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Full text of "A Sketch of the Life of George Roberts: Who Fought Under John Paul Jones"

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GEORGE ROBERTS 



JOHN PAIII inNF' 



Compliments of 

CHAS. H. ROBERTS. 

Concord. N. H. 



u.^ 



■y.r 






•^\ 



nAilVAIlO eOLlESE UMAItr 

GiFT OF 

CH.i»LES H. rAYLOR 



A SKETCH OF THE LIFE OF GEORGE ROBERTS. 

By Charles H, Roberts, 




HEN in the summer of 
1 90 1 I made a short visit 
to the home of my boy- 
hood a letter, of which the 

following is a copy, was handed me 

by the postmaster : 

Geo. W. Featherstonhaugh, 
Counselor at Law, 

Schenectady, N. Y., July 28, 1901. 

Postmaster of Middleton^ N, H. 

Dear Sir: About seventy years ago one 
George Roberts who fought under' Paul Jones 
in the battle between the Bon Homme Richard 
and the Serapis died at Middleton, N. H., and I 
presume he must have been buried there. * 

If so, it must be a fact well known m your 
town, to those interested in local history. 

Can you kindly inform me if the grave of this 
man is in your place, and if so, where and what 
monument marks the spot and what the inscrip- 
tion says of him ? 

, If the facts are not within your knowledge 
kindly hand this letter to some one who would 
be likely to know. I take the liberty of troub- 
ling you as I know no one in your town to 
address. The purpose of my inquiry is simply 
for historical information. 
Very respl. yours, 

Geo W. Featherstonhaugh. 

I answered this letter giving him, 
so far as I was then able to do, the 
information sought. Later on I re- 
ceived the following : 

Schenectady, N. Y., Sept. 27, 1901. 

C H, Roberts^ Esq., Concord, AT. H. w^,. -^ ,, 

Dear Sir : I was much gratified at receiving 
an answer to the inquiry which I sent out in 
July last and also much surprised at its coming 
from a grandson of George Roberts. I have 
always been interested in the life of Paul Jones 
and the brave men who fought with him. The 
battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the 
Serapis always seemed to me to be the most 
terrific contest ever fought upon the sea. 



Reading last winter the life of Paul Jones by' 
Cyrus T. Brady I was struck with his descrip- 
tion of this battle. He says, "A daring sailor 
ran out upon the main yardarm which hung over 
the after hatch of the Serapis and began to throw 
grenades down the hatchway. At last a hand 
grenade struck the hatch comlnng, bounded aft 
and fell into the midst of a pile of cartridges. 
There was a terrific crash which silenced the 
roar of the battle. When the smoke cleared 
away the decks were filled with the dead and 
dying. It was this last shock that determined 
Pearson to surrender." 

I determined to investigate the truth of the 
statement and to ascertain if possible the name 
of the man who could perform such an act of 
unparalleled bravery. The result of my investi- 
gation has been that the act was performed as 
described by Mr. Brady, and the name of the 
sailor beyond all doubt was George Roberts. 

I then attempted to find out who George 
Roberts was, where he had lived and died. At 
last I located him in Middleton, N. H., and con- 
cluding that he might have died there and been 
buried there I wrote my letter. I sho\ild be 
much pleased if you could give me some account 
of his birth, life, etc., as well as inscription on 
stone. 

I aih glad to learn that you are to publish a 
sketch of his life and services. In these times 
of the revival of interest in the American Revo- 
lution it cannot fail to attract attention. The 
part your grandfather acted in the battle between 
the Richard and Serapis not only showed his 
great bravery, but was of the first importance 
and far reaching, and should not be lost sight of 
in the passing years. The American sailor, the 
man behind the gun, should have the credit due 
to him. ' 

Very sincerely yours, 

Geo. W. Featherstonhaugh. 



.n. 



k »' 



[In response to a letter to Mr. 
•Featherstonhaugh, inquiring how his 
attention was first called to the mat- 
ter of services rendered by George 
Roberts, I received the following un- 
der date of June 18, 1902 : 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS. 



