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Vol. I. 


18 39. 




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Entered according- to the act of Congress, in the year 1839, by 


In the Clerk's office of the District Court of the United States, in and 
for the Northern District of New York. 














While biographies of naval men are usually replete 
with interest, on account of the hazards and stirring in- 
cidents of the sea, few general records of nautical events 
have been found to attract attention, beyond the value 
that is attached to naked facts. If such has been the 
case with most of th.e histories of even the marine of 
Great Britain, a service that admits of the unity and 
interest that belong to the operations of fleets, still 
more may it be looked for in the records of the isolated 
and simpler incidents of a navy like that of the United 
States. The difficulty of overcoming this great ob- 
stacle has been foreseen from the commencement of 
this work, and some attempts, that are connected with 
the arrangements of the subject, have been made to 
obviate it. The writer is far from flattering himself 
with entire success, for a history of detached combats 
is, in truth, a series of episodes, the mind scarcely be- 
coming concentrated on one, when it is required to 
give its attention to another, while the connecting ma- 
terials, according to the ordinary practice, are merely 
a dry detail of documents. 


In order to overcome^ in some measure, this beset- 
ting difficulty, as little reference as possible is made to 
documents, in the body of the work. 

The first, and great desideratum of history, is 
truth; the second, just reflections on it. If the dif- 
ficulty of obtaining truth for the more important lead- 
ing events of the world be universally admitted, this 
difficulty is increased when the subject by its essen- 
tial character, requires an infinity of detail. Bat- 
tles, whether by sea or land, are never seen by the 
contending parties, from the same point of view, and 
their descriptions are usually more conflicting than 
any other portions of history. Of course, a work that 
contains little more than a narrative of combats, is pe- 
culiarly liable to errors. Great anxiety has been felt 
to remove, as much as possible, this objection from the 
present book, and, while the writer is far from flatter- 
ing himself with entire success, he trusts his honest 
endeavours have not been altogether useless. That 
there are many omissions is highly probable, but in no 
instance can he reproach himself with the commission 
of intentional faults of any kind. 

Authorities being of so much moment to the histo- 
rian, it was intended to quote them, but it was soon 
found that it would require nearly as much room to 
cite these names, and all the minute circumstances by 
means of which information has been gleaned, as to 
relate the events themselves. It is hoped that the 
best authorities have been consulted, and many officers 
of the highest rank and reputation have consented to 
add their oral information to that which was to be ob- 

PRErACE. ix 

tained from official reports, public documents, and 
other sources. 

To the latter gentlemen, the writer wishes to make 
his public acknowledgments, for the liberality, pa- 
tience and clearness with which they have favoured 
him with their explanations. Witnesses of what they 
have related., their accounts have been given with a 
caution, modesty and fairness that lend a double value to 
their authority. Much liberal assistance has also been 
received from the Department, and from the eminent 
citizen at its head. To James E. De Kay, M. D., the 
writer is under peculiar obligations, for the friendly 
and handsome manner in which he put at the disposal 
of the latter, many notes taken with care, and which 
have proved of the greatest service, in the course of 
the investigations. To the library of the American 
Philosophical Society, in Philadelphia, the writer 
is equally indebted for much valuable and inter- 
esting matter, and he would be wanting in sensibility 
were he not publicly to express his gratitude for 
the generous manner in which its stores of information 
have been thrown open to him. To the City Library 
of Philadelphia, also, though established on a principle 
that allowed him more claim to ask for aid, he is under 
great obligations, its shelves usually supplying the re- 
quired authorities when other sources have failed. He 
desires also to mention his obligations to the Naval 
Chronicle of Mr. Goldsborough, in which book he has 
found much accurate and useful matter. 

Some of the greatest writers of the age have im- 
paired the dignity of their works, by permitting the 


peculiarities of style that have embellished their lighter 
labours, to lessen the severity of manner that more 
properly distinguishes narratives of truth. This dan- 
ger lias been foreseen, in the present instance, though 
the nature of the subject, which seldom rises to the 
level of general history, offers a constant temptation to 
offend. A middle course has been adopted, which it 
is hoped, while some defects of execution may proba- 
bly be detected, will be found on the whole to be suit- 
ed to a recital of facts, in the familiar form that, in a 
measure^ the incidents have demanded. Without some 
concessions to details, suflicient interest could not have 
been secured, while those that were too minute might 
have thrown discredit on the truth. 

It will be seen that some vessels are rated in this 
work differently from what the public has been accus- 
tomed to consider accurate. Every mode of rating is 
liable to some objections, and nothing is more fidlacious 
than to estimate the power of a ship by the number of 
her guns. Two great elements of force enter into the 
comj)Osition of a vessel of war: the ability to annoy, 
and the ability to endure. A ship of one thousand 
tons burthen, armed with one heavy gun, might resist, 
for a long time, a dozen vessels of thirty tons, each 
armed with the same species of gun. This advantage 
would arise from the greater ability of the large vessel 
to endure. On the other hand, the same ship, armed 
with one heavy gun, would probably captui'e a similar 
vessel armed with twenty very light guns, her ability 
to annoy being the greatest. A 32, according to the 
old mode of rating, carries 26 twelves on her gun- 


deck, and a 36 carries 26 eighteens on her gun-deck, 
both vessels often possessing the same armaments on 
their qnarter-decks .and forecastles. Here are two 
ships of the same number of guns, but of very unequal 
force, the one being a twelve-pounder frigate, and 
the other an eighteen-pounder frigate. With a view 
to give an accurate idea of comparative forces, the old 
English mode of rating has been carried through the 
American navy, in this work, in order to make one 
vessel properly compare with another. Thus the 
New-York frigate was properly called a 36, while 
the Adams w^as improperly called a 32, her true rate 
having been that of a 28, &c. &c. Some apparent 
discrepancies, however, will be seen in this book. The 
Enterprise, for instance, is at first called a 12, and 
subsequently a 14. The difference is owing to altera- 
tions in the piercing of the vessel, and in the nature 
of her armament, as this schooner underwent repairs. 
Other small vessels were similarly altered. 

With these few explanations, a task that has long 
been meditated, but vi^hich, after all, has been hur- 
riedly accomplished, is submitted to the world, with 
quite as much apprehension as hope. 


tions, without adverting to its fitness for the pecuUar state 
of things to which it was to be apphed. This was Hke re- 
jecting the heart of the fruit because it was unhealthy, 
and carefully preserving the rind. But a few explanations 
will render our meaning more clear. 

The nature of the English government is no secret. A 
territorial aristocracy, promotion, in both the army and the 
navy, is the inevitable fruit of favour, or of personal power. 
In the army, the mode of purchasing rank has been adopt- 
ed, by means of which the affluent are at all times enabled 
to secure the most desirable stations for their children; but, 
professional knowledge being indispensable to a sea-officer, 
a difterent plan was introduced into the marine. Accord- 
ing to this system, the name of a boy was entered on the 
books of a ship, and after he had been thus rated a cer- 
tain number of years, it was competent for the admiralty to 
raise him, at pleasure, as high as the rank of captain, when 
his career became more regular. As this rank of captain, 
however, afforded most of the opportunities for acquiring 
reputation and money, it was the first great object of 
all aspirants, and it suited the policy of such a form of go- 
vernment to make the intermediate steps, between the con- 
dition of probation, and that when the officer obtained his 
permanent relative rank for life, as few as possible. Thus 
were found in the British navy but two commissions between 
the midshipman and the captain ; that of a lieutenant, and 
that of a master and commander. When the narrow po- 
litical system under which these probationary ranks were 
established was in full activity, the sons of men of influ- 


ence often passed through the stations of lieutenant and 
master commandant, in two or three years. Nothing was 
more common than to find captains in command of fri- 
gates, who had served but eight or ten years in the navy, 
with Heutenants to take care of their ships, who had passed 
double the time under that one commission alone. 

Although this system, so far as the regulation of the 
ranks is concerned, was adopted entire into the American 
service, nothing can be more unsuited to our state of 
society, to policy, and to the actual wants of the navy. 
For many years, all the promotions of the American ma- 
rine, were limited to three! Even at this day, with full ex- 
perience of the evils of a system of incentives so meagre, and 
of a concentration of rank so destructive of self-respect and 
discipline, the life of the American naval officer is cheered 
by only four promotions, two of which are little more than 
the changes that nature herself demands, by transferring 
the officer from the duty of a boy, to duty more becoming 
a man. 

He who lives without the inspiriting view of preferment 
constantly before his eyes, literally lives without hope, and 
necessarily without ambition. It is a singular fact, that in a 
country where so many social consequences of the last im- 
portance are justly traced to the elasticity of a hope of ad- 
vancement that is denied to no American, this cruel neglect 
should have been manifested to the interests and character 
of a branch of the public service which all admit to be of 
the last importance. As events are stronger than the human 
will, the evil consequences of this indifference to the feel- 


rights, principally by means of a powerful marine, all are 
compelled to acknowledge that the growth of this branch 
of the public service has been slow, uncertain, and marked 
by a policy as timid as it has been fluctuating. Three 
several times did the national legislature authorize the con- 
struction of vessels of force, before they were built; and 
they were finally put into the water, at a period when they 
could not be rendered available against an enemy. Thirty 
years since, the opinion that there was something unsuit- 
ed to American policy, in the employment of two-decked 
ships, appears to have been as general in the country, as 
it was erroneous. Because the nation had recently been 
too feeble to employ agencies that implied so much force, 
it was secretly fancied that the obstacles were permanent. 
In other words, opinion had not kept an even pace with facts. 

It has long been confessed that America possessed every 
qualification for the creation of a powerful navy, but men 
and money. The necessary skill, the required aptitude for 
sea-service, and the other requisites have always been ad- 
mitted; but it has been asserted that neither the finances, 
nor the population would allow of the drain on their resour- 
ces, that is unavoidably connected with a strong marine. 
The two deficiencies, if they actually existed, would cer- 
tainly be fatal. 

In the years 1812, 1813, and 1814, the republic expended 
considerably more than $50,000,000, on its current military 
operations, without reference to the large sums that were 
subsequently paid on the same account. This war lasted but 
two years and eight months, and during the first season its 


operations were very limited. Thus $30,000,000 more were 
paid on account of military charges, in the two years of 
peace that immediately succeeded, making a total of 
$80,000,000. It is known that even this large sum falls ma- 
terially short of the truth. During the same five years, the 
money expended on the navy amounted to only $30,000,000, 
although the peculiar nature of the service on the lakes in- 
volved an enormous and an unusual expenditure, and a war 
with Algiers occurred, during which the country maintain- 
ed afloat a much larger force than it had ever previously 
employed. In addition, the greatest part of this expendi- 
ture, was the cost of new constructions. It follows, that 
America expended nearly two dollars on her army, and its 
military operations, in the war of 1812, for every dollar 
expended on her navy, including the expense of building 
most of the costly vessels of the service. Had the fact 
been precisely reversed, it is probable that the proportions 
required by true policy would have been better observed, 
and there can be but little doubt that the country would 
have reaped the advantage, for, no serious invasion of Amer- 
ica will ever be attempted in the face of a strong fleet, after 
the country shall be provided with docks and arsenals, by 
means of which accidental reverses can be remedied. By 
dividing the large sum expended on the army and navy, 
between the years 1812 and 1816, inclusively, $40,000,000 
would have fallen to the share of each branch of the ser- 
vice, which would have given $8,000,000 a year to the 
navy. This sum would be amply sufficient to maintain a 
force of twenty sail of the line, with a suitable number 


of small vessels, to cruise in company. Against such a fleet, 
no European power could have attempted an invasion of a 
coast so distant from its own resources. 

This is an outline of the facts of 1812. Those of the 
present day, in no degree impair the principle, though the 
introduction of steam may modify its application. Nor can 
it be objected that these statements are liable to the deduc- 
tions which practice is usually found to make in estimates, 
since they are, in truth, results and not premises. The only 
departure from a known fact, is to transfer a portion of ihe 
actual current expenditure of the country, a quarter of a cen- 
tury since, from one branch of its public service to another. 

It may be taken as a rule, that wherever there is money, 
men will not be wanting. But the government of the United 
States has never resorted to the most obvious means of 
manning a large marine. Until the effort shall be properly 
made, it is weak to assume the impossibility of the measure. 
The number of actual seamen necessary in a large ship is 
much smaller than is commonly supposed, and it is probable 
that there was not a moment, during the year 1814, when 
the public and private armed vessels of the country, did not 
contain people enough of all sorts, with a proper addition 
of landsmen, to man a fleet of sufficient strength to have 
swept the American seas. The impressed American sea- 
men, who were put into the prisons of England, after the 
declaration of war in 1812, would, of themselves, have fur- 
nished nearly all the petty officers and seamen of ten sail of 
the line, and had only those ten sail of the line existed a few 
years previously, it is probable not one of these men would 


have been the subject of the outrage by which he was depriv- 
ed of Hberty. Whenever the government of the United States 
shall be engaged in a war with any great naval power, and 
shall see fit to withhold commissions from privateers, grant- 
ing, at the same time, the proceeds of all prizes to the offi- 
cers and men of their public cruisers, it will be found that 
adventurers will not be wanting. In the contest of 1812, 
the vessels of war were directed to destroy the ships they 
took, because the enemy was known so closely to infest 
the coast, that it was almost impossible to get a prize 
in, whereas a strong force would put an end to all sorts of 
blockades. Most of the prizes taken by Capt. Porter in the 
Pacific, and which made the attempt to get to America, 
traversed the immense distance between Valparaiso, or the 
Marquesas, and the American coast in safety, to fall into 
the hands of their enemy, when a few days, or a few 
hours run from port. It should be remembered, that, in 
political measures, as in all the other interests of life, weak- 
ness is the parent of misfortune, while the results of energy 
and force, are in an arithmetical proportion to their means. 
There can be no reasoning more unsound, than to assume 
that the consequences of a defective policy, are to be taken 
as the premises of a wise policy. 

A careful review of these facts and principles, must 
satisfy all who study the subject, that the United States of 
America have never resorted to the means necessary to 
develope, or even, in a Hmited sense, to employ their own 
naval resources. As a consequence, they have never yet 
enjoyed the advantage of possessing a powerful marine in 



a time of war, or have felt its influence in sustaining their 
negotiations, and in supporting their national rights, in 
a time of peace. As yet, the ships of America have 
done little more than show the world what the republic 
might do with its energies duly directed, and its resources 
properly developed, by demonstrating the national aptitude 
for this species of warfare. 

But the probationary period of the American marine 
is passing away, and the body of the people are begin- 
ning to look forward to the appearance of their fleets on 
the ocean. It is no longer thought there is an unfitness in 
the republic's possessing heavy ships ; and the opinion of 
the country, in this as in other respects, is slowly rising to 
the level of its wants. Still many lingering prejudices re- 
main in the public mind, in connexion with this all-impor- 
tant subject, and some that threaten the service with se- 
rious injury. Of these, the most prominent are, the 
mode in which the active vessels are employed ; a ne- 
glect of the means of creating seamen for the public ser- 
vice ; the fact that there is no force in commission on the 
American coast ; the substitution of m.oney for pride and 
self-respect, as the aim of military men; and the impairing 
of discipline and lessening the deference for the justice of 
the state, by the denial of rank. 

Under the present system of employing the public ves- 
sels, none of the peculiar experience that belongs to the 
higher objects of the profession is obtained. While ships 
may be likened to regiments, as regards the necessity of ma- 
nceuvring together, there is one important feature in which 


they are totally dissimilar. It may be pretty safely thought 
that one disciplined regiment will march as far, endure as 
much, and occupy its station as certainly as another, but 
no such calculation can be made on ships. The latter are 
machines, and their qualities may be improved by human 
ingenuity, when their imperfections have been ascertained 
by experiment. Intelligent comparisons, are the first step 
in this species of improvement. 

It will be clear to the dullest mind, that the evolutions of 
a fleet, and, in a greater or less degree, its success, must 
be dependent on the qualities of its poorest vessels; since 
its best cannot abandon their less fortunate consorts to the 
enemy. The naval history of the world abounds with in- 
stances, in which the efforts of the first sea captains of their 
respective ages, have been frustrated by the defects of a 
portion of the ships under their command. To keep a 
number of vessels in compact order, to cause them to pre- 
serve their weatherly position in gales and adverse winds, 
and to bring them all as near as possible up to the stand- 
ard that shall be formed by the most judicious and careful 
commander, is one of the highest aims of naval expe- 
rience. On the success of such efforts depend the results 
of naval evolutions more frequently than on any dexterity 
in fighting guns. An efiicient fleet can no more be formed, 
without practice in squadrons, than an efficient army with- 
out evolutions in brigades. By not keeping ships in squa- 
drons, there will also be less emulation, and consequently 
less improvement. 

Under the present system, three principal stations are 


maintained; two in the Atlantic, and one in the Mediterra- 
nean. On neither of these stations would the presence of a 
vessel larger than a sloop of war be necessary, on ordinary 
occasions, provided a force of heavy ships could periodically 
and unexpectedly appear on all. It is seldom that a single ship 
of the line is required on any service, and it is certain that a 
solitary two-decked vessel could have no great influence on 
those important interests which it is the practice of the rest 
of Christendom to refer to the agencies of fleets. By putting 
in commission six or eight two-decked ships, and by caus- 
ing them to appear, from time to time, on all the more 
important stations this side of the two great southern capes, 
the country, at no material additional cost, would obtain 
the several objects of practice in fleets, of comparative 
trials of the qualities of the most important class of ves- 
sels in the navy, of a higher state of discipline, and of a 
vast improvement in the habits of subordination, on the 
part of commanders, a defect that all experience shows 
is peculiar to the desultory mode of service now in use, 
and which has produced more naval disasters in the world, 
than probably any other one cause. In a word, the prin- 
cipal ends of a navy can no more be obtained, by the 
services of single ships, than wars can be decided by 
armies cut up into battalions. Small vessels are as indis- 
pensable, for lower schools of practice, as company drills in 
an army; but squadrons alone can produce the highest class 
of oflicers, the steadiest discipline, or the desired objects. 

In addition to this neglect of accustoming the service to 
the use of the particular sort of force necessary to render 


a marine effective for great ends, the history of the world 
cannot probably supply a parallel to that forgetfulness which 
the American government has manifested of all the known 
incentives of human exertions, in the management of the 
navv. A portion of the inducements, that, under other 
forms of government, are freely used for this purpose, un- 
der a system like that of the United States, are necessarily 
withheld, as they are believed to be opposed to the govern- 
ing principles of the institutions. To this class of incen- 
tives belong all those rewards that are connected with 
personal and hereditary social rank. That the power to 
confer honours of this nature, is a vast increase to the 
influence of a government, is incontrovertible ; and in dis- 
carding it for objects that are thought to be of still greater 
importance, the utmost care should be taken not to neglect 
its substitutes. The man who, refusing to adopt re- 
medies that he believes unsuited to his constitution, is dis- 
creet, when he carries his system so far as to forget to 
look for others to supply their places, becomes careless 
and culpable. 

Next to personal reputation, military rank is the highest 
stimulus of a military life. Its possession enters into all the 
day dreams of the young aspirant for fame and honours, 
is inseparable from self-respect, and is indissolubly con- 
nected with discipline. With these indisputable truths in 
full view, they who have had the care of graduating and 
regulating this important interest, for the American ma- 
rine, have simply selected that part of the system of the 
mother country, that did not conflict with popular institu- 


tions, without adverting to its fitness for the peculiar stato 
of things to which it was to be applied. This was like re- 
jecting the heart of the fruit because it was unhealthy, 
and carefully preserving the rind. But a few explanations 
will render our meaning more clear. 

The nature of the English government is no secret. A 
territorial aristocracy, promotion, in both the army and the 
navy, is the inevitable fruit of favour, or of personal power. 
In the army, the mode of purchasing rank has been adopt- 
ed, by means of which the affluent are at all times enabled 
to secure the most desirable stations for their children; but, 
professional knowledge being indispensable to a sea-officer, 
a different plan was introduced into the marine. Accord- 
ing to this system, the name of a boy was entered on the 
books of a ship, and after he had been thus rated a cer- 
tain number of years, it was competent for the admiralty to 
raise him, at pleasure, as high as the rank of captain, when 
his career became more regular. As this rank of captain, 
however, afforded most of the opportunities for acquiring 
reputation and money, it was the first great object of 
all aspirants, and it suited the policy of such a form of go- 
vernment to make the intermediate steps, between the con- 
dition of probation, and that when the officer obtained his 
permanent relative rank for life, as few as possible. Thus 
were found in the British navy but two commissions between 
the midshipman and the captain ; that of a lieutenant, and 
that of a master and commander. When the narrow po- 
litical system under which these probationary ranks were 
established was in full activity, the sons of men of influ- 


ence often passed through the stations of lieutenant and 
master commandant, in two or three years. Nothing was 
more common than to find captains in command of fri- 
gates, who had served but eight or ten years in the navy, 
with heutenants to take care of their ships, who had passed 
double the time under that one commission alone. 

Although this system, so far as the regulation of the 
ranks is concerned, was adopted entire into the American 
service, nothing can be more unsuited to our state of 
society, to policy, and to the actual wants of the navy. 
For many years, all the promotions of the American ma- 
rine, were limited to three! Even at this day, with full ex- 
perience of the evils of a system of incentives so meagre, and 
of a concentration of rank so destructive of self-respect and 
discipline, the life of the American naval officer is cheered 
by only four promotions, two of which are little more than 
the changes that nature herself demands, by transferring 
the officer from the duty of a boy, to duty more becoming 
a man. 

He who lives without the inspiriting view of preferment 
constantly before his eyes, literally lives without hope, and 
necessarily without ambition. It is a singular fact, that in a 
country where so many social consequences of the last im- 
portance are justly traced to the elasticity of a hope of ad- 
vancement that is denied to no American, this cruel neglect 
should have been manifested to the interests and character 
of a branch of the public service which all admit to be of 
the last importance. As events are stronger than the human 
will, the evil consequences of this indifference to the feel- 


ings and rights of the navy, are easily to be traced; 
facts having forced from the government substitutes for the 
legitimate incentives of military life, that are dangerous to 
the military character. Money has been made to supply 
the place of ambition, and a new pay-bill is thought to be a 
sufficient corrective of all the evils of a great moral neglect, 
and of a most crying injustice! 

It is time that America began to think for herself on a 
subject as important as that of her marine, and to frame a 
system of discipline and incentives, of resources and prac- 
tice, better suited to her political, social and moral condi- 
tion, than the factitious and exclusive state of things which 
has so long served her for a model. Personal influence 
availing nothing in procuring promotion, in the American 
marine, all its officers are obliged to pass through the same 
stages of probationary service, and, with the exception 
of the cases in which the expediency of rewarding suc- 
cess prevails, each individual is obliged to pass an equal 
portion of his life in the same rank. A wise policy 
would impress the government with the importance of add- 
ing as many stimulants to this period of professional life as 
comports with convenience; but an examination of facts 
will show that, while practice has exacted concessions to 
necessity, the opportunity of adding the incentives of pro- 
motions has been strangely neglected. Thus it is that we 
find the lower ranks of the service separated in practice, 
by stations unknown to the laws, while the commission is 
withheld from the individual who temporarily performs 
the duty. 


It is not easy fully to impress on the minds of civilians 
the immense results that are dependent on a due division 
of military rank. The commission, which represents the 
power of the state, in a short time gets to be the substitute 
for personal qualities, and produces that prompt and nearly 
passive obedience which are indispensable to the success of 
military movements. The common man, or the officer, 
who at any moment is required to risk his life under 
the orders of another, has need to strengthen his habits 
of submission, by all the auxiliaries which human inge- 
nuity can devise, without injustice. To prevent a resort 
to abject dread, nations have introduced the substitute of 
respect. Equality of rank is uniformly destructive of sub- 
ordination, and it should be one of the aims of a wise admi- 
nistration of the navy, to place in a ship as many different 
grades of officers, as may comport with simplicity and 
convenience. A regiment has always six, and sometimes 
seven distinct classes of commissioned officers, in its tig(it- 
ing department; and there is no reason why a ship should 
not be equally well protected against the evils of insubordi- 
nation, though it is usual to limit the number to three. 

The moral effect of a frequent recurrence of promotions, 
also, is incalculable. Each step is an incentive to exertion 
and improvement, and a corrector of habits. When young 
men, in particular, are condemned to pass fifteen or twenty 
years in the same rank, the spirit grows weary, the charac- 
ter loses its elasticity, the ambition is deadened, and the duty 
that, with a proper attention to these details, might be ren- 
dered attractive, becomes monotonous and discouraging. 

Vol. I.— 3 


By minute divisions of rank, those personal sensibilities 
which are apt to seek relief in personal quarrels, are as- 
suaged by the habitual deference that is paid to the com- 
mission. The whole history of the navies of the world 
furnishes very few instances of duels between sea-officers 
of different ranks, while, unhappily, too many cases may be 
found of meetings between equals. 

While the American service, without the same motive, 
has adopted the naked system of the EngHsh, for the infe- 
rior stations of the marine, it has stopped at the rank of 
captain, where, in truth, the great incentives and rewards 
of the British navy really commence. In England, while 
there are only two commissions below that of a captain, 
there are nine superior. In addition to these different mili- 
tary commissions, must be enumerated several professional 
dignities, with the incentives offered by knighthood and 
social rank. 

The rank of a captain in the navy never can be a suffi- 
cient inducement to attract the highest talents, in a country 
in which every species of preferment is open to competi- 
tion. Hope has, hitherto, kept the service together, the 
want of fleets furnishing an apparent apology for trusting 
to the future. To pretend, however, to manage fleets with 
officers of the same rank as the commanders of single ves- 
sels, infers as great an absurdity as to pretend to manage 
ships with no other rank than that of a midshipman. There 
is, indeed, a greater connexion between rank and discipline, 
as applied to fleets, than between rank and discipline, as 
applied to ships. In the latter case, there is the constant 

mxRODUcTioiv. xxvii 

personal inspection of the superior to aid authority; while 
in the former, obedience arises purely from deference to 
the commission, and the obligations of duty. It is as much 
the nature of man to pay respect to the instructions of one 
clothed with an authority superior to his own, as it is to 
cavil at the opinions and instructions of his equals. It is 
idle to expect the implicit and confiding obedience on the 
one hand, and the self-relying exercise of authority on the 
other, that are indispensable to certain and combined mili- 
tary operations, without imparting to the superior all the 
power that habitually attaches itself to the possession of 
professional rank. 

There is a necessary denial of some of the cheapest and 
most available incentives to public service, in republican 
forms of government. Personal rank is withheld, on a 
general and wise principle ; but to increase this compara- 
tive feebleness, by denying professional rank, is to add wil- 
fully to those peculiar defects of a political system, that 
wisdom would teach us to repair by all practicable means. 
It is a rule of morals, that a high class of service must meet 
a high scale of rewards, and that a low scale of rewards 
will produce a low class of service. 

In addition to the considerations of policy, come the 
claims of justice. There is no stronger hold on the services 
of its citizens, than a perfect reliance on the justice of a 
state. It is the quality that most binds a man to his coun- 
try; which most elevates that country in the eyes of the 
world; which, in truth, renders it the most worthy of re- 
spect, obedience and love. If the community that ceases 


to protect the characters, persons and property of its raem- 
bers, loses all moral claim to their allegiance, so does the 
state that denies the rewards due to its servants, weaken its 
right to expect extraordinary and profitable exertions. It 
may, moreover, be laid down as a safe rule, that the mili- 
tary man who does not desire military rank, is deficient in 
that generous ambition which courts responsibility and is 
willing to encounter danger. 

The claims of justice cannot be dispensed with, in the 
case of the navy, with the same impunity as in most other 
instances connected with the public service. Seamen go 
abroad; they appear in their professional stations before the 
observation of foreign states, and are placed in constant 
contrast with the servants of other systems. Republicanism 
itself is brought into disrepute, in denying the just rewards 
of long services to officers, by attaching to it the weakness 
of a neglect of incentives, an ignorance on the subject of 
the general laws of discipline, and the odium of injustice. 
It is by forgetting the latter quality, more through the indif- 
ference of a divided power, than from any other cause, that 
republics have obtained their established character of being 
ungrateful. They are ungrateful because they neglect those 
means of security that are connected with a just system of 
rewards, which other states respect from apprehension. 

The necessity of creating higher rank in the navy, on 
account of its influence on other services, more especially 
when acting in concert with American fleets, has often 
been pointed out. The answer to this practical argument, 
has usually been a high pretension in behalf of the republic, 


to act agreeably to its own policy, and a right to insist that 
any notion of superiority that it may choose to attach to 
the station of a captain in its own navy, shall be recognised 
by the agents of other governments. This extravagant 
idea can be supported by neither usage, reason, nor common 
sense. In the first place, all international questions should 
be settled by the general consent of states, and not by the 
peculiar policy of any particular community. As w^ell 
might America pretend to say that its charges d'affaires 
shall have the rank of ambassadors at foreign courts, as to 
say that its captains, under any circumstances, shall have 
the rank of admirals on foreign stations. It is true, a nation 
has a right to say that a rank equivalent to that of an ad- 
miral shall exist in its marine, under another appellation; 
but it has no right to say that a rank recognised by itself 
as merely that of a captain, shall be entitled to receive the 
honours and to claim the authority of an admiral, among 
other people. The usages of nations must control this 
interest, as well as all others that equally affect different 
states; and, as there is nothing new, or peculiar, in cap- 
tains occasionally commanding squadrons, under the tem- 
porary title of commodores, among all the naval powers 
of Christendom, other people may object to America's 
attaching a new importance to an old commission. The 
pretension might as well be set up in behalf of a lieutenant 
as in behalf of a captain; and foreign services will be as 
likely to object to the one as to the other. It is no answer 
to say, that we attach the consideration of an admiral to 
the commission of a captain, since the fact is not so. If it 



were, the question would be altogether unworthy of con- 
troversy, for it would be a discussion merely about a name. 
If a captain were in reality an admiral, there would be no 
sufficient reason for calling him a captain, since it would be 
rejecting all the moral aid that is associated with establish- 
ed language, without a corresponding object. There can 
be no more certain sign of the ignorance of a people, or of 
their unfitness for self-government, than the practice of con- 
founding the substance with the reality, and an enlightened 
nation should not hesitate to use the name when it pos- 
sesses the thing. Other people have a right to insist on this 
frankness, as it is the simplest means of preventing mis- 
takes, and is answering the plainest ends of language. He 
is no friend of liberty, who is not the friend of sincerity; 
and the politician who is afraid of simplicity and frankness, 
manifests his distaste for truth. 

Without gradations in military rank there would be no 
subordination or discipline. There can be no equality in an 
army or navy. One must always command, and the rest 
must obey. It is true it might be possible to establish a 
system, by which all the officers of a fleet should have the 
same titular rank, commanding according to seniority; but 
no good could come of it. In the first place, the appella- 
tion would not, at once, indicate the relative station of the 
individual, as at present, and much would be lost in time 
and simplicity. There would be no general rule by which 
to regulate pay and emoluments, and the laws to this effect 
would become complicated and difficult of interpretation. 
Foreigners would not know whom to address as the supe- 


rior and whom to address as the inferior, nor would the 
government of the country itself be able to understand its 
own arrangements, without a constant recurrence to re- 
cords and registers. There is the same reason for calling 
the commander of a ship a captain, as there is for calUng 
its disbursino officer a purser, and its medical officer a sur- 
geon. These terms explain their own meaning, which is 
one of the great ends of language. What is true of a cap- 
tain, is equally true of an admiral. The substitution of the 
term commodore for that of admiral is liable to the same 
objection as the substitution of the term lieutenant for that 
of captain. It does not mean what is expressed. A com- 
modore fills a brevet rank of the highest utility, for it 
enables the government to avail itself of the peculiar talents 
of any active partisan captain, by detaching him for tem- 
porary service, with a small squadron, usually of light 
ships, placing it in the power of those who control naval 
movements, to overlook seniority, in the search of peculiar 
merit. He exists as a beneficial exception, and in converting 
the rank into the rule, an authority that is highly useful to 
the department is lessened. Admirals are as necessary to 
fleets, as captains to ships. The thing must exist, under 
some appellation or other, and if the old term brings with 
it additional dignity, respect, authority, and adds fresh in- 
centives to exertions, it is utter imbecility to discard it. 
There is no more fitness in calling the commander of a 
fleet a captain, or even a commodore, than in styling the 
first magistrate of the republic, a justice of the peace. 

It is often asserted that the superior ranks have been 
withheld from the American marine, because there exists no 


corresponding military titles in a community that is sensi- 
tively jealous of every appearance of superiority. Generals 
can be tolerated, because generals abound in common life; 
but admirals will not be tolerated, because admirals cannot 
argue before courts, and hope to escape ridicule. This, 
indeed, would be subjecting the pohcy of a great nation, 
and that too in one of its highest interests, to the envious 
and absurd feelings of a village rivalry. The objection is 
unworthy of a reply, and that it is false, is proved by the ex- 
cessive number of another peculiar rank that does actually 
exist, the navy fast tending towards becoming a service of 
commodores! Indeed, one of the evils of withholding the 
superior rank of admiral, is the disposition it creates to con- 
vert the brevet and peculiar station of commodore into a 
permanent and common station, defeating its object. 

The propriety of adopting for the navy, a brevet rank 
corresponding to that of the army, has been frequently dis- 
cussed, and, in one instance, it was seriously recommended 
to Congress, by the department. While there is a peculiar 
fitness in an American army's receiving brevet rank, it is a 
mode of preferment entirely unsuited to all navies. The 
American army is unavoidably broken up into small de- 
tachments; commands of companies, where brevet rank be- 
comes available; but the lieutenant who held the brevet 
rank of commander would still be obliged to act as a lieu- 
tenant, since ships' companies must be entire. The acting 
appointments that now exist, are the best substitutes for 
brevet rank in a marine, if it be thought they ought not to 
be replaced by commissions. 

The necessity of possessing a powerful marine, appears 


now to be generally conceded. While all parties are ready- 
to admit the expediency of creating a formidable naval 
force, however, there is a division of sentiment as to the 
method and the means. Those who reason for the future 
from the past, are disposed to limit the national efforts, should 
another war occur with England, to predatory hostilities 
directed against her commerce; while the bolder and more 
original thinkers believe that the time has come when 
America is as fully able to protect all her interests at sea, 
as any other naval power of Christendom. They contend, 
that nothing is wanting but the will, and the necessary 

There is an opinion becoming prevalent that the use of 
steam will supersede the old mode of conducting naval 
warfare. Like most novel and bold propositions, this new 
doctrine has obtained advocates, who have yielded their 
convictions to the influence of their imaginations, rather than 
to the influence of reflection. That the use of steam will 
materially modify naval warfare, is probably true; but it 
cannot change its general character. No vessel can be 
built of sufficient force and size, to transport a sufficiency 
of fuel, provisions, munitions of war, and guns, to contend 
with even a heavy frigate, allowing the last to bring her 
broadside to bear. It may be questioned if the heaviest 
steam vessel of war that exists could engage a modern two- 
decked ship even in a calm, since the latter, in addition to 
possessing much greater powers of endurance, could proba- 
bly bring the most guns to bear, in all possible positions. 
Shot-proof batteries might indeed be built, that, propelled by 


steam, would be exceedingly formidable for harbour de- 
fence, but it is illusory to suppose that vessels of that des- 
cription can ever be made to cruise. Even in estimating 
the power of steam-vessels in calms, as opposed to single 
ships of no great force, there is much exaggeration, as his- 
torical facts will amply prove. The wars of this country 
afford several instances of frigates carrying eighteen poun- 
ders, lying exposed to the cannonade of fifteen or twenty 
gun-boats, for two or three hours, and yet, in no instance, 
has any such vessel been either captured or destroyed. It 
is a heavy sea-steamer that can bring six guns to bear at a 
time, and yet frigates have resisted twenty guns, advan- 
tageously placed, for hours. It may be said, that steamers 
would dare to approach nearer than gun-boats, and that, 
by obtaining more favourable positions, they will be so 
much the more formidable. There is but one position in 
which a ship can be assailed, without the means of resist- 
ance, and that is directly ahead, and from a situation near 
by. Large ships can hardly be said to be defenceless, even 
under these circumstances; as the slightest variation in 
their position, would always admit of their bringing three 
or four heavy guns to bear. The expedients of seamen 
offer a variety of means of changing the direction of a 
ship's head in calms, even did not the sea itself perform that 
office for them. Nothing, for instance, would be easier 
than to rig, temporarily, wheels to be propelled by hand, 
out of the stern or bow ports, or even on the quarter, that 
would bring a large ship's forward, or after guns, to bear, 
in a way to beat off, or destroy, a steamer. 


There are certain great principles that are unchangeable, 
and which must prevail under all circumstances. Of this 
class, is the well established fact, that a ship which pos- 
sesses the efficiency which is contained in the double power 
to annoy and to endure, must, in all ordinary circumstances, 
prevail over a ship that possesses but one of these advan- 
tages, and that too, in a smaller degree. Steam may be, 
and most probably will be made a powerful auxiliary of the 
present mode of naval warfare, but it is by no means likely 
to supplant it. Fleets may be accompanied by steamers, 
but their warfare will be conducted by the present classes 
of heavy ships, since it is not possible to give sufficient 
powers of annoyance, or endurance, to vessels propelled by 
steam, to enable them to lie under the batteries of the latter. 
Even as active cruisers, the efficiency of steam-vessels is 
probably overrated, on account of the consumption of fuel, 
though it remains to be proved by experience, whether their 
employment may not induce a change in the armaments of 
light vessels of war. The history of the war of 1812, 
shows that ships have often cruised months without having 
fallen in with convoys, and it is certain that no steamer, in 
the present state of science, can remain at sea thirty days, 
with efficiency as a steamer. 

In a word, while the introduction of steam into na- 
val warfare, will greatly modify maritime operations, it 
is, by no means, likely to effect the revolution that is sup- 
posed. In those portions of the art of seamanship that it 
will influence, steam will meet steam, and, in the end, it will 
be found that the force of fleets will be required, in settling 
the interests of states, as to-day. Perhaps the greatest 


agency of this new application of a steam-power is yet to 
be seen, in the adoption of an invention of an officer of high 
rank in our own navy, that of the steam-prow. For the pur- 
poses of harbour-defence this idea promises more than any 
other, though it is by no means certain that the resources 
of seamen may not yet discover the means of resisting even 
this threatening means of destruction. 

Another of the provisions necessary to the efficiency of 
a marine, that has been neglected by the American govern- 
ment, is the construction of dry docks. It is hardly ex- 
ceeding the bounds of a just discrimination to say that the 
state which possesses a fleet of twenty heavy ships, with a 
sufficient number of dry docks, is better provided with the 
means of carrying on an active and vigorous naval war, 
than the state which may possess double the number of 
ships, and no dry docks. Indeed, a constant examination 
of the copper of vessels, to say nothing of injuries received 
in battle, is necessary to sailing well; and, as has been said 
already, a fleet composed of vessels of unequal qualities, is 
at once reduced to the level of its poorest ships. The great 
extent of the American coast requires an unusual provision 
of this nature. Crippled vessels are compelled to make the 
"first port, and no important naval station should be without 
at least one dock capable of receiving any thing that floats. 

The consideration of all these subjects, will teach any re- 
flecting man how little has yet been done for this great na- 
tional interest, through the agency of foresight, precaution 
and wisdom, while so much has been done by circum- 





The empire of Great Britain, much the most powerful 
state of modern times, has been gradually and progressively 
advancing to its present high degree of maritime prosperity, 
and its actual condition ought to be considered the result 
of moral instead of physical causes, though the latter is pro- 
bably the more prevalent opinion. Notwithstanding the 
insular position of its seat of authority, its naval ascendency 
is of comparatively recent date; Spain, and even the dimin- 
utive communities of Portugal and Holland, manifesting as 
great, if not a greater spirit of lofty nautical enterprise, 
during the century and a half that succeeded the important 
discovery of the western hemisphere, and that of a passage 
by sea to India. While these three nations were colonizing 
extensively, and laying the foundations of future states, the 
seamen of England expended their energies in predatory ex- 
peditions that were rapacious in their objects and piratical 
in spirit. Familiar political causes, beyond a question, had 

Vol. I.— 4 


an influence in bringing about these results; for, while the 
accession of the House of Hapsbourg to the throne of Spain 
and the Indies, created a power able to cope with Europe, 
as it then existed, England, driven entirely from her conti- 
nental possessions, had Scotland for a troublesonne neigh- 
bour, and Ireland for a discontented and turbulent sub- 
ject, to check her efforts abroad. It is probable, too, that 
the civil contests, in which England was so long engaged, 
had a serious effect on her naval advancement, and the 
struggle that succeeded the dethronement of the family of 
Stuart, could not fail to lessen exertions that were directed 
to interests without the territory more immediately in dis- 
pute. As a consequence of all these causes, or of that por- 
tion of them which was in existence at the commencement 
of the seventeenth century, when England seriously com- 
menced the business of colonization, Spain, France and 
Portugal were already in possession of what were then con- 
sidered the most favourable regions on the American con- 
tinent. When, indeed, the experiment was finally and 
successfully made, individual enterprise, rather than that 
of the government, achieved the object; and for many years 
the power of the crown was exercised with no other aim 
than to afford an ill-regulated, and frequently an insufficient 
protection. It was Englishmen, and not England, that 
founded the country which is now known as the United 
States of America. 

It would exceed the proper bounds of a work of this 
nature, were we to enter into a detailed account of the 
events connected with the settlements in Virginia and Mas- 
sachusetts. The first permanent establishment was made 
in the former colony, during the year 1607, and that at 
Plymouth followed in 1620. Nothing could be less alike 
than the motives which inffuenced the adventurers in these 
two enterprises, out of which has virtually arisen, within 


the short space of little more than two centuries, a Republic 
that has already taken its place among the great powers of 
Christendom, and which has only to be true to itself and to 
its predominant principles, to stand foremost in the ranks of 
nations. Those who cast their fortunes on the fertile shores 
of the waters of the Chesapeake sought worldly advance- 
ment for themselves, and affluence for their posterity, while 
the Pilgrims, as it has become usual to term the parent 
stock of New England, landed in quest of an asylum, where 
they might erect their altars, undisturbed by the temporal 
power that profaned the rites of the church in the old world. 
Natural affinities attracted like to like, and for quite a cen- 
tury the emigrants from Europe partook of the distinctive 
traits of the original colonists; the one portion of the coun- 
try being distinguished for the gay and reckless usages of 
successful pecuniary adventure, and the other for the more 
sobered and reflecting habits of severe moral training, and 
an industry that was stimulated by necessity and tempered 
by prudence. The distinction did not end here. If the one 
carried liberality and thoughtlessness to the verge of indis- 
cretion, the other substituted fanaticism and bigotry for the 
mild and affectionate tenets of Christianity. It is not easy 
to say what might have been the consequences of the prox- 
imity of two establishments influenced by characters and 
modes of thinking so antagonist, had not the conquest of 
the Dutch territories of New York bound them together, 
by the means of a people who came from England at a 
later day, and who brought with them most of the national 
traits, less influenced by exaggerations and accidents. The 
result has been an amalgamation that is fast wearing off" 
asperities, and which promises, at no distant period, to pro- 
duce a homogeneity of character that it is not usual to find 
in any great and numerous people. 

The vessels employed in the earliest communications be- 


tweeii the colonies and the mother country, were small, 
varying from fifty to two hundred tons in burthen. The 
expedition to Plymouth was first attempted in the May 
Flower, a barque of one hundred and eighty tons, and the 
Speedwell of sixty tons ; but the latter proving leaky, after 
twice returning to port to refit, was abandoned, and the 
voyage was made in the former vessel alone. That to 
Virginia under Newport, consumed four months, a delay 
that was owinfj to its steerinsr south until the trades were 
struck, a practice which prevailed among most of the 
navigators to the new world, for a long time subsequently 
to the discoveries of Columbus, who had himself been 
favoured by those constant winds. The May Flower sail- 
ed from Plymouth, in England, on the 6th of September, 
and, after a stormy passage, made Cape Cod on the 9th of 
November. As it had been the intention of those on board 
to go further south, it is probable that they met with south- 
west winds and currents, with a north-easterly set, in the 
American seas. 

The first conflict that took place between the colonists 
and any of their civilized neighbours, occurred in 1613, 
when an expedition from Virginia, under the orders of 
Capt. Samuel Argal, arriving on the coast of Nova Scotia, 
made an attack on the new French post of St. Sauveur, 
which was reduced without difficulty. Argal had eleven 
vessels with him, most of which, however, were quite small, 
and his armament amounted in the whole to fourteen light 
guns. The French were entirely without artillery. The 
avowed object of this enterprise was fishing, but the arma- 
ment has induced a suspicion that the end actually effected 
was also kept in view. Whatever might have been the inten- 
tion in fitting out the first force under Capt. Argal, it is 
quite certain, that, on his return to Virginia, he was formally 
sent ao;ainst the French in Acadie, with three vessels, better 


prepared, and that he laid waste the whole of their posses- 
sions. Both of these occurrences took place in a time of 
profound peace, and grew out of a pretension in the Eng- 
lish, to the possession of the whole coast, as far north as the 
46th degree of latitude. 

On his return to Virginia, Capt. Argal entered the bay of 
New York, and demanded possession of that territory also, 
under the plea that it had been discovered by an English- 
man. Hendrick Christaens, whom Argal styled " a pre- 
tended Dutch Governor," had no force to resist such a 
claim, and was compelled to submit. On the return to Vir- 
ginia, one of the three vessels employed in this expedition 
was lost, and another having been driven as far east as the 
Azores, proceeded to England, while Capt. Argal alone got 
into the Chesapeake. The prisoners taken on this occasion 
narrowly escaped! being executed as pirates ! 

This was the first warlike maritime expedition attempted 
by the American colonists, if a few parties sent in boats 
against the savages be excepted. The Dutch were not dis- 
possessed by the useless attempt on their settlement, which 
appears to have been viewed more as a protest than a con- 
quest, for they continued to increase and to govern them- 
selves for near half a century longer. The first decked 
vessel built within the old United States, of which we have 
any account, was constructed by Schipper Adrian Block, 
on the banks of the Hudson, and probably within the pre- 
sent limits of New York, during the summer of 1614. This 
vessel De Laet terms a " yacht," and describes as having 
been of the dimensions of thirty-eight feet keel, forty-four 
and a half feet on deck, and eleven feet beam. In this 
"yacht" Block passed through Hell Gate, into the Sound, and 
steering eastward, he discovered a small island, which he 
named after himself; going as far as Cape Cod, by the way 
of the Vineyard passage. 



According to the same authority, the Dutch at New 
Amsterdam, who had constructed a fort, and reinforced 
their colony, soon after built many more small vessels, 
sloops and periaguas, opening a trade with the savages, 
by means of the numerous bays, sounds, and rivers of their 

It was also in 1614 that the celebrated Capt. John Smith 
arrived from England, and sailed on a coasting voyage, 
with the double purpose of trade and discovery. He went 
himself in a boat, having a crew of only eight men, and the 
profits, as well as the discoveries, abundantly rewarded the 

It may serve to give the reader a more accurate idea of 
the condition of trade in this part of the world, if we state 
that in 1615 the English alone had one hundred and seventy 
vessels engaged in the Newfoundland fisheries, while the 
French, Portuguese, and Spaniards had altogether about 
three hundred. 

Many attempts were made about this time to discover a 
north-west passage to China; the well known expedition 
in which Baffin was employed, occurring in 1616. 

After the settlement at Plymouth the English colonies 
began to increase regularly in population and resources, 
while the Dutch at New York became firmly established. 
The Swedes also commenced a settlement in the Delaware, 
and the entire coast, from Acadie to North Carolina, was 
more or less occupied, from point to point. There was a 
good deal of trade with the Indians, with whom wampum 
was excharjged against peltries. As early as in 1629 the 
New England Company employed five ships of respectable 
size, in the trade with the colony. Most of these vessels 
were armed, and all took colonists in their outward pass- 
ages. The May Flower appears to have been retained in 
this business for many years, after her first voyage. A 


small ship was built at or near Boston, in 1633, which was 
one of the first vessels, if not the first vessel of any size, con- 
structed in New England. But the progress of the colony 
of Massachusetts-Bay, in navigation, was so rapid, that in 
1639 laws were passed to encourage the fisheries, which 
may be considered as the elementary school of American 
nautical enterprise. The fishermen during the season, and 
the shipwrights at all times, were exempted from military 
duty, a great privilege in an infant community that was 
surrounded by savages. Among those who gave an im- 
pulse to trade and navigation in this colony, was the cele- 
brated Hugh Peters, subsequently executed for treason in 
England, who actually caused a vessel of three hundred 
tons burthen to be constructed at Salem, in 1641. 

Within twenty years after the settlement of Plymouth, 
ship-building and navigation began to occupy much of the 
attention of New England, and as every vessel of any size 
carried many light guns, the navigation of the period had 
most of the characteristics of an armed trade. In addition 
to the ships and barks that crossed the ocean, many decked 
boats, or small sloops, were used on the coast, especially by 
those who dealt with the Indians for skins. The first engage- 
ment that probably ever occurred between inhabitants of 
the American colonies, and enemies afloat, was a conflict 
between John Gallop, who was engaged in a trade of this 
nature, in a sloop of twenty tons, and some Narragansett 
Indians, who had seized upon a small vessel belonging to a 
person of the name of Oldham, known to have been simi- 
larly occupied. As this, in a certain sense, may be deemed 
the earliest sea-fight of the nation, we consider it worthy 
to be related. 

Some time in May, 1636, Gallop, in his little sloop, manned 
by two men and two boys, himself included, was standing 
along the Sound, near Plum Island, when he was compelled 


to bear up by stress of weather, for a refuge, to leeward, 
among the islands that form a chain between Long 
Island and Connecticut. On nearing the land, he discovered 
a vessel very similar to his own, in size and equipments, 
which was immediately recognised as the pinnace of Mr. 
Oldham, who had sailed with a crew of two white boys 
and two Narragansett Indians. Gallop hailed on nearing 
the other craft, but got no answer, and, on running still 
nearer, no less than fourteen Indians were discovered lying 
on her deck. A canoe, conveying goods, and manned by In- 
dians, had also just started for the shore. Gallop now began 
to suspect that Oldham had been overpowered by the sa- 
vages ; a suspicion that was confirmed by the Indians slip- 
ping their cable, and running oft^ before the wind, or in the 
direction of Narragansett-Bay. Satisfied that a robbery 
had been committed, Gallop made sail in chase, and run- 
ning alongside of the pinnace, in a spirited manner, he fired 
a volley of duck-shot at the savages. The latter had swords, 
spears, and some fire-arms, and they attempted a resistance, 
but Gallop soon drove them below to a man. Afraid to 
board in the face of such odds, Gallop now had recourse to 
a novel expedient to dislodge his enemies. As the pinnace 
was drifting with no one to manage her, she soon fell to 
leeward, while the sloop hauled by the wind. As soon as 
the two vessels were far enough asunder. Gallop put his 
helm up, and ran directly down on the weather quarter of 
the pinnace, striking her with so much violence as to come 
near forcing her over on her side. The shock so much 
alarmed the Indians, who were on an element and in a craft 
they did not understand, that sis of them rushed frantically 
on deck, and leaped into the sea, where they were all 
drowned. The sloop again hauled off, when Gallop lashed 
an anchor to her bows in such a manner, that by running 
down on the pinnace a second time, he forced the flukes 


through the sides of the latter, which are represented as 
having been made of boards. The two vessels w^ere now 
fast to each other, and the crew of the sloop began to fire 
through the sides of the pinnace, into her hold. Finding it 
impossible, however, to drive his enemies up. Gallop loosen- 
ed his fasts, and hauled up to windward a third time, when 
four or five more of the Indians jumped overboard and 
shared the fate of those who had preceded them. One 
Indian now appeared on deck and offered to submit. Gallop 
ran alongside, and received this man in the sloop, when he 
was bound hands and feet, and put into the hold. Another 
soon followed this example, and he was also received on 
board the sloop and bound, but, fearful that if two of his 
wily foes were permitted to commune together, they would 
liberate themselves, the second prisoner was thrown into 
the sea. But two Indians now remained in the pinnace. 
They had got into a small apartment below; and being 
armed, they showed a disposition to defend themselves, 
when Gallop removed all the goods that remained into his 
own sloop, stripped the pinnace of her sails, took her in tow, 
and hauled up for the islands again. But the wind increas- 
ing, the pinnace was cut adrift, and she disappeared in the 
direction of Narragansett Bay, where it is probable she was 
stranded in the course of a few hours. 

On board the pinnace. Gallop found the body of Mr. Old- 
ham. The head had been cleft, the hands and legs were 
much mangled, and the flesh was still warm. The corpse 
was thrown into the sea. 

Thus terminated this extraordinary conflict, in which 
Gallop appears to have shown as much conduct as cou- 
rage, and which in itself illustrates the vast superiority that 
professional skill gives on an element that requires practice 
to be rendered successfully available. As it was of the 
last importance to create a respect for the English name, 
that might protect small parties while trading with the sa- 



vages, the report of the conqueror on this occasion induced 
the government of Massachusetts to send an expedition 
against the offenders, under Mr. Endecott, one of the assist- 
ants, which did the Indians much injury in the destruction 
of their dwellings and crops, though the savages themselves 
took to flight. This expedition, however, was followed up 
by others that met with greater success. 

The French in Acadie, also, gave rise to two or three 
unimportant armaments, which led to no results worthy of 
being recorded. 

Notwithstanding the frequency of the Indian conflicts, 
and the repeated visits to the settlements of the French, the 
first regular cruisers employed by the American colonists 
appear to have ov/ed their existence to misunderstandings 
with the Dutch of the New Netherlands. The colony of 
New Haven had so far increased as to cause a vessel of one 
hundred and fifty tons to be built in Rhode Island, as early 
as the year 1646, but this ship was lost at sea on her first pas- 
sage. Shortly after, a small cruiser, carrying ten guns, and 
forty men, was employed by the united colonies of Hartford 
and New Haven, to cruise in Long Island Sound, with a 
view to prevent the encroachments of the Dutch, and to 
keep open the communication with the settlements they had 
made on the opposite shore. In 1654, orders were received 
from Parliament to treat the Dutch as enemies, but both 
communities were still too young and feeble to engage in a 
warfare that was not considered of paramount necessity. 
Nothing effective appears to have been done under these 

At a later day, or in 1665-6, Connecticut kept another 
small vessel cruising off Watch-Hill, in order to prevent the 
Narragansett Indians from crossing to attack the Montauk 
tribe, which had been taken under the protection of the 

In 1645, a ship of some size was built at Cambridge, 


Massachusetts, and receiving an armament of fourteen guns, 
and a crew of thirty men, she sailed for the Canary Isles. 
This vessel fell in with a rover, supposed to belong to Bar- 
bary, of twenty guns, and seventy men, when an action took 
place that continued the entire da}\ The rover receiving 
some serious injury to her rudder, the New England ship 
was enabled to escape. Although the conflict between Gal- 
lop and the Narragansetts is, in one sense, entitled to the 
precedency, this action may be set down as the first regular 
naval combat in which any American vessel is known to 
have been engaged. 

An important change occurred, in 1664, in the situation 
of the American colonies, by the capture of New Nether- 
lands from the Dutch. The vessels employed on this ser- 
vice were under the orders of Sir Robert Carr, while Colo- 
nel Richard Nicoll commanded the troops. No resistance 
was made. In consequence of this accession of territory, 
and the submission of the Swedish settlements on the Dela- 
ware, the English colonies now had entire possession of the 
coast, between the Bay of Fundy and the Floridas. It had 
been computed, in 1660, that the English settlements con- 
tained about eighty thousand souls, and this increase of 
numbers now made a total of more than one hundred thou- 
sand inhabitants of European extraction. New England 
paid the most attention to navigation, however; and it ap- 
pears by Hutchinson, that in 1676, or just a century before 
the declaration of independence, the following vessels had 
been constructed in Boston, or its vicinity, and then belong- 
ed to the ports of that neighbourhood, viz : 

30 vessels between 100 and 250 tons. 

200 vessels between 50 and 100 tons. 

200 vessels between 30 and 50 tons. 

300 vessels between 6 and 10 tons. 
Most of the small vessels were employed in the fisheries, 


and the ordinary communications between the settlements 
on the coast were kept up by water. The principal build- 
ing stations were Boston, Charlestown, Salem, Ipswich, 
Salisbury, and Portsmouth, and there were at that early 
day, even, thirty master shipwrights. 

While the English were thus occupying the coast, the 
French were gradually extending themselves along the 
chain of Great Lakes in the interior, drawing a belt around 
the territories of their rivals. In the course of events of 
this nature, de la Salle launched a vessel of ten tons on 
Lake Ontario, in 1678, which was the first decked boat that 
ever sailed on those waters. The following year, he caused 
a vessel of sixty tons to be launched on Lake Erie.* 

In 1680, according to Trumbull, Connecticut possessed 
twenty-four vessels, with a total of 1050 tons, trading be- 
tween that colony and Boston, Newfoundland, the West 
Indies, &c. &c. The succeeding year, forty-nine vessels 
entered the harbour of Portsmouth alone. The well known 
navigation act, a law to confine the carrying trade to Eng- 
lish ships, had been passed as early as 1651, but it had been 
little regarded by the colonists; and this year Edmund 
Randolph came a second time to Boston, where he made a 
vigorous but unsuccessful effort to enforce the obnoxious sta- 
tute. In Massachusetts, in particular, this law had been 
almost a dead letter from the first, though the Dutch in 
New Netherlands had thought it necessary to insert a 
clause in their articles of capitulation, to permit them to 
trade with Holland for six months after the surrender. 

The buccaneers began to commit depredations in the 
American seas, about the year 1666; and piracies on a 
smaller scale, were not infrequent at a much earlier 

* The second vessel is differently stated to have been often and of sixty 
tons. We have chosen what has appeared to be the best authority. 

Naval history. 49 

da}'. These buccaneers were originally, mere outlaws in 
the West India Islands. Compelled at length to unite, they 
assembled at the Tortugas, and began to plunder such ves- 
sels as approached the shore; most of their robberies being 
committed by means of open boats. The Spanish vessels, 
in particular, became the objects of their assaults; and en- 
couraged by success, they began to venture farther from the 
land. Their numbers rapidly increased, and ere long they 
ventured to make descents on the coasts, more especially on 
those of the Spanish settlements, in quest of plunder. It is a 
mark of the peculiar character of the age, that these free- 
booters often commenced their enterprises with prayer ! — 
They spent their ill-gotten wealth as profligately as it had 
been obtained, and like more powerful bodies of men, were 
finally destroyed by the excesses engendered by their own 

We do not know that there is authority for believing 
these freebooters ever had any material connexion with the 
English continental possessions, though Jamaica, at one pe- 
riod, was thronged by them. There are, however, too many 
traditions on the coast, not to suspect that some of the ex- 
cesses, to which the loose condition of the western world 
gave rise, were less ostentatiously committed by those who 
frequented the country. The same odium was not then at- 
tached to piratical acts, as in our own times; and what even 
we ourselves have seen done on the land, by men styled 
heroes, was then committed on the water, almost without 

The first authentic account we possess of a regular at- 
tempt to suppress piracy on the American coast, is found in 
Winthrop's Journal, and it occurred as early as in the year 
1632. A bark of thirty tons burthen had been launched the 
year previous, at Mistick, which was called the Blessing of 
the Bay, and which was converted into a cruiser for the oc- 

VoL. I.— 5 


casion to which we allude. Information had reached the go- 
vernment of the colony that one David Bull, who had fifteen 
more Englishmen with him, had committed divers acts of 
piracy among the fishermicn at ihe eastward, and that he 
also had plundered a settlement on shore. This expedition, 
however, was suspended in consequence of intelligence 
having been received that the people of the coast had manned 
several pinnaces and shallops, and gone in quest of the ma- 
rauders themselves. Several months elapsed before any 
thing conclusive could be ascertained concerning Bull and 
his party, and in January, 1633, another fruitless expedition, 
that had been sent after them, returned, as did a third in 
May. One of the proofs of a lawless disposition adduced 
against Bull, is to be found in a report of his conduct, 
wherein it is stated that, at the hour when the people of 
other ships v»'ere accustomed to assemble for prayer, his fol- 
lowers would meet on deck, to sing songs and utter sense- 
less phrases. It is probable that this party was composed 
of fur-traders from Virginia, and that their conduct appear- 
ed to the puritans of the east so light, in general, that some 
trifling excesses were misconstrued into piracy. 

Another insignificant affair that occurred at the New 
Netherlands was turned into piracy; a Capt. Stone having 
been seized, and bound over to appear at the Admiralty 
Court in England; but the proceedings were dropped in 
consequence of the belief that the whole transaction would 
turn out to be little more than a mere assault. This oc- 
curred also in 1633 ; and there is some reason to believe 
that the exaggerations of the puritans had misled them, 
from the fact that this Capt. Stone wa's arrested for adultery 
before he left the colony, and that the grand jury returned 
the bill ignoramus. 

It appears by the Journal of Governor Winthrop, that in 
1642, one Edward Bedall, of Boston, used the Diving Bell, 


to weigh a vessel called the Mary Rose, which had sunk 
the previous year. Bedall made use of two tubs, " upon 
which were hanged so many weights (600 lbs.) as would 
sink them to the ground." The experiment succeeded 
perfectly, and the guns, ballast, goods, hull, &c., were all 
transported into shoal water, and recovered. The first 
instance of a diving bell's being used, was at Cadiz, we 
believe, in the presence of Charles Vth; the notion, so pre- 
valent in this country, that it was an invention of »Sir 
William Phipps', being an error. 

Towards the close of the seventeenth century, the ship- 
ping of the American colonies had so far increased, as to 
supply the mother country with many transports, and to con- 
duct no small part of the trade between the two great divi- 
sions of the empire. The Whale Fishery at Nantucket, 
appears to have been established in 1690; and in 1696, it 
is said that the shipping of New York amounted to 40 
square rigged vessels, 62 sloops, and 60 boats. 

In consequence of the great number of privateers that 
sailed out of Acadie, the general court of Massachusetts 
sent an expedition against Port Royal, in 1690. The forces 
were commanded by Sir William Phipps, and amounted 
to between 700 and 800 men, who were embarked in 
eight small vessels. This expedition sailed on the 28th 
of April, and returned on the 30th of May, having been suc- 
cessful. The good fortune that attended this enterprise, in- 
duced the government of Massachusetts to attempt another 
against a place as important as Quebec. Sir WilUam Phipps* 

• Sir William Phipps was born at Pemaquid, in 1650. Until eig-hteen 
years of age, he was principally employed in agricultural pursuits, and 
subsequently he was apprenticed to a ship-wright. When of age, he 
built a ship at Sheepscote; he afterwards followed the sea, and hearing 
of a Spanish wreck near the Bahamas, he gave such accounts of it in 


again commanded, having between 30 and 40 vesselsr, 
the largest of which was of 44 guns and 200 men, and the 
whole number of the troops and seamen employed was 
about 2000. These forces reached Quebec October the 5th, 
1690, and landed October the 8th. The force disembarked 
was about 12 or 1300 men, but it was repulsed without 
much fighting. On their return to Boston, the ships were 
dispersed by a gale, and little credit was gained by the 

The Falkland, a fourth rate, was launched in the Piscata- 
qua, in 1690, and was the first ship of the line ever built in 

Much alarm existed along the American coast, about this 
lime, from an apprehension of the French, who were un- 

England, that he was sent out with a frig-ate, to obtain its treasure. In 
this affair, he was unsuccessful. The Duke of Albermale, however, sent 
him out a second time, (1687,) when he broug-ht home near £300,000, of 
which his own share amounted to £16,000. This transaction brought 
him into notice, and he was Knighted by James II. He had been 
roade High Sheriff of New England previously, and he was made Gover- 
nor of his native colony in 1691; but having had a quarrel in 1693, with 
a Capt. Short, of the Nonsuch frigate, about the extent of his Vice Admi- 
ralty jurisdiction, he had that officer arrested and sent to England. On 
the representation of Capt. Short, the Governor was summoned to 
England in person, to answer for his conduct in this affair, and having jus- 
tified himself, he was about to I'eturn to his government, when he was 
seized with a malignant fever, and died in London. Some accounts place 
his death in 1694, and others in 1695 ; we believe the latter to be the 
most correct. He is said to have been honest, well-meaning and reli- 
gious, though passionate and imperious. He was uneducated of course, 
not knowing how to read and write, until he had become a man; but ac- 
quaintance with the world, considerable native abilities, and a restless en- 
terprise had early brought him into conspicuous stations, where he usually 
acquitted himself with credit. The popular American opinion, that the 
Mulgrave family, of which the present head is the Marquess of Normanbyj, 
is descended from Sir Williarn Phipps, is a mistake. 


derstood to be cruising in those seas. We learn, indeed, 
from the whole history of that period, how nearly balanced 
were the naval powers of Europe, England, France, Spain 
and Holland, all standing in awe of each other, on the 
high seas. 




The close of the seventeenth century found the Ameri- 
can coast, in a great measure, occupied from the Bay of 
Fundy to the Savannah river. The vt^ar, which terminated 
with the peace of Ryswick, had greatly alarmed the colo- 
nists, and many small cruisers and galleys had been built and 
armed, at different ports, principally with a view to cruise 
against the privateers that sailed out of Acadie and the 
West Indies, but no action appears to have occurred at 
sea. The two expeditions of Sir William Phipps, were the 
most important military operations that had then taken 
place in the colonies, if the Indian wars be excepted ; and 
they led to nothing worthy of commemoration, in a naval 
point of view. The royal cruisers that occasionally ap- 
peared in the American seas, at that remote period, were 
usually light frigates, of a class between the present sloops 
and two-and-thirties, and in point of armament, and even 
size, were probably unequal to contending with the largest 
of the former. We have seen that one of Sir William 
Phipps' ships, in the expedition against Quebec, carried 44 
guns and 200 men, a disproportion between the crew and 
the armament, that proves the latter to have been exceed- 
ingly light. In that age, the importance of metal was not 
appreciated; and the decks of vessels were crowded with 


guns, which did so little execution, that great naval battles 
frequently continued days at a time, without producing 
decisive results. 

The close of the seventeenth century was also the period 
when the piracies had got to be the most serious, and when 
Kidd was guilty of those acts that have since given him a 
notoriety that would seem to be altogether disproportioned 
to his deeds. During the wars of that day, the seas had 
been much infested with a species of privateers, that often 
committed aggressions, and even piracies, on neutral ves- 
sels. Most of these rovers were English ; and it is said 
that they sometimes plundered their own countrymen. New 
York was not entirely exempt from the suspicion of having 
equipped several vessels of this description, and very un- 
pleasant surmises affected the characters of some distin- 
guished men of the colony, the governor, Fletcher, among 
others. In appreciating such charges, it is necessary to 
remember the character of the age, there being no disgrace 
attached to adventures in private armed ships, and the tran- 
sition from fighting for plunder, and plundering unlawfully, 
is very trifling, in remote seas, where testimony is not ecisily 
obtained, and the law is impotent. That which men can 
practice with impunity, they are apt to undertake, when 
tempted by cupidity; and that which is frequent, ceases to 
shock the sense of right. It is by no means probable that 
either Governor Fletcher, or any distinguis-'ied colonist, 
deliberately engaged in piratical adventures but it is quite 
possible that such men may have been concerned in the 
equipment of private cruisers, that subsequently committed 
acts that the laws condemned. If is possible, that when 
such vessels have returned, a risid inquiry into the origin 
of the plunder they brought with them, was not always 
made. Such, in some measure, was the case with Kidd, 
whose subsequent notoriety appears to have been as much 


owing to the eclat with which he sailed, sanctioned by 
government, and supported by men of character, and to 
some striking incidents that accompanied his return, as to 
any extraordinary excesses as a pirate. The facts of his 
c-ase appear to have been as follows : — 

Much odium having been cast on the colony of New , 
York, in consequence of the number of piracies that had 
been committed by rovers sailing from the port of that 
name, the government in England deemed it necessary 
to take serious measures to repress the evil. This duty 
was in particular confided to the Earl of Bellamont, who had 
been appointed the governor of several of the colonies. Mr. 
Robert Livingston happening to be in England at the time 
when the subject was under discussion, and being a man of 
influence in the colony of New York, he was conferred 
with, as to the most advisable means of putting an end to 
the practice. Mr. Livingston advised that a cruiser of force 
should be sent out expressly to seize all lawless rovers, and 
he introduced to Lord Bellamont, Capt. Wm. Kidd, whom 
he recommended as a seaman qualified to be put at the 
head of such an adventure. Capt. Kidd was said to have 
a knowledge of the pirates, and of their places of resort; and 
at the same time, to be a man on whose integrity and ser- 
vices full reliance might be placed. The first proposition 
was to employ a king's ship of 30 guns and 150 men on 
this service; "but the war requiring all the regular cruisers, 
it is a proof of the spirit of the times, that the matter was 
referred to privaio enterprise, although the sanction of 
government was no\ only promised, but obtained. Mr. 
Livingston took one-fift\, of the shares, and became the 
usual security for the lav.-fulness of Kidd's proceedings. 
The Lord Chancellor, and several other distinguished noble- 
men, took shares in the adveniure also, and the crown 
reserved to itself a tenth of the proceeds, as a proof that it 


approved of the enterprise. Kidd received his commission 
and his orders from the Earl of Bellamont, whom he fol- 
lowed to America for that purpose, sailing from Plymouth 
in England, April 169G, for New York. There is mucii 
reason for thinking that Capt. Kidd was not guilty of any 
illegal act himself, until he found that his more legitimate 
enterprise was not likely to be successful. In the end, how- 
ever, he went to the eastward of the Cape of Good Hope, 
where he certainly committed piracies, though to what 
extent is now questionable. He was accused of ravaging 
the sea between Madagascar and the coast, from Babel- 
mandel to Malabar, and of committing the usual excesses, 
though it is probable that there was much exaggeration 
mixed up with the histories and rumours of the day. Some 
accounts confine his piracies to a single ship, though it is 
more than probable that he had a disposition to the voca- 
tion, and that he was easily diverted from the object with 
which he had sailed, even if he did not contemplate piracy 
on quitting port. After an absence of about three years, 
Kidd returned to the American coast, first appearing ofT 
the east end of Long Island. About thirty miles to the 
westward of Montauk, protected from the ocean by the 
southern branch of the island just mentioned, is a capacious 
bay that obtains its name from another small island, which 
is so placed as to defend it against the north-east gales. 
The latter island contains about three thousand acres of 
land, and ever since the country has been settled, or for two 
centuries, it has been the property of an honourable family 
of the name of Gardiner, which has given its name to both 
the island and the bay. The latter has an anchorage that 
has long been known to seamen, and into Gardiner's Bay, 
Kidd sailed on this occasion. Anchoring near the island, 
he landed, and buried some treasure; entrusting Mr. Gardi- 
ner with his secret, and making the life of the latter the 


pledge of his fidelity. This effected, the pirate again sailed, 
and made similar deposits on other parts of the coast. 

After a short interval, Kidd paid and discharged his 
crew, and it is said burned his ship. He appeared in Bos- 
ton in 1699, and was immediately seized by the order of 
Governor Bellamont. Among his papers was found a 
record, containing lists of his several deposits, which it is 
probable he held in reserve for his own share of the booty, 
when he had made his peace with those in power with the 
remainder. The authorities, however, were inflexible, and 
commissioners were immediately sent in quest of the buried 
booty. When these persons presented themselves to Mr. 
Gardiner, as soon as assured that Kidd was in confinement, 
that gentleman led them to the spot where the box was con- 
cealed, and it was recovered. The papers of the Gardiner 
family show that the contents of the box were bags of 
gold dust, bags of gold bars, the latter to a considerable 
amount, coined gold and silver, silver bars, precious stones, 
silver lamps, &c., &c., in all to the amount of near twenty 
thousand dollars. Most, if not all, of the other deposits 
were also obtained. Kidd was sent to England, tried and 
condemned. He was not executed, however, until May 
the 9th, 1701. 

It followed, almost as a matter of course, that suspicion 
rested on those who were concerned in sending Capt. Kidd 
to sea. The usual profligacy of i)arty was exhibited by an 
attempt to impeach several noblemen concerned in the 
affair, and one or two men of note in the colony of New 
York were also involved in legal proceedings, in conse- 
quence of these piracies; but nothing was ever established 
against any of the accused, though Governor Fletcher fell 
into disgrace at home. The known fact that Kidd buried 
treasure, gave rise to rumours that he had buried much that 
was never discovered. With the blindness usual in matters 


of this sort, it was believed that he secreted his gold in spots 
that he had probably never visited, and to this day it is not 
an unfrequent thing for diggings to be made on the coast, 
under the influence of dreams that have been occasioned 
by meditating on the subject, and in the hope of finding 
some of the long lost riches. 

The same year that Kidd was sent to England, seven 
pirates were executed in Charleston, South Carolina, that 
coast having been much infested with these robbers. 

In 1701 the population of the American colonies was 
estimated at 262,000, while the Newfoundland fisheries 
were said to employ 121 vessels, 2,700 men, and nearly 
8,000 tons. 

Another war soon occurring, the troubles on the coast 
were revived, and as the colonies grew in importance, the 
mother country not only extended her care towards them, in 
a greater degree, but the people of the provinces themselves, 
felt a disposition to participate more largely in the struggles. 
Still, so little heed was taken against the ordinary dangers, 
that the port of New York, in 1705, was totally without 
defence, or so nearly so, that a solitary French privateer 
entered it, and caused the greatest consternation. 

The Spaniards, with whom England was at war, con- 
ceiving that South Carolina properly belonged to the Flo- 
ridas, undertook an expedition against Charleston, in 1706, 
with four ships of war and a galley, commanded by a French 
admiral. A commission of vice-admiral was immediately 
given to Lieut. Col. Rhett, a gentleman who possessed the 
public confidence. Mr. Rhett hoisted his flag in the Crown 
galley, and several ships that happened to be in port, were 
hastily manned and armed. In the mean time the enemy 
had arrived and surrounded the place, but meeting with 
some repulses on shore, Mr. Rhett got under way to engage 
the hostile squadron, when the latter retired with precipita- 


tion. The Spaniards are said to have lost near half their 
men in this unsuccessful undertaking. 

Hearing of a large enemy's ship on the coast, a few days 
after the fleet had disappeared, Mr. Rhett went in quest of 
her with two small vessels, and succeeded in capturing her, 
and in bringing in 90 prisoners. 

From an early day the possession of Port Royal in 
Acadie, appears to have been a favourite object with the 
colonists, most probably from the great interest they felt in 
the fisheries. We have already seen that expeditions were 
sent against this place, in the earlier wars, while we are 
now to find no less than three undertaken, with the same 
object, in the war of 1702-12. The first of these expeditions 
was set on foot in 1707, being almost purely of colonial 
origin. It sailed in May, in 23 transports and whale boats, 
under the convoy of the Deptford man of war, Capt. Stuck- 
ley, accompanied by the Province, galley, Capt. Southack. 
This expedition effected nothing. The second attempt was 
not made until the year 1709, when an enterprise on a 
larger scale was planned. According to Trumbull, the 
colonies east of Connecticut were now ordered to raise 
1,200 men, for this undertaking, and to provide transports, 
pilots, and provisions for three months, while Connecticut 
itself, and the more southern provinces were to send a force 
of 1,500 men, by land, against Montreal. The maritime 
part of the expedition was abandoned, after waiting three 
months in the port of Boston for the British ships that were 
to convoy it, and to aid in subduing the place. The attack 
on Montreal was also given up, for want of the expected 
co-operation. The third attempt was made in 1710, when 
a Col. Nicholson, of the English service, was entrusted witii 
the command. On this occasion the preparations were 
made conjointly by the crown and the provinces, the latter 
furnishing the transports and several cruisers. The fleet 


consisted, in all, of 36 sail; viz. three fourth-rates, two dfth- 
rates, five frigates, a bomb ketch, the Province, galley, 
and 24 transports. In these vessels were embarked a regi- 
ment of marines, and five regiments of provincials. The 
expedition sailed from Boston on the 18th of September, ar- 
rived ofFPort Royal on the 24th, and on the 1st of October 
the place submitted. Its name was changed to Annapolis, 
by which appellation it is yet known. Stimulated by this 
success, a still more important attempt was got up in 1711, 
against the French possessions on the banks of the St. Law- 
rence. England now appeared disposed to put forth her 
power in earnest, and a f^eet of 15 sail, 12 of which were 
sent directly from England, and 3 of which had been 
stationed on the coast, v.'as put under the orders of vice- 
admiral Sir Ploveden Walker, for that purpose. In this 
fleet were several ships of the line, and it was accompanied 
by 40 transports and 6 store vessels. Five of the veteran 
regiments that had served under Marlborough, were sent 
out with the fleet, and two regiments raised in New Eng- 
land being added to them, the land forces amounted to 
between 6,000 and 7,000 men. 

After considerable delay, the fleet sailed on the 30th of 
July, 1711, when the Governor of Massachusetts ordered a 
fast to be observed every Thursday, until the result should 
be known. On the 14th of August the ships entered the 
St. Lawrence, and on the 18th the admiral, in order to col- 
lect his transports, put into the bay of Gaspd Here he 
remained until the 20th, when the fleet proceeded. On the 
20th the ships were off" soundings, out of sight of land, and 
enveloped in a fog, with a gale at E. S. E. The fleet now 
brought to with the ships' heads to the southward. Not- 
withstanding this precaution it was soon discovered that 
the whole of them were in imminent jeopardy among the 
rocks, islands, and currents of the north-shore, which was. 

Vol. I.— 6 


moreover, a lee shore. Some of the vessels saved them- 
selves by anchoring, among which was the Edgar, 70, the 
admiral's own ship ; but eight transports were lost, together 
with a thousand people, and the expedition was abandoned 
The admiral now dismissed the provincial troops and ves- 
sels, and sailed for England with the remainder of the fleet. 
These signal disasters led to loud complaints and to bitter 
recriminations between the English and the American 
officers. To the latter was attributed a fatal loss of time, 
in raising their levies and making other preparations, which 
brought the expedition too late in the season, and they were 
also accused of furnishing incompetent pilots. It is proba- 
ble that the first accusation was not without foundation, 
since it has been a known national failing to defer all mili- 
tary preparations to the latest possible moment, since the 
country has been peopled ; though the last was no doubt 
unmerited, as there could be no motive for supplying any 
other than the best pilots that the colonies possessed. On 
the part of the Americans, the admiral, and the English 
commanders in genera], were said to be opinionated and 
indisposed to take advice; a charge quite as likely to be 
true, as it also accords with national character, and more 
especially with the superciliousness with which the English 
were known to regard the provincials. The admiral threw 
the responsibility of having hove-to the fleet on the pilots, 
who, in their turn, declared that it was done contrary to 
their advice. Some French pilots are said, by Charlevoix, 
to have warned the admiral of his danger also, but he 
equally disregarded their information. It is in favour of the 
provincials, that none of their own vessels, one small victual- 
ler excepted, were lost, and that the crew of this victualler 
was saved. Many of the pilots were sent to England to 
be examined before the Privy Council, but no investigation 
into the affair took place. The loss of the admiral's pa- 


pers is thought to have put an end to the contemplated in- 
quiry, the Edgar having been blow^n up, by accident, at 
Plymouth, shortly after her return, by which event 400 men 
lost their lives; thus terminating a most disastrous expedi- 
tion by a dire calamity. It ought to be mentioned, that the 
colonies met the charge of delay, by showing that the 
orders to raise troops, and to make the other requisite pre- 
parations, were received only sixteen days before Sir Hove- 
den Walker arrived in port with his fleet. 

As late as the year 1713, Trumbull enumerates the 
shipping of Connecticut at only 2 brigs, 20 sloops, and a 
number of smaller craft. The seamen he estimates at 120! 
On the other hand, the commerce of Massachusetts, as ap- 
pears by the Custom-house returns, taken between the 
years 1714 and 1717, employed 25,406 tons of shipping, 
492 vessels, and 3493 sea-faring persons. The first schooner, 
a description of vessel now so much in use in America as 
almost to be deemed national, is said to have been built at 
Cape Ann, by Captain Henry Robinson, in 1714. Her 
name has been unfortunately lost. 

The pirates rather increased than diminished after the 
peace of 1713, frequenting the American coast much more 
than had been their practice in the preceding century. 
They had reached to New Providence, vc4ience they pro- 
ceeded both north and south, in their predatory excursions. 
Samuel Bellamy, in the ship Whidah, of 23 guns and 130 
men, was one of the most formidable of these freebooters, 
and he even had the audacity to come off the coast of New 
England, in 1717, where he made several prizes. At length 
he was wrecked, with his captured vessels, on Cape Cod, 
and most of the gang were lost. More than a hundred 
bodies washed ashore, and six of those who escaped were 
seized, tried at Boston and executed. The following year, 
the celebrated Captain Woods Rogers, so well known for 


his exploits on the Spanish Main, was sent against New 
Providence, with a small squadron of King's ships, carrying 
a proclamation of pardon to all those who would abandon 
their lawless practices, and return to honest industry. The 
island was captured without resistance, and possession taken 
for the English crown. Most of the freebooters accepted 
of the amnesty, though a party of ninety, under the com- 
mand of one Vane, seized a sloop, and made their escape. 
One gang, about thirty in number, repaired to the coast of 
the Carolinas, where they established themselves near the 
mouth of Cape Fear River, and continued their depreda- 
tions. Mr. Wm. Rhett, who has already been mentioned 
for his gallantry and enterprise, was sent out against them 
by Governor Johnson of North Carolina, in a vessel of some 
force. This officer captured a sloop commanded by Steed 
Bonnet, and manned by thirty of the freebooters. Shortly 
after, the Governor himself went in person against the re- 
mainder, and falling in with another sloop, a desperate en- 
gagement took place, in which, it would seem, it was the 
intention not to give quarter, as nearly all in the sloop were 
slain. Those who escaped death in the action, were imme- 
diately tried, and, with the exception of one man, hanged. 
These severe blows did much towards clearing the coast of 
freebooters, though we find that a gang of twenty-five more 
wore taken into Rhode Island in 1723, by a British sloop of 
war, and sentenced to be hanged. How many were exe- 
cuted, is not known. 

The peculiar condition of America, where land of the 
greatest fertility abounded, M'hile manual labour was diffi- 
cult to be obtained, early introduced the traffic in slaves 
into the colonies, though it speaks favourably for the people 
of the country, that they generally received this species of 
succour with reluctance; and a long period elapsed before 
the trade became important. It would exceed our proper 


office were we to enter into a continuous history of this 
branch of American commerce, and we shall confine our 
remarks, therefore, to the few facts that were connected 
with its navigation. 

The first nesrro slaves brought into the country, were 
landed from a Dutch man of war, at James Town, in 1620.* 
Where these poor Africans were obtained is not now 
known, but they were most probably the victims of per- 
fidy. The increase among the blacks was very slow, how- 
ever; for thirty years later the whites of Virginia were 
said to outnumber the negroes, in the proportion of fifty to 
one; and even when the colony had been settled seventy 
years, the slaves were not at all numerous.f 

The first American vessel engaged in the slave trade, of 
which we have any account, sailed from Boston, for the 
coast of Guinea, in 1645, having been fitted out by Thomas 
Keyser and James Smith.J The last of these worthies was 
a member of the church. To the credit of the people of 
Boston, their sense of right revolted at the act, the parties 
concerned were arraigned, and the slaves were ordered to 
be restored to their native country at the public expense. 

Redemptioners were also early introduced into the coun- 
try as servants, as well as the prisoners taken in the battles 
of the civil wars. Thus the John and Sarah, which arrived 
at Boston in 1652, brought with her freight for the Scotch 
prisoners taken at Dunbar.§ Many of the Royalists taken 
at the battle of Worcester were also transported and sold 
into servitude. The leaders of the insurrection of Penrud- 
dock shared the same fate. Many of the prisoners taken 
in Monmouth's rebellion were sentenced to transportation 
in turn. Indeed, at this period, England appeared to think 

* Beverly. ■\ Bancroft. \ Bancroft. 

§ Suffolk County Records, as given by Bancroft. 



America the best receptacle of her discontented, whether 
•in religion or politics. 

As late as 1724, the importation of slaves into the Caro- 
linas amounted to but 439 souls. The trade was entirely 
in British ships. At a later day, however, Rhode Island, 
and some of the other colonies, engaged extensively in this 

We turn with satisfaction to the whale fisheries. The 
commencement of this manly, lucrative and hardy pursuit 
dates from an early period in the history of the country. 
The whale frequenting the American seas, at that time, the 
people of the coasts kept boats, organised themselves into 
gangs, and whenever a spout was seen, they would launch 
in pursuit. This irregular system prevailed many years, 
until sloops, and other small craft, began to be employed in 
the offing. These vessels would range the coast, as far 
south as the West Indies, and north to Davis' Straights. 
They occasionaly crossed to the Azores, where a rich 
booty was sometimes obtained in the spermaceti. 

The whale fishery on a larger scale, dates from about 
the middle of the eighteenth century, when Massachusetts 
in particular, engaged extensively in the enterprise. This 
colony alone is said to have had no less than three hundred 
vessels employed in the northern and southern whale fishe- 
ries previous to the war of the Revolution- Her vessels led 
the way to the South Atlantic, to the African coast, and 
to the Pacific Ocean. 

In 1731, Pennsylvania owned 6000 tons of shipping, and 
Massachusetts near 38,000, of which about one half were 
in the European trade; while the entrances into New York 
in 1737 reached to 211 sail, and its clearances to 220. 
About the same time Philadelphia had 211 of the former, 
and 215 of the latter. At this period in the history of the 
country (1739.) Newport had a hundred sail of shipping of 
different sizes. 


After the war which was terminated by the peace of 
Utrecht, most of the maritime colonies employed a species 
ofguarda-costas, small armed vessels, that were maintained 
for the suppression of piracies, and for the general protec- 
tion of the coasts. Some of these vessels were commanded 
by young officers, who afterwards rose to more or less dis- 
tinction, either at home, or in the British service. Among 
others was Lieut. Wooster, afterwards Captain Wooster, who 
commanded the armed vessel employed by Massachusetts. 
This gentleman was subsequently killed at Danbury, during 
the Revolution, holding the rank of a Brigadier General in 
the militia of his native state. 

England declared war in 1739 against Spain, and the 
American Colonies became the seat of many of her prepara- 
tions and levies. Natives of the country were much em- 
ployed in the different expeditions, and it is well known that 
the estate which has since acquired so much celebrity on 
account of its having been the property of Washington, 
obtained the appellation of Mount Vernon from the circum- 
stance that an elder brother, from whom that great man 
inherited it, had served in the celebrated attack against 
Carthagena, under the admiral of that name. In 1741, the 
colonies supplied many of the transports sent against Cuba. 

The year 1744 became memorable in the history of the 
colonies, by a declaration of another war against France. 
By this time the importance of all the American provinces, 
whether English, French, or Spanish, were certain to ren- 
der them, more or less, the seat of the contests; and the 
great European states interested, were now found seriously 
exhibiting their power in the Western hemisphere. The 
short duration of the war, probably, alone prevented Amer- 
ica from being the scene of those severe struggles that were 
deferred a few years by the peace of Aix la Chapellc. 
Short as was the contest, however, it afforded the colonists 


an opportunity of manifesting both their spirit and their re- 
sources, by an expedition against Louisbourg. 

The French had long been aware of the importance of a 
port that commanded the entrance of the St. Lawrence, as 
Gibraltar commands the approach to the Mediterranean, 
and vast sums of money had been expended on the fortifi- 
cations of Louisbourg. It is said that no less than $6,000,000 
were appropriated to this object, and a quarter of a century 
had been consumed in the preparations. The place was so 
formidable as to be termed a second Dunkirk. So conscious 
had Massachusetts become of her strength, however, that 
no sooner was the declaration of war known, than Gover- 
nor Shirley laid propositions before both the English ministry 
and the colonial legislature, for the reduction of this great 
naval and military station. The General Court of Massa- 
chusetts, at first, was afraid to embark in so serious an en- 
terprise without assurances of support from home, as Eng- 
land was then affectionately termed, but the people of the 
colony getting a knowledge of the Governor's Vv^ishes, 
seconded him so strongly with petitions, that the measure 
was finally carried by a majority of one. Connecticut, 
Rhode Island and New Hampshire lent their aid, and by the 
25th of March, 1745, the expedition was ready to sail. Not 
a British soldier was employed, and when the fleet left 
Boston, it was with very uncertain hopes of being supported 
by any of the King's ships. 

The land forces, all levies of New England, no other 
colony joining in the enterprise, were led by Col. William 
Pepperel, of Kittery, in Maine, and the fleet was commanded 
by Capt. Edward Tyng, of the Massachusetts colonial ma- 
rine. The naval part of these forces consisted principally of 
vessels equipped, or hired, for this especial service. There 
appear to have been twelve in all, besides the transports, 
the largest carrying but 20 guns. The land forces amounted 


to 4070 men. From the various and contradictory accounts 
of this armament we gather the following list of the colonial 
cruisers engaged in the expedition, viz: Ships, Massachu- 
setts, 20, Commodore Tyng; Csesar, 20, Captain Snelling; — 
Snows, Shirley, 20, Captain Rouse; Prince of Orange, 16, 
Captain Smethurst; — Brig Boston Packet, IG, Captain 

Fletcher; and Sloops, 12, Donahue; 8, Saunders; 

Bosch; — a Ship hired by Rhode Island, 20, Captain 

Griflen, and two vessels of IG guns each, belonging to Con- 

It is a circumstance worthy of being mentioned, as char- 
acteristic of the manners of the day, and of the habitual 
thrift of the New England colonists, that Governor Shirley, 
in his written instructions, lays great stress on an order for 
the ships to go well provided vvith cod-lines, in order to 
subsist the troops and seamen, as much as possible, on the 
products of the sea. 

The fleet reached Canseau on the 4th of April, where it 
remained some weeks, to be joined by the levies of New 
Hampshire and Connecticut, as well as to allow time for 
the ice to dissolve in the neighbourhood of Cape Breton. 
For the first time, probably, in the history of the colonies, 
large military preparations had been made in season, and 
the result triumphantly showed the benefits of this unwonted 
alacrity. Here also Commodore Warren, of the British 
navy, joined the expedition, with a part of the West India 
squadron, in which seas, and on the American coast, he 
had long commanded. This excellent and efficient officer, 
than whom there was not a braver in the British marine, 
brought with him the Superb, 60, and three ships of forty 
guns; his broad pennant frying in the former. Of course, 
he assumed the command of the naval operations, though 
great distrust appears to have existed between him and 
Colonel Pepperel to the last. After a conference with the 
latter, he went ofTLouisbourg, which he blockaded. 


Louisbourg was invested by land on the 30th of April, and 
after a vigorous siege of forty-seven days, during which 
time a severe cannonade was carried on, the place sub- 
mitted. After the surrender the French flags were kept 
flying for some time, by which ruse tv/o East India men 
and a South Sea ship, all richly laden, were decoyed into 
the mouth of the harbour and captured. The value of these 
three vessels has been estimated as high as $3,000,000. 

While cruising off the port, Commodore Warren captured, 
with no great resistance, the French man of war Vigilant, 
60, with troops and supplies for the garrison. This import- 
ant event, no doubt, was of great moment to the result 
of the siege. 

Although the naval part of the colonial expedition could 
have been of no great account after the arrival of Commo- 
dore Warren,* it took the sea with creditable vigour, as soon 
as Louisbourg had submitted. The Shirley, Galley, 20, 
Capt. Rouse, or as the vessel is sometimes called, the Snow, 
Shirley, captured eight French vessels, and, in one instance, 
she brought in two after an obstinate and gallant resistance. 
For this exploit, that oflicer received the commission of a 
captain in the King's service. 

No less than 400 privateers are said to have been out 
from the colonies in this war, but the number is so incredible 
as to give rise to the conjecture that the estimate includes 
letters of marque and boats on the coast. Nothing worthy 
of much notice occurred in Amercia, however, during 
this short war, besides the capture of Louisbourg, and this 
place was restored to the French, at the peace. 

* It has been pretended that the VigUant 60, was captured by the co- 
lonial ship Massachusetts 20, Com. Tyng; but this statement, besides be- 
ing- highly improbable in itself, is not properly sustained by the histories 
of the day. 


Previous, however, to this event, the French menaced 
the whole of the American coast, from Cape Breton to the 
Delaware, with two serious invasions, both of which were 
fortunately defeated ; the first by the elements, and the 
second by the victory obtained by Admirals Anson and 
Warren in 1747. The peace did not take place until the 
following year, when Acadie was finally ceded to the 
British crown and took the name of Nova Scotia. 

The general interest felt in the fisheries, and the desire to 
extend the commerce of the country, caused a company in 
Philadelphia to undertake the discovery of a North West 
Passage. With this object the schooner Argo, Captain 
Swaine, sailed for Hudson's Bay, March 4lh, 1753. After 
an absence of several months the Argo returned to Phila- 
delphia, having effected little more than obtaining a better 
knowledge of the coast, and of the inlets of the great bays. 
The following year the attempt was repeated with still less 
success, the vessel having lost three of her people in an en- 
counter with the Indians. 



The peace of Aix la Chapelle found the navigation of the 
American colonies in a very flourishing condition. More 
than a century had elapsed since the settlements had passed 
the ordeal of their infant struggles, and although distant 
from each other, and labouring under the disadvantages of 
a scattered population, they were fast rising to the dignity 
and power of states. The necessity of maintaining all their 
more important communications by water, had a direct 
tendency to encourage a disposition to the sea, and although 
without a regular warlike marine, their mercantile tonnage 
probably equalled that of the mother country, when con- 
sidered in reference to population. The number of souls in 
all the provinces, at that period, did not much exceed a 
million, if the Indians be excluded from the computation. 
Of the tonnage it is not easy to speak with accuracy, 
though we possess sufficient authority by which to form 
some general estimates. The year of the peace, 500 vessels 
are said to have cleared from the single port of Boston, and 
430 entered; this was exclusively of coasters and fishing 
vessels. At Portsmouth, New Hampshire, there were 121 
clearances and 73 entries, besides 200 coasting vessels in 
regular employment. The trade of New York and Phil- 
adelphia was less than that of Boston, but still respectable. 
Thus in 1749, or the year succeeding that of the peace, the 


clearances at Philadelphia were 291, and the entries 303; 
while Boston, during the sanne period, had 504 clearances 
and 489 entries. In 1750, a year in which the navigation 
had sensibly diminished, the clearances of the fornner port 
were 286, and the entries 232. Many ports, which have 
since lost most of their navigation, then enjoyed a respect- 
able trade, among which may be nientioned Newport, 
Rhode Island, and Perth Amboy in New Jersey, 

The settlements extended nowhere to any great distance 
from the ocean, the entire population being virtually ranged 
along the coast, of which the American colonies then pos- 
sessed rather more in extent than that of the entire coast of 
the Island of Great Britain. Some of the writers of the 
day boast that the tonnage and guns employed in privateers 
out of the colonies, during the late war, exceeded the ton- 
nage and guns of the royal navy of England, in the reign 
of Queen Elizabeth. Although many of the clearances and 
entries just enumerated, were, unquestionably, those of ves- 
sels owned by the mother country, there is no doubt that a 
very fair proportion belonged to the provinces. The num- 
ber of coasting and fishing vessels, in particular, was already 
great, Massachusetts alone owning nearly one vessel, of 
some description or other, for each hundred inhabitants. 

Up to this period, the common white oak of the forest 
was the wood principally used in naval constructions, 
though the chestnut was also found serviceable in particular 
parts of the frames. The white oak of North America 
varies very much in quality, according to the latitude, and 
other circumstances; that which grows in the southern dis- 
tricts, as well as that which grows near the sea, being gen- 
erally more esteemed than that which is found further 
north, or remote from the coast. The trees, moreover, 
which have been left in the open lands, have a value that 
does not belong to those which have acquired all their pro- 

VoL. I.— 7 


perties in the shades of the forest. But a new era in ship 
building was at hand, through the introduction of a wood 
that greatly abounded in the more southern maritime regions 
of British America. In 1750, a vessel called the Live Oak 
arrived in Charleston, South Carolina, having been built of 
the invaluable timber, after which she was named, which 
was now discovered to be one of the best materials for 
naval architecture known. The Live Oak is said to have 
been the first vessel in which this wood was ever used. 

It also, about this time, became a practice among the 
gentry of the American provinces, to cause their sons to be 
entered as midshipmen in the royal navy. Occasionally an 
American had been transferred from the colonial marine 
to that of the king, but, hitherto, very few boys had been 
regularly entered or rated in the service, with a view to 
adopting it as a profession. The circumstance that Wash- 
ington was intended for such a life is generally known, and 
we now look back at the tender affection of his mother, 
which alone prevented it, as to a Providential interference 
in behalf of the nation. Many of those who were thus rated 
in the English marine rose to high stations, and several 
have been, or still are, classed among the ablest and most 
useful officers in the employment of the British crown. 
We might even point to a painful notoriety that a few ob- 
tained, by their activity against the land of their birth, 
during; the war of the Revolution. 

The tranquillity established by the treaty of Aix la Cha- 
pelle, like that produced by the peace of Utrecht, was of 
but short continuance. Disputes early commenced between 
the English and French provinces, in relation to their boun- 
daries; and an inland war aclually broke out between 
them in 17.54, though the peace of Europe was not imme- 
diately disturbed by this remote and local contest. This 
sino-ular state of things continued throughout 1755, and 


the campaign of that year was one of the most import- 
ant that had then occurred on tlie American continent. 
Both nations reinforced their troops from Europe, and 
strong squadrons were employed to protect the convoys; 
but there being no technical hostihties, commissions were 
not issued to letters of marque and privateers. After many 
ineffectual attempts at an accommodation, however, the 
Kino- of Great Britain made a formal declaration of war 
on the 17th of May, 1756. 

Such was the commencement of the struggle that in 
America is familiarly called " the old French w\ar." Al- 
though this contest was of the last importance to the colo- 
nies, by driving the French from their part of the conti- 
nent and by leaving the savages without an ally, its events 
were more properly connected with the movements of 
armies, than with any naval operations of magnitude, so far 
as the latter belong to the subject of this work. The 
beginning of the war was disastrous, but in the end, the 
celebrated Earl of Chatham succeeded in infusing a por- 
tion of his own energy into the councils of the King, and 
from that moment the most brilliant success rewarded his 

An expedition against Louisbourg w'as attempted in 1757, 
under Admiral Holbourn, but it was abandoned on ascer- 
taining that, besides its regular garrison and important 
works, the place was defended by a fleet of 17 sail of the 
line, which was moored in the harbour. We learn the 
growing importance of the colonies in the forces employ- 
ed on this occcasion ; Louisbourg having a garrison of 
6000 regulars, while the army destined to attack it, mus- 
tered something like 11,000 English troops, besides provin- 
cials. The failure appears to have arisen out of the supe- 
riority of the French in ships. 

It is worthy of mention, that, while the Enghsh fleet was 


cruising off Louisbourg it met with a heavy gale, in which 
one of its ships, the Tilbury, was wrecked, and more than 
two hundred of her crew were drowned. The remainder 
fell into the' hands of the French, who, with the humanity 
and courtesy of a great and polished nation, sent the suf- 
ferers to Halifax, under the protection of a flag of truce. 

Although Spain became a party to the war in 17G2, on 
the side of France, it did not materially vary the nature of 
the exertions of the colonies, which were mainly directed to 
the reduction of the Canadas, by means of expeditions in- 
land. Martinique and the Havanna were both captured, 
but the fleets employed by the English were on a scale too 
large to require the aid of the light vessels of the provinces. 
Many Americans served in these enterprises, both by land 
and by water, but, as is always the case, M^hen there is me- 
tropolitan power to claim the glory, the credit due their 
exertions was absorbed in the renown of the mother 

Peace was signed on the 10th of February, 1663, and 
from that day France ceased to claim any portion of the 
American Continent north of Louisiana, with the excep- 
tion of two insignificant fishing stations, near the outlet of 
the St. Lawrence. The conquests of this war were an in- 
cipient step towards the eventual independence of the colo- 
nies, since the latter found themselves without any enemy 
in their vicinity, to cause them to lean on England for suc- 
cour, or to divert their policy from those domestic mea- 
sures which were more immediately connected with their 
internal prosperity. 

The northern colonies gained much credit by their ex- 
ertions in the late war, having raised a respectable army, 
but less mention is made of their privateers than might have 
been supposed, from which we are led to infer, that the en- 
terprises of this nature did not attract as much attention as 


those which had characterized the earHer struggles of the 


At the close of this great contest, the original Ameri- 
can colonies, or those which have since constituted the 
United States, without including the Floridas and Louisi- 
ana, are supposed to have contained more than 1,200,000 
souls, exclusively of Indians. Censuses were actually taken 
in one or two of the provinces. That of Massachusetts 
gave a return a httle exceeding 245,000, including 5000 
people of colour. That of Maryland, taken in 1755, gave 
a total of 107j208 whites, a numher considerably exceeding 
the estimates after the peace. 

This war, while, on the part of the colonists, it was so 
much confined to expeditions by land, afforded, notwith- 
standing, some instances of hardihood and gallantry on the 
part of the privateers, of which, as usual, more or less 
were at sea. One of these actions deserves to be noticed, 
as it was among the most obstinate of which we possess any 
authentic accounts. It was in January 1758, that the priva- 
teer Thurloe, 14, Captain Mantle, fell in with the French 
privateer Les Deux Amis, 10, Captain Felix. The Thurloe 
had a crew of 84 men, and Les Deux Amis a crew of 
98. Perceiving the superiority of his antagonist in guns, 
the Frenchman endeavoured to escape, but finding this im- 
possible, he ran him atwhart hawse, and made a noble 
effort to carry him by boarding. He was met by a resolu- 
tion equal to his own, and for more than two hours these 
small vessels are said to have remained foul of each other, 
their crews contending for victory, with all the implements 
of destruction known to the warfare of the day. The 
Thurloe alone, is said to have thrown no fewer than 300 
powder-flasks, and 72 stink-pots on board her enemy, besides 
making a liberal use of her guns and small arms. The 
Deux Amis struck, probably subdued by the guns of her 



adversary, but not until she had rendered the combat one of 
the bloodiest in naval annals, by the obstinacy of her re- 
sistance. The Thurloe had 12 men killed, and 25 w^ound- 
ed; Les Deux Amis had more than 80 of her people in the 
same situation. 

Although the history of this action is liable to the distrust 
that accompanies all accounts that are not subjected to the 
investigation of official forms and official scrutiny, it ap- 
pears to be given with a particularity, in the accounts of 
the day, that renders it worthy of credit. 

Immediately after the peace of 1763, commenced that 
legislative usurpation on the part of the mother country, 
which twenty years later terminated in the independence 
of the colonies. It would exceed the proper limits of a 
work of this character, to enter into the details of that 
eventful period, or minutely to trace the progress of a sys- 
tem of encroachments that gradually undermined the alle- 
giance of a people, whose confiding affection still resists 
the animosities of two wars, and, the jealousies and compe- 
tition of commerce. 

America, at the period of which we write, had that men- 
tal dependence on the mother country, which the province 
is known to feel for the metropolis; exaggerating its virtues, 
palliating its defects, and substituting its own images for 
reason and truth. The temporary alienation that succeeded 
was tl'.e work of time, and it required more than ten years 
of progressive innovations, on the part of the parliament of 
Great Britain, before the more daring and far-sighted of the 
American leaders could bring the body of the people up to 
the point of open resistance. All this time, however, the 
provinces were rapidly increasing in numbers, in resources, 
and in a spirit of nationality, as opposed to the ancient sen- 
timent, v/hich identified the children of the colonists with a 
land that they still loved to term "home." As the causes 
which led to the great results that followed lay deeper than 


it was usual for the writers of the day to consider, a passing 
word on so grave a subject may not be thrown away. 

In the ase when the American colonies were founded, 
and received their different charters from the crown, the 
prerogative of the King of England was active, the monarch 
effectually ruling the empire, checked by the other branches 
of the government. The relation between a prince and his 
subjects is simple, and, when not diverted from its legitimate 
direction, it is fostering and paternal. Under such circum- 
stances, and especially when there exist no unusual sources 
of irritation, the several parts of an extended empire may be 
governed equitably and on a common principle of justice. 
The monarch of one portion of the territories is the monarch 
of another, and he is supposed equally to respect the rights 
and interests of all. But, when the revolution of 16G8 put 
the House of Hanover on the throne, a system of ministerial 
responsibility was established, that gradually reduced the 
power of the crown, until the ministers, who, in effect, form 
the executive of Great Britain, got to be the creatures of 
parliament, instead of the real servants of the prince. It is 
true, that the king named his cabinet, or rather its head; but 
he was compelled to name those that parliament selected, or 
the latter stopped the supplies. This was effectually substi- 
tuting the power of parliament, in all the more important 
relations of the empire, for that of the king; and, as parlia- 
ment was composed of the representation, direct and indirect, 
of a small part of the territory nominally subject to the 
British Crown, it followed as a consequence, that this portion 
of the empire, by extending its legislation unduly over the 
others, was substituting a new and dangerous master, for a 
prince who might be supposed to know no difference in his 
affection for his subjects. 

While, however, this was probably the principle that lay 
at the root of the difficulties with America, few saw it ia 


theory; facts invariably preceding opinion in a country as 
purely practical as this. Legislative usurpation, in the 
abstract, was resisted; while few perceived the diflerence 
between a legislation that was effectually checked by the 
veto of an independent nnonarch, bearing an equal relation 
to all the parts of a vast empire, and a legislation that not 
only held this, but all the other material powers of the crown, 
directly or indirectly, in subjection. 

Empires maybe held together when the several parts are 
ruled by a central power that has a common, just, and obvious 
interest in all; but nothing short of force can compel the 
possessors of one detached territory to be subservient to the 
interests of the possessors of the seat of authority. This 
great obstacle, then, lay at the root of the difficulties, and, 
keeping out of view the questions of the day, which arose 
as consequences rather than as causes, it is now clear that 
the connexion could not have been perpetuated, while so 
small a fragment of the empire controlled so absolutely the 
great and moving power of the state. 

Among the offensive measures adopted by parliament was 
a duty on stamps, and another on tea. By the first, vessels 
could not regularly proceed to sea, unless furnished with 
the required stamps; yet so strong was the opposition that 
ships actually ventured on the ocean without the necessary 
papers; nor is it known that any serious consequences re- 
sulted from so bold a step. In the end, the stamp-officers 
having resigned, and no one being willing to incur the 
odium of filling their places, the courts of justice them- 
selves, transacted business without regard to those forms 
that the acts of parliament had rendered necessary. This 
tax was finally abandoned, and substitutes were sought for, 
that w'ere believed to be more manageable. 

Fresh attempts to enforce the navigation act, which had 
virtually become a dead letter, were made in 17C8, and a 


sloop from Madeira, loaded with wine, was actually seized 
in Boston, and placed under the guns of the Romney man 
of war. A mob followed, and the public officers were 
driven to seek protection in the castle. 

Great Britain had never maintained a body of troops in 
her colonies, except to protect them against the French and 
Indians. These soldiers had hitherto been principally kept 
on reinote frontiers; but regiments were now sent to Bos- 
ton, evidently with a view to enforce the assumed ascen- 
dency of the British Parliament. This step added greatly 
to the discontent, and eventually was the direct cause of 
the commencement of hostilities. 

The first overt act of resistance that took place in this 
celebrated struggle, occurred in 1772, in the waters of 
Rhode Island. A vessel of war had been stationed on the 
coast to enforce the laws, and a small schooner, with a light 
armament and twenty seven men, called the Gaspe, was 
employed as a tender, to run into the shallow waters of that 
coast. On the 17th of June, 1772, a Providence packet, that 
plied between New York and Rhode Island, named the 
Hannah, and commanded by a Captain Linzee, hove in 
sight of the man of war, on her passage up the bay. The 
Hannah was ordered to bring to, in order to be examined; 
but her master refused to comply; and being favoured by a 
fresh southerly breeze, that was fast sweeping him out of 
gun-shot, the Gaspe was signalled to follow. For five and 
twenty miles the chase continued, under a press of sail, 
when the Hannah coming up with a bar, with which her 
master was familiar, and drawing less water than the 
schooner. Captain Linzee led the latter on a shoal where she 
struck. The tide falling, the Gaspe sewed, and was not in a 
condition to be removesd for several hours. 

The news of the chase was circulated on the arrival of 
the Hannah at Providence. A strong feeling was excited 


among the population, and towards evening the town drum- 
mer appeared in the streets, assembling the people in the ordi- 
nary manner. When a crowd was collected, this man led his 
followers in front of a shed that stood near one of the stores, 
when one disguised as an Indian suddenly appeared on the 
roof, and proclaimed a secret expedition for that night, in- 
viting all of " stout hearts" to assemble on the wharf, pre- 
cisely at nine, disguised like himself At the appointed 
hour, most of the men in the place collected at the spot de- 
signated, when sixty-four were selected for the bold under- 
taking that was in view. 

This party embarked in eight of the launches of the dif- 
ferent vessels lying at the wharves, and taking wuth them a 
quantity of round paving stones, they pulled down the river 
in a body. The commander of these men is supposed to 
have been a Captain Whipple, who afterwards held a com- 
mission in the service of Congress, but none of the names 
were publicly mentioned at the time. On nearing the 
Gaspe, about two in the morning, the boats were hailed by 
a sentinel on d6ck. This man was driven below by a volley 
of the stones. The commander of the Gaspe now appeared, 
and warning the boats off, he fired a pistol at them. This 
discharge was returned from a musket, and the officer was 
shot through the thigh. By this time, the crew of the Gaspe 
had assembled, and the party from Providence boarded. 
The conflict was short, the schooner's people being soon 
knocked down and secured. All on board were put into 
the boats, and the Gaspe was set on fire. Towards morn- 
ing she blew up. 

This bold step naturally excited great indignation in the 
British officers, and all possible means w^ere taken to dis- 
cover the offenders. The Government at home oflTered a 
reward of £1000 sterhng for the leader, and £500 to any 
person who would discover the other parties, with the 


promise of a pardon should the informer be an accomplice. 
But the feeling of the times was too high for the ordinary 
means of detection, no evidence having ever been obtained 
sufficient even to arraign a solitary individual, notwithstand- 
ing a Commission of Inquiry, under the Great Seal of Eng- 
land, sat with that object, from January to June, during the 
year 1773. 

Although this affair led to no immediate results, it doubt- 
less had its influence in widening the breach between the 
opposing parties, and it is worthy of remark, that in it was 
slied the first blood that flowed in the struggle for American 
Independence; the whole transaction being as direct a re- 
sistance to oppression, as the subsequent, and better known 
fight at Lexington. 

The year 1773 is memorable in American history, for the 
resistance made by the colonists to the duty on tea. By 
means of some management on the part of the British min- 
istry, in permitting the East India Company to export their 
teas free of charges, it was now possible to sell the article 
at a lower rate in America, subject to the duty, than it 
could have been sold previously to the imposition of the tax. 
Fancying that this circumstance would favour the views of 
all the parties in Europe, for the warehouses of the com- 
pany were glutted in consequence of the system of non-im- 
portation adopted by the colonists, several cargoes were 
sent to diflerent ports, including New York, Philadelphia, 
Charleston and Boston. The inhabitants of the two former 
places compelled the ships to return to London, without un- 
loading, while the people of Charleston caused their vessel 
to be discharged, and the tea to be stored in damp cellars, 
where it Anally spoiled. 

Three ships loaded with the offensive article had been 
sent to Boston, and the inhabitants succeeded in persuading 
their masters to consent to return to London, without dis- 


charging, but the consignees refused to release them from 
their charter-parties, while the authorities denied the neces- 
sary clearances. The governor even withheld the permit 
necessary to pass the fort. This conduct produced great 
excitement, and preparations were made to destroy the tea, 
under an apprehension that it might be gradually and clan- 
destinely landed. Suddenly, in the dusk of the evening, a 
party disguised as Indians, and which has been differently 
represented as composed of twenty men up to eighty, ap- 
peared in the streets, marching swiftly in the direction of 
the wharves. It was followed by a mob, and proceeded to 
one of the tea-ships, which it boarded, and of which it took 
possession without resistance. The hatches were broken 
open, and the chests of tea were struck on deck, staved, and 
their contents were thrown into the water. The whole pro- 
ceedings were conducted in the most orderly manner, and 
with little or no noise, the labourers seldom speaking. So 
much mystery attended this affair, that it is not easy, even 
at this remote day, to ascertain all the particulars; and, 
although the names of the actors have been mentioned 
openly of late, for a long period apprehensions are said to 
have been entertained, by some engaged — men of wealth — 
that they might yet be made the subjects of a prosecution 
for damages, by the East India Company. Three hundred 
and forty two chests of tea were destroyed, which was 
probably the cargo of a single ship, the two others quitting 
the port soon after. 

This daring act was followed by the Boston Port Bill, a 
political measure that was equally high-handed, since it 
denied the people of the town all direct participation in 
commerce. This sudden check, in twenty days notice, to 
the trade of a place that had seen, the previous year, 411 
clearances, and 587 entries, to and from foreign ports, pro- 
duced much distress in the town itself, and greater indig- 


nation throughout the country. It had been the misfortune 
of England, never to understand the character of the people 
of the American colonies; for, accustomed to dependencies 
that had been humbled by conquest, she had not yet learned 
to appreciate the spirit of those who were rapidly shooting 
up into political manhood by their own efforts, and who had 
only placed themselves in the situation they occupied, be- 
cause they had found the liberty of England herself, insuf- 
ficient for their opinions and wants. 

The people now began seriously to prepare for an appeal 
to force, and they profited by the liberty that was still left 
them, to organize military corps, with a view to recover that 
which they had lost. A Congress of representatives from 
the different colonies convened, and a system of organiza- 
tion and concert was adopted, that served to unite as many 
as possible in the struggle that was fast approaching. 

Towards the close of the year 1774, various steps were 
taken in different parts of the country, that had a direct 
bearing on the civil war that was known to be at hand. 
Laws had been passed in England, prohibiting the exporta- 
tion of arms and military supplies to America, and the can- 
non and powder of the crown were seized at various points, 
either by the local governments, or by private individuals. 
Twenty-six guns, of difTerent calibres, were found on Fort 
Island and carried to Providence, and the people of Rhode 
Island, are said to have got possession, in the whole, of quite 
forty guns, by these bold measures. At Portsmouth, New 
Hampshire, a body of 400 men proceeded to the castle, at 
the harbour's mouth, kept the garrison in check, and break- 
ing open the magazine, they carried off' one hundred barrels 
of powder. 

While means like these were u^ed to collect the neces- 
sary military equipments, provisions, as well as arms, were 
collected in different parts of the co-Jiitry, in readiness for a 
Vol. I.— 8 


campaign. Among other depots of this nature, one had been 
made at Concord, a small town at the distance of eighteen 
miles from Boston, and General Gage, who commanded the 
British forces in America, deemed it essential that it should 
be destroyed. A strong detachment was sent on this ser- 
vice, and it fell in with a small body of American minute- 
men at Lexington. These militia were dispersed by a 
volley, in which a few men were killed. This affair has 
always been considered the commencement of the War of 
the Revolution; and justly, as the hostilities which were 
then commenced did not cease, until the Independence of 
the Colonies was acknowledged by treaty. The British 
proceeded to Concord, where they effected their object, 
though not without resistance. The people now began to 
collect in force, and as soon as the British resumed their 
march on their return to Boston, they were assailed by the 
former, from behind the walls and fences. So vigorously 
were the troops pressed on this occasion, that it is thought 
they must have surrendered, had they not been met by a 
strong reinforcement, commanded by Lord Percy, which 
enabled them to halt and recover their breath. As soon as 
the march was begun again, however, the provincials 
renewed the attack, and the British did not succeed in 
gaining a place of security, until they reached Charlestown 
neck. In this affair the loss of the Americans has been 
ascertained to have amounted to 50 killed, 34 wounded, and 
4 missing; that of the British to 73 killed, 174 wounded, 
and 2G prisoners. 

The intelligence of this important event circulated like a 
raging fire throughout the country, and it everywhere was 
received as a call to battle. Reserve was thrown aside; the 
population flew to arms, and the military stores of the crown 
were seized wherever they could be found. An irregular 
body of 20,000 men appeared before Boston, with incredible 


rapidity, and formed a line confining the royal army to the 
occupation of the town. With a view to reduce their enemy 
to still narrower limits, Breed's Hill, a height that commands 
the inner harbour of Boston, was seized, and a redoubt 
commenced. This step brought on the combat that has 
since been termed the Battle of Bunker's Hill, one of the 
most extraordinary conflicts of modern times, and which 
may be said to have given birth to American Indepen- 
dence. Washington was now appointed Commander in 
Chief by the Congress of the United Colonies, and the war 
commenced under the usual laws of civilized nations, with 
the exception of the formality of a declaration. 

88e naval msTORy. 


The thirteen United Colonies that now commenced a 
struggle with the mother country, not to obtain a political 
independence, for few thought of so great a change when 
blood was first shed, but to regain rights that were inherent 
in the governing principles of the institutions under which 
they had long lived, and which were assured to them for- 
mally in a variety of ways, possessed but scanty means to 
contend with a power like that of Britain. Their popula- 
tion was less than three millions, their pecuniary resources 
of no great amount, and their military preparations were 
insignificant. But the fire of true patriotism had been 
kindled, and that which in other nations is effected by means 
of laboured combinations and political management, the 
people of America were bent on doing of their own volun- 
tary motion and united efforts. The colonies of New Eng- 
land, in particular, which possessed a population trained to 
liberty; hardy, simple, ingenious and brave, rose as it might 
be to a man, and as this was the part of the country in which 
the flame broke out, thither we must first direct our atten- 
tion in order to find the earliest evidences of its intensity. 

On the ocean, the preparations for the struggle were even 
smaller than those which had been made on the land. 
Congress had done nothing, and the provisions for naval 
defence which, from time to time, had existed among the 


different colonies, had never amounted to more than main- 
taining a few guarda-costas, or to the temporary exertions 
for some expedition. As soon as the struggle commenced 
in earnest, however, the habits of the people, their aptitude 
for sea service, and the advantages of both a public and a 
private nature, that were to be obtained from successful 
cruising, induced thousands to turn longing eyes to an ele- 
ment that promised so many flattering results. Nothing 
but the caution of Congress, which body was indisposed at 
first to act as if general warfare, instead of a redress of 
grievances, was its object, prevented a rushing towards the 
private cruisers, that would probably have given the com- 
merce of England a heavier and a more sudden blow, than 
it had ever yet received. But a different policy was pursued, 
and the orders to capture, first issued, were confined to 
vessels bringing stores and supplies to the British forces in 
America. It was as late as the 10th of Nov. 1775, before 
Massachusetts, the colony which was the seat of war, and 
which may be said to have taken the lead in the revolt, es- 
tablished courts of admiralty, and enacted laws for the en- 
couragement of nautical enterprises. Washington followed 
this example by granting commissions to vessels to cruise 
in the vicinity of Boston, with the object already stated. 
But a due examination of the practical measures of that 
day, will render it necessary to separate the subject into 
three branches; viz, one that refers solely to the exertions 
of private, and frequently of unauthorized adventures; 
another that shall speak of the proceedings of the different 
colonies; and a last, which more properly comprises the 
theme of this work, that shall refer to the policy pursued by 
Congress, in behalf of the entire nation. In making these 
distinctions, we shall be compelled to use brevity, as but few 
authentic documents now exist for authorities, and because 
the sameness and unimportance of many of the details de- 



prive the subject of any interest beyond that which is con- 
nected with a proper understanding of the true condition of 
the country. 

The first nautical enterprise that succeeded the battle of 
Lexington, was one purely of private adventure. The in- 
telligence of this conflict was brought to Machias in Maine, 
on Saturday the 9th of May, 1775. An armed schooner 
called the Margaretta, in the service of the crown, was 
lying in port, with two sloops under her convoy, that were 
loading with lumber on behalf of the King's government. 
Those who brought the news were enjoined to be silent, a 
plan to capture the Margaretta having been immediately 
projected among some of the more spirited of the inhabitants. 
The next day being Sunday, it was hoped that the officers 
of the latter might be seized while in church, but the scheme 
failed in consequence of the precipitation of those engaged. 
Capt. Moore, who commanded the Margaretta, saw the as- 
sailants, and, with his officers, escaped through the windows 
of the church to the shore, where they were protected by 
the guns of the schooner. The alarm was now taken, 
springs were got on the Margaretta's cables, and a few 
harmless shot were fired over the town, by way of intimi- 
dation. After a little delay, however, the schooner dropped 
down below the town, to a distance exceeding a league. 
Here she was followed, summoned to surrender, and fired 
on from a high bank, which her own shot could not reach. 
The Margaretta again weighed, and running into the bay 
at the confluence of the two rivers, anchored. 

The following morning, which was Monday, the 11th of 
May, four young men took possession of one of the lumber 
sloops, and bringing her along side of a wharf, they gave 
three cheers as a signal for volunteers. On explaining that 
their intentions were to make an attack on the Margaretta, 
a party of about thirty-five athletic men was soon col- 


ected. Arming themselves w^ith fire-arms, pitck-forks, and 
axes, and throwing a small stock of provisions into the 
sloop, these spirited freemen made sail on their craft, with a 
light breeze at north-west. When the Margaretta observed 
the approach of the sloop she weighed and crowded sail to 
avoid a conflict, that was every way undesirable, as her 
commander was not yet apprised of all the facts that had 
occurred near Boston. In jibing, the schooner carried 
away her main-boom, but continuing to stand on, she ran 
into Holmes' Bay, and took a spar out of a vessel that 
was then lying there. While these repairs were making, 
the sloop hove in sight, and the Margaretta stood out to 
sea, in the hope of avoiding her. The wind now freshened, 
and the sloop proved to be the better sailer, with the wind 
on the quarter. So anxious was the Margaretta to avoid a 
collision, that Captain Moore now cut away his boats; but 
finding this ineffectual, and that his assailants were fast 
closing with him, he opened a fire, the schooner having an 
armament of four light guns, and fourteen swivels. A 
man was killed on board the sloop, which immediately re- 
turned the fire with a wall piece. This discharge killed 
the man at the Margaretta's helm, and cleared her quar- 
ter-deck. The schooner broached to, when the sloop gave 
a general discharge. Almost at the same instant the two 
vessels came foul of each other. A short conflict now 
took })lace with musketry. Captain Moore throwing hand 
grenades with considerable effect, in person. This officer 
was immediately afterwards shot down, however, when the 
people of the sloop boarded and took possession of the 

The loss of life in this aflfair was not very great, though 
twenty men, on both sides, are said to have been killed and 
wounded. The force of the Margaretta, even in men, was 
much the most considerable, though the crew of no regular 


cruiser can ever equal in spirit and energy a body of volun- 
teers assembled on an occasion like this. There was origi- 
nally no commander in the sloop, but previously to engaging 
the schooner, Jeremiah O'Brien was selected for that station. 
This affair was the Lexington of the seas, for like that cele- 
brated land conflict, it was a rising of the people against a 
regular force, was characterized by a long chase, a bloody 
struggle, and a triumph. It was also the first blow struck 
on the water, after the war of the American Revolution had 
actually commenced. 

The armament of the Margaretta was transferred to a 
sloop, and Mr. O'Brien made an attack on two small Eng- 
lish cruisers that were said to have been sent out from 
Halifax, expressly- to capture him. By separating these 
vessels, he took them both, with little resistance, and the 
prisoners were all carried to Watertown, where the pro- 
vincial legislature of Massachusetts was then assembled. 
The gallantry and good conduct of Mr. O'Brien was so 
generally admired, that he was immediately appointed a 
captain in the marine of the colony, and sent on the coast 
with his two last prizes, with orders to intercept vessels 
bringing supplies to the royal forces. 

Many adventures, or enterprises, more or less resembling 
these of Captain O'Brien, took place on different parts of the 
coast, though none of so brilliant and successful a charac- 
ter. By way of j;etaliation, and with a view to intimidate, 
the English Commander-in-Chief, Admiral Graves, sent a 
force under the orders of Captain Mowat, to destroy the 
town of Falmouth, and four hundred buildings were burn- 
ed. An attempt to land, however, was repulsed, when the 
ships retired. This and similar steps, produced the law 
of Massachusetts, already mentioned as having been passed 
in Nov. 1775, granting commissions and directing the 
seizure of British vessels under certain circumstances, and 


which consequently put an end to the expeditions we have 
classed among the unauthorized. 

The colony of Massaciiusetts had recourse to energetic 
measures for annoying the enemy on the coast, and for 
procuring military supplies. Many small vessels were 
fitted out by that as well as by other colonies, and ships 
were sent in difierent directions with a view to purchase 
the stores that could not be seized. 

The want of powder, in particular, was so severely felt, 
that all practicable means were adopted with a desire to 
obtain it. Among others, General Washington borrowed 
two schooners of Massachusetts and sent them into the 
gulf of St. Lawrence, under the orders of Captain Brough- 
ton, to intercept two brigs, that were known to be bound to 
Quebec, with military stores. The brigs were not seen, but 
ten other English vessels were captured by Captain Brough- 
ton, and all released as not coming within the hostilities 
meditated by Congress. 

That body, however, was by no means blind to the im- 
portance of naval means of defence, without which no war 
can ever be conducted with credit and success by a country 
situated like America; and we now have properly arrived 
at the point where it is necessary to advert to the acts and 
legislation of the General Government on this interesting 

Soon after he assumed the command of the troops before 
Boston, General Washington, who so deeply felt the want of 
munitions of war of nearly every description, issued several 
commissions to different small vessels, giving their com- 
manders instructions to cruise in or near Massachusetts 
Bay, in order to intercept the British store ships. 

The first vessel that got to sea under this arrangement, 
was the schooner Lee, Captain John Manly, which sailed 
from Marblehead near the close of November. On the 


29th, Captain Manly fell in with and captured the English 
brig Nancy, having on board ordnance stores, several brass 
guns, a considerable supply of fire-arms, and various military 
supplies. Among other things of this nature, was a large 
mortar, which was justly deemed an important addition to the 
means of a besieging army; for up to this time, the Ameri- 
cans before Boston were greatly in want of artillery of 
every sort. On the 8th of December, Captain Manly cap- 
tured three more store-ships, and succeeded in getting all 
his prizes safely into port. 

Although it may not be strictly true to term the Lee, and 
other small cruisers similarly employed, the first vessels 
that ever belonged to the General Government of this 
country, they may be deemed the first that ever actually 
sailed with authority to cruise in behalf of the entire 
country. But, while we accord this precedency to Captain 
Manly and his associates, who acted under the orders of 
Washington, Congress itself had not been altogether idle, 
and it is probable that the Commander-in-Chief took the step 
he did in accordance with the expressed views of that body. 

The first legislation of Congress on the subject of a navy, 
preceded the law of Massachusetts, in point of time, though 
the act was worded with greater reserve. On the 13th of 
October 1775, a law passed ordering one vessel of 10 guns, 
and another of 14 guns to be equipped as national cruisers, 
and to be sent to the eastward, on a cruise of three months, 
to intercept supplies for the royal troops. On the 29th of 
the same month a resolution passed denying to private 
ships of war and merchant vessels the right to wear pen- 
nants in the presence of "continental ships, or vessels of 
war," without the permission of the commanding officers of 
the latter. This law was framed in a proper spirit, and 
manifested an intention to cause the authorised agents of 
the public on the high seas, to be properly respected; it 


excites a smile, however, when we remember that the 
whole marine of the country consisted, at the time, of two 
small vessels that were not yet equipped. The next day 
another law passed, authorising the fitting out of two more 
cruisers, one to carry 20, and the other 36 guns. 

A change in this cautious policy was produced by the 
depredations committed by the vessels under the command 
of Captain Movvat. When the intelligence of that ruthless 
proceeding reached Philadelphia, it produced a general 
prize law, with authority to capture all British vessels that 
were in any manner connected with the pending struggle. 
As the country still acknowledged its connexion with 
the crown, perhaps this reserve in conducting the war, 
was, in a measure, due to sound policy. This law was 
followed by another passed December 13th, ordering thir- 
teen sail of cruisers, to be constructed. Of the latter 
vessels, three were to be of 24 guns, five of 28, and five of 
32. Thus Congress, previously to the end of the year 1775, 
had authorised a regular marine, to consist of seventeen 
cruisers, varying in force from 10 to 32 guns. The keels of 
the ships alluded to in the last law, were ordered to be laid, 
in the four colonies of New England, in New York, Penn- 
sylvania and Maryland, and the following is a list of their 
names and respective rates, as well as of the colony where 
each was built, viz: 

Washington, 32 — Pennsylvania. 

Raleigh, 32— New Hampshire. 

Hancock, 32 — Massachusetts. 

Randolph, 32 — Pennsylvania. 

Warren, 32 — Rhode Island. 

Virginia, 28 — Maryland. 

Trumbull, 28 — Connecticut. 

Effingham, 28— Pennsylvania. 

Congress, 28— New York. 


Providence, 28 — Rhode Island. 

Boston, 24 — Massachusetts. 

Delaware, 24 — Pennsylvania. 

Montgomery, 24 — New York. 

These vessels appear to have been judiciously appointed 
in order to efiect the object in view. The resources of 
America did not admit of the construction of ships of a size 
fit to contend with the ileets of England, and had the colo- 
nies been in a condition even to make such an exhibition of 
their power, the time necessary to organize a proper ma- 
rine, the want of navy yards, and the impossibility of pro- 
curing in season, naval stores of the required quality, would 
have prevented them l''rom attempting it. The ships ordered 
were large enough to resist the small cruisers of the crown, 
and were well adapted to destroy convoys, and to capture 
transports and store-ships. We are not, however, to esti- 
mate their force by the manner of rating, as compared 
with similar rates in our own time, the art of ship-building 
and the mode of equipping vessels of war, having undergone 
great changes since the commencement of the American Re- 
volution. Frigates, at that day, were usually vessels varying 
from six hundred to a thousand tons, and rarely carried on 
their main deck batteries, guns of a metal heavier than 
eighteen pounders. There was usually no spar-deck, but 
the forecastle and quarter deck were connected by gang- 
ways, with gratings to cover a part, or even all of the in- 
termediate space. The armaments above were light 
sixes, nines, or twelves, according to the respective rates, 
but were commonly of trifling amount. Carronades had 
not then been invented, though they first came into use 
during this war. This gun obtains its name from the cir- 
cumstance of its having been been first made at the village 
of Carron, in Scotland, a place celebrated for its foundries. 


fis the bayonet derives its appellation from Bayonnc in 
France. We believe it was first used with efiect, in the 
battle between Lord Rodney and the Comte de Grasse, 
when it was found to be an arm of more efficiency than had 
been generally anticipated. For some time its use was con- 
fined to the English, nor did it make its way into the Ameri- 
can marine, until the commencement of the present century, 
or the very close of the last. ]\Iost of the ships mentioned 
in the list we have given, were armed with nines and 
twelves, having sixes, and even fours, on their quarter- 
decks and forecastles. We believe there was no eig;hteen 
pounder iVigate constructed under the laws of 1775. 

Bad as was the condition of the Colonies, as respects 
naval stores, and the mtmitions of war, the country 
might be said to be even worse off for persons suited to 
form a navy list. There was no lack of competent naviga- 
tors, or of brave seamen, but the high moral qualities which 
are indispensable to the accomplished officer, were hardly 
to be expected among those who had received all their 
training in the rude and imperfect schools of the merchant 
service. Still, as a whole, the merchant seamen of America 
were of a class superior to those of most other nations; the 
very absence of a res-ular marine, which induced vounsf 
men of enterprise to incur the dangers of the seas in this 
mode in preference to remaining on shore, and the moral 
superiority of the level of the population, producing such a 
result. It has been said that the gentry of the country had 
begun to place their sons in the British marine, previously 
to the commencement of this war; but, while many instan- 
ces occurred in which Americans threw up their commis- 
sions in the British army, in preference to serving against 
their native land, very few of those who had taken service 
in the navy, followed their example. The second nature 
that the seaman acquires in time, appears to have drawn 
the cord too tight to suffer it to be snapped even by the 

Vol. I.— 9 


violent struggles of a civil war, and most of the young men 
who were born in the colonies, and who found themselves 
arrayed against their proper country, on board the ships of 
the king, continued to serve with the undiminished zeal and 
singleness of purpose, that is apt to distinguish the fidelity 
of a seaman to his flag.* The Committee of Congress, to 
which the duties of a Navy Department were assigned, was 
compelled, in consequence of these difficulties, to select the 
new corps of officers, principally, from such conspicuous 
persons among the masters and mates of merchant ships as 
the country afforded; a few of those who had been trained 
in the English marine, but who had left it previously to the 
struggle, excepted. The result was such as might have 
been anticipated. While many gallant and suitable men 
were chosen, some of the corps had little to recommend 
them besides their practical knowledge of seamanship. 
These were valuable qualities, certainly, but the habits of 
subordination, the high feelings of personal pride and self- 
respect that create an esprit de corps, and the moral courage 
and lofty sentiments that come in time, to teach the trained 
officer to believe any misfortune preferable to professional dis- 
grace, were not always to be expected under such circum- 
stances. In short, a service created in this informal manner, 
must necessarily depend more on accidental and natural 
qualities for its success, than on that acquired character 
which has been found to be so competent a substitute, and 
which is altogether indispensable when there is a demand 
for the complicated and combined movements that can 
alone render any arm efficient throughout a series of years. 
It is true, that the colonies had possessed an irregular 
school for the training of officers, in their provincial crui- 
sers, or guarda-costas, but it was neither sufficiently ex- 

* We can discover but a single instance of an American's quitting the 
EngLsh navy on account of the war, though it is probable more occurred. 


tended, nor sufficiently disciplined, to afford the supply that 
was now demanded by the extraordinary exigencies of the 

The documents connected with the early history of the 
navy of the country, were never kept with sufficient method, 
and the few that did exist have become much scattered and 
lost, in consequence of there having been no regular navy 
department; the authority of this branch of the government 
having been exercised throughout the whole war, by Com- 
mittees and Boards, the members of which have probably 
retained many documents of interest, as vouchers to authen- 
ticate their own proceedings. 

Among other defects it has become impossible to estab- 
lish, in all cases, who did and who did not actually serve in 
the marine of the United States, officers so frequently pass- 
ing from the privateers into the public vessels, and from the 
public vessels to the privateers, as to leave this important 
branch of our subject involved in much obscurity. Before 
we enter more fully into the details on which reliance can 
be placed, it may be well, also, to explain that the officers 
in the navy of the Confederation derived their authority 
from different sources, a circumstance that adds to the diffi- 
culties just mentioned. In a good many instances Congress 
made the appointments by direct resolutions of its own, as 
will appear in the case of the officers first named. Subse- 
quently, the Marine Committee possessed this power; and, 
in the end, not only did the diplomatic agents of the Go- 
vernment abroad exercise this high trust, but even the com- 
manders of squadrons and of ships were put in possession of 
blank commissions to be filled at their particular discretion. 
It will easily be understood, how much this looseness in 
managing an interest of so much moment, increases the 
embarrassment in obtaining the truth. 

The brave men who acted under the authority of Wash- 
ington, at the commencement of the contest, were not in the 


navy, as is evident from the circumstance that several of 
them obtained rank in the service, as the reward of their 
conduct, while cruising in the sort of semi-official vessels 
that have already been mentioned. It has been said, that 
the first regular legislation of Congress, in reference to a 
marine, with a view to resist the aggressions of the British 
Parliament, dates from a resolution of that body, passed the 
13th of October, 1775. This resolution directed a com- 
mittee of three, Messrs. Deane, Langdon and Gadsden, to 
fit out two swift sailing vessels, the one of ten, and the other 
of fourteen guns, to cruise to the eastward, to intercept the 
supplies and transports intended for the British army at 
Boston. Under this law it is believed that a brig called 
the Lexington, and a sloop named the Providence were 
equipped; though it does not appear that either went on the 
particular duty named in the resolution. On the 30th of the 
same month, the committee was increased to seven, and a ship 
of 36 guns, and another of 20, were ordered to be provided. 
Under this law the Alfred and Columbus were purchased, 
though neither was of the force implied by the highest rate 
named. The first of these ships is said to have had a main- 
deck battery of 20 nines, while her armament on the quar- 
ter-deck and forecastle, varied in the course of her service, 
from ten guns to two. At the end of her career she carried 
no guns above. Less is known of the Columbus, but she is 
believed to have had a gun deck battery of 18 nines. Both 
were clumsy and crank ships, and neither proved to be a 
very good sailer. 

On the 13th of Decem.ber, of the same year. Congress 
directed thirteen ships of war to be built, and the next 
day the Marine Committee was increased, so as to contain 
one member from each colony; all the proceedings that 
have yet been mentioned, having been directed rather to a 
redress of grievances, than to independence. 

It will aid in understanding how complicated the busi- 


ness of the navy became, if we here give a brief outline of 
the various modes that were adopted in managing its 
affairs. To the committee last named, very extensive 
powers were given; but in November, 1776, a "Continental 
Navy Board," of three competent persons, was established 
as subordinate to this committee ; and soon after, this " Navy 
Board" was divided into two; one being termed the "East- 
ern Board," and the other the " Board of the Middle Dis- 
trict." A large portion of the executive functions of the 
" Marine Committee" devolved on these two " Boards." 
In October, 1779, this mode of proceeding was changed, 
and a " Board of Admiralty" was established, consisting of 
three commissioners who were not in Congress, and two 
that were. Of this board any three were competent to 
act. In January, 1781, James Reed was appointed, by 
special resolution, to manage the affairs of the " Navy 
Board" in the "Middle Department;" and in February of 
the same year, Alexander McDougall, a Major General in 
the army, who had been a seaman in his youth, was chosen 
"Secretary of the Marine." In August of the same year, 
the entire system was changed, by the appointment of an 
"Agent of the Marine," who had full control of the service, 
subject to the resolutions of Congress, and who superseded 
all the committees, boards, and agents, that had been pre- 
viously established by law. Here closed the legislation of 
Congress on this branch of the subject, though we shall add 
that the duties of " Agent of Marine," subsequently devolved 
on the " Superintendent of Finances," the celebrated 
Robert Morris, a gentleman, who appears, throughout the 
war, to have had more control over the affairs of the navy, 
than any other civilian in the country. To return to the 
order of time. 

On the 22nd, of December, 1775, Congress passed these 
resolutions, viz: — 

"Resolved, that the following naval officers be appointed : 



Ezekiel Hopkins, Esquire, Commander-in-Chief. 

Dudley Saltonstall, Captain of the Alfred. 

Abraham Whipple, do. do. Columbus. 

Nicholas Biddle, do. do. Andrea Doria. 

John B. Hopkins, do. do. Cabot. 

First Lieutenants, John Paul Jones, Rhodes Arnold, 

Stansbury, Hoysted Hacker, Jonathan Pitcher. 

Second Lieutenants, Benjamin Seabury, Joseph Oiney. 
Elisha Warner, Thomas Weaver, McDougall. 

Third Lieutenants, John Fanning, Ezekiel Burroughs, 
Daniel Vau^han. 

" Resolved, that the pay of the Commander-in-Chief of 
the fleet, be one hundred and twenty-five dollars a month." 

By this law it will be seen that Mr. Hopkins was not made 
a captain, but the "Commander-in-Chief," a rank that was 
intended to correspond in the navy, to that held by Wash- 
ington in the army. His official appellation, among seamen, 
appears to have been that of "Commodore," though he was 
frequently styled "Admiral," in the papers of the period. 
The captains were particularly named to the respective 
ships, and the construction put on the law was, that the 
lieutenants should be attached to the different vessels, in the 
order in which both were named. 

By this resolution, or law, it would appear that two brigs, 
the Andrea Doria, and the Cabot, had been purchased, 
most probably by the Marine Committee, previously to its 
passage. Of the precise force of the latter vessel no authen- 
tic account can be found, but it is thought to have been 16 
sixes. It appears by a letter of Paul Jones, however, that 
the armament of the Doria was 14 fours, and the Cabot ma}^ 
have been of the same force. 

The equipment of all the vessels mentioned, as well as of 
two or three more of less size, was going on in the autumn 
of 1775, the appointment of their officers was made at the 
close of the year, and the first ensign ever shown bv 


a regular American man of war, was hoisted in the Dela- 
ware, on board the Alfred, by the hands of Paul Jones, 
sometime about the last of December. This event could 
not have occurred previously to the vote appointing 
a commander in chief, as we are expressly told that the 
flag was shown when that officer first repaired on board his 
ship. What that ensign was, is not now certainly known, 
but it is thought to have been a device representing a pine 
tree, with a rattlesnake about to strike, coiled at its root, 
with the motto " don't tread on me." It is certain that such 
a flag was used, at the commencement of the Revolution, 
and on board some of the vessels of war, though whether 
this was the flag worn by the Alfred is not quite so clear. 
Most of the privateers of the period either wore the arms 
of the colony from which they sailed, and by which they 
were authorized to cruise, or they also showed devices of 
their own, according to the conceits of the different cap- 
tains and owners. It was not until 1777, that Congress 
formally adopted the present national colours. 

The first regular cruisers that ever got to sea under the 
new government were the Hornet 10, and Wasp 8, a sloop 
and a schooner that had been equipped by the Marine Com- 
mittee in Baltimore, and which sailed in November, to join 
the squadron under Commodore Hopkins, in the Delaware. 
This passage, however, cannot properly be called a cruise. 
For the first of these we must refer to the Lexington 14, a 
little brig, the command of which had been given to John 
Barry, a ship-master of Philadelphia, of credit and skill. 
By other statements, the squadron under the orders of Com- 
modore Hopkins, got out before the Lexington ; but we 
are disposed to believe that this is an error; not only because 
the sailing of the Lexington appears to be asserted on the 
most probable authority, but because it is more reasonable 
to believe, that, as between vessels fitted in the same place, 
and near the same time, a single cruiser could precede a 


squadron. The Lexington was purchased earher than the 
Alfred, and, in the nature of things, was more readily 
equipped. The honour has long been claimed for Capt. 
Barry, and, on as close an examination of the facts, as our 
means will allow, we believe it to be his due. The Lex- 
ington must have left the Capes of the Delaware late in 
January, or early in February, 1776, and her orders were 
to cruise to the southward. 

The plans of Congress had changed between the time 
when the vessels were ordered and that on which they 
were ready for service. Commodore Hopkins was accord- 
ingly directed, also, to proceed to the southward, with a 
view to act against the naval force, which was then rava- 
ging the coast of Virginia, under Lord Dunmore. The 
squadron had got into the Bay, and rendezvoused under 
Cape Henlopen, early in February. It consisted of the 
Alfred 24, Columbus 20, Doria 14, Cabot 14, Providence 
12, Hornet 10, Wasp 8, and Fly despatch vessel. With 
this force Commodore Hopkins got to sea on the 17th of 
February. On the night of the 19th, as the squadron was 
steering south with a fresh breeze, the Hornet and Fly 
parted company, and did not join again during the cruise. 
No vessel of any importance was met until the ships reached 
Abaco, in the Bahamas, where the squadron had been or- 
dered to rendezvous. Here Commodore Hopkins determined 
to make a descent on New Providence, where it was under- 
stood a considerable amount of military stores were col- 
lected. For this purpose, a body of 300 men, marines and 
landsmen, under the command of Capt. Nichols, the senior 
marine officer of the service, were put into two sloops, with 
the hope of surprising the place. As the squadron approached 
the town, however, an alarm was given, when the sloops 
were sent in, with the Providence 12, and Wasp 8, to cover 
the landing. This duty was handsomely performed, and 
Capt. Nichols got complete possession of the forts, and entire 


command of the place, in the course of the afternoon, and of 
the following morning, after a very insignificant resistance. 
Unfortunatelv, the ffovernor. aware of the motive of the 
descent, found means to send away a considerable quantity 
of powder, in the course of the night. Near a hundred 
cannon, and a large quantity of other stores, however, fell 
into the hands of the Americans. On this occasion, the 
first that ever occurred in the regular American Navy, the 
marines under Capt. Nichols, appear to have behaved with 
a spirit and steadiness that have distinguished the corps, 
from that hour down to the present moment. 

After retaining possession a few days. Commodore Hop- 
kins left New Providence on the 17th of March, bringing 
away the governor and one or two men of note with him, 
and shaping his course to the northward. Some of the 
smaller vessels appear to have left him, as he proceeded 
along the coast, but, with most of his force in company, he 
arrived off the east end of Long Island, early in April. On 
the 4th, he captured a tender of six guns, commanded by a 
son of Commodore Wallace, and on the 5th he fell in with 
and took the British Bomb Brig Bolton 6, Lieut. Snead. 

About one o'clock of the morning of the 6th of April, the 
squadron being a little scattered, a large ship was discovered 
steering towards the Alfred. The wind was light, and the 
sea quite smooth, and about two, the stranger having gone 
about, the Cabot closed with her, and hailed. Soon after the 
latter fired a, broadside. The first discharge of this little ves- 
sel appears to have been well directed, but her metal was 
altogether too light to contend with an enemy like the one 
she had assailed. In a few minutes she was compelled to 
haul aboard her tacks, to get from under the guns of her 
antagonist, having had her captain severely wounded, her 
master killed, and a good many of her people injured. 

The Alfred now took the place of the Cabot, ranging 
handsomely alona; side of the enemv and delivering her 


fire. Soon after, the Providence got under the stern of the 
English ship, and the Andrea Doria was enabled to come 
near enough to do some service. The Columbus was kept 
at a distance for want of wind. After a smart cannonade 
of near an hour, the block and wheel rope of the Alfred 
were shot aw'ay, and the ship broached to ; by which acci- 
dent the enemy was enabled to rake fier with effect. Being 
satisfied, however, that victory was impossible, the English 
commander profited by this accident, to put his helm up, 
and brought all the American vessels astern. Sailing bet- 
ter than any of the squadron, most of which were deep, as 
well as dull, in consequence of the cannon and stores they 
had taken on board, the enemy slowly but steadily gained 
on his pursuers, though a warm cannonade was kept up by 
both parties until past day-light. By six o'clock the ships 
had got so far to the eastward, that Commodore Hopkins 
felt apprehensive the firing would bring out the Newport 
squadron against him, and seeing little chance of overtaking 
the chase, he made a signal for his vessels to haul by the 
wind. Capturing a tender that was in company with the 
ship that had escaped, the squadron now went into New 
London, the port to which it was bound. 

The vessel that engaged the American ships, on this occa- 
sion, was the Glasgow 20, Capt. Tyringham Howe, with a 
crew of about one hundred and fifty souls. In every thing 
but the number of her men the Glasgow was probably supe- 
rior to any one ship in the American squadron, but her 
close encounter with, and eventual escape from, so many 
vessels, reflected great credit on her commander. She was 
a good deal cut up, notwithstanding, and had four men 
killed and wounded. On the other hand, both the Alfred 
and the Cabot suffered materially, the former from having 
been raked, and the latter from lying close along side a 
vessel so much her superior in force. The Alfred and 


Cabot lost 23 men killed and wounded, and one man on 
board the Columbus lost an arm while in chase. 

The result of this first essay of the American navy, when 
announced, caused much exultation in the country. The 
affair was represented as a sort of victory, in which three 
light vessels of war had been taken, and one of force com- 
pelled to run. A short time, however, served to correct 
these errors, and public opinion probably went as far in the 
opposite extreme, where it would seem to have been perma- 
nently fixed, by subsequent historians. The great error of 
Commodore Hopkins was in suffering so small a vessel as 
the Cabot to run close along side of a ship of the Glasgow's 
force, when the first attack should have been made by the 
Alfred. Had the Cabot delivered two or three as efficient 
broadsides from a favourable position, as the first she fired, 
while the Glasgow was occupied by a heavier ship, it is 
highly probable the enemy would have been captured. 
Commodore Hopkins betrayed no want of spirit, but his 
crew and vessel were much inferior to the regularly and 
long-trained people of a cruiser, and to a ship properly con- 
structed for war. The lightness of the wind, and the ob- 
scurity of a night action, contributed to the disasters, as, 
in such circumstances, when the ship broached to, it 
required time to get her under the command of her helm 
again. The reason for not continuing the chase was suffi- 
cient, and it is now known that the English squadron did 
come out of Newport as soon as the Glasgow appeared, 
and there can be little doubt that Commodore Hopkins 
would have lost all his dull sailing vessels, had he gone 
much farther in pursuit. It ought to be added, that the 
small pox, then a malady of fatal effect, had broken out in 
the ships while they were at New Providence, and it proba- 
bly had an influence on their efficiency. The Doria, in 
particular, was known to be nearly useless, from the num- 
ber of cases she had on board. 


This was hardly the feelhig of the country, notwithstand- 
ing, for nations are seldom just under disgrace, imaginary or 
real. Commodore Hopkins was left in command some 
time longer, it is true, and he carried the squadron to Rhode 
Island, a few weeks after his arrival, but he never made 
another cruise in the navy. On the 16th of October, Con- 
gress passed a vote of censure on him, for not performing 
the duties on which he had been sent to the southward, and 
on the 2d of January, 1777, by a vote of that body, he was 
formally dismissed from the service. No commander in 
chief was subsequently appointed, though such a measure 
was recommended to the national legislature by a commit- 
tee of its own body, August 24th, 1781. 

As an offset to the escape of the Glasgow, the Lexington, 
Capt. Barry, a small brig with an aritiament of 16 four 
pounders, fell in with the Edward, an armed tender of the 
Liverpool, on the 17th of April, off the capes of Virginia, 
and after a close and spirited action of near an hour, cap- 
tured her. The Lexington had four of her crew killed and 
wounded, while the Edward was cut nearly to pieces, and 
met with a- very heavy comparative loss in men. 

It may better connect the history of this little brig, if we 
add here, that she went to the West Indies the following 
October, under the command of Capt. Hallock, and on her 
return was captured near the spot where she had taken 
the Liverpool's tender, by the Pearl frigate. It was blow- 
ing fresh at the time, and, after taking out of his prize a 
few officers, and putting a crew on board her, the com- 
mander of the Pearl ordered her to follow his own ship. 
That night the Americans rose, and overpowering the prize 
crew, they carried the brig into Baltimore. The Lexington 
was immediately recommissioned, under the orders of 
Capt. Johnston, and in March of the succeeding year, she 
sailed for Europe, where we shall soon have occasion to 
note her movements. 



When the American squadron had got into Newport it 
becanae useless, for a time, from a want of men. Many of 
the seamen had entered for the cruise only, and Congress 
having authorized the capture of ail British vessels in 
March, so many persons were now induced to go on board 
the privateers, that crews were not to be obtained. It is a 
singular feature of the times, too, that the sudden check to 
navigation, and the delay in authorizing general captures, 
had driven a great many of the seamen into the army. It 
is also easy to imagine that the service was out of favour, 
after the affair with the Glasgow, for by events as trifling as 
this, are the opinions of ordinary men usually influenced. 

It has been said that the vessels were carried to Provi- 
dence, Rhode Island, and soldiers had to be borrowed from 
the army, in order to effect even this. At Providence, 
courts martial, the usual attendants of military misfortunes, 
were assembled to judge the delinquents. Capt. Whipple, 
of the Columbus was tried for not aiding the Alfred in the 
action with the Glasgow, and seems to have been acquitted. 
Capt. Hazard, of the Providence, was cashiered, though it 
does not appear on what charge. 

The day after the dismissal of her former commander, 
or May the 10th, 1770, Paul Jones was directed by Com- 
modore Hopkins to take charge of the Providence, and to 
carry the borrowed soldiers to New York, there to enlist a 

Vol. I.— 10 


regular crew, and return to the station. This duty having 
been successfully performed, the sloop was hove out, 
cleaned, refitted, armed and manned for a cruise. On the 
13th of June, Capt. Jones sailed from Newport with a con- 
voy loaded with military stores, which he saw into Long 
Island Sound, a service attended with risk on account of 
the numerous cruisers of the enemy. While thus employed, 
Capt. Jones covered the escape of a brig from St. Domingo, 
laden also with military stores, and bound to New York. 
This brig was soon after bought into the service, and be- 
came the Hamden 14. After performing this duty, the 
Providence was employed in cruising between Boston and 
the Delaware, and she even ran as far south as Ber- 
muda. On the 1st of September, while on the latter ser- 
vice, this little sloop made five sail, one of which was mis- 
taken for a large merchantman. On getting near the latter 
vessel, she proved to be a light English frigate, and a fast 
sailer. After a chase of four hours by the wind, and in a 
cross sea, the enemy had so far gained on the Providence 
as to be within musket shot, on her lee-quarter. The stran- 
ger had opened with her chase guns from the first, and the 
Providence now returned the fire with her light four poun- 
ders, showing her colours. Perceiving that capture, or 
some bold expedient must soon determine his fate, Capt. 
Jones kept edging away, until he had got rather on the lee 
bow of the enemy, when the Providence suddenly went off 
dead before the wind, setting every thing that would draw. 
This unexpected manoeuvre brought the two vessels within 
pistol shot, but the English ship having been taken com- 
pletely by surprise, before she could get her light sails set, 
the sloop was nearly out of reach of grape. The Provi- 
dence sailed the best before the wind, and in less than an 
hour she had drawn quite beyond the reach of shot, and 
finally escaped. This affair has been represented as an en- 
gagement of several hours with the Solebay 28, but, as has 


been said, it was little more than a clever artifice, in which 
Capt. Jones discovered much steadiness and address. Not a 
shot touched the Providence, though the Solebay fired a 

Capt. Jones now went to the eastward, where he made 
several prizes. Here he was chased by the Milford 32, and 
finding he could easily outsail her, he kept just out of gun 
shot for several hours, the enemy, who measured his dis- 
tance badly, firing most of the time. This affair has also 
been exaggerated into a running fight. 

After this chase the Providence went upon the coast, off 
Canseau, and did much damage to the enemy's fishermen, 
taking no less than twelve sail. Having made sixteen 
prizes, in all, some of which were valuable, Capt. Jones re- 
turned to Newport. 

Ere the return of the Providence, independence was de- 
clared, and Congress had set about a more regular organi- 
zation of the navy. October the 3d, it ordered another 
frigate and two cutters to be built; and November the 9th, 
a law was passed, authorizing the construction of three 
74's, five more frigates, a sloop of war, and a packet. In 
January of the succeeding year, another frigate and another 
sloop of war, were commanded. Eight of the prizes were 
also directed to be taken into the service, in the course of 
the years 1776 and 1777, while, as the war proceeded, di- 
vers small vessels were directed to be built, or purchased. 

But the most important step taken by Congress, at this 
time, was a law regulating the rank of the different officers, 
which had hitherto been very uncertain, and had led to 
many disputes. By a resolution passed, April the 17th, 1776, 
Congress had declared that rank should not be regulated by 
the date of the original appointments, reserving to itself the 
power to say who should command, when it had ascertain- 
ed who were disposed to serve. But it had now declared 
the nation independent of the King of Great Britain, and 


there was a long and bloody war in perspective, before that 
independence could be recognised. It was time to reduce 
the confused elements of the service to order, and to quiet 
the disputes and claims of individuals, by an exercise of 
sovereign power. A resolution was accordingly passed on 
the 10th of October 1776, directing that the captains in the 
navy should take rank in the following order, viz: 

1. James Nicholson, 13. John B. Hopkins, 

2. John Manly, 14. John Hodge, 

3. Hector McNiel, 15. William Hallock, 

4. Dudley Saltonstall, 16. Hoysted Hacker, 

5. Nicholas Biddle, 17. Isaiah Robinson, 

6. Thomas Thompson, 18. John Paul Jones, 

7. John Barry, 19. James Josiah, 

8. Thomas Read, 20. Elisha Hinman, 

9. Thomas Grennall, 21. Joseph Olney, 

10. Charles Alexander, 22. James Robinson, 

11. Lambert Wickes, 2-3. John Young, 

12. Abraham Whipple, 24. Elisha Warner. 

The Marine Committee was empowered to arrange the 
rank of the inferior officers. At this time Commodore 
Hopkins was commander-in-chief, and he continued to 
serve in that capacity until the commencement of the fol- 
lowing January, when Capt. Nicholson became the senior 
officer of the navy, though only with the rank of captain. 
When the law regulating rank was passed, the vessels of 
the navy, in service, or in the course of construction, were 
as follows; the word building, which is put after most of 
them, referring as well to those which had just been launch- 
ed as to those that were still on the stocks; a few of the for- 
mer, however, were nearly ready for sea. 

List of vessels in the United States Navy, October, 1776. 
Hancock, 32, building at Boston. 

Randolph, 32, do. Philadelphia. 







Portsmouth, N. H. 








Rhode Island. 












Poughkeepsie, N. Y 








Rhode Island. 














24, in service. 
















Andrea Doria, 

, 14, 





















To these vessels, many of which never got to sea, must 
be added several small cruisers, that were employed by the 
American Commissioners in Europe; the histories of which 
will be given in their proper places ; and the vessel that 
parted company from Commodore Hopkins' squadron, on 
its way to New Providence. This vessel, the Hornet, suf- 
fered much before she got in, and it is believed she was 
employed very little afterwards. 

When the squadron, under Commodore Hopkins, broke 
up, all the ships did not remain idle, but the Columbus 20, 
made a cruise, under Capt. Whipple, to the eastward, and 



took a few prizes. The Andrea Doria 14, Capt. Biddie, 
went in the same direction, also, and was even more suc- 
cessful than the Providence in annoying the enemy. This 
vessel, a little brig, carrying 14 fours, actually took two 
armed transports filled with soldiers, and made prizes of so 
many merchantmen, that, it is affirmed on plausible autho- 
rity, when she got back into the Delaware, but five of the 
common men who composed her original crew were in her; 
the rest having been put in the prizes, and their places sup- 
plied by volunteers from among the prisoners. Capt. Biddle 
gained much credit for this cruise, and on his return, he was 
appointed to the command of the Randolph 32, then recent- 
ly launched. One of the transports, however, was retaken 
by the Cerberus frigate. 

While the United States' cruisers were thus active in 
intercepting the British transports on the high seas, the 
colony cruisers and privateers were busy in the same way 
in-shore. Boston had been evacuated by the enemy on the 
17th of March, of this year, but vessels continued to arrive 
from England until midsummer; the fact not having been 
known in England in time to prevent their steering towards 
the wrong port. No less than thirty sail fell into the hands of 
the Americans, in consequence of these mistakes. As one 
of the occurrences of this nature was, in a measure, con- 
nected with a circumstance just related in the cruise of the 
Doria, it may be properly given here. 

The Connecticut colony brig Defence 14, Capt. Harding, 
left Plymouth, Massachusetts, early on the morning of the 
17th of June, and, on working out into the bay, a desultory 
firing was heard to the northward. The Defence crowded 
sail in the direction of the cannonading, and about dusk she 
fell in with four light American schooners, which had been 
in a running fight with two British transports, that had 
proved too heavy for them. The transports, after beating 
off the schooners, had gone into Nantasket Roads and an- 


chored. One of the schooners was the Lee 8, Capt. Waters, 
in the service of Massachusetts, the little cruiser that had 
so successfully begun the maritime warfare under Capt. 
Manly. The three others were privateers. 

After laying his plans with the commanders of the 
schooners, Capt. Harding stood into the roads, and about 
eleven o'clock, at night, he anchored between the trans- 
ports, within pistol shot. The schooners followed, but did 
not approach near enough to be of much service. Some 
hailing now passed, and Capt. Harding ordered the enemy 
to strike. A voice from the largest English vessel answered, 
"Ay, ay — I'll strike," and a broadside was immediately 
poured into the Defence. A sharp action, that lasted more 
than an hour, followed, when both the EngHsh vessels struck. 
These transports contained near two hundred soldiers of the 
same corps as those shortly after taken by the Doria, and 
on board the largest of them was Lieut. Col. Campbell, who 
commanded the regiment. 

In this close and sharp conflict the Defence was a good 
deal cut up aloft, and had nine men wounded. The trans- 
ports lost eighteen killed, and a large number wounded. 
Among the slain was Major Menzies, the officer who had 
answered the hail, as just stated. 

The next morning the Defence, with the schooners in 
company, saw a sail in the bay, and gave chase. The 
stranger proved to be another transport, with more than a 
hundred men of the same regiment on board. Thus did 
about five hundred men, of one of the best corps in the 
British army, fall into the hands of the Americans, by 
means of these light cruisers. It should be remembered 
that, in this stage of the war, every capture of this nature 
was of double importance to the cause, as it not only weak- 
ened the enemy, but checked his intention of treating the 
American prisoners as rebels, by giving the colonists the 
means of retaliation, as well as of exchange. Col. Campbell 


was subsequently made use of by Washington, to compel the 
English to extend better treatment to the Americans who 
had fallen into their hands. 

To return to the vessels left at Rhode Island: — When 
Capt. Jones came in from his last cruise in the Providence, 
a project was formed to send a small squadron under his 
orders to the coast of Nova Scotia, with the double view of 
distressing the British trade, and of liberating about a hun- 
dred Americans who were said to be confined in the coal 
pits of that region. For this purpose the Alfred 24, Ham- 
den 14, and Providence, 12, were put under the orders of 
Capt. Jones ; but not having men enough for all three, that 
officer selected the two first for his purpose. While clear- 
ing the port, the Hamden got on a ledge of rocks, and had 
to be left behind. The crew of the Hamden were now 
transferred to the Providence, and in the month of Novem- 
ber Capt. Jones got to sea, with both vessels rather short 
manned. A few days out, the Alfred made one or two small 
captures, and soon after she fell in with, and took, after 
a short combat, the armed ship Mellish, loaded with sup- 
plies for the army that was then assembling in Canada, to 
form the expedition under Gen. Burgoyne. On board this 
vessel, in addition to many other articles of the last import- 
ance, were ten thousand suits of uniform clothes, in charge 
of a company of soldiers. It was said, at the time, that the 
Mellish was the most valuable English ship that had then 
fallen into the hands of the Americans. Of so much im- 
portance did Capt. Jones consider this capture, that he an- 
nounced his intention to keep his prize in sight, and to sink 
her in preference to letting her fall into the enemy's hands 
again. This resolution, however, was changed by circum- 

The Providence had parted company in the night, and 
having taken a letter of marque, from Liverpool, the Alfred 
was making the best of her way to Boston, with a view to 


get the Mellish in, when, on the edge of George's Banks, 
she made the Milford 32, the frigate that had chased Capt. 
Jones the previous cruise, while in command of the Provi- 
dence. The enemy was to windward, but there was not 
time for him to close before dark. The Alfred and the letter 
of marque hauled up between the frigate and the other 
prizes, in order to cover them, and directions were given 
to the latter to stand on the same tack all night, regardless 
of signals. At midnight the Alfred and letter of marque 
tacked, and the latter showed a top light until morning. 
This artifice succeeded, the Milford appearing in chase of 
the Alfred when the day dawned, while the Mellish and her 
consorts had all disappeared in the southern board. 

The Milford had run to leeward in the course of the 
night, and was now on the Alfred's lee quarter. Some 
manoeuvring took place to ascertain the stranger's force, 
for it was not then known that the ship in sight was actually 
a frigate. In the course of the day, the Alfred was com- 
pelled to carry sail hard, but she escaped, though the letter 
of marque fell into the enemy's hands. After eluding her 
enemy and covering all her prizes, but the one just men- 
tioned, the Alfred now went into Boston, where she found 
the rest of the vessels, and where she landed her prisoners. 
Another officer took charge of the ship, and Capt. Jones, 
who had been flattered with the hope of having a still 
larger force put under his orders, was placed so low on the 
list by the new regulation of navy rank, as to be obliged 
to look round for a single ship, and that, too, of a force in- 
ferior to the one he had just commanded. 

While this service was in the course of execution at the 
north, several small cruisers had been sent into the West- 
Indies, to convoy, in quest of arms, or to communicate 
with the different public agents in that quarter. We have 
seen the manner in which the Lexington had been captured 
and retaken on her return passage from this station, and 


•we have now to allude to a short cruise of the Reprisal, 
Capt. Wickes, in the same quarter. This ship sailed early 
in the summer for Mai'tinique, capturing several prizes by 
the way. When near her port, the English sloop of war 
Shark 16, Capt. Chapman, laid her close alongside, and 
commenced a brisk attack, the Reprisal being both lighter 
than the enemy, and short handed. Capt. Wickes made so 
gallant a defence, however, that the Shark was repulsed 
with loss, and he got into the island with credit, hundreds 
having witnessed the affair from the shore. As this oc- 
curred early in the season, and before the declaration of 
independence, the Shark followed the Reprisal in, and her 
captain demanded that the governor should deliver up the 
American ship as a pirate. This demand was refused of 
course, and shortly after Capt. Wickes returned home. 
With a view to connect the train of events, we will now 
follow this excellent officer to the European seas, although 
we shall necessarily precede the regular order of time in 
doing so ; but we deem it preferable to concentrate the inte- 
rest on single ships as much as possible, whenever it does 
not seriously impair the unity of history. 

The Reprisal was the first American man of war that ever 
showed herself in the other hemisphere. She sailed from home 
not long after the Declaration of Independence, and appeared 
in France in the autumn of 1776, bringing in with her seve- 
ral prizes, and having Dr. Franklin on board as a passenger. 
A few privateers had preceded her, and slight difficulties 
had occurred in relation to some of their prizes that had 
gone into Spain, but it is believed these were the first Eng- 
lish captured ships that had entered France since the com- 
mencement of the American Revolution. The English am- 
bassador complained of this infraction of the treaty between 
the two countries, but means were found to dispose of the 
prizes without detection. The Reprisal having refitted, soon 
sailed towards the Bay of Biscay, on another cruise. Here 


she took several vessels more, and amoi^ the rest a king's 
packet that plied between Falmouth and Lisbon. When the 
cruise was up, Capt. Wickes went into Nantes, taking his 
prizes with him. The complaints of the English now be- 
came louder, and the American commissioners were se- 
cretly admonished of the necessity of using more reserve. 
The prizes were directed to quit France, though the Reprisal, 
being leaky, was suffered to remain in port in order to refit. 
The former were taken into the offing, and sold, the state of 
the times rendering these informal proceedings necessary. 
Enormous losses v/ere the consequences, while it is not im- 
probable that the gains of the purchasers had their influence 
in blinding the local authorities to the character of the 
transaction. The business appears to have been managed 
with dexterity, and the proceeds of the sales, such as they 
were, proved of great service to the agents of government, 
by enabling them to purchase other vessels. 

In April the Lexington 14, Capt. Johnston, arrived, and 
the old difficulties were renewed. But the commissioners 
of the government at Paris, who had been authorized to 
equip vessels, appoint officers, and do other matters, to an- 
noy the enemy, now planned a cruise that surpassed any 
thing of the sort that had yet been done in Europe under the 
American flag. Capt. Wickes was directed to proceed to 
sea, with his own vessel and the Lexington, and to go 
directly off Ireland, in order to intercept a convoy of linen 
ships that was expected to sail about that time. A cutter 
of ten guns, called the Dolphin, that had been detained by the 
commissioners to carry despatches to America, was divert- 
ed from her original destination and placed under the orders 
of Capt. Wickes, to increase his force. The Dolphin was 
commanded by Lieut. S. Nicholson, a brother of the senior 
captain, and a gentleman who subsequently died himself at 
the head of the service. 

Capt. Wickes, in command of this light squadron, sailed 


from Nantes about the commencement of June, going first 
into the Bay of Biscay, and afterwards entirely around Ire- 
land, sweeping the sea before him of every thing that was 
not of a force to render an attack hopeless. The Hnen 
ships were missed, but many vessels were taken or destroy- 
ed. As the American cruisers approached the French coast, 
on their return, a line of battle ship gave chase, and follow- 
ed them nearly into port. The Lexington and Dolphin 
appear to have escaped without much difficulty, by sepa- 
rating, but the Reprisal was so hard pressed, as to be 
obliged to saw her bulwarks, and even to cut away some 
of her timbers ; expedients that were then much in favour 
among the seamen of the day, though their utility may be 

This was the first exploit of the kind in the war, and its 
boldness and success seem to have produced so much sen- 
sation in England, that the French government was driven 
to the necessity of entirely throwing aside the mask, or of 
taking some more decided step in relation to these cruisers. 
Not being yet prepared for war, it resorted to the latter ex- 
pedient. The Reprisal and Lexington were ordered to be 
seized and held, until security was given that they would quit 
the European seas, while the prizes were commanded to leave 
France without delay. The latter were accordingly taken 
outside the port, and disposed of to French merchants, in 
the same informal manner, and with the same loss, as in 
the previous cases, while the vessels of war prepared to re- 
turn home. 

In September the Lexington, a small brig armed with four 
pounders, sailed from Morlaix, in which port she had taken 
refuge in the chase, and next day she fell in with the British 
man-of-war-cutter Alert, Lieut. Bazely, a vessel of a force 
a trifle less than her own, when an engagement took place. 
The lightness of the vessels, and the roughness of the 
water, rendered the fire, on both sides, very ineffective, and 


after an action of two hours and a half, the Lexington had 
expended nearly all her powder, without subduing her gal- 
lant opponent. The Alert, however, had suffered so much 
aloft, as to enable the brisi; to leave her. Notwithstanding:: 
this advantage, so much activity was shown on board the 
English vessel, that, after a chase of four hours, she was 
enabled to get along side of the Lexington again, while the 
latter was herself repairing damages. A one-sided battle 
now occurred, the Lexington not having it in her power to 
keep up a fire of any moment, and after receiving that of 
his persevering antagonist for another hour, Capt. Johnston 
was compelled to strike, to save the lives of his crew. 
Thus closed the brief history of the gallant little cruiser 
that is said to have first carried the American flag upon 
the ocean. Her career was short, but it was not without 
credit and usefulness. When taken, she had been in service 
about one year and eight months, in which time she had had 
three commanders. Captains Barry, Hallock, and Johnston ; 
had fought two severe battles with vessels of war; was twice 
taken, and once recaptui-ed, besides having several times 
engaged armed ships, and made many prizes. The English 
commander received a good deal of credit for the persever- 
ing gallantry with which he lay by, and captured this brig. 

The fate of the Reprisal, a vessel that had even been more 
successful than her consort, was still harder. This ship 
also sailed for America, agreeably to the conditions made 
with the French government, and foundered on the banks 
of Newfoundland, al! on board perishing with the exception 
of the cook. In Capt. Wickes the country lost a gallant, 
prudent, and eliicient officer, and one who promised to have 
risen high in his profession had his life been spared. 

To the untimely loss of the Reprisal, and the unfortunate 
capture of the Lexington, must be attributed the little eclat 
that attended the services of these two vessels in Europe. 
They not oniy preceded all the other national cruisers in 

Vol. I.— 11 


the European seas, but they did great positive injury to the' 
commerce of the enemy, besides exciting such a feeling of 
insecurity in the English merchants, as to derange their 
plans, and to produce other revolutions in the course of 
trade, that will be adverted to in the close of the chapter. 

It being our intention to complete the account of the pro- 
ceedings of the American commissioners at Paris, so far 
as they vi^ere connected with naval movements, during the 
years 177G and 1777, we come next to the affair of Capt. 
Conyngham, which, owing to some marked circumstances, 
made more noise than the cruises of the Reprisal and Lex- 
ington, though the first exploits of the latter were anterior 
as to time, and of not less consequence in their effects. 

While the commissioners* were directing the movements 
of Capt. Wickes, in the manner that has been mentioned, 
they were not idle in other quarters. A small frigate was 
building at Nantes, on their account, and we shall have 
occasion hereafter to speak of her services and loss, under 
the name of the Queen of France. Some time in the spring 
of 1777, an agent was sent to Dover by the American 
commissioners, where he purchased a fine fast-sailing Eng- 
lish built cutter, and had her carried across to Dunkirk. 
Here she was privately equipped as a cruiser, and named 
the Surprise. To the command of this vessel, Capt. Gusta- 
vus Conyngham was appointed, by filling up a blank com- 
mission from John Hancock, the President of Congress. 
This commission bore date March 1st, 1777, and it would 
seem, as fully entitled Mr. Conyngham to the rank of a 
captain in the navy, as any other that was ever issued by 
the same authority. Having obtained his officers and crew 
in Dunkirk, Capt. Conyngham sailed on a cruise, about the 
1st of May, and on the 4th he took a brig called the 
Joseph. On the 7th, when within a few leagues of the 

* Dr. Franklin and Silas Deane. 


coast of Holland, the Surprise ran along side of the Har- 
"wick packet, the Prince of Orange, which she boarded and 
took with so little previous alarm, that Capt. Conyngham, 
on stepping upon the deck of his prize, walked coolly down 
into her cabin, where he found her master and his passen- 
gers at breakfast. The mail for the north of Europe being 
on board the Prince of Orange, Capt. Conyngham believed 
his acquisition to be of sufficient importance to return to port, 
and accordingly he reappeared at Dunkirk in a day or two. 

By referring to the dates, it will be seen, though both 
the Reprisal and the Lexington, especially the first, had cruis- 
ed in the European seas prior to the sailing of the Surprise, 
that the latter vessel performed the exploit just mentioned, 
shortly before Capt. Wickes sailed on his cruise in the Irish 
and English channels. Coming as it did so soon after the 
capture of the Lisbon packet, and occurring on one of the 
great thoroughfares between England and the continent, 
coupled with the fact that the cutter had been altogether 
equipped in a French port, the loss of the Prince of 
Orange appears to have attracted more attention, than the 
transactions before described. The remonstrances of the 
English ambassador were so earnest, that Capt. Conyngham 
and his crew were imprisoned, the cutter was seized, and 
the prizes were liberated. On this occasion, the commis- 
sion of Capt. Conyngham was taken from him, and sent to 
Versailles, and it seems never to have been returned. 

So completely w^as the English government deceived by 
this demonstration of an intention on the part of the French 
ministry to cause the treaty to be respected, that two sloops 
of war were actually sent to Dunkirk to carry Capt. Co- 
nyngham and his people to England, that they might be 
tried as pirates. When the ships reached Dunkirk, the birds 
had flown, as will be seen in the succeeding events. 

The commissioners had the capture of some of the trans- 
ports with Hessian troops on board, in view, and they were 


no sooner notified of the seizure of the Surprise, than Mr, 
Hodge, an agent who was of great service to the cause, 
was directed to procure another cutter. One was pur- 
chased accordingly at Dunkirk, and was fitted, with all 
despatch, for a cruise. Means were found to Hberate Capt. 
Conyngham and his people, and this second vessel, which 
was called the Revenge, sailed from Dunkirk on the 18th of 
July, or about the time that Capt. Wickes returned from his 
cruise with the three other vessels. A new commission 
had been obtained for Capt. Conyngham, previously to 
putting to sea, which bore date May 2nd, 1777. As this 
second commission was dated anterior to the seizure of the 
old one, there is no question that it was also one of those in 
blank, which had been confided to the commissioners to 
fill at their discretion. 

The Revenge proved exceedingly successful, making 
prizes daily, and generally destroying them. Some of the 
most valuable, however, were ordered into Spain, where 
many arrived; their avails proving of great moment to the 
agents of the American government in Europe. It is even 
affirmed that the money advanced to Mr. Adams for travel- 
ling expenses, when he landed in Spain from the French 
frigate La Sensible, a year or two later, was derived from 
this source. 

Having suffered from a gale, Capt. Conyngham disguised 
the Revenge, and took her into one of the small English 
•ports, where he actually refitted without detection. Short- 
ly after, he obtained supplies in Ireland, paying for them by 
bills on his agents in Spain. In short, after a cruise of 
almost unprecedented success, so far as injury to the Eng- 
lish merchants was concerned, the Revenge went into Fer- 
rol, refitted, and finally sailed for the American seas, where 
it would disturb the order of events too much, to follow 
her, at this moment. 

The characters of the Surprise and Revenge appear 


never to have been properly understood. In all of the 
accounts of the day, and in nearly, if not in quite all of the 
subsequent histories, these vessels are spoken of as priva- 
teers, authorized to act by the commissioners at Paris. 
It is not clear that the commissioners sent private-armed 
vessels to sea at all, though the act may have come within 
the scope of their powers. That the two cutters com- 
manded by Capt. Conyngham were public vessels, however, 
is proved in a variety of ways. Like the Dolphin 10, 
Lieut. Nicholson, an officer who may be said to have almost 
passed hiS life in the navy, the Surprise and Revenge were 
bought and equipped by agents of the diplomatic commis- 
sioners of the United States, on public account, and the 
commissions granted to Capt. Conyngham were gifts of 
personal authority, and not powers conceded to particular 
vessels. It is known that Dr. Franklin, at a later day, and 
with an especial object in view, granted temporary com- 
missions in the navy, but there is no evidence that either 
of those bestowed on Capt. Conyngham possessed this con- 
ditional character. The Revenge was finally given up to 
the Navy Board, in Philadelphia, and was sold on public 
account. It is certainly competent for a government to 
consider its public vessels as it may see fit, or to put them 
in the several classes of vessels of war, I'evenue cruisers, 
packets, troop-ships, transports, or any thing else, but it 
would, at least, be a novelty, for it to deem any of its own 
active cruisers privateers. The very word would infer a 
contradiction in terms. Paul Jones speaks of his desire to 
obtain Capt. Conyngham as a member of a court martial, 
as late as 1779, and in a remonstrance against the treat- 
ment shown to Capt. Conyngham, then a prisoner of war, 
made by Congress, through its Secretary, Charles Thomp- 
son, of the date of July 1779, that officer is termed, " Gus- 
tavus Conyngham, a citizen of America, late commander 
of an armed vessel in the service of said States, and taken 



on board a private armed cutter," &c. &c. Here the dis- 
tinction between public and private armed vessels is une- 
quivocally made, and the fact, that Capt. Conyngham had 
served in both, is as clearly established, it being admitted 
that he was acting in a privateer at the precise moment 
when captured. The latter circumstance, in no degree af- 
fected the rank of Capt. Conyngham, officers of the navy 
quite frequently serving in private armed ships, after 
the first two or three years of the war, in consequence of 
there not having been public vessels to afford them 
employment. That there was some irregularity in giving 
Capt. Conyngham two commissions for the same rank, 
and bearing different dates, is true, but this arose from 
necessity; and want of regularity and system was a fault 
of the times, rather than of those who conducted the affairs 
of the American marine, during the Revolution. There 
can be no reasonable doubt that both the Surprise and the 
Revenge were public vessels of war, and that Gustavus 
Conyngham was a captain in the navy of the United States 
of America, in virtue of two commissions granted by a 
competent authority; and that, too, subsequently to the 
declaration of independence, or after the country claimed 
ail the political rights of sovereign power. 

The sensation produced among the British merchants, 
by the different cruises in the European seas, that have 
been recorded in this chapter, is stated, in the diplomatic 
correspondence of the day, to have been greater than that 
produced, in the previous war, by the squadron of the cele- 
brated Thurot. Insurance rose to an enormous height, 
and, in speaking of the cruise of Capt. Wickes in particu- 
lar, Mr. Deane observes in one of his letters to Robert 
Morris, that it "eficctually alarmed England, prevented 
the great fair at Chester, occasioned insurance to rise, and 
even deterred the English merchants from shipping goods 
in English bottoms, at any rate, so that in a few weeks, 
forty sail of French ships were loading in the Thames on 


freight; an instance never before known." In the same 
letter, this commissioner adds, — " In a word, Cunningham 
(Conyngham) by his first and second bold expeditions, is 
become the terror of all the eastern coast of England and 
Scotland, and is more dreaded than Thurot was, in the 
late war." 

Insurance, in some instances, rose as high as twenty- 
five per cent., and it is even affirmed that there was a short 
period when ten per cent, was asked between Dover and 
Calais, a distance of only seven leagues. 

Having now related the principal maritime events that 
were connected with the policy and measures of the 
commissioners in France, during the years 1776 and 1777, 
w^e shall return to the American seas, and resume the 
thread of our narrative, where it has been interrupted, or 
towards the middle of the former year. We shall shortly 
have occasion, however, to revert to the subject that w^e 
are now temporarily quilting, this quarter of the world 
having been the theatre of still more interesting incidents 
connected with the navy, at a later day. Before returning 
to the year 1776, and the more chronological order of 
events, however, one other fact may be well recorded 
here. With a view to increase the naval force of the 
country, the commissioners had caused a frigate of extra- 
ordinary size, and of peculiar armament and construction 
for that period, to be laid down at Amsterdam. This ship 
had the keel and sides of a two decker, though frigate 
built, and her main deck armament was intended to con- 
sist of thirty-two pounders. Her name was the Indien. But 
in consequence of the apprehensions of the Dutch govern- 
ment, and the jealousy of that of England, Congress was 
induced, about this time, to make an offering of the In- 
dien to Louis XVI., and she was equipped and got ready 
for sea, as a French vessel of war. In the end, the manner 
in which this frigate was brought into the service of one 
of the new American States, and her fate, will be shown. 



We shall now return nearer home, by reverting to events 
that will require the time to be carried back more than a 
twelvemonth. ^ In renewing this branch of the subject, it 
may be well to take a brief notice of the state of the regular 
marine of the country, in the spring of the year 1776, or 
soon after the law for capturing all British vessels had 
passed, and at a moment when the independence of the 
country was seriously contemplated, though not yet for- 
mally declared. 

None of the vessels ordered to be built, by the laws of the 
previous year, were yet launched, and every public cruiser 
of any size that was actually afloat had been bought into 
the service. Of these, the largest were little suited to war, 
as they were necessarily selected from among the merchant 
vessels of the country, while the smaller had been chosen 
principally from among the privateers. Copper, for ships, was 
just coming into use, and it is not believed that a single cruiser 
of the United States possessed the great advantage of having 
this material on its bottom, until a much later day. 

Philadelphia being the seat of government, the largest 
town in the country, and naturally strong in its defences, 
more than usual attention was paid to the means of pre- 
venting the enemy from getting possession of it by water. 
Thirteen galleys had been provided for this purpose, as well 
as a heavy floating battery, and several fire rafts. An officer 
of the name of Hazlewood was put in command, with the 


title of commodore, his commission having been issued by 
the State of Pennsylvania. Similar arrangements were made 
in the Chesapeake, where a gentleman of the name of Bar- 
ron, the father of two officers who have subsequently risen 
to high rank in the service, received the same commission 
from the State of Virginia. James Nicholson, who so shortly 
after became the senior captain of the navy, filled a corres- 
ponding station in the colony of Maryland, and performed 
some acts that did him credit. 

Most of the colonies had their respective cruisers at sea> 
or on their own coasts, while the ocean literally began to 
swarm with privateers from all parts of the country ; though 
the New England States took the lead in this particular 
species of warfare. Robert Morris, in one of his official 
letters of a date a little later than this precise time, remarks 
that the passion for privateering w^as so strong in this part 
of the country, that even agriculture was abandoned, in 
order to pursue it. 

The English evacuated Boston on the 17th of March of this 
year, retiring to Halifax with their fleet and army. From 
this place, they directed their movements for a short period, 
or until they were enabled, by the arrival of powerful rein- 
forcements, to choose the points which it was believed would 
be the most advantageous to possess for the future manage- 
mentof the war. Charleston, South Carolina,was soon select- 
ed for this purpose, and preparations for a descent on that coast 
were made as early as April, or immediately after the eva- 
cuation of Boston. It is not improbable that this step was 
held in view, when the British quitted New-England, as the 
occupation of that town would enable the English govern- 
ment to overrun all the southern colonies. Luckily, some 
despatches, that were intercepted by Com. Barron, of the 
Virginia State service, betrayed this design to the people of 
Charleston, who were not slow in making their preparations 
to meet the enemy. 


In furtherance of this plan, which is even said to have 
emanated from the British ministry itself, though some as- 
cribe the attack that occurred to the officers immediately 
in command, the main object being a secure footing in the 
southern States at any eligible point that might offer, a 
squadron consisting of several sail, under the orders of 
Com. Sir Peter Parker, arrived on the coast of North Caro- 
lina as early as May. Here it was joined by a fleet of 
transports from Halifax, having on board nearly three thou- 
sand troops, at the head of whom was Lieutenant General, 
afterwards Sir Henry, Clinton. 

On the 4th of June this imposing force appeared off 
Charleston Bar, and made immediate preparation for a de- 
scent and an attack by sea ; buoying out the channel for 
the latter purpose, w'ithout delay. A portion of the troops 
were landed on Long Island, which is separated from Sulli- 
van's Island by a narrow channel that is fordable in certain 
states of the tide, with a view to pass over and take a strong 
work made of palmetto logs that the Americans had erected 
for the defence of their harbour, and which it was thought 
might easily be reduced from the rear. Happily for the 
Americans, a long continuance of easterly winds drove the 
water up into the passage between the two islands, convert- 
ing the channel into a ditch that effectually kept the forces 
of Gen. Clinton from crossing. On the 7th, the frigates 
passed the bar, and on the 10th, a fifty gun ship succeeded, 
with great difficulty, in accomplishing the same object. 
The delay occasioned by the want of M'ater, and the inde- 
cision of the English general, who acted with less vigour 
than his associate in command, was eagerly improved 
by the Americans, and a considerable force collected 
in and about the town, though the fort on Sullivan's island, 
which was subsequently named after its gallant commander, 
Col. Moultrie, did not admit of much enlargement or addi- 
tional fortifying. This work contained twenty-six guns, 


eighteen and twenty-six pounders, and it was garrisoned by 
about lour hundred men, of whom more than three hundred 
were regulars. Other troops wore at hand to watch the party 
on Long Island, and to resist any attempt to land. Major 
Gen. Lee, of the United States' service, commanded in chief 
on the side of the Americans. Preparations, however, were 
made to save the garrison, though it appears to have been 
the opinion of Col. Moultrie, that he could have maintained 
the island even had the enemy crossed and landed. 

On the 28th of June, Sir Peter Parker, being joined by an- 
other fifty, and having completed his preparations, moved his 
ships to their respective stations, in order to commence the 
attack. Between ten and eleven in the forenoon, the Thun- 
der began to throw shells at the fort, to cover the approach 
of the other vessels, though without much effect. The shells 
were well directed, and many fell in the centre of the fort ; 
but they were received in a morass, and the fuses were 
extinguished. But few exploded. The Bristol 50, Sir Peter 
Parker's own ship, the Experiment 50, which had joined but 
a day or two before, both vessels of two decks, the Active 
28, and the Solebay 28, anchored in front of the fort, with 
springs on their cables; while the Acteon 28, Siren 28, and 
Sphinx 20, endeavoured to get into positions between the 
island and the town, with a view to enfilade the works, to cut 
off the communications with the main body of the American 
forces, and to intercept a retreat. The latter vessels got 
entangled among the shoals, and all three took the ground. 
In the confusion, the Sphinx and Siren ran foul of each 
other, by which accident the former lost her bowsprit. The 
Acteon stuck so fast, that all the efforts of her crew to ^et 
her afloat proved unavailing; but the other two succeeded 
in getting off in a few hours. In consequence of these mis- 
takes and accidents, the three vessels named were of little 
or no use to the British during the engagement. 

Of the vessels that came up in front, the Active 28, led. 


As she drew near, the fort fired a few guns, as if to try the 
range of its shot, but the battle did not properly begin until 
the frigate had anchored and delivered her broadside. 
The other vessels followed, when they all commenced as 
severe and well supported a fire, as was probably ever kept 
up for so long a period, by ships of their force. 

The cannonade began in earnest about twelve o'clock, 
and it was maintained throughout a long summer's after- 
noon, and, with short intervals, until nine o'clock at night, 
with undaunted resolution, on both sides. The fire of the 
ships was rapid ; that of the fort deliberate, but of deadly aim. 
The first, owing to the peculiar nature of the wood of which 
the works were composed, did but little injury, while the 
heavy shot sent from the fort, passed through and through 
the sides of the enemy's ships. At one period, the garrison 
had nearly expended its ammunition, and its fire ceased for 
so long a time, that it was the impression of the enemy it 
had evacuated the works.* A fresh supply arriving, how- 
ever, this error of the English was soon corrected, the 
fire that was renewed being, if possible, more destructive 
than that which had preceded the pause. In the heat of 
the engagement the springs of the Bristol's cable were cut. 

* Some curious errors appear in Sir Peter Parker's report of this affair, 
arising' out of the distance at which he was placed, and the confusion of 
a hot conflict. Among other things he says that large pai-ties were driven 
out of the fort by the fire of the ships, and that they were replaced by 
reinforcements from the main land. He also says that a man was hanged 
on a tree, in the rear of the fort, by a party that was entering it. Nothing 
of the sort occurred. Colonel Moultrie explains the affair of the man in 
the tree, by saying that a shot took a soldier's coat and carried it into the 
branches of a tree, where it remained suspended during the rest of the 
day. So far from any confusion or disorder having existed in the fort, when 
General Lee visited the works during the height of the action, the offi- 
cers laid aside their pipes in order to receive him with a proper respect. 
Twelve hundred shot were picked up in and about the fort, after the 
affair, besides many shells. 


and the ship swung round, with her stern to the embrasures. 
That deadly dehberate fire, which had distinguished the 
garrison throughout the day, now told with awful efiect on 
this devoted vessel. In this scene of slaughter and destruc- 
tion, the old seaman who commanded the British squadron, 
displayed the high resolution which has distinguished so 
many other officers of his name in the same service, during 
the last century. At one time, he is said to have stood almost 
alone on the quarter deck of his ship, bleeding, but deliver- 
ing his orders calmly and with discretion. By the applica- 
tion of a new spring, the vessel was extricated from this 
awkward position, and her firing was renewed. 

But no courage or perseverance on the part of the assail- 
ants could overcome the cool resolution of the garrison, 
and when night set in Sir Peter Parker made the signal for 
the ships to retire. All the vessels effected their retreat but 
the Acteon, which remained too firmly grounded to be moved. 
From this frigate the enemy withdrew her people next 
morning, when they set the ship on fire, leaving her with 
her guns loaded and colours flying. She was immedi- 
ately boarded by the Americans, who hauled down her en- 
sign, fired a few shot at the retreating ships, and left her. 
In a short time her magazine exploded. 

This was the most hotly contested engagement of the 
kind that ever took place on the American coast, and it 
goes fully to prove the important military position that ships 
cannot withstand forts, when the latter are properly con- 
structed, armed and garrisoned. General Moultrie, in his 
Memoirs, states that he commenced the battle with only 
twenty-eight rounds of powder. The supplies received 
during the fight amounted to but seven hundred pounds in 
gross, which, for guns of so heavy calibre, would scarcely 
make a total of thirty-five rounds. He is of opinion that 
the want of powder alone prevented the Americans from 
destroying the men of war. 

Vol. I.— 12 


On this occasion the Americans had only thirty-six 
killed and wounded, while the loss of the British was 
about two hundred men. The two fifty gun ships suffered 
most, the Bristol having the commodore himself, Captain 
Morris, who died of his injuries, and sixty-nine men wound- 
ed, besides forty killed. Among the former was Lord 
William Campbell, a brother of the Duke of Argyle, who 
had recently been governor of South Carolina, in which 
province he had married, and who had taken a command 
on the Bristol's lower gun deck, with a view to animate her 
men. The Experiment suffered little less than the Bristol, 
several of her ports having been knocked into one, and 
seventy-nine of her officers and crew were killed and 
wounded. Among the latter was her commander, Captain 
Scott. The frigates, attracting less of the attention of the 
garrison, escaped with comparatively little loss. A short 
time after this signal discomfiture, the British temporarily 
abandoned their design on Charleston, carrying off the 
troops, which had been perfectly useless during the opera- 

Quitting the south for the present, we will now return to 
the north, to mention a few of the lighter incidents that oc- 
curred at different points on the coast. Soon after the Bri- 
tish left Boston, a Captain Mugford obtained the use of a 
small armed vessel belonging to government, called the 
Franklin, and getting to sea, he succeeded in capturing the 
Hope, a ship that had on board fifteen hundred barrels of 
powder, and a large quantity of entrenching tools, gun car- 
riages, and other stores. This vessel was got into Boston, 
in sight of the British squadron. Attempting another cruise 
immediately afterwards. Captain Mugford lost his life in 
making a gallant and successful effort to repel some of the 
enemy's boats, which had endeavoured to carry the Frank- 
lin and a small privateer that was in company, by boarding. 
On the 6th of July, or two days after the declaration of 


independence, the Sachem, 10, Captain Robinson, sailed 
from the Delaware on a cruise. The Sachem was sloop 
rigged, and one of the lightest cru-isers in the service. 
When a few days out she fell in with an English letter of 
marque, a Jamaica-man, and captured her, after a sharp 
contest. Both vessels are said to have suffered severely in 
this affair, and to have had an unusual number of their 
people killed and wounded. Captain Robinson was now 
compelled to return to refit, and arriving at Philadelphia 
with his prize, the Marine Committee rewarded him for his 
success by giving him the command of the Andrea Doria, 
14, then recently returned from her cruise to the eastward 
under Captain Biddle, which officer had been transferred to 
the Randolph, 32. 

The Doria sailed shortly after for St. Eustatia, to bring 
home some arms; and it is said that the first salute ever 
paid to the American flag, by a regular government, was 
fired in return for the salute of the Doria, when she went 
into that island. For this indiscretion the Dutch governor 
was subsequently displaced. 

On her return passage, off the western end of Porto Rico, 
the Doria made an English vessel of war, bearing down 
upon her with a disposition to engage. On ranging up 
abeam, the enemy commenced the action by firing a broad- 
side, which was immediately returned by the Doria. A 
very sharp contest of two hours followed, when the Eng- 
lishman struck. The prize proved to be the Racehorse, 12, 
Lieut. Jones, who had been sent by his admiral to cruise 
expressly for his captors. Lieut. Jones was mortally 
wounded, and a very large proportion of the Racehorse's 
officers and crew were either killed or wounded. The 
Doria lost twelve men, including all the casualties. Captain 
Robinson and his prize got safely into Philadelphia, in due 
season. The Doria never went to sea again, being shortly 
after burned by the Americans to prevent her falling into 


the hands of the British fleet, when the evacuation of Fort 
Mifflin gave the enemy the command of the Delaware. 

Tlie galleys in the Delaware had a long and well con- 
tested struggle with the Roebuck, 44, Captain Hammond, 
and the Liverpool, 20, Captain Bellew, about the first of May 
of this year. The cannonade was handsomely conducted, 
and it resulted in driving the enemy from the river. During 
this affair the Wasp, 8, Captain Alexander, was active and 
conspicuous, cutting out a tender of the English ships from 
under their guns. 

A spirited attack was also made on the Phoenix, 44, and 
Rose, 24, i"h the Hudson, on the third of August, by six 
American galleys. The firing was heavy and well main- 
tained for two hours, both sides suffering materially. On 
the part of the galleys, eighteen men were killed and wound- 
ed, and several guns were dismounted by shot. The loss 
of the enemy is not known, though both vessels were re- 
peatedly hulled. 

But by this time the whole coast was alive with adven- 
tures of such a nature, scarcely a week passing that did not 
give rise to some incident that would have interest for the 
reader, did the limits of our work permit us to enter into 
the detail^j. Wherever an enemy's cruiser appeared, or at- 
tempted to land, skirmishes ensued ; and in some of these 
little affairs as much personal gallantry and ingenuity were 
displayed as in many of the more important combats. The 
coast of New England generally, the Chesapeake, and the 
coast of the Carolinas, were the scenes of most of these 
minor exploits, which, like all the subordinate incidents of a 
great struggle, are gradually becoming lost in the more en- 
grossing events of the war. 

October 12th, of this vear, an armed British bria;, fitted 
out by the government of the Island of Jamaica, the name 
of which has been lost, made an attempt on a small convoy 
of American vessels, ofl'Cape Nicola Mole, in the West In- 


dies, then in charge of the privateer Ranger, 18, Capt. Hud- 
son. Perceiving the aim of the enemy, Capt. Hudson ran 
under her stern, and gave her a severe raking fire. The 
action thus commenced, lasted nearly tvpo hours, when the 
Ranger boarded, and carried the brig, hand to hand. The 
English vessel, in this affair, reported thirteen men killed 
and wounded, by the raking broadside of the Ranger alone. 
In the whole, she had between thirty and forty of her peo- 
ple injured. On her return from this cruise, the Ranger 
was purchased for the navy. 

While these events were occurring on the ocean, naval 
armaments, and naval battles, took place on those lakes, 
that witnessed the evolutions of squadrons of force in the 
subsequent war between the two countries. 

In order to command the Lakes Champlain and George, 
across which lay the ancient and direct communication 
with the Canadas, flotillas had been constructed on both 
these waters, by the Americans. To resist this force, and 
with a view to co-operate with the movements of their 
troops, the British commenced the construction of vessels 
at St. Johns. Several men-of-war were laid up, in the St. 
Lawrence, and their officers and crews were transferred to 
the shipping thus built on Lake Champlain. 

The American force, in the month of August, appears to 
have consisted of the following vessels, viz: — 
Schooner, Royal Savage, 12, Wynkoop. 
Do. Enterprise, 12, Dixon. 



10, Laman, 



10, Plumer. 


3, Simmons. 


3, Mansfield. 


3, Sumner, 


3, listens. 

To this force were added several more gondolas, and a 
few row galleys. These vessels were hastily equipped, and in 



most of the instances, it is believed, that they were com- 
manded by officers in the army. Their crews were prin- 
cipally soldiers. At a later day, the American force was 
materially changed, new names were given and new vessels 
substituted, but so much confusion exists in the accounts as 
to render any formal attempt at accuracy in enumerating 
the craft, difficult, if not impossible. 

On the other hand, the British constructed a force, thai 
enabled them to take the lake in October, with the follow- 
ing vessels, viz : — 

Ship, Inflexible, 16, Lieut. Schank. 

Schodner, Maria, 14, " Starke. 

Do. Carleton, 12, " Dacres. 

Radeau, Thunderer, 14, " Scott. 

Gondola, Royal Convert, 7, " Langcroft. 
To these were added twenty gun boats, four long boats, 
each armed with a gun, and twenty-four other craft, 
loaded with stores and provisions. The metal of this 
flotilla was much superior to that of the American force, 
the Inflexible carrying twelve pounders, the schooners sixes, 
the radeau twenty-fours and twelves, and the gun boats, 
pieces that varied from eighteens down to nines. The 
British accounts admit that 796 officers and men were 
drafted from the Isis, Blonde, Triton, Garland, &c., in order 
to man these vessels, and artillerists and other troops were 
also put on board to aid in fighting them. 

October ilth. General Arnold, who commanded the 
American flotilla, was lying ofl^ Cumberland Head, when at 
eight in the morning, the enemy appeared in force, to the 
northward, turning to windward with a view to engage. 
On that day the American vessels present consisted of the 
Royal Savage, 12, Revenge, 10, Liberty, 10, Lee, cutter, 4, 
Congress, galley, 10, Washington, do., 10, Trumbull, do., 
10, and eight gondolas. Besides the changes that had been 
made since August, two or three of the vessels that were 
on the lake, were absent on other duty. The best accounts 


State the force of this flotilla, or of the vessels present, as 
follows, viz: 

Guns, 90. 
Metal, 647 lbs. 
Men, 600, including soldiers. 
On this occasion, the British brought up nearly their 
whole force, as it has been already stated, although having 
the disadvantage of being to leeward, all their vessels could 
not get into close action. Capt. Douglas, of the Isis, had 
commanded the naval movements that preceded the battles, 
and Lieut. Gen. Sir Guy Carleton, was present, in person, 
on board the Maria. The first officer, in his official report 
of the events, mentions that the Inflexible was ready to sail, 
within twenty-eight days after her keel had been laid, and 
that he had caused to be equipped, between July and Octo- 
ber, " thirty fighting vessels of different sorts and sizes, and 
all carrying cannon.'* Capt. Pringle, of the Lord Howe, 
was the officer actually in charge, however, of the British 
naval force on the lake, and he commanded in person in 
the different encounters. 

The action of the 11th of October commenced at eleven, 
in the forenoon, and by half past twelve it was warm. On 
the part of the British, the battle for a long time, was prin- 
cipally carried on by the gun-boats, which w-ere enabled to 
sweep up to windward, and which, by their weight of metal, 
were, very efficient in smooth water. The Carleton, 12, 
Lieut. Dacres, w-as much distinguished on this day, being 
the only vessel of size, that could get into close fight. After 
maintaining a hot fire for several hours, Capt. Pringle judi- 
ciously called off" the vessels that were engaged, anchoring 
just out of gun shot, with an intention to renew the attack 
in the morning. In this aflTair the Americans, who had dis- 
covered great steadiness throughout the day, had about 60 
killed and wounded, while the British acknowledged a loss 
of only 40. The Carleton, however, suffered considerably. 


Satisfied that it would be impossible, successfully, to resist 
so great a superiority of force. General Arnold got under 
way, at 2 P. M., on the 12th, with the wind fresh ahead. 
The enemy made sail in chase, as soon as his departure was 
discovered, but neither flotilla could make much progress on 
account of the gondolas, which were unable to turn to 
windward. In the evening the wind moderated, when the 
Americans gained materially on their pursuers. Another 
change occurred, however, and a singular variation in the 
currents of air, now favoured the enemy; for while the 
Americans, in the narrow part of the lake, were contending 
with a fresh southerly breeze, the English got the wind at 
north-east, which brought their leading vessels up within 
gun shot at 12, meridian, on the 13th. 

On this occasion Capt. Pringle, in the Maria, led in per- 
son, closely supported by the Inflexible and Carleton. The 
Americans were much scattered, several of their gondolas 
having been sunk and abandoned, on account of the impos- 
sibility of bringing them off'. General Arnold, in the Con- 
gress galley, covered the rear of his retreating flotilla, 
having the Washington galley, on board of which was 
Brigadier General Waterbury, in company. The latter had 
been much shattered in the fight of the 11th, and after re- 
ceiving a few close broadsides, she was compelled to strike. 
General Arnold now defended himself like a lion, in the 
Congress, occupying the three vessels of the enemy so long 
a time, as to enable six of his little fleet to escape. When 
further resistance was out of the question, he ran the Con- 
gress on shore, set fire to her, and she blew up with her 
colours flying. 

Although the result of this action was so disastrous, the 
American arms gained much credit, by the obstinacy of 
the resistance. General Arnold, in particular, covered him- 
self with glory, and his example appears to have been 
nobly followed by most of his officers and men. Even the 


enemy did justice to the resolution and skill with which the 
American flotilla was managed, the disparity in the force ren- 
dering victory out of the question from the first. The manner 
in which the Congress was fought until she had covered 
the retreat of the galleys, and the stubborn resolution with 
which she was defended until destroyed, converted the dis- 
asters of this part of the day, into a species of triumph. 

In these affairs, the Americans lost eleven vessels, priti- 
cipally gondolas, while on the part of the British, two gon- 
dolas were sunk, and one blown up. The loss of men was 
supposed to be about equal, no less than sixty of the enemy 
perishing in the gondola that blew up. This statement 
differs from the published official accounts of the English, 
but those reports, besides being meagre and general, are 
contradicted by too much testimony on the other side, to 
command our respect. 

We have had occasion, already, to mention Mr. John 
Manly, who, in command of the schooner Lee, made the 
first captures that occurred in the war. The activity and 
resolution of this officer, rendered his name conspicuous at 
the commencement of the struggle, and it followed as a 
natural consequence, that, when Congress regulated the 
rank of the captains, in 1776, he appears as one of them, 
his appointment having been made as early as April the 
17th, of this year. So highly, indeed, were his services 
then appreciated, that the name of Captain Manly stands 
second on the list, and he was appointed to the command 
of the Hancock, 32. When Capt. Manly was taken into the 
navy, the Lee was given to Capt. Waters, and was present 
at the capture of the three transports off Boston, as has been 
already stated. This little schooner, the name of which 
will ever remain associated with American history, in con- 
sequence of her all important captures in 1775, appears to 
have continued actively employed, as an iii-shore cruiser, 
throughout this year, if not later, in the pay of the new 


State of Massachusetts. Capt. Waters, like his prede- 
cessor, Capt. Manly, was received into the navy, on the 
recommendation of Washington, a commission to that 
effect having been granted by Congress, March 18th, 1777, 

Much enterprise and gallantry were exhibited in the en- 
counters between the American privateers and heavily 
armed merchant-ships of the enemy, at this period, and 
England appears to have been so completely taken by sur- 
prise, that they were of almost daily occurrence. The dif- 
ferent colonies, also, fitted out more cruisers, principally 
vessels purchased for that purpose, and some of them were 
commanded by officers who also bore commissions in the 
service of Congress, or of the United States of America, as 
the confederation was called after the declaration of inde- 
pendence. South Carolina, on the 16th February, 1776, 
had three of these vessels; a ship of 26 nine pounders; a 
brig of 18 sixes; and a schooner of 12 sixes. One of these 
cruisers drove a sloop of war from her convoy, and cap- 
tured four transports loaded with stores. Massachusetts 
was never without several cruisers, and Pennsylvania, 
from time to time, had more or less. Virginia had her little 
marine, too, as has been already mentioned, though its 
attention was principally directed to the defence of her 
numerous rivers and bays. 

Some of the English accounts of this period slate that 
near a hundred privateers had been fitted out of New-Eng- 
land, alone, in the first two years of the war, and the num- 
ber of seamen in the service of the crown, employed against 
the new States of America, was computed at 26,000. 

The colonies obtained many important supplies, colonial 
as well as military, and even manufactured articles of ordi- 
nary use, by means of their captures, scarce a day passing 
that vessels of greater or less value did not arrive in some 
one of the ports of their extensive coast. By a list published 
in the Remembrancer, an English work of credit, it appears 


that 342 sail of English vessels had been taken by American 
cruisers in 1776, of which number 44 had been recaptured, 
18 had been released, and 4 were burned. 

On the other hand, the Americans met with their disas- 
ters; many privateers were taken, principally by the fast- 
sailing frigates of the enemy, and valuable merchantmen 
fell into their hands, from time to time. In short, the war 
became very destructive to both parties, in a commercial 
sense, though it was best supported by the colonists, as the 
rise in colonial produce, in a measure, compensated them 
for their losses. 



The year 1777 opened with new prospects on the Ame- 
rican cause. The hardy movements of Washington in 
New Jersey had restored the drooping confidence of the 
nation, and great efforts were made to follow up the advan- 
tage that had been so gloriously obtained. Most of the 
vessels authorized by the laws of 1775 had been built and 
equipped, during the year 1776, and America may now be 
said, for the first time, to have something like a regular 
navy, although the service was still, and indeed continued 
to be throughout the war, deficient in organization, system 
and unity. It could scarcely be deemed a regular service, 
at all, for after the first eflx)rt, connected with its creation, 
the business of repairing losses, of increasing the force, and 
of perfecting that which had been so hastily commenced, 
was either totally neglected, or carried on in a manner so 
desultory and inefficient, as soon to leave very little of 
method or order in the marine. As a consequence, officers 
were constantly compelled to seek employment in private 
armed ships or to remain idle, and the discipline did not 
advance as would otherwise have been the case, during the 
heat of an active war. To the necessities of the nation, 
however, and not to its foresight and prudence, must be at- 
tributed this state of things, the means of raising and main- 
taining troops being obtained with difficulty, and the cost of 
many ships entirely exceeding its resources. It is probable 
that had not the public armed vessels been found useful in 


conveying, as well as in convoying the produce by means of 
which the loans obtained in Europe were met, and perhaps 
indispensable in keeping up the diplomatic communica- 
tions with that quarter of the world, the navy would have 
been suffered to become extinct, beyond its emphoyment in 
the bays and rivers of the country. This, however, is anti- 
cipating events, for at the precise moment in the incidents of 
the war, at which we have now arrived, the exertions of the 
republic were perhaps at their height, as respects its naval 

One of the first, if not the very first of the new vessels 
that got to sea, was the Randolph 32, It has been said that 
Capt. Biddle had been appointed to this ship, on his return 
from his successful cruise in the Andrea Doria 14. The 
Randolph was launched at Philadelphia in the course of the 
season of 1776, and sailed on her first cruise early in 1777. 
Discovering a defect in his masts, as well as a disposition to 
mutiny in his people, too many of whom were volunteers 
from among the prisoners, Capt. Biddle put into Charleston 
for repairs. As soon as the ship was refitted, he sailed 
again, and three days out, he fell in with and captured four 
Jamaica-men, one of which, the True Briton, had an arma- 
ment of 20 guns. With these prizes, the Randolph returned 
to Charleston, in safety. Here she appears to have been 
blockaded, by a superior English force, during the remain- 
der of the season. The state authorities of South Carolina 
were so much pleased with the zeal and deportment of 
Capt. Biddle, and so much elated with their own success 
against Sir Peter Parker, that they now added four small 
vessels of war of their own, the Gen. Moultrie 18, the Polly 
16, the Notre Dame 16, and the Fair American 14, to his 
command, with which vessels i i company, and under his 
orders, Capt. Biddle sailed in quest of the British ships, the 
Carrysfort 32, the Perseus 20, the Hinchinbrook 16, and a 
privateer, which had been cruising oflf Charleston for some 

Vol. I.— 13 


time. The American squadron, however, had been detained 
so long by foul winds, that no traces of the enemy were to 
be discovered when it got into the offing. For the further 
history of the Randolph, we are unhappily indebted to the 
British accounts. 

By a letter from Capt. Vincent, of his Britannic Majesty's 
ship Yarmouth 64, dated March 17th, 1778, we learn that, 
on the 7th of that month, while cruising to the eastward of 
Barbadoes, he made six sail to the south-west, standing on 
a wind. The Yarmouth bore down on the chases, which 
proved to be two ships, three brigs, and a schooner. About 
nine o'clock in the evening she succeeded in ranging up on 
the weather quarter of the largest and leading vessel of the 
strangers; the ship next in size, being a little astern and to 
leeward. Hoisting her own colours, the Yarmouth ordered 
the ship near her to show her ensign, when the American 
flag was run up, and the enemy poured in a broadside. 
A smart action now commenced, and was maintained with 
vigour for twenty minutes, when the stranger blew up. The 
two ships were so near at the time, that many fragments of 
the wreck struck the Yarmouth, and, among other things, 
an American ensign, rolled up, was blown in upon her fore- 
castle. This flag was not even singed. The vessels in 
company now steered different ways, and the Yarmouth 
gave chase to two, varying her own course for that pur- 
pose. But her sails had suffered so much in the short action, 
that the vessels chased soon run her out of sight. In this 
action the Yarmouth, by the report of her own commander, 
had 5 men killed and 12 wounded. On the 12th, while 
cruising near the same place, a piece of wreck was disco- 
vered, with four men on it, who were making signals for 
relief These men were saved, and when they got on board 
the Yarmouth, they reported themselves as having belonged 
to the United States' ship Randolph 32, Capt. Biddie, the 
vessel that had blown up in action with the Englishman on 


the night of the 7th of the same month. They had been 
floating ever since on the piece of wreck, without any other 
sustenance than a httle rain water. They stated that they 
were a month out of Charleston. 

We regard with admiration the steadiness and spirit with 
which, according to the account of his enemy, Capt. Biddle 
commenced this action, against a force so vastly his supe- 
rior; and, although victory was almost hopeless, even had 
all his vessels behaved equally well with his own ship, we 
find it difficult, under the circumstances, to suppose that this 
gallant seaman did not actually contemplate carrying his 
powerful antagonist, most probably by boarding.* 

• Nicholas Biddle was descended from one of those respectable fami- 
lies that first peopled West -Jersey, in the last quarter of the seventeenth 
century. He was the sixth son of William Biddle, of that colony, who 
had removed to the city of Philadelphia previously to his birth, and 
where this child was born, in 1750. Young- Biddle went to sea at thirteen, 
and from that early age appears to have devoted himself to the calling 
with ardour and perseverance. After several voyages, and suffering much 
in the way of shipwreck, he went to England, and by means of letters, 
was rated as a midshipman on board a British sloop of war, commanded 
by Captain, afterwards Admiral, Sterling. It is a singular fact in the life 
of this remarkable young man, that he subsequently entered on board one 
of the vessels sent towards the North Pole, under the Hon. Capt. Phipps, 
where he found Nelson, a volunteer like himself. Both were made cock- 
swains by the commodore. This was in 1773, and the difficulties with the 
American colonies were coming to a head. In 1775, Mr. Biddle returned 
home, prepared to share his country's fortunes, in weal or woe. 

The first employment of Mr. Biddle, in the public service, was in com- 
mand of a galley, called the Camden, fitted out by the colony for the de- 
fence of the Delaware. From this station he was transferred to the service 
of Congress, or put into the regular marine, as it then existed, and given 
the command of the brig Andrea Doria 14. In this vessel he does not 
appear to have had much share in the combat with the Glasgow, though 
present in the squadron, and in the expedition against New-Providence. 
His successful cruise to the eastward, in the Doria, has been related in the 
body of the work, and on his return he was appointed to the Randolph 32, 
the vessel in which he perished. 

In the action with the Yarmouth, Capt. Biddle was severely wounded in 


In March, 1777, the United States' brig Cabot, Capt.. 
Olney, was chased ashore, on the coast of Nova Scotia, by 
the British frigate Milford, which pressed the Cabot so hard 
that there was barely time to get the people out of the brig. 
Capt. Olney and his crew retreated into the woods, and 
subsequently they made their escape by seizing a schooner, 
in which they arrived safe at home. The enemy, after a 
long trial, got the Cabot off, and she was subsequently taken 
into the British navy. 

Shortly after this loss, or on the 19th of April, the Trum- 
bull 28, Capt. Saltonstall, fell in with, off New York, and 
captured, after a smart action, two armed transports, with 
stores of value on board. In this affair the enemy suffered 
severely in casualties, and the Trumbull herself had 7 men 
killed and 8 wounded. 

The Hancock 32, Capt. Manly, with the Boston 24, Capt. 
Hector McNiel, in company, fell in with the Rainbow 44, 
Sir George Collier, accompanied by the Victor brig. It 
would seem that Capt. Manly had at first intended to en- 
gage the enemy, but the Boston making sail to escape, 
the Hancock was compelled to imitate her example. The 

the thigh, and he is said to have been seated in a chair, with the surgeon 
examining his hurt, when his ship blew up. His death occurred at the 
early age of twenty-seven, and he died unmarried, though engaged, at the 
time, to a lady in Charleston. 

There is little question that Nicholas Biddle would have risen to high 
rank and great consideration, had his life been spared. Ardent, ambi- 
tious, fearless, intelligent, and persevering, he had all the qualities of a 
great naval captain, and, though possessing some local family influence 
perhaps, he rose to the station he filled at so early an age, by personal 
merit. For so short a career, scarcely any other had been so brilliant; for 
though no victories over regular cruisers accompanied his exertions, he 
had ever been successful until the fatal moment when he so gloriously 
fell. His loss was greatly regretted in the midst of the excitement and 
vicissitudes of a revolution, and can scarcely be appreciated by those who 
do not understand the influence that such a character can produce on a 
small and infant service. 


Rainbow pursued the latter, when that ship, after a long and 
arduous chase, in which much seamanship was displayed 
on both sides, was compelled to surrender. Capt. Manly 
was tried for the loss of his ship, and honourably acquitted, 
while Capt. McNiel was dismissed the service for quitting 
the Hancock. The Hancock had previously captured the 
British frigate Fox 28, after a sharp contest, which vessel 
was in company on this occasion, and was recaptured by the 
Flora 32, though we regret that it is not in our power to 
furnish any authentic details of the action in which the Fox 
was taken. 

The occupation of Philadelphia by the British army in this 
year, wrought a material change in the naval arrangements 
of the country. Up to this time, the Delaware had been a 
safe place of retreat for the different cruisers, and ships had 
been constructed on its banks in security and to advantage. 
The largest town in the United States, Philadelphia offered 
unusual facilities for such objects, and many public and pri- 
vate armed cruisers had been equipped at her wharves, pre- 
viously to the appearance of the British forces, under Sir 
William Howe. That important event completely altered 
this state of things, and the vessels that were in the stream 
at the time, were compelled to move higher up the river, or 
to get to sea in the best manner they could. Unfortunately, 
several of the ships constructed, or purchased, under the 
laws of 1775 were not in a situation to adopt the latter ex- 
pedient, and they were carried to different places that were 
supposed to offer the greatest security. 

Asa part of the American vessels and galleys were above, 
and a part below the town, the very day after reaching the 
capital, the English commenced the erection of batteries to 
intercept the communications between them. Aware of 
the consequences, the Delaware 24, Capt. Alexander, and 
Andrea Doria 14, seconded by some other vessels, belonging 
to the navy, and to the state of Pennsylvania, moved in front 



of these works, and opened a cannonade, with a view lo 
destroy them. The Delaware was so unfortunately placed, 
that when the tide fell, she took the ground, and her guns 
becan:ie unmanageable. Some field pieces were brought to 
bear on her, while in this helpless situation, and she neces- 
sarily struck. The other vessels were compelled to retire. 
As the command of the river was now indispensable to 
the British, they turned their attention at once to the de- 
struction of the American works below the town. An 
unsuccessful land attack was made by the Hessians, on 
Red Bank, and this was soon followed by another on Fort 
Mitflin, which, as it was entrusted to the shipping, comes 
more properly within our observation. With a view to effect 
the reduction, or abandonment of Fort Mifflin, the British 
assembled a squadron of ships of a light draught of water, 
among which was the Augusta 64, which had been partially 
stripped, and fitted in some measure as a floating battery. 
As soon as the troops advanced against Red Bank, as stated, 
the ships began to move, but some chevaux de frise anchored 
in the river, had altered its channel, and the Augusta, and 
the Merlin sloop of war, got fast, in unfavourable positions. 
Some firing between the other vessels and the American 
works and galleys now took place, but was soon put a stop 
to by the approach of night. The next day the action was 
renewed with spirit, the Roebuck 44, Isis 32, Pearl 32, and 
Liverpool 28, being present, in addition to the Augusta and 
Merlin. Fire ships were ineffectually employed by the 
Americans, but the cannonade became heavy. In the 
midst of the firing, it is said, that some pressed hay, which 
had been secured to the quarter of the Augusta, to render 
her shot-proof, took fire, and the ship was soon in flames. 
It now became necessary to withdraw the other vessels, in 
order to escape the effects of the explosion, in so narrow a 
passage, and the attack was abandoned. The Augusta 
blew up, and the Merlin having been set fire to by the 


British, shared the same fate. A number of the crew of the 
Augusta were lost in that ship, the conflagration being so 
rapid as to prevent their removal. A second and better 
concerted attack, however, shortly after, compelled the 
Americans to evacuate the works, when the enemy got 
command of the river from the capes to the town. This 
state of things induced the Americans to destroy the few 
sea vessels that remained below Philadelphia, among which 
were the U. S. Brig Andrea Doria 14, and schooner Wasp 
8, and it is believed the Hornet 10, though the galleys, by 
following the Jersey shore, were enabled to escape above. 

While these important movements were occurring in the 
middle states, the Raleigh, a fine twelve pounder frigate, that 
had been constructed in New Hampshire, under the law of 
1775, was enabled to get to sea for the first time. She was 
commanded by Capt. Thompson, the officer who appears 
as sixth on the Hne, and sailed in company with the Alfred 
24, Capt. Hinman. These two ships went to sea, short of 
men, bound to France, where military stores were in waiting 
to be transported to America. 

The Raleigh and Alfred had a good run off the coast, and 
they made several prizes of little value during the first few 
days of their passage. On the 2d of Sept. they overtook 
and captured a snow, called the Nancy, which had been 
left by the outward bound Windward Island fleet, the 
previous day. Ascertaining from his prisoners the position 
of the West Indiamen, Capt. Thompson made sail in chase. 
The fleet was under the charge of the Camel, Druid, Weasel 
and Grasshopper, the first of which is said to have had an 
armament of twelve pounders. The following day, or Sept. 
3d, 1777, the Raleigh made the convoy from her mast heads, 
and by sunset was near enough to ascertain that there were 
sixty sail, as well as the positions of the men of war. Capt. 
Thompson had got the signals of the fleet from his prize, 
and he now signalled the Alfred, as if belonging to the con- 


voy. After dark he spoke his consort, and directed her 
commander to keep near him, it being his intention to run 
in among the enemy, and lay the commodore aboard. At this 
time, the two American ships were to windward, but nearly 

In the course of the night the wind shifted to the north- 
ward, and the convoy hauled by the wind, bringing the 
American ships to leeward. At daylight the wind had 
freshened, and it became necessary to carry more sail than 
the Alfred, (a tender-sided ship) could bear. Here occurred 
one of those instances of the unfortunate consequences which 
must always follow the employment of vessels of unequal 
qualities in the same squadron, or the employment of officers 
not trained in the same high school. The Alfred would not 
bear her canvass, and while the Raleigh fetched handsomely 
into the fleet, under double-reefed topsails, the former fell to 
leeward more than a league. Capt. Thompson did not dare 
to shorten sail, lest his character might be suspected, and 
despairing of being supported by the Alfred, he stood boldly 
in among the British ships alone, and hove his ship to, in 
order to permit the merchantmen astern to draw more ahead 
of him. 

When his plan was laid, Capt. Thompson filled away, and 
stood directly through the convoy, luffing up towards the 
vessel of war that was most to windward. In doing this he 
spoke several of the merchantmen, to which he gave orders 
how to steer, as if belonging himself to the fleet, repeating 
all the commodore's signals. Up to this moment the Raleigh 
appears to have escaped detection, nor had she had any 
signs of preparation about her, as her guns were housed, 
and her ports lowered. 

Having obtained a weatherly position, the Raleigh now 
ran along side of the vessel of war, and when within pistol 
shot, she hauled up her courses, run out her guns, set her 
ensign, and commanded the enemy to strike. So completely 


was this vessel taken by surprise, that the order threw her 
into great confusion, and even her sails got aback. The 
Raleigh seized this favourable moment to pour in a broad- 
side, which was feebly returned. The enemy were soon 
driven from their guns, and the Raleigh fired twelve broad- 
sides into the English ship in twenty minutes, scarcely re- 
ceiving a shot in return. A heavy swell rendered the aim 
uncertain, but it was evident that the British vessel suffered 
severely, and this the more so, as she was of inferior force. 

A squall had come on, and at first it shut in the two ships 
engaged. When it cleared away, the convoy was seen 
steering in all directions, in the utmost confusion, but the 
vessels of war, with several heavy well armed West India- 
men, tacked and hauled up for the Raleigh, leaving no doubt 
of their intentions to engage. The frigate lay by her adver- 
sary until the other vessels were so near, that it became 
absolutely necessary to quit her, and then she ran to lee- 
ward and joined the Alfred. Here she shortened sail, and 
waited for ihe enemy to come down, but it being near dark, 
the British commodore tacked and hauled in among his con- 
voy again. The Raleigh and Alfred kept near this fleet 
for several days, but no provocation could induce the ves- 
sels of war to come out of it, and it was finally abandoned. 

The ship engaged by the Raleigh, proved to be the 
Druid 20. She was much cut up, and the official report of 
her commander, made her loss six killed, and twenty-six 
wounded. Of the latter, five died soon after the action, and 
among the wounded was Capt. Carteret. The Druid was 
unable to pursue the voyage and returned to England. 

In this affair, Capt. Thompson discovered a proper spirit, 
for he might easily have cut out of the fleet half a dozen 
merchantmen, but he appears to have acted on the princi- 
ple that vessels of war should first seek vessels of war. The 
Raleigh had three men killed and wounded in the engage- 
ment, and otherwise sustained but little injury. 


The commerce of England suffered a loss of 467 sail of 
merchantmen, during the year 1777, some of which were of 
great value, though the government kept a force of about 
seventy sail of men of war on the American coast alone. 
Many American privateers fell into their hands however, 
and a scarcity of men began to be felt, in consequence of 
the numbers that were detained in the English prisons. It 
was on the 14th of June of this year, that Congress finally 
established the stars and stripes as the flag of the nation. 

During this year, Bushnel made several unsuccessful at- 
tempts to blow up the ships of the enemy by means of tor- 
pedoes, a species of warfare that it can hardly be regretted 
has so uniformly failed. 



The year 1778 opened with cheerful prospects for the 
great cause of American Independence. The capture of 
Burgoyne, and the growing discontents in Europe, render- 
ing a French alHance, and a European war, daily more 
probable. These results, in truth, soon after followed, and 
from that moment, the entire policy of the United States, as 
related to its marine, was changed. Previous to this great 
event, Congress had often turned its attention towards the 
necessity of building or purchasing vessels of force, in 
order to interrupt that absolute control which the enemy 
possessed, in the immediate waters of the country, and 
which even superseded the necessity of ordinary costly 
blockades, as two or three heavy frigates had been able, at 
any time since the commencement of the struggle, to com- 
mand the entrance of the different bays and sounds. 

The French fleet, soon after the war between England 
and France broke out, appeared in the American seas, and, 
in a measure, relieved the country from a species of war- 
fare that was particularly oppressive to a nation that was 
then so poor, and which possessed so great an extent of 

As the occupation of New York and Philadelphia pre- 
vented several of the new frigates from getting to sea at 
all, or occasioned their early loss. Congress had endea- 
voured to repair these deficiencies by causing other vessels 
to be built, or purchased, at points where they would be out 
of danger from any similar misfortune. Among these ships 


were the Alliance 32, Confederacy 32, Deane 32, (afterwards 
called the Hague,) and Queen of France 28, all frigate-built, 
and the Ranger, Gates, and Saratoga sloops of war. To 
these were added a few other vessels, that were either 
bought, or borrowed in Europe, which will be mentioned in 
their proper places. The Alliance, which, as her name in- 
dicates, was launched about the time the treaty was made 
with France, was the favourite ship of the American navy, 
and it might be added, of the American nation, during the 
war of the Revolution; filling some such space in the public 
mind, as has since been occupied by her more celebrated 
successor, the Constitution. She was a beautiful and an 
exceedingly fast ship, but, as will be seen in the sequel, was 
rendered less efficient than she might otherwise have 
proved, by the mistake of placing her under the command 
of a French officer, who had entered the service, with a 
view to pay a compliment to the new allies of the republic. 
This unfortunate selection produced mutinies, much discon- 
tent among the officers, and, in the end, grave irregulari- 
ties. The Alliance was built at Salisbiny, in Massachu- 
setts, a place that figured as a building station, even in the 
seventeenth century. 

The naval operations of the year open with a gallant 
little exploit, achieved by the United States sloop Provi- 
dence 12, Capt. Rathbone. This vessel carried only four 
pounders, and, at the time, is said to have had a crew of but 
fifty men on board. Notwithstanding this triffing force, 
Capt. Rathbone made a descent on the Island of New Provi- 
dence, at the head of twenty-five men. He was joined by 
a few American prisoners, less than thirty, it is said, and, 
while a privateer of sixteen guns, with a crew of near 50 
men, lay in the harbour, he seized the forts, got possession 
of the stores, and effectually obtained command of the 
place. All the vessels in port, six in number, fell into his 
hands, and an attempt of the armed population to overpower 


him, was put down, by a menace to burn the town. A 
British sloop of war appeared off the harbour, while the 
Americans were in possession, but, ascertaining that an 
enemy was occupying the works, she retired, after having 
been fired on. The following day, the people assembled in 
such force, as seriously to threaten the safety of his party 
and vessel, and Capt. Rathbone caused the guns of the fort 
to be spiked, removed all the ammunition and small arms, 
burned two of his prizes, and sailed with the remainder, 
without leavinjT a man behind him. In this daring little 
enterprise, the Americans held the place two entire days. 

Capt. John Barry, whose spirited action off the capes of 
Virginia, in the Lexington 14, has been mentioned, and 
whose capture of the Edward, on that occasion, is worthy 
of note, as having been the first of any vessel of war, that 
was ever made bv a regular American cruiser in battle, 

»/ CD ' 

was placed on the regulated list of October, 1776, as the 
seventh captain, and appointed to (he command of the 
Effingham 28, then building at Philadelphia. The Effing- 
ham was one of the vessels that had been taken up the 
Delaware, to escape from the British army; and this gallant 
ofiicer, wearied with a life of inactivity, planned an expedi- 
tion down the stream, in the hope of striking a blow at 
some of the enemy's vessels anchored off, or below the 
town. Manning four boats, he pulled down with the tide. 
Some alarm was given when opposite the town, but dashing 
ahead, the barges got past without injury. Off Port Penn 
lay an enemy's schooner of ten guns, and four transports, 
with freiarht for the British army. The schooner was 
boarded and carried, without loss, and the transports fell 
into the hands of the Americans also. Two cruisers ap- 
pearing soon after in the river, however, Capt. Barry des- 
troyed his prizes, and escaped by land, without losing a 

Following the order of time, we now return to the 

Vol. I.— 14 


movements of the two ships under the command of Capt. 
Thompson, the Raleigh and the Alfred. After taking in 
military stores in France, these vessels sailed for America, 
making a circuit to the southward, as was then quite usual 
with cruisers thus employed, in order to avoid the enemy's 
vessels of force, and to pick up a few prizes by the way. 
They sailed from I'Orient in February, 1778, and on the 
9th of March, were chased by the British ships Ariadne 
and Ceres, which succeeded in getting along side of the 
Alfred, and engaging her, while the Raleigh was at a dis- 
tance. Believing a contest fruitless, after exchanging a few 
broadsides, the Alfred struck, and the Raleigh, though hard 
pressed, in the chase that succeeded, made her escape. 
Capt. Thompson was blamed in the journals of the day, 
for not aiding his consort on this occasion; and he appears 
to have been superseded in the command of his ship, to 
await the result of a trial. 

The British accounts state the force of the Alfred, at the 
time of her capture, at twenty nine-pounders, which will 
give us a more accurate idea of the real character of a 
vessel that filled so prominent a situation in the navy, at its 
formation. Twenty nine-pounders, would not probably 
raise her above the rate of an English twenty gun ship, 
even allowing her to have had a few sixes on her quarter- 
deck and forecastle; and this, probably, was the true class 
of both the Alfred and Columbus, ships that figure as 
twenty-eights, and even as thirty-twos, in some of the earlier 
accounts of the war. But, it should always be remembered, 
that a disposition to exaggerate the power of the country, 
by magnifying the force of the ships, a practice peculiar to 
an infant and aspiring ])eople, was a fault of the popular ac- 
counts of not only the Revolution, but of a still later period 
in the history of the United States. 

Among the frigates ordered by the act of 1775, was one 
called the Virginia 28, which had been laid down in Mary- 


land. To tliis vessel was assigned Capt. James Nicholson, 
the senior captain on the list, an officer who had already- 
discovered conduct and spirit in an affair with one of the 
enemy's tenders off Annapolis, while serving in the local 
marine of Maryland. The great embarrassments which 
attended most of the public measures of the day, and a vigi- 
lant blockade, prevented the Virginia from getting to sea, 
until the spring of this year, when, having received her crew 
and equipments, she made the attempt on the 30th of March. 

The frigate appears to have followed another vessel down 
the Chesapeake, under the impression that the best pilot of 
the bay was in charge of her. About three in the morning, 
however, she struck on the middle ground, over which she 
beat vs^ith the loss of her rudder. The ship was immedi- 
ately anchored. Day discovered two English vessels of 
war at no great distance, when Capt. Nicholson got ashore 
v/ith his papers, and the ship was taken possession of by 
the enemy. An inquiry, instituted by Congress, acquitted 
Capt. Nicholson of blame. The peculiarity of a com- 
mander's abandoning his vessel under such circumstances, 
gave rise to some comments at the time, but the result ren- 
ders it probable that considerations of importance, that 
were not generally known, induced the step. A trial was 
not deemed necessary, and Capt. Nicholson subsequently 
fought two of the most remarkable combats of the war, 
though successful in neither. 

But merit in warfare is not always to be measured by 
success, and least of all, in a profession that is liable to so 
many accidents and circumstances that lie beyond the con- 
trol of man. An unexpected shift of wind, the sudden loss 
of an important spar, or the unfortunate injury occasioned 
by a single shot, may derange the best devised schemes, or 
enfeeble the best appointed ship; and it is in repairing these 
unexpected damages, in the steadiness, and order, and sub- 
mission to authority, with which casualities are met, as well 


as in the greater effect of their attack, that the trained offi- 
cers and men manifest their vast superiority over the hurried 
and confused movements of those who are wanting in these 
high qualities of disciphne. 

Leaving the ocean for a moment, we will now turn our 
attention to the proceedings of the enemy again, in the De- 
laware. Early in May, an expedition left Philadelphia, 
under the command of Major Maitland, and ascended that 
river with a view to destroy the American shipping, which 
had been carried up it to escape the invading and success- 
ful army of the enemy. The force consisted of the schoon- 
ers Viper and Pembroke; the Hussar, Cornwallis, Ferret 
and Philadelphia galleys; four gun boats, and eighteen flat 
boats, under the orders of Capt. Henry, of the navy. The 
2nd battalion of the light-infantry, and two field pieces 
composed the troops. Ascending the stream to a point 
above Bristol, the troops landed, under cover of the guns of 
the flotilla, without opposition. Indeed, there does not ap- 
pear to have been any force to oppose the British on this 
occasion, or, if any, one of so little moment, as to put a 
serious contest out of the question. The Washington 32, 
and Efhngham 28, both of which had been built at Phil- 
adelphia, but had never got to sea, were burned. These 
ships had not yet received their armaments. At this 
point several other vessels were destroyed, privateers and 
merchantmen, and the party proceeded to Croswell creek, 
where the privateer Sturdy Beggar 18, and eight sail of 
other vessels were set on fire and consumed. The next 
day the British ascended to Bile's Island, and burned six 
more craft, four of which w"ere pierced for guns. On des- 
cending by land to Bristol, a ship and a brig were destroy- 
ed. After this, four new ships, a new brig, and an old 
schooner were burned by the galleys, the party returning to 
Philadelphia that night, without losing a man. By this 
coup de main, the Americans lost two more of the frigates 


authorized by the law of 1775; and though it is not now 
easy to ascertain facts so minute, it is believed that two or 
three of the smallest of the cruisers that appear on the list 
of the navy, at its formation, were destroyed by the Eng- 
lish on this occasion. The Hornet, Sachem, Independence 
and Musquito, are not to be traced subsequently to this 
period, and if not burned when this expedition occurred, it 
is probable that they all were burned with the Wasp, in 
1777. To compensate for these losses, not a single frigate 
of the enemy had yet been brought into port, though the 
Fox 28, had been captured. 

About this time the celebrated Paul Jones, whose conduct 
as a lieutenant in the Alfred, and in command of that ship, 
as well as in that of the Providence 12, had attracted much 
attention, appeared in the European seas in command of the 
Ranger 18. So cautious had the American government got 
to be, in consequence of the British remonstrances, that 
orders were given to the Ranger to conceal her armament 
while in France. This vessel, which is described as having 
been both crank and slow, was not thought worthy of so 
good an officer, by the marine committee, and it had pro- 
mised him a better ship; but the exigencies of the service 
did not admit of its fulfilment of the engagement, and Capt. 
Jones, after a long delay, had been induced to" take this 
command, in preference to remaining idle. It is said, how- 
ever, that he came to Europe in the hope of obtaining the 
Indien, but that vessel had been presented to the King of 
France previously to his arrival. 

After going into Brest to refit, Capt. Jones sailed from 
that port on the 10th of April, 1778, on a cruise in the Irish 
Channel. As the Ranger passed along the coast, she made 
several prizes, and getting as high as Whitehaven, Capt. 
Jones determined, on the 17th, to make an attempt to burn 
the colliers that were crowded in that narrow port. The 
weather, however, prevented the execution of this project, 



and the ship proceeded as high as Glentine bay, on the coast 
of Scotland, where she chased a revenue vessel without 

Quitting the Scottish coast, the Ranger next crossed to 
Ireland, and arriving off Carrickfergus, she was boarded by- 
some fishermen. From these men Capt. Jones ascertained 
that a ship which lay anchored in the roads was the Drake 
sloop of war, Capt. Burden, a vessel of a force about equal 
to that of the Ranger, and he immediately conceived apian 
to run in and take her. Preparations were accordingly 
made, and darkness was only waited for, to make the 

It blew fresh in the night, but when the proper hour had 
arrived, the Ranger stood for the roads, having accurately 
obtained the bearings of her enemy. The orders of Capt. 
Jones were to overlay the cable of the Drake, and to bring 
up on her bows, where he intended to secure his own ship, 
and abide the result. By some mistake, the anchor was not 
let go in season, and instead of fetching up in the desired 
position, the Ranger could not be checked until she had 
drifted on the quarter of, and at distance of half a cable's 
length from, the Drake. Perceiving that his object was de- 
feated, Capt. Jones ordered the cable to be cut, when the 
ship drifted astern, and, making sail, she hauled by the wind 
again as soon as possible. The gale increased, and it was 
with difficulty that the Ranger weathered the land, and re- 
gained the channel. 

Capt. Jones now stood over to the English coast, and be- 
lieving the time more favourable, he attempted to execute 
his former design on the shipping in the port of Whitehaven. 
Two parties landed in the night ; the forts were seized and 
the guns were spiked; the few look-outs that were in the 
works being confined. In effecting this duty, Capt. Jones 
was foremost in person, for, having once sailed out of the 
port, he was familiar with the situation of the place. An 


accident common to both the parties into which the expedi- 
tion had been divided, came near defeating the enterprise in 
the outset. They had brought candles in lanterns, for the 
double purpose of lights and torches, and, now that they 
were about to be used as the latter, it was found that they were 
all consumed. As the day was appearing, the party under 
Mr. Wallingford, one of the lieutenants, took to its boat 
without effecting any thing, while Capt. Jones sent to a de- 
tached building and obtained a candle. He boarded a large 
ship, kindled a fire in her steerage, and by placing a barrel 
of tar over the spot, soon had the vessel in flames. As this 
ship lay in the midst of more than a hundred others, high 
and dry, the tide being out, Capt. Jones flattered himself with 
the hope of signally revenging the depredations that the 
enemy had so freely committed on the American coast. 
But, by this time, the alarm was effectually given, and the 
entire population appeared on the adjacent high ground, or 
were seen rushing in numbers towards the shipping. The 
latter were easily driven back by a show of force, and re- 
maining a sufficient time, as he thought, to make sure of an 
extensive conflagration, Capt. Jones took to his boats and 
pulled towards his ship. Some guns were fired on the re- 
tiring boats without effect ; but the people of the place suc- 
ceeded in extinguishing the flames before the mischief be- 
came very extensive. 

The hardihood and character of this attempt produced a 
great alarm along the whole English coast, and from that 
hour, even to this, the name of Jones is associated, in the 
minds of the people of Whitehaven, with audacity, destruc- 
tion, and danger. 

While cruising, with the utmost hardihood, as it might be 
in the very heart of the British waters, with the coasts of 
the three kingdoms frequently in view at the same moment, 
Capt. Jones, who was a native of the country, decided to 
make an attempt to seize the Earl of Selkirk, who had a seat 


on St. Mary's Isle, near the point where the Dee flows into 
the cliannel. A party landed, and got possession of the house, 
but its master was absent. The officer in command of the 
boats so far forgot himself as to bring away a quantity of 
the family plate, although no other injury was done, or any 
insult offered. This plate, the value of which did not exceed 
a hundred pounds, was subsequently purchased of the crew 
by Capt. Jones, and returned to Lady Selkirk, with a letter 
expressive of his regrets at the occurrence. 

After the landing mentioned, the Ranger once more steered 
towards Ireland, Capt. Jones still keeping in view his design 
on the Drake, and arrived off Carrickfergus again, on the 
24th. The commander of the latter ship sent out an officer, in 
one of his boats, to ascertain the character of the stranger. 
By means of skilful handling, the Ranger was kept end-on 
to the boat, and as the officer in charge of the latter could 
merely see the ship's stern, although provided with a glass, 
he suffered himself to be decoyed alongside, and was taken. 
From the prisoners, Capt. Jones learned that intelligence of 
his descents on Whitehaven and St. Mary's Isle had reached 
Belfast, and that the people of the Drake had weighed the 
anchor he had lost in his attempt on that ship. 

Under these circumstances, Capt. Jones believed that the 
commander of the Drake would not long defer coming out 
in search of his boat; an expectation that was shortly real- 
ized, by the appearance of the English ship under way. 
The Ranger now filled and stood off the land, with a view 
to draw her enemy more into the channel, and there lay to, 
in waiting for the latter to come on. Several small vessels 
accompanied the Drake, to witness the combat, and many 
volunteers had gone on board her, to assist in capturing the 
American privateer, as it was the fashion of the day to 
term the vessels of the young republic. The tide being un- 
favourable, the Drake worked out of the roads slowly, and 
night was approaching before she drew near the Ranger. 


The Drake, as she got nigher, hailed, and received the 
name of her antagonist, by way of challenge, with a request 
to come on. As the two ships were standing on in this 
manner, the Drake a little to leeward and astern, the Ran- 
ger put her helm up, a manoeuvre that the enemy imitated, 
and the former gave the first broadside, firing as her guns 
bore. The wind admitted of but few changes, but the battle 
was fought running free, under easy canvass. It lasted an 
hour and four minutes, when the Drake called for quarter, 
her ensign being already down. 

The English ship was much cut up, both in her hull and 
aloft, and Captain Jones computed her loss at about forty 
men. Her captain and lieutenant w^ere both desperately 
wounded, and died shortly after the engagement. The 
Ranger suffered much less, having Lieut. Wallingford and 
one man killed, and six wounded. The Drake was not only 
a heavier ship, but she had a much stronger crew than her 
antagonist. She had also two guns the most. 

After securing her prize and repairing damages, the Ran- 
ger went round the north of Ireland, and shaped her course 
for Brest. She had several chases, but arrived safely at her 
port, with the Drake, on the 8th of May. 

Whatever may be thought of the conduct of Capt. Jones, 
in turning a local knowledge acquired in his youth, in the 
manner mentioned, to such an account, there can be no 
doubt that the course pursued by the enemy on the Ameri- 
can coast, would have fully justified the act in any other 
officer in the service; and it is due to Capt. Jones, to say, 
that he had, personally, been so much vilified by the British 
press, as quite naturally to have weakened any remains of 
national attachment that he may formerly have entertained. 
The natives of Great Britain, that served on the American 
side, in this great contest, were not essentially in a position 
different from that of those who had been born in the colo- 
nies. The war, in one sense, was a civil war, and the con- 


duct of all who took part in it, was to be measured by the 
merits of the main question. The EngUshman actually es- 
tablished in the colonies, when the struggle commenced, 
was essentially in the situation of the native ; and if the latter 
had a moral right to I'esist the encroachments of the British 
Parliament, it was a right that extended to the former, 
since it was not a question of birth place that was at issue, 
but one of local and territorial interests. By transferring 
himself to England, the native of America would have 
avoided the injuries, and shared in the advantages of the 
offensive policy; and by transferring himself to America, 
the native of England became the subject of its wrongs. 
Both steps were legal, and it follows as a legitimate conse- 
quence of such premises, that all the moral as well as legal 
rights dependent on their exercise were carried with them. 
Mr. Silas Talbot, of Rhode Island, who had been a 
seaman in his youth, had taken service in the army, and 
October 10th, 1777, he had been raised to the rank of a 
Major, to reward him for a spirited attempt to set fire to 
one of the enemy's cruisers in the Hudson. In the autumn 
of the present year, (1778) Major Talbot headed another 
expedition against the British schooner Pigot, 8, then lying 
in the eastern passage between Rhode Island and the main 
land, in a small sloop that had two light guns, and which 
was manned by 60 volunteers. Major Talbot carried the 
schooner without loss, and for his conduct and gallantry 
was promoted to be a Lieut. Colonel. The Pigot had 45 
men, and one heavy gun in her bows, besides the rest of her 
armament. The following year this officer was transferred 
to the navy, Congress passing an especial resolution to that 
effect, with directions to the marine committee to give him 
a ship on the first occasion. It does not appear, however, 
that it was in the power of the committee, to appoint Capt. 
Talbot to a government vessel, at that period of the war, 
and he is believed to have served, subsequently, in a private 


armed ship. The commander of the Pigot showed great 
bravery, actuall}'- fighting alone on deck, in his shirt, when 
every man of his crew had run below. 

It has already been intimated, that the appearance of a 
French fleet, in July, 1778, off Newport, materially changed 
the character of the war, so far as the American marine 
was concerned. On this occasion, the enemy destroyed 
the following ships at, or near Newport, to prevent their 
falling into the hands of the French, viz: the Juno, 32; Or- 
pheus, 32; Cerberus, 32; Lark, 32; Flora, 32; and Fal- 
con, 18. 

It will give some idea of the condition of the American 
marine at that time, if we state that a month previously to 
the arrival of the French, the following vessels were lying 
at Boston. They appear to have composed most of the 
disposable naval force of the United States, in the American 
seas, viz: Warren, 32, Capt. John Hopkins; Raleigh, 32, 
Capt. Thompson; Deane, (afterwards Hague,) 32, Capt. S. 
Nicholson; Tyrannicide, 14, colony cruiser, Capt. Harding; 
Independence, 14, Capt. Hazard ; Sampson, 20; Hancock, 
20, (formerly Weymouth, a packet:) and Speedwell, 10. 
The four last were colony cruisers, or privateers. Of this 
force, Capt. Thompson was the senior officer. Several 
private armed ships were cruising off the eastern coast, at 
the same time, among which was the Mars, 24, Capt. 

It has been said that many officers of the navy, previ- 
ously to the period of the war at which we have now 
arrived, had been compelled to seek service in the priva- 
teers, for want of more regular employment, and among 
others was Capt. Daniel Waters. While in command of 
the private armed ship Thorn, 16, out of Boston, Capt. Wa- 
ters engaged the letter of marque. Governor Tryon, 16, 
Capt. Stebbins, and the Sir William Erskine, 18, Capt. 
Hamilton, both full manned. After a sharp action of two 
hours, the Tryon struck, and the Erskine made sail to es- 


cape. Instead of stopping to take possession of his prize, 
Capt. Waters pursued the Erskine, and getting along side, 
compelled her to surrender also. Throwing a crew on 
board this ship, the two vessels now went in quest of the 
Tryon, which had profited by the situation of the Thorn, to 
endeavour to escape. Favoured by the night, this vessel 
succeeded in getting off", and the next day the Erskine was 
sent into port. The Thorn had now but 60 men left, and 
in a few days, she fell in with the Sparlin, 18, with 97 men, 
which she succeeded in taking after a fight of near an hour. 
The Thorn, and both her prizes, arrived safely in Boston. 

In consequence of the investigation connected with the 
loss of the Alfred, or, at the time that Capt. Thompson 
was relieved from the command of the Raleigh 32, that 
ship w^as given to Capt. Barry. Under the orders of this 
new commander, the Raleigh sailed from Boston on the 
25th of September, at six in the morning, having a brig and 
a sloop under convoy. The wind was fresh at N. W., and 
the frigate run off N. E. At twelve, two strange sail were 
seen to leeward, distant fifteen or sixteen miles. Orders 
were given to the convoy to haul nearer to the wind, and 
to crowd all the sail it could carry, the strangers in chase. 
After dark the Raleigh lost sight of the enemy, as by this 
time the two ships were ascertained to be, and the wind 
became light and variable. The Raleigh now cleared for 
action, and kept her people at quarters all night, having 
tacked towards the land. In the morning it proved to be 
hazy, and the strangers were not to be seen. The Raleigh 
was still standing towards the land, which she shortly after 
made ahead, quite near. About noon, the haze clearinfr 
away, the enemy were seen in the southern board, and to 
windward, crowding sail in chase. The weather became 
thick again, and the Raleigh lost sight of her two pursuers, 
when she hauled off to the eastward. That night no more 
was seen of the enemy, and at day light Capt. Barry took 


in every thing, with a view to conceal the position of the 
ship, which was permitted to drift under bare poles. Find- 
ing nothing visible at 6, A. M., the Raleigh crowded sail 
once more, and stood S. E. by S. But at half past 9, the 
two ships were again discovered astern, and in chase. 
The Raleigh now hauled close upon a wind, heading N. W., 
with her larboard tacks aboard. The enemy also came to 
the wind, all three vessels carrying hard with a staggering 
breeze. The Raleigh now fairly outsailed the strangers, 
running 11 knots 2 fathoms, on a dragged bowline. 

Unfortunately, at noon the wind moderated, when the 
leading vessel of the enemy overhauled the Raleigh quite 
fast, and even the ship astern held way with her. At 4, P. 
M., the Raleigh tacked to the westward, with a view to dis- 
cover the force of the leading vessel of the enemy, and, 
about the same time she made several low islands, the 
names of which were not known. At 5, P. M., the leading 
vessel of the enemy having nearly closed, the Raleigh edged 
away and crossed her fore foot, brailing her mizzen, and 
taking in her staysails. The enemy showed a battery of 14 
guns of a side, including both decks, and set St. George's 
ensign. In passing, the Raleigh delivered her broadside, 
which was returned, when the stranger came up under the 
lee quarter of the former, and the action became steady and 
general. At the. second fire, the Raleigh unfortunately lost 
her fore-top-mast, and mizzen-top-gallant mast, which gave 
the enemy a vast advantage in manoBuvring throughout the 
remainder of the affair. Finding the broadside of the Ra- 
leigh getting to be too hot for him, notwithstanding, the 
enemy soon shot ahead, and, for a short time, while the peo- 
ple of the former ship were clearing the wreck, he engaged 
to windward, and at a distance. Ere long, however, the Eng- 
lish vessel edged away and attempted to rake the Raleigh, 
when Capt. Barry bore up, and bringing the ships along 
side each other, he endeavoured to board, a step that the 
Vol. L— 15 


Other, favoured by all his canvass, and his superiority of sail- 
ing in a light breeze, easily avoided. By this time, the second 
ship had got so near as to render it certain she would very 
soon close, and, escape by flight being out of the question 
in the crippled condition of the frigate, Capt. Barry called 
a council of his officers. It was determined to make an 
attempt to run the ship ashore, the land being within a few 
miles of them. The Raleigh accordingly wore round, and 
stood for the islands already mentioned, her antagonist 
sticking to her in the most gallant manner, both ships main- 
taining the action with spirit. About midnight, however, 
the enemy hauled off, and left the Raleigh to pursue her 
course towards the land. The engagement had lasted 
seven hours, much of the time in close action, and both 
vessels had suffered materially, the Raleigh, in particular, 
in her spars, rigging and sails. The darkness, soon after, 
concealing his ship, Capt. Barry had some hopes of getting 
oft^ among the islands, and was in the act of bending new 
sails, for that purpose, when the enemy's vessels again came 
in sight, closing fast. The Raleigh immediately opened a 
brisk fire from four stern guns, and every human effort was 
made to force the ship towards the land. The enemy, how- 
ever, easily closed again, and opened a heavy fire, which 
was returned by the Raleigh until she grounded, when the 
largest of the enemy's ships immediately hauled off, to avoid 
a similar calamity, and, gaining a safe distance, both vessels 
continued their fire, from positions they had taken on the 
Raleigh's quarter. Capt. Barry finding that the island was 
rocky, and that it might be defended, determined to land, 
and to burn his ship ; a project that was rendered practica- 
ble by the fact that the enemy had ceased firing, and an- 
chored afthe distance of about a mile. A large party of 
men landed, and the boats were about to return for the re- 
mainder, when it was discovered that, by the treachery of 
a petty officer, the ship had surrendered. 


The officers and men on the island escaped, but the ship 
was got off, and placed in the British navy. The two ships 
that took the Raleigh were the Experiment, 50, Capt. Wal- 
lace, and the Unicorn, 22. The latter mounted 28 guns, and 
was the ship that engaged the Raleigh so closely, so long, 
and so obstinately. She was much cut up, losing her masts 
after the action, and had'lO men killed, besides many wound- 
ed. The Americans had 25 men killed and wounded in the 
course of the whole affair. 

Capt. Barry gained great credit for his gallantry on this 
occasion. He escaped to the main, with a considerable 
portion of his crew, though not without great suffering, and 
a new ship was given to him on the first opportunity. 

Thus terminated the year 1778, so far as it was connect- 
ed with the services of the regular marine, though like all 
that had preceded, or which followed it, in this war, it gave 
rise to many handsome exploits among the colony cruisers 
and privateers, some of which we may have occasion to 
mention in a separate chapter, that will be devoted to that 
branch of the subject- 



The year 1779 opens with the departure of the Alliance, 
32, for France. It has already been stated that the com- 
mand of this ship had been given to a Capt. Landais, who 
was said to be a French officer of gallantry and merit. 
Unfortunately the prejudices of the seamen did not an- 
swer to the complaisance of the marine committee in this 
respect, and it was found difficult to obtain a crew willing 
to enlist under a French captain. When General Lafayette, 
after a detention of several months on the road, in conse- 
quence of severe illness, reached Boston near the close of 
1778, in order to embark in the Alliance, it was found that 
the frigate was not yet manned. Desirous of rendering 
themselves useful to their illustrious guest, the government 
of Massachusetts offered to complete the ship's comple- 
ment by impressment, an expedient that had been adopted 
on more than one occasion during the war; but the just- 
minded and benevolent Lafayette would not consent to the 
measure. Anxious to sail, however, for he was intrusted 
with important interests, recourse was had to a plan to man 
the ship, which, if less objectionable on the score of prin- 
ciple, was scarcely less objectionable in every other point 
of view. 

The Somerset, 64, had been wrecked on the coast of 
New-England, and part of her crew had found their way 
to Boston. By accepting the proffered services of these 


men, those of some volunteers from among the prisoners, 
and those of a few French seamen that were also found in 
Boston after the departure of their fleet, a motley number 
was raised in sufficient time to enable the ship to sail on the 
11th of January. With this incomplete and mixed crew, 
Lafayette trusted himself on the ocean, and the result was 
near justifying the worst forebodings that so ill-advised a 
measure could have su^o-ested. 


After a tempestuous passage, the Alliance got within two 
days' run of the English coast, when her officers and pas- 
sengers, of whom there were many besides Gen. Lafayette 
and his suite, received the startling information that a con- 
spiracy existed among the English portion of the crew, 
some seventy or eighty men in all, to kill the officers, 
seize the vessel, and carry the latter into England. With a 
view to encourage such acts of mutiny, the British Parlia- 
ment had passed a law to reward all those crews that should 
run away with American ships; and this temptation was too 
strong for men whose service, however voluntary it might 
be in appearances, was probably reluctant, and which had 
been compelled by circumstances, if not by direct coercion. 

The intentions of the mutineers appear to have been of 
the most ruthless and blood-thirsty character. By the ori- 
ginal plan, the cry of " Sail-ho !" was to be raised about 
day-light on the morning of the 2d of February, when, as it 
was known that the officers and passengers would imme- 
diately appear on the quarter-deck, the attempt was to com- 
mence by seizing them in a body. The mutineers were di- 
vided into four parties, of which one was to get possession 
of the magazine, the second of the wardroom, the third of 
the cabin, and the fourth of the upper-deck aft. In the event 
of resistance by the officers at the latter point, the four nine- 
pound guns on the forecastle were to be pointed aft, and to 
sweep the quarter-deck. With this view, a gunner's mate, 
who was a ringleader, had privately put into the guns charges 



of cannister-shot. Some fire-arms had also been secretly 
obtained by a sergeant of marines, who belonged to the 

On the night of the 1st of February, the execution of this 
plot was postponed until four o'clock of the afternoon of the 
2d, instead of the hour of day-light, as had been previously 
arranged. It had been determined to put Capt. Landais, 
who was exceedingly offensive to the conspirators, into a 
boat, without food, water, oars or sails, heavily ironed, and 
to turn him loose on the ocean. The gunner, carpenter, and 
boatswain were to have been killed on the spot. The marine 
officer and surgeon were to have been hanged, quartered, 
and their bodies cast into the sea. The sailing-master was 
to have been seized up to the mizzen-mast, scarified, cut into 
morsels and thrown overboard. To each of the lieutenants 
was to have been offered the option of navigating the ship 
into the nearest British port, or of walking a plank. The 
passengers were to have been confined, and given up as 
prisoners, in England. With these fell intentions in their 
hearts, the conspirators fortunately decided to defer the 
execution of their plot until the hour last named. 

Among the crew of the Alliance, was a seaman of more 
than usual knowledge of his calling, and of great decency 
of exterior. By his accent, this man, though regularly en- 
tered as a volunteer and an American, was supposed to be 
an Irishman, and the mutineers were desirous of obtain- 
ing his assistance, under the impression that he might di- 
rect them, and take sufficient charge of the ship to prevent 
the lieutenants from deceiving them as to their position, 
should the latter consent to navigate her into England. To 
this person, then, in the course of the morning of the very day 
set for the execution of their murderous plan, the mutineers 
revealed their conspiracy, and invited him to take a conspi- 
cuous part in it. The seaman was in fact an American, 
who had lived a long time in Ireland, where he had acquired 


the accent of the nation, but where he had lost none of the 
feehngs of country and kindred. Affecting to listen to the 
proposition with favour, he got most of their secrets out of 
the mutineers, using the utmost prudence and judgment in 
all his proceedings. It was near three o'clock in the after- 
noon, before this new ringleader could manage to get into 
the cabin unseen, where he made Capt. Landais and Gen. 
Lafayette acquainted with all he knew. Not a moment was 
to be lost. The officers and other passengers were apprised 
of what was going on, such men as could certainly be relied 
on were put on their guard, and a few minutes before the 
time set for the signal to be given, the gentlemen rushed in 
a body on deck, with drawn swords, where the American 
and French seamen joined them, armed. The leading mu- 
tineers were instantly seized. Between thirty and forty of 
the English were put in irons, it being thought impolitic to 
arrest any more, for at this inopportune moment a large 
vessel hove in sight, and was soon made out to be an ene- 
my's twenty gun ship. 

As is usual in such cases, some of the ringleaders betray- 
ed their companions, on a promise of pardon, when all the 
previous arrangements were revealed. Believing the mo- 
ment unfavourable to engage even an inferior force, Capt. 
Landais, after a little manoeuvring, permitted the ship in 
sight to escape. On the 6lh of February, the Alliance ar- 
rived safely at Brest. 

This is the only instance that has ever transpired, of a 
plan to make a serious mutiny, under the flag of the United 
States of America.* A few cases of momentary revolts have 
occurred, which principally arose from a defective mode of 
enlistments, and in all of which the authority of the officers 
has prevailed, after short and insignificant contests. It may 

* English prisoners who had enlisted in the navy, were frequently- 
troublesome, but no other direct mutiny was plotted. 


be added, as a just source of national pride, that, in. nearly 
every emergency, whether on board ships of war, or on 
board of merchant vessels, the native American has been 
found true to the obligations of society; and it is a singular 
proof of his disposition to submit to legal authority, however 
oppressive or unjust may be its operation in his particular 
case, that in many known instances in which English sea- 
men have revolted against their own officers, and in their 
own navy, the impressed and injured American has prefer- 
red order, and submission to even the implied obligations of 
a compelled service, to rushing into the dangers of revolt 
and disobedience. In opposition to this respectable charac- 
teristic, may be put in high relief, the well ascertained fact, 
that when left in captured vessels, or placed in situations 
where the usages of mankind tolerate resistance, these very 
men have required as vigilant watching as any others, 
it being probable that more American ships have been re- 
taken from their prize crews by American seamen left on 
board them, within the last sixty years, than have been re- 
taken by the seamen of all the remaining captured vessels 
of Christendom. Quiet, prudent, observing, hardy, and bold, 
the American seaman is usually ready to listen to reason, 
and to defer to the right; traits that make him perhaps the 
most orderly and submissive of all mariners, when properly 
and legally commanded, and the most dangerous when an 
occasion arises for him to show his promptitude, intelligence, 
and spirit. 

On reaching Brest, the mutineers were placed in a French 
gaol, and, after some delay, were exchanged as prisoners 
of war, without any other punishment; the noble minded 
Lafayette, in particular, feeling averse to treating foreigners 
as it would have been a duty to treat natives under the cir- 

We shall next revert to the more regular warfare of the 
period at which we have now arrived. 


. One of the first nautical engagements of the year 1779, 
occurred to the Hampden, 22, a ship that sailed out of Mas- 
sachusetts, though it is believed on private account. The 
Hampden was cruising in the Atlantic, lat. 47°, long. 28^, 
when she made a stran2;e sail to windward. A small armed 
schooner was in company with the Hampden, and a signal 
was made by the latter, for the former to join. Night com- 
ing on, however, the two vessels separated, when the Hamp- 
den stood towards the stranger alone. At day-light, the 
American and the Englishman were a long gun-shot apart, 
when the former crowded sail, and at seven in the morning, 
drawing up under the lee quarter of the chase, gave him a 
broadside. Until this moment, the stranger had kept all his 
guns housed, but he now showed thirteen of a side, and de- 
livered his fire. It was soon perceived on board the Hamp- 
den that they were engaged with a heavy ship, and one of 
a force altogether superior to their own. Still, hoping that 
she might be badly manned, and receiving no material dam- 
age at the commencement of the fight, the commander of 
the Hampden determined to continue the action. A hot 
engagement followed, which lasted three hours, within pistol 
shot, when the Hampden was compelled to haul off", being 
in momentary danger of losing her masts. The American 
lost a Capt. Pickering killed, — but whether he was a marine 
officer, or her commander, does not appear, — and had twenty 
men killed and wounded. The Indiaman was much injured 
also, though her loss was never ascertained. This was 
one of the most closely contested actions of the war, both 
sides appearing to have fought with perseverance and gal- 

On the 18th of April, the U. S. ships Warren, 32, Capt. J. 
B. Hopkins, Queen of France, 28, Capt. Olney, and Ranger, 
18, Captain Simpson, sailed from Boston, on a cruise in 
company ; Capt. Hopkins being the senior officer. When a 
few days from port, these vessels captured a British priva- 


teer of 14 guns, from the people of which they ascertained 
that a small fleet of armed transports and store-ships had 
just sailed from New-York, bound to Georgia, with supplies 
for the enemy's forces in that quarter. The three cruisers 
crowded sail in chase, and off Cape Henry, late in the day> 
they had the good fortune to come up with nine sail, seven 
of which they captured, with a trifling resistance. Favoured 
by the darkness, the two others escaped. The vessels taken 
proved to be, his Britannic Majesty's ship Jason, 20, with a 
crew of 150 men ; the Maria armed ship, of 16 guns, and 84 
men; and the privateer schooner Hibernia, 8, with a crew 
of 45 men. The Maria had a full cargo of flour. In addi- 
tion to these vessels, the brigs Patriot, Prince Frederick, 
Bachelor John, and schooner Chance, all laden with stores, 
fell into the hands of the Americans. Among the prisoners 
were twenty-four British officers, who were on their way 
to join their regiments at the south.* 

The command of the Queen of France was now given to 
Capt. Rathburne, when that ship sailed on another cruise in 
company with the Ranger, and the Providence, 28, Capt. 
Whipple; the latter being the senior officer. In July, this 
squadron fell in with a large fleet of English merchantmen, 
that was convoyed by a ship of the line, and some smaller 
cruisers, and succeeded in cutting: out several valuable 
prizes, of which eight arrived at Boston, their estimated 
value exceeding a million of dollars. In the way of pecu- 
niary benefits, this was the most successful cruise made in 
the war. 

Capt. Manly was compelled to seek service in a privateer 
called the Cumberland, owing to the want of ships in the 
navy. In this vessel he was captured by the Pomona fri- 
gate, and, obtaining his exchange, he went on a cruise in 

* A Col., Campbell was the highest in rank, and if this were the officer 
of the same name and rank taken off Boston, in 1776, he was twice made 
a prisoner on board ti-ansports, during this war. 


the Jason private armed ship, in which vessel, in July of 
the present year, he was attacked by two of the enemy's 
privateers, one of 18, and the other of 16 guns, when, run- 
ning boldly between them, the Jason poured in her fire, 
larboard and starboard, with so much effect, that both sur- 

Quitting the American seas, we will once more return to 
the other hemisphere. 

Paul Jones had obtained so much celebrity for his cruise 
in the Ranger, that he remained in France, after the de- 
parture of his ship for America, in the hope of receiv- 
ing a more important command, the inducement, indeed, 
which had originally brought him to Europe. Many dif- 
ferent projects to this effect had been entertained and aban- 
doned, during the years 1778 and 1779, by one of which a 
descent was to have been made on Liverpool, with a body 
of troops commanded by Lafayette. All of these plans, how- 
ever, produced no results, and after many vexatious repulses 
in his applications for service, an arrangement was finally 
made to give this celebrated officer employment that was 
as singular in its outlines, as it proved to be inconvenient, 
not to say impracticable, in execution. 

By a letter from M. de Sartine, the minister of the ma- 
rine, dated February 4th, 1779, it appears that the King of 
France had consented to purchase and put at the disposi- 
tion of Capt. Jones, the Duras, an old Indiaman of some 
size, then lying at I'Orient. To this vessel were added 
three more that were procured by means of M. le Ray de 
Chaumont, a banker of eminence connected with the 
court, and who acted on the occasion, under the orders of 
the French ministry. Dr. Franklin, who, as minister of the 
United States, was supposed, in a legal sense, to direct the 
whole affair, added the Alliance, 32, in virtue of the au- 
thority that he held from Congress. The vessels that were 
thus chosen, formed a little squadron, composed of the Du- 


ras, Alliance, Pallas, Cerf, and Vengeance. The Pallas 
was a merchantman bought for the occasion; the Ven- 
geance a small brig that had also been purchased expressly 
for the expedition; the Cerf was a fine large cutter, and, 
with the exception of the Alliance, the only vessel of the 
squadron fitted for war. All the ships but the Alliance were 
French built, and they were placed under the American flag, 
by the following arrangement. 

The officers received appointments, which were to re- 
main valid for a limited period only, from Dr. Franklin, 
who had held blank commissions to be filled up at his own 
discretion, ever since his arrival in Europe, while the ves- 
sels were to show the American ensign, and no other. In 
short, the French ships were to be considered as Ameri- 
can ships, during this particular service, and when it was 
terminated, they were to revert to their former owners. 
The laws and provisions of the American navy were to 
govern, and command was to be exercised, and to descend, 
agreeably to its usages. Such officers as already had rank 
in the American service, were to take precedence of course, 
agreeably to the dates of their respective commissions, 
while the new appointments were to be regulated by the 
new dates. By an especial provision, however, Capt. Jones 
was to be commander-in-chief, a post he would have been 
entitled to fill by his original commission, Capt. Landais of 
the Alliance, the only other regular captain in the squadron, 
being his junior. The joint right of the American minister 
and of the French government, to instruct the commodore, 
and to direct the movements of the squadron, was also 

From what source the money was actually obtained by 
which this squadron was fitted out, is not exactly known, 
nor is it now probable that it will ever be accurately ascer- 
tained. Although the name of the king was used, it is not 
impossible that private adventure was at the bottom of the 


enterprise, though it seems certain that the governme'rit was 
so far concerned as to procure the vessels, and to a certain 
extent to use its stores. Dr. Franklin expressly states, that 
he made no advances for any of the ships employed. 

As everything connected with this remarkable enterprise 
has interest, we shall endeavour to give the reader a better 
idea of the materials, physical and moral, that composed the 
force of Commodore Jones, in his memorable cruise. 

After many more vexatious delays, the Duras, her name 
having been changed to that of the Bon Homme Richard, 
in compliment to Dr. Franklin, was eventually equipped 
and manned. Directions had been given to cast the proper 
number of eighteen pounders, but, it being ascertained that 
there would not be time to complete this order, some old 
twelves were procured in their place. With this material 
change in the armament, the Richard, as she was familiarly 
called by the seamen, got ready for sea. She was, properly, 
a single decked ship, or carried her armament on one gun 
deck, with the usual additions on the quarter deck and 
forecastle; but Commodore Jones, with a view to attacking 
some of the larger convoys of the enemy, caused twelve 
ports to be cut in the gun room below, where six old 
eighteen pounders were mounted, it being the intention 
to fight all the guns on one side, in smooth water. The 
height of tlie ship admitted of this arrangement, though 
it was foreseen that these guns could not be of much use, 
except in very moderate weather, or when engaging to 
leeward. On her main, or proper gun deck, the ship had 
twenty eight ports, the regular construction of an English 
38, agreeably to the old mode of rating. Here the twelve- 
pounders were placed. On the quarter deck, forecastle, 
and in the gangways, were mounted eight nines, making in 
all a mixed and rather light armament of 42 guns. If the 
six eighteens were taken away, the force of the Bon Homme 
Richard, so far as her guns were concerned, would have 
Vol. I.—IQ 


been about equal to that of a 32 gun frigate. The vessel 
was clumsily constructed, having been built many years be- 
fore, and had one of those high old fashioned poops, that 
caused the sterns of the ships launched in the early part of 
the eighteenth century to resemble towers. 

To manage a vessel of this singular armament and doubt- 
ful construction, Commodore Jones was compelled to re- 
ceive on board a crew of a still more equivocal composition. 
A few Americans were found to fill the stations of sea offi- 
cers, on the quarter deck and forward, but the remainder of 
the people were a mixture of English, Irish, Scotch, Portu- 
guese, Norwegians, Germans, Spaniards, Swedes, Italians 
and Malays, with occasionally a man from one of the islands. 
To keep this motley crew in order, one hundred and thirty- 
five soldiers were put on board, under the command of some 
officers of inferior rank. These soldiers, or marines, were 
recruited at random, and were not much less singularly 
mixed, as to countries, than the regular crew. 

As the squadron was about to sail, M. Le Ray appeared 
at rOrient, and presented an agreement, or concordat as it 
was termed, for the signature of all the commanders. To 
this singular compact, which, in some respects, reduced a 
naval expedition to the level of a partnership. Commodore 
Jones ascribed much of the disobedience among his cap- 
tains, of which he subsequently complained. It will be found 
in the appendix.* 

On the 19th of June 1779, the ships sailed from the an- 
chorage under the Isle of Groix, off I'Orient, bound to the 
southward, with a few transports and coasters under their 
convoy. The transports and coasters were seen into their 
several places of destination, in the Garonne, Loire, and 
other ports, but not without the commencement of that course 
of disobedience of orders, unseaman-like conduct, and ne- 

* See Note A, end of volume. 


gleet, which so signally marked the whole career of this ill 
assorted force. While lying to, off the coast, the Alliance, 
by palpable mismanagement, got foul of the Richard, and 
lost her mizzen mast; carrying away, at the same time, the 
head, cut-water, and jib-boom of the latter. It now be- 
came necessary to return to port to refit. 

While steering northerly again, the Cerf cutter was sent 
in chase of a strange sail, and parted company. The next 
morning she engaged a small English cruiser of 14 guns, 
and after a sharp conflict of more than an hour, obliged 
her to strike, but was compelled to abandon her prize in 
consequence of the appearance of a vessel of superior force. 
The Cerf, with a loss of several men killed and wounded, 
now made the best of her way to I'Orient. 

On the 22nd, three enemy's vessels of war came in sight 
of the squadron, and, having the wind, they ran down in a 
line abreast, when, most probably deceived by the height 
and general appearance of the Richard, they hauled up, and, 
by carrying a press of sail, escaped. 

On the2Gth, the Alliance and Pallas parted company with 
the Richard, leaving that ship with no other consort than the 
Vengeance brig. On reaching the Penmarks, the desig- 
nated rendezvous, the missing vessels did not appear. On 
the 29th, the Vengeance having made the best of her way 
for the roads of Groix by permission, the Richard fell in 
with two more of the enemy's cruisers, which, after some 
indications of an intention to come down, also ran, no doubt 
under the impression that the American frigate was a ship 
of two decks. On this occasion Commodore Jones ex- 
pressed himself satisfied with the spirit of his crew, the 
people manifesting a strong wish to engage. On the last of 
the month, the Richard returned to the roads from which 
she had sailed, and anchored. The Alliance and Pallas 
came in also. 


Another delay occurred. A court was convened to in- 
quire into the conduct of Capt. Landais of the AUiance, and 
of other officers, in running foul of the Richard, and both 
ships underwent repairs. Luckily a cartel arrived from 
England, at this moment, bringing with her more than a 
hundred exchanged American seamen, most of whom join- 
ed the squadron. This proved to be a great and important 
accession to the composition of the crew of not only the 
Richard, but to that of the Alliance, the latter ship having 
been but little better oft' than the former in this particular. 
Among those who came from the English prisons, was Mr. 
Richard Dale, who had been taken as a masters mate, in 
the Lexington, 14. This young officer did not reach France 
in the cartel, however, but escaped from Mill prison earlier, 
and joined the Richard. Commodore Jones had now be- 
come sensible of his merit, and in reorganising his crew, he 
had him promoted, and rated him as his first lieutenant. 
The Richard had now nearly a hundred Americans in her, 
and, with the exception of the commodore himself and one 
midshipman, all her quarter-deck sea-officers were of the 
number. Many of the petty officers too, were of this class. 
In a letter written August the 11th, Commodore Jones 
states the crew of the Richard, all told, at 380 souls, inclu- 
ding 137 marines, or soldiers. 

On the 14th of August, 1779, the squadron sailed a second 
time from the roads of Groix, having the French privateers 
Xvfonsieur and Granville in company, and under the orders 
of Commodore Jones. On the 18th a valuable prize was 
taken, and some difficulties arising with the commander of 
the Monsieur in consequence, the latter parted company in 
the night of the 19th. This was a serious loss in the way 
of force, that ship having mounted no less than forty guns. 
A prize was also taken on the 21st. On the 23d, the ships 
were off Cape Clear, and, while towing the Richard's 
head round in a calm, the crew of a boat manned by En- 


glishmen, cut the tow-line, and escaped. Mr. Cutting Lunt, 
the sailing master of the ship, manned another boat, and 
taking with him four soldiers, he pursued the fugitives. A 
fog coming on, the latter boat was not able to find the ships 
again, and her people fell into the hands of the enemy. 
Through this desertion and its immediate consequences, the 
Richard lost twenty of her best men. 

The day after the escape of the boat, the Cerf was sent 
close in to reconnoitre, and to look for the missing people, 
and owing to some circumstance that has never been ex- 
plained, but which does not appear to have left any re- 
proach upon her commander, this vessel never rejoined the 

A gale of wind followed, during which the Alliance and 
Pallas separated, and the Granville parted company with a 
prize, according to orders. The separation of the Pallas is 
explained by the fact that she had broken her tiller; but that 
of the Alliance can only be imputed to the unofficerlike, as 
well as unseamanlike, conduct of her commander. On the 
morning of the 27th, the brig Vengeance was the only ves- 
sel in company with the commodore. 

On the morning of the 31st of August, the Bon Homme 
Richard, being off Cape Wrath, captured a large letter of 
marque bound from London to Quebec, a circumstance that 
proves the expedients to which the English ship-masters 
were then driven to avoid capture, this vessel having ac- 
tually gone north-about to escape the cruisers on the beaten 
track. While in chase of the letter of marque, the Alliance 
hove in sight, having another London ship, a Jamaica-man, 
in company as a prize. 

Capt. Landais, of tlie Alliance, an officer, who, as it has 
since been ascertained, had been obliged to quit the French 
navy on account of a singularly unfortunate temper, now 
began to exhibit a disorganizing and mutinous spirit, pre- 
tending that as his ship was the only real American vessel 



in the squadron, he was superior to the orders of the com- 
modore, and that he would do as he pleased with that 

In the afternoon a strange sail was made, and the Richard 
showed the Alliance's number, with an order to chase. In- 
stead of obeying this signal, Capt. Landais wore and laid 
the head of his ship in a direction opposite to that necessary 
to execute the order! Several other signals were disobeyed 
in an equally contemptuous manner, and the control of 
Com. Jones over the movements of this vessel, which, on 
the w'hole, ought to have been the most efficient in the 
squadron, may be said to have ceased. 

Com. Jones now shaped his course for the second rendez- 
vous he had appointed, in the hope of meeting the missing 
ships. On the 2d of September, the Pallas rejoined, having 
captured nothing. Belvv^een this date and the 13th of Sep- 
tember, the squadron continued its course round Scotland, 
the ships separating and rejoining constantly, and Capt. 
Landais assuming powers over the prizes, as well as over 
his own vessel, that were altogether opposed to discipline 
and to the usages of every regular marine. On the last day 
named, the Cheviot Hills were visible. 

Understanding that a twenty gun ship with two or three 
man-of-war cutters were lying at anchor off Leith, in the 
Frith of Forth, Com. Jones now planned a descent on that 
town. At this time the Alliance was absent, and the Pallas 
and Vengeance having chased to the southward, the ne- 
cessity of communicating with those vessels produced a 
fatal delay to a project which had been admirably con- 
ceived, and which there is reason to think might have suc- 
ceeded. After joining his two subordinates, and giving his 
orders, Com. Jones beat into the Frith, and continued work- 
ing up towards Leith, until the 17th, when, being just out of 
gun shot of the town, the boats were got out and manned. 
The troops to be landed were commanded by M. de Cha- 


milliard, while Mr. Dale, of the Richard, was put at the 
head of the seamen. The latter had received his orders, 
and was just about to go into his boat, when a squall struck 
the ships, and was near dismasting the commodore. Finding 
himself obliged to fill his sails, Com. Jones endeavoured to 
keep the ground he had gained, but the weight of the wind 
finally compelled all the vessels to bear up, and a severe 
gale succeeding, they were driven into the North Sea, where 
one of the prizes foundered. 

It is not easy to say what would have been the result of 
this dashing enterprize, had the weather permitted the at- 
tempt. The audacity of the measure might have insured 
a victory; and in the whole design we discover the decision, 
high moral courage, and deep enthusiasm of the officer who 
conceived it. It was the opinion of Mr. Dale, a man of 
singular modesty, great simplicity of character, and pru- 
dence, that success Vv'ould have rewarded the effort. 

Abandoning this bold project with reluctance, Com. Jones 
appears to have meditated another still more daring ; but his 
colleagues, as he bitterly styled his captains in one of his 
letters, refused to join in it. It is worthy of remark, that 
when Com. Jones laid this second scheme, which has never 
been explained, before the young sea-officers of his own 
ship, they announced their readiness as one man to second 
him, heart and hand. The enterprize was dropped, however, 
in consequence of the objections of Capt. Cottineau, of the 
Pallas, in particular, an officer for whose judgment the 
commodore appears to have entertained much respect. 

The Pallas and Vengeance even left the Richard, proba- 
bly with a view to prevent the attempt to execute this name- 
less scheme, and the commodore was compelled to follow 
his captains to the southward, or to lose them altogether. 
Off Whitby the shipslast named joined again, and on the 21st, 
the Richard chased a collier ashore between Flamborough 
Head and the Spurn. The next day the Richard appeared 


in the mouth of the Humber, with the Vengeance in com- 
pany, and several vessels were taken or destroyed. Pilots 
were enticed on board, and a knowledge of the state of 
things in-shore was obtained. It appeared that the whole 
coast was alarmed, and that many persons were actually 
burying their plate. Some twelve or thirteen vessels in all 
had now been taken by the squadron, and quite as many 
more destroyed ; and coupling these facts with the appear- 
ance of the ships on the coast and in the Frith, rumour had 
swelled the whole into one of its usual terrific tales. Per- 
haps no vessels of war had ever before excited so much 
local alarm on the coast of Great Britain. 

Under the circumstances. Com. Jones did not think it 
prudent to remain so close in with the land, and he stood 
out towards Flamborough Head. Here two large sail were 
made, which next day proved to be the Alliance and the 
Pallas. This was on the 23d of September, and brings us 
down to the most memorable event in this extraordinary 

The wind was light at the southward, the water smooth, 
and many vessels were in sight steering in different direc- 
tions. About noon, his original squadron, with the excep- 
tion of the Cerf and the two privateers, being all in com- 
pany, Com. Jones manned one of the pilot boats he had de- 
tained, and sent her in chase of a brig that was lying to, to 
windward. On board this little vessel were put Mr. Lunt, 
the second lieutenant, and fifteen men, all of whom were 
out of the ship for the rest of the day. In consequence of 
the loss of the two boats off Cape Clear, the absence of this 
party in the pilot boat, and the number of men that had been 
put in prizes, the Richard was now left with only one sea- 
lieutenant, and with but little more than three hundred souls 
on board, exclusively of the prisoners. Of the latter, there 
were between one and two hundred in the ship. 

The pilot boat had hardly left the Bon Homme Richard, 


when the leaduig ships of a fleet of more than forty sail 
were seen stretching out from behind Flamborough Head, 
on a bowHne, evidently with the intention of turning down 
towards the Straits of Dover. From previous intelHgence 
this fleet was immediately known to contain the Baltic ships, 
under the convoy of the Serapis 44, Capt. Richard Pearson, 
and a hired ship that had been put into the King's service, 
called the Countess of Scarborough. The latter was com- 
manded by Capt. Piercy, and mounted 22 guns. As the 
interest of the succeeding details will chiefly centre in the 
Serapis and the Richard, we will give a more minute ac- 
count of the actual force of the former. 

At the period of which we are now writing, forty-fours 
were usually built on two decks. Such, then, was the con- 
struction of this ship, which was new, and had the reputa- 
tion of being a fast vessel. On her lower gun-deck she 
mounted 20 eighteen-pound guns ; on her upper gun-deck, 
20 nine-pound guns; and on her quarter-deck and fore- 
castle, 10 six-pound guns; making an armament of 50 guns 
in the whole. She had a regularly trained man-of-war's 
crew of 320 souls, 15 of whom, however, were said to have 
been Lascars. 

When the squadron made this convoy, the men of war 
were in-shore astern and to leeward, probably with a view 
to keep the merchantmen together. The bailiffs of Scarbo- 
rough, perceiving the danger into which this little fleet was 
running, had sent a boat off" to the Serapis to apprise her of 
the presence of a hostile force, and Capt. Pearson fired two 
guns, signalling the leading vessels to come under his lee. 
These orders were disregarded, however, the headmost 
ships standing out until they w^ere about a league from 
the land. 

Com. Jones having ascertained the character of the fleet 
in sight, showed a signal for a general chase, another to 
recall the lieutenant in the pilot boat, and crossed royal 


yards on board the Richard. These signs of hostility alarmed 
the nearest English ships, which hurriedly tacked together, 
fired alarm guns, let fly their top-gallant sheets, and made 
other signals of the danger they were in, while they now 
gladly availed themselves of the presence of the ships of 
war, to run to leeward, or sought shelter closer in with the 
land. The Serapis, on the contrary, signalled the Scarbo- 
rough to follow, and hauled boldly out to sea, until she had 
got far enough to windward, when she tacked and stood in- 
shore again, to cover her convoy. 

The Alliance being much the fastest vessel of the Ameri- 
can squadron, took the lead in the chase, speaking the 
Pallas as she passed. It has been proved that Capt. Lan- 
dais told the commander of the latter vessel on this occasion, 
that if the stranger proved to be a fifty, they had nothing to 
do but to endeavour to escape. His subsequent conduct 
fully confirmed this opinion, for no sooner had he run down 
near enough to the two English vessels of war, to ascertain 
their force, than he hauled up, and stood off" from the land 
again. All this was not only contrary to the regular order 
of battle, but contrary to the positive command of Commo- 
dore Jones, who had kept the signal to form a line abroad, 
which should have brought the Alliance astern of the 
Richard, and the Pallas in the van. Just at this time, the 
Pallas spoke the Richard and inquired what station she 
should take, and was also directed to form the line. But 
the extraordinary movements of Capt. Landais appear to 
have produced some indecision in the commander of the 
Pallas, as he too soon after tacked and stood off" from the 
land. Capt. Cotlineau, however, was a brave man, and 
subsequently did his duty in the action, and this manoeuvre 
has been explained by the Richard's hauling up suddenly 
for the land, which induced him to think that her crew had 
mutinied and were running away with the ship. Such was 
the want of confidence that prevailed in a force so singu- 


larly composed, and such were the disadvantages under 
which this celebrated combat was fought ! 

So far, however, from meditating retreat or mutiny, the 
people of the Bon Homme Richard had gone cheerfully to 
their quarters, although every man on board was conscious 
of the superiority of the force with which they were about 
to contend; and the high uiiconquerable spirit of the com- 
mander appears to have communicated itself to the crew. 

It was now getting to be dark, and Commodore Jones was 
compelled to follow the movements of the enemy by the aid 
of a night glass. It is probable that the obscurity which 
prevailed added to the indecision of the commander of the 
Pallas, for from this time until the moon rose, objects at a 
distance were distinguished with difficulty, and even after 
the moon appeared, with uncertainty. The Richard, how- 
ever, stood steadily on, and about half past seven, she came 
up with the Serapis, the Scarborough being a short distance 
to leeward. The American ship was to windward, and as 
she drew slowly near, Capt. Pearson hailed. The answer 
was equivocal, and both ships delivered their entire broad- 
sides nearly simultaneously. The water being so smooth, 
Com. Jones had relied materially on the eighteens that 
were in the gun-room ; but at this discharge two of the 
six that were fired bursted, blowing up the deck above, and 
killing or wounding a large proportion of the people that 
were stationed below. This disaster caused all the heavy 
guns to be instantly deserted, for the men had no longer 
sufficient confidence in their goodness to use them. It, at 
once, reduced the broadside of the Richard to about a third 
less than that of her opponent, not to include the disadvan- 
tage of the manner in which the metal that remained was 
distributed among light guns. In short, the combat was 
now between a twelve-pounder and an eighteen-pounder 
frigate ; a species of contest in which, it has been said, we 
know not with what truth, the former has never been 


known to prevail. Com. Jones informs us himself, that all 
his hopes, after this accident, rested on the twelve-pounders 
that were under the command of his first lieutenant. 

The Richard, having backed her topsails, exchanged se- 
veral broadsides, when she filled again and shot ahead of 
the Serapis, which ship luffed across her stern and came up 
on the weather quarter of her antagonist, taking the wind 
out of her sails, and, in her turn, passing ahead. All this 
time, which consumed half an hour, the cannonading was 
close and furious. The Scarborough now" drew near, but 
it is uncertain whether she fired or not. On the side of the 
Americans it is afl^irmed that she raked the Richard at least 
once; but, by the report of her own commander, it would 
appear that, on account of the obscurity and the smoke, he 
was afraid to discharge his guns, not knowing v,fhich ship 
might be the friend, or which the foe. Unwilling to lie by, 
and to be exposed to shot uselessly, Capt.Piercy edged away 
from the combatants, exchanged a broadside or two, at a 
great distance, with the Alliance, and shortly afterwards 
was engaged at close quarters by the Pallas, which ship 
compelled him to strike, after a creditable resistance of 
about an hour. 

Having disposed of the inferior ships, we can confine our- 
selves to the principal combatants. As the Serapis kept her 
luff, sailing and working better than the Richard, it was the 
intention of Capt. Pearson to pay broad off across the latter's 
forefoot, as soon as he had got far enough ahead; but mak- 
ing the attempt, and finding he had not room, he put his 
helm hard down to keep clear of his adversary, when the 
double movement brought the tvvo ships nearly in a line, 
the Serapis leading. By these uncertain evolutions, the 
English ship lost some of her way, while the American, 
having kept her sails trimmed, not only closed, but actually 
ran aboard of her antagonist, bows on, a little on her weather 
quarter. The wind being light, much time was consumed 


in thc^ different manoeuvres, and near an hour had elapsed 
between the firing of the first guns, and the moment when the 
vessels got foul of each other in the manner just described. 

The English now thought that it was the intention of the 
Americans to board them, and a few minutes passed in the 
uncertainty which such an expectation would create; but 
the positions of the vessels were not favourable for either 
party to pass into the opposing ship. There being at this 
moment a perfect cessation of the firing, Capt. Pearson de- 
manded, "'Have you struck your colours'?" "1 have not 
yet be^Tun to fio;ht," was the answer. 

The yards of the Richard were braced aback, and, the 
sails of the Serapis being full, the ships separated. As soon 
as far enough asunder, the Serapis put her helm hard down, 
laid all aback forward, shivered her after-sails, and wore 
short round on her heel, or was box-hauled, with a view, 
most probably, of luffing up athwart the bow of her enemy, 
in order to again rake her. In this position the Richard 
would have been fighting her starboard, and the Serapis 
her larboard guns; but Com. Jones, by this time, was con- 
scious of the hopelessness of success against so much heavier 
metal, and after having backed astern some distance, he 
filled on the other tack, luffing up with t!ie intention of 
meeting the enemy as she came to the wind, and of lay- 
ing her athwart hause. In the smoke, one party or the 
other miscalculated the distance, for the two vessels came 
foul again, the bowsprit of the English ship passing over 
the poop of the American. As neither had much way, the 
collision did but little injury, and Com. Jones, with his own 
hands, immediately lashed the enemy's head-gear to his 
mizzen-mast. The pressure on the after sails of the Serapis, 
which vessel was nearly before the wind at the time, brought 
her hull round, and the two ships gradually fell close along- 
side of each other, head and stern, the jib-boom of the Se- 
rapis giving way with the strain. A spare anchor of the 

Vol. L— 17 


English ship now hooked in the quarter of the American, and 
additional lashings were got out on board the latter to se- 
cure her in this position. 

Capt. Pearson, who was as much aware of his advantage 
in a regular combat as his opponent could be of his own 
disadvantage, no sooner perceived the vessels foul, than he 
dropped an anchor, in the hope that the Richard would drift 
clear of him. But such an expectation was perfectly futile, 
as the yards were interlocked, the hulls were pressed close 
against each other, there were lashings fore and aft, and 
even the ornamental work aided in holding the ships toge- 
ther. When the cable of the Serapis took the strain, the 
vessels slowly tended, with the bows of the Serapis and the 
stern of the Richard to the tide. At this instant the Eng- 
lish made an attempt to board, but were repulsed without 

All this time the battle raged. The lower ports of the 
Serapis having been closed, as the vessel swung, to prevent 
boarding, they were now blown off, in order to allow the 
guns to be run out; and cases actually occurred in which 
the rammers had to be thrust into the ports of the opposite 
ship in order to be entered into the muzzles of their proper 
guns. It is evident that such a conflict must have been of 
short duration. In effect, the heavy metal of the Serapis, 
in one or two discharges, cleared all before it, and the main- 
deck guns of the Richard were in a great measure aban- 
doned. Most of the people went on the upper-deck, and a 
great number collected on the forecastle, where they were 
safe from the fire of the enemy, continuing to fight by throw- 
ing grenades and using muskets. 

In this stage of the combat, the Serapis wis tearing her 
antagonist to pieces below, almost without resistance from 
her enemy's batteries, only two guns on the quarler-deck, 
and three or four of the twelves, being worked at all. To the 
former, by shifting a gun from the larboard side, Com. Jones 


succeeded in adding a third, all of which were used with 
effect, under his immediate inspection, to the close of the 
action. He could not muster force enough to get over a 
second gun. But the combat would now have soon termi- 
nated, had it not been for the courage and activity of the 
people aloft. Strong parties had been placed in the tops, and, 
at the end of a short contest, the Americans had driven every 
man belonging to the enemy below ; after which they kept 
up so animated a fire, on the quarter-deck of the Serapis in 
particular, as to drive nearly every man off it, that was not 
shot down. 

Thus, while the English had the battle nearly all to them- 
selves below, their enemies had the control above the upper- 
deck. Having cleared the tops of the Serapis, some Ame- 
rican seamen lay out on the Richard's main-yard, and be- 
gan to throw hand-grenades upon the two upper decks 
of the English ship; the men on the forecastle of their own 
vessel seconding these efforts, by casting the same combus- 
tibles through the ports of the Serapis. At length one man, 
in particular, became so hardy as to take his post pn the 
extreme end of the yard, whence, provided with a bucket 
filled with combustibles, and a match, he. dropped the gre- 
nades with so much precision that one passed through the 
main-hatchway. The powder-boys of the Serapis had got 
more cartridges up than were wanted, and, in their hurry, 
they had carelessly laid a row of them on the main-deck, in 
a line with the guns. The grenade just mentioned set fire 
to some loose powder that was lying near, and the flash 
passed from cartridge to cartridge, beginning abreast of the 
main-mast and running quite aft. 

The effect of this explosion was awful. More than twenty 
men were instantly killed, many of them being left with no- 
thing on them but the collars and wristbands of their shirts, 
and the waistbands of their duck trowsers ; while the official 
returns of the ship, a week after the action, show that there 


were no less than thirty-eight wounded on board, still alive, 
who had been injured in this manner, and of whom thirty 
were said to have been then in great danger. Capt. Pearson 
described this explosion as having destroyed nearly all the 
men at the five or six aftermost guns. On the whole, near 
sixty of the Serapis' people must have been instantly dis- 
abled by this sudden blow. 

The advantage thus obtained, by the coolness and intre- 
pidity of the topmen, in a great measure restored ihe chances 
of the combat, and, by lessening the fire of the enemy, ena- 
bled Com. Jones to increase his. In the same degree that it 
encouraged the crew of the Richard, it diminished the hopes 
of the people of the Serapis. One of the guns under the 
immediate inspection of Com. Jones had been pointed some 
time against the main-mast of his enemy, while the two 
others had seconded the fire of the tops, with grape and 
cannister. Kept belowdecks by this double attack, where a 
scene of frightful horror was present in the agonies of the 
wounded, and the efl^ects of the explosion, the spirits of the 
English began to droop, and there was a moment when a 
trifle would have induced them to submit. From this de- 
spondency they were temporarily raised, by one of those 
unlooked for events that ever accompany the vicissitudes of 

After exchanging the ineflective and distant broadsides 
already mentioned, with the Scarborough, the Alliance had 
kept standing off and on, to leeward of the two principal 
ships, out of the direction of their shot, wlien, about half 
past eight, she appeared crossing the stern of the Serapis 
and the bow of the Richard, firing at such a distance as to 
render it impossible to say, which vessel would sufier the 
most. As soon as she had drawn out of the range of her 
own guns, her helm was put up, and she ran down near a 
mile to leeward, hovering about, until the firing had ceased 
between the Pallas and Scarborough, when she came within 


hail and spoke both of these vessels. Capt. Cottineau of the 
Pallas earnestly entreated Capt Landais to take possession 
of his prize, and allow hitn to go to the assistance of the 
Richard, or to stretch up to windward in the Alliance him- 
self, and succour the commodore. 

After some delay, Capt. Landais took the important 
duty of assisting his consort, into his own hands, and 
making two long stretches, under his topsails, he appeared, 
about the time at which we have arrived in the narration 
of the combat, directly to windward of the two ships, with 
the head of the Alliance to the westw^ard. Here the latter 
ship once more opened her fire, doing equal damage at 
least, to friend and foe. Keeping away a little, and still 
continuing her fire, the Alliance was soon on the larboard 
quarter of the Richard, and, it is even affirmed, that her 
guns were discharged until she had got nearly abeam. 

Fifty voices now hailed to tell the people of the Alliance 
that they were firing into the wrong ship, and three lan- 
terns were shown, in a line, on the ofT side of the Richard, 
which was the regular signal of recognition for a night ac- 
tion. An officer was directed to hail, and to order Capt. 
Landais to lay the enemy aboard, and the question being 
put whether the order was comprehended, the answer was 
in the affirmative. 

As the moon had been up some time, it was impossi- 
ble not to distinguish between the vessels, the Richard 
being all black, while the Serapis had yellow sides, and the 
impression seems to have been general in the former vessel, 
that they had been attacked intentionally. At the discharge 
of the first guns of the Alliance, the people left one or 
two of the twelves on board the Richard, which they had 
begun to fight again, saying that the Englishmen in the 
Alliance had got possession of the ship, and were helping 
the enemy. It appears that this discharge dismounted a 



gun or two, extinguished several lanterns on the main deck, 
and did a good deal of damage aloft. 

The Alliance hauled off to some distance, keeping always 
on the offside of the Richard, and soon after she re-appear- 
ed edging down on the larboard beam of her consort, 
hauling up athwart the bows of that ship and the stern of 
her antagonist. On this occasion, it is affirmed that her 
fire re-commenced, when, by possibility, the shot could only 
reach the Serapis through the Richard. Ten or twelve 
men appear to have been killed and wounded on the forecas- 
tle of the latter ship, which was crowded at the time, and 
among them was an officer of the name of Caswell, who, 
with his dying breath, maintained that he had received his 
wound by the fire of the friendly vessel. 

After crossing the bows of the Richard, and the stern of 
the Serapis, delivering grape as she passed, the Alliance ran 
off to leeward, again standing off and on, doing nothing, for 
the remainder of the combat. 

The fire of the Alliance added greatly to the leaks of the 
Richard, which ship, by this time, had received so much 
water through the shot-holes, as to begin to settle. It is 
even affirmed by many witnesses, that the most dangerous 
shot-holes on board the Richard, were under her larboard 
bow, and larboard counter, in places where they could not 
have been received from the fire of the Serapis. This evi- 
dence, however, is not unanswerable, as it has been seen 
that the Serapis luffed up on the larboard-quarter of the 
Richard in the commencement of the action, and, forging 
ahead, was subsequently on her larboard-bow, endeavouring 
to cross her fore foot. It is certainly possible that shot may 
have struck the Richard in the places mentioned, on these 
occasions, and that, as the ship settled in the water from other 
leaks, the holes then made may have suddenly increased the 
danger. On the other hand, if the Alliance did actually fire 
while on the bow and quarter of the Richard, as appears by 


a mass of uncontradicted testimony, the dangerous shot- 
holes may very well have come from that ship. 

Let the injuries have been received from what quarter 
they might, soon after the Alliance had run to leeward, an 
alarm was spread in the Richard, that the ship was sinking. 
Both vessels had been on fire several times, and some diffi- 
culty had been experienced in extinguishing the flames, but 
here was a new enemy to contend with, and as the infor- 
mation came from the carpenter, whose duty it was to 
sound the pump-wells, it product^d a good deal of conster- 
nation. The Richard had more than a hundred Ensrlish 
prisoners on board, and the master at arms, in the hurry of 
the moment, let them all up from below, in order to save 
their lives. In the confusion of such a scene at night, the 
master of a letter of marque, that had been taken oft' the 
north of Scotland, passed through a port of the Richard into 
one of the Serapis, when he reported to Capt. Pearson, that 
a few minutes would probably decide the battle in his favour, 
or carry his enemy down, he himself having been liberated 
in order to save his life. Just at this instant the gunner, 
who had little to occupy him at his quarters, came on 
deck, and not perceiving Com. Jones, or Mr. Dale, both of 
whom were occupied with the liberated prisoners, and be- 
lieving the master, the only other superior he had in the 
ship, to be dead, he ran up on the poop to haul down the 
colours. Fortunately the flag-staff had been shot away, 
and, the ensign already hanging in the water, he had no 
other means of letting his intention to submit be known, 
than by calling out for quarter. Capt. Pearson now hailed 
to inquire if the Richard demanded quarter, and was 
answered by Com. Jones himself, in the negative. It is 
probable that the reply was not heard, or, if heard, supposed 
to come from an unauthorized source, for encouraged by 
what he had learned from the escaped prisoner, by the 
cry, and by the confusion that prevailed in the Richard, 


the English captain directed his boarders to be called away, 
and, as soon as n"iustered, they were ordered to take posses- 
sion of the prize. Some of the men actually got on the 
gunwale of the latter ship, but finding boarders ready to 
repel boarders, they made a precipitate retreat. All this 
time, the top-men were not idle, and the enemy were soon 
driven below again with loss. 

In the mean while, Mr. Dale, who no longer had a gun 
that could be fought, mustered the prisoners at the pumps, 
turning their consternation to account, and probably keep- 
ing the Richard afloat by the very blunder that had come 
so near losing her. The ships were now on fire again, 
and both parties, with the exception of a few guns on each 
side, ceased fighting, in order to subdue this dangerous 
enemy. In the course of the combat, the Serapis is said to 
have been set on fire no less than twelve times, while, 
towards its close, as will be seen in the sequel, the Richard 
was burning all the while. 

As soon as order was restored in the Richard, after the 
call for quarter, her chances of success began to increase, 
while the English, driven under cover, almost to a man, 
appear to have lost, in a great degree, the hope of victory. 
Their fire materially slackened, while the Richard again 
brought a few more guns to bear ; the main-mast of the 
Serapis began to totter, and her resistance, in general, to 
lessen. About an hour after the explosion, or between three 
hours and three hours and a half after the first gun was 
fired, and between two hours and two hours and a half after 
the ships were lashed together, Capt. Pearson hauled down 
the colours of the Serapis with his own hands, the men re- 
fusing to expose themselves to the fire of the Richard's tops. 

As soon as it was known that the colours of the English 
had been lowered, Mr. Dale got upon the gunwale of the 
Richard, and laying hold of the main brace pendant, he 
swung himself on board the Serapis. On the quarter deck 


of the latter he found Capt. Pearson, almost alone, that 
gallant officer having maintained his post, throughout the 
whole of this close and murderous conflict. Just as Mr. 
Dale addressed the English captain, the first lieutenant of 
the Serapis came up from below to inquire if the Richard 
had struck, her fire having entirely ceased. Mr. Dale now 
gave the English officer to understand that he was mistaken 
in the position of things, the Serapis having struck to the 
Richard, and not the Richard to the Serapis. Capt. Pear- 
son confirming this account, his subordinate acquiesced, 
ofiering to go below and silence the guns that were still 
playing upon the American ship. To this Mr. Dale would 
not consent, but both the English officers were imme- 
diately passed on board the Richard. The firing was 
then stopped below. Mr. Dale had been closely follow- 
ed to the quarter-deck of the Serapis, by Mr. Mayrant, 
a midshipman, and a party of boarders, and as the former 
struck the quarter deck of the prize, he was run through the 
thigh, by a boarding pike, in the hands of a man in the 
waist, who was ignorant of the surrender. Thus did the close 
of this remarkable combat, resemble its other features in sin- 
gularity, blood being shed and shot fired, while the boarding 
officer was in amicable discourse with his prisoners! 

As soon as Capt. Pearson was on board the Richard, and 
Mr. Dale had received a proper number of hands in the 
prize. Com. Jones ordered the lashings to be cut, and the 
vessels to be separated, hailing the Serapis, as the Richard 
drifted from along side of her, and ordering her to follow 
his own ship. Mr. Dale, now had the head sails of the Se- 
rapis braced sharp aback, and the wheel put down, but the 
vessel refused both her helm and her canvass. Surprised 
and excited at this circumstance, the gallant lieutenant 
sprang from the binnacle on which he had seated himself, 
and fell at his length on the deck. He had been severely 
wounded in the leg, by a splinter, and until this moment had 


been ignorant of the injury. He was replaced on the bin- 
nacle, when the master of the Serapis came up and ac- 
quainted him with the fact that the ship was anchored. 

By this time, Mr. Lunt, the second lieutenant, who had 
been absent in the pilot boat, had got along side, and was 
on board the prize. To this officer Mr. Dale now consigned 
the charge of the Serapis, the cable was cut, and the ship 
followed the Richard, as ordered. 

Although this protracted and bloody combat had now 
ended, neither the danger nor the labours of the victors 
were over. The Richard was both sinking and on fire. The 
flames had got within the ceiling, and extended so far that 
they menaced the magazine, while all the pumps, in con- 
stant use, could barely keep the water at the same level. 
Had it depended on the exhausted people of the two com- 
batants, the ship must have soon sunk, but the other vessels 
of the squadron sent hands on board the Richard, to assist 
at the pumps. So imminent did the danger from the fire 
become, that all the powder was got on deck, to prevent an 
explosion. In this manner did the night of the battle pass, 
with one gang always at the pumps, and another contend- 
ing with the flames, until about ten o'clock in the forenoon 
of the 24th, when the latter were got under. After the 
action, eight or ten Englishmen in the Richard, stole a boat 
from the Serapis, and ran away with it, landing at Scarbo- 
rough. Several of the men were so alarmed with the con- 
dition of their ship, as to jump overboard and swim to the 
other vessels. 

When the day dawned, an examination was made into 
fhe condition of the Richard. Abaft, on a line with the guns 
of the Serapis that had not been disabled by the explosion, 
the timbers were found to be nearly all beaten in, or beaten 
out, for in this respect there was little difference between the 
two sides of the ship ; and it was said that her poop and upper 
decks would have fallen into the gun-room, but for a few fut- 


tocks that had been missed. Indeed, so large was the vacuum, 
that most of the shot fired from this part of the Serapis, at the 
close of the action, must have gone through the Richard 
without touching any thing. The rudder was cut from the 
stern-post, and the transoms were nearly driven out of her. 
All the after part of the ship, in particular, that was below 
the quarter-deck, was torn to pieces, and nothing had saved 
those stationed on the quarter-deck, but the impossibility of 
elevating guns that almost touched their object. 

The result of this examination was to convince every one 
of the impossibility of carrying the Richard into port, in the 
event of its coming on to blow. Com. Jones was advised to 
remove his wounded while the weather continued moderate, 
and he reluctantly gave the order to commence. The fol- 
lowing night and the morning of the succeeding day were 
employed in executing this imperious duty, and about nine 
o'clock, the officer of the Pallas, who was in charge of the 
ship, with a party at the pumps, finding that the water had 
reached the lower-deck, reluctantly abandoned her. About 
ten, the Bon Homme Richard wallowed heavily, gave a 
roll, and settled slowly into the sea, bows foremost. 

The Serapis suffered much less than the Richard, the 
guns of the latter having been so light, and so soon silenced; 
but no sooner were the ships separated, than her main-mast 
fell, bringing down with it the mizzen-top-mast. Though 
jury-masts were erected, the ship drove about, nearly help- 
less, in the North Sea, until the 6lh of October, when the 
remains of the squadron, with the two prizes, got into the 
Texel, the port to which they had been ordered to repair. 

In the combat between the Richard and the Serapis, an 
unusual number of lives was lost, though no regular authen- 
tic report appears to have been given by either side. Capt. 
Pearson states the loss of the Richard at about 300 in killed 
and wounded; a total that would have included very nearly 
all hands, and which was certainly a great exaggeration, 


or, at least, a great mistake. According to a muster-roll of 
the officers and people of the Richard, excluding the ma- 
rines, which is still in existence, 42 men were killed, or died 
of their wounds shortly after the battle, and 41 were wound- 
ed. This would make a total of 83, for this portion of the 
crew, which, on the roll, amounted to 227 souls. But many 
of the persons named on this list are known not to have 
been in the action at all; such as neither of the junior lieu- 
tenants, and some thirty men that were with them, besides 
those absent in prizes. As there were a few volunteers on 
board, however, who were not mustered, if we set down 
200 as the number of the portion of the regular crew that 
was in the action, we shall probabl}^ not be far from the 
truth. By estimating the soldiers that remained on board at 
120, and observing the same proportion for their casualties, 
we shall get 49 as the result, which will make a total of 
132, as the entire loss of the Richard. It is known, how^- 
ever, that, in the commencement of the action, the soldiers, 
or marines, suffered out of proportion to the rest of the 
crew, and general report having made the gross loss of the 
Richard 150 men, we are disposed to believe that it was not 
far from the fact. 

Capt. Pearson reported a part of his loss at 117 men, 
admitting, at the same time, that there were many killed 
and wounded whose names he could not discover. It is 
probable that the loss of the two ships, in men, was about 
equal, and that nearly or quite half of all those who were 
engaged, were either killed or wounded. Com. Jones, in a 
private letter, written some time after the occurrence, gives 
an opinion, liowever, that the loss of the Richard was less 
than that of the Serapis. That two vessels of so much 
force should lie lashed together more than two hours, mak- 
ing use of artillery, musketry, and all the other means of 
annoyance known to the warfare of the day, and not do 
even greater injury to the crews, strikes us with astonish- 


ment; but the fact must be ascribed to the peculiarities of 
the combat, which, by driving most of the English under 
cover so early in the battle, and by driving the Americans 
above the line of fire of their enemies, in a measure protect- 
ed each party from the missiles of the other. As it was, it 
proved a murderous and sanguinary conflict, though its 
duration would probably have been much shorter, and its 
character still more bloody, but for these unusual circum- 

* The writer has given the particulars of this celebrated sea-fight in 
detail, on account of the great interest that has always been attached to 
the subject, no less than from a desire to correct many of tlie popular 
errors that have so long existed in connexion with its incidents. In fram- 
ing his own account, he has followed what to him have appeared to be 
the best authorities. Scarcely any two of the eye-witnesses agree in all 
their facts, but by dint of examination, the writer has been enabled to 
discover, as he believes, where the weight of credible testimony and pro- 
bability lies, and has used it accordingly. Com. Dale, a witness every way 
entitled to respect, so far as his position enabled him to note occurrences, 
was kind enough while living to describe to the writer the manoeuvres of 
the ships, which it is hoped have now been given in a way that will ren- 
der them intelligible to seamen. There are but two leading circumstances 
of this sort that, to the writer, appear doubtful. The Alliance thrice ap- 
pi'oached, each time firing into both the combatants; but the accounts, or 
rather testimony, — for there are many certificates given by the officers 
not only of the Richard, but of the Alliance herself, Pallas, &c., — is so 
obscure and confused, that it is difficult to get at the truth of the manner, 
order, and exact time in which these attacks were made. With the view 
to give no opinion as to the precise time of the last firing of the Alliance, 
the writer has condensed the account of all her proceedings into one, 
though he inclines to think that the second attack of this ship may 
have occurred a little later in the contest than would appear from the 
manner in which it is told in the narrative. The word may is used from 
uncertainty, most of the testimony, perhaps, placing the occurrence in 
the order of time given in the text. Capt. Pearson says, or is made to 
say, in his official report, that the Alliance " kept sailing round us the 
whole action, and raking us fore and aft," &c. This statement is contra- 
dicted by the formal certificates of nearly every officer in the Richard, 
by persons on board the Alliance, by spectators in boats, as well as by . 
officers of the other vessels near. The first lieutenant and master of 
Vol. I.— 18 


the Alliance herself admit that they were never on the off side of the 
Serapis at all, and of course their ship never could have gone round her. 
They also say that they engaged the Scarborough, at very long* shot, for 
a short time; a fact that Capt. Piercy of the Scarborough corroborates. 
They add, moreover, that their ship was a long time aloof from the com- 
bat, and tiiat she only fired three broadsides, or parts of broadsides, at 
the Richard and Serapis. From the testimony, there is little doubt that 
the Alliance did materially more injury to the Richard than to the Serapis; 
though, as Capt. Pearson could not have known this fact at the time, it is 
highly probable that her proximity may have influenced that officer in 
inducing him to lower his flag. 

The second point is the fact whether the Scarborough raked the Rich- 
ard before she was herself engaged with the other ships. The writer is 
of opinion that she did, while he admits that the matter is involved in 



The arrival of Paul Jones in Holland, with his prizes, 
excited a great deal of interest in the diplomatic world. 
The English demanded that the prisoners should be released, 
and that Jones himself should be given up as a pirate. The 
Dutch government, though well disposed to favour the Ame- 
ricans, was not prepared for war, and it was induced to 
temporize. A long correspondence followed, which termi- 
nated in one of those political expedients that are so com- 
mon, and in which the pains and penalties of avowing the 
truth are avoided by means of a mystification. The Sera- 
pis, which had been re-masted and equipped, was transferred 
to France, as was the Scarborough, while Com. Jones took 
command of the Alliance, Capt. Landais having been sus- 
pended, and was ordered to quit Holland. 

It would seem that there were two parties in Holland: 
that of the prince, and that of the people. With the latter 
the American cause was popular; but the former employed 
an admiral at the Texel, who, after a vexatious course, 
finally succeeded in forcing the Alliance to put to sea, in the 
face of a fleet of enemies, which w^as anxiously awaiting 
her appearance. The Alliance went to sea on the 27th of 
December, 1779, and reached the roads of Groix again, in 
safety, on the 10th of February, 1780. She passed down the 
Channel, was near enough to the squadron in the Downs to 
examine its force, was several times chased, and made a 
short cruise in the Bay of Biscay, after having touched in 


Spain. Capt. Conyngham, who had been captured in n 
privateer, had joined the Alhance, and went round to 
I'Orient in the ship. 

Although it will be anticipating the events of another 
year, we shall finish the history of this vessel, so far as she 
was connected with the officer who first commanded her, 
Capt. Landais. This gentleman had been sent for to Paris, 
to account for his conduct to the American minister, and 
subsequently his claim to command the Alliance was refer- 
red to Mr. Arthur Lee, who was on the spot, and who had 
long been in Europe as a conspicuous agent of the govern- 
ment. The decision of this commissioner restored Capt. Lan- 
dais to the Alliance, on the ground that his command having 
been given to him by the highest authority of the country, a 
vote of congress, he could not legally be deprived of it by 
any subordinate authority. In June, Capt. Landais sailed in 
the ship for America, where she was given to an officer 
better fitted to show her excellent qualities, and who, in the 
end, succeeded in redeeming her character. During the 
passage home, Capt. Landais was deposed from the com- 
mand, under the idea that he was insane, and soon after he 
was discharged from the navy. It is thought that the ab- 
sence of Com. Jones, alone, prevented his receiving severer 

Com. Jones, anxious to get back to America, took com- 
mand of the Ariel 20, a little ship that the king of France 
lent to his allies, to aid in transporting military supplies ; 
and, in this vessel, with a portion of the officers and men 
who had belonged to the Richard, he sailed from under 
Groix on the 7th of September. The Ariel encountered 
a severe gale, when a day or two out, in v/hich she came 
near being lost. The ship was so pressed upon by the wind 
that her lower-yard-arms frequently dipped, and though an 
anchor was let go, she refused to tend to it. In order to 
keep her from foundering, the fore-mast was cut away, and 


the heel of the main-mast having worked out of the step, 
that spar followed, bringing down with it the mizzen-mast. 

Returning to L'Orient to refit, the Ariel sailed a second 
time for America, on the 18th of December. During the 
passage, she fell in with an enemy of about her own size, in 
the night, and after much conversation, a short combat fol- 
lowed, when the English ship intimated that she had struck, 
but taking advantage of her position, she made sail and 
escaped. Some unaccountable mistake was made by, or 
an extraordinary hallucination appears to have come over, 
Com. Jones, in reference to this affair, for, in his journal, he 
speaks of his enemy as having been an English twenty-gun 
ship called the Triumph, and the result as a victory. The 
Triumph, if such was truly the name of the English ship, 
was probably a letter of marque, unable to resist a vessel of • 
war of any force, and, though not free from the imputation 
of treachery, she escaped by out-manceuvring the Ariel.* 
On the ISthof February, 1781, after an absence of more than 
three years, Paul Jones reached Philadelphia in safety.f 

* Private communication of tlie late Com. Dale, to the writer. 

f John Paul was born on the 6th of July, 1747, at Arbig-land, on the 
Frith of Solway, in the king-dom of Scotland. His father was the gardener 
of Mr. Craik, a gentleman of that vicinity. At the age of twelve, the boy 
was apprenticed to a ship-master in the Virginia trade, and -he made his 
appearance in America, in consequence, when in his thirteenth year. An 
elder brother had married and settled in Virginia, and from this time 
young Paul appears to have had views of the same sort. The failure of his 
master induced him to give up the indentures of the apprentice, and we 
soon find the latter on board a slaver. The master and mate of the vessel 
he was in dying, Paul took charge of her, and brought her into port; and 
from that time he appears to have sailed in command. About the year 1770, 
he caused a man named Mungo Maxwell to be flogged for misconduct, and 
the culprit made a complaint of ill-treatment, menacing a prosecution. 
The complaint was rejected by the local authorities (West Indies) as frivo- 
lous; but, not long after. Maxwell went to sea in another ship, and died 
rather suddenly. When the fact became known, the enemies of Paul 
circulated a report that tlie death of this man was owing to the ill-treat- 



Before we return to the American seas, and to the more 
regular incidents of the year 1779, we will add that, after 
an inquiry into the conduct of Capt. Jones, as it was con- 
nected with all his proceedings in Europe, Congress gave 

ment he had received when punished by his former commander. AUhougl* 
this rumour was completely dispi-oved in the end, it raised a prejudice 
against the young seaman, and, at a later day, when he became conspicu- 
ous, it was used against him, for political efiect, by those who ought to 
have been superior to injustice of so low a character. 

Mr. Paul was soured at this ill-treatment, and, in a manner, abandoned 
his native countrj'. In 1773, his brother died, and he went to Virginia to 
settle, with the intention of quitting the seas. Here, for some reason 
that is unknown, he added the name of Jones to his two others. The 
hostilities of 1775, however, brought liim forward again, and he was the 
senior lieutenant ever commissioned regularly, in the service of Congress. 
As this was before the declaration of independence, the relative rank wa& 
not established; but iu October, 1776, his name appears on the list as the 
eighteenth captain. 

His first cruise was in the Alfred 24, Capt. Saltonstall, the ship that bore 
the broad pennant of Com, Hopkins, and his first engagement was that 
with the Glasgow. From tlie Alfred, he was transferred to the sloop Pro- 
vidence 12, as her captain. He then commanded the Alfred 24. In 1777 
he was appointed to the Kanger 18, a cr.'ink, clumsy ship, witli a gun- 
deck, but no armament above, and a dull sailer. In 1778, after the cruise 
in the Irish Channel, in which he took the Drake, he gave up the com- 
mand of the Rang-er, and in 1779, obtained that of the squadron, under 
the celebrated concordat. His subsequent movements, until the peace, 
are to be traced in the text. 

In 1782, Capt. Jones was launched in tlie America 74, and the same 
day delivered her up to the Chevalier de Martigne, the late commander 
of the l^lagnifique, the ship she was now to replace. After this he made 
a cruise in the French fleet, as a volunteer, in which situation he was 
found by the peace. In November, 1783, he sailed for France with a 
commission to negotiate for the recovery of prize-money in different parts 
of Europe. In 1787, he returned to America on business, but was 
back again in Europe in the course of tlie same season. He now went 
to the north on business connected with his prizes. About tliis time he 
received some proposals to enter the Russian navy, and in the spring of 
1788, he obtained the rank of rear-admiral accordingly. Siiortly after, he 
was placed in an important command against the Tiu-ks, in which situation 


him a vote of thanks, and, by a formal resohiiion, bestowed 
on him the command of the America 74, the only one of the 
six ships of that class that was ever laid down under the law 
of 1776. In order to dispose of this branch of the subject at 

he is said to have rendered material services. But personal hostility 
drove him from Russia in 1789. He returned to Paris, retaining- his rank, 
and pensioned. From this time he remained in France and the adjacent 
countries of Europe, until his death, which occurred at Paris, on the 18th 
of July, 1792. A commission appointing- him the agent of the American 
g-ovcrnment to treat with Alg;iers, arrived after he was dead. 

That Paul Jones was a remarkable man, cannot justly be questioned. 
He had a respectable English education, and, after his ambition had been 
awakened by success, he appears to have paid attention to the intellec- 
tual parts of his profession. In his enterprises are to be discovered much 
of that boldness of conception that marks a g-reat naval captain, though his 
most celebrated battle is probably the one in which he evinced no other 
very high quality than that of an invincible resolution to conquer. Most of 
the misfortunes of the Bon Homme Richard, however, may be very fairly 
attributed to the insubordination of liis captains, and to the bad equipment 
of his own vessel. The expedient of running the Serapis aboard was one 
like himself, and it was the only chance for victory that was left. 

Paul Jones was a man rather under than above the middle size, and his 
countenance has been described as possessing much of that sedateness that 
marks deep enthusiasm. There is no doubt that his eminence arose from 
the force of his convictions, rather than from his power of combining-, 
though his reasoning faculties were respectable. His associations in Paris 
appear to have awakened a taste which, whenever it comes late in life, is 
almost certain to come attended with exaggeration. Personally he would 
seem to have been vain: a very excusable foible in one of his education 
and previous habits, that was suddenly exposed to the flattery and seduc- 
tions of Parisian society. He never married, though he was not averse to 
the sex, as appears from his letters, poetic effusions, and gallantries. An 
affectation of a literary taste, that expended itself principally in homage 
to those he admired, formed indeed one of his principal weaknesses. 

In battle, Paul Jones was brave; in enterprise, hardy and original; in 
victory, mild and generous; in motives, much disposed to disinterested- 
ness, though ambitious of renown and covetous of distinction; in his pe- 
cuniary relations, liberal; in his affections, natural and sincere; and in his 
temper, except in those cases which assailed his reputation, just and for- 
giving-. He wanted the quiet self-respect of a man capable of meeting 


once, it may be well to say here, that the America never 
got to sea under the national colours. Congress presenting 
the ship to their ally, Louis XVI., to replace the Magnifique 
74, which had been lost in the port of Boston. This friendly 
offering was made by resolution, September the 3d, 1782, 
and, as it was now near the end of the war, Paul Jones never 
got to sea again in the service. In consequence of the Ame- 
rica's having been presented to France, while still on the 
stocks, the United States properly possessed no two-decked 
ship during the war of the Revolution. 

To return to the more regular order of events. 

During the summer of 1779, the Deane 32, Capt. Samuel 
Nicholson, and the Boston 24, Capt. Tucker, made a cruise 
in company. In August of that year, these two ships took 
many prizes, though no action of moment occurred. Among 
others were the Sandwich, (a packet,) 16, two privateers, 
with the Glencairn 20, and the Thorn 18. The two last 
vessels were letters of marque. 

In the spring of this year, the Providence 12, Capt. 
Hacker, took a vessel of equal force, called the Diligent, 
after a sharp action. The particulars of this engagement 
are lost, though they are known to have been highly credit- 
able to the American officer. The Diligent appears to have, 
been taken into the service. 

A bloody action also occurred, about the same time, be- 
tween the Massachusetts state cruiser Hazard 14, Capt. 

acts of injustice with composure and dignity; and his complaints of ill- 
treatment and neglect, for which there was sufficient foundation, pio- 
bably lost him favour both in France and America. Had circumstances 
put him in a situation of high command, there is little doubt that lie would 
have left a name unsurpassed by that of any naval captain, or have perish- 
ed in endeavouring to obtain it. 

From the American government, Paul Jones received many proofs of 
commendation. Louis XVI. created him a knight of the order of Merit, 
and Catharine of Russia conferred on him the ribbon of St. Anne. He also 
received other marks of distinction, with a pension from Denmark. 


John Foster Williams, and the Active 18, a vessel that is 
supposed to have belonged to the king. The combat lasted 
half an hour, and was determined in favour of the Hazard. 
The Active is said to have had 33 killed and wounded, and 
the Hazard 8. Shortly after this handsome affair, Capt. 
Williams was appointed to the ship Protector, 20, belonging 
to the same state, and in June he had a severe action with 
one of those heavy letters of marque, it was much the cus- 
tom to send to sea, at the period of which we are writing, 
called the Duff; a ship said to have been quite equal in force 
to the Protector. After a sharp contest of more than an 
hour, the Duff blew up. The Protector succeeded in saving 
55 of her crew, having had 6 of her own people killed and 
wounded in the battle. Taking and manning many prizes, 
the Protector had a narrow escape from capture, by falling 
in with the enemy's frigate Thames 32, from which ship, 
however, she escaped, after a sharp running fight, in which 
the Thames was much crippled aloft. On returning to 
port, Capt. Williams, who bore a high reputation as an offi- 
cer and a seaman, was immediately engaged in the expedi- 
tion that it is our duty to record next, and which proved to 
be much the most disastrous affair in which American sea- 
men were ever engaged. 

The enemy having established a post on the Penobscott, 
and placed a strong garrison in it, the state of Massachu- 
setts determined to drive them from its territory, without 
calling upon Congress for assistance. As the country was 
then nearly a wilderness, it is probable a feeling of pride 
induced this step, it being worthy of remark, that, after 
General Gage was expelled from Boston, the enemy had, in 
no instance, attempted to maintain any other post than this, 
which lay on a remote and uninhabited frontier, within the 
territories of New England. For this purpose, Massachu- 
setts made a draft of 1500 of her own militia, and got an 
order for the U. S. ship, Warren 32, Capt. Saltonstall, the 


Diligent 14, Capt. Brown, and the Providence 12, Capt. 
Hacker, to join the expedition, these being the only regular 
cruisers employed on the occasion. Three vessels belong- 
ing to Massachusetts were also put under the orders of 
Capt. Saltonstall, and a force consisting of thirteen priva- 
teers was added. In addition there were many transports 
and store-vessels. Gen. Lovel commanded the brigade. 

This armament made its appearance off the Penobscott 
on the 25ih of July. While the militia were making their 
descent, the Warren, and another vessel of some force, en- 
gaged the enemy's works. The cannonading was severe, 
and the Warren is said to have had 30 men killed and 
wounded, in the action with the batteries, and in landing the 
troops. The latter duty, however, was successfully per- 
formed by General Lovel, with a loss of about a hundred 
men, including all arms. Finding it impossible to carry 
the place with his present force, the commanding officer 
now sent for reinforcements. On the I3th of August, while 
waiting for a return of the messenger, information was re- 
ceived from the Tyrannicide, the look-out vessel, that 
Sir George Collier, in the Rainbow 64, accompanied by 
four other vessels of war, was entering the bay. The 
troops immediately re-embarked, and a general, hurried and 
confused flight ensued. The British squadron, consisting of 
five vessels of war, quickly appeared, and a pursuit up the 
river was commenced, and continued for a long distance. 
The enemy soon got near enough to use their chase guns, 
and the fire was returned by the Americans. It was un- 
doubtedly the wish of Capt. Saltonstall, to reach the shallow 
waters before he was overtaken, but, finding this impracti- 
cable, he run his ship ashore, and set her on fire. Others 
followed this example, and most of the vessels were des- 
troyed, though three or four fell into the hands of the 

Capt. Saltonstall was much, and, in some respects, per- 


haps, justly censured, for this disaster, though it is to be 
feared that it arose more from that habit of publicity, which 
is peculiar to all countries much influenced by popular 
feeling, than from any other cause. Had a due regard been 
paid to secrecy, time might have been gained to effect the 
object, in that remote region, before a sufficient force could 
have been collected to go against the assailants. In a mili- 
tary sense, the principal faults appear to have been a mis- 
calculation of means, at the commencement, and a neglect 
to raise such batteries, as might have protected the shipping 
against the heavy vessels of the enemy. It could not surely 
have been thought that privateers, armed with light guns, 
could resist two-deckers, and the fact, that the English had 
a fleet of such vessels on the coast was generally known. 
The Warren, the largest vessel among the Americans, was 
a common frigate of thirty-two guns, and had a main-deck 
battery of twelve pounders. Whatever might have been 
attempted by a regular force, was put out of the question 
b}' the insubordination of the privateers-men, each vessel 
seeking her own safety, as her captain saw best. 

The troops and seamen that landed, found themselves in 
the centre of a wilderness, and taking different directions, 
their sufferings, before they reached the settlements, were of 
the severest kind. It is a fact, worthy of being recorded, 
that, on this occasion, the Warren being short of men at 
the commencement of the expedition, and finding it difficult 
to obtain them by enlistment, in consequence of the sudden 
demand for seamen, Capt. Saltonstall made up the deficiency 
by impressment. 

The disastrous result of this expedition inflicted a severe 
blow on American nautical enterprises. Many privateers 
and state vessels, that had been successful against the 
enemy's commerce, were either captured or destroyed. 
Among the vessels blown up, was the Providence 12, one of 
the first cruisers ever sent to sea by the United States, and 


which had become noted for exploits greatly exceeding her 
force. As far as can now be ascertained, we find reason 
to believe, that this little cruiser was both sloop-rigged and 
brig-rigged, in the course of her service. She had been a 
privateer out of Rhode Island, at the commencement of the 
war, and was bought of her original commander, Capt. 
Whipple,* who was himself admitted into the service, as the 
first commander of the Columbus 20, and who subsequently 
was numbered as the twelfth captain, on the regulated list 
of 1776. 

* This officer is supposed to have commanded at the burning' of the 
Gaspe in 1772. 



At the coirimencement of the year 1780, the French fleet 
under Comte d'Estaing retired to the West Indies, leaving 
the entire American coast, for a time, at the command of 
the British. Sir Henry Clinton profited by the opportunity 
to sail with a strong force in ships and troops, against 
Charleston, which town he reduced after a short but vigour- 
ous siege. Several American ships of war were in the 
harbour at the time, under the command of Capt. Whipple, 
and finding escape impossible, this officer carried his squad- 
ron into the Cooper, sunk several vessels at its mouth, and 
landed all the guns and crews, for the defence of the town, 
with the exception of those of one ship. The Providence 
28, Capt. Whipple, the Queen of France 28,* Capt. Rath- 
burne, the Boston 24, Capt. Tucker, Ranger 18, Capt Simp- 
son, and several smaller vessels, fell into the hands of the 

The English government, by this time, found the system 
of privateering so destructive to their navigation, that it 
had come to the determination of refusing to exchange any 
more of the seamen that fell into their power. By acting 
on this policy, they collected a large body of prisoners, 
sending them to England'in their return ships, and sensibly 
affected the nautical enterprises of the Americans, who, of 

* Tliis ship is supposed to have been a small frigate built at Nantes, by 
the American commissioners in P'rance. 

Vol. I.— 19 


course, had but a limited number of officers and men fit to 
act on the ocean. 

By the fall of Charleston, too, the force of the regular 
American marine, small as it had always been, was still 
more reduced. Of the frigates, the Alliance 32, the Hague 
(late Deane) 32, Confederacy 32, Trumbull 28, and a ship 
or two bought or borrowed in Europe, appear to be all that 
were left, while the smaller cruisers, like the pitcher that is 
broken by going too often to the well, had not fared much 

In consequence of all these losses, the advanced state of 
the wai', and the French alliance, which had brought the 
fleets of France upon the American coast, Congress appears 
to have thought any great efforts for increasing the ma- 
rine unnecessary at the moment. The privateers and state 
cruisers were out and active as usual, though much reduced 
in numbers, and consequently in general efficiency. In con- 
trast to these diminished effnrts we find the British Parlia- 
ment authorizing the ministr}' to keep no less than 85,000 
men employed in the English navy, including the marines. 

The first action of moment that occurred this year be- 
tween any United Stales' vessel and the enemy, notwith- 
standing, has the reputation of having been one of the most 
hotly and obstinately contested combats. of the war. June 
2d, 1780, the Trumbull 28, then under the command of 
Capt. James Nicholson, the senior officer of the navy, while 
cruising in lat. 35° 54', long. 66° W., made a strange sail to 
windward from the mast-heads. The Trumbull immediately 
furled all her canvass^ in the hope of drawing the stranger 
down upon her before she should be seen. At eleven, the 
stranger was made out to be a large ship, steering for the 
Trumbull's quarter; but soon hauling more astern, sail was 
got on the American ship to close. After some manoeuvring, 
in order to try the rate of sailing and to get a view of the 
stranger's broadside, the Trumbull took in her light sails, 


hauled up her courses, the chase all this time betraying no 
desire to avoid an action, but standing directly for her ad- 
versary. When near enough, the Trumbull filled, and, out- 
sailing the stranger, she easily fetched to windward of her. 
The chase now fired three guns, showed English colours, 
and edged away, under short sail, evidently with an inten- 
tion to pursue her course. 

Capt. Nicholson harangued his men, and then made sail 
to bring his ship up with the enemy. When about a hun- 
dred yards distant, the English ship fired a broadside, and 
the action began in good earnest. For two hours and a 
half the vessels lay nearly abeam of each other, giving and 
receiving broadsides without intermission. At no time were 
they a hundred yards asunder, and more than once the 
yards nearly interlocked. Twice was the Trumbull set on 
fire by the wads of her enemy, and once the enemy suffered 
in the same way. At last the fire of the Englishman slack- 
ened sensibly, until it nearly ceased. 

Capt. Nicholson now felt satisfied that he should make a 
prize of his antagonist, and was encouraging his people with 
that hope, when a report was brought to him, that the main- 
mast was tottering, and that if it went while near the enemy, 
his ship would probably be the sacrifice. Anxious to secure 
the spar, sail was made, and the Trumbull shot ahead again, 
her superiority of sailing being very decided. She was soon 
clear of her adversary, who made no effort to molest her. 
The vessels, however, were scarcely musket-shot apart, 
when the main and mizzen top-masts of the Trumbull went 
over the side, and, in spite of every effort to secure them, 
spar after spar came down, until nothing was left but the 
fore-mast. Under such circumstances, the enemy, who had 
manifested no desire to profit by her advantage, went off on 
her proper course. Before she was out of sight, her main- 
top-mast was also seen to fall. 

It was afterwards ascertained that the ship engaged by 


the Trumbull was a letter of marque called the Watt, Capf. 
Couhhard, a vessel of size, that had been expressly fitted to 
fight her way. Her force is not mentioned in the English 
accounts, but her commander, in his narrative of the aflair, 
in which he claims the victory, admits his loss to have been 
92 men, in killed and wounded. Capt. Nicholson estimates 
her force at 34 or 36 guns, mostly twelve-pounders ; and 
he states that of the Trumbull to have been 2,4 twelve- 
pounders and 6 sixes, with 199 souls on board when the 
action commenced. The Trumbull lost 39, in killed and 
wounded, among the former of whom were two of her lieu- 

In the way of a regular cannonade, this combat is general- 
ly thought to have been the severest that was fought in the 
war of the Revolution. There is no question of the supe- 
riority of the Watt in every thing but sailing, she having been 
essentially the largest and strongest ship, besides carrying 
more guns and men than her opponent. Owing to the difficul- 
ty of obtaining seamen, that has been so often mentioned, 
the Trumbull's crew was composed, in a great degree, of 
raw hands, and Capt. Nicholson states particularly^ that 
many of his people were suffering under sea-sickness when 
they went to their guns. 

This action was not followed by another, of any import- 
ance, in which a government cruiser was concerned, until 
the month of October, when the U. S. sloop of war Saratoga 
16, Capt. Young, fell in with and captured a ship and two 
brigs, the Ibrmer of which, and one of the latter, were well 
armed. The conliict with the ship, which was called the 
Charming Molly, was conducted with a spirit and prompti- 
tude that are deserving of mention. Running alongside, 
Capt. Young delivered his fire, and threw fifty men en the 
enemy's decks, when a fierce but short struggle ensued, 
that ended in the capture of the British ship. Lieut. Joshua 
Barney, afterwards so distinguished in the service, led the 


boarders on this occasion ; and the crew that he overcame 
is said to have been nearlv double in numbers to his own 

After mailing these and one other capture, the Saratoga 
made sail for the capes of the Delaware, with the intention 
of convoying her prizes into port. The following day, how- 
ever, the convoy was chased by the Intrepid 74, Capt. 
Molloy, which ship retook all the prizes, but was unable to 
get the Saratoga under her guns. It is said, and we find 
no evidence to contradict it, that the Saratoga never re- 
turned to port, the vessel foundering, and her crew perish- 
ing at sea, unheard of 

The brevity of the regular naval annals of the three last 
years of the war, compels us to compress iheir incidents into 
a single chapter, as it is our aim, except in extraordinary 
instances, not to blend the exploits of the private armed 
ships with those of the public cruisers. 

It has been stated already that Capt. Landais was dis- 
missed from the service soon after his return home, when 
the command of the Alliance 32 was given to Capt. John 
Barry, the officer who had made so gallant a resistance 
in the Raleigh, not long previously. In February, 1781, 
Capt. Barry sailed from Boston for France, in command 
of this favourite ship, with Colonel Laurens on board, 
\vhich well known and much regretted young officer was 
charged with an important mission to the French court. 
On the outward passage the Alliance captured a small priva- 
teer, called the Alert, but no event of any moment occurred. 
After landing Mr. Laurens, the frigate sailed from I'Orient 
on a cruise, with the Marquis de la Fayetie 40, in company, 
bound to America with stores. Three days afterwards, or on 
the 2d of April, 1781, they fell in with and captured two 
Guernsey privateers, one of which, the Mars, is said to have 
been a heavy vessel of 26 guns and 112 men, and the other, 
the Minerva, to have had an armament of 10 guns, and a 



crew of 55 souls. Neither of these cruisers appears to have 
made any resistance. 

After this success, the AlUance parted company with her 
consort and the prizes, and continued to cruise until the 
28th of May, when she made two sail, that were standing 
directly for her. It was late in the day, and the strangers, 
when near enough to remain in sight during the darkness, 
hauled up on the same course with the Alliance, evidently 
with a view to defer the action until morning. At day-light 
on the succeeding day, it was nearly a dead calm, and 
wiien the mist cleared away, the two strangers were seen 
at no great distance, with English colours flying. They 
were now distinctly made out to be a sloop of war that 
rated 16 guns, and a brig of 14. The sea was perfectly 
smooth, and there being no wind, the two light cruisers of 
the enemy were enabled to sweep up, and to select tiieir 
positions, while the Alliance lay almost a log on the water, 
without steerage way. Owing to these circumstances, it 
was noon before the vessels were near enough to hail, when 
the action commenced. For more than an hour the Alli- 
ance fought to great disadvantage, the enemy having got on 
iher quarters, where only a few of the aftermost guns would 
bear on them. The advantage possessed by the English ves- 
sels, in consequence of the calm, at one time, indeed, gave 
their people the greatest hopes of success, for they had 
the fight principally to themselves. While things were in this 
unfortunate state, Capt. Barry received a grape-shot through 
his shoulder, and was carried below. This additional and 
disheartening calamity added to the disadvantages of the 
Americans, who were suffering under the close fire of two 
spirited and persevering antagonists. Indeed, so confident 
of success did the enemy now appear to be, that when the 
ensign of the Alliance was shot away, this fact, coupled with 
the necessary slackness of her firei induced their peoj>]e to 
quit their guns, and to give three cheers for victory. This 


occurred at a moment when a light breeze struck the Al- 
liance's sails, and she came fairly under steerage way. A 
single broadside from a manageable ship changed the entire 
state of the combat, and sent the enemy to their guns, again, 
with the conviction that their work yet remained to be done. 
After a manly resistance, both the English vessels, in the 
end, were compelled to haul down their colours. 

The prizes proved to be the Atalanta 16, Capt. Edwards, 
with a crew of 130 men, and the Trepassy 14, Capt. 
Smith, with a crew of 80 men. Both vessels were much 
cut up, and they sustained a joint loss of 41 men in kill- 
ed and wounded. Nor did the Alliance escape with im- 
punity, having had 11 killed and 21 wounded, principally by 
the fii'e of her enemies, while they lay on her quarters and 
across her stern. Capt. Barry made a cartel of the Tre- 
passy, and sent her into an English port with the prisoners, 
but the Atlanta was retaken by the enemy's squadron that 
was cruising off Boston, while attempting to enter that 

Fortune now became capricious, and we are compelled 
to present the. other side of the picture. Among the ships 
built late in the war, was the Confederacy 32. This vessel 
had been launched in 1778, at, or near Norwich, in Connec- 
ticut, and the command of her was given to Capt. Seth 
Harding, the officer who commanded the Defence 14, in the 
action in Nantasket Roads with the two transports cap- 
tured in 1776. Capt. Harding had been commissioned in 
the navy, in which his first command appears to have been 
this ship. The Confederacy sailed for Europe in 1779, with 
Mr. Jay, the minister to Spain, on board, and was suddenly 
dismasted, a little to the eastward of Bermuda. Spar fol- 
lowed spar, in this calamity, until the ship lay a log on the 
water, with even her bowsprit gone. This misfortune must 
probably be attributed, like so many similar, that have suc- 
ceeded it, to the rigging's having slackened, after having 


been set up in cold weather at home, when the ship got into 
a warm latitude. 

After several anxious weeks, the Confederacy got into 
Martinique, where Mr. Jay obtained a passage in the French 
frigate I'Aurore, and the American vessel remained to refit. 
From that time to the commencement of the present year, 
the Confederacy was employed, like most of the large ves- 
sels of the service, in that stage of the war, in keeping open 
the communications between the country and the difierent 
ports were supplies were obtained, and in transporting 
stores. Early in 1781, she went to Cape Fran<jois, and, on 
the 22nd of June, while on her return, with clothing and 
other supplies on board, and with a convoy in charge, she 
was chased by a large ship, which succeeded in getting 
along side of her. Capt. Harding had gone to quarters, 
and was about to open his fire, when the enemy ran out a 
lower tier of guns, and, a frigate being in company a short 
distance astern, he struck. Several of the convoy were also 

The British stated the armament of the Confederacy to 
have been, when taken, 28 twelves, and 8 sixes, or 36 guns. 
Quitting this unlucky vessel, we shall now return to the only 
other frigate that was built in Connecticut, during the war. 

Ca])t. Nicholson continued in command of the Trumbull, 
after his severe conflict with the Watt, and we find him at 
sea again in that ship, in the summer of 1781. She left the 
Delaware on the eighth of August, with a crew short of 200 
men, of which near 50 were of the questionable materials to 
be found among the prisoners of war. She had a convoy 
of twenty eight sail, and a heavy privateer was in company. 
Off the capes, the Trumbull made three British cruisers 
astern. Two of the enemy's cruisers, one of which was a 
frigate, stood for the Trumbull, which ship, by hauling up, 
was enabled to gain the wind of them. Night was near, 
and it blew heavily. The merchantmen began to diverge 


from the course, though, by carrying easy sail, the Trum- 
bull was enabled to keep most of them ahead, and in their 
stations. While standing on in this manner, hoping every 
thing from the darkness, a squall carried away the Trnm- 
bull's fore-top-mast, which, in falling, brought down with it 
the main-top-gallant mast. As the weather was thick and 
squally, the vessels in company of the Trumbull took advan- 
tage of the obscurity and scattered, each making the best 
of hei- way, according to her particular rate of sailing. 
The Trumbull herself was compelled to bear up, in order 
to carry the canvass necessary to escape, but with the 
wreck over her bows, and a crew that was not only deficient 
in numbers, but which was raw, and in part disaffected, her 
situation became in the last degree, embarrassing. Indeed, 
her condition has been described as being so peculiarly dis- 
tressing, as almost to form an instance of its own, of the 
difficulties that sometimes accompany naval warfare. 

About 10 o'clock at night, the British frigate Iris* 32, one 
of the vessels in chase, closed with the Trumbull, which ship, 
on account of the lieaviness of the weather, had not yet been 
able to clear the wreck. In the midst of rain and squalls, 
in a tempestuous night, with most of the forward hamper of 
the ship over her bows, or lying on the fore-castle, with 
one of the arms of the fore-topsail yard run through her 
foresail, and the other jammed on deck, and with a disor- 
ganized crew, Capt. Nicholson found himself compelled to 
go to quarters, or to strike without resistance. He preferred 

* The Iris had been the United States ship Hancock 52, Capt. Manly, 
and was captured by the Rainbow 44, Sir Georg-e Collier, with the Victor 
16, in sight, and Flora 32, in chase of her prize, the Fox. The Hancock, 
or Iris, proved to be one of the fastest ships on the American station, and 
made the fortunes of all who commanded her. Capt. Manly is thought 
to have lost her, in consequence of having put her out of trim, by starting 
her water, while chased. The ship, in the end, fell into the hands of the 
French in the West Indies. 


the first, but the Enghsh volunteers, instead of obeying the 
order, went below, extinguished the lights, and secreted 
themselves. Near half of the remainder of the people imi- 
tated this example, and Capt. Nicholson could not muster 
fifty of even the diminished crew he had, at the guns. The 
battle that followed, might almost be said to have been 
fought by the officers. These brave men, sustained by a 
party of the petty officers and seamen, managed a few of the 
guns, for more than an hour, when the General Monk 18, 
coming up, and joining in the fire of the Iris, the Trumbull 

In this singular combat, it has even been asserted that at 
no time were 40 of the Trumbull's people at their quarters. 
It was probably owing to this circumstance that her loss w^as 
so small, for the ship herself is said to have been extensively 
cut up. She had five men killed and eleven wounded. Among 
the latter were two of the lieutenants, and Mr. Alexander 
Murray, a gentleman of Maryland, who had been educated 
to the seas, and had been in the action with the Watt, but 
who was then serving as a volunteer, and who, after com- 
manding several private cruisers, entered the navy, and 
subsequently died at the head of the service in 1821. Mr. 
Murray was particularly distinguished in this affair, and the 
conduct of Capt. Nicholson* met with much applause. The 

* As the family of Capt. Nicholson may be said to be naval, it is due to 
our subject to give some account of it. The ancestor of this officer emi- 
g-rated from Berwick-upon-Tweed, at the commencement of the eighteenth 
century, and established himself in Maryland, where he obtained a grant 
called Nicholson's Manor, near the passage through the Blue Ridge which 
is still known as Nicholson's Gap. This property was subsequently sold, 
and an estate was purchased on the Eastern Shore, where James Nichol- 
son was born in 1737. 

James Nicholson was the second son of a numerous family, and he \vas 
sent to England for his education. He returned home young, however, 
and chose the sea as a profession. In 1762, in common with many Ame- 
ricans, he assisted at the siege of the Havana. In 1763, he married. 


Iris suffered more than could have been expected under 
such circumstances, and reported seven men killed and 

When the war broke out, in 1775, Mr. Nicholson was residing- on the 
Eastern Shore, and he was immediately appointed to the command of a 
vessel called the Defence, that was equipped by the Colony of Maryland, 
and in which cruiser he was active and useful. His appointment as cap- 
tain of the Virginia 28, took place June 6th, 1776, and when the rank was 
arranged on the 10th of October, of the same year, he was put at the head 
of the list of captains. At this time Com. Hopkins was commander-in- 
chief, but when he was dismissed, Capt. Nicholson became the senior of- 
ficer of the navy, a station that he held to its dissolution. 

The Virginia being blockaded, Capt. Nicholson and his crew joined the 
army under Washington, and were present, in the darkest moment of the 
war, at tiie battle of Trenton. The manner in which the Virginia was 
lost has been related. 

The two battles fought by Com. Nicholson while in command of the 
Trumbull 28, were sanguinary and hotly contested. In both cases the 
crews were, in a great degree, composed of landsmen? and in the last ac- 
tion, none but a man of the highest notions of military honour would have 
thought resistance necessary. To say nothing of the condition of his 
ship, the Iris (Hancock) was one of the largest frigates built by the Ame- 
ricans in the Revolution, and the Trumbull was one of the smallest. The 
Monk was a heavy sloop of war, for that day, as is known- from her sub- 
sequently falling into the hands of tlie Americans. 

Com. Nicholson was not exchanged until near the close of the war, and 
there being no ship for him, he never went to sea again in service. He 
subsequently settled in New-York, where he held a respectable civil ap- 
pointment under the general government. He died September 2d, 1804, 
leaving three daughters, one of whom married Albert Gallatin, ex-secre- 
tary of the treasury, &c. &c. &c. 

Samuel and John, the brothers of James Nicholson, were both captains 
in the navy of the Revolution, and the former died at the head of the ser- 
vice, in 1811. Com. S. Nicholson had four sons in the navy, and his brother 
John, three. Indeed, the third generation of this family, as in the case of 
the Perrys, are now in the service. In the whole, fifteen gentlemen of 
this name and family have served since 1775, of whom two have actually 
worn broad pennrnts, and a third died just as he was appointed to one. 
In addition, several officers of distinction were near relatives, Com. Mur- 
ray having been a cousin-german of Com. Nicholson, and Capt. Gordon 
his nephew. 


As affording some relief to the loss of the Trumbull, wc 
now come to a handsome exploit that occurred soon after, 
which ought, perhaps, properly, to take its place among the 
deeds of the private cruisers, but which is of sufficient im- 
portance to be mentioned here, and this so much the more, 
as a portion of those engaged belonged to the regular ser- 
vice of the country. A private cruiser called the Congress 
had been fitted out in Philadelphia, in the course of the 
summer, and in September she was cruising on the coast of 
the Carolinas and Georgia. The Congress had an arma- 
ment of 20 guns, according to the American accounts, and 
of 24 according to the English, and she was commanded by 
Capt. Geddes. Few of her people were seamen, of which 
there was now a great scarcity in the country, but her com- 
plement was made up, in a great degree, of landsmen. 

On the morning of the 6th of September, cruising to the 
eastward of Charleston, the Congress made a sail, to which 
she gave chase. The stranger was soon discovered to be a 
cruiser, and at first showed a disposition to engage, but, 
after some manoeuvring she stood off. At half past ten the 
Congress began to fire her bow guns, and at eleven being 
close up on the enemy's quarter, she opened a heavy fire of 
musketry, which did a good deal of execution. Drawing 
ahead, the Congress now delivered her broadside, and it was 
returned with spirit. At first the enemy got a cross fire 
upon the Congress, and the latter ship meeting with an ac- 
cident, fell astern to refit. But soon closing again, the 
combat was renewed with fresh vigour, and the Congress 
having got her enemy fairly under her guns, in less than an 
hour, left her a nearly unmanageable wreck on the water. 
Notwithstanding his condition, the Englishman showed no 
disposition to submit, and the Congress ran so close along 
side, that the men were said to be reciprocally burned by 
the discharges of the guns. The quarter-deck and fore- 
castle of the enemy had scarcely a man left on it, and his 


fire began to slacken in consequence of several of his guns 
having been dismounted. In this stage of the engagenaent 
shot were even thrown by hand and did execution. At 
length the mizzen-naast of the English ship fell, and the 
nnain-mast threatening to follow it, her boatswain appeared 
on the forecastle, with his hat in his hand, and called out 
that his commander had struck. The prize proved to be the 
British sloop of war Savage 16, Capt. Stirling, 

The accounts of the respective force of the vessels engaged 
in this warm contest, differ essentially; and, as is usual in such 
matters, it is probable that the truth lies between them. 
There is little question of the superiority of the Congress in 
guns, metal and men ; but when it is remembered that the 
conqueror was a private armed ship, with a raw crew, and 
that the captured vessel was a regular cruiser that had been 
long actively employed, it would not be just to withhold from 
Capt. Geddes and his people, the credit of having performed 
a handsome naval exploit. As in other things, there is a 
discrepancy also in the account of the losses of the two 
ships. The Congress is said, by Capt. Stirling, to have had 
about fifty men killed and wounded; and by the American 
accounts, to have lost only thirty. The former makes the 
loss of the Savage eight killed, and twenty-four wounded; 
while the Americans raise it as high as to a total of fifty- 
four. There is a reason to question the accuracy of the 
published English account of this affair, to be found in the 
fact, that Capt. Stirling, while he does not state that he 
was short-handed, tells us that he had but forty men left at 
their quarters when he struck. By adding this number to 
the thirty-two killed, or disabled by wounds, we get a total 
of but seventy-two for the crew of a frigate-built sloop of 
war, a fact that requires explanation to receive credit, and 
which, if true, would have so fairlv entered into the relation 
of the defeat, as an extenuating circumstance. Official ac- 
counts of defeats so often undergo changes and mutilations 

Vol. I.— 20 


between the hands of the writer and their publication, that 
we are not necessarily to attribute wilful misrepresentation 
to a gallant but unfortunate officer, because the documents 
laid before the world do not always rigidly coincide with 
probability, or the truth as it has been derived from other 
sources. The Savage was re-captured by a British frigate, 
and taken into Charleston. Capt. Geddes got much credit 
for this affair; and, at a later day, we find his name among 
those of the captains of the navy. 

We have now reached the year 1782, which was virtu- 
ally the last of the war of the Revolution, though some 
events will remain to be recorded in the early part of the 
year 1783. In the commencement of this year, the Deane 
32, made a successful cruise, in which she took, several pri- 
vate armed vessels of the enemy. By some accounts, three 
of her prizes were sloops of war, viz. the Regulator 18, 
the Swallow 16, and the Jackall 14 ; but we think it pro- 
bable, that there may have been some mistake as to their 
characters. On this occasion, the Deane was commanded 
by Capt. Samuel Nicholson. 

The favourite ship, the Alliance* 32, Capt. Barry, was 
much employed this year, her superior sailing making her a 
vessel in constant demand. Among other services that she 
performed, this ship was sent to the Havana for specie, 
whence she sailed, in company with the Luzerne, a ship load- 
ed with supplies. Shortly after quitting port, some enemy's 
vessels fell in with them, and gave chase. While running 
from this force, a large sail was seen on the Alliance's 
weather bow, which was soon made out to be a French 50, 
of two decks. Exchanging signals, and supposing that the 
French vessel would sustain him, Capt. Barry immediately 

* One of the traditions of the service states that the Alliance was chased 
this year, by an enemy's two-decker, and that she ran 15 knots by the 
log, with the wind abeam, in making her escape ! 


wore round, and brought the leading vessel of the enemy 
to action; the others manoeuvring in a way to engage 
the attention of the fifty. The latter, however, kept her 
wind ; and after a sharp fight of more than half an hour, the 
English ship engaged with the Alliance, finding herself hard 
pushed, made signals to her consorts to join, when Capt. 
Barry hauled ofl'. The Alliance now stood for the French 
ship, and speaking her, it was determined to bring the 
enemy to action again, in company. On making sail in 
chase, however, it was soon found that the fifty was too 
dull a sailer to give the least hope of overtaking the enemy, 
and the attempt was abandoned. 

In this action, the Alliance had 3 killed and 11 wounded; 
while it is said that the loss of the enemy was very heavy. 
Some statements place the latter as high as 87 men ; but 
no accounts can be discovered, that give a very clear his- 
tory of this afl!air. Even the name of the English ship ap- 
pears to be lost. One of the enemy, by some of the ac- 
counts, was said to be a ship of the line, and the ship en- 
gaged by the Alliance, a heavy sloop of war. 

The command of the Hague, one of the two frigates 
now left in the American marine, was given to Capt. 
Manly, after her return from the cruise under Capt. Nichol- 
son; and this officer, who had virtually begun the mari- 
time war, on the part of the United States, in a manner 
closed it, by an arduous and brilliant chase, in which he 
escaped from several of the enemy's ships in the West In- 
dies, after being for a considerable time under the guns of 
a vastly superior force. This occurrence may be said to 
have brought the regular naval warfare of the United 
States to an end, so far as the government cruisers were 
concerned, peace having been made early in 1783. 



Although we have introduced a few of the prominent 
actions in which the privateers were concerned in this war, 
it has been as exceptions. Most of the accounts of such 
conflicts are of a questionable nature, depending principally 
on the rumours of the day, as they were written out for the 
newspapers, though it is known that many of the exploits 
of this description of vessels were of a brilliant kind, and 
every way entitled to respect. Indeed, the private cruisers 
of America have always had a character superior to those of 
other countries; a fact that is owing to the greater degree of 
I'elative respectability that is attached to the profession of 
a seaman in this country, than it is usual to find elsewhere, 
and to the circumstance that the public marine has never 
been sufficiently large to receive all of those who would 
willingly take service in it, when the nation has been en- 
gaged in war. 

Privateering, in the abstract, is a profession of which 
reason and good morals can scarcely approve; for what- 
ever may be its legality, its aim is to turn the waste and 
destruction of war, to the benefit of avarice. But circum- 
stances may, and in the two contests that have taken 
place between Great Britain and the United States, these 
circumstances did offer so many apologies for engaging in 
the pursuit, as almost to raise it to the dignity of a more 
approved warfare. Without regular fleets, borne upon by 


a powerful nation that claimed to command the ocean, and 
unable to assail their enemy in any other manner, most of 
the American seamen have found themselves reduced to 
the necessity of choosing between idleness, during struggles 
that involved the dearest rights of the country, or of en- 
gaging in this mode of endeavouring to bring their enemies 
to terms. It is due to these brave men to say, that, as a 
rule, their conduct while afloat, has generally coincided 
with the sentiments here attributed to them; American pri- 
vateering having in all ages, been as little stigmatized by 
acts of oppression and rapine, as the conduct of most re- 
gular marines. 

In many instances, during the war of the Revolution, the 
private armed cruisers displayed an honourable chivalry, by 
engaging vessels of war, that sufficiently shows the spirit of 
their commanders ; and we find them nearly always ready, 
when occasions have offered, to quit their more peculiar oc- 
cupation, that of assailing the enemy's commerce, in order 
to lend their aid in any of the regular military expedi- 
tions of the country, that required it. In short, in this war, 
the officer and the common man, appear equally to have 
passed, at need, from the deck of the public, to that of the 
private cruiser, knowing little difference between ships that 
carried the ensign of the republic, and which, in their eyes, 
were engaged in the same sacred cause. 

As respects the service of the colonial or state cruisers, 
there would be les^ reason to regard the accounts with dis- 
trust, but their records are scattered in so many different 
offices, and the marines themselves were so irregular, that 
it is almost impossible to obtain authentic details, at this 
distant day. In many instances, these vessels did excellent 
service; and, in addition to a few that have already been 
incorporated in this work, among the more regular inci- 
dents of the war, we shall add the accounts of one or two 
of their actions, as they have been obtained from the best 



authorities that now offer, considering them entitled to pre- 
cedence, before we give an outline of the service perform- 
ed by the private armed cruisers. 

In March 1782, the Delaware was much infested by- 
barges and small cruisers of the enemy, which not unfre- 
quently made prizes of vessels belonging to the Americans, 
as well as molesting the people who dwelt near the water. 
With a view to keep the navigation open against these 
marauders, at least, the state of Pennsylvania deter- 
mined to fit out a cruiser or two, at its own expense, 
and with such materials as could be hastily collected. 
With this object, a small ship called the Hyder Ally was 
purchased. So suddenly did the local government come 
to its resolution, that the vessel just named, when bought, 
had actually dropped down the river, on an outward- 
bound voyage, loaded with flour. She was brought back, 
her cargo was discharged, and an armament of sixteen 
six-pounders was put upon her. So little, however, was 
this ship ready for war, that she had to be pierced in or- 
der to receive her guns. Indeed so pressing was the 
emergency, that the merchants of Philadelphia anticipat- 
ed the passage of the law to authorize the purchase and 
equipment of this ship, by advancing funds for that purpose ; 
and the act had not actually gone through all its legal 
forms, until after the exploit we are about to record had 
been performed ! The commissioners entrusted with the 
duty of preparing the ship, selected Lieut. Joshua Barney, 
of the United States navy, as her commander, a young otii- 
cer of great decision of character and personal bravery, 
who had already distinguished himself in subordinate sta- 
tions, on board of different cruisers of the general govern- 
ment, but who, like so many more of the profession, was 
obliged frequently to choose between idleness, or a service 
less regular than that to which he properly belonged. 

A crew of 110 men was put on board the Hyder Ally; 


and within a fortnight after he was appointed to comnnand 
her, Capt. Barney sailed. It was not the intention of the 
state of Pennsylvania, that their ship should go to sea, but 
merely that she should keep the navigation of the river and 
bay open, and drive otf privateers, and other small cruisers. 
On the 8th of April, the Hyder Ally got into the bay with a 
considerable convoy of outward-bound merchantmen. The 
whole fleet had anchored in the roads off Cape May, in 
waiting for a wind to get to sea, when two ships and a 
brig, one of the former a frigate, were seen rounding the 
Cape, evidently with a view to attack them. Capt. Barney 
immediately run up a signal for the convoy to trip, and to 
stand up the bay again, the wind being to the southward. 
This order was principally obeyed, and in a few minutes, 
the merchant vessels, with one exception, were running 
off before the wind, with every thing set that would draw, 
the Hyder Ally covering their retreat, under easy sail. The 
vessel that remained, endeavoured to get to sea, by hauling 
close round the cape, but grounded and fell into the hands 
of the enemy. Another vessel got on the shoals, and was 
taken by a boat from the nearest of the English cruisers. 

An extensive shoal, called the " Over Falls," forms two 
channels, in the lower part of the Delaware Bay, and 
while the convoy passed up the easternmost of these chan- 
nels, or that which is known as the " Cape May Channel," 
the frigate stood towards the western, which offered a bet- 
ter chance to head the fugitives at the point where the two 
united, and which had the most water. The remaining ship 
and the brig, stood on in the direction of the Hyder Ally. 
It was not long before the brig, which proved to be a 
British privateer out of New York, called the Fair Ameri- 
can, came up with the Hyder Ally, when the latter offered 
her battle. But, firing a broadside, the privateer kept 
aloof, and continued up the bay. Capt. Barney declined to 
return this fire, holding himself in reserve for the ship astern. 


a large sloop of war, which was fast coming up. When the 
latter got quite near, the Hyder Ally, which had kept close 
to the shoal, luffed and threw in her broadside, and imme- 
diately righting her helm, keeping away again. The ene- 
my stood boldly on, and just as his forward guns were 
beginning to bear, the two vessels being within pistol shot, 
the Hyder Ally attempted to luff athwart his hawse, when 
the jib-boom of the English ship ran into her forerigging, 
and the two vessels got foul. It is said that Capt. Barney 
obtained this advantage by deceiving his enemy, having 
given an order to port the helm, in a loud voice, when se- 
cret instructions had been given to the quarter-master at the 
wheel, to put his helm hard a-starboard. The Hyder Ally 
now opened a severe raking fire, and in less than half an 
hour from the commencement of the action, the stranger 
struck, the ships remaining foul of each other. 

The frigate, which had not actually got into the western 
channel, perceiving the state of things, changed her course, 
with a view to get round to the combatants, and Capt. Bar- 
ney had no time to lose. Throwing his first lieutenant, 
with a party, on board the prize, he ordered her to continue 
up the bay, while he covered the retreat with his own ship. 
In the mean while, the brig had run aground above, in chase 
of the convoy. There is some reason to suppose that the 
.commander of the frigate did not know the result of the 
action, for he made signals to the prize, and anchored about 
sunset, leaving the Hyder Ally, which had been kept a long 
distance astern of the other vessels, with a view to divert 
his attention, to proceed to Philadelphia without further 

Up to this moment, Capt. Barney did not even know the 
name of his prize. He now made sail, however, and run- 
ning along side of her, for the first time he learned he had 
captured his Britannic Majesty's ship. General Monk, 18, 
Capt. Rogers. This vessel had formerly been the American 


privateer, General Washington, and having fallen into the 
power of Admiral Arbulhnot, he had taken her into the 
king's service, given her a new name, and promoted a fa- 
vourite officer to her command. The Monk mounted 
twenty nines, and is said to have had a crew of 136 men. 
Capt. Rogers reported his loss at 6 killed, and 29 wounded; 
but Capt. Barney stated it at 20 killed, and 36 wounded. 
It is probable that the latter account is nearest the truth, as 
the commander of a captured vessel has not always as 
good an opportunity as his captor, to ascertain his own loss. 
The Hyder Ally had 4 killed, and 11 wounded. 

This action lias been justly deemed one of the most bril- 
liant that ever occurred under the American flag. It was 
fought in the presence of a vastly superior force that was 
not engaged ; and the ship taken, was in every essential re- 
spect, superior to her conqueror. The disproportion in 
metal, between a six pounder and a nine pounder, is one- 
half; and the Monk, besides being a heavier and a larger 
ship, had the most men. Both vessels appeared before 
Philadelphia, a few hours after the action, bringing with 
them even their dead ; and most of the leading facts were 
known to the entire community of the place.* 

* A biography of the liie of Capt. Rogers has appeared; and, hi this work, 
it is asserted that the armament of the General Monk was of nine-pound 
carronades, and that the guns were so light, that they were dismounted 
by the recoils. The defeat is imputed to this cause. In the subsequent 
action, mentioned in the text, the Monk, then the General Washington, 
is said to have suffered a disadvantage, in consequence of her nines being 
sixes bored out to the former calibre, the guns not having weight enough 
to bear the recoil. This is a professional fact, that might well enough 
occur. It is, therefore, that, wlien taken, the Monk had these 
same nines, and that some may have been dismounted by the recoil. But, 
en the other hand, the Monk could have lost near half her guns, in this 
way, and still have been equal to the Hyder Ally; and the fact appears to 
be certain, that the combat was settled by the bold manoeuvre of Capt. 
Barney. It is mentioned, moreover, in this same biography, that Capt. 
Rogers had been two years very actively employed in the Monk, when 


The steadiness with which Capt. Barney protected his 
convoy, the gallantry and conduct with which he engaged, 
and the perseverance with which he covered the retreat of 
his prize, are all deserving of high praise. Throughout the 
whole affair, this officer discovered the qualities of a great 
naval captain ; failing in no essential of that distinguished 

The Monk, her old name having been restored, was ta- 
ken into the service of the State of Pennsylvania,* and 

she was taken; and It will be admitted as singulai", that he did not under- 
stand the power of his g-uns by that time. Reduced charges, too, would 
have obviated the difficulty in a combat in which the ships touched each 
other. Carronades were scarcely known in 1782, and the Monk received 
her outfit in 1779. Besides, she would have carried much heavier car- 
ronades, had she carried any, the weight of an eig-hteen-pound carron- 
ade being about the same as that of a six-pounder. The biographer has, 
no doubt, confounded the light nines with carrojiades of that calibre, the 
latter gun being much in use when he wrote. 

* The biographer of Com. Barney has assumed that, as the Gen. Wash- 
ington was employed on duty in behalf of the United States, Mr. Barney 
was made a captain in the navy. By the instructions published in this 
biography, it appears that the commissioners of Pennsylvania put the ship 
at the disposition of Mr. Robert Morris, in oi-der to transport specie from 
the Havana to tliis country. This fact alone would not have made Mr. 
Barney a captain in the navy; or the master of every merchantman who 
is employed by government might claim that rank. It does not make a 
man a captain in the navy, to command a frigate even, as that duty may 
be performed by a gunner, at need. The commission is necessary to 
make a captain; and this, Mr. Barney, however deserving of it, does not 
appear to have ever possessed until it was given to him in 1794, although 
he remained a lieutenant in the service to the close of the war. The Gen. 
Washington was employed by the United States down to the peace, it is 
true; but this no more puts a ship on the list, than an officer of a mer- 
chantman is put on the list by his vessel's being hired as a transport. 
Government may put its officers in merchant-ships, and they will remain 
its officers; or it may put its ships temporarily under the charge of mer- 
chant-officers, and the latter will not be in the navy. It may hire, borrow, or 
forcibly employ vessels, without necessarily placing either the ships or their 


was shortly after sent on duty in behalf of the United 
States, to the West Indies. During this cruise, Capt. Bar- 
ney had a warm engagement with an English armed brig, 
supposed to have been a privateer, of about an equal 
force, but she escaped from him, the meeting occurring in 
the night, and the enemy manoeuvring and sailing particu- 
larly well. The name of her antagonist is not known. In 
this affair, the Washington received some damage in her 
spars, but met with no serious loss. 

Massachusetts and South Carolina were the two states 
that most exerted themselves, in order to equip cruisers of 
their own. As early as September, 1770, one of the vessels 
of the former is said to have captured an English sloop of 
war, after a sharp action ; but we can discover no more 
than general and vague accounts of the affair. 

Among the vessels of Massachusetts was one named 
after the state itself, and a brig called the Tyrannicide. 
The latter was a successful cruiser, and made many cap- 
tures, but she was lost in the unfortunate affair in the Pe- 
nobscott. It is beUeved that the Tyrannicide was built 
expressly for a cruiser. But the favourite officer of this 
service appears to have been Capt. John Foster Williams, 
who commanded a brig called the Hazard, in 1779. In 
this vessel, in addition to the action already related with the 
Active, Capt. Williams performed many handsome ex- 

officers on its regular lists. It does appear, however, that the United States 
in the end owned the Washing-ton; pi'obably throug-h some subsequent 
arrang-ement with Pennsylvania; she being- sold on public account. 

There is no question that Capt. Barney oug'ht to have been presented 
with the commission of a captain in the American navy, for the capture of 
the Monk; and it is probably owing to the state of the war, then known to 
be so near a close, and to the general irregularities of the service, that he 
was not; but we can find no evidence that Congress ever acquitted itself 
of this dutv. 


ploits, proving himself, on all occasions, an officer of 

After quitting the Hazard, Capt. Williams was transferred 
to the Protector 20, equally a state ship. In this vessel he 
had the two actions mentioned in another chapter, — that 
with the Duff, and that with the Thames, — in both of which 
this gallant officer greatly distinguished himself. Soon after 
this brilliant cruise he resumed the command of the Hazard, 
which was also lost to the state in the unfortunate expedi- 
tion against the British in the Penobscott. It would proba- 
bly have been better for Massachusetts had it named this 
meritorious officer to the command of the naval armament 
on that occasion. This unhappy affair appears, in a great 
degree, to have put an end to the maritime efforts of Massa- 
chusetts, a state, however, that was foremost to the last, in 
aiding the general cause. 

Of the vessels of Carolina mention has already been made. 
In the early part of the war several light cruisers were em- 
ployed, but as the contest advanced, this state entertained a 
plan of obtaining a few vessels of force, with an intention of 
striking a heavier blow than common against the enemy. 
With this view. Com. Gillon, the officer who was at the 
head of its little marine, went to Europe, and large amounts 
of colonial produce were transmitted to him, in order to 
raise the necessary funds. In his correspondence, this of- 
ficer complains of the difficulty of procuring the right sort 
of ships, and much time was lost in fruitless negotiations for 
that purpose, in both France and Holland. At length an 
arrangement was entered into, for a sii)gle vessel, that is so 
singular as to require particular notice. 

At Amsterdam, Com. Gillon finally found a ship that 
every way answered his purpose. This vessel was the 
Indien, which had been laid down by the American com- 
missioners, and subsequently presented to France. She had 
the dimensions of a small 74, but was a frigate in construe- 


tion, carrvins:, however, an armament that consisted of 28 
Swedish thirty-sixes on her gun-deck, and of 12 Swedish 
twelves on her quarter-deck and forecastle, or 40 guns in 
the whole. This ship, though strictly the property of France, 
had been lent by Louis XVI. to the Duke of Luxembourg, 
who hired her to the State of South Carolina for three 
years, on condition that the state would insure her, sail her 
at its own expense, and render to her owner one-fourth of 
the proceeds of her prizes. Under this singular compact,* 
the ship, which was named the South Carolina for the oc- 
casion, got out in 1781, and made a successful cruise in the 
Narrow Seas, sending her prizes into Spain. Afterwards 
she sailed for America, capturing ten sail, with which she 
went into the Havana. Here, Com. Gillon, with a view 
to distress the enemy, accepted the command of the nauti- 
cal part of an expedition, that had been set on foot by the 
Spaniards, against the Bahamas, and in which other Ame- 
rican cruisers joined. The expedition was successful, and 
the ship proceeded to Philadelphia. Com. Gillon now left 
her, and after some delay, the South Carolina went to sea, in 
December, 1782, under the orders of Capt. Joyner, an officer 
who had previously served on board her as second in com- 
mand. It is probable that the movements of so important 
a vessel were watched, for she had scarcely cleared the 
capes, when, after a short running fight, she fell into the 
hands of the British ship Diomede 44, having the Astrea 
32, and the Quebec 32, in company. 

The South Carolina was much the heaviest ship that ever 
sailed under the American flag, until the new frigates were 

* It appears to be generally imagined that this Duke of Luxembourg-, or 
Chevalier de Luxembourg as he was sometimes called, was the sover- 
eign prince of that country, but we suppose him to have been a French 
nobleman of the well-known family of Montmorency, which bears this title. 
Could the truth be come at, it is not improbable that the whole affair would 
be discovered to have been an indirect species of princely privateering. 

Vol. L— 21 


constructed during the war of 1812, and she is described as 
having been a particularly fast vessel; but her service ap- 
pears to have been greatly disproportioned to her means. 
She cost the state a large sum of money, and is believed to 
have returned literally nothing to its treasury. Her loss 
excited much comment. 

Admiral Arbuthnot reports among the "rebel ships of 
war" taken or sunk at the capture of Charleston, "the Bri- 
cole, pierced for 60, mounting 44 guns, twenty-four and 
eighteen pounders," &c. As there never was a vessel of 
this name in the navy of the United States, it is probable 
that this ship was another heavy frigate obtained by the 
State of South Carolina, in Europe. Although this state 
had the means to equip a better marine than common, it had 
neither vessels, building yards, nor seamen of any great 
moment. Most of its vessels were purchased, and its seamen 
were principally obtained from places out of its limits. Com. 
Gillon and Capt.. Joyner being both natives of Holland. 

We shall now briefly allude to a fev>^ private armed crui- 
sers, and close the narrative of the naval events connected 
with the Revolution. Of the general history of this part of 
the warfare of the period, the reader will have obtained 
some idea from our previous accounts; but it may be well 
here, to give a short but more connected summary of its 

The first proceedings of Congress in reference to assail- 
ing the British commerce, as has been seen, were reserved 
and cautious. War not being regularly declared, and an 
accommodation far from hopeless, the year 1775 was 
sufl^ered to pass away without granting letters of marque 
and reprisal; for it was the interest of the nation to pre- 
serve as many friends in England as possible. As the 
breach widened, this forbearing policy was abandoned, and 
the summer of 1776 let loose the nautical enterprise of the 
country upon the British commerce. The effect at first was 


astounding. Never before had England found an enemy so 
destructive to her trade, and, during the tvi'o first years of 
the privateering that followed, something like eight hundred 
sail of merchantmen v^^ere captured. After this period, the 
efforts of the Americans necessarily lessened, v^'hile the pre- 
cautions of the enemy increased. Still, these enterprises 
proved destructive to the end of the war; and it is a proof 
of the efficiency of this class of cruisers to the last, that 
small privateers constantly sailed out of the English ports, 
with a view to make money, by recapturing their own 
vessels; the trade of America, at that time, offering but few 
inducements to such undertakings. 

Among the vessels employed as private cruisers, the 
Holker, the Black Prince, the Pickering, the Wild Cat, 
the Vengeance, the Marlborough, in addition to those else- 
where named, were very conspicuous. The first sailed 
under different commanders, and with almost uniform suc- 
cess. The Marlborough is said to have made twenty-eight 
prizes in one cruise, and other vessels were scarcely less 
fortunate. Many sharp actions occurred, and quite as often 
to the advantage of these cruisers as to that of their enemy. 
In repeated instances they escaped from British ships of 
war, under unfavourable circumstances, and there is no 
question, that in a few cases, they captured them. 

To this list ought also to be added the letters of marque, 
which, in many cases, did great credit to themselves 
and the country. Capt. Murray, since so well known to 
the service, made one of the most desperate defences on 
record, in one of these vessels, near the close of the war ; 
and Capt. Truxtun, whose name now occupies so high a 
station among those of the naval captains of the republic, 
made another, in the St. James, while conveying an Ame- 
rican agent to France,. which was so highly appreciated 
that it probably opened the way to the rank that he subse- 
quently filled. 


The English West-India trade, in particular, suffered 
largely by the private warfare of the day. Two and fifty 
sail, engaged in this branch of commerce, are stated to 
have been taken as early as February, 1777. The whole 
number of captures made by the Americans in this contest, 
is not probably known, but six hundred and fifty prizes are 
said to have been got into port. Many of the remainder 
were ransomed, and some were destroved at sea. There 
can be no minute accuracy in these statements, but the in- 
jury done the commerce of Great Britain was enormous; 
and there is no doubt that the constant hazards it run, had 
a direct influence in obtaining the acknowledgment of the 
independence of the United States of America, which great 
event took place on the 20th of January, 1783. 

Thus terminated the first war in which America was en- 
gaged as a separate nation, after a struggle that had endured 
seven years and ten months. Orders of recall were imme- 
diately given to the different cruisers, and the commissions 
of all privateers and letters of marque were revoked. The 
proclamation announcing a cessation of hostilities, and that 
the country was in a state of peace, was made on the 11th 
of April, when the war finally terminated at all points. 



Before we proceed to give an account of the state in 
which the war left the American marine, a brief review of 
its general condition, throughout, and at the close of the 
struggle, may be found useful. 

When the law of 1775 was passed, directing the con- 
struction of the first frigates, for the twenty-eights and 
twenty-fours are included in this class, different building 
stations were selected, at points thought to be least exposed 
to the enemy. The vessel that was laid down in New 
Hampshire, was said to have been put into the water in 
sixty days from the time the work commenced. But all 
this activity was of little avail, the want of guns, anchors, 
rigging, or some material article, interfering with the rapid 
equipment of nearly every one of the thirteen ships. 

The vessel just mentioned was the Raleigh, and her 
career can be traced in our previous pages. 

The two ships constructed in Massachusetts, the Hancock 
and Boston, got to sea; for this part of the country was little 
annoyed by the enemy after the evacuation of Boston; and 
their fortunes are also to be found in our pages. 

The Rhode Island ships were the Warren and Providence. 
These vessels are described as having been the most indif- 
ferent of the thirteen. They were launched in 177G, and 
their services and fates have been given. 

The Montgomery and Congress were the vessels ordered 
to be built in New York. These ships, it is believed, were 



constructed at, or near, Pouglikeepsie, on the Hudson, and 
did not get to sea, as the British held the mouth of the river 
from August 1776 to November 1783. They were burned 
in 1777, in order to prevent them from falling into the hands 
of the enemy, when Sir Henry Clinton took the forts in the 

The name of the Maryland ship was the Virginia, and her 
hard fortune has been recorded in the course of the events 
of the year 1778. 

Pennsylvania had the four remaining vessels, the Ran- 
dolph, the Washington, the Delaware, and the Etfingham. 
Of the first it is unnecessary to say any thing, as her fate is 
identified with the glory of the service. If the Delaware 
ever got to sea, we find no traces of her movements. She 
was equipped certainly, and most probably blockaded, fall- 
ing into the hands of the enemy when they got possession 
of Philadelphia. The other two were burned in Capt. 
Henry's expedition up the river, in 1778, as has been related. 

Thus of the thirteen vessels from which so much w"as ex- 
pected, but six got to sea at all, in the service in which 
they were built. To these were added, in the course of the 
war, a few other frigates, some permanently, and some only 
for single cruises. Of the former class were the Deane, 
(Hague,) Alliance, Confederacy, and Queen of France. It 
is believed that these four ships, added to the thirteen or- 
dered by the law of 1775, and the Alfred and Columbus, 
will comprise all the frigate-built vessels that properly be- 
longed to the marine of the country, during the war of the 
Revolution. The French vessels that composed most of the 
squadron of Paul Jones were lent for the occasion, and we 
hear no more of the Pallas after the cruise had ended. She 
reverted to her original owners. 

Of the sloops of war and smaller vessels it is now diffi- 
cult to give a complete and authentic account. Several 
were employed by the commissioners in France, which it 


is impossible to trace. Congress occasionally borrowed 
vessels of the states, and generally with their officers and 
crews on board. Of this class of vessels was the General 
Washington, (late General Monk,) which unquestionably 
belonged to the state of Pennsylvania, when first equipped, 
though she appears to have been subsequently transferred to 
the General Government, by which she was employed as a 
packet, as late as the year 1784, w^hen she was sold on public 

Under such circumstances, and with the defective mate- 
rials that are now to be obtained, the difficulty of making a 
perfect list of the vessels that were in the navy during the 
war of the Revolution is fully felt, and yet, without some 
such record, this book will have an air of incompletenes. 
One, that has been corrected with care, is accordingly^ 
given, and as nothing is admitted into it, without authority, 
it is believed to be correct as far as it goes; its defects 
being those of omission, rather than positive errors. An- 
nexed to the name of each vessel is her fate, as an Ameri- 
can cruiser, so far as the facts can be ascertained. 

List of vessels of war, in the American navy between the 
years 1775, and 1783. 
Alliance 32, sold after the peace and converted into an In- 

Deane (Hague) 32. 
Virginia 28, taken by a British squadron near the capes 

of the Chesapeake, before getting to sea, 1778. 
Confederacy 32, taken by a ship of the line, off the capes of 

Virginia, June 22d, 1781. 
Hancock 32, taken in 1777, by Rainbow 40, and Victor 16. 

Flora 32, retook'her prize. 
Randolph 32, blown up in action with the Yarmouth 64, in 


* Her wreck still lies on the island opposite to Philadelphia! 


Raleigh 32, taken by the Experiment 50, and Unicorn 22, 

Washington 32, destroyed in the Delaware by the British 
army, 1778, without getting to sea. 

Warren 32, burned in the Fenobscott in 1779, to prevent her 
falling into the enemy's hands. 

Queen of France 28, captured at Charleston in 1780. 

Providence 28, do, do. do. 

Trumbull 28, taken by the Iris 32, and General Monk 18, 

Effingham 28, burned by the enemy in the Delaware, 1778, 
without getting to sea. 

Congress 28, destroyed in the Hudson, 1777, to prevent her 
falling into the enemy's hands, without getting to sea. 

Alfred 24, captured by the Ariadne and Ceres, in 1778. 

Columbus 20. 

Delaware 24, captured by the British army in the Dela- 
ware, in 1777. 

Boston 24, captured at Charleston, in 1780. 

Montgomery 24, destroyed in the Hudson, without getting 
to sea, 1777. 

Hamden 14. 

Reprisal 16, foundered at sea, 1778. 

Lexington 14, taken by the British cutter Alert, in the chan- 
nel, 1778. 

Andrea Doria 14, burned in the Delaware, 1777, to prevent 
her falling into the enemy's hands. 

Cabot 16, driven ashore by the Milford 32, in 1777, and 

Ranger 18, captured at Charleston by the British army, 

Saratoga 10, lost at sea in 1780; never heard of 

Diligent 14, burned in the Fenobscott, 1778. 

Gates 14. 

Hornet 10. 


Surprise 10, seized by the French government, in 1777. 

Revenge 10, sold in 1780. 

Providence 12, taken in the Penobscott in 1779. 

Sachem 10^ Supposed to have been destroyed in the 

Wasp 8 I Delaware by the enemy, or by the 

Independence 10 ( -Americans, to prevent their faUing into 

Dolphin loj the enemy's hands. 

To these vessels must be added the following ships, which 
appear to have made one or more cruises under the Ameri- 
can flag, commanded by American officers, and manned, in 
part, by American seamen. 
Bon Homme Richard 40, sunk after her action with the 

Serapis 44, in 1779. 
Pallas 32, left the service when the cruise was ended. 

Vengeance 12, do. do. do. 

Cerf 18, do. do. do. 

Ariel 20, borrowed by the commissioners from the Jving of 
France, and supposed to have been returned. 

These lists contain nearly, if not quite all the vessels of 
any size that properly belonged to the navy of the Ameri- 
can Confederation. There were several more small cruisers, 
mounting from 4 to 10 guns, but their service appears to 
have been as uncertain as their fates, though, like the priva- 
teers, most of them, it is believed, fell into the hands of their 
powerful and numerous foes. Several ships, also, appear 
to have belonged to the government, such as the Due de 
Lauzun, the Luzerne, Washington, &c., that we do not 
think entitled to be classed among its regular cruisers. 

Most of the popular accounts make the America 74, the 
first two-decked ship ever built within the limits of the 
United States. That this is an error, has already been 
shown, in one of our earlier pages, and there is reason to 
suppose that the English caused several small vessels on 
two decks to be constructed in the American colonies, pre- 
viously to the war of the Revolution. It would have been 


more accurate to have stated that the America was the 
heaviest ship that had been laid down in the country, at the 
time she was built. This vessel was captured from the 
French, by the British, in the engagement of the 1st of June.* 
The management of the little navy that the United States 
possessed during this long and important struggle, was ne- 
cessarily much controlled by circumstances. When the 
conflict commenced, it could scarcely be termed a war, and 
the country hardly possessed an organized government at 
all. It had been the policy of England to keep her colonies 
as dependent as possible on herself for all manufactured 
articles; and w^hen the Revolution broke out, the new 
states were almost destitute of the means of carrying on a 
war. Much as has been said and written on this subject, 
the world scarcely seems to possess an accurate notion of 
the embarrassments to which the Americans were subjected 
in consequence of deficiencies of this nature. The first 
important relief was obtained through the cruisers, and it is 
scarcely saying too much to add, that, without the succours 
that were procured in this manner, during the years 1775 

* We give the following outline of the description of the America, as 
left by Paul Jones, to show what were then deemed peculiarities in the 
construction of a ship of the line. The iipper deck bulw.irks are partic- 
ularly described as " breast works pierced for guns," and he adds, that 
all the quarter deck and forecastle guns could be fought, at need, on one 
side; from which it is to be inferred that the ship had ports in her waist. 
The poop had a "folding breast-work," grape-shot proof, or bulwarks that 
were lowered and hoisted in a minute. The quarter-deck ran four feet 
forward of the main-mast, and the forecastle came well aft. The gang- 
ways were wide, and on the level of the quarter-deck and forecastle. The 
ship had only single quarter galleries, and no stern gallery. She had 50 
feet 6 inches beam, over all, and her inboard length, on the upper gun- 
deck, was 182 feet 6 inches. " Yet this ship, though the largest of seventy - 
fours in the world, had, when the lower battery was sunk, the air of a deli- 
cate frigate; and no person, at the distance of a mile, could have imagined 
she had a second battery." Unfortunately her intended armament is not 


and 1776, the Revolution must have been checked in the 

In addition to the direct benefits conferred by the cap- 
tures, the marine was of incalculable advantage in bringing 
Europe in contact with America, by showing the flag and 
ships of the new country in the old world. Notwithstand- 
ing the many obstacles that were to be overcome, the high 
maritime spirit of the nation broke through all restraints; 
and, in defiance of an enemy that almost possessed ubiqui- 
tv, as well as an overwhelming power, the conflict between 
Britain and her despised and oppressed colonies had not 
continued a twelve-month, when the coasts of the former 
country were harassed and agitated by the audacity and 
enterprise of the American cruisers. Insurance rose to a 
height hitherto unknown, and for the first time in her his- 
tory, England felt the effects which a people thoroughly 
imbued with a love of maritime adventure, could produce 
on a nation so commercial. 

The activity and merit of the brave men who first car- 
ried the war into the enemy's seas, have not been fully ap- 
preciated by the present age. Foremost ought to be placed 
the name of Wickes, who led the way, and who appears to 
have performed the duty confided to him, with discretion, 

* The following anecdote rests on the authority of the secretary of the 
marine committee of Congress, the body that discharged the duties that 
are now performed by the navy department. The committee was in se- 
cret session, deliberating on the means of obtaining certain small articles 
that were indispensable to the equipment of vessels of war, but which 
articles were not to be had in the country, when a clamour for admit- 
tance at the door, interrupted the proceedings. Admittance was denied, 
but the intruder insisted on entering. The door was finally opened, when 
a gentleman appeared, with an inventory of the stores found in the Nancy, 
the first vessel taken by Capt. Manly, and among which were the very 
articles wanted. Mr. Adams, when the fact was ascertained, arose and 
said with earnestness: — "We must succeed — Providence is with us — vre 
must succeed!" 


spirit and steadiness. The untimely fate of this gallant offi- 
cer, who had obtained the respect and confidence of the 
American commissioners, probably was the reason that he 
does not occupy as much of the public mind as his services 

Capt. Conyngham, also, to his other claims, adds that of 
suffering. He fell into the hands of the enemy, after his 
return to the American seas, while cruising in a small pri- 
vate armed vessel, and was sent to England in irons, with 
a threat to treat him as a pirate. His imprisonment was 
long and severe ; nor was his liberty obtained, until months 
of bitter privation had been passed in a gaol. 

The naval names that have descended to us, from this 
war, with the greatest reputation, are those of Jones, Bar- 
ry, Barney, Biddle, Manly, Nicholson, Wickes, Rathburne, 
Conyngham, and Hacker. To these may be added that 
of Williams, who was in the service of Massachusetts. 
Other officers greatly distinguished themselves, cither in 
subordinate situations on board vessels of w^ar, or on 
board the other cruisers. Many of the latter subsequently 
rose to high stations in the national marine, and we shall 
have occasion to allude to their conduct in our subsequent 

The nature of the warfare, unquestionably trammelled 
the national elTorts in this contest. The circumstance that 
only six out of thirteen new cruisers that were laid down 
under the law of Oct. 1775, ever got to sea, shows the dif- 
ficulties with which the country had to contend on account 
of so many of its ports having been occupied by invading 
armies, of a force and discipline that no power of the young 
republic could then withstand. No less than six of these 
vessels fell into the enemy's hands, by means of their land 
forces, or w^ere destroyed by the Americans themselves, to 
prevent such a result. In New York, the British held the 
port, of all others, which would have been of the greatest 


Fervice to the country, in a naval war, as its central posi- 
tion, many natural advantages, difficulty of being blockaded 
on account of a double outlet, and resources, will always 
render it the centre of maritime operations, in every strug- 
gle for the command of the American seas. 

But the greatest obstacles with which the young marine 
had to contend, were a total absence of system, a looseness 
of discipline, and a want of vessels of force. The irregulari- 
ties of the service, it is true, grew out of the exigencies of 
the times, but their evils were incalculable. Rank, that great 
source of contention in all services in which it is not clear- 
ly defined and rigidly regulated, appears to have created 
endless heart-burning's. The dissensions of the officers, na- 
turally communicated themselves to the men ; and, in time, 
this difficulty was added to the others which existed in ob- 
taining crews. It is a singular fact, that, with the excep- 
tion perhaps of that favourite ship the Alliance, we can- 
not find that any frigate-built vessel left the country, after 
the first year or tvv'o of the war, with a full crew on board 
of her ; and even those with which they did sail, were either 
composed, in a good measure, of landsmen, or tlie officers 
had been compelled to resort to the dangerous expedient 
of seeking for volunteers among the prisoners. We have 
seen that the Alliance herself, with h(;r precious freight, 
was near being the sacrifice of this ill-judged, not to say 
unjust policy. The Trumbull, when taken, was fought prin- 
cipally by her officers; and, at the very moment when con- 
fidence was of the last importance to success, the vessels of 
Paul Jones's squadron appear to have distrusted each other, 
and to have acted with the uncertainty of such a feeling. 

To the lightness of the metal used during this war, is to 
be ascribed the duration of the combats. It has been seen, 
that the Bon Homme Richard had a few eighteen-pounders 
mounted in her gun room; and there are occasional allu- 
sions in the accounts of the day, that would induce us to 

Vol. I.— 22 


believe that some of the larger vessels built for the service, 
had a few guns of this calibre, mixed in with their more 
regular armaments; but, strictly speaking, there was not a 
ship in the American navy, during the whole war of the 
Revolution, that was properly any thing more than a 
twelve-pounder frigate. The America 74, would have 
been an exception, of course, could she properly be said 
to have belonged to the service, but she was transferred 
to France previously to being put into the water. The Bon 
Homme Richard had the dimensions of, and was pierced 
for a thirty-eight, but her regular and only efficient batte- 
ries, were composed of twelves and nines. The Indien, or 
South Carolina, as she was subsequently called, was pro- 
bably as heavy a frigate as then floated, but she sailed in 
the service of the single state of South Carolina, and never 
belonged to the marine of ihe country. 

No correct estimate can be ever made of the merits 
of the gallant seamen, whose acts have been recorded 
in these pages, without keeping in constant view, all the 
disadvantages under which they served. With vessels, 
quite often imperfectly equipped; frequently with such guns, 
ammunition and stores, as are known to be disposed of to 
nations, the necessities of which supersede caution ; with 
crews badly, often dangerously composed, and without the 
encouragement that power can proffer to success, these 
faithful men went forth upon an ocean that was cover- 
ed with the cruisers of their enemy, to contend with 
foes every way prepared for war, who were incited by all 
that can awaken ambition, and who met them with the 
confidence that is the inseparable companion of habit and 
a consciousness of force. 

While pointing out the claims of the seamen of the Revo- 
lution to that honourable place in history which it is our aim 
to contribute in securing to them, there is another corps, 
one that has so long been associated with navies as to be 


almost necessarily included in iheir renown, which is entitled 
to a distinct notice in our pages. It is so much a matter of 
course, to identify the marines with the ship in which they 
serve, that we have not hitherto thought it necessary to 
digress from the course of events to speak particularly of 
this body of men. The corps, however, is so necessary to 
the military character of every service, has ever been so ef- 
ficent and useful, not only in carrying on the regular routine 
of duty, but in face of the enemy, and was so all-important 
to the security of the ships, during the period of which we 
have been writing, that we have reserved a place for a 
brief account of its organization in this chapter. In order 
that the general reader may more clearly comprehend this 
branch of the subject, however, and obtain a better idea of 
the composition of the crew of a vessel of war, a paragraph 
will be devoted to a few explanations. 

The men of a pubUc armed ship are divided into two 
distinct bodies ; the portion of the people that do the ordi- 
nary duty of the vessel, which includes the petty officers, 
seamen, ordinary seamen, landsmen and boys, and the ma- 
rines. The former pass under the general name of sailors, 
while the latter are always known by their own distinctive 
appellation. The marines are strictly infantry soldiers, who 
are trained to serve afloat; and their discipline, equipments, 
spirit, character, and esprit de corps, are altogether those 
of an army. The marines impart to a ship of war, in a 
great degree, its high military character. They furnish all 
the guards and sentinels; in battle they repel, or cover the 
assaults of boarders ; and, at all times, they sustain and 
protect the stern and necessary discipline of a ship by their 
organization, distinctive character, training, and we might 
add, nature. It is usual to place one of these soldiers on 
board a ship of war for each gun, though the rule is not 
absolute. It is not, however, to be understood bv this, that 


the marines are regularly dispersed in the ship, by placing 
them at the guns, as, unless in cases that form exceptions, 
they act together, under their own officers, using the mus- 
ket and bayonet as their proper weapons. 

Aware of the importance of such a body of men, on the 
Vflh of November, 1775, or before any regular cruiser had 
yet got to sea. Congress passed a law establishing a marine 
corps. By this law, the corps was to consist of two battal- 
ions of the usual size, and to be commanded by a colonel. 
A resolution passed on the 30th of the same month, directing 
that these two battalions should not be drafted from the 
army before Boston, but resrularlv enlisted for the war. It 
does not appear that this law^ was ever carried into com- 
plete effect; the great difficulty which existed in obtaining 
men for the army, no less than the impracticability of getting 
so many of the vessels to sea, most probably contributing 
to defeat its objects. On the 25th of June, 1770, notwith- 
standing, the corps received something like the contemplated 
organization, and officers were appointed to serve in it. 
That there were marines in the squadron of Com. Hopkins, 
is known from the fact of their having been landed at New 
Providence, where they were the assailing force; but even 
the greater portion of the sea-officers, employed on that 
occasion, had merely letters of appointment, and, it is to be 
presumed, that such was also the case with the gentlemen 
of this arm. We give the following list of the officers of 
the marine corps, who were appointed in June, 1775, as 
containing the names of those who properly formed the 
nucleus of this important and respectable part of the navy. 
Officers of Marines appointed June 25th, 1775. 
Samuel Nichols, Major. 
Andrew Porter, Captain. 
Joseph Hardy, do. 
Samuel Shaw, do. 
Benj. Deane, do> 


Robert Mullin, Captain. 

John Stewart, do. 

Daniel Henderson, First Lieutenant. 

David Love, do. 

Franklin Read, do. 

Peregrine Brown, do. 

Thomas Barnell, do. 

James McClure, Second Lieutenant. 

William Gilmore, do. 

Abel Morgan, do. 

Hugh Montgomery, do. 

Richard Harrison, do. 

Other nominations followed, from time to time, though it 
is believed that in many cases, officers commanding ships, 
were empowered to give letters of appointment. In short, 
the irregularity and want of system that prevailed in the 
navy generally, extended in a degree to a branch of it that 
is usually so trained, so methodical and certain. 

At no period of the naval history of the world, is it proba- 
ble that marines were more important than during the war 
of the Revolution. In many instances they preserved the 
vessels to the country, by suppressing the turbulence of 
their ill assorted crews, and the effect of their fire, not only 
then, but in all the subsequent confficts, under those cir- 
cumstances in which it could be resorted to, has usually 
been singularly creditable to their steadiness and disci- 
pline. The history of the navy, even at that early day, as 
well as in these latter times, abounds with instances of the 
gallantry and self devotion of this body of soldiers, and we 
should be unfaithful to our trust, were we not to add, that 
it also furnishes too many proofs of the forgetfulness of its 
merits by the country. The marine incurs the same risks 
from disease and tempests, undergoes the same privations, 
suffers the same hardships, and sheds his blood in the same 
battles as the seaman, and society owes him the same re- 



wards. While on ship-board, necessity renders him in a 
certain sense, the subordinate, but nations ought never to 
overlook the important moral and political truth, that the 
highest lessons they can teach are those of justice; and no 
servant of the public should pass a youth of toil and danger, 
without the consciousness of possessing a tenour to a cer- 
tain and honourable reward, that is dependent only on him- 
self. That this reward has hitherto been as unwisely as it 
has been unfairly withheld, from all connected with the 
navy, it is our duty as historians to state, and in no instance 
has this justice been more signally denied, than in the case 
of the honourable and gallant corps of which we are par- 
ticularly writing. 

Before the thread of the historical incidents is resumed, 
it is proper that we allude to one other branch of our sub- 
ject. There may be sufficient interest connected with the 
first vessel of war that evei; carried the American flag on 
the ocean, to render it important that no error be committed 
in registering her name. On this point it is, perhaps, too 
late to pretend to entire accuracy, for three reasons; the 
want of documents, the conflicting testimony, and the cir- 
cumstance that the journals of the day abstained from 
alluding to movements that required secrecy to insure suc- 
cess. The first notice that is taken of the squadron of 
Com. Hopkins, in tiie papers of the town from which it 
sailed, was to record its return to port. It has been said 
that the Lexington 14, was the cruiser entitled to the honour 
just mentioned, but it has been admitted, at the same time, 
that the claim in behalf of this little brig, is met by one in 
favour of all the vessels of the squadron of Mr. Hopkins. 
It is even uncertain that the Lexington and Providence 
were purchased previously to the Cabot and Doria, although 
there are, perhaps, more reasons for believing that they 
were, than that they were not. If the authority of Paul 
Jones is to be deemed conclusive, the vessels of the squad- 


ron in which he first sailed, composed the entire naval force 
of the country, at that precise time; but Com. Jones makes 
many mistakes in his allusions, and, in this particular, he is 
known to have been in error. His correspondence is en- 
titled to great respect as authority, though like all authority 
of this nature, its focts are to be received with caution, and 
collated with care. There is reason to think thai the 
Providence made at least one cruise under Capt. Whipple, 
as a privateer, out of Rhode Island, before she was pur- 
chased into the navy, nor does there appear to be any evi- 
dence that a single vessel of war was ever built for the re- 
gular service of the general government of the country, or 
the United American Colonies, previously to those autho- 
rized by the law of October, 1775. Of these, it is impos- 
sible to say which was first got into the water, though there 
is proof that the Raleigh 32, was one of those earliest 

It remains only to say that the navy of the Revolution, 
like its army, was disbanded at the termination of the strug- 
gle, literally leaving nothing behind it, but the recollections 
of its services and sufferings. 



The peace of 1783 found the finances of the new republic 
altogether unequal to the support of a marine. Most of the 
public cruisers, as has been seen, had fallen into the hands 
of the enemy, or had been destroyed, and the few that re- 
mained were sold. The Alliance, which appears to have 
been the favourite ship of the service to the very last, was 
reluctantly parted with ; but a survey being held on her, she 
was also disposed of in June, 1785, in preference to en- 
countering the expenses of repairs. 

Although the United States now kept no vessels of war, 
several of the states, themselves, with the consent of Con- 
gress, which was necessary by the articles of confedera- 
tion, had small cruisers -of their own, that did the duties of 
guarda-costas and revenue cutters. At this period in the 
history of the country, it will be remembered that each state 
had its own custom-houses, levied its own duties, and pur- 
sued its own policy in trade, with the single exception that 
it could not contravene any stipulation by treaty that had 
been entered into by Congress. 

After the peace, the trade of the United States revived, 
as a matter of course, though it had to contend with many 
difficulties, besides the impoverished condition of the coun- 
try. It has been a matter of question, what vessel first carried 
the American flag into the Chinese seas, but there can be 


no doubt that it was the ship Empress of China, Capt. 
Green, which sailed from New- York, the 22d of Febru- 
ary, 1784, and returned to the same port on the 11th of 
May, 1785. This vessel, however, did not make a direct 
voyage, touching in Europe, on her outward-bound pas- 
sage; and the honour of going direct belongs to the Enter- 
prise, Capt. Dean, a sloop of 80 tons, built in Albany, 
which went and returned in 1785. It ought to be mention- 
ed, to the credit of the English factory at Canton, that, not- 
withstanding the jealousies and interests of trade, which, 
perhaps, oftener lead to unprincipled acts, than any other 
one concern of life, struck with the novelty and boldness 
of the experiment, it received these adventurers with kind- 
ness and hospitality. In 1787, the Alliance frigate, con- 
verted into an Indiaman, went to Canton, under the com- 
mand of Capt. Thomas Read, formerly of the navy. This 
officer took a new route, actually going to the southward 
of New-Holland, in consequence of the season of the year, 
which had brought him into the unfavourable monsoons. 
Notwithstanding this long circuit, the noble old ship made 
the passage in very tolerable time. Capt. Read discovered 
some islands to the eastward of New-Holland. 

The period between the peace and the year 1788, was 
one of troubles, insurrections in the states, and difficul- 
ties growing out of the defective political organization of 
the country. To these grievances may be added the em- 
barrassments arising from the renewal of the claims of the 
British merchants, that had been suspended by the war. 
All these circumstances united to produce uncertainty and 
distress. Discreet men saw the necessitv of a change of 
system, and the results of the collected wisdom of the nation 
were offered to the world in a plan for substituting the con- 
stitution of an identified government, in the place of the 
articles of association, and of creating what has since been 
popularly termed the Union, in lieu of the old Confederation. 


The scheme was adopted, and in April, 1789, the new go- 
vernment went into operation, with Washington at its head, 
as President. 

The entire miUtary organization underwent many im- 
portant alterations, by this change of government. The 
President became the commander-in-chief of both the army 
and navy, and he possessed the civil power of appointing 
their officers, subject only to the approbation of a senate, 
which was also instituted on this occasion, and to a few 
subordinate regulations of congress. In addition to this high 
trust, was confided to him one of still heavier responsibili- 
ties, by which he could dismiss any civil or military officer, 
the judges excepted, however high his rank, or long his ser- 
vices. The supplies were raised directly by the federal 
power, without the intervention of the states ; and the entire 
government, within the circle of its authority, became as 
direct and efficient, as that of any other polity which pos- 
sessed the representative form. 

The beneficial consequences of these fundamental altera- 
tions were visible, in all the departments of the country. It 
was deemed premature, nevertheless, to think of the re-esta- 
blishment of a marine ; for, oppressed with debt, and men- 
aced with a renewal of the war with England, the administra- 
tion of Washington was cautiously, and with the greatest pru- 
dence, endeavouring to extricate the country from the vari- 
ous entanglements that were perhaps inseparable from its 
peculiar condition, and to set in motion the machinery of a 
new and an entirely novel mode of conducting the affairs 
of a state. While Washington, and his ministers, appeared 
to be fully sensible of the importance of a navy, the poverty 
of the treasury alone, would have been deemed an insuper- 
able objection to encountering its expense. Still, so evident 
was the connexion between an efficient government and a 
permanent and strong marine, in a country like this, that 
when Paul Jones first heard of the change, he prepared to 


return to America, in the confident hope of being again 

In the mean time, the Dey of Algiers, discovering that a 
new country had started into existence, which possessed 
merchant vessels and no cruisers, as a matter of course be- 
gan to prey on its commerce. On the 25th of July, 1785, 
the schooner Maria, belonging to Boston, was seized, out- 
side of the Straits of Gibraltar, by a corsair, and her crew 
were carried into slavery. This unprovoked piracy, — 
though committed under the forms of a legal government, 
the act deserves this reproach, — was followed, on the 30th 
of the same month, by the capture of the ship Dolphin, of 
Philadelphia, Capt. O'Brien, who, with all his people, was 
made to share the same fate. On the 9th of July, 1790, or 
a twelvemonth after the organization of the federal govern- 
ment, there still remained in captivity, fourteen of the unfor- 
tunate persons who had been thus seized. Of course, five 
bitter years had passed in slavery, because, at the period 
named, the United States of America, the country to which 
they belonged, did not possess sufficient naval force to com- 
pel the petty lyrant at the head of the Algerine government 
to do justice! In looking back at events like these, we feel 
it difficult to persuade ourselves that the nation was really 
so powerless, and cannot but suspect that in the strife of 
parties, the struggles of opinion, and the pursuit of gain, the 
sutferings of the distant captive were overlooked or for- 
gotten. One of the first advantages of the new system, was 
connected with the measures taken by the administration of 
Washington to relieve these unfortunate persons. A long 
and weary negotiation ensued, and Paul Jones was appoint- 
ed, in 1792, to be an agent for effecting the liberation of the 
captives. At the same time, a commission was also sent to 
him, naming him consul at the regency of Algiers. This 
celebrated man, for whose relief these nominations were 


probably made, was dead before the arrival of the difierent 
commissions at Paris. A second agent was named in the 
person of Mr. Barclay; but this gentleman also died before 
he could enter on the duties of the office. 

Algiers and Portugal had long been at war, and, though 
the latter government seldom resorted to active measures 
against the town of its enemy, it was very useful to the rest 
of the Christian world, by maintaining a strong force in the 
Straits of Gibraltar, rendering it difficult for any rover to 
find her way out of the Mediterranean. Contrary to all ex- 
pectation, this war was suddenly terminated in 1793, through 
the agency of the British consul at Algiers, and, as it was said, 
without the knowledge of the Portuguese government. This 
peace, or truce, allowed the Algerine rovers to come again 
into the Atlantic, and its consequences to the American com- 
merce were soon apparent. A squadron consisting of four 
ships, three xebecks, and a brig, immediately passed the 
straits, and by the Uth of October, 1793, four more Ameri- 
can vessels had fallen into the hands of these lawless bar- 
barians. At the same tirne^ the Dey of Algiers, v;ho had 
commenced this quarrel without any other pretence than a 
demand for tribute, refused all accommodation, even me- 
nacing the person of the minister appointed by the Ameri- 
can government, should he venture to appear within his 
dominions! During the first cruise of the vessels mentioned, 
they captured ten Americans, and made one hundred and 
five additional prisoners. 

These depredations had now reached a pass when further 
submission became impossible, without a total abandonment 
of those rights that it is absolutely requisite for every inde- 
pendent government to maintain. The cabinet took the 
subject into grave deliberation, and on the 3d of March, 
1794, the President sent a message to Congress, communi- 
cating all the facts connected with the Algerine depreda- 


tions, and on the 2,7th of the same month, a law was ap- 
proved by the executive, authorizing the construction, or the 
purchase of six frigates, or of such other naval force, that 
should not be inferior to that of the six frigates named, as 
the President might see fit to order, provided no vessel 
should mount less than 32 guns. This law had a direct re- 
ference to the existing difficulty with Algiers, and it con- 
tained a paragraph ordering that all proceedings under its 
provisions should cease, in the event of an accommodation 
of the quarrel with that regency. Notwithstanding this limit 
to the action of the law, the latter may be considered the 
first step taken towards the establishment of the present 
navy, as some of the ships that were eventually constructed 
under it are still in use, and some of the officers who were 
appointed to them, passed the remainder of their lives in 
the service. 

The executive was no sooner authorized to proceed by 
the law of the 27th of March, 1794, than measures were 
taken to build the vessels ordered. The provision of the 
first paragraph was virtually followed, and the six frigates 
were laid down as soon as possible. These vessels were the 

Constitution 44, laid down at Boston. 

President 44, " New York. 

United States 44, " Philadelphia. 

Chesapeake 38, " Portsmouth, Va. 

Constellation 38, " Baltimore. 

Congress 38, " Portsmouth, N. H. 

The most capable builders in the country were consulted, 
the models of Mr. Joshua Humphreys, of Philadelphia, being 
those accepted. On this occasion, an important and re- 
cent improvement in ship building was adopted, by which 
frigates were increased in size and in efficiency, by so far 
lengthening them, as to give to ships on one deck, the metal 
that had formerly been distributed on two. The three ships 
first mentioned in the foregoing list, were of this class of 
Vol. I.— 23 


vessels, being pierced for thirty twenty-four-pounders, on 
their gun decks, while their upper deck armaments varied 
with circumstances. On this account they were rated as 
forty-fours, a description of vessel that had previously borne 
its guns on two decks, besides the quarter-deck and forecastle. 
The others were of the force of the common English thirty- 
eights, carrying 28 eighteens below, and as many lighter 
guns above as was deemed expedient. From a want of sys- 
tem, the Chesapeake was known in the accounts of the day as 
a forty-four, and she even figures in the reports under the law, 
as a vessel of that rate, owing to the circumstance that she 
was originally intended for a ship of that force and size. 
But, in consequence of a difficulty in obtaining the necessary 
frame, her dimensions were lessened, and she took her 
place in the navy, by the side of the two vessels last men- 
tioned on the foregoing list. But so much inaccuracy ex- 
isted at that day, and the popular accounts abound with so 
many errors of this nature, that we shall find many occa- 
sions to correct similar mistakes, before we reach a period 
when the service was brought within the rules of a uni- 
form and consistent system. 

In selecting commanders for these ships, the President 
very naturally turned to those old officers who had proved 
themselves fit for the stations, during the war of the Revo- 
lution. Many of the naval captains of that trying period, 
however, were already dead, and others, again, had become 
incapacitated by age and wounds, for the arduous duties of 
sea officers. The following is the list selected, which took 
rank, in the order in which the names appear, viz: — 
John Barry, Joshua Barney, 

Samuel Nicholson, Richard Dale, 

Silas Talbot, Thomas Truxtun. 

With the exception of Capt. Truxtun, all of these 
gentlemen had served in the navy during the Revolu- 
tion. Capt. Barry was the only one of the six who was not 


born in America, but he had passed nearly all his life in it, 
and was thoroughly identified with his adopted country in 
feeling and interests. He had often distinguished himself 
during the preceding war, and, perhaps, of ail the naval 
captains that remained, he was the one who possessed the 
greatest reputation for experience, conduct and skill. The 
appointment met with general approbation, nor did any 
thing ever occur to give the government reason to regret 
its selection. 

Capt. Nicholson had served with credit in subordinate 
situations, in command of the Hague, or Deane 32, and in one 
instance, at the head of a small squadron. This officer also 
commanded the Dolphin 10, the cutter that the commission- 
ers sent with Capt. Wickes, in his successful cruise in the 
narrow seas. 

Capt. Talbot's career was singular, for though connected 
with the sea in his youth, he had entered the army, at the 
commencement of the Revolution, and was twice promoted 
in that branch of the service, for gallantry and skill on the 
water. This gentleman had been raised to the rank of a 
captain in the navy, in 1779, but he had never been able to 
obtain a ship. Subsequently to the war, Capt, Talbot had 
retired from the sea, and he had actually served one term 
in Congress. 

Capt. Barney had served as a lieutenant in many ac- 
tions, and commanded the Pennsylvania State cruiser, the 
Hyder Ally, when she took the General Monk. This offi- 
cer declined his appointment in consequence of having been 
put junior to Lieut. Colonel Talbot, and Capt. Sever was 
named in his place. 

Capt. Dale had been Paul Jones' first lieutenant, besides 
seeing much other service in subordinate capacities, during 
the war of tiie Revolution. 

Capt. Truxtun had a reputation for spirit that his subse- 
quent career fully justified, and had seen much service du- 



ring the Revolution, in commandof different private vessels 
of war. 

The rank of the subordinate officers eventually appoint- 
ed to these ships, was determined by that of the different 
commanders, the senior lieutenant of Capt. Barry's ves- 
sel taking rank of all the other first lieutenants, and the 
junior officers accordingly. 

All these preparations, however, were suddenly suspend- 
ed by the signing of a treaty with Algiers, in Nov. 1795. 
By a provision of the law, the work was not to be prose- 
cuted, in the event of such a peace, and the President im- 
mediately called the attention of Congress to the subject. 
A new act was passed, without delay, ordering the comple- 
tion and equipment of two of the forty-fours, and of one of 
the thirty-eights, while it directed the work on the remaining 
three ships to be stopped, and the perishable portion of their 
materials to be sold. A sum which had also been voted for 
the construction of some galleys, but no part of which had 
yet been used, was applied to the equipment of those ves- 
sels ordered to be launched.* 

* The reader will obtain some idea of the spirit which may prevail in a 
nation, when it neglects to use, or does not possess, the means of causing 
its rights and character to be respected, by the tone of the following ar- 
ticle, which is extracted from a journal of the date of 1798, and which 
would seem to be as much in unison with the temper of that day, as one 
of an opposite character would comport with the spirit of our own times. 
Algiers will not extort tribute, again, from America, but other rights, not 
less dear to national honour, national character, and national interests, 
may be sacrificed to a temporising spirit, should not the navy be enlarged, 
and made the highest aim of national policy. 

" Crescent Frigate. 

"PonxsiTOUTH, Jan, 20th. 

"On Thursday morning about sunrise, a gun was discharged from the 

Crescent frigate, as a signal for getting under way; and at 10, A. M., she 

cleared the harbour, witli a fine leading breeze. Our best wishes follow 

Captain Newman, his officers and men. May they arrive in safety at the 


The President, in his annual speech to Congress, Decem- 
ber 1796, strongly recommended laws for the gradual in- 
crease of the navy. It is w^orthy of remark, that, as 
appears by documents published at the time, the peace 
obtained from the Dey of Algiers cost the government of 
the United States near a million of dollars, a sum quite 
sufficient to have kept the barbarian's port hermetically 
blockaded until he should have humbly sued for permission 
to send a craft to sea. 

While these events were gradually leading to the for- 
mation of a navy, the maritime powers of Europe became 
involved in what was nearly a general war, and their mea- 
sures of hostility against each other, had a direct tendency 
to trespass on the privileges of neutrals. It would exceed 
the limits of this work to enter into the history of that sys- 
tem of gradual encroachments on the rights of the American 
people, which distinguished the measures of both the two 
great belligerents, in the war that succeeded the French 
Revolution; or the height of audacity to which the cruisers 
of France, in particular, carried their depredations, most 

place of their destination, and present to the Dey of Algiers, one of the 
finest specimens of elegant naval architecture which was ever borne on 
the Piscataqua's waters. 

" Blow all ye winds that Jill the prosperous sail. 
And hushed in peace be every adverse gale. 

"The Crescent is a present from the United States to the Dey, as com- 
pensation for delay in not fulfilling our treaty stipulations in proper time. 

" Richard O'Brien, Esq., who was ten years a prisoner at Algiers, took 
passage in the above frigate, and is to reside at Algiers as Consul General 
of the United States to all the Barbary states. 

" The Crescent has many valuable presents on board for the Dey, and 
when she sailed was supposed to be worth at least three hundred thousand 

" Twenty -six barrels of dollars constituted a part of her cargo. 

« It is worthy of remark, that the captain, chief of the officers, and 
many of the privates of the Crescent frigate, have been prisoners at Al- 



probably mistaking liie amount of the influence of their own 
country, over the great body of the American nation. Not 
only did they capture British ships within our waters, but 
they actually took the same liberties with Americans also. 
All attempts to obtain redress of the French government 
failed, and unable to submit any longer to such injustice, 
the government, in April 1798, recommended to Congress a 
plan of armament and defence, that it was hoped would have 
the effect to check these aggressions, and avert an open 
conflict. Down to this period, the whole military defence of 
the country, was intrusted to one department, that of war ; 
and a letter from the secretary of this branch of the govern- 
ment, to the chairman of a committee to devise means of 
protection and defence, was the form in which this high in- 
terest was brought before the nation, through its represen- 
tatives. Twenty small vessels were advised to be built, and, 
in the event of an open rupture, it was recommended to 
Congress to authorize the President to cause six ships of the 
line to be constructed. This force was in addition to the 
six frigates authorized to be built, by the law of 1794. 

The United States 44, Constitution 44, and Constellation 
38, had been got afloat the year previous. These three 
ships are all still in the service, and during the last forty 
years, neither has ever been long out of commission. 

The United States was the first vessel that was got into 
the water, under the present organization of the navy. 
She was launched at Philadelphia, on the 10th of July, 1797, 
and the Constellation followed her on the 7th of September. 

Congress acted so far, on the recommendation of the se- 
cretary of war, as to authorize the President to cause to be 
built, purchased, or hired, twelve vessels, none of which were 
to exceed twenty-two guns, and to see that they were duly 
equipped and manned. To efiect these objects $950,000 
were appropriated. This law passed the 27th of April, 1798, 
and on the 30th, a regular navy department was formally 


created. Benjamin Stoddart, of Georgetown, in the Dis- 
trict of Columbia, was tlie first secretary put at the head of 
this important branch of the government, entering on his 
duties in June of the same year. 

After so long and so extraordinary a forgetfulness of one 
of the most important interests of the nation, Congress now 
seemed to be in earnest; the depredations of the French 
having reached a pass that could no longer be submitted to 
with honour. On the 4th of May, a new appropriation was 
made for the construction of galleys and other small vessels, 
and on the 28th of the same month, the President was em- 
powered to instruct the commanders of the public vessels to 
capture and send into port all French cruisers, whether 
public or priv^ate, that might be found on the coast, having 
committed, or which there was reason to suppose might 
commit, any depredations on the commerce of the country; 
and, to recapture any American vessels that might have 
already fallen into their hands. Additional laws were 
soon passed for the condemnation of such prizes, and 
for the safe keeping of their crews. In June, another law 
was passed, authorizing the President to accept of twelve 
more vessels of war, should they be offered to him by the 
citizens, and to issue public stock in payment. By a clause 
in this act, it was provided that these twelve ships, as well 
as the twelve directed to be procured in the law of the 
27th of April of the same year, should consist of six not ex- 
ceeding 18 guns, of twelve between 20 and 24 guns, and of 
six of not less than 32 guns. The cautious manner in which 
the national legislature proceeded, on this occasion, will re- 
mind the reader of the reserve used in 1775 and in 1776; 
and we trace distinctly, in both instances, the moderation of 
a people averse to war, no less than a strong reluctance to 
break the tics of an ancient but much abused amity. 

Down to this moment, the old treaty of alliance, formed 
between France and the United States during the war of the 


Revolution, and some subsequent conventions, were legally 
in existence ; but Congress by law solemnly abrogated them 
all, on the 7th of July, 1798, on the plea that they had been 
repeatedly disregarded by France, and that the latter coun- 
try continued, in the face of the most solemn remonstrances, 
to uphold a system of predatory warfare on the commerce 
of the United States. 

It will be seen that an express declaration of war was 
avoided in all these measures, nor was it resorted to, at 
all, throughout this controversy, although war, in fact, 
existed from the moment the first American cruisers ap- 
peared on the ocean. On the 9th of July, 1798, another 
law passed, authorizing the American vessels of war to cap- 
ture French cruisers wherever they might be found, and 
empowering the President to issue commissions to private 
armed vessels, conveying to them the same rights as re- 
garded captures, as had been given to the public ships. By 
this act, the prizes became liable to condemnation, for the 
benefit of the captors. 

On the 11th of July, 1798, a new marine corps was esta- 
blished by law, the old one having dissolved with the navy 
of the Revolution, to which it had properly belonged. It 
contained 881 officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians 
and privates, and was commanded by a major. On the 16th 
of the same month, a law was passed to construct three 
more frigates. This act was expressed in such terms as to 
enable the government immediately to complete the ships 
commenced under the law of 1794, and which had been 
suspended under that of 1796. The whole force authorized 
by law, on the 16th of July, consequently, consisted of twelve 
frigates ; twelve ships of a force between 20 and 24 guns, 
inclusive ; and six smaller sloops, besides galleys and reve- 
nue cutters ; making a total of thirty active cruisers. 

Such is the history of the legislation that gave rise to the 
present American marine, and which led to what is com- 


monly called the quasi war against France. There appears 
to have been no enactments limiting the number of the of- 
ficers, who were appointed according to the wants of the 
service, though their stations and allowances were duly 
regulated by law. 

While the government of the United States was taking 
these incipient and efficient steps to defend the rights and 
character of the nation, the better feeling of the country was 
entirely in its favour. Families of the highest social and 
political influence pressed forward to offer their sons to the 
service, and the navy being the favourite branch, nearly all 
of those who thus presented themselves, and whose ages did 
not preclude the probationary delay, had their names en- 
rolled on the list of midshipmen. Young and intelligent sea- 
men were taken from the merchant service, to receive the 
rank of lieutenants, and the commanders and captains were 
either chosen from among those who had seen service in 
the war of the Revolution, or who by their experience in 
the charge of Indiamen, and other vessels of value, were 
accustomed to responsibility and command. It may be well 
to add, here, that the seamen of the nation joined heartily in 
the feeling of the day, and that entire crews were frequently 
entered for frigates in the course of a few hours. Want of 
men was hardly experienced at all in this contest ; and v^e 
deem it a proof that seamen can always be had in a war 
that offers active service, by voluntary enlistments, provided 
an outlet be not offered to enterprise through the medium of 
private cruisers. Although commissions were granted to 
privateers and letters of marque, on this occasion, compara- 
tively few of the former were taken out, the commerce of 
France offering but slight inducements to encounter the 

During the year 1707, or previously to the commence- 
ment of hostilities between the United States and France, 
the exports of the former country amounted to 857,000,000, 


and the shipping had increased to quite 800,000 tons, while 
the population, making an estimate from the census of 1800, 
had risen to near 5,000,000. The revenue of the year was 



Although three of the frigates were launched in 1797, 
neither was quite ready for service when the necessities of 
the country required that vessels should be sent to sea. The 
want of suitable spars and guns, and other naval stores, fit for 
ships of size, had retarded the labour on the frigates, while 
vessels had been readily bought for the sloops of war, which, 
though deficient in many of the qualities and conveniences 
of regular cruisers, were made to answer the exigencies of 
the times. Among others that had been thus provided, was 
an Indiaman, called the Ganges. Retaining her name, this 
vessel was brought into the service, armed and equipped as 
a 24, and put under the command of Capt. Richard Dale, 
who was ordered to sail on a cruise on the 22d of May. 
This ship, then, was the first man of war that ever got to 
sea under the present organization of the navy, or since the 
United States have existed under the constitution. Capt. 
Dale was instructed to do no more than pertains generally 
to the authority of a vessel of war, that is cruising on the 
coast of the country to which she belongs, in a time of 
peace ; the law that empowered seizures not passing until a 
few days after he had sailed. His cruising ground extended 
from the east end of Long Island to the capes of Virginia, 
with a view to cover, as much as possible, the three import- 
ant ports of Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New-York, and, in 
anticipation of the act of the 28th of May, Capt. Dale was 
directed to appear off the capes of the Delaware on the 12th 


of June, to receive new orders. On that day, instructions 
were accordingly sent to him to capture all French cruisers 
that were hovering on the coast with hostile views on the 
American commerce, and to recapture any of their prizes 
he might happen to fall in with. 

The Constellation 38, Capt. Truxtun, and the Delaware 
20, Capt. Decatur, next went to sea, early in June, under the 
last of the foregoing orders, and with directions to cruise to 
the southward of Cape Henry, as far as the coast of Florida. 
When a few days out, the Delaware fell in with the French 
privateer schooner Le Croyable 14, with a crew of 70 men. 
Being satisfied that this vessel had already made several 
prizes, and that she was actually cruising on soundings, in 
search of more, Capt. Decatur took her, and sent her into 
the Delaware. As the law directing the capture of all 
ai-med French vessels passed soon after her arrival, Le 
Croyable was condemned, and bought into the navy. She 
was called the Retaliation, and the command of her was 
given to Lieut. Bainbridge. 

Le Croyable was, consequently, not only the first capture 
made, in what it is usual to term the French war of 1798, 
but she was the first vessel ever taken by the present navy, 
or under the present form of government. 

The activity employed by the administration, as well as 
by the navy, now astonished those who had so long been 
accustomed to believe the American people disposed to 
submit to any insult, in preference to encountering the 
losses of a war. The United States 44, Capt. Barry, went 
to sea, early in July, and proceeded to cruise to the east- 
ward. This ship carried out with her many young gentle- 
men, who have since risen to high rank and distinction in 
the service.* But the law of the 9lh of that month, occur- 

* The first lieutenant of the United States on this cruise, was Mr. 
Ross; second lieutenant, Mr. MuUony; third lieutenant, Mr. James Barron; 


ring immediately afterwards, the government altered its 
policy entirely, and determined to send at once, a strong 
force among the West India islands, where the enemy 
abounded, and where the commerce of the country v,'as 
most exposed to his depredations. On the 11th, instruc- 
tions were sent to Capt. Barry, who now hoisted a broad 
pennant, to go off Cape Cod, with the Delaware 20, Capt. 
Decatur, where he would find the Herald 18, Capt. Sever, 
that officer preferring active service in a small vessel, to 
waiting for the frigate to which he had been appointed, and 
then to proceed directly to the West Indies, keeping to 

That well known frigate, the Constitution 44, had been 
launched at Boston, Sept. 20th, 1797; and she first got 
under way, July 20th of this year, under Capt. Samuel 
Nicholson, who, in August, with four revenue vessels in com- 
pany, was directed to cruise on the coast, to the southward 
of Cape Henry.* These revenue vessels were generally 
brigs, between one hundred and fifty and two hundred tons 
measurement, with armaments varying from ten to four- 
teen guns, and crews of from fifty to seventy men. At the 
close of the year, many of them were taken into the 
navy, and we find some of their officers, soon after the 
commencement of the contest, in the command of frigates. 
The celebrated Preble is first seen in actual service, as the 
commander of one of these revenue vessels, though his 
rank was that of a lieut. com., and he had been previously 
attached to the Constitution, as one of her officers. 

Early in August, the Constellation 38, Capt. Truxtun, and 

fourth lieutenant, Mr. Charles Stewart. Among the midbhipmen were 
Decatur, Somers, Caldwell, &c. &c. Messrs. Jacob Jones and Crane, 
joined her soon after. 

* It is said that the Constitution would have been the first vessel ever 
got into the water under the new organization, had she not stuck in an 
abortive attempt to launch her, at an earlier day. 
Vol. I.— 24 



the Baltimore 20, Capt. Phillips, went to the Havana, and 
brought a convoy of sixty sail in safety to the United 
States; several French cruisers then lying in the port, ready 
to follow the merchantmen, but for this force, the presence 
of which prevented them from appearing outside the cas- 
tle. By the close of the year, the following force was at 
sea; most of the vessels being either in the West Indies, or 
employed in convoying between the islands and the United 

United States' Ships at sea, during the year 1798, viz: 

*United States 


Com. Barry. 



Capt. Nicholson. 



Capt. Truxtun. 

George Wash 




Capt. Fletcher. 



Capt. M'Niel. 



Capt. Brown. 



Capt. Tingey. 



Capt. Murray. 



Capt. Phillips. 



Capt. Decatur. 



Capt. Russel. 



Capt. S. Barron. 



Capt. Williams. 



Capt. Hayward. 



Lieut. Com. Bainbridge 



Lieut. Com. Preble. 



" Campbell. 



" Adams. 



*Gov. Jay 


" Leonard. 



" Bright, 



" Brown. 

♦South Carolina 12, 

" Payne. 

♦Gen. Greene 


" Price. 


Of these vessels, those marked with an asterisk, w^ere 
built expressly for the public service, while the remainder, 
with the exception of the Retaliation, captured from the 
French, were purchased. The vessels rating 20 and 24 
guns, were old fiishioned sloops, with gun decks, and car- 
ried, in general, long nines and sixes. The smaller vessels 
were deep waisted, like the modern corvette, and carried 
light long guns. Even the frigates had, as yet, no carro- 
nades in their armaments, their quarter-deck and forecas- 
tle batteries being long twelves and nines. The carro- 
nade was not introduced into the service, until near the 
close of this contest. 

Besides the vessels named in the foregoing list, many 
more were already laid down ; and so great was the 
zeal of the commercial towns, in particular, that no less 
than two frigates, and five large sloops were building by 
subscription, in the different principal ports of the country. 
In addition to this force, must be enumerated eight large 
galleys, that were kept on the southern coast, to defend 
their inlets. 

The sudden exhibition of so many cruisers in the West 
Indies, appears to have surprised the British, as well as the 
common enemy; and, while the men of war of Great Bri- 
tain, on the whole, treated their new allies with sufficient 
cordiality, instances were not wanting, in which a worse 
feeling was shown, and a very questionable policy pursued 
towards them. The most flagrant instance of the sort that 
took place, occurred in the autumn of this year, off the port 
of Havana, and calls for a conspicuous notice, in a work of 
this character. 

On the morning of the Kith November, 1798, a squadron 
of British ships was made from the United States sloop of 
war, Baltimore 20, Capt. Phillips, then in charge of a con- 
voy, bound from Charleston to the Havana. At the time, 
the Moro was in sight, and knowing that the English 


cruisers in those seas, were in the habit of pursuing a vexa- 
tious course towards the American merchantmen, Capt. 
Phillips, as soon as he had ascertained the characters of the 
strangers, made a signal to his convoy to carry sail hard, 
in order to gain their port, bearing up in the Baltimore, at 
the same time, to speak the English commodore. The latter 
was in the Carnatick 74, with the Queen 98, Thunderer 74, 
Maidstone 32, and Greyhound 32, in company. The English 
ships cut off three of the convoy, and captured them, proba- 
bly under the plea of a blockade, or, some of their own con- 
structions of the rights of colonial trade. When the Baltimore 
joined the Carnatick, Capt. Loring, the commander of the 
latter ship, and the senior officer of the squadron, invited Capt. 
Phillips to repair on board his vessel. On complying with 
this invitation, a conversation ensued between the two offi- 
cers, in which Capt. Loring informed his guest that he in- 
tended to take all the men out of the Baltimore, that had 
not regular American protections. Capt. Phillips protested 
against such a violation of his flag, as an outrage on the 
dignity of the nation to which he belonged, and announced 
his determination to surrender his ship, should any such 
proceedings be insisted on. 

Capt. Phillips now returned on board the Baltimore, where 
he found a British lieutenant in the act of mustering the crew. 
Taking the muster roll from his hand, Capt. Phillips ordered 
the Carnatick's officer to walk to leeward, and sent his own 
people to their quarters. The American commander now 
found himself in great doubt, as to the propriety of the course 
he ought to pursue. Having a legal gentleman of some repu- 
tation on board, he determined, however, to consult him, and 
to be influenced by his advice. The following facts appear to 
have been submitted to the consideration of this gentleman. 
The Baltimore had sailed without a commission on board 
her, or any paper whatever, signed by the President of the 
United States, and under instructions that " the vessels of 


every other nation (France excepted,) are on no account to 
be nnolested; and I wish particularly to impress on your 
mind, that should you ever see an American vessel captur- 
ed by the armed ship of any nation at war, with whom we 
are at peace, you cannot lawfully interfere to prevent the 
capture, for it is to be taken for granted, that such nation 
will compensate for such capture, if it should prove to have 
been illegally made." We have quoted the whole of this 
clause, that part which is not, as w-ell as that which is, per- 
tinent to the point that influenced Capt. Phillips, in order 
that the reader may understand the spirit that prevailed in 
the councils of the nation, at that time. There may be 
some question how far a belligerent can, with propriety, 
have any authority over a vessel that has been regularly 
admitted into the convoy of a national cruiser, for it is just 
as reasonable to suppose that a public ship of one nation 
would not protect an illegality, by countenancing such a 
fraud, as to suppose that a public ship of another would not 
do violence to right in her seizures; and an appeal to the 
justice of America to deliver up an offending ship might be 
made quite as plausibly, as an appeal to the justice of Eng- 
land to restore an innocent ship. The papers of a vessel 
under convoy, at all events, can properly be examined no- 
where but under the eyes of the commander of the convoy, 
or of his agent, in order that the ship examined may have the 
benefit of his protecting care, should the belligerent feel dis- 
posed to abuse his authority. It will be observed, however, 
that Capt. Phillips had trusted more to the sailing of his con- 
voy, than to any principles of international law ; and when 
we inquire further into the proceedings of the British com- 
mander, it will be seen that this decision, while it may not 
have been as dignified and firm as comported with his official 
station, was probably as much for the benefit of the inter- 
ests he was deputed to protect, as any other course might 
have been. 



Whatever may be thought of the rights of belligerents in 
regard to ships, there can be no question that the conduct 
of the British officer, in insisting, under the circumstances, 
on taking any of the Baltimore's men, was totally unjusti- 
fiable. The right of impressment is a national, and not an 
international right, depending solely on municipal regula- 
tions, and in no manner on public law; since the latter can 
confer no privileges, that, in their nature, are not reciprocal. 
International law is founded on those principles of public 
good which are common to all forms of government, and it 
is not to be tolerated that one particular community should 
set up usages, arising out of its peculiar situation, with an 
attempt to exercise them at the expense of those general 
rules which the civilized world has recognised as necessa- 
ry, paramount, and just. No principle is better settled than 
the one which declares that a vessel on the high seas, for 
all the purposes of personal rights, is within the protection 
of the laws of the country to which she belongs; and Eng- 
land has no more authority to send an agent on board an 
American vessel, so situated, to reclaim a deserter, or a 
subject, ihan she can have a right to send a sheriff's officer 
to arrest a thief. If her institutions allow her to insist on the 
services of a particular and limited class of her own sub- 
jects, contrary to their wishes, it is no affair of other na- 
tions, so long as the exercise of this extraordinary regula- 
tion is confined to her own jurisdiction ; but when she 
attempts to extend it into the legal jurisdictions of other 
communities, she not only invades their privileges by vio- 
lating a conventional right, but she offends their sense of 
justice by making them parties to the commission of an act 
that is in open opposition to natural equity. In the case 
before us, the British commander, however, did still more, 
for he reversed all the known and safe principles of evi- 
dence, by declaring that he should put the accused to the 
proofs of their innocence, and, at once, assume that every 


man in the Baltimore was an Englishman, who should fail 
to establish the fact that he was an American. 

Capt. Phillips, after taking time to deliberate, determined 
to submit to superior force, surrender his ship, and to refer 
the matter to his own government. The colours of the Bal- 
timore were accordingly lowered ; Capt. Loring was in- 
formed that the ship was at his disposal, and fifty-five of 
the crew were immediately transferred to the Carnatick. 
After a short delay, however, fifty of these men were sent 
back, and only five were retained. 

Capt. Loring now made a proposition to Capt. Phillips, 
that was as extraordinary as any part of his previous con- 
duct, by stating that he had a number of Americans in his 
squadron, whom he would deliver up to the flag of their 
country, man for man, in exchange for as many English- 
men. These Americans, it is fair to presume, had been 
impressed, and the whole of these violent outrages on neu- 
tral rights, were closed by a proposal to surrender a cer- 
tain number of American citizens, who were detained 
against their will, and in the face of all law, to fight battles 
in which they had no interest, if Capt. Phillips would 
weaken his crew by yielding an equal number of English- 
men, who had taken voluntary service under the American 
flag, for the consideration of a liberal bounty and ample 

It is scarcely necessary to say that this proposition was 
rejected ; the American commander possessing no more au- 
thority to give up any portion of his legal crew, in this 
manner, than he had to insist on the services of the Ameri- 
cans whom he might receive in exchange. The British 
squadron now made sail, carrying with them the five men 
and the three ships. Nothing remained for Capt. Phillips 
but to hoist his colours again, and to proceed on his cruise. 
On his return to America, this oflicer hastened to Philadel- 
phia, and laid the whole transaction before the government, 


and on the 10th January, 1799, he was dismissed from the 
navy w^ithout trial. 

We look back on this whole transaction with mortifica- 
tion, regret and surprise. We feel deep mortification that, 
after the experience of the contest of the Revolution, the 
American character should have fallen so low, that an officer 
of any nation might dare to commit an outrage as violent as 
that perpetrated by the commander of the Carnatick, for it 
is fair to presume that no man would incur its responsibility 
with his own government, who did not feel well assured 
that his superiors would think the risk of a conflict with 
America, more than compensated by the advantage that 
would be thus obtained in manning the English fleets ; ef- 
fectually proving that the prevalent opinion of the day 
must have been, that America was so little disposed to in- 
sist on her rights, that in preference to putting her com- 
merce in jeopardy, she would not only yield her claim to 
protect seamen under her flag generally, but under that 
pennant which is supposed more especially to represent na- 
tional dignity and national honour. This opinion was un- 
deniably unfounded, as regards the great majority of the 
American people, but it was only too true, in respect to a 
portion of them, who collected in towns, and sustained by 
the power of active wealth, have, in all ages and in all 
countries, been enabled to make their particular passing in- 
terests temporarily superior to those eternal principles on 
which nations or individuals can alone, with any due reli- 
ance, trust for character and security. In 1798, the contest 
with France was so much the more popular with the mer- 
cantile part of the community, because it favoured trade 
with England; and some now living may be surprised to 
learn, that a numerous and powerful class in the country, 
were so blinded by their interests, and perhaps misled by 
prejudices of a colonial origin, as actually to contend that 
Great Britain had a perfect right to seize her seamen 


wherever she could find them; a privilege that could be no 
more urged with reason, than to insist that Great Britain 
had an equal right to exercise any other municipal power 
that conflicted with general principles, on the plea of pri- 
vate necessity. An act of spii'ited resistance at that mo- 
ment might have put a stop to the long train of similar 
aggressions that followed, and which, after an age of for- 
bearance, finally produced all the evils of the very warfare 
that seems to have been so much apprehended. 

On this branch of the subject, no more need be said at 
present, than to add that while the British government did 
not appear disposed to defend the principle involved in the 
act of its officer, the American so far forgot what was due 
to its real interests, as not to insist on an open and signal 
reparation of the wrong. 

The conduct of the commander of the Baltimore ought, 
in a measure, to be judged by the spirit of the day in which 
the event occurred, and not by the better feelings and sound- 
er notions that now prevail on the same subject. Still, he 
appears to have fallen into one or two material errors. The 
inference put on the words "no account" in his instruc- 
tions, was palpably exaggerated and feeble; since it would 
equally have led him to yield his ship, itself, to an attack 
from an inferior force, should it have suited the views of 
the commander of any vessel but a Frenchman to make 
one ; and the case goes to show the great importance of 
possessing a corps of trained and instructed officers to com- 
mand vessels of war, it being as much a regular qualifica- 
tion in the accomplished naval captain, to be able to make 
distinctions that shall render him superior to sophisms of 
this nature, as to work his ship. 

The circumstance that there w^as no commission, or anv 
paper signed by the President of the United States, in the 
Baltimore, though certainly very extraordinary, and going 
to prove the haste with which the armaments of 1798 were 


made, ought to have had no influence on the decision of 
Capt. Philhps, in the presence of a foreign ship. This officer 
would not have hesitated about defending his convoy, under 
his instructions alone, against a Frenchman; and, by a 
similar rule, he ought not to have hesitated about defending 
his people against an Englishman, on the same authority. 
Any defect in form, connected with his papers, was a ques- 
tion purely national, no foreign officer having a right to 
enter into the examination of the matter at all, so long as 
there was sufficient evidence to establish the national cha- 
racter of the Baltimore, which, in extremity, might have 
been done by the instructions themselves; and we see in 
the doubts of Capt. Phillips on this head, the deficiencies of 
a man educated in a merchantman, or a service in which 
clearances and registers are indispensable to legality, in- 
stead of the decision and promptitude of an officer taught 
from youth to rely on the dignity and power of his govern- 
ment, and the sanctity of his flag. The commissions of her 
officers do not give to a ship of war her national character, 
but they merely empower those who hold them to act in 
their several stations; the nationality of the vessel depend- 
ing on the simple facts of the ownership and the duty on 
which she is employed. Nations create such evidence of 
this interest in their vessels as may suit themselves, nor can 
foreigners call these provisions in question, so long as they 
answer the great ends for which they were intended. 

Different opinions have been entertained of the propriety 
of the course taken by Capt. Phillips, without reference to 
the grounds of his submission. By one set of logicians he 
is justified in yielding without resistance, on account of the 
overwhelming force of the English; and by another con- 
demned, on the plea that a vessel of war should never strike 
her colours with her guns loaded. We think both of these 
distinctions false, as applied to this particular case; and the 
latter, as applied to most others. When the commander of a 


vessel of war sees no means of escape from capture, nothing 
is gained, either to his nation or himself, by merely firing a 
broadside and hauling down his colours. So far from being 
an act of spirit, it is the reverse, unless we concede some- 
thing to the force of prejudice, since it is hazarding the lives 
of others, without risking his own, or those of his crew ; for, 
to pretend that Capt. Phillips should not only have dis- 
charged his guns, but have stood the fire of the Carnatick, 
is to affirm that an officer ought to consummate an act of 
injustice in others, by an act of extreme folly of his own. 
We think, however, that Capt. PhilHps erred in not resisting 
in a manner that was completely within his power. When 
he took the muster-roll from the hands of the English lieute- 
nant, and called his people to quarters, he became master of 
his own ship, and might have ordered the Carnatick's boat 
to leave it, with a message to Capt. Loring, expressive of 
his determintion to defend himself. The case was not one 
of war, in which there was a certainty that, resisting, he 
would be assailed, but an effort on the part of the com- 
mander of a ship belonging to a friendly power, to push ag- 
gression to a point that no one but himself could know. An 
attempt to board the Baltimore in boats might have been 
resisted, and successfully even, when credit instead of dis- 
credit would have been reflected on the service; and did 
the Carnatick open her fire, all question of blame, as re- 
spects Capt. Phillips, would have been immediately settled. 
It may be much doubted if the British officer would have 
had recourse to so extreme a measure, under such circum- 
stances; and if he had, something would have been gained, 
by at once placing the open hostility of a vastly superior 
force, between submission and disgrace. 

Neither was the course pursued by the government free 
from censure. It is at all times a dangerous, and in scarce- 
ly no instance a necessary, practice, to cashier an officer 


without trial. Cases of misconduct so flagrant, may cer- 
tainly occur, as to justify the executive in resorting to the 
prompt use of the removing power; as for cowardice in the 
open field, in presence of the commander-in-chief, when dis- 
grace in face of the army or fleet, might seem as appro- 
priate as promotion for conduct of the opposite kind ; but, 
as a rule, no military man should suffer this heavy penally 
without having the benefit of a deliberate and solemn inves- 
tigation, and the judgment of those who, by their expe- 
rience, may be supposed to be the most competent to decide 
on his conduct. The profession of an officer is the business 
of a life, and the utmost care of his interests and character, 
is the especial duty of those who are called to preside over 
his destinies, in a civil capacity. In the case before us, we 
learn the danger of precipitation and misconception in such 
matters, the reason given by the secretary for the dismissal 
of Capt. Phillips being contradicted by the facts, as they are 
now understood. In the communication of that functionary 
to the degraded officer, the latter was charged with " tame 
submission to the orders of the British lieutenant, on board 
your own ship;" whereas, it is alleged on the part of Capt. 
Phillips, that he did not permit the English officer to muster 
his crew, but that the act was performed while he himself 
was on board the Carnatick. 

As recently as the year 1820, an attempt was made to 
revive an investigation of this subject, and to restore Capt. 
Phillips to his rank. It is due to that officer to say, many of 
the facts were found to be much more in his favour than 
had been generally believed, and that the investigation, 
while it failed in its principal object, tended materially to 
relieve his name from the opprobrium under which it had 
previously rested. Although many still think he erred in 
judgment, it is now the general impression that his mistakes 
were the results of a want of experience, and perhaps of the 


opinions of the clay, rather than of any want of a suitable 
disposition to defend the honour of the flag. The punish- 
ment inflicted on him, appears to have been as unnecessa- 
rily severe, as it was indiscreet in its manner; and if we 
may set down the outrage as a fault of the times, we may 
also add to the same catalogue of errors, most of the other 
distinctive features of the entire proceedings. 

It has been stated that the privateer Le Croyable 14, 
captured by the Delaware 20, had been taken into the ser- 
vice, under the name of the Retaliation. In November, 1798, 
or about the time that the Carnatick impressed the men of 
the Baltimore, the Montezuma 20, Capt. Murray, Norfolk 
18, Capt. Williams, and Retaliation 12, Lieut. Com. Bain- 
bridge, were cruising in company off Guadaloupe, when 
three sails were made to the eastward, and soon after two 
more to the westward. Capt. Murray, who was the senior 
officer, was led to suppose, from circumstances, that the 
vessels in the eastern board were British, and speaking the 
Retaliation, he ordered Lieut. Bainbridge to reconnoitre 
them, while, with the Norfolk in company, he gave chase, 
himself, in the Montezuma, to the two vessels to the west- 
ward. The Retaliation, in obedience to these orders, imme- 
diately hauled up towards the three strangers, and getting 
near enough for signals, she made her own number, with a 
view to ascertain if they were Americans. Finding that he 
was not understood, Lieut. Bainbridge mistook the strangers 
for English cruisers, knowing that several were on the sta- 
tion, and unluckily permitted them to approach so near, that 
when their real characters were ascertained, it was too late 
to escape. The leading ship, a French frigate, was an un- 
commonly fast sailer, and she was soon near enough to 
open her fire. It was not long before another frigate came 
up, when the Retaliation was compelled to lower her flag. 
Thus did this unlucky vessel become the first cruiser taken 
by both parties, in this war. The frigates by which the 

Vol. I.— 25 


Retaliation was captured, proved to be tiie Volontaire 36, 
and the Insurgente 32, the former carrying 44, and the lat- 
latter 40 guns. Mr. Bainbridge was put on board the Vo- 
lontaire, while the Insurgente, perceiving that the schooner 
was safe with the former, continued to carry sail in chase 
of the Montezuma and Norfolk. As soon as a prize crew 
could be thrown into the Retaliation, the Volontaire crowded 
sail to join her consort. The chase now became exceed- 
ingly interesting, the two American vessels being fully 
aware, by the capture of the schooner, that they had to 
deal with an enemy. The Insurgente was one of the fastest 
ships in the world, and her commander an officer of great 
skill and resolution. The two American vessels were small 
for their rates, and, indeed, were overrated, the Montezuma 
being a Utile ship of only 347 tons, and the Norfolk a brig 
of 200. Their armaments were merely nines and sixes; 
shot that would be scarcely regarded in a conflict with fri- 
gates. The officers of the Volontaire collected on the fore- 
castle of their ship to witness the chase, and the Insurgente 
being, by this time, a long way ahead, Capt. St. Laurent, 
the commander of the Volontaire, asked Mr. Bainbridge, 
who was standing near him, what might be the force of the 
two American vessels. With great presence of mind, Mr. 
Bainbridge answered without hesitation, that the ship car- 
ried 28 twelves, and the brig 20 nines. As this account 
quite doubled the force of the Americans, Capt. St. Laurent, 
who was senior to the commander of the Insurgente, imme- 
diately threw out a signal to the latter to relinquish the 
chase. This was an unmilitary order, even admitting the 
fact to have been as stated, for the Insurgente would have 
been fully able to employ two such vessels until the Volon- 
taire could come up: but the recent successes of the English 
had rendered the French cruisers wary, and the Americans 
and English, as seamen, were probably identified in the 
minds of the enemy. The signal caused as much surprise 


to Capt. Murray, in the Montezuma, as to Capt. Barreault, 
of the Insurgente, for the latter, an excellent and spirited 
officer, had got so near his chases as to have made out their 
force, and to feel certain of capturing both. The signal 
was obeyed, however, and the Montezuma and Norfolk 

When the two French vessels joined each other, Capt. 
Barreault naturally expressed his surprise at having been 
recalled under such circumstances. An explanation fol- 
lowed, when the ruse that had been practised by Mr. Bain- 
bridge was discovered. It is to the credit of the French 
officers, that, while they were much vexed at the results of 
this artifice, they never visited the offender with their dis- 

It is one of the curious incidents of this singular contest, 
that a proposition was made to Mr. Bainbridge, by the 
governor of Guadaloupe, into which place the two French 
frigates went with their prize, to restore the Retaliation, a 
vessel captured from the French themselves, and to liberate 
her crew, provided he would stipulate that the island should 
remain neutral during the present state of things. This pro- 
position Mr. Bainbridge had no authority to accept, and the 
termination of a long and prevaricating negotiation on the 
part of the governor, whose object was probably to enrich 
his particular command, or himself, by possessing a mono- 
poly of the American trade for a time, was to send the 
Retaliation back to America as a cartel; for, now that the 
United States had taken so bold a stand, the French go- 
vernment appeared even less anxious than our own, to 
break out into open war. On the arrival of Mr. Bainbridge 
in this country, his conduct received the approbation of the 
administration, and he was immediately promoted to the 
rank of master commandant, and appointed to the Norfolk 
18, one of the vessels he had saved from the enemy by his 
presence of mind. 


The efforts of the governor of Guadaloupe to obtain a 
neutrality for his own island, had been accompanied by 
some acts of severity towards his prisoners, into which he 
had suffered himself to be led, apparently with the hope that 
it might induce Mr. Bainbridge to accept his propositions; 
and that officer now reported the whole of the proceedings 
to his ovv'n government. The result was an act authorizing 
retaliation on the persons of Frenchmen, should there be 
any recurrence of similar wrongs. This law gave rise to 
some of the earliest of those disgraceful party dissensions 
which, in the end, reduced the population of the whole coun- 
try, with very few exceptions, to be little more than par- 
tisans of either French or English aggressions. 

The United States 44, and Delaware 20, captured the 
privateers Sans Pareil 16, and Jaloux 14, in the course of 
the autumn, and sent them in. 

Thus terminated the year 1798, though the return of the 
Retaliation did not occur until the commencement of 1799, 
leaving the United States with a hastily collected, an imper- 
fectly organized, and unequally disciplined squadron of ships, 
it is true; but a service that contained the germ of all that 
is requisite to make an active, an efficient and a glorious 



The year 1799 opened with no departure from the policy 
laid down by the government, and the building and equip- 
ments of the different ships in various parts of the country, 
were pressed with as much diligence as the public resources 
would then allow. In the course of this season, many ves- 
sels were launched, and most of them got to sea within the 
year. Including all, those that were employed in 1798, those 
that were put in commission early in the ensuing year, and 
those that were enabled to quit port nearer to its close, the 
entire active naval force of the United States, in 1799, would 
seem to have been composed of the following vessels, viz : 

United States 




















General Greene 












John Adams 
















Geo. Washington 24, 









To these must be added a few revenue vessels, though 
most of this description of cruisers appear to have been kept 
on the coast throughout this year. As yet, the greatest 
confusion and irregularity prevailed in the rating, no uni- 
form system appearing to have been adopted. The vessels 
built by the different cities, and presented to the public, in 
particular, were rated too high, from a natural desire to 
make the offering as respectable as possible ; and it does 
not appear to have been thought expedient, on the part of 
the government, prematurely to correct the mistakes. But 
the department itself was probably too little instructed to 
detect the discrepancies, and some of them continued to 
exist as long as the ships themselves. It may help the 
reader in appreciating the characters of the different ves- 
sels, if we explain some of these irregularities, as a speci- 
men of the whole. 

The United States and Constitution, as has been else- 
where, said, were large ships, with batteries of 30 twenty- 
four pounders on their gun-decks, and were appropriately 
rated as forty-fours.. The Congress and Constellation were 
such ships as the English were then in the practice of ra- 
ting as thirty-eights, being eighteen-pounder frigates, of the 
largest size. The Essex was the only ship in the navy that 
was properly rated as a thirty-two, having a main-deck 
battery of 26 twelves, though she was a large vessel of her 
class. The John Adams, General Greene, Adams and 
Boston, were such ships as the British had been accustomed 
to rate as twenty-eights, and the two latter were small ships 
of this denomination. The George Washington, though she 
appears as only a twenty-four, while the Boston figured as a 
thirty-two, was, as near as can now be ascertained by the offi- 
cially reported tonnage, more than a fourth larger than the 
latter ship. Indeed, it may be questioned if the Boston 
ought to have been rated higher than a twenty-four, the 
Connecticut which was thus classed, being thirty tons lar- 


ger. It ought, however, to be remarked, that differences 
in the rule of measuring tonnage, had prevailed in different 
colonies among the shipwrights, as they are known still to 
exist in different nations, and it is probable that some con- 
fusion may have entered into these reports, in consequence 
of the want of uniformity. It may be added, that the 
smaller vessels generally were light of their respective 
rates, and were by no means to be estimated by those of 
similar rates, at the present day. 

At the close of the year 1798, the active force in the 
West-Indies had been distributed into four separate squad- 
rons, in the following manner. 

One squadron under Com. Barry, who was the senior 
officer of the service, cruised to windward, running as far 
south as Tobago, and consisted of the vessels about to be 
named, viz: 

United States 44, Com. Barry. 

Constitution 44, Capt. Nicholson. 

George Washington 24, " Fletcher. 

Merrimack 24, " Brown. 

Portsmouth 24, " M'Niell. 

Herald 18, Master Com. Russel. 

Pickering 14, Lieut. Com. Preble. 

Eagle 14, " Campbell. 

Scammel 14, '• Adams. 

Diligence 12, " Brown. 

This force was now kept actively employed, the ships 
passing from point to point, with orders to make a general 
rendezvous at Prince Rupert's Bay. This squadron made 
several captures, principally of privateers, and as none of 
them were accompanied by incidents deserving of particu- 
lar mention, they may be recorded together, though occur- 
ring at different periods. The United States 44, Com. Barry, 
captured I'Amour de la Patrie 6, with 80 men, and le Tar- 
tuffe 8, with 60 men. The Merrimack 24, Capt. Brown, 


la Magicienne 14, with 63 men, and le Bonaparte. The 
Portsmouth 24, Capt. M'Niell, le Fripon, and I'Ami 6, with 
16 men. The Eagle 14, Capt. Campbell, le Bon Pere 6, 
with 52 men. 

A second squadron, under the orders of Capt. Truxtun, 
had its rendezvous at St. Kitts, and cruised as far to lee- 
ward as Porto Rico. It consisted of the 
Constellation 38, Com. Truxtun. 
Baltimore 20, Capt. Phillips. 
Richmond 18, " S. Barron. 
Norfolk 18, " Williams. 

Virginia 14, " Bright. 

The Baltimore took I'Esperance, and was present at the 
capture of la Sirene 4, with 36 men. This ship was put 
under the command of Capt. Barron, soon after the dis- 
missal of Capt. Phillips from the service, and before the 
close of the season was commanded by Capt. Cowper. 
The Constellation took la Diligente and I'Union. 

A small force under the orders of Capt. Tingey, watched 
the passage between Cuba and St. Domingo. It consisted 
of the 

Ganges 24, Capt. Tingey. 

Pinckney 18, " Hayward. 

South Carolina 12, " Payne. 
The Ganges took le Vengeur 6, la Rabateuse, I'Eugene, 
and I'Esperance 8. 

The Delaware 20, Capt. Decatur, with the revenue ves- 
sels Governor Jay 14, and General Greene 10, was directed 
to cruise in the vicinity of the Havana, to protect the trade 
on the coast of Cuba. The Delaware captured the Marsuin 
10, and the same ship, later in the season, under the orders 
of Capt. Baker, took le Renard and I'Ocean. The Mon- 
tezuma 20, Capt. Murray, after the capture of the Retalia- 
tion, and the return of the Norfolk 18, to America, cruised 
some time alone, taking a small privateer of six guns. 


Although the year commenced with this disposition of 
the vessels, many changes occurred, as the new ships were 
got to sea, and particularly on account of the great mistake 
of shipping the crews for a term as short as one year. It 
followed, of course, that the vessels which sailed in July and 
August 1798, for the West India station, if called there by 
no other cause, were compelled to return home in the sum- 
mer of 1799, to discharge their crews, and to obtain others 
in their places. It was fortunate that the spirit of the times, 
the absence of privateers, and an abundance of men, in some 
measure, remedied this defect, and that the delays it caused 
were not as material as might have been otherwise appre- 

On the 9th of February, the Constellation 38, Com. Trux- 
tun, was cruising on her prescribed ground, Nevis, bearing 
W. S. W., distant five leagues, when she made a large ship 
in the southern board. The Constellation being to wind- 
ward at the moment, Com. Truxtun ran down towards the 
stranger, who now set American colours, when the private 
signals were shown. As the chase was unable to answer, 
he seemed to think further disguise unnecessary, for he 
hoisted the French ensign, and fired a gun to windward, by 
way of a challenge, keeping under easy sail, to invite the 
contest. This was the first opportunity that had occurred 
since the close of the Revolution, for an American vessel of 
war to get along side of an enemy, of a force likely to ren- 
der a combat certain, and the officers and men of the Con- 
stellation displayed the greatest eagerness to engage. On 
the other hand, the stranger betrayed no desire to disappoint 
his enemy, waiting gallantly for her to come down. When 
the Constellation had got abeam of the French frigate, and 
so near as to have been several times hailed, she opened her 
fire, which was returned promptly and with spirit. The 
Constellation drew gradually ahead, both ships maintaining 
a fierce cannonade. The former suffered most in her sails 


and rigging, and while under the heaviest of the fire of her 
antagonist, the fore-top-mast was badly wounded, quite near 
the lower cap. The fore-top was commanded by Mr. David 
Porter, a midshipman of great promise, and finding that his 
hails to communicate this important circumstance were dis- 
regarded, in the heat of the combat, this young officer took 
on himself the responsibility of cutting the stoppers and of 
lowering the yard. By thus relieving the spar of the pres- 
sure of the sail, he prevented the fall of the top-mast and all 
its hamper. In the mean time the weight and effect of the 
fire were altogether in favour of the Constellation, and not- 
withstanding the injury received in her fore-top-mast, that 
ship was soon able to throw in two or three raking broad- 
sides, which decided the combat. After maintaining a 
close contest, in this manner, of about an hour, the Constel- 
lation shot out of the smoke, wore round, and hauling 
athwart her antagonist's stern was ready again with every 
gun to rake her, when the enemy struck. 

The prize proved to be the French frigate I'lnsurgente, 
Capt. Barreault, the vessel that has already been mention- 
ed, as having captured the Retaliation, and chasing the 
Montezuma and Norfolk, and one of the fastest ships in the 
world. She was much cut up, and had sustained a loss of 
70 men, in killed and wounded; 29 of the former, and 41 of 
the latter. The Constellation, besides the loss of the foretop- 
mast, which had to be shifted, was much damaged aloft, 
suffering no material injury in her hull, however, and had 
only 3 men wounded. Among the latter, was Mr. James 
M'Donough, a midshipman, who had a foot shot off. Early 
in the combat, one of the men flinched from his gun, and 
he was instantly killed by the third lieutenant, to whose di- 
vision he belonged. 

The Insurgente's armament consisted of 40 guns, French 
twelves, on her main deck battery, and her compliment of 
men was 409. She was a ship a little heavier than a regu- 


lar 32, which would probably have been her rate in the 
English marine, although a French twelve-pound shot 
weighs nearly thirteen English pounds. On this occasion, the 
Constellation is said to have carried but 38 guns, twelve less 
than have been put upon her since the introduction of carro- 
nades, and she had a crew of 309 men. But the main-deck 
battery of the Constellation was composed of twenty-fours, 
a gun altogether too heavy for her size and strength, and 
from which she was relieved at the termination of this 
cruise, by exchanging her armament for eighteens.* 

The result of this engagement produced great exulta- 
tion in America, and it was deemed a proof of an aptitude 
to nautical service, that was very grateful to the national 
pride. Without pausing to examine details, the country 
claimed it as a victory of a 38 over a 40; and the new ma- 
rine was, at once, proclaimed to be equal to any in the 
world; a decision somewhat hazardous when made on a 
single experiment, and which was certainly formed without 
a full understanding of the whole subject. It is due to a 
gallant enemy, to say that Capt. Barreault, who defended 
his ship as long as there was a hope of success, was over- 
come by a superior force; and it is also due to Com. Trux- 
tun, and to those under his command, to add that they did 
their work with an expedition and effect every way pro- 
portioned to the disparity in their favour. There is scarce- 
ly an instance on record, (we are not certain there is one,) 
of a full manned frigate, carrying twelves, prevailing in a 
contest with even a ship of eighteens ; and, in this in- 
stance, we see that the Insurgente had twenty-fours to op- 
pose. Victory was next to hopeless, under such circum- 
stances, though, on the other hand, we are not to overlook 
the readinqss with which a conflict with an unknown an- 

* See note B, end of volume. 


tagonist was sought, and the neatness and despatch with 
which the battle was won. 

The Insurgente struck about half past three in the after- 
noon, and Mr. Rodgers,* the first lieutenant of the Constel- 
lation, together with Mr. Porter,f and eleven men, were 
thrown on board her, to take possession, and to superin- 
tend the ren:)oval of the prisoners. It now began to blow, 
and when the darkness rendered it necessary to defer the 
duty, 173 of the prize's crew were still in her. The wind 
continued to rise, and, notwithstanding every effort, the 
ships separated in the darkness. 

The situation of Mr. Rodgers was now exceedingly cri- 
tical. The vessel was still covered with the wreck, while the 
wounded, and even the dead were lying scattered about 
her decks, and the prisoners early discovered a disposition 
to rise. The gratings had been thrown overboard by the 
people of the Insurgente after she struck, and no handcuffs 
could be found. Fortunately, Mr. Rodgers was a man of 
great personal resolution, and of herculean strength, while 
Mr. Porter, though young and comparatively slight, was as 
good a second, in such trying circumstances, as any one 
could desire. As soon as it was ascertained that the pri- 
soners could not be got out of the ship that night, they were 
all sent into the lower hold, the fire-arms were secured, 
and a sentinel was placed at each hatchway, armed to the 
teeth, with positive orders to shoot every man who should 
attempt to appear on deck, without permission. In this 
awkward situation, Mr. Rodgers and his party continued 
three days, unable to sleep, compelled to manage a frigate, 
and to watch their prisoners, with the utmost vigilance, as 
the latter were constantly on the look-out for an opportu- 
nity to re-take the ship. At the end of that time, they car- 

* Late Com. Rodg-ers. f Com. Porter. 


ried the Insurgente, in triumph, into St. Kitts, where they 
found that the Constellation had already arrived. 

Mr. Rodgers and Mr. Cowper, the first and second lieu- 
tenants of the Constellation, were soon after promoted to be 
captains, great irregularity existing in the service, at that 
day, on subjects of this nature. The rank of master com- 
mandant had been established, but the government ap- 
peared to think that it was still organizing a marine, and 
that it was empowered to exercise its discretion, in trans- 
ferring ofiicers at will, from one grade to another, so long 
as no one was reduced from a former station. Capt. Rod- 
gers was appointed to the Maryland 20, and Capt. Cowper 
to the Baltimore 20. 

One of the effects of the victory of the Constellation was to 
render the navy still more popular, and the most respectable 
families of the nation discovered greater anxiety than ever to 
get their sons enrolled on its lists. The new ships were put 
into the water as fast as possible, and, as soon as manned and 
equipped, were sent on the different cruising grounds. I/In- 
surgente was taken into the service as a thirty-six, the com- 
mand of her was given to Capt. Murray, late of the Monte- 
zuma 20, and she was permitted to cruise with a roving 

In the mean time, the care of the government appeared 
to extend itself, and it began to cast its eyes beyond the 
hazards of the American seas. 

At the close of the year, the Congress 38, Capt. Sever, 
and Essex 32, Capt. Preble, sailed with orders to convoy 
vessels as far as Batavia. The former of these vessels met 
with an accident to Vv'hich all new ships are liable on quit- 
ting America in the winter. Her rigging having been set 
up in cold weather, it became slack when she got into the 
gulf stream, where she also encountered a strong southerly 
gale, and she lost not only all her masts, but her bowsprit. 
The main-mast went while Mr. Bosworth, the fourth lieu- 

VoL. I.— 26 


tenant, was aloft, endeavouring to lower the main-top-mast, 
by which accident that officer was lost. The crew of the 
top were all happily saved.* 

The Congress returned to port, for repairs, but Capt. 
Preble proceeded on his cruise, carrying the pennant, for 
the first time, in a regular cruiser, to the eastward of the 
Cape of Good Hopei 

The active measures resorted to by the American go- 
vernment having better disposed that of France to nego- 
tiate, and pledges having been given that new ministers 
would be received with more respect than had been shown 
to the last sent, who had met with insults and neglect, 
the United States 44, Com. Barry, sailed from Newport, 
Rhode Island, on the 3d of November, having on board 
envoys to the French Directory. Notwithstanding these 
measures to obtain peace, Congress proceeded in the legis- 
lation necessary to establish a marine. Many of the laws 
for the government of the navy were amended, and new 
regulations were introduced as substitutes for such of the 
old ones as were found defective. The appropriation for 
the support of the navy, during the year 1800, the marine 
corps included, amounted to $2,482,953 90. 

The new year consequently opened with increased efibrts 
to continue the singular war that had now existed eighteen 
months. Many acquisitions were made to tlie navy, and 
the following is a list of the vessels that appear to have been 

* A similar accident was near occurring- to the United States 44, in her 
first cruise, under Com. Barry. After tlie ship g'ot into the gulf stream, 
the rigging' slackened, when she was scudding ten knots in a gale, and 
rolling nearly gunwale to. While all on board were trembling for the 
masts, Mr. James Barron, the third lieutenant, proposed to Com. Barry to 
set up the rigging, confidently declaring his ability to do so. This bold 
offer was accepted, and Mr. Barron got purchases on every other shroud, 
and by swaying together at the call, under the vigilant superintendence of 
the officers, this delicate undertaking was accomplished with success, and 
the ship's masts were saved. It ought to be remembered that few of the 
masts in this war were made, but that they were mostly single sticks. 



employed in the course of the season, principally in the West 
Indies, viz: 

United States 








































Gen. Greene 








John Adams 








Geo. Washington 24, 











Trumbull 24, 

By this time, the revenue vessels, with the exception of 
one or two, appear to have been retained at home, and in 
the foregoing list, no mention is made of galleys. Laws 
had been previously passed for the construction of six 
seventy-fours, and contracts were already made for the 
collection of the necessary materials. 

The cruising portion of the vessels were distributed in 
two principal squadrons, the one on the St. Domingo sta- 
tion under the orders of Com. Talbot, whose broad pennant 
•was flying in the Constitution 44, and the other on the Gua- 
daloupe station, under the orders, first of Com. Truxtun, in 
the Constellation 38, and next under the orders of Com. 
Decatur, in the Philadelphia 38. The force of the former 
varied from seven to twelve vessels, while the latter, in 
April, consisted of thirteen sail. 


Notwithstanding this exhibition of a respectable and ac- 
tive force, the great facilities offered by the islands, and the 
strong temptations that were to be found in the American 
West-India trade, then one of the most considerable of the 
country, induced the enemy to be constantly on the alert, 
and the seas were still swarming with French cruisers, 
principally privateers. Guadaloupe, in particular, was dis- 
tinguished for the number of captures made by its vessels; 
and it was for this reason that we now find the heaviest 
American squadron cruising in that vicinity. 

On the 1st of February, 1800, the Constellation 38, Com. 
Truxtun, was again off the island of Guadaloupe, alone, 
Basseterre bearing east five leagues, when a sail was seen 
to the south-east, steering westward. Com. Truxtun at first 
supposed the ship in sight to be a large English merchant- 
man, from Martinico, of which he had some knowledge, 
and, unwilling to .be drawn to leeward of his cruising 
ground, he hoisted English colours, b}-^ way of inducing her 
to run down and speak him. This invitation being disre- 
garded, sail was made in chase, the Constellation gaining 
fast on the stranger. As the latter drew nearer, the ship 
to windward was discovered to be a French vessel of war; 
when the English colours were hauled down, and the Con- 
stellation cleared for action. The chase was now distinctly 
made out to be a heavy frigate mounting 52 guns. As 
her metal was in all probability equal to her rate, the only 
circumstance to equalize this disparity against the Constel- 
lation, was the fact that the stranger was very deep, which 
was accounted for by a practice of sending valuable articles 
to France, at that time, in the ships of war, as the safest 
means of transmission. Com. Truxtun was not discou- 
raged by his discovery, but continued to carry every stitch 
of canvass that would draw. Towards noon, however, the 
wind became light, and the enemy had the advantage in sail- 
ing. In this manner, with variable breezes, and a smooth 


sea, the chase continued until noon on the 2d, when the 
wind freshened, and the Constellation again drew ahead. 
By the middle of the afternoon, the wind had every appear- 
ance of standing, and the chase was rising fast. It was 
eight in the evening, nevertheless, before the two ships 
were within speaking distance of each other, the stranger 
having come up to the wind a little, and the Constellation 
doubling on her weather quarter. Com. Truxtun was about 
to speak the enemy, when the latter opened a fire from his 
stern and quarter guns. In a few moments the Constella- 
tion, having drawn still more on the weather quarter of the 
chase, poured in a broadside, and the action began in ear- 
nest. It was a little past eight when the firing commenced, 
and it was maintained with vigour until near one in the 
morning, the two ships, most of the lime, running free, side 
by side, when the stranger hauled up, and drew out of the 
combat. Orders were given on board the Constellation to 
brace up in chase; but, at this moment, a report was brought 
to Com. Truxtun that the main-mast was supported almost 
solely by the wood, every shroud having been shot away, 
and many of them cut so repeatedly as to render the use 
of stoppers impossible. At that time, as has been said al- 
ready, masts were usually, in the American navy, of single 
sticks, and the spars, when they gave way, went altogether. 
Aware of this danger. Com. Truxtun ordered the men from 
the guns, to secure this all-important mast, with the hope 
of getting alongside of his enemy again, and, judging by 
the feebleness of her resistance for the last hour, with the 
certainty of taking her, could this object be effected. But 
no exertions could obviate the calamity, the mast coming 
by the board within a few minutes after the enemy had 
sheered off. All the topmen, including Mr. Jarvis, the 
midshipman in command aloft, went over the side with 
the spars, and, that gallant young officer, who had refused 
to abandon his post, with all but one man, was lost. 



The Constellation was no longer in a situation to resume 
the action, and her enemy was in a far worse condition, 
with the exception that she still retained spars enough to 
enable her to escape. Finding it impossible to reach any 
friendly port to windward, as soon as the wreck was clear 
of his ship, Com. Truxtun bore up for Jamaica, where he 
arrived in safety. 

In this close and hard fought action, the Constellation had 
14 men killed and 25 wounded, 11 of the latter dvins of their 
injuries. Her antagonist afterwards got into Curacoa, dis- 
masted, and in a sinking condition, reporting herself to have 
had 50 of her people killed, and 1 10 wounded, in an engage- 
ment with the Constellation, that had lasted five hours within 
pistol-shot. This statement is now known to be essentially 
true, and it enables us to form a comparative estimate of 
the merits of the action. The French vessel proved to be 
la Vengeance, Capt. Pitot. 

The armament of the Constellation had been changed 
since her action with the Insurgente, and her main-deck 
battery now consisted of 28 eighteens, and she had 10 twen- 
ty-four-pound carronades on her quarter-deck, which were 
among the first, if not the very first guns of this description 
ever introduced into the American navy. Her crew was 
composed of 310 souls. 

It is said that the force of la Vengeance has been ascer- 
tained to have been 28 eighteens, 16 twelves, and 8 forty- 
two-pound carronades. Her crew has been variously stated 
as having been between 400 and 500 men. The metal was 
all according to the French mode of weighing, which adds 
one pound to every twelve.* 

* Various statements have been giTenofthe construction of la Vengeance, 
as well as of her armament. The papers of the day contain an account of 
a Mr. James Howe, who was a prisoner on board her during the action, 
and who is said to have brought in with him a certificate from Capt. Pitot, 
that he and the other prisoners on board, 36 in number, refused to fight 


There is no question that the Constellation engaged a 
materially superior force, or any doubt that she would have 
brought la Vengeance into port, hut for the loss of the mast. 
It is even said, that la Vengeance did strike her colours 
three times, during the action, but findhig that the Constel- 
lation continued her fire, they were re-hoisted. If such an 
event occurred, it must have arisen from the fact that it 
was not perceived in the obscurity of the night. 

Com. Truxtun gained a great name by this action, and, on 
his return to America for repairs, he was appointed to the 
President 44, then fitting for sea. Congress gave him a 
gold medal for his good conduct, and the gallantry of Mr. 
Jarvis was approved in a solemn resolution. The Constel- 
lation was now given to Capt. Murray, who had just re- 
turned from a short cruise in the Insurgente, and that officer 
went in her to the West Indies, where she joined the 
squadron under Com. Talbot. 

against their country, when the ships engaged. According to the state- 
ment of this witness, la Vengeance carried on her gun-deck 32 eighteens, 
2 of which were mounted aft; on her quarter-deck, 4 long twelves and 12 
thirty-six-pound brass carronades; and on hex forecastle, 6 twelves; making 
in all 54, and a broadside of 26, guns. Her crew is stated at 400 men, 
including a good many passengers, all of* whom were mustered at quar- 
ters. La Vengeance was described by Mr. Howe to have suffered severely, 
having received 186 round shot in her hull. The slaughter on board was 

This account has much about it that is probable. The presence of Mr. 
Howe was authenticated by the certificate; the stern-guns agree with 
Com. Truxtun's account of the commencement of the action; and the 
armament is very much what would have been used by a heavy French 
frigate of the day, on board of which carronades had been introduced. 
A report that she was a ship on two decks, which was current at the 
time, may very well have arisen from the circumstance of her carrying so 
many guns on her quarter-deck and forecastle; but it is probable that Com. 
Truxtun would have reported her as a two-decker, had such been the fact. 
The number of the crew is a circumstance in which a passenger might 
very well be mistaken; and it is well known the French were in the prac- 
tice of over-manning, rather than of under-manning their ships. 


The latter officer had been cruising for some months on the 
St. Domingo station, and about this time he planned an ex- 
pedition that was quite in character with his own personal 
enterprises during the war of the Revolution. 

It was ascertained that a valuable French letter of 
marque, was lying in Port Platte, a small harbour on the 
Spanish side of the Island of St. Domingo, and as she was a 
dangerous ship on account of her sailing, Com. Talbot de- 
termined to attempt cutting her out. This vessel had been the 
British packet the Sandwich, and she only waited to com- 
plete a cargo of cofiee, to make a run for France. The 
legality of the enterprise was more than questionable, but 
the French picaroons received so much favour in the 
Spanish colonies, that the American officers were less scru- 
pulous than they might otherwise have been. 

As soon as it was determined to make the effiart, Mr. Hull, 
the first lieutenant of the Constitution went in, at night, in 
one of the frigate's cutters, and reconnoitered. Com. Talbot 
was compelled to defer the expedition, for want of a proper 
craft to avoid suspicion, when fortunately one was found by 
accident. An American sloop called the Sally had been 
employed on the coast of the island, under circumstances 
that rendered her liable to detention, and she was brought 
out of one of the small French ports, by a boat of the 
frigate. This sloop had recently left Port Platte, with an 
intention of soon returning there, and she, at once, afforded 
all the facilities that could be desired. 

Com. Talbot, accordingly, threw a party of seamen and 
marines into the Sally, and giving the command to Mr. 
Hull, that officer was directed to proceed on the duty without 
further delay. The sloop was manned at sea, to escape de- 
tection, and she sailed at an hour that would enable her to 
reach Port Platte, about noon of the succeeding day. In the 
course of the night, while running down for her port, under 
easy sail, a shot suddenly flew over the Sally, and, soon 


after, an English frigate ranged up along side. Mr. Hull 
hove to, and when the boarding lieutenant got on the sloop's 
deck, where he found so large a party of men, and offi- 
cers in naval uniforms, he was both startled and surprised. 
He was told the object of the expedition, however, and ex- 
pressed his disappointment, as his own ship was only waiting 
to let the Sandwich complete her cargo, in order to cut her 
out also ! 

The Sally's movements were so well timed, as to permit 
her to arrive off the harbour's mouth at the proper hour. 
The Sandwich was lying with her broadside bearing on the 
approach, and there was a battery at no great distance to 
protect her. As soon as near enough to be seen, Mr. Hull 
sent most of his people below, and getting an anchor ready 
over the stern, to bring the sloop up with, he stood directly 
for the enemy's bows. So admirably was every thing ar- 
ranged, that no suspicion was excited, the Sally ran the 
Sandwich aboard, the Constitution's people went into her, 
and carried her without the loss of a man. At the same 
moment, Capt. Carmick landed with the marines, entered 
the battery, and spiked the guns. 

Notwithstanding a great commotion on shore, the x\mer- 
icans now went to work to secure their prize. The Sand- 
wich was stripped to a girtline, and every thing was below. 
Before sunset she had royal yards across, her guns scaled, 
her new crew quartered, and soon after she weighed, beat 
out of the harbour, and joined the frigate. 

No enterprise of the sort was ever executed with greater 
steadiness, or discipline. Mr. Hull gained great credit by the 
neatness with which he fulfilled his orders, and it was not 
possible for an officer to have been better sustained; the 
absence of loss, in all cases of surprise, in which the assail- 
ed have the means of resistance, being one of the strongest 
proofs not only of the gallantry and spirit, but of the cool- 
ness of the assailants. 


In the end, however, this capture, which was clearly 
illegal, cost the Constitution dear. Not only was the Sand- 
wich given up, but all the prize money of the cruise went to 
pay damages. 

Early in May the Chesapeake 38, went to sea, under the 
command of Capt. S. Barron. Her first duty was to con- 
vey a quantity of specie from Charleston to Philadelphia, 
after which she proceeded to cruise between the coast and 
the West India islands. 

The Insurgente 36, had been given to Capt. Fletcher, 
when Capt. Murray was transferred to the Constellation, 
and in July she sailed on a cruise, with instructions to keep 
between longitudes 66° and 68°, and to run as far south as 
30° N. L. After this ship left the capes of Virginia, no au- 
thentic accounts, with the exception of a few private letters 
sent in by vessels spoken at sea, were ever received of 
her. She had been ordered to cruise a short time in the 
latitude and longitude mentioned, after which her comman- 
der was left at liberty to pursue his own discretion, provided 
he returned to Annapolis within eight weeks. Thirty-eight 
years have elapsed and no further tidings of any belonging 
to this ill-fated ship have ever reached their friends. 

The Pickering 14, Capt. Miliar, also sailed in August, for 
the Guadaloupe station, and never returned. As in the case 
of the Insurgente, all on board perished, no information that 
could be relied on ever having been obtained of the man- 
ner in which these vessels were lost. Vague rumours were 
set afloat at the time, and it was even affirmed that they had 
run foul of each other in a gale, a tale that was substan- 
tiated by no testimony, and which was probably untrue, as 
the Pickering was sent to a station, which the Insurgente, 
under discretionary orders, would be little apt to seek, since 
it was known to be already filled with American cruisers. 
These two ships swelled the list of vessels of war that had 
been lost in this manner to three, viz: the Saratoga 16, the 


Insurgente 36, and the Pickering 14; to which may be 
added the Reprisal 16, though the cook of the latter sloop 
was saved. 

The nature of the warfare, which was now confined 
principally to chases and conflicts with small fast sailing pri- 
vateers, and a species of corsair that went by the local name 
of picaroons, or with barges that ventured no great distance 
at sea, soon satisfied the government that, to carry on the 
service to advantage, it required a species of vessel different 
from the heavy, short, sloop of twenty, or twenty-four guns, 
of which so many were used in the beginning of the con- 
test. Two schooners had been built with this view, and 
each of them fully proved their superiority over the old 
clumsy cruiser, that had been inherited, as it might be, 
from the Revolution. One of these vessels was called the 
Experiment, and the other the Enterprise, and they were 
rated at twelve guns. The modern improvements, how- 
ever, did not extend to ihe armaments of even these 
schooners, the old fashioned six pounder being still used, 
where an 181b. carronade would now be introduced. The 
Enterprise, Lieut. Com. Shaw, was very active this year, 
capturing la Citoyenne, privateer, of 6 guns and 47 men; 
la Seine 6, and 57 men; I'Aigle 10, and 78 men; la Pauline 
6, and 40 men; and la Guadaloupeenne 7, and 45 men. 
Most of these vessels resisted, though neither was of a force 
to afford much hope of success. La Citoyenne had 4 killed 
and 11 wounded before she struck; la Seine made an ob- 
stinate resistance, holding out until she had 24 of her crew 
killed and wounded, which was near half her complement; 
and I'Aigle lost 12 men, among whom was her first lieu- 
tenant, in an action of fifteen minutes. In the last affair the 
Enterprise had three men killed and wounded. 

Near the close of her cruise, the Enterprise made a 
strange sail a long distance to windward, late in the day, 
and hauled up for her. Night coming on, the chase was lost 


sight of in the darkness, when the schooner hove to, to 
keep her station. When the day dawned the stranger, a 
brig, was seen to windward as before, and nearly in the 
position in which she had last been observed. Both vessels 
now discovered a disposition to close. At noon the Enter- 
prise made the American signal, which was not answered, 
the brig showing English colours. The signals that had 
been established between the English and American com- 
manders were next shown, but the stranger could not re- 
ply. Believing the brig to be an enemy of a force at least 
equal to his own, Lieut. Com. Shaw, now set his ensign as 
a challenge to come down, but, instead of complying, the 
chase immediately hauled his wind. The Enterprise im- 
mediately began turning to windward on short tacks, and 
sailing uncommonly fast, it was soon apparent that the ene- 
my would be overhauled. 

As soon as the French were satisfied that escape was im- 
possible, they cleared for action, and, waiting until the En- 
terprise was within half a mile to leeward, they began to 
fire. Instead of returning a gun, Lieut. Com. Shaw kept 
the schooner under all her canvass, and, about half an hour 
after the brig had opened on him, he tacked in her wake, and 
ranged up handsomely under her lee, within pistol shot. As 
her guns bore the Enterprise now poured in a close and 
destructive fire, which lasted for a little more than an hour, 
when the brig's fore-top-mast being shot away, and the 
vessel otherwise seriously injured, she struck. 

The prize was the Flambeau privateer. She mounted 14 
guns, and had more than 100 men. Her loss was very heavy, 
about half her crew having been killed and wounded. The 
Enterprise had 3 men killed and 7 wounded. This little afiair 
was considered one of the warmest combats of the war, and 
it is seldom that so sharp a conflict occurs between vessels 
of so small a force. 

Lieut. Shaw was justly applauded for his activity while in 


command of this schooner, recapturing eleven American 
vessels, besides taking those just mentioned, in a cruise of 
only eight months. It viras a proof of the greater efficiency 
of this description of vessel than any other, in a warfare of 
such a nature, that the Enterprise, a schooner of only 165 
tons, carrying an armament of 12 light guns, and with a 
crew that varied from 60 to 75 men, destroyed more of the 
enemy's privateers, and afforded as much protection to the 
trade of the country, as any frigate employed in the war. 

In March, the Boston 28, Capt. Little, being near the 
Point of St. Marks, having a merchant brig in tow, on her 
way to Port-au-Prince, nine barges were discovered pulling 
towards the vessels, coming from the small island of Go- 
naives, with every appearance of hostile intentions. The 
barges were large, as usual, pulled 20 oars, and contained 
from 30 to 40 men each. As soon as their characters were 
properly made out, the guns of the Boston were housed, and 
the ship was otherwise disguised. This stratagem succeeded 
so far as to draw the barges within gunshot; but discover- 
ing their mistake before they got as near as could have been 
wished, they turned, and began to retreat. The Boston now 
cast off her tow, made sail in chase, ran out her guns, and 
opened her fire. For two hours, she was enabled to keep 
some of the barges within reach of her shot, and three of 
them, with all their crews, were sunk. The remainder did 
not escape without receiving more or less injury. 

After this punishment of the picaroons, who were often 
guilty of the grossest excesses, the Boston, having been 
home to refit, was directed to cruise a short time, previous- 
ly to going on the Guadaloupe station again, between the 
American coast and the West-India islands. While in the 
discharge of this duty, November, 1800, in lat. 22° 50' N., 
and long. 51° W., she made a French cruiser, which, in- 
stead of avoiding her, evidently sought an encounter. Both 

Vol. I.— 27 


parties being willing, the ships were soon in close action, 
when, after a plain, hard-fought combat of two hours, the 
enenny struck. The prize proved to be the French corvette 
le Berceau, Capt. Senes, mounting 24 guns, and with a 
crew a little exceeding 200 men. The Berceau was much 
cut up, and shortly after the action, her fore and main masts 
went. Her loss in killed and wounded was never ascer- 
tained, but from the number of the latter found in her, it 
was probably between 30 and 40 men. Among the former 
were her first lieutenant, master, boatswain and gunner. 
The Boston mounted eight more light guns than the Berceau, 
and had about an equal number of men. She had 4 killed and 
11 wounded. Among the latter was her purser, Mr. Young, 
who died of his injuries. The Berceau was a singularly 
fine vessel of her class, and had the reputation of being one 
of the fastest ships in the French marine. Like the combat 
between the Constellation and I'Insurgente, the superiority of 
force was certainly in favour of the American ship, on this 
occasion, but the execution was every way in proportion to 
the difference. 

The year 1800 was actively employed on both sides in 
the West-Indies, for while the force of the French in ves- 
sels of war seemed to decrease, as those of England and 
America increased, the privateers still abounded. A great 
many American merchantmen were captured, and the re- 
captures also amounted to a number that it is now difficult 
to ascertain, but which is known to have been large. Most 
of the privateers were small schooners, filled with men, suf- 
ficient to subdue a letter of marque by boarding; but, as 
they offered no resistance to any of the cruisers except the 
smallest, a brief catalogue of the prizes taken by the difl^fer- 
ent large vessels, will at once give an idea of the nature of 
the service that was performed by the West-India squadrons 
during this year. The Baltimore 20, Capt. Cowper, took 
la Brilliante Jeunesse 12, with a crew of 62 men, and a 


a vessel whose name is not known; the Merrimack 24, 
Capt. Brown, the Phenix 14, with 128 men; the Connec- 
ticut 24, Capt. Tryon, le Piege 2, with 50 men, I'Unite 1, 
with 50 men, and le Chou Chou; the Boston 28, Capt. Lit- 
tle, la Fortune, I'Heureux, and an open boat; Pickering 14, 
Capt. Hillar, hi Volligeuse 10, with 6 men, the Fly, and I'Ac- 
tive 12, with 60 men; Boston 32, in company with diflerent 
vessels, the Flying Fish, la Gourde, le Pelican, and I'Espoir; 
Herald 18 and Augusta 14, la Mutine 6, with 60 men ; John 
Adams 28, Capt. Cross, le Jason, with 50 men, la Decade; 
the Trumbull 24, Capt. Jewett, la Peggie, la Vengeance 10, 
and la Tullie; Enterprise 12, Lieut. Com. Sterrett, I'Amour 
de la Patrie 6, with 72 men; the Palapsco 18, Capt. Ged- 
des, la Dorade 6, with 40 men; the Adams 28, Capt. Mor- 
ris, I'Heureuse Rencontre 4, with 50 men, le Gambeau, 4 
swivels and 10 men, la Renommee, the Dove, and le Mas- 
sena 6, with 49 men. Several of the frigates also made 
prizes of different small privateers, barges and boats; and 
many vessels were chased on shore, and either destroyed 
by boats, or were bilged in striking. The privateers taken 
and brought into port, during the years 1798, 1799 and 
1800, amounted in all to rather more than fifty sail. To 
these must be added several letters of marque. But few 
merchant ships were taken, the French venturing but little 
on the ocean, except in fast-sailing armed vessels. Still, some 
valuable prizes of this nature were made, and several ships 
of the class were driven ashore among the islands. 

The constant changes that occurred among the com- 
manders of the different vessels, render it difficult to give 
clear accounts of the movements of both. These changes 
were owing to the rapidity and irregularities of the promo- 
tions in an infant service, officers who went out at the com- 
mencement of the season lieutenants, in many instances, 
returning home captains, at its close. In short, the officers, 


like the crews, were constantly passing from vessel to ves- 
sel, several serving in two or three ships in as many years. 

The Experiment 12, made her first cruise under the com- 
mand of Lieut. Com. Maley, and was much employed in 
convoying through the narrow passages, where the vessels 
were exposed to attacks from large barges manned from 
the shores. About the close of the year 1799, or at the 
commencement of 1800, this schooner was becalmed in the 
Bight of Leogane, wiih several sail of American merchant- 
men in company and under convoy. While the little fleet 
lay in this helpless condition, a good deal scattered, ten of the 
barges mentioned, filled with negroes and mulattoes, came 
out against it. The barges contained from 30 to 50 men 
each, who were armed with muskets, cutlasses and pikes, 
and in some of the boats were light guns and swivels. As 
the Experiment was partially disguised, the enemy came 
within reach of her grape before the assault was made, 
when Lieut. Com. Maley ran out his guns and opened his 
fire. This was the commencement of a long conflict, in 
which the barges were beaten oft'. It was not in the power 
of the Experiment, however, to prevent the enemy from 
seizing two of her convoy, which had drifted to such a dis- 
tance as to be beyond protection. A third vessel was also 
boarded, but from her the brigands were driven by grape, 
though not until they had murdered her master and plun- 
dered the cabin. 

The barges went twice to the shore, landed their killed 
and wounded, and took on board reinforcements of men. 
The second attack they made was directed especially at the 
Experiment, there being no less than three divisions of the 
enemy, each of which contained three heavy barges. But, 
after a protracted engagement, which, with the intermis- 
sions, lasted seven hours, the enemy abandoned further de- 
signs on this convoy, and retreated in disorder. The Ex- 
periment endeavoured to follow, by means of her sweeps. 


but finding that some of the more distant of the barges 
threatened two of her convoy, that had drifted out of gun- 
shot, she was obliged to give up the chase. 

In this arduous and protracted engagement the Experi- 
ment was fought with spirit, and handled with skill. The 
total absence of wind gave the enemy every advantage; 
but, notwithstanding their vast superiority in numbers, they 
did not dare to close. Two of the barges were sunk, and 
their loss in killed and wounded was known to have been 
heavy, while the Ex|)eriment had but two wounded, one of 
whom was Lieut. David Porter. 

Shortly after this affair, the command of the Experiment 
was given to Lieut. Charles Stewart, late of the United 
States 44. Not long after he had got upon his station, this 
otiicer fell in with, and took, after a slight resistance, the 
French privateer les Deux Amis, of 8 guns, and between 
40 and 50 men. The Deux Amis was sent in. 

About a month after this occurrence, while cruising on 
her station, the Experiment made two sail, which had the 
appearance of enemy's cruisers. The Frenchmen were a 
brig of 18 guns, and a three-masted schooner of 10, and 
they gave chase to the American. Lieut. Com. Stewart, 
having soon satisfied himself of the superior sailing of his 
own vessel, manoeuvred in a way to separate the enemy, 
and to keep them at a distance until after dark. At length, 
finding that the Frenchmen had given up the chase, and 
that the brig was ahead (jf the schooner about a league, he 
cleared for action, closed with the latter, by running up on 
her weather quarter, and gave her a broadside. The at- 
tack was so vig(jrous and close, that the eneiriy struck in a 
few minutes. Throwing his first lieutenant, Mr. David Por- 
ter, into the prize, Lieut. Com. Stewart immediately made 
sail after the brig; but she had gained so much ahead, dur- 
ing the time lost with the schooner, that she was soon aban- 



doned, and the Experiment returned to her prize, which she 
carried into St. Kitts. Mr. Stewart probably owed his suc- 
cess to the boldness of his mancEUvres, as the brig was of a 
force sufficient to capture him in a few minutes. 

The vessel taken by the Experiment, proved to be the 
French man-of-war schooner la Diane, Lieut. Perradeau, 
of 14 guns, and about 60 men. She was bound to France, 
with General Rigaud on board; and in addition to her 
regular crew, 30 invalid soldiers had been put in her, having 
served their times in the islands. Her commander had been 
the first lieutenant of I'lnsurgente, and the prize-officer of 
the Retaliation. 

Returning to her station, the Experiment now had a com- 
bat that was of a less agreeable nature. A suspicious sail had 
been made in the course of the day, and chase was given 
until dark. Calculating the courses and distances, Lieut. 
Com. Stewart ordered the Experiment to be kept in the 
required direction until midnight, when, if he did not close 
with the stranger, he intended to give up the chase. At that 
hour, the schooner was hauled by the wind, accordingly; 
but, in a few minutes, a sail was seen quite near, and to 
windward. The Experiment went to quarters, ran up under 
the stranger's lee, and hailed. Finding the other vessel in- 
disposed to give an answer, Lieut. Com. Stewart ordered a 
gun fired into him, which was returned by a broadside. 
A sharp action now commenced, but, it blowing heavily, and 
the schooner lying over, it was found impossible to depress 
the guns sufficiently to hull the enemy. Planks were cut 
and placed beneath the trucks of the gun-carriages, Vvhen 
the shot of the Experiment told with so much effect, that her 
antagonist struck. Mr. Porter, the first lieutenant pf the 
Experiment, was now directed to take possession of the 
prize, but, on getting alongside, he was refused permission 
to board. As soon as this was known in the schooner, the 
boat was directed to pull out of the line of fire, with a view 


to recommence the action, when the stranger hailed to say 
he submitted. 

This vessel proved to be a privateer called the Louisa 
Bridger, out of Bermuda, with an armament of 8 nine- 
pounders, and a crew of between 40 and 50 men. She was 
much cut up, and had four feet water in her hold when she 
surrendered. Her captain was among the wounded. 

As soon as the nature of this unfortunate mistake was 
known, every aid was afforded the privateer, the Experi- 
ment lying by her all next day, to assist in repairing her 
damages. The Experiment received a good deal of in- 
jury in her rigging, and had one man killed, and a boy 

Active negotiations had commenced, and in the autumn 
of 1800 the hopes of peace became so strong, that the 
efforts to increase the navy were sensibly relaxed, and the 
sailing of many ships, that had been intended for distant 
stations, was suspended. In May of this year, however, 
the George Washington 24,f Capt. Bainbridge, was ordered 
to sail with tribute to the Dey of Algiers. We now look 
back with wonder at the fact, that a maritime people, like 
those of the United States, should consent to meet the unjust 
demands of a power as insignificant as that of Algiers, with 
any other answer than a close blockade, and a vigorous 

■\ In giving the rates of vessels, except in flagrant instances, such as 
those in which the Chesapeake and Philadelphia are called forty-fours, 
and the Adams, John Adams, and Boston, thirty-twos, we follow the irre- 
gular rule which appears to have been laid down in the service at the 
time. The George Washington was much nearer a thirty-two in size, 
than most of the twenty-eights of the navy, though in the official reports 
she is called a twenty-four. The tonnage of this ship was 624 tons, while 
that of the Boston was only 530. She had been an Indiaman, and when 
sold out of service, in 1803, returned to her old employment. The pro- 
per rate of this ship would have made her nearer a twenty-eight, than any 
thing else. Her last service was to carry tribute to the Mediterranean, 
under Lieut. Com. Shaw. 


war. No better school for the education of an efficient 
corps of officers could have been desired, than a contest 
with all Barbary, should the latter invite it, nor would the 
expense have greatly exceeded that connected with the 
support of the small naval force, that nearly all parties 
now appeared to admit was indispensable to the country. 
Opinion had probably as much connexion with this want of 
spirit, as expediency or policy, for it would be easy to show, 
not only in this but in all other cases, that there is no more 
certain means for a nation to invite aggressions, than by 
making undue concessions, or no surer method of obtaining 
justice than by insisting on its rights. The great maritime 
nations of Europe, with England at their head, influenced 
by motives peculiarly their own, had long been in the 
practice of bribing the Barbary States to respect the laws 
of nations, and it was perhaps too soon to expect that 
America, a country that had so recently been a colony, 
should step boldly out of the circle of its habits, and set the 
first example of self-respect and wisdom. It was reserved 
for that little marine, which was just struggling into exist- 
ence, under all the unfavourable circumstances of a hurried 
organization, defective vessels, a want of arsenals, docks, 
and system, to bring the nation up to the level of its own 
manliness and independence, at a later day, and to teach 
the true policy of the country to those whose duty it was to 
direct it. 

The George Washington arrived in the port of Algiers 
in September, and feeling that he had come on a duty that, 
at least, entitled him to the hospitalities of the Dey, Capt. 
Bainbridge ran in and anchored under the mole. As soon 
as the tribute, or presents, whichever it may suit the tone of 
diplomacy to term them, were put into the hands of the consul, 
a request was made to Capt. Bainbridge to place his ship 
at the disposal of the Dey, with a sole view to the conve- 
nience and policy of that prince. It appears that the Sultan 


had taken offence with the regency of Algiers, on account 
of a treaty it had lately concluded with France, a power 
with which the Ottoman Porte was then at war, and his 
anger was to be deprecated by a timely application of 
presents. The good offices of Capt. Bainbridge were now 
solicited in conveying these offerings, with a suitable agent, 
to Constantinople. As soon as apprised of his wish, Capt. 
Bainbridge sought an audience with the Dey, and having ob- 
tained one, he expressed his regret at not being able to com- 
ply wath his request, as it would be disregarding the orders 
of his superiors at home. The Dey now gave his guest to un- 
derstand that both he and his ship were in his power, and 
his request was put more in the shape of a demand. A 
long and spirited altercation ensued, until influenced by the 
representations of the consul, Mr. O'Brien, the certainty that 
his ship would be otherwise seized and sent by force, the 
apprehension of a war, and the knowledge that near two 
hundred sail of merchantmen were exposed in those seas, 
Capt. Bainbridge entered into stipulations on the subject. 
He consented to carry the agent and presents of Algiers, 
on condition that peace should be maintained, that the Dey 
should deem the act one of friendly concession on the part 
of the United States, and not one of right, and that, on his 
return from Constantinople, no further demands should be 

When the ship was about to sail from Algiers a new 
difficulty arose on the subject of the flag; the Dey in- 
sisting that his own should be hoisted at the main, while 
that of the United States should be shown forward. In 
maintaining this claim, he affirmed that it was a compli- 
ment always paid him by the English, French and Spanish 
captains, who had been employed on similar service in his 
behalf. After a strong remonstrance, Capt. Bainbridge 
yielded in appearance, but as he refused to make any 
pledges on the subject, as soon as he was beyond the reach 


of the guns of the works, he set his own ensign as usual. 
Under these circumstances, the George Washington sailed. 
At this distance of time from the event, a dispassionate 
opinion may perhaps be formed concerning the propriety of 
the course pursued by the oificer in command of the George 
Washington. On the one hand was the war with France, 
which might have rendered the management of a war with 
Algiers more dilBcult than common, and the probability that 
the latter would ensue in the event of a refusal. But, if 
France was at war with America, she was also at war with 
England, and the appearance of the George Washington in 
the Mediterranean was a proof that cruisers might be em- 
ployed in that sea, although the nation was without ports, 
or arsenals. As opposed to the general hazards of war, 
and the particular risks incurred by the crew of the George 
Washington, were those common and enduring principles 
of honour and right, by maintaining which nations, in the 
end, assert their claims in the promptest, cheapest, and 
most efficient maimer. It is the peculiar province of the 
officers and men of a vessel of war to incur risks equall}^ of 
life and liberty, and as no man manifested more of the true 
spirit, in this respect, than Capt. Bainbridge, on all other 
occasions, the consideration of his own peculiar danger, or 
that of his crew, probably had no influence on his decision. 
The question then is, whether an ofHcer in his situation 
ought to have taken the responsibility of producing a war 
by a refusal to comply with the demand of the Dey, or 
whether his duty pointed out the course pursued by Capt. 
Bainbridge. No one can hesitate about saying that the first 
should be the decision of a commander of a vessel of war, 
in our own time. But Capt. Bainbridge was not before 
Algiers in an age when America was as ready as she is to- 
pay to assert all those great principles of right which na- 
tions must maintain with their blood and treasure, if they 
are to be maintained at all. He had himself just been em- 


ployed in transporting tribute to Algiers, under a solemn 
law of his country, and it would have been a violent pre- 
sumption indeed, to suppose that a government, which had 
so far neglected the just feelings of national pride, and the 
first and simplest principles of policy, as to expend in tribute 
the money that would nearly, if not quite, extort justice by 
force, would look with favour on an act that should produce 
a war, on a naked point of honour. We dislike the decision 
of Capt. Bainbridge, while we distinctly see, that in requiring 
him to have acted otherwise, we require him to have been 
in advance of the opinion of his day, and of the policy of his 

It is understood that Capt. Baiiibridge was much influ- 
enced by the advice and opinions of Mr. O'Brien, the con- 
sul. This gentleman had been one of the first prisoners 
taken by Algiers in 1785, and he had passed many weary 
years in captivity, almost abandoned by hope, and appar- 
ently, though not really, forgotten by his country. He had 
probably little faith in the existence of that patriotism which 
is ready to sacrifice immediate interest to future good, and 
saw in perspective a piratical warfare, and captivities like 
his own, which, unrelieved by any feelings of humanity, 
would be nearly allied to despair. This gentleman is not 
to be censured; for bitter experience had taught him how 
little is the care taken of individual rights, by popular 
governments, when the evil does not present itself to the 
senses of bodies of men, and how strong is the desire to 
shrink from responsibility in those who are subject to their 
judgment and clamour. This is the weak side of the 

* It has been conjectured that Capt. Bainbridg-e consented to go to 
Constantinople, with the view to show the American flag- to the Ottoman 
Porte, and to open the way for a treaty, and a trade in the Black Sea; but 
we know of no evidence of the truth of this supposition. It oug-ht to be 
added, moreover, that the ships of the greatest powers of Europe, often 
performed offices like that required of Capt. Bainbridg'e, for the Dey, 
and that he was perfectly aware cf the fact. 


polity, and were it not redeemed by so nnuch that is supe- 
rior to the effects of all other systems, it is one that would 
totally unfit a nation to maintain the respect of mankind. 
Mr. O'Brien, too, had been educated as a ship-master, and 
probably reasoned more like the agent of a commercial 
house, than the agent of a government that wanted none of 
the elements of greatness but the will. That neither he nor 
Capt. Bainbridge, frank seamen, discovered much of the 
finesse of diplomacy, is evident; for a practised negotiator, 
detecting the necessity of submission, would have antici- 
pated the final demand, and averted the more disagreeable 
features of compulsion, by apparently conceding that to soli- 
citation, which was finally yielded to menace. 

When the Americans, feeble, scattered colonists, without 
military stores, posts, fortified towns or navy, determined 
to resist the usurpations of the British Parliament, they were 
influenced by those lofty principles of right, which are cer- 
tain to lead to greatness. It is not pretended that the taxa- 
tion of England bore heavily on America in practice, but 
the resistance grew out of the maintenance of a principle; 
and the result of sacrificing immediate interests to the true 
and elevating policy of the right, is before the world. Even 
many of the well-disposed, who belonged to the school of 
those who are for consulting temporary good, and whose po- 
litical wisdom too often savours of the expedient, thought the 
contest premature; but, happily, a better temper prevailed in 
the country, and the nation escaped the risks of losing its 
spirit under the gradual operation of usage, as might have 
attended delay. Immediate good was sacrificed to the great 
objects of a more liberal policy, and we now find that Eng- 
land, so far from persevering in a wish to tax colonies over 
which she does not possess the right, even hesitates about 
taxing those which, in the way of principle, lie at her mercy 
by conquest. 

It was the 19th of October, 1800, when the Geo. Wash- 


ington left Algiers. She entered the Bosphorus with a fresh 
breeze at the southward, and on approaching the Darda- 
nelles, where are two castles that command the passage, 
and where ships are obliged to exhibit passports in order to 
proceed, Capt. Bainbridge felt some embarrassment as to 
the course he ought to take. He had no firman, his coun- 
try was scarcely known at the Ottoman Porte, and he 
might be delayed weeks, negotiating for permission to go 
up to the town. From this dilemma he relieved himself by 
the happy and prompt expedient of a seaman. The castles 
stand nearly opposite each other, on the European and 
Asiatic shores, and guns carrying stone balls, that weigh, 
in some instances, eight hundred pounds, are pointed in a 
manner to command the channel. These guns, however, 
are stationary like mortars, and become nearly useless the 
moment a ship is out of their regulated range. The rest of 
the defences, at that time, were very immaterial. The 
width of the Bosphorus, here, a little exceeds three thou- 
sand feet. As^his ship approached the castle, Capt. Bain- 
bridge hauled up his courses, clewed up his top-gallant- 
sails, and made the usual preparations for anchoring. When 
nearly up with them, she commenced firing a salute, which 
was instantly returned from the shore, and, at this moment, 
when the vessel was partly concealed in smoke, sail was 
made, and before the Turks recovered from their surprise, 
being totally unprepared for a thing so unusual, she was 
beyond their reach. 

Capt. Bainbridge now pursued his way to Constantinople, 
where he arrived as much unexpected as he was unan- 
nounced and unknown. The George Washino;ton anchored 
the 9th of November, in the outer harbour, where she was 
soon visited by an officer, to demand under what flag she 
sailed. The usual reply was given, and the officer took 
his leave. An hour or two afterwards he returned, to say 
that his government bad never heard of such a nation as 

Vol. I.— 28 


the United States of America, and to request some more 
explicit answer. The officer was now sent back with the 
information that the George Washington belonged to the 
"New World," which was received as satisfactory, the 
Turkish government extending to strangers much of that 
polished hospitality for which it is justly esteemed. 

The George Washington remained at Constantinople until 
the 30th of December, when she again sailed for Algiers, 
which port she reached on the 21st of January, 1801. 
Though much solicited to do so, Capt. Bainbridge now 
refused to carry his ship within the mole, but kept her out 
of the reach of the batteries. The Dey made a new 
request that he would return to Constantinople with his 
agent, and, though the old threats were not exactly resorted 
to, the ship being beyond his reach, war was still held in 
perspective as the alternative. Capt. Bainbridge, however, 
peremptorily refused to put himself and ship again at the 
orders of the Dey. 

Having borrowed some ballast, Capt. Bainbridge was 
about to have it landed in lighters, when the Dey, affecting 
to be indignant at his want of confidence, forbade the light- 
ermen to undertake the job, announcing at the same time, 
unless the ballast was returned, that he would declare war. 
The consul again so earnestly entreated Capt. Bainbridge 
to comply, that the latter, on receiving a solemn stipulation 
that no more should be said on the subject of a new voyage 
to Constantinople, took the George Washington into the 
mole, and landed the ballast, which consisted of a number 
of old guns. 

Capt. Bainbridge soon after had an audience with the 
Dey, when the latter got into such a rage as to threaten 
personal violence. Fortunately, the Capudan Pacha had 
become pleased with the manly conduct and fine personal 
appearance of the American officer, while the latter was at 
Constantinople, and, at parting, he had given him a firman 


of protection. This paper was now presented, and it im- 
mediately changed the savage ferocity of a barbarian into 
expressions of friendship and offers of service. From that 
moment the tone of the Dey was altered ; and the man, 
whom a minute before he had threatened with irons, was 
converted into a person of influence and authority. Such 
was the effect of Asiatic despotism and a ruthless discipline. 

A good opportunity now offered to relieve some of ihe 
mortification which Capt. Bainbridge had experienced, by 
affording him an occasion to be the instrument of rescuing 
many christians from slavery. One of the causes of quar- 
rel between the Regency and the Porte, as has been stated, 
was the separate peace made by the latter with France. 
To expiate for that crime, the Dey had been compelled to 
cut down the flag-staff of the French consul, to declare war 
against his country, and to condemn him and fifty or sixty 
of his countrymen to slavery. Notwithstanding the war 
which still existed between America and France, Capt. 
Bainbridge interfered in behalf of these unfortunate people, 
and, profiting by the unexpected influence of his firman, he 
obtained a stipulation from the Dey, that all who could get 
out of his dominions within eight-and-forty hours, might go 
away, while those who could not, should be slaves. No other 
vessel offering, the George Washington was employed in 
this grateful office, and by great exertions she went to sea 
within the stipulated time, carrying with her all the French 
in Algiers. The passengers were landed at Alicant, and 
the ship returned home, where the conduct of her comman- 
der, throughout these novel and trying circumstances, met 
with the fullest approbation of the government, and he was 
immediately transferred to a much finer ship, the Essex 32. 

While these events were taking place in the Mediterra- 
nean, the negotiations for peace with France had been go- 
ing on at Paris, and a treaty to that effect was ratified by 
the Senate on the 3d of February, 1801. All the necessary 


forms having been complied vi'ith on both sides, the Herald 
18, Capt. Russel, was sent to the West Indies, with orders 
of recall fur the whole force. 

Thus ended the short and irregidar struggle with France, 
in which the present marine of the United States was 
founded, most of the senior officers now in service having 
commenced their careers as midshipmen during its ex- 



Every form of government has evils peculiar to itself. 
In a democracy there exists a standing necessity for re- 
ducing every thing to the average comprehension, the high 
intelligence of a nation usually conceding as much to its 
ignorance, as it imparts. One of the worst consequences 
of this compromise of knowledge, in a practical sense, is to 
be found in the want of establishments that require foresight 
and liberality to be well managed, for the history of every 
democracy has shov/n that it has been deficient in the 
wisdom which is dependent on those expenditures which 
foster true economy, by anticipating evils and avoiding the 
waste of precipitation, want of system, and a want of know- 
ledge. The new government of the Union was now to ex- 
perience evils of this nature, that are perhaps inseparable 
from popular power, and to contend with the cry of ex- 
travagance, as extravagance is usually viewed by those who 
have not sufficient information to understand that, as in 
ordinary transactions, the highest pay commands the best 
services, so in public things, the expenditures made in a 
time of peace are the surest means of obtaining economy 
in a time of war. 

The commencement of the year 1801, was distinguished 
by a change of administration, for the first time since the 
adoption of the constitution; Mr. JcflTerson and his political 
friends, who were usually known by the name of the repub- 



lican party, expelling the federalists from power, with Mr, 
Adams at their head, by a large majority of the electoral 
votes. One of the charges brought against the federalists 
was an undue love for unnecessarily large and expensive 
establishments, in imitation of the English school of politi- 
cians, while the republicans were accused of a wish to de- 
ceive the ignorant, by pretending to a nakedness of legisla- 
tion and an absence of precautionary measures, which, while 
they would save money at the moment, might involve the 
country in eventual ruin, and which would unfit the people 
for the great exertions certain to be required in the hour of 

In this controversy, as is commonly the case', both par- 
ties maintained principles that were false, and insisted on 
measures, which, if not utterly impracticable, were at least 
impolitic. The federalists held the doctrine that the people 
ought to be taxed, if it were merely to accustom them to 
pay for the support of government; and the democrats, or 
republicans, applied to the management of political interests 
the notion that all that was necessary was to provide for 
the demands of the day, virtually leaving the future to 
attend to its own wants. The first theory was like that 
which would prescribe periodical depletion to the young 
soldier, in order that he might be ready to shed his blood 
in the hour of trial; while the other may be likened to the 
folly of the agriculturist who should expect a crop, without 
taking the precaution to sow the seed. 

In addition to the extremes into which political struggles 
are apt to push political controversialists, Mr. Jetferson is 
known to have been averse to most of the measures taken 
by his predecessor against France, and he probably entered 
into the exercise of his duties, with a strong disposition to 
erase as many of the evidences of their existence as possi-. 
ble, frotn the statutes of the nation. A president of the 
United States, however, is little more than an executive 


officer, while confined to the circle of his constitutional 
powers, and the Congress that terminated on the 4th of 
March 1801, the day he came into office, had passed a law, 
in some measure regulating a peace establishment for the 
navy. This law gave great discretionary authority to the 
president, it is true, for it empowered him, whenever he 
should deem it expedient, to sell any, or all of the vessels of 
the navy, with the exception of thirteen of the frigates, 
which were named in the act, as in his opinion the good of 
the country might require. To this part of the law no 
great objections could be taken even by the friends of an 
enlarged and liberal policy, as most of the vessels not ex- 
cepted had been bought into, and were unsuited to the ser- 
vice, more especially at a period, when new improvements 
in naval architecture, that had been borrowed from the 
French, were fast superseding the old mode of construction. 

The law also directed the guns and stores of the vessels 
sold to be preserved, a provision that proved singularly un- 
profitable in the end, as the carronade now began to super- 
sede the small long gun, in naval warfare, and two of the 
sloops would probably have supplied all the nines and sixes 
that have been used in the navy for the last five and thirty 
years. But the most capital error of this law was in the 
limitation it set to the lists of the different ranks of officers. 
The whole of the sea-officers, sailing masters excepted, 
were confined to nine captains, thirty-six lieutenants, and 
one hundred and fifty midshipmen; the rank of master 
commandant being abolished, should the president see fit to 
discharge those then in commission. The phraseology, as 
well as the provisions of this law, betrayed that ignorance 
of the details of the service, which has been so common in 
the legislation of the country, omitting many directions that 
were indispensable in practice, and laying stress on others 
that were of little, or no moment. 

Notwithstanding all the accusations brought against it, at 


the time, the administration of 1801 exercised its authority 
under the statute, which, it will be remembered, was 
enacted previously to its accession to office, with a reason- 
able discretion, and though it may have made a few of those 
mistakes that are incidental to the discharge of all such 
trusts, it conformed to the spirit of the law% with a due re- 
gard to liberality. Mr. Jefferson soon discovered, as it falls 
to the lot of all strong oppositionists to discover, when they 
attain their wishes, that he must follow in the footsteps of his 
predecessor in managing most of the ordinary interests of 
the nation, though the party that went out of power did not 
appear to recognise (he wholesome but unanswerable truth, 
that, in the nature of things, all administrations must be 
right, in their mode of treating a vast majority of the con- 
cerns entrusted to their care. The selection of the officers 
to be retained was one of great delicacy and importance, 
as the future character of the navy depended more on the 
proper discharge of this duty, than on that of any other. The 
greatdefectof the law, indeed, was the narrow- limits to which 
the list of the superior sea officers was confined, it being 
at all times easier to build ships, than to form professional 
men fit to command them. This part of his delegated 
duties, the president discharged in perfect good faith, ap- 
parently altogether disregarding party considerations. We 
give in notes* the names of the superior officers who were in 
service, at the close of the war with France, as a subject of 
historical interest with the country, and we add the names 
of all the quarter-deck officers who were retained, to which 
gentlemen the nation must look for those who perfected the 
school which has since reflected so much credit on the 
American name. 

Although some meritorious officers were necessarilv dis- 
missed, on this occasion, there is no question that the navy 

* See Note C, Appendix. 


was greatly benefited by the reduction ; the hurried man- 
ner in which the appointments were originally made, 
having been the means of introducing many persons into 
the service, who were unfitted for its duties. There was 
also some irregularity in the mode of reduction, the name 
of Capt. M'Niell not appearing on the list of the retained 
captains, though it is certain that he commanded the Boston 
as late as 1802. This discrepancy can only be accounted 
for by supposing that a discretion was used in retaining a 
few more officers than the legal number, with a view to 
ascertain if all those who were first selected might choose to 
serve. In the case of Capt. M'Niell, he was on foreign ser- 
vice at the time the reduction was made. 

The law of Congress directed that thirteen vessels, named 
in the act, should not be disposed of, leaving it discretionary 
with the president to sell the remainder or not. The fol- 
lowing were the ships retained, viz: 



New York 


United States 






General Greene 











38, . 

John Adams 




We have set down the rates of these ships at what they 
ought to have been, in order to give a more accurate com- 
parative idea of the true force of the diflerent vessels, taking 
the English system as a guide. The only vessel that the 
president decided to retain, in addition to the ships named 
in the law, M'as the Enterprise 12, and by adding this 
schooner to the list just given, the reader will obtain an 
accurate idea of the navv, as reduced in 1801. 

The remainder of the ships were sold. We give a list of 
their names and rates, marking those which were expressly 
































built for the public service with an asterisk, to distinguisli 
them from those that were not, viz: 
George Washington 24, 






And nine Galleys. 

While it is certain that a navy with only one small crui- 
ser, must be very insufficient for a service like that of the 
United States, the government ought not to be censured for 
its selection, though it was loudly condemned at the time. 
In nothing had the art of naval architecture made greater 
progress, within the few preceding years, than in the mode 
of constructing vessels of war below the class of frigates. 
The carronade w^as now fast superseding the light long 
gun every where, and it became the aim of those who 
were charged with the duty of preparing armaments, to put 
guns that would throw as heavy a shot as possible, into the 
sloops of war. The ships that rated eighteen, instead of 
carrying sixes, or nines, or even twelves, began to carry 
thirty-two pound carronades, and they required greater 
strength, thicker bulwarks, and larger ports than it had 
been the custom formerly to give to vessels of their class. 
Many of the ships sold, had been constructed in a hurry, 
and of inferior timber, and it is as unprofitable to continue 
expending money in repairs on a vessel with a defective 
frame, as it is to waste it on a house that is known to be 
without a sufficient foundation. 

The reduction of the navy, moreover, was greatly exag- 


gerated at the time, so far as the vessels alone were con- 
cerned. At the peace with France, the cruising vessels in 
service were thirty-four in number, and of these, fourteen of 
the best were retained. No frigate, unless the Geo. Wash- 
ington could be considered one, was sold, and this ship had 
been purchased into ihe service, and not built for the public. 
As regards force, materially more than half, perhaps four- 
fifths, was preserved, the eight largest frigates retained 
being more than strong enough to contend with all the ves- 
sels sold. This was not the opinion of the day, however, 
for interested political clamour was directed by ignorance, 
and most men counted one gun as another, without refer- 
ence to its weight, or its disposition in the vessel. The most 
impolitic of the measures of the government, and it, was one 
of which it soon had reason to repent, was the law suspend- 
ing the construction of the six ships, to carry not less than 
seventy-four guns each, authorized by the act of 1798.* 

The recklessness of political opposition soon made itself 
apparent, in its usual inconsiderate and acrimonious forms; 
a recommendation that emanated from the government, for 
the establishment of dry-docks, one of the first and most 
important measures in the formation of a serviceable ma- 
rine, meeting with all the ridicule that ignorance and hosti- 
lity could invent, even from those who professed to be the 
strongest friends of the navy. Profiting by the most vulgar 
association that a want of knowledge could connect with the 
word "dry," the papers of the day kept ringing the changes 
on this tune, virtually accusing the administration of wish- 
ing to have a navy on shore ! It is, however, just to add, 
that the views of the president extended a little beyond the 
common practice, his recommendation going so far as to 
advise docks for the preservation, as well as for the repairs, 

* The materials collected for these vessels, principally live-oak timber, 
were to have been preserved; but much of the latter was subsequently 
used in the construction of smaller ships, and frequently to great waste. 


of ships. Thus did the gallant little service, which already- 
merited so much from the nation, and which is so insepara- 
bly connected with all the great considerations of national 
character, national rights, and even of national existence, 
find itself compelled to struggle through its infancy, equally 
assailed by its nominal friends, who were injuring its vitals 
while loudest in their professions of amity, and distrusted by 
those who, having made the cry of economy a stalking 
horse in their way to power, shrunk from the heavy charges 
that this, like all other complete means of national defence, 
must unavoidably entail on the public. Still it preserved its 
spirit, and finding itself relieved from the association of 
those who were never worthy to wear its livery, and be- 
lieving, with truth, that in passing a peace without dissolu- 
tion, it saw a flattering perspective of service before it, 
the gallant corps that remained, prepared itself to enter 
on its new duties with the confidence and zeal of men 
who felt that they had fairly embarked in an honourable 
profession for life. 

This period may be deemed that which produced the 
crisis in the fate of the American navy. At the peace of 
1783, the service had been entirely disbanded, and even the 
preparations commenced in 1794, had been suspended when 
peace was made with Algiers, leaving little besides the 
name of a marine behind them. The relations of the coun- 
try with Tripoli, one of the Barbary powers, doubtless, had 
its influence on the fortunes of the service at this particular 
moment, the government feeling the necessity of being in 
readiness to resist the aggressions of another of those semi- 
pirates who then infested the Mediterranean. 

In the mean time, the proper officers proceeded to carry 
out the conditions of the recent treaty entered into with 
France, agreeably to the conditions of which, all the ves- 
sels of war captured on either side were to be restored. 
The Insurgente having been lost, this stipulation became 


impracticable as regarded her; but le Berceau, and la 
Vengeance, the small cruiser taken by the Trumbull, 
were returned to the French. In the whole, eighty prizes 
had been brought into the American ports, and of these, 
three were the vessels of war already mentioned. Most of 
the remainder were privateers. Of the latter, eight were 
acquitted as illegal captures, one, le Croyable, was retaken, 
and the remaining sixty-eight were condemned and sold. 

The loss of American shipping in this war was consider- 
able ; but fewer vessels were taken, in proportion, after hos- 
tilities had commenced on the side of this country, than had 
been previously seized. No vessel of war but the Retalia- 
tion, fell into the hands of the French, under any circum- 

On the whole, the country was satisfied wath the results 
of the exertions it had made during this irregular and 
informal contest, and a strong feeling was awakened in 
favour of a permanent navy. Whatever may have been 
the private opinions of the new. president on this important 
branch of national policy, — ^and it is believed they were 
neither as liberal, nor as far-sighted, as comported with 
his views in general, though they were far from merit- 
ing all the reproaches they received, — he put at the head 
of the department, Mr. Robert Smith, of Maryland, a 
gentleman who rendered himself justly popular with the 
service, who continued for the long space of nine years to 
serve its interests with zeal and intelligence, and who has 
left behind him, in the breasts of all who then composed the 
navy, a feeling that while their interests were in his care, 
they were intrusted to one well disposed to serve the coun- 
try and themselves. 

In the war with France, very few privateers went to sea, 
that country having little trade to suffer by such enterprises, 
though scarcely a merchantman sailed without an arma- 
ment, and a crew at least double that she would have car- 

VoL. I 29 


ried in a time of peace. The years 1798, 1799 and 1800, 
were virtually years of a general maritime war, and the 
English navy, that great drain of seamen for the entire 
civilized world, was as actively employed as at any pre- 
vious or subsequent period of its teeming history. Notwith- 
standing these circumstances, the American government, 
while it suffered many inconveniences from the shortness of 
the enlistments, found no difficulty in obtaining men during 
this struggle, although a number but little short often thou- 
sand must have been constantly employed during the year 
1800. At that time, the tonnage of the country was about 
half what it is to-day, as was also the total number of seamen. 
The enemy was very active, a fact that is proved by the 
circumstance that more French privateers were taken and 
destroyed by the vessels of the American navy alone, in the 
West-Indies, than the country sent cruisers to sea, at any 
period of the war. Including the revenue vessels employed 
in 1798 and 1799, America had at sea forty-two different 
cruisers during the three years of this contest; and their 
captures, limiting them to the vessels that were actually 
taken into port, amounted within two to double this number; 
and of these, considerably more than half were privateers 
of the enemy. Still we find the trade but little interrupted, 
after the armaments were made. In 1797, when America 
had not a vessel of war in commission, the exports of the 
country amounted to a little more than $57,000,000; in 
1798, when the coast was cleared of the French privateers, 
and the war was carried first into the West-Indies, these ex- 
ports reached to $61,327,411; in 1799, to $78,665,528; and 
in 1800, to $70,971,780. Some fluctuations in trade probably 
produced the diminution of the latter year, as the American 
coast was then nearly unapproached by the French. This 
truth, indeed, quite clearly appears by the revenue on im- 
ports, which, in the same three years, was as follows: 
1798, $7,106,061; 1799, $6,610,449 ; 1800, $9,080,932. 


This war, like every maritime contest, in which America 
has been engaged with any civilized nation, was also dis- 
tinguished by many obstinate actions between letters of 
marque and cruisers of the enemy. The papers of the day 
are full of accounts of this nature, and, although they are not 
altogether free from the suspicion of exaggerations, or from 
the boastful representations of most similar ex parte state- 
ments, it is known that some are essentially true. Among 
other combats of this nature, was one which deserves to be 
mentioned, not only on account of the general gallantry of 
the defence, but of the presence of mind displayed at a 
most critical moment by a young man of Philadelphia, un- 
der age, who, we regret to add, was lost at sea, in the suc- 
ceeding voyage, and, because the facts are derived from 
a source that put them beyond dispute. 

In the course of the year 1800, a lightly armed letter of 
marque brig, belonging to Philadelphia, called the Louisa, 
was standing into Gibraltar, when several privateers came 
out of Algesiras, as was the practice of the French in that 
day, to cut her off from her port. A long and desultory 
action ensued, in the course of which one latine-rigged 
vessel full of men pressed the Louisa hard, and made 
several bold efforts to board, in all of which, however, she 
was frustrated. The crew of the Louisa consisted of only 
a few men, and when their captain fell, with a shot through 
his shoulder, and the mate went below for a moment to lay 
him in the cabin, believing that the battle was over, they 
deserted their guns in a body, going down into the fore- 
castle, with the exception of the man at the wheel. At 
that moment the enemy was at a little distance, keeping up 
his fire, and, it was thought, making preparations for a fresh 
attempt to board. With a view to meet this effort, the 
quarter-deck guns of the brig had been properly loaded and 
trained, but when the mate, after an absence of only three 
or four minutes, re-appeared on deck, one passenger ex- 


cepted, there was not a soul to sustain him, while the enemy 
was luffing up under his lee quarter, with his forecastle 
crowded, and a long bowsprit lined with boarders, ready 
to take the leap. He knew if the latter gained the brig's 
decks, resistance would be out of the question, even if all 
on board were at their stations. This was a critical 
instant for so young a man; but he was a seaman of Phila- 
delphia, the port that then furnished the readiest, the best, 
and many of the brav^est mariners that sailed out of Amer- 
ica. He ran to the fore-scuttle and summoned the people 
up, " to get a last shot at the Frenchmen, before they 
should get out of their reach!" Such an appeal admitted 
of no delay. The men rushed on deck with cheers, were 
instantly ordered to their guns, and were in time to meet 
the enemy. A raking fire was poured in, the bowsprit 
was swept of its boarders, the privateer tacked and hauled 
off, and the brig was permitted to proceed without further 
molestation. The Louisa entered the roads of Gibraltar in 
triumph, the engagement having been witnessed b}^ thou- 
sands on the rock. 



We have now reached the period when the American 
marine assumed a fixed and permanent character. No 
more reductions were anticipated by those who understood 
the necessities of the country, nor have any ever been 
seriously attempted. Some Httle time necessarily elapsed 
before it could be ascertained which of the officers se- 
lected might choose to remain in service, and resignations 
were frequent for many succeeding years, in consequence 
of the narrow limits to which the policy of the day had re- 
duced this important branch of the public service, but, 
from that time to this, no officer has ever been compelled to 
abandon the profession, in consequence of the wish to re- 
trench, or of a disposition to reduce the establishment. 
The security which this state of things tended to create has 
been gradually increasing, until it would be scarcely too 
much to say, that both the country and the navy, have 
got to consider the relation which exists between them as 
permanent and indissoluble. This confidence on the one 
hand, and fostering policy on the other, have not been the 
work of a day, however, but are the consequences of a long 
train of historical events, that it has become our duty to 

It has already been said that the necessities, rather than 
the foresight of the new government prevented it from at 
once incurring the expense of a marine, and it is probable 
that, in causing such ships to be built as those which were 



laid down under the law of 1794, it looked forward to their 
forming the commencement of a navy suited to the wants 
and dignity of a country, that all but those who were 
blinded by passion and malignancy, could easily see was 
destined to become powerful. Something, notwithstanding, 
must be attributed to the peculiar condition of the relations 
between one or two of the Barbary States and the young 
republic, at the precise moment when peace was made with 
France, and in pursuing the regular chain of events con- 
nected with our subject, we are next to turn our eyes to- 
wards the Mediterranean and to the coast of Africa, as 
their scene. 

As early as in 1800, the Bashaw of Tripoli, Jussuf Cara- 
malli, who had deposed his brother Hamet, and now sat on 
the throne of this dependency of the Porte, manifested a 
disposition to war. He had learned the concessions made 
to Algiers, the manner in which the Dey of that regency 
had been bribed to do justice, and, by a course of reasoning 
that was certainly plausible, if not true, he inferred that the 
government which had been induced to pay tribute to one 
pirate, might be induced to pay tribute to another. The 
complaints on which this semblance of royalty grounded 
his justification for war, are such as ought to be gene- 
rally known. He accused the American government of 
having bribed the subordinates of Tunis at a higher price 
than it had bribed him ; he added, that Algiers had re- 
ceived a frigate, while he had received none; and even 
in a letter to the president he said significantly, in reply 
to some of the usual diplomatic professions of friendship, 
"we could wish that these your expressions were follow- 
ed by deeds, and not by empty words. You will there- 
fore endeavour to satisfy us by a good manner of pro- 
ceeding." — "But if only flattering words are meant, without 
performance, every one will act as he finds convenient. 
We beg a speedy answer, without neglect of time, as a 


delay on your part cannot but be prejudicial to your 

Shortly after, the Bashaw informed the American consul 
at Tripoli, that he would wait six months for a present in 
money, and if it did not arrive within that time, he would 
formally declare war against the United States. Jussuf 
Caramalli was as good as his word. No tidings of the 
money having reached Tripoli, the flag-staff of the Ameri- 
can consulate was cut down on the 14th of May, 1801, and 
war was proclaimed in the act. 

While Tripoli went so directly to work, difficulties exist- 
ed with the other states of Barbary. Algiers complained 
that the tribute was in arrears, and Tunis found fault with 
the quality of various articles that had been sent to her, by 
way of bribing her not to seize American vessels. Certain 
planks and oars were too short, and guns of a particular 
description were much wanted. Morocco was also dis- 
trusted, although the prince of that country had not yet 
deigned to intimate his wishes. 

Timid as was the policy of the United States, and dis- 
graceful as was that of all Christendom, at that period, 
in reference to the Barbary powers, the former was too 
much flushed with its recent successes against France, and 
too proud of its infant marine, to submit to all these exac- 
tions without resistance. Before it was known that Tripoli 
had actually declared war, a squadron was ordered to be 
fitted for the Mediterranean, with a view to awe the differ- 
ent sovereigns of Barbary, by its presence. The vessels 
selected for this purpose consisted of the President 44, Capt. 
J. Barron, Philadelphia 38, Capt. S. Barron, Essex 32, Capt. 
Bainbridge, and Enterprise 12, Lieut. Com. Sterrett. At the 
head of this force was Capt. Dale, an officer whose career 
we have had frequent occasion to notice, in the course of 
past events, and who now hoisted his broad pennant in the 
President 44. 


The instructions given to Com. Dale, directed him to 
proceed to Gibraltar, where he could ascertain the state of 
things among the distrusted regencies, when he was to be 
governed by circumstances. Had either power declared 
war, he was to act against it, under certain restrictions; 
otherwise he was to go off Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli, in 
succession, to deliver presents and promises at each place, 
and in the event of his succeeding in maintaining the peace, 
he was to make the circuit of the Mediterranean, in the 
course of the summer, re-appear off the ports of Tripoli, Tunis 
and Algiers, and the peace still continuing, he was ordered 
to sail for home in October. Should either of the regencies 
have commenced hostilities, however, he had discretionary 
authority as to the disposition of the ships, but was ordered 
to leave the Mediterranean on the 1st of December, at the 
latest, it having been deemed unsafe to cruise in that sea in 
the winter. 

Soon after these orders were received, the ships rendez- 
voused in Hampton Roads, and sailed for their place of des- 
tination. On the 1st of July they anchored at Gibraltar, 
where they found the Tripolitan admiral, a renegado of the 
name of Lisle, in a ship of 26 guns, with a brig of 16, in 
company. There is no question that the timely appearance 
of the American squadron prevented these two vessels from 
getting into the Atlantic, where they might have struck a 
severe blow at the commerce of the country. The admiral, 
however, protested there was no war, though the informa- 
tion derived from other sources, induced Com. Dale to dis- 
trust his sincerity. The Essex was sent along the north 
shore to collect the American trade, and to give it convoy, 
the Philadelphia was ordered to cruise in the straits to watch 
the two Tripolitans, while the President and Enterprise 
shaped their course towards Algiers, as ordered. The 
latter, however, soon parted company from the President 
on duty. 


The appearance of a ship of the President's force at Al- 
giers and Tunis, had an extremely quieting effect on the 
resentments of their two princes; and Mr. O'Brien, the 
consul at the former regency, gave it as his opinion, that 
the arrival of the squadron in the Mediterranean, had more 
weight in preserving the peace, than if the George Wash- 
ington, which vessel was soon expected, had come in with 
the tribute. 

On the 1st of August, while running for Malta, the En- 
terprise 12, Lieut. Com. Sterrett, fell in with and spoke a 
polacre-rigged ship of 14 guns and 80 men, belonging to 
Tripoli, that was known to be out on a cruise against the 
American commerce. Runnino; close along side, an action 
was commenced within pistol shot, and it continued with 
little intermission for three hours, when the Turk submitted. 
During the combat, however, the Tripolitan struck three 
several times, twice re-hoisting his colours, and opening his 
fire again, when he thought an advantage might be obtain- 
ed by attacking the Americans unprepared. Irritated by 
this treachery, on the last occasion the Enterprise resumed 
her fire with an intention to sink her opponent, but after 
some further though fruitless resistance, the Turkish cap- 
tain appeared in the waist of his ship, and threw his ensign 
into the sea, bending his body and supplicating for quarter 
by signs, when the fire of the schooner was stopped. 

The name of the captured ship was the Tripoli, and that 
of her rais, or commander, Mahomet Sous. Although the 
Turks showed courage, or desperation w^ould be a better 
term, this first trial of skill with their trans-atlantic enemies 
was far from creditable to them. The Enterprise raked 
her enemy repeatedly, and the consequences were dread- 
fully apparent in the result, 50 of the corsair's people 
having been kUled and wounded in the battle. The ship 
herself was a wreck, and her mizzen-mast was shot away. 
On the other hand, the Enterprise sustained but little injury 


even aloft, and had not a man hurt. Neither did she suffer 
materially in her hull. 

The instructions of Lieut. Sterrett did not permit him to 
carry the Tripoli in, and Lieut. David Porter took posses- 
sion, and proceeded to dismantle her. Her armament was 
thrown overboard, and she was stripped of every thing but 
one old sail, and a single spar, that were left to enable her 
to reach port. After attending to the wounded, the prize 
was abandoned, and it is understood a long time elapsed 
before she got in. When her unfortunate rais appeared 
in Tripoli, even his wounds did not avail him. He was 
placed on a Jack Ass, paraded through the streets, and re- 
ceived the bastinado. The effect of this punishment appears 
to have been different from what was expected, for it is 
said the panic among the sailors became so great, in con- 
sequence, that it was found difficult to obtain men for the 
corsairs that were then fitting for sea. One thing is certain, 
that, though this war lasted three years, and in the end be- 
came both spirited and active, very few Tripolitan cruisers 
ventured from port during its continuance; or if they quitted 
port, they were cautious to an extreme about venturing 
from the land. 

By a message of Mr. .Tefferson's, sent to congress on the 
8th of December, 1801, we learn the reasons why the 
powers given in the instructions to Com". Dale, did not ex- 
tend to captures. In alluding to the action between the 
Enterprise and the Tripoli, after relating the facts, the pre- 
sident adds — " Unauthorized by the constitution without the 
sanction of congress, to go beyond the line of defence, the 
vessel, being disabled from committing further hostilities, 
was liberated with its crew. The legislature will doubtless 
consider, whether, by authorizing measures of offence also, 
it will place our force on an equal footing with that of its 

It must be admitted that this was carrying the doctrine 


of literal construction to extremes. While, in the nature 
of things, it may require the consent of two independent 
sovereignties to change the legal relations of the people of 
different countries, from those of a state of warfare to those 
of a state of peace, it is opposed to reason and practice to say 
it is not competent for either of these sovereignties, singly, 
to change these relations from those of a state of peace to 
those of a state of war. The power to commence hostili- 
ties, as it belongs to states, depends on international law, 
and in no degree on the subordinate regulations of particu- 
lar forms of government. It is both an affirmative and a 
negative right: the first, as it is used by the party that de- 
clares the war; and the latter, as it vests the nation assail- 
ed with all the authority and privileges of a belligerent. It 
surely cannot be contended that the American citizen who 
should aid a hostile force sent against his country, would 
not be guilty of treason, because congress had not yet de- 
clared war, though the enemy had ; and it is equally falla- 
cious to maintain that one nation can carry on war, clothed 
with all the powers of a belligerent, without, by the very 
act, vesting its enemy with the same rights. The provision 
of the constitution which places the authority to declare 
war in congress, can only allude to the exercise of the af- 
firmative authority; and to advance a contrary doctrine, 
is to impair that absolute and governing principle of reci- 
procity on which all international law depends. As it would 
be possible for a nation in Europe to declare war against a 
nation in America many weeks before the fact could be 
known to the party assailed, the former, if the doctrine of 
Mr. Jefferson were true, would evidently be enjoying a 
privilege all that time, to the disadvantage of the latter, 
that is equally opposed to common sense and justice. The 
error of this opinion was in supposing that, by curtailing 
and dividing the powers of their servants, the people of the 
United States meant to limit the rights of the nation. What 


renders the course of the executive still more singular, is 
the fact that Com. Dale had established a blockade, and ac- 
tually captured neutrals that were entering Tripoli, as will 
be presently seen. 

The President appeared off Tripoli on the 24th of August, 
when an ineflectual attempt was made to establish a truce. 
Remaining eighteen days in the vicinity of the town, and 
discovering no movement in or about the port. Com. Dale 
ran down the coast some distance, when he crossed over to 
Malta, in order to water his ship. As soon as this necessa- 
ry duty was performed, the President returned to Tripoli, 
and on the 30th of August, she overhauled a Greek ship 
bound in, with a cargo of merchandise and provisions. On 
board this vessel was an officer and 20 Tripolitan soldiers, 
besides 20 other subjects of the regency. All these persons 
were taken on board the frigate, and an attempt was made, 
by means of this lucky capture, to establish a system of ex- 
change. The negotiations were carried on through Mr. 
Nissen, the Danish consul, a gentleman whose name, by 
means of his benevolence, philanthropy and probity, has be- 
come indissolubly connected with the history of the Ameri- 
can marine. 

It was soon discovered that the Bashaw cared very little 
about his subjects, as he declared that he would not ex- 
change one x^merican for all the soldiers. There was a 
little of the arts of the negotiator in this, however, as he 
agreed, in the end, to give three Americans for all the sol- 
diers, the officer included, and three more for eight of the 
merchants, disclaiming the remaining six merchants as his 
subjects. Com. Dale appears to have become disgusted 
with this unworthy mode of bargaining, for he sent his pri- 
soners on board the Greek again, and allowed the ship to 
go into Tripoli, relinquishing his claim on the merchants 
altogether, as non-combatants, and consenting to take the 
three Americans for the soldiers. 


Finding it necessary to go down to Gibraltar, the com- 
modore now left Tripoli, and proceeded direct to the for- 
mer place. He was soon succeeded by the Essex, which 
also appeared off the different Barbary ports. 

In the mean time, the two Tripolitan cruisers at Gibral- 
tar, on its being ascertained that it was impossible for them 
to get out while they were so closely watched, were dis- 
mantled, and their crews were privately sent across to 
Teutan in boats, to find their way home by land; just 
men enough being left to take care of the ships, and to 
navigate them, should an opportunity occur to get to sea. 
The Bashaw complained loudly of the blockade, as an inno- 
vation on the received mode of warfare, and the govern- 
ments of Algiers and Tunis, which appeared to distrust the 
precedent, manifested a disposition to join in the protest. 
The Dey of Algiers even went so far as to ask passports for 
the crews of the two vessels at Gibraltar, with a view to aid 
his neighbour; but the request was denied. 

While passing, in the manner described, from one port to 
another, an accident occurred, by which the President 
came near being lost. She had gone into Mahon, and the 
pilot, miscalculating his draught of water, struck a rock 
on the starboard hand of that narrow passage, in quitting 
the harbour. The ship had five or six knots way on her, at 
the time, and she ran up three or four feet before her mo- 
tion was lost. It was a breathless instant, and the first 
impression was very general, that she must infallibly go 
down. Rolling heavily, the hull settled off towards the 
passage, slid from the rock, and again floated. These are 
moments that prove the training of the sea-officer, as much 
as the more brilliant exploits of battle. The commodore 
instantly appeared on deck, and issued his orders with 
coolness and discretion. The ship stood through the nar- 
row outlet, and having got room, she was brought to the 
wind, until the extent of the danger could be ascertain- 

VoL. I.— 30 


ed. On sounding the pumps, no more than the usual 
quantity of water was found, and confidence began to be 
restored. Still it was deemed imprudent to run off the 
land, as the working of so large a ship, in a heavy sea, 
might open seams that were yet tight. But the elements 
were against the vessel, for heavy weather set in, and that 
night it blew a gale of wind. Under the circumstances, 
Com. Dale decided to run for Toulon, as the most eligible 
port in which to repair his damages. This place was reach- 
ed in safety, when the ship was stripped, lightened, hove 
out and examined. 

As soon as a view was obtained of the stem as low 
as its junction with the keel, every one became conscious 
of the danger that the vessel had run. A large piece for- 
ward had been literally twisted off, and a part of the keel, 
for several feet, was broomed like a twig. Nothing saved 
the ship but the skilful manner in which the wood-ends had 
been secured. Instead of the ends of the planks having 
been let into a rabbetting grooved in the stem itself, they had 
been fastened into one made by the junction of the apron- 
piece and the stem, so that when the piece was wrenched 
off, the seams of the wood-ends remained tight. The French 
officers, who discovered great science and mechanical skill 
in making the repairs, expressed their delight at the mode 
of fastening that had been adopted, which it is believed was 
then novel, and they were so much pleased with the model 
of the frigate generally, that they took accurate measure- 
ments of all her lines.* 

* On this occasion, the President was hove out on one side only. In 
order to fasten, caulk and copper underneath the keel, the following in- 
genious plan was adopted: A deep punt, or scow, was sunk, by means of 
ballast, until its upper edge was brought nearly a-wash. This scow had 
three compartments, one in the centre to hold tiie ballast, and one in 
each end to contain a workman. \\'hen sufficiently down in the water, 
the scow was floated beneath the keel, and as the workman stood erect. 


It has been said that the return of Com. Dale's squadron 
was ordered to take place on the 1st of December, at the 
latest, but discretionary powers appear to have been subse- 
quently given to him, as he left the Philadelphia and Essex 
behind him, and proceeded home with his own ship and the 
Enterprise. The practice of entering men for only a twelve- 
month still prevailed, and it was often imperative on vessels 
to quit stations at the most unfortunate moments. The Phila- 
delphia was left to watch the Tripolitans, making Syracuse 
in Sicily her port of resort, while the Essex was kept at 
the Straits, to blockade the two vessels at Gibraltar, and 
guard the passage into the Atlantic. Both ships gave con- 
voys when required. 

Thus ended the first year of the war with Tripoli. Al- 
though little had been effected towards bringing the enemy 
to terms, much was done in raising the tone and discipline 
of the service. At Gibraltar, Malta, and other ports, the 
finest cruisers of Great Britain were constantly met, and 
the American ships proving to be entirely their equals, 
in construction, sailing and manoeuvring, a strong desire 
was soon excited to render them, in all other respects, as 
good as those that were then deemed the model-ships of the 
world. A similar opportunity had occurred while cruising 
in the West-Indies; but then a large proportion of the ves- 
sels employed were of inferior qualities, and some of the 
officers were unfit to hold commissions in any service. All 
the purchased ships had now been sold, and the reduction 
law had cleared the lists of those who would be likely to 
lessen the ambition, or alarm the pride of an aspiring and 
sensitive marine. Each day added to the knowledge, tone, 
esprit de corps and seamanship of the younger officers; and 

and had sufficient room to use his limbs and his tools, it is evident that he 
could execute his task as readily as any ordinary shipwright on a staging', 
who was obliged to work above his own head. 


as these opportunities continued to increase throughout the 
"whole of the Mediterranean service, the navy rapidly went 
on improving, until the connnaander of an American ship 
was as ready to meet comparisons, as the commander of 
any vessel of war that floated. 



Early in the year 1802, congress enacted laws that ob- 
viated all the constitutional scruples of the executive, and 
which fully authorized the capture and condemnation of any 
Tripolitan vessels that might be found. It is worthy of re- 
mark, that this law itself did not contain a formal declara- 
tion of war, while it provided for all the contingencies of 
such a state of things, even to empowering the president to 
issue commissions to privateers and letters of marque ; and 
it may be inferred from the fact, that it was supposed the 
act of the enemy was sufficient to render the country tech- 
nically a belligerent. One of the sections of this law, how- 
ever, was of great service to the navy, by enabling crews 
to be shipped for two years. 

As the President and Enterprise had returned home, and 
the time of service of the people of the two ships that were 
left in the Mediterranean was nearly up, preparations were 
now made to send out a relief squadron. For this service the 
following ships were commissioned, viz. the Chesapeake 38, 
Lieut. Chauncey, acting captain ; Constellation 38, Capt. 
Murray; New-York 36, Capt. James Barron; John Adams 
28, Capt. Rodgers; Adams 28, Capt. Campbell; and Enter- 
prise 12, Lieut. Com. Sterrett. Com. Truxtun was selected 
to command this squadron, and he had proceeded to Nor- 
folk for that purpose, when a question arising about allow- 



ing him a captain in the flag-ship, he was induced to resign.* 
Com. Morris was appointed to succeed Com. Truxtun, and 
shortly after he hoisted his broad pennant in the Chesapeake. 

* Thomas Truxtun, who will appear no more in our pag'es, was born on 
Long' Island, New-York, February the 17th, 1755, and went early to sea. 
At the commencement of the Revolution, he entered on board a heavily 
armed privateer, in the capacity of a lieutenant, and was frequently en- 
gag-ed with the enemy's letters of marque and privateers. In 1777, he 
commanded a private cruiser, called tlie Independence, with success, and 
shortly after, he was transferred to the Mars, a ship of some force, in 
which he made many captures. In 1782, he sailed for France, in the let- 
ter of marque St. James, with an American agent on board, and had a 
combat with a heavier vessel, that had been expressly sent out of New- 
York to capture him, which ship he beat off with loss. Capt. Truxtun 
commanded Indiamen after tlie peace of 1783, and in 1794, he was com- 
missioned in the navy, as the fifth captain, and ordered to superintend the 
construction of the Constellation 58, then just laid down at Baltimore. In 
this ship he went to sea, in the war against France, and in 1799, he cap- 
tured rinsurgente 36. The following year, he had the well-known and 
bloody combat with la Vengeance ^ and soon after, he was transferred to 
the President 44. In this vessel. Com. Truxtun made cruises in the 
West-Indies until the war ended. 

Com. Truxtun twice commanded on the Guadaloupe station; previously 
to quitting the Constellation, and subsequently to his hoisting his broad 
pennant in the President. At one time, he had as many as ten vessels 
under his orders; a force that he directed with zeal, efficiency and 
discretion. He was a good seaman, and a very brave man. To him be- 
longs the credit of having fought the first battle under tlie present organ- 
ization of the navy, in which he acquitted himself skilfully and with suc- 
cess. The action with la Vengeance has always been considered one of 
the w rmest combats between frigates that is on record; and there is not 
the smallest doubt that he would iiave brought his enemy into port, but 
for the loss of his main-mast. Congress awarded him a gold medal for hi.^ 
conduct on that occasion. 

It is said Com. Truxtun did not intend to resign his commission in the 
navy, in 1802, but simply tlie command of the squadron to which he had 
been appointed. The construction put upon his communication by tlie 
department, however, was opposed to this idea, and he consequently re- 
tired to private life. 

After his resignation. Com, Truxtun filled one or two civil offices. He 
died in 1822, aged 67. 


The vessels fitting for the Mediterranean being in dif- 
ferent states of forwardness, and there existing a necessity 
for the immediate appearance of some of them in that sea, 
they did not sail in a squadron, but as each was ready. The 
Enterprise was the first that left home, sailing in February, 
and she was followed, in March, by the Constellation. The 
Chesapeake did not get out until April, and the Adams fol- 
lowed her in June. The two other ships were detained until 
September. There was, however, one other vessel at sea, 
all this time, to which it will be necessary to make a brief 

Shortly after his accession to oflice, in 1801, Mr. Jeflfer- 
son appointed Mr. Robert R. Livington minister to France, 
and the Boston 28, Capt. M'Niell, was directed to carry the 
new envoy to his place of destination. This duty perform- 
ed, the ship had been ordered to join the squadron in the 
Mediterranean, for service in that sea. The departure of 
the Boston was so timed as to bring her on the station un- 
der both commands, that of Com. Dale, and that of Com. 
Morris. This cruise has become memorable in the service, 
on account of the eccentricities of the officer in command 
of the ship. After encountering a heavy gale of wind in 
the Bay of Biscay, in which he discovered perfect seaman- 
ship, and the utmost coolness, under circumstances particu- 
larly trying, Capt. M'lNiell landed his passengers, and pro- 
ceeded to the Mediterranean. Here he cruised for some 
time, avoiding his senior oflicers, whenever he could, pass- 
ing from port to port, appearing off Tripoli, and occasion- 
ally affording a convoy. After a time, the Boston returned 
home, and was put out of commission, her commander quit- 
ting the service under the reduction law.* The Essex and 
Philadelphia also returned home, as soon as relieved. 

* The eccentricities of Capt. M'Niell have become traditional In the ser- 
vice. While at Sicily, during' this cruise, a band belonging' to one of the 
regiments quartered at Messina, was sent on board the ship, and he 


We have now reached the summer of 1802, and must 
confine the narrative of events to the movements of the dif- 
ferent vessels that composed the squadron under the orders 
of Com. Morris. In some respects, this was the best ap- 
pointed force that had ever sailed from America. The 
ships were well officered and manned, and the crews had 
been entered for two years, or double the usual period. 
The powers given to the commanding officer, appear to 
have been more ample than common; and so strong was the 
expectation of the government that his force was sufficient 
to bring the enemy to terms, that Com. Morris was asso- 
ciated with Mr. Cathcart, the late consul at Tripoli, in a 
commission to negotiate a peace. He was also empowered 
to obtain gun-boats, in order to protect the American trade 

in the Straits of Gibraltar. 

As there were but two means of bringing the Bashaw of 
Tripoli to terms, blockade or bombardment, two material 
errors seem to have been made in the composition of the 
force employed, which it is necessary to mention. There was 
no frigate in this squadron that carried a long gun heavier 
than an eighteen-pounder, nor was there any mortar vessel. 
Heavy carronades had come into use, it is true, and most 
ships carried more or less of them ; but they are guns un- 
suited to battering under any circumstances, and were par- 
brought the musicians to America, it is said, without their consent. A por- 
tion of these men were on their way back in the Chesapeake, in 1807, 
when that ship was attacked by the Leopard. On another occasion, he is 
said to have sailed from Toulon, leaving three of his own officers on shore, 
and carrying off three French officers who had been dining on board, 
with a view to keep up his complement! The latter were carried across 
to the African coast, and put in a fishing vessel; but many months elapsed 
before all his own officers could rejoin their ship. Capt. M'Niell sub- 
sequently commanded a revenue cutter, and performed a gallant thing in 
the war of 1812. He is said to have been the son of the Capt. M'Niell 
who commanded the Boston 24, in the war of the Revolution, though we 
possess no other evidence of this fact than common report. Neither his 
seamanship, nor his gallantry, was ever questioned. 


ticularly unfitted for an assault on works that it is difficult 
to approach very near, on account of reefs of rocks. There 
was also a singular deficiency in small vessels, without 
which a close blockade of a port like Tripoli, was extreme- 
ly difficult, if not impossible. It will be remembered, that 
the schooner Enterprise was the only vessel left in the navy 
by the reduction law, that was not frigate-built, and none 
had yet been launched to supply the defect. The govern- 
ment, however, had become aware of the great importance 
of lisht cruisers, and several were laid down in the summer 
of this year, under authority granted for that purpose. 

As has been seen, the Enterprise 12, Lieut. Com. Ster- 
rett, was the first vessel of the new squadron that reached 
the Mediterranean. She was soon followed by the Constel- 
lation 38, Capt. Murray, which ship arrived off Tripoli early 
in May, where she found the Boston 28, Capt. M'Niell, 
blockading the port. The latter ship, in a few days, quitted 
the station, and never re-appeared on it. A Swedish crui- 
ser was also off the port, assisting to blockade.* 

After being off the port some time, the Constellation 
M-as lying three or four leagues from the town, when the 
look-out aloft reported several small vessels to the west- 
ward, stealing along shore. The wind was quite light, and 
the Swedish frigate, at the moment, was a long distance out- 
side. Sail was got on the Constellation, and towards noon 
the strangers were made out to be seventeen Tripolitan 
gun-boats, which, as it was afterwards ascertained, had 
gone out at night, with the intention of convoying into port, 
an American prize that was expected from Tunis, but 
which had failed to appear. Fortunately, the wind fresh- 
ened as the Constellation drew in with the land, and about 
one o'clock, hopes were entertained of cutting off all, or a 

* Sweden was at war with Tripoli, at this time, also, but peace was 
made in the course of the summer. 


portion of the enemy. The latter were divided into two 
divisions, however, and that which led, by pulling directly 
to windward, effected its escape. The division in the rear, 
consisting often boats, was less fortunate, the Constellation 
being enabled to get it, for a short time, under her fire. 

The wind blew nearly from the direction of the town, 
and the Tripolitans still endeavoured to cross the bows of 
the ship, as she was standing in; but Capt. Murray, having 
run into ten fathoms, opened upon the enemy, time enough 
to cut off all but one boat of the rear division. This boat, 
notwithstanding a hot discharge of grape, succeeded in get- 
ting to windward, and was abandoned to attend to the re- 
mainder. The enemy now opened a fire in return, but the 
Constellation having, by this time, got the nearest boats 
fairly under her broadside, soon compelled the whole nine 
to bear up, and to pull towards the shore. Here they got 
into nooks behind the rocks, or in the best places of refuge 
that offered, while a large body of cavalry appeared on the 
sand-hills above them, to prevent a landing. Deeming it 
imprudent to send in the boats of a single frigate against 
so formidable a force, Capt. Murray wore and stood off 
shore, soon after speaking the Swede, who had not been 
able to close in time to engage. 

This little affair was the first that occurred in the war, 
off the port of Tripoli, and it had the effect of rendering the 
enemy very cautious in his movements. The gun-boats 
were a good deal cut up, though their loss was never ascer- 
tained. The cavalry, also, suffered materially, and it was 
said that an officer of high rank, nearly allied to the Bey, 
was killed. The Constellation sustained some trifling da- 
mage aloft, but the gun-boats were too hard pressed to ren- 
der their fire very serious. The batteries opened upon the 
ship, also, on this occasion, but all their shot fell short. 

After waiting in vain, for the re-appearance of the Bos- 
ton, Capt. Murray was compelled to quit the station for 


want of water, when Tripoli was again left without any 
force before it. 

The Chesapeake 38, Act. Capt. Chauncey, wearing the 
broad pennant of Com. Morris, reached Gibraltar May 25th, 
1802, where she found the Essex 32, Capt. Bainbridge, 
still blockading the Tripolitan cruisers. The latter vessel 
was sent home, and the Chesapeake, which had need of 
repairs, having sprung her main-mast, continued in the 
straits, for the purposes of refitting, and of watching the ene- 
my. Com. Morris also deemed it prudent to observe the 
movements of the government of Morocco, which had 
manifested a hostile disposition. The arrival of the Adams 
28, Capt. Campbell, late in July, however, placed the flag- 
ship at liberty, and she sailed with a convoy to various ports 
on the north shore, having the Enterprise in compatiy. 
This long delay below, of itself, almost defeated the possi- 
bility of acting efficiently against the town of Tripoli that 
summer, since, further time being indispensable to collect the 
different vessels and to make the necessary preparations, it 
would bring the ships before that place too late in the sea- 
son. The fault, however, if fault there was, rested more 
with those who directed the preparations at home, than with 
the commanding officer, as ihis delay at Gibraltar would 
seem to have been called for, by circumstances. The 
Chesapeake, following the north shore, and touching at 
many ports, anchored in the roads of Leghorn, on the 12th 
of October. At Leghorn the Constellation was met, which 
ship shortly after returned home, in consequence of a dis- 
cretionary power that had been left with the commodore.* 

* while the ships lay at Leg'horn, it blew a gale. The officers of the 
Constellation were on the quarter-deck, just at dusk, and they observed a 
boat of the Enterprise going off to the schooner, carrying- sail in a way 
that was thought dangerous. At that moment, the gentlemen were sum- 
moned to their supper, and while at table, an alarm was given, of a man 
overboard. A man, in fact, was found hanging to the rudder chains, and 


Orders were now sent to the different vessels of the squad- 
ron to rendezvous at Malta, whither the commodore pro- 
ceeded with his own ship. Here, in the course of the 
month of January, 1803, were assembled the Chesapeake 
38, Act. Capt. Chauncey; New York 36, Capt. J. Barron; 
John Adams 28, Capt. Rodgers, and Enterprise 12, Lieut. 
Com. Sterrett. Of the remaining vessels that had been put 
under the orders of Com. Morris, the Constellation 38, Capt. 
Murray, had gone into a Spanish port to repair some dama- 
ges received in a gale of wind, and she shortly after sailed 
for home; the Boston 28, Capt. M'Niell had not joined, and 
the Adams 28, Capt. Campbell was cruising off Gibraltar. 
On the 30th of January, 1803, the ships first named left 
Malta, with an intention to go off Tripoli, but a severe gale 
coming on, which lasted eleven days, the commodore was 
induced to bear up, and to run down to Tunis, where it was 
understood the presence of the squadron would be useful. 
On the 11th of March he left Tunis, touched at Algiers, 
and anchored again at Gibraltar on the 23d of the month. 

The reason assigned for carrying the ships below, when 
it had been the original design to appear off the enemy's 

he was got in, nearly exhausted. All he could utter was " Sterrett's boat." 
This recalled the boat that had been seen, and three cutters immediately 
left the ship, to search for the rest of the crew. Lieutenants went in the 
boats, viz., the present Com. Stewart, the present Com. J, Jones, and the 
regretted Caldwell. The night was very dark, it blew furiously, and the 
object was almost hopeless. The boats pulled off in different directions, 
and Mr. Jones picked up a man, outside tlie ship. Mr. Caldwell, after a 
long pull, found no one. Mr, Stewart went a mile to leeward, and found a 
man swimming towards the Melora, and on returning, against the wind 
and sea, he met another senseless, floating with his arms over an oar. 
Thus were three men almost miraculously saved, but the midshipman, Mr. 
Innes, and three others were drowned. The last man picked up was found, 
by the boat's accidentally hitting the oar that kept him from sinking! The 
circumstance proves the usefulness of exertions, at such a moment, how- 
ever hopeless they may appear. 


port, was the want of provisions, and to make the transfers 
and arrangements dependant on shifting the pennant of the 
commanding officer, from the Chesapeake to the New York, 
the former ship having been ordered home by the navy de- 
partment. The squadron was now reduced to the New 
York 36, the Adams 28, the John Adams 28, and the 
Enterprise 12. Act. Capt. Chauncey accompanied the 
commodore to the first of these vessels, and Capt. Barron 
was transferred to the Chesapeake. The Adams was des- 
patched with a convoy, with orders to go off Tripoli, as 
soon as the first duty was performed. 

On the 10th of April the New York, John Adams and 
Enterprise sailed, to touch at Malta, on their way to the 
enemy's port. While making this passage, just as the music 
had been beating to grog, a heavy explosion was heard 
near the cock-pit of the flag-ship, and the lower part of the 
vessel was immediately filled with smoke. It was an appall- 
ing moment, for every man on board was aware that a quan- 
tity of powder, not far from the magazine, must have ex- 
ploded, that fire was necessarily scattered in the passages, 
that the ship was in flames, and that, in all human proba- 
bility, the magazine was in danger. Act. Capt. Chauncey 
was passing the drummer when the explosion occurred, 
and he ordered him to beat to quarters. The alarm had 
not been given a minute, when the men were going steadily 
to their guns, and other stations, under a standing regula- 
tion, which directed this measure in the event of a cry 
of fire, as the most certain means of giving the officers en- 
tire command of the ship, and of preventing confusion. 
The influence of discipline was well exhibited on this trying 
occasion; for, while there is nothing so fearful to the sea- 
man as the alarm of fire, the people went to their quarters, 
as regularly as in the moments of confidence. 

The sea being smooth, and the weather moderate, the 

Vol. I.— 31 


commodore himself now issued an order to hoist out the 
boats. This command, which had been given under the in- 
fluence of the best feelings of the human heart, was most 
unfortunately timed. The people had no sooner left the 
guns to execute it, than the jib-boom, bow-sprit, sprit-sail- 
yard, knight-heads, and every spot forward was lined with 
men, under the idea of getting as far as possible from the 
magazine. Some even leaped overboard and swam for 
the nearest vessel. 

The situation of the ship was now exceedingly critical. 
With a fire known to be kindled near the magazine, and a 
crew in a great measure disorganized, the chances of escape 
were much diminished. But Act. Capt. Chauncey rallied a 
few followers, and reminding them that they might as well 
be blown up through one deck as three, he led tlie way be- 
low, into passages choked with smoke, where the danger 
was rapidly increasing. There, by means of wetted blank- 
ets, taken from the purser's store-room, and water thrown 
by hand, he began to contend with the fire, in a spot where 
a spark scattered even by the efforts made to extinguish the 
flames, might, in a single instant, have left nothing of all 
on board, but their names. Mr. David Porter, the first 
lieutenant, who meets us in so many scenes of trial and 
danger, had ascended from the ward-room, by means of 
a stern ladder, and he and the other officers, seconded the 
noble efforts of their intrepid commander. The men were 
got in from the spars forward, water was abundantly sup- 
plied, and the ship was saved. 

This accident is supposed to have occurred in conse- 
quence of a candle's having been taken from a lantern, 
while the gurmer was searching some object in a store- 
room that led from the cock-pit. A quantity of- marine 
cartridges, and the powder horns used in priming the guns, 
and it is thought some mealed powder, exploded. Two 
doors leading to the magazine passage were forced open. 


and nearly all the adjoining bulkheads were blown down. 
Nineteen officers and men were injured, of whom, four- 
teen died. The sentinel at the magazine passage, was 
driven quite through to the filling-room door. 

After the panic caused by quitting the guns to hoist out 
the boats, all the officers and people of the ship, appear to 
have behaved well. The order to hoist out the boats, might 
be explained by natural affection ; but we have recorded the 
whole transaction, as it is replete with instruction to the 
young officer, on the subjects of system, submission to or- 
ders, and the observance of method.* 

The ships appear to have been detained some time at 
Malta, by the repairs that were rendered necessary in con- 
sequence of the accident just mentioned. On the 3d of 
May, however, the John Adams was sent off Tripoli, alone, 
with orders to blockade that port. Shortly after this ship 
reached her station, she made a sail in the offing, which 
she intercepted. This vessel proved to be the Meshouda, 
one of the cruisers that had been so long blockaded at 
Gibraltar, and which was now endeavouring to get home 
under an assumed character. She had been sold by the 
bashaw to the emperor of Morocco, who had sent her to 
Tunis, where she had taken in supplies, and was now stand- 
ing boldly for the harbour of Tripoli. The reality of the 
transfer was doubted, but as she was attempting to evade a 
legal blockade, the Meshouda was detained. 

About the close of the month. Com. Morris hove in sight, 

* It is a tradition of the service, we know not on what foundation, 
that, when an order was given to a quarter-master to hoist the signal of 
"a fire on board," in the hurry of the moment he bent on a wrong flag, 
and a signal for "a mutiny on board," was shown. Capt. Rodgers of the 
John Adams, observing an alarm in the New York, and smoke issuing 
from her ports, beat to quarters, and ranged up under the stern of the 
commodore, with his guns trained, in readiness to fire. The threatened 
consummation to a calamity that was already sufficiently grave, was pre- 
vented by explanations. 


in the New York, with the Adams and Enterprise in com- 
pany. As the flag-ship neared the coast, several small 
vessels, convoyed by a number of gun boats, were dis- 
covered close in with the land, making the best of their way 
towards the port. Chase was immediately given, and find- 
ing themselves cut oft^ from the harbour, the merchant ves- 
sels, eleven in all, took refuge in Old Tripoli, while the gun 
boats, by means of their sweeps, were enabled to pull under 
the batteries of the town itself. No sooner did the vessels, 
small latine-rigged coasters loaded with wheat, get into Old 
Tripoli, than preparations were made to defend them. A 
large stone building stood on a bank some twelve or fifteen 
feet from the shore, and it was occupied by a considerable 
body of soldiers. In the course of the night breast-works 
were erected on each side of this building, by means of the 
sacks of wheat which composed the cargoes of the feluccas. 
The latter were hauled upon the beach, high and dry, im- 
mediately beneath the building, and a large force was 
brought from Tripoli to man the breast-works. 

Mr. Porter, the first lieutenant of the flag-ship, volunteer- 
ed to go in that night, with the boats of the squadron, and 
destroy the enemy's craft; but, unwilling to expose his peo- 
ple under so much uncertaint}', the commodore decided to 
wait for day-light, in order that the ships might co-operate, 
and in the hope of intimidating the Tripolitans by a show 
of all his force. Mr, Porter, however, went in alone and 
reconnoitered in the dark, receiving a heavy fire from the 
musketry of the troops when discovered. 

Next morning, the offer of Mr. Porter was accepted, and 
sustained by Lieut. James Lawrence of the Enterprise, and 
a strong party of oflicers and men from the other ships, he 
went boldly in, in open day. As the boats pulled up within 
reach of musketry, the enemy opened a heavy fire, which 
there was very little opportunity of returning. Notwith- 
standing the great superiority of the Turks in numbers, the 


party landed, set fire to the feluccas, and regaining their 
boats, opened to the right and left, to allow the shot of the 
ships to complete the work. The enemy now appeared as 
desperately bent on preserving their vessels, as their assail- 
ants, a few minutes before, had been bent on destroying 
them. Regardless of the fire of the ships, they rushed on 
board the feluccas, succeeded in extinguishing the flames, 
and, in the end, preserved them. 

This attack was made in the most gallant manner, and 
reflected high credit on all engaged. The parties were 
so near each other, that the Turks actually threw stones 
at the Americans, and their fire was sharp, heavy and 
close. The loss of the enemy could never be ascertained, 
but a good many were seen to fall. Of the Americans, 12 
or 15 were killed and wounded; and among the latter, was 
Mr. Porter, who received a slight wound in the right, and a 
musket ball through the left thigh, while advancing to the 
attack, thousrh he continued to command to the last. Mr. 
Lawrence was particularly distinguished, as was Mr. John 
Downes, one of the midshipmen of the New York.* 

Com. Morris determined to follow up this attack on the 
wheat vessels, by making one on the gun-boats of the ene- 
my. The harbour of Tripoli is formed by an irregularly 
shaped indentation of the coast, which opens to the north. 
The greatest depth is about a mile and a half, and the width 
may be a little more. On its western side, this indentation 
runs off at an angle of about 25 degrees with the coast, 
while on the eastern, the outline of the bay melts into that 
of the main shore much less perceptibly, leaving the an- 
chorage within, a good deal exposed to northeast winds. 
But at the point where the western angle of the bay unites 

* It is worthy of remark, that this is the fifth instance in which we 
have had occasloa to record the good conduct of Lieut. David Porter, 
in four years, and the third time he was wounded. 



with the main coast, there is a small rocky peninsula that 
stretches oft' in a northeast direction a considerable dis- 
tance, forming a sort of natural mole, and, at the end of 
this again, an artificial mole has been constructed in a line 
extending nearly east-south-east. It is scarcely necessary 
to add, that the real port is behind this mole, in which there 
is water for galleys, and where vessels are sufficiently pro- 
tected from any winds. The town, which is small, crowd- 
ed, and walled, stretches along the shore of this port, for less 
than a mile, then retires inland about a thousand feet, and 
following the general direction of the wall along the har- 
bour, it strikes the sea again at the distance of about a 
quarter of a mile from the angle at the point of junction 
between the bay and the coast. Of course, the town 
extends the latter distance along the open sea. The 
shore, however, is rocky, though low, and rocks lie in sight 
at some distance from the beach. On one of these rocks, 
in front of the end of the town that lies exposed to the 
sea, a work has been built some distance oft' in the water, 
which is called the French Fort. On the natural mole are 
batteries, one of which is in two tiers; at the end of the ar- 
tificial mole is another, and several are distributed along 
the walls of the place. 

Near the south-eastern angle of the town, and immedi- 
ately on the shore of the port, stands the Bashaw's castle; 
the entrance into the inner harbour, or galley mole, lying 
necessarily between it and the mole-head; the distance be- 
tween the two being about a quarter of a mile. The advanc- 
ed peninsula, which forms what we have termed the natural 
mole, is surrounded by broken rocks, which show them- 
selves above the water, but which suddenly cease within 
pistol shot of its batteries. At a distance of a few hundred 
feet, however, the line of these rocks re-appears, stretching 
oft'in a north-easterly direction, about a mile further. These 
rocks are broken, and have many small passages between 


them, through which it is possible for boats to pull. They 
form a sort of breakwater to the bay, and the eastern por- 
tion of the latter being covered with shoals, the two to- 
gether make a tolerably safe anchorage within. 

A little east of south, from the north-easterly extremity 
of the rocks, stands fort English, distant rather more than 
a mile, on an angle of the coast, that may be said to form 
the eastern point of the bay, though it is by no means as 
much advanced as ihe western. The main entrance is be- 
tween the end of the rocks and the shoals towards fort 
English, the water being deep, and the passage near half a 
mile wide. Thus a vessel coming from sea, would steer 
about south-west in entering, and would be exposed to a 
raking fire from the castle, the mole, and all the adjacent 
batteries, and a cross fire from fort English. There is, how- 
ever, an entrance by the passage between the natural mole 
and the rocks, or through the open space already mention- 
ed. This is called the western, or the little entrance ; it 
may be six or eight hundred feet in width; and vessels 
using it are obliged to pass close to the batteries of the na- 
tural and the artificial moles. As they round the mole- 
head, they open those of the castle and of the town also. 

In addition to the fixed batteries of the place, were the gun 
boats and galleys. These boats were large vessels of their 
class, latine-rigged, capable of going to sea on emergen- 
cies, as one of their principal occupations had been to 
convoy along the coast. Several that were subsequently 
examined by-^the American ofilcers, had a brass gun 11|^ 
feet long, with a bore to receive a shot that weighed 29 
pounds, mounted in the bows, besides two brass howit- 
zers aft. The guns were fine pieces, and weighed 6600 
pounds. When not otherwise engaged, the gun-boats were 
commonly moored just within the rocks, and without the ' 
artificial mole, where they answered the purpose of addi- 
tional batteries to command the entrance. By this dispo- 


sition of his means of defence, the Bashaw could, at all times, 
open a fire of heavy guns afloat, on any vessel that ven- 
tured close in, in addition to that of his regular works. 
There were two or three light cruisers moored in the 
upper part of the harbour, that could be of little use ex- 
cept as against attacks within the rocks, and two galleys. 
On emergencies, the smaller vessels could take shelter be- 
hind the rocks, where they were nearly protected from fire. 

At the time of which we are writing, the gun boats were 
stationed well out, near the rocks and the mole, in a man- 
ner to admit of their giving and receiving a fire ; and 
on the afternoon of the 28th of May, the preparations hav- 
ing been previously made, a signal was shown from the 
New York, for the John Adams to bear down upon the 
enemy and commence an attack. Capt. Rodgers obeyed 
the order with promptitude, taking a position within reach 
of grape, but, owing to the lightness of the wind, the two 
other ships were unable to second her, as was intended. 
In consequence of these unforeseen circumstances, the at- 
tack proved a failure, in one sense, though the boats soon 
withdrew behind the rocks, and night brought the affair to 
an end. It is believed that neither party suffered much on 
this occasion. 

The next day Com. Morris made an attempt to negotiate 
a peace, through the agency of M. Nissen, the Danish con- 
sul, a gentleman who, on all occasions, appears to have 
been the friend of the unfortunate, and active in doing 
good. To this proposal the Bey listened, and one of his 
ministers was empowered to meet the American comman- 
der on the subject. Having received proper pledges for 
his safe return, Com. Morris landed in person, and each 
party presented its outlines of a treaty. The result was 
an abrupt ending of the negotiation. 

This occurred on the 8th of June, and, on the 10th, the 
New York and Enterprise left the station, for Malta. At 


the latter place, Com. Morris received intelligence concern- 
ing the movements of the Algerine and Tunisian corsairs, 
that induced him to despatch the Enterprise, with orders to 
Capt. Rodgers to raise the blockade of Tripoli, anJ to join 
him, as soon as circumstances would permit, at Malta, 

After the departure of the flag ship, the John Adams 28, 
Capt. Rodgers, and the Adams 28, Capt. Campbell, com- 
posed the force left before the enemy's port. The speedy 
return of the Enterprise 12, which was then commanded 
by Lieut. Com. Hull, who had succeeded Lieut. Com. Ster- 
rett, added that light vessel to the squadron. Some move- 
ments in the harbour, on the evening of the 21st of June, in- 
duced Capt. Rodgers, the senior officer present, to suspect 
that it was intended to get a cruiser to sea that night, or to 
cover the return of one to port. With a view to defeat 
either of these plans, the Adams was sent to the westward, 
the Enterprise to the eastward, while the John Adams re- 
mained in the offing. 

On the following morning, about 7 o'clock, the Enter- 
prise was seen to the southward and eastward, with a 
signal flying of an enemy. At that moment, the John Ad- 
ams w-as a few leagues out at sea, and it was 8 o'clock 
before the two vessels could speak each other. Capt. 
Rodgers now found that a large ship belonging to the Ba- 
shaw, had run into a deep narrow bay, about seven leagues 
to the eastward of Trij)oli, where she had taken a very fa- 
vourable position for defence, and anchored wuth springs on 
her cable. At the same time, it was ascertained that nine 
gun-boats were sweeping along the shore, to aid in defend- 
ing her, while, as usual, a large body of cavalry was hover- 
ing about the coast, to resist any attack by means of boats. 
The ship was known to be the largest of the Bey's remain- 
ing corsairs, mounting 22 guns, and she was very full of 

Capt. Rodgers owed the opportunity that now offered to 


attack his enemy, to the steadiness and gallantry of Lieut. 
Com. Hull, who, on making his adversary at day-light, had 
cut him ofF from the town, with a spirit that did infinite 
credit to that officer. The Tripolitan was treble the force 
of the Enterprise, and had he chosen to engage the schoon- 
er, Mr. Hull would, probably, have been obliged to sacrifice 
his little vessel, in order to prevent his enemy from getting 
into port. 

The dispositions of Capt. Rodgers were soon made. He 
stood in, with the Enterprise in company, until the John 
Adams was within point-blank shot of the enemy, when she 
opened her fire. A smart cannonade was maintained on 
both sides, for forty-five minutes, when the people of the 
corsair abandoned their guns, with so much precipitation, 
that great numbers leaped overboard, and swam to the 
shore. The John Adams was now in quarter-less-five, by 
the lead, and she wore with her head oflf shore. At the 
same time, the Enterprise was ordered to occupy the at- 
tention of the enemy on the beach, while boats could be got 
out to take possession of the abandoned ship. But a boat 
returning to the corsair, the John Adams tacked and re- 
newed her fire. In a few minutes the colours of the corsair 
were hauled down, and all her guns were discharged ; those 
which were pointed towards the Americans, and those 
which were pointed towards the land. At the next moment 
she blew up. 

The explosion was very heavy, and it tore the hull of the 
Tripolitan entirely to pieces. The two after-masts were 
forced into the air, to twice their usual height, with all the 
yards, rigging, and hamper attached. The cause of this 
explosion is unknown, though it might have been thought 
intentional, were it not for the fact that the people of the 
boat that had returned to her, were blown up in the ship, 
none having left her after their arrival. As the shot of 
the John Adams was seen to hull the enemy repeatedly, 


the corsair is also supposed to have sustained a severe loss 
before her people first abandoned her. 

The John Adams and Enterprsie attennpted to cut off the 
division of gun boats, but found the water shoal too far to 
seaward of tliem, to render the fire of their guns effective. 
Knowing the whole coast intimately, the latter were enabled 
to escape. 

The ships before Tripoli, in obedience to the orders of 
Com. Morris, now sailed for Malta to join that officer, when 
the whole squadron proceeded to different ports in Italy, 
together. From Leghorn, the John Adams was sent down to 
the straits with a convoy; the Adams to Tunis and Gibral- 
tar, and the Enterprise back to Malta, in quest of des- 
patches. Soon after, the New York, herself, went below, 
touching at Malaga, where Com. Morris found letters of 
recall. The command was left temporarily, with Capt. 
Rodgers, who hoisted a broad pennant in the New York, 
while Com. Morris took charge of the Adams, to proceed 
to America. Capt. Campbell, late of the Adams, was trans- 
ferred to the John Adams. 

Com. Morris reached home on the 21st of November, 
1803; and the government, which professed great dissatis- 
faction at the manner in which he had employed the force 
intrusted to his discretion, demanded the usual explanations. 
These explanations not proving satisfactory, a Court* of 
Inquiry was convened, by order of the department, dated 
March 10th, 1804, and the result was an opinion that this 
officer had not discovered due diligence and activity in an- 
noying the enemy, on various occasions, between the 8th 
of January, 1803, and the period of the expiration of his 
command. In consequence of the finding of the Court 

*This court consisted of Capt. S. Barron, President; Capt. Hugh G. 
Campbell, and Lieut, John Cassin. Walter Jones, jun. Esquire, Judge 


of Inquiry, the president disnnissed Com. Morris from the 

Whatever may be thought of the justice of the opinion of 
the court, there can be little question that the act of the ex- 
ecutive, in this instance, was precipitate and wrong. The 
power of removal from office is given to the president to 
be exercised only on important occasions, and for the pub- 
lic good; and it has been much questioned, whether the 
power itself is salutary, in the cases of military men. The 
civilian who does not do his duty, must be replaced imme- 
diately, or the office virtually becomes vacant, but no such 
pressing necessity exists in the army and navy, as subordi- 
nates are always ready temporarily to discharge the duties 
of their superiors. In the navy, this necessity is still less 
striking than in the army, since officers of the same rank 
are never wanting to fill vacancies. 

But there is a far higher consideration, why no military 
man should ever be deprived of his commission, except in 
very extraordinary instances, unless by a solemn trial and a 
formal finding of a court. His profession is the business of 
a life; his conduct is at all times subject to a severe and. 
exacting code, and dismission infers disgrace. So general, 
indeed, is the opinion that every officer is entitled to be 
tried by his peers, that greater disgrace is apt to attach 
itself to an arbitrary dismission, by an exercise of executive 
power, than to a sentence of a court itself, since the first 
ought only to proceed from conduct so flagrantly wrong, 
as to supersede even the necessity of trial. There was 
another motive that ought to have weighed with the go- 
vernment, before it resorted to the use of so high a power. 
The gentlemen who composed the Court of Inquiry on Com. 
Morris, were his juniors in rank, and one was his inferior. 
Although the characters of these officers were above sus- 
picion, as to motives, the accused, on general principles, 
had a perfect right to the benefit of the exception, and was 


entitled to demand all the forms of the service, before he 
was finally condemned. 

It has, more or less, been a leading defect of the civil 
administration of the military affairs of the American go- 
vernment, that too little of pi'ofessional feeling has pre- 
sided in its councils, the men who are elevated to political 
power, in popular governments, seldom entering fully 
into the tone and motives of those who are alive to the 
sensibilities of military pride. One of the consequences 
of this influence of those who have merely the habits of 
civilians, on the fortunes of men so differently educated, 
is to be traced in the manner in which the executive au- 
thority just alluded to has been too often wielded; presenting 
on one side ex parte decisions that have been more charac- 
terized by precipitation and petulance, than by dignity, 
justice, or discretion; and on the other, by a feebleness that 
has too often shrunk from sustaining true discipline, by re- 
fusing to confirm the decisions of courts that have deliber- 
ately heard and dispassionately sentenced. 

The death of Com. Barry,* the resignation's of Com. 

* John Barry was a native of the count)' of Wexford, Ireland, where 
he was born in 1745, He came to America a youth, having adopted the 
life of a seaman as a profession. Circumstances early brought him into 
notice, and he was one of the first officers appointed to a command in the 
navy of the united colonies. He is also supposed to have been the first 
regular officer who got to sea on a cruise, tliough this honour lies between 
him and Com. Hopkins. In command of the Lexington 14, he took the 
Edward tender, after a smart action, in 1776. In 1777, he performed a 
handsome exploit in the Delaware, at the head of four boats, carrying an 
enemy's man-of-war schooner without the loss of a man. For a short time, 
he also served with the army, during the eventful campaign in New Jer- 
sey. In 1778, he made a most gallant resistance against a superior force, 
in the Raleigh 32, losing his ship, but saving most of his crew. In 1781, 
in the Alliance 32, he took the Atalanta and Trepassy, after a bloody 
combat, in which he was severely wounded. In 1782, he fought a close 
battle with an English ship in the West Indies, being driven oflT by a 
superior force that was in sight. At the establishment of the new marine. 
Vol. I.— 32 


Dale,* and Com. Truxtun, with the dismissals of Cora. 

under the present g-overnment in 1794, Capt. Barry was named the scnioi* 
officer, in which station he died. 

Com. Barry, as an officer and a man, ranked very high. His affection 
to his adopted country was never doubted, and was put to the proof", as 
the British government is said to have bid high to detach him from its 
service, during the Revolution. He died childless and greatly respected, 
Sept. 18th, 1803, in the city of Philadelphia, where he had made his home, 
from the time of his arrival in the country, and where he had married. 

* Richard Dale was born in the year 1757, at a short distance from Nor- 
folk in the colony of Virginia. He went to sea young, and was mate of 
a vessel in 1775. After serving a short time irregularly, Mr. Dale joined 
the United States brig Lexington in July 1776, as a midshipman. When 
the Lexington was taken by the Pearl, Mr, Dale was left in the brig, and 
he was active in her recapture. The succeeding year he sailed, as a mas- 
ter's mate, in the Lexington; was in her, in her cruise round Ireland, and 
was captured in her by the Alert, after a long action. Mr. Dale escaped 
from Mill prison in February 1778, was retaken in London, and sent back 
to confinement. For an entire year he remained a captive, when he escaped 
a second time, and succeeded in reaching France. Here he joined the 
celebrated squadron fitting under Paul Jones, an officer who soon dis- 
covered his merit, and made him first lieutenant of his own ship, the Bon 
Homme Richard. The conduct of Mr. Dale in that capacity, is recorded 
in the text. After the cruise in the squadron he went through the British 
channel with his commander in the Alliance 32, and subsequently came to 
America with him in the Ariel 20, in 1780. Mr. Dale was not yet twenty 
three years old, and he appears now to have first obtained the commission 
of a lieutenant in the navy from the government at liome, that under which 
he had previously acted having been issued in Europe. Mr. Dale was 
appointed first lieutenant of the Trumbull 28, in which ship he served in 
her action with the Iris and Monk, when the Trumbull was taken. He 
was made a prisoner a second time, of course, but he was shortly after ex- 

Mr. Dale does not appear to have served any more, in public vessels, 
during the war of tlie Revolution, but in 1794, he was commissioned as the 
fourth captain, in the present marine. Capt. Dale commanded the Gan- 
ges 20, the first vessel that went to sea under the new organization. He 
continued but a short time in this ship, getting a fiu'lough in 1799, to make 
an East India voyage. In 1801, he made the cruise in the Mediterranean 
which has been related in the body of this work, as commander of the 
squadron, and the following year he resigned. 


Morris,* and Capt. M'Niell, reduced the list of captains 
to nine, the number named in the reduction law, for that 
act does not appear to have been rigidly regarded from the 
moment of its passage. After the death of Com. Barry, 

Few men passed youths more chequered with stirring' incidents than 
Com. Dale, and few men spent the evening of their days more tranquilly. 
On quitting the navy, he remained in Philadelphia, in the enjoyment of a 
spotless name, a competency, and a tranquil mind, up to the hour of his 
death, which event occurred February 24th, 1826, in the 69th year of 
his age. 

Com. Dale had the reputation of being both a good officer and a good 
seaman. He was cool, brave, modest, and just. Notwithstanding his short 
service in the present marine, he has left behind him a character that all 
respected, while none envy. 

* Richard Valentine Morris belonged to one of the historical families of 
the country, which has been seated a century and a half at Morrissania, in 
West Chester county, New York. He was the youngest son of Lewis 
Morris, of Morrissania, who was one of the signers of the Declaration of 
Independence, and he early adopted the sea as a profession. Without 
having had an opportunity of seeing much service, the great influence 
and fair pretensions of his family, caused him to be appointed to the sta- 
tion of the ninth captain in the new navy, his commission having been 
dated June 7th, 1798. Capt. Morris was probably the youngest man, among 
those originally named to the rank he held, but he acquitted himself with 
credit, in the command of the Adams 28, during the war with France. 
At the reduction of the navy, in 1801, Capt. Morris was retained as the 
fifth in rank, and his selection to command the Mediterranean squadron 
was due to his place on the list; the age and state of health of the few 
officers above him, rendering them indisposed to actual service of the na- 
ture on which he was sent. 

The fault of Com. Morris in managing the force entrusted to him, was 
merely one of judgment, for neither his zeal nor his courage was ever ques- 
tioned. Had he been regularly tried by a court martial, a reprimand, in all 
probability, would have been the extent of the punishment; and it is due 
to his character, to add, that his dismissal from the navy has usually been 
deemed a high-handed political measure, rather than a military condem- 
nation. He lived respected, and died in his original position in life, while 
attending the legislature at Albany, in 1814. He was considered a good 
officer, in general, and was a seaman of very fair pretensions. 


Com. S. Nicholson, who first appears in our history as the 
commander of the Dolphin 10, during the cruise of Capt. 
Wickes in the Irish and English channels, became the senior 
officer of the service, making the second member of the 
same family who had filled that honourable station. 


Note A. 


Between Capt. John Paul Jones and the Officers of the Squadron. 


Agreement between Messrs. John Paul Jones, Captain of the Bon 
Homme Richard ; Pierre Landais, Captain of the Alliance; Dennis 
Nicolas Cottineau, Captain of the Pallas; Joseph Varage, Captain 
of the Stag (le Cerf ) ; and Philip Nicolas Ricot, Captain of the 
Vengeance ; composing a squadron, that shall be commanded by 
the oldest officer of the highest grade, and so on in succession, in 
case of death or retreat. None of the said commanders, whilst they 
are not separated from the said squadron, by order of the minister, 
shall act but by virtue of the brevet which they shall have obtained 
from the United States of America ; and it is agreed that the flag of 
the United States shall be displayed. 

The division of prizes to the superior officers and crews of said 
squadron, shall be made agreeably to the American laws ; but it is 
agreed, that the proportion of the whole, coming to each vessel of 
the squadron, shall be regulated by the minister of the marine de- 



partment of France, and the minister plenipotentiary of the United 
States of America. 

A copy of the American laws shall be annexed to the present 
agreement, after having been certified by the commander of the 
Bon Homme Richard ; but as the said laws cannot foresee nor de- 
termine as to what may concern the vessels and subjects of other 
nations, it is expressly agreed, that whatever may be contrary to 
them shall be regulated by the minister of the French marine, and 
the minister of the United States of America. 

It is likewise agreed, that the orders given by the minister of the 
French marine, and the minister plenipotentiary of the United States, 
shall be executed. 

Considering the necessity there is for preserving the interests of 
each individual, the prizes that shall be taken shall be remitted to 
the orders of Monsieur le Ray de Chaumont, Honorary Intendant of 
the Royal Hotel of Invalids, who has furnished the expenses of the 
armament of said squadron. 

It is agreed, that M. le Ray de Chaumont be requested not to give 
up the part of the prizes coming to all the crews, and to each indi- 
vidual of the said squadron, but to their order, and to be responsible 
for the same in his own proper name. 

Whereas the said squadron has been formed for the purpose of 
injuring the common enemies of France and America, it has been 
agreed that such armed vessels, whether French or American, may 
be associated therewith, as by common consent shall be found suit- 
able for the purpose, and that they shall have such proportion of the 
prizes which shall be taken, as the laws of their respective countries 

In case of the death of any one of the before mentioned comman- 
ders of vessels, he shall be replaced agreeably to the order of the 
tariff, with liberty, however, to choose whether he will remain in 
his own ship, or give up to the next in order the command of the 
vacant ship. 

It has moreover been agreed, that the commander of the Stag (le 
Cerf) shall be excepted from the last article of this present agree- 
ment, because, in case of a disaster to M. de Varage, he shall be 


replaced by his second in command, and so on by the other officers 
of his cutter, the Stag (le Cerf.) 

J. P. JoiN'ES, 

P. Landais, 
De Cottineau, 
p. RiCOT, 

Le Ray de Chaumont. 
(Sparke's Diplomatic Correspondence, page 205, vol. iii.) 

Note B. 

In consequence of the infancy of the arts in America, both the 
soldiers and seamen have had to contend with their enemies, in the 
wars that are passed, under the disadvantages of possessing inferior 
arms, powder, and even shot. How far these deficiencies in the 
guns and shot may have been felt in the Revolution, it is not easy 
to say, as a large portion of the military supplies were obtained 
either from the enemy himself, or from Europe. After the Revolu- 
tion, however, down to the close of the last war with England, the 
navy in particular laboured under great disadvantages on account of 
defective armaments and stores. In many of the actions, more men 
were injured by the bursting of guns, than by the fire of the enemy, 
and the shot, from imperfect casting, frequently broke when they 
struck. Another consequence of this defective casting was a dimi- 
nution in weight, and consequently, in momentum. The latter fact 
having been alluded to, in the course of the war, the writer, with a 
view to this work, personally weighed a quantity of shot, both Eng- 
lish and American, and made a note of the results. It was found 
that the old shot, or those with which the ships were supplied at the 
commencement of the war of 1812, were comparatively lighter than 
those which had been cast at a later day ; but in no instance was an 
American shot even then found of full weight. On the other hand, the 
English shot were uniformly of accurate weight. Some of the Ameri- 


can 32 pound shot, weighed but 30 pounds ; and a gentleman present 
on the occasion, assured the writer that, a kw years earlier, he had 
met with many which did not much exceed 29 pounds. The heaviest 
weighed was 31 pounds 3 ounces. An average of four, all of 
which were of the later castings, gave 30 pounds 11 ounces. The 
average of the 18 pound shot was about 17 pounds; but, it was un- 
derstood, as this examination occurred several years after the peace, 
that the shot, as well as the guns, were then materially better than 
they had been previous to and during the war. 

The reader will bear in mind that twelve French pounds make 
nearly thirteen English. Thus, while the gun-deck batteries of I'ln- 
surgente were nominally twelves, the shot weighed about 13 pounds. 
On the other hand, the gun-deck batteries of the Constellation were 
nominally twenty-fours, but the shot probably weighed about 22 

In the action with la Vengeance, the two ships had the same no- 
minal weight of metal on their gun-decks, viz. eighteen-pounders. 
But the eighteen-pound shot of the Vengeance must have weighed 
nearly 19| English pounds, while those of the Constellation did not 
probably weigh 17 pounds, if indeed they weighed more than 16 

It has been asserted that the English shot were over- weight, but 
the writer weighed a good many himself, and he found them all sur- 
prisingly accurate. 

Note C. 

List of the Officers of the Navy, before the Peace Establishment 
Law of 1801, teas passed. 


John Barry, Thomas Truxtun, 

Samuel Nicholson, James Sever, 

Silas Talbot, Stephen Decatur, 

Richard Dale, Christopher R. Perry, 



Richard V. Morris, 
Alexander Murray, 
Daniel M'Niell, 
Thomas Tingey, 
Patrick Fletcher, 
George Cross, 
Samuel Barron, 
Moses Brown, 
Moses Tryon, 
Richard Derby, 

George Little, 
John Rodgers, 
Edward Preble, 
John MuUowny, 
James Barron, 
Thomas Baker, 
Henry Geddes, 
Thomas Robinson, 
William Bainbridse, 
Hugh G. Campbell. 


Cyrus Talbot, Charles C. Russell, 

David Jewett, Benjamin Hillar, 

William Cowper, John A. Spotswood. 
Richard Law, Jr. 

L I E U T E N 

David Ross, 
Charles Stewart, 
Richard C. Beale, 
Isaac Hull, 
Archibald M'EIroy, 
Andrew Sterrett, 
Thomas Wilkey, 
David Phipps, 
Josias M. Speake, 
Joseph Strout, 
Francis H. Ellison, 
Ambrose Shirly, 
John Shaw, 
M. Simmons Bunburj'', 
John M'Rea, 
Isaac Chauncey, 
Robert W. Hamilton, 
John Cruft, 
Samuel Chase, 


Wilson Jacobs, 

John Ballard, 

John Warner, 

Zachariah Rhodes, 

James Burns, 

Samuel Heyward, 

John Archer, 

Killian H. Van Rensselaer, 

John Davidson, 

Henry Seton, 

Richard Marner, 

Thomas Laing, 

Isaac B. Hichborn, 

Robert Has well, 

Samuel Phillips, 

William Smith, 

John Rush, 

Robert Palmer, 

William Flag, 



John Smith, 
Jeremiah Fenner, 
Samuel Parker, 
John May, 
Cornelius O'DriscolI, 
Edward Meade, 
Freeborn Banning, 
Richard Somers, 
Stephen Decatur, Jr. 
Joseph Saunders, 
Mark Fernald, 
"William Peterkin, 
John H. Jones, 
John Carson, 
Joseph Ingraham, 
George Cox, 
Gerald Byrne, 
Jonathan Titcomb, Jr. 
Edward Boss, 
James P. Watson, 
Robert Wells, 
Samuel Brookes, 
John H. Dent, 
Thomas Robinson, Jr. 
Miles King, 
John Latimer, 
John Cowper, 
L. S. Daubeney, 
James Campbell, 
John T. K. Cox, 
Abraham Ludlow, 
William C. Jenks, 
David Porter, 
Benjamin F. Knapp, 
Robt. Harrison, 
Wm. Penrose, 

Charles Jewett, 
John Cassin, 
Saml. M'Cutchen, 
Jos. E. Collins, 
James Murdock, 
Richd. Clark, 
Thomas B. Davis, 
Samuel Evans, 
John Love, 
George G. Lee, 
Charles Gordon, 
John W. Whidbie, 
Richd. H. L. Lawson, 
Thos. N. Gautier, 
Godfrey Wood, 
Wm. Wells, 
Stephen Clough, 
Edwd. Wyer, 
George W. Tew. 
Jos. Beale, 
Henry Vandyke, 
James Smith, 
John Galven, 
John M. Claggett, 
Phil. C. Wederstrandt, 
Joshua Blake, 
Seymour Potter, 
Edwd. Brock, 
Redmond M'Clannan, 
Joseph Tarbell, 
John Foot, 
Wm. Crispin, 
James R. Caldwell, 
Wm. Davis, 
Lewis C. Bailey, 
Jacob Jones. 




Nathanial Harraden, 
Lemuel Little, 
Benj. Sayer, 
Loudon Bayley, 
William Knight, 
George A. Hallowell, 
Shubael Downes, 
James F. Goelete, 
Thos. Rodgers, 
Josiah Hazard, 
Moses Durkham, 


James Trant, 
Joshua Johnson, 
Nathl. Stanvvood, 
William Glover, 
Edward Ballard, 
Levi Barden, 
John King, 
Rich. C. Brandt, 
Samuel Plummer, 
William Wescott, 
Neils C. Bang. 


James Macdonough, 
Joseph Bush, 
William Morrell, 
Thomas Burrows, 
Robert C. Pugh, 
George Calder, 
Arthur Sinclair, 
Benj. Carpender, 
Jacob R. Valk, 
Richard Thomas, 
Abner WoodrufT, 
Theodore Hunt, 
WiUiam Lewis, 
James Lawrence, 
Arnold Whipple, 
Benjamin Smith, 
Charles V. S. Carpenter, 
Joshua Herbert, 
Joseph Murdock, 
James Decatur, 
Charles Ludlow, 
Thomas Truxtun, jr. 
Samuel Elbert, 


John W. Duncan, 
Wm. M. Livingston, 
Sybrand Van Schaick, 
George W. Reed, 
George Boyd, 
John Gault, 
Samuel Douglass, 
Daniel M'Niell, Jr. 
James Roache, 
Robert Warren, 
Michael Carroll, 
Humphry Magrath, 
William Fleming, 
Christ. Gadsden, Jr. 
Thomas Ellis, 
John Gallaway, 
James T. Leonard, 
Th. R. Hardenburgh, 
William Rhodes, 
Samuel Ling, 
John T. Ellsworth, 
Henry Morrison, 
Joseph Maxwell, 



Peter Bonnetheau, 
Maurice Simons, 
Thomas Deveau, 
Aaron F. Cook, 
Hugh K. Toler, 
Daniel Polk, 
Edward Ford, 
Kennith M'Kenzie, 
Charles Morris, 
John Dubose, 
Benjamin Yancy, 
William M. Miller, 
Walter Winter, 
Daniel C. Heath, 
George W. Coffin, 
John Trippe, 
Edward N. Cox, 
Oliver H. Perry, 
Thomas Gordon, 
Robert Henley, 
Joseph Bainbridge, 
Isaac Cox, 
William Hartigan, 
Archibald Frazer, 
John M. P. Gardner, 
Owen Smith, 
George Williamson, 
I. T. Clark, 
Abel Lincoln, 
Joseph Cordis, 
Benjamin Conant, 
Joseph Richardson, 
James Dick, 
William M. Crane, 
Joseph Williston, 
John S. Webb, 
Elias Willis, 

Simon Hart, 
Joseph Willitson, 
Habijah Savage, 
James E. West, 
Richard B. Randolph, 
Joseph Prince, 
Henry Somes, 
David Service, 
George Pierce, 
Timothy Pickering, 
Lewis W. Henop, 
Joseph Gantt, 
John E. Fisher, 
William Giddeons, 
Robert Stewart, 
William Ingraham, 
William Neilson, 
Joseph B. Hennessey, 
James P. Hunt, 
Samuel G. Blodgett, 
Robert L. Tilghman, 
Wm. Whitesides, 
Charles Miles, 
James Gibbon, 
Alex. Harrison, 
Samuel Bullen, 
John G. Norwood, 
Fred. N. Hudson, 
John Kiddall, 
Archibald B. Lord, 
Thomas Jones, 
Enoch Brown, 
William M'Hatton, 
Franklin Reid, 
Daniel Murray, 
John Garlick, 
George W. Spottswood, 



Richard Gantt, 
L. Warfield, 
John F, Fox, 
William Dunn, 
S. Leonard, 
John Longley, 
Benjamin Shattuck, 
James MuUie, 
Jon a. P. Hitchcock, 
Thomas N. Willis, 
William B. Suggs, 
James Cox, 
Thomas Homan, 
Henry Wadsworth, 
John Livingston, 
Geo. A. Marcellin, 
Benj. B. Provoost, 
Joseph Dorr, 
George Tryon, 
Owen Tudor, 
Matthew Talcott, 
Thomas Robinson, 
Thomas Randall, 
Samuel Clements, 
David Deacon, 
Ralph Izard, 
John D. Henley, 
George H. Geddes, 
Charles G. Ridgely, 
Joseph B- Wharton, 
James Hite, 
Reuben Bronghton, 
William Campbell, Jr. 
Charles G. Cannon, 
James S. Higinbotham, 
William Blake, 
Thomas M. Rogers 
Vol. L--33 

George Jewett, 
John N. Chester, 
Charles Bulkley, 
Edward O'Brien, 
Samuel Angus, 
Caleb Allen, 
Robert Flinn, 
J. B. Wilkinson, 
William F. Gist, 
George Dabney, 
Keyran Walsh, 
Philip Henop, 
Francis Patton, 
James Penrose, 
Daniel Sim, 
Samuel Conant, 
James H. Adams, 
Samuel Stubbs, 
William Scellend, 
John Shattuck, 
John Rowe, 
George W, Ridgely, 
John Polk, 
John Wood, 
Joseph Field, 
William Butler, 
Charles Read, 
Louis M'Lane, 
WiUiam Smith, 
Charles Wilson, 
Clem. Lindsey, 
John Legg, 
John Goodwin, Jr. 
Jonathan Bulkley, 
William Kean, 
William Burrows, 
Westwood T. Mason, 



Edward Bennett, 
P. L. Ogilvie, 
Charles W. Jones, 
Lewis Warrington, 
Octavius A. Page, 
Allen J. Green, 
James Rogers, 
Darius Dunn, 
William Gregory, 
John Tapley, 
Phineas Stone, 
Daniel Brown, 
George Parker, 
George Merrill, 
Robert Dorsey, 
Johnston Blakeley, 
Shinkin Moore, 
Henry Page, 
Wirilock Clarke, 
Charles Moore, 
Thomas Macdonough, 
John Witherspoon, 
Charles Chilton, 
John D. Sloat, 
Clem. Biddle, Jr. 
James Biddle, 
Edward Biddle, 
William Griffith, 
Thomas T. Beall, 
William T. Nicholls, 
Abijah J. Henton, 
Foster Perkins, 
George W. Steinhauer, 
William Duncanson, 
James Eakin, 
Thomas Hughes, 
Stephen Cassin, 

William Henderson, 
Charles Coombes, 
Archibald M'Call, 
John Stevens, 
Robert C. Rosseter, 
Ephraim Blaines, 
John Hartley, 
Alfred Hazard, 
John Rawling, 
Robert M'Connell, 
Benjamin Page, 
Wm. W. Barker, 
Thomas F. Pennington, 
Peter Ferrall, 
William H. Smith, 
Isaac Whitlock, 
Joseph Tuffs, 
Jesse V. Lewis, 
Peter E. Bentley, 
Seymour Hooe, 
George Gray, 
Richardson Taylor, 
Mordecai Gist, 
Henry Bettner, 
Thomas O. Anderson, 
Thomas Hunt, 
Matthew French, 
Richard Carson, 
Samuel Child, 
James Harmum, Jr. 
William Whistler, 
Edward Trenchard, 
Wm. M'Intosh, 
John Smith, 
George Mitchell, 
Sloss H. Grinnel, 
Archibald K. Kearney, 



Henry Geddes, Jr. 
Jonathan Thorn, 
Robert Miller, 
WiUiam Thornton, 
John Rowand, 
David Byers, 
WiUiam H. Allen, 
Joseph Stickney, 
John Nicholson, 
John Palmer, 
Robert N. Page, 
Philip C. Blake, 
George Levely, 
A. D. Wainvