he laid dead on deck. We found five men badly wounded on board; our shot went into one quarter and out through the other and she was badly shattered. The ship we saw to windward was a frigate and the officers of the privateer we captured were on board of her the day before and were to meet her next day off Charleston Bar. We got so far to the eastward that we stood for Georgetown." (R.I. Hist. Mag., April, 1886.) There the Providence remained until January.
Almost interminable delay seems to have been the universal experience in fitting out American men-of-war and enlisting their crews; and the Ranger at Portsmouth was no exception. Captain Jones frequently reported his ship in most respects ready for sea, but he says that with all his industry he could not get a single suit of sails completed until the 20th of October. He had perhaps less than the usual difficulty in enlisting men, and speaks of them as "an orderly and well disciplined crew . . . of one hundred and forty odd." (Jones MSS., to Morris, October 30, 1777. For a list of the crew, see Remick, 211.) He finally set sail for France November 1. On the voyage he took two prizes which he sent into Nantes and arrived there himself December 2. In his report to the Marine Committee he says: "I found the Ranger very Crank, owing to the improper quality of her Ballast and to her being rather over Masted, to remedy which I purpose to shorten her lower Masts and Ballast with lead." Her sailing "falls short of the general expectation for the Above reasons and on account of the foulness of her Bottom, which, except a partial cleaning in July, hath not been seen since she came off the Stocks." (Pap. Cont. Congr., 58, 137 (Jones to Marine Committee, December 10, 1777)) Jones communicated at once with the American Commissioners, Franklin, Deane, and Lee, and forwarded the dispatches of the Secret Committee of Congress (Sands, 70, 71; Jones MSS., August 17, 24, October 30, 1777, letters to Morris and Hewes; Pap. Cont. Congr., 58, 133, 137, (December 5, 10, 1777, Jones to American Commissioners and to Marine Committee)
In 1777, Congress, through its Committee of Foreign Affairs, had begun to interest itself in the question of extending the activities of the navy into distant seas. The hopelessness of coping with the British navy was becoming more apparent, and visions of the wealth that might be secured from unprotected commerce appealed to the imagination. In December, 1777, the Committee of Foreign Affairs suggested to the American Commissioners in Paris that they send some of the Continental frigates from France to the Indian Ocean, with the hope of intercepting England's China trade. This project was considered impracticable by the Commissioners, who had, however, already advised and continued to urge an attack upon the British whale fishery off the coast of Brazil and in the Arctic Ocean. The whaling fleet was not only unprotected, but was manned by Americans, chiefly prisoners who had been given the choice of serving on these ships or on men-of-war. Notwithstanding these and other schemes, it does not appear that either public or private ships of war during the Revolution, with perhaps one or two unimportant exceptions, ever cruised farther from home than the West Indies and the coast of Europe (Wharton, ii, 325, 440, 673, 818, iii, 385; Archives de la Marine, B1 87, 269.)