My great grandmother lived at Scarborough, 
England, at the time of the battle between the 
Richard 2Xidi Serapis. Her son, after whom I am 
named, and who was a Fellow of the Royal 
Society, author, etc., became an extensive trav- 
eler in the United States, recording in his jour- 
nal everything of interest. These journals are 
now unfortunately destroyed except a very few. 
In one of the earlier ones between 1808 and 
181 3 he mentioned meeting a man who was one 
of the crew of the Richard^ who stated that the 
Serapis surrendered because her magazine was 
exploded by a common sailor named " Robert- 
son,'* from New England states, who threw 
down explosives from the rigging of the Richard 
upon the deck of the Serapis. My attention was 
next called to the matter by an article in an old 
newspaper, on the death of George Roberts. I 
at once recognized the "daring sailor" men- 
tioned by Brady as the " Robertson " of my 
grandfather's journal and the George Roberts of 
the newspaper article.] 

George Roberts was bom at Dover, 
New Hampshire, August 21, 1755. 
He was in direct descent from 
Thomas Roberts who settled at Dover 
Neck in 1623. There is nothing au- 
thentic as to where he emigrated 
from, but there is a tradition that he 
came from near Chester, England. 
The land upon which he settled is 
still owned in the Roberts family. 
George was of the fifth generation, 
the genealogy being as follows : 
Thomas (i), Thomas (2), Nathaniel 
(3), Nathaniel (4), George (5); his 
brothers were David, Isaac and Na- 
thaniel. 

His father was lost at sea, and his 
sailor brother, Isaac, met a like fate. 
When a lad George went to sea as a 
cabin boy, and when quite a young 
man was mate of a vessel trading 
between Portsmouth, N. H., and the 
West Indies. 

As related by him his vessel took 
out the first ice ever shipped to those 
islands, and when the negroes came 
on board to unload the vessel, they 
dropped the first cake of ice, crying 



out, ** It burns our fingers.'' On 
May 29, 1775, he enlisted for two 
months in Capt. Jonathan Went- 
wOrth's company in Colonel Poor's 
New Hampshire regiment, and served 
as a sergeant until August first of 
that year. 

Poor's regiment was not at Bunker 
Hill, but was guarding the coast. 
Later it became a part of General 
Washington's army at Dorchester. 

He gave as his reason for not re- 
enlisting that he preferred going to 
war on the water rather than trudg- 
ing around on land, carrying a heavy 
knapsack and musket, and that he 
disliked his captain, who, it seems, 
was subsequently tried by court mar- 
tial and dismissed from the service. 

In the month of September, 1777, 
he enlisted as a mariner on board the 
continental ship of war. Ranger^ com- 
manded by John Paul Jones. 

The Ranger was built at Ports- 
mouth, N. H., and sailed on the ist 
of November, 1777. 

In this connection the following 
letters are of interest : 

Portsmouth, August 29, 1777. 

Gentlemen : As the continental ship of war 
Ranger under my command is ready for sea — 
and as I have particular orders from Congress 
to proceed with all possible expedition — I take 
the liberty of applying to you for authority to 
enlist a few men from the Forts and garrisons 
in the Harbour, whereby I may be enabled with 
the greater facility to complete my compliment 
and to fulfil the instructions of Congress . . . 

I am with due respect Gentlemen, 

Your most obedient very humble servant, 

J NO. P. Jones. 

To the Hon'ble The Committee of Safety 
for the state of New Hampshire. 



Portsmouth, Sept. 20, 1777. 

Mr. Speaker *S: Gkntlemex: The enclosed 
letter to the Committee of Safety having pro- 
duced no effect, I think it my duty to lay it be- 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS. 



fore^you, — as the departure of the Ranger is 
now impeded solely for the want of the liberty 
which I then asked and which I now hope to 
obtain from you. 

United as the continent is its interest must 
take precedence of all private concerns in every 
patriot breast, and as I hope I have served 
without blame since the first establishment of 
the Navy, I am persuaded I shall meet with the 
same countenance and assistance from you 
which any other officer hath experienced. 

Meantime, I have the honor to be, with senti- 
ments of respect, 

Gentlemen, your most obedient 

Very humble servant, 

J. P. J. 
The Hon'ble The Speaker, and Representatives 
of the State of New Hampshire. 

On October, 30, 1777, Jones wrote 
to his friend Joseph Hewes, member 
of the Continental Congress from 
North Carolina : 

I have been for some time and am now de- 
tained by a heavy gale from the N. £. When 
it clears up I propose to embrace the first wind 
that can convey me thro* the enemies* lines^ and 
off the coast. I have received orders and dis- 
patches for France and hope to be the welcome 
messenger at Paris of Burgoyne's surrender. 

The Ranger finally sailed in such 
haste that a part of her '* small 
stores ** were left on shore, and when 
at sea it was discovered that but 
thirty gallons of rum had been taken 
on board. 

She arrived at Nantes, France, 
December 2, 1777. From Nantes she 
sailed for Brest, reaching there on the 
13th of February, 1778, where Jones 
saluted the French admiral with thir- 
teen guns, which was returned with 
nine. This was the first salute to 
the American flag by a foreign man 
of war. 

[Sometime previous to the salute, 
Jones wrote the following letter to 
William Carmichael, who was secre- 
tary to the American Commissioners 
to France : 



Ranger, 13, Feb. 1778. 
My Dear Sir : You will confer a singular 
obligation upon me by presenting my respects 
to the Freijich Admiral, whom I mean to salute 
with thirteen guns under American colours — 
provided he will accept the compliment and re- 
turn gun for gun. This proposal I hope will be 
the more acceptable to him as it may be a pre- 
lude to future amity between the United States 
and his Court. — I shall be happy to see you here 
as soon as possible after you have the Admiral's 
answer — meantime pray excuse this trouble. — I 
am my dear sir with sentiments of esteem and 
respect 

Your very obliged 
very obedient 

most humble servant 

Jno. p. Jones. 

On the same day the French Ad- 
miral wrote to Captain Jones that if 
the Ranger and Independence salute 
** The flag of the King'' with thir- 
teen guns, the salute will be returned 
with nine. On February 14 Carmi- 
chael wrote Jones that he is convinced 
that further application for salute of 
gun for gun will be fruitless ; com- 
mon salute is three guns for twenty- 
one; to show respect for ** the flag of 
Congress** the Admiral will return 
nine guns; desires this to be ac- 
cepted.] 

After leaving France the Ranger 
cruised in the Irish channel, tak- 
ing several unimportant prizes. She 
then entered Whitehaven where they 
seized the forts, spiked the cannon, 
and set fire to a ship in the midst of 
a hundred other vessels. This ex- 
ploit of Jones spread terror on the 
coast and was no doubt the cause of 
associating his name, with the idea of 
piracy. 

When my grandfather was asked if 
he supposed he was fighting with a 
halter about his neck he answered 
that he thought if Jones or any of his 
men had been captured their lives 
would no doubt have been in great 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS. 



jeopardy, possibly nothing would 
have saved them, but the fear of re- 
taliation. That the British govern- 
ment held them to be outlaws is 
shown by the following official com- 
munication : 

Sir Joseph Yorke, the British 
ambassador to France, addressed the 
following letter to the French govern- 
ment: 

Hague, Oct. 13, 1779. 

High and Mighty Lords : The undersigned 
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary 
of the King of Great Britain, has the honor to 
communicate to your High Mightinesses, that 
two of His Majesty's ships the Serapis and the 
Countess 0/ Scarborough arrived some dajrs ago 
in the Texel, having been attacked and taken 
by force .by a certain Paul Jones, a subject of 
the king, who, according to treaties and the laws 
of war, can only be considered as a rebel and 
pirate. 

Again he writes : 

I cannot but comply with the strict 
orders of His Majesty by renewing in the strong- 
est and most pressing manner his request that 
these ships and their crews may be stopped and 
delivered up, which the pirate Paul Jones of 
Scotland, who is a rebel subject and a criminal 
to the state has taken. . . . 

My grandfather's account of the 
landing in Scotland, and taking away 
the plate of the Karl of Selkirk, was 
as follows : 

That the people at the castle at 
first thought them to be a British 
press gang, and when they i[ found 
they were Paul Jones's men they 
were greatly alarmed, but the Ameri- 
can ofl&cers very soon quieted their 
fears; both ofl&cers and men were 
served with plenty of food and drink ; 
that there was very little looting aside 
from the plate ; that among other tri- 
fles, an old sailor whose life had been 
spent on the ocean, accumulated a 
pair of gilt spurs, his attempt to util- 



ize them being extremely ludicrous ; 
he tried them on his nose, hands and 
feet, and finally threw them away 
with great disgust saying, * ' I do n't 
see any use to which the blanked 
things can be put." 

Shortly after the Whitehaven ex* 
ploit, occurred the engagement with 
and capture' of the British ship* 
Drake. My grandfather said that 
he went on board the Drake after 
her capture and saw there the dead 
body of an English officer in the 
uniform of the land service, and that 
an English sailor afterwards told him 
thiTt this officer came on board to see 
them whip the Yankees, and that a 
hogshead of rum which had been 
sent on board to drink to their vic- 
tory had been demolished by a can- 
non ball. 

The Ranger took her prize to 
France where Captain Jones left the 
ship. She subsequently sailed for 
Portsmouth, under command of Capt. 
Thomas Simpson, where the crew 
was discharged. 

Late in the month of June, 1779, 
he sailed from Portsmouth, for 
Prance, joining the Bon Homme 
Ridutrd a few days before the de- 
parture of Jones's little squadron, 
which sailed on August 14. The 
battle with the Serapis was fought on 
September 23, 1779. 

It is a matter of unwritten history 
in our family that when he left Ports- 
mouth he was accompanied by four- 
teen others, several of whom had 
served on the Ranger, and that 
among the number were Joseph Rob- 
erts and Isaac Hanson, who after- 
wards lived in Farmington, and died 
there, Timothy Roberts of Milton, 
who lived and died in that town, and 
Caleb Roberts of Rochester. On 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS. 



^hich vessel of the squadron they 
served I have no positive informa- 
tion. 

Mr. Oliver A. Roberts of Melrose, 
Mass., who has in preparation a gen- 
ealogy of the Roberts family, states 
that the five named above served on 
the Ranger^ and some, if not all of 
them, on the Bon Homme Richard. 

After his final discharge from the 
rservice he made his home for several 
years at Dover, but followed the sea 
as an occupation. The parish rec- 
ords show that he was married to 
Elizabeth Horn, January 17, 1782, 
by Rev. Jeremy Belknap. In 1796 
he moved to Middleton, where he 
built his cabin near Moose Mountain 
and cleared the virgin forest from 
some twenty acres. Subsequently he 
moved to a small farm on the stage 
road leading from Dover to Wolfe- 
borough, where he continued to live 
and till the soil of that quiet town. 

The old men of the town said of 
him that he was a good neighbor, 
but not a very good farmer; not 
given to boasting of his achieve- 
ments, very rarely talking of them 
unless urged to do so. That the 
l)ears and wildcats had no terrors for 
him, and the only living thing he 
feared was a snake, and to the most 
harmless of these reptiles he gave a 
wide berth. 

Being rallied at one time by his 
companions regarding the taking of 
the plate of the Earl of Selkirk, he 
answered, ** After taking away what 
we did, we left the earl more plate 
than all of you have, or ever will 
have.'* 

One of his nearest neighbors, a 
man by the name of Hinah, was one 
of the 22,000 sold by the notorious 
Frederick II of Hesse to George III 



to fight his battles in America;* he 
was captured at Trenton, but after 
the war made his way to the wilds of 
New Hampshire, settling in Middle- 
ton. He became a good citizen and 
an officer of the militia. His broken 
English was a source of much amuse- 
ment to his men, and when going on 
parade he gave the order **Moosuc 
to der froont,'* the smiles were audi- 
ble. Between my grandfather and 
this old Teuton a warm friendship 
existed, and they spent much time in 
the company of each other, cheering 
themselves with their pipes, and an 
occasional sip of the wine of New 
England. 

In religious belief his family were 
followers of Penn. In his youth he 
affiliated with that sect, but in later 
life he neither wore the Quaker garb 
nor attended the meeting, but con- 
tinued on cordial terms with his rela- 
tives and others of that faith. My 
grandmother was a member of the 
Baptist Church, but I well remember 
that her home, and my father's as 
well, was the stopping place for 
Friends on their way to the yearly 
meeting at Sandwich, and when these 
visits occurred our family observed 
the Quaker grace at mealtime. My 
grandmother related that during her 
husband's last illness and shortly be- 
fore his death, his brother David, a 
strict Friend, visited him, and, when 
about to take his departure, went to 
the bedside of his sick brother and 
said': ** Peace be with thee, George.'* 
** Peace be with thee, David," was 
the answer; and thus the brothers 
parted, to meet no more on earth. 

The story of how the Roberts fam- 
ily were converted to the faith of the 
Society of Friends is interesting. 

The emigrant, Thomas Roberts, 



A SKETCH 0F> GEORGE ROBERTS, 



was chosen president of the court 
(council). His son John was ap- 
pointed marshal, and his son Thomas 
was a constable of Dover. During 
their term of office the Quaker perse- 
cutions in Dover occurred. Several 
women of that faith had been arrested, 
and the court adjudged them guilty 
and ordered them to be whipped at 
the cart's tail through nine towns. 
The duty of the infliction of this 
penalty in Dover fell to John and 
Thomas Roberts. While the order of 
the court was being carried out in a 
very cruel manner, their father, 
Thomas Roberts, followed after, la- 
menting and crying, **Wo! that I 
am the father of such wicked chil- 
dren/' The patience and humility 
with which these poor women bore 
their wrongs so impressed him that 
he investigated their belief, the re- 
sult being that he and his family 
became* members of the Society of 
Friends with which their descendants 
were also identified for several gen- 
erations. 

In the military history of George 
Roberts, on file at the pension office 
in Washington, I found the follow- 
ing: 

In his declaration for pension he makes no 
allusion to anv service other than that on the 
Ranger^ owing, no doubt, to the fact that the 
law under which he applied. Act of March i8, 

1818, required but nine months' service in the 
Continental establishment. His widow, who 
applied for and was granted a pension after his 
death, stated that he also served on the Boji 
Jlojume Richard under Capt. John Paul Jones 
in the celebrated conflict with the British ship 
Serapis. 

He filed with the pension office an 
inventory of his property, which was 
as follows : 



Three swine, 


$7.00 


Old homestead furniture,. 


5.00 


Land, 25 acres, 


125.00 




$190.00 


Debts owed. 


$40.00 



Two oxen (small), 
One cow, 



Mooo 
13.00 



I also found, in connection with 
his application for pension a certifi- 
cate as to his service from Ezra 
Green of Dover, surgeon of the Ran- 
ger^ and from John Ricker, seaman, 
there being no official roll in exist- 
ence of the men who served on that 
ship. 

The sum granted him was S8 per 
month; his widow received $63.44 
per annum. 

My grandfather died on the 12th 
of May, 1829, leaving one son, my 
father. My grandmother survived 
him some thirty years, and from her 
I obtained much of the material for 
this sketch. A marble headstone 
marks the place where his ashes rest, 
in the family burial lot on the old 
homestead. 

The inscription on the stone is as 
follows : 

George Roberts 

died 

May 12, 1829, 

A. E. 73 y'rs, 8 mo. 

& 21 d'ys : 

A soldier of the Revolution. 

The sea chest, brought home by 
him after his discharge from the 7?^?/- 
gcr^ is in possession of my nephew, 
Natt F. Roberts of Farmington. 

[Not long after his death a com- 
munication from an old sailor, who 
had served with him, appeared in a 
Natchez, Miss., paper, the same be- 
ing reproduced in my sketch of the 
life of George Roberts, printed in 
The Granite Mojithly for August, 
1902, as I then supposed in full. At 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS, 



that time I did not feel quite sure 
that it was first published in the 
Natchez paper ; as the name of Com- 
modore Dale was mentioned I thought 
it might have been first printed in 
Philadelphia ; later on I searched the 
newspaper files at the library of Con- 
gress and found in Paulson's Ameri- 
x:a7i Daily Advertiser of Philadelphia 
of June 3, 1829, the following obit- 
uarj^ notice : 

Died in Middleton, N. H., May 12, 1829 
■George Roberts, aged 74 years, a Revolutionary 
soldier. He was an able seaman, and served 
under the renowned John Paul Jones on board 
the Ranger^ was at the taking of the Drake^ a 
very superior ship after a severe action of one 
hour and forty-five minutes, and had charge of 
two guns in that quarter of the ship called by 
the seamen the " slaughter house/* He was a 
-favorite of his captain and first of his boat's 
-crew. 

In the same paper in the issue of 
November 14, 1829, the following 
appeared : 

REMINISCENCE OF PAUL JONES. 

[From the Natchez (Miss.) Ariel.] 

Mr. Editor: — I observed in a late number 
of your paper a notice of the death of George 
Roberts of Middleton, N. H., at the age of 74 
years. The notice of his death was crowded 
into that column of your paper usually allotted 
to the recording of such events, and among no- 
tices of the decease of several other Revolution- 
ary soldiers, it stated his numerous services ; 
that he had served under Paul Jones on various 
occasions, and that he was an able seaman.] 

Sir: — I knew George Roberts well. I served 
with him under our noble commander, in the 
same ship, and on the same perilous cruises, and 
fought side by side in the same engagements, 
and that he was an able seaman, an honest man, 
and a brave man, is true, and it is the desire of 
an old man to offer a tribute to the memory of 
an old fellow-sailor. 

We were sailors under Paul Jones, in his ex- 
pedition against the British in 1778, when he 
terrified the commerce of that country by con- 
stantly hovering about the coast of Scotland and 
Ireland, though having only a ship of eighteen 



guns. When Jones landed on the coast of Scot- 
land, and took away all the family plate of the 
Earl of Selkirk, Roberts was one of the sailors 
who marched into the castle while that strange 
deed was done. I remained on board the ship. 
The plate was all brought on board and safely 
disposed of; though as it turned out, much to 
the commodore's loss, as he afterwards bought 
it up in Paris and returned it to the owner. He 
intended to capture the earl and detain him as a 
hostage, but being absent from home at the time 
we landed it was prevented. 

In 1779, Roberts and I sailed again under our 
noble commander from Brest in France, in the 
Good Aftrn Richard^ carrying 40 guns and 420 
men. She was an old ship, and not fit for the 
hard service we put her to, as it afterwards came 
out. On the 22d of September, off Flambor- 
ough Head, we fell in with the Baltic fleet, un- 
der the convoy of the frigate Serapis^ of 56 guns, 
and of the sloop Countess of Scarborough, a very 
heavy ship, but I do not recollect hearing how 
many guns she carried. Just as the moon rose, 
at eight in the evening, the enemy fired his first 
broadside, when within pistol shot of us. And 
now a most murderous scene began. 

The action raged with horrid violence, and 
the blood ran ankle deep out of the ship's scup- 
pers. Our rigging was cut to atoms, and finally 
both .ships took fire, so that both friend and foe 
were obliged to rest from fighting that they 
might extinguish the flames. The Richard be- 
ing old, was soon shot through and through and 
began to sink. In this awful condition, Jones's 
voice was heard above the din of the battle, 
ordering to grapple with the enemy. We ac- 
cordingly made our ship fast to the Scrapis, and 
it was easily done, as the two ships were so 
near each other that when I drew out the ram- 
mer to the gun I belonged to, the end of it 
touched the side of the Serapis. Thus fastened 
together, we fought without resting, until nearly 
all our guns were burst or dismantled — the ship 
nearly full of water — and Lieutenant Grubb shot 
dead by Jones's own pistol, for hauling down 
the colors without orders, and which happened 
at my elbow, our decks covered with dead and 
dying, and our ship cut up into splinters. 

While in this awful and desperate situation, 
my friend Roberts, seeing how near spent we 
were, jumped on to the main yard of our vessel, 
which projected directly over the decks of the 
Serapis, with a bundle of hand grenades. These 
he contrived to throw down upon the Serapis's 
deck, and succeeded in blowing up two or three 
of their powder chests, the explosion of which 
killed and wounded a great many men. The 



8 



A SKETCH OF GEORGE ROBERTS, 



captain of the Serapit perceiving his activity, 
ordered some shots fired at Roberts. One of 
them struck the rope by which h^ supported 
himself, and caused him to fall on the gunwale 
of the enemy's ship, which observing, I caught 
hold of him and pulled him aboard. He imme- 
diately got on the same yard-arm again, with a 
fresh supply of hand grenades, and made such 
dreadful havoc on the enemy's deck that in a 
few minutes they surrendered. For this great 
bravery Paul Jones publicly thanked him on the 
quarter-deck of the SerapU the next afternoon, 
giving him double allowance of grog for the 
week afterwards. 

It was near midnight when the action termin- 
ated. The top of Flamborough Head, which is 
a high rock that overlooks the sea, was covered 
with people watching the engagement, and dread- 
ful the sight must have been. The next day, our 
ship sunk, being fairly battered to pieces by the 
enemy's shot, as they poured a murderous fire 
into us all the while. Commodore Dale, who 
died in Philadelphia about two years ago, was 
Jones's second lieutenant, and Was badly 
wounded about the middle of the action.^ He 
was ordered to go below though he still wished 
to fight on deck. After he went down he was 
very useful in taking care of a large number Of 
English prisoners we had on board. We had 
135 men killed, and nearly as many wounded 
and missing. The Serapis had about the same 
number killed as we had, and had 80 wounded. 

Captain Pearson, the English commander, 

fought nobly, and defended his ship to the last. 

He had nailed his flag to the mast, and was 

afraid to haul it down when he surrendered, as 

none of his men would go up to tear it away, 

because they dreaded our sharpshooter in our 

round tops. So. when he concluded to give up, 
he mounted the gunwale just where I was stand- 
ing, and called out in a loud voice, ** We sur- 
render, we surrender." Captain Jones not hear-, 
ing this, I left my gun and ran and told him of 
it. He instantly ordered the firing to cease and 
the flag hauled down, but no Englishman would 
do it, as musket shots were still exchanged be- 
tween the two vessels. On hearing this George 
Roberts jumped aboard the enemy's ship, 
mounted the tattered shrouds, and hacked down 
the British ensign from its proud height. As it 
fell, what I consider as very remarkable, a cap 
full of wind took it and laid it directly at Jones's 
feet, at the same time spreading it nearly all 
over the dead body of Lieutenant Grubb, who 
in the heat of the fight was lying dead upon the 
deck. When the crew of the Richard saw the 
flag fall, they gave thirteen tremendous cheers, 
at which Captain Pearson shrunk back from his 
high stand into the shadow of his mizzen mast. 



When we returned from this cruise, being; 
affected in my hearing by a splinter, which 
struck me under the ear, I left the service, and 
heard no more of my friend Roberts, from that 
time until I saw his death inserted in your pa- 
per. He was a true-hearted and honest man,, 
and bold to a degree not to be daunted. He 
was younger than me, and yet he has closed his^ 
eyes in that sleep to which all of us, soldiers or 
not, must one day give up. J. h. 

A copy of a paper containing the 
above communication was in posses- 
sion of my grandmother. A few 
years after the death of her husband, 
she made application for a pension 
through Hon. Nehemiah Eastman, 
lawyer, of Farmington, and gave him. 
the paper. In 1855 it was found in 
Mr. Eastman's scrap book by Asa- 
McParland of Concord, editor of the 
New Hampshire Statesman^ who made 
it the basis for a letter to his paper, 
which appeared in the issue of Au- 
gust II, of that year. 

The scrap book is now in the libra- 
ry of Mr. Fred R. Oilman of I^aconia, 
a relative of the Eastman family. 

[In acknowledgment of receipt of 
magazines and copy of sketch, I re- 
ceived the following : 

Schenectady, N. Y., Aug. 27, 1902. 

Mr, Charles H, Roberts, 

My Dkar Sir: Your magazines and pam- 
phlets were duly received for which please 
accept my thaAks. I was much interested in 
reading the article on your grandfather. There 
has always been some controversy among writers 
on John Paul Jones's life, as to whether Pear- 
son had actually nailed his flag to the masi or 
whether it was merely a figure of speech. The 
article of the " Old Sailor, which ^ou publish, 
seems to me to dispose of this question, for your 
grandfather had to climb the mast in order to 
cut down the flag. The article is no doubt cor- 
rect in all its detail, as it was written at a time 
and by a man removed from all motive of em- 
bellishment and before any of these nice points 
had arisen among historians and critics. 

I have cut down one of your pamphlets and 
bound it in the back of my favorite history of 
the Life of John Paul Jones, that it may throw 
a new light on an old subject for those who may 
come after me. 

Very sincerely yours, 

Geo. W. Featherstonhaugh. 



^In the bioKraphical notice of Oommodore Dale in Appleton^a Encyclopedia, he is credited with the 
rank ot first lieutenant at the time of the battle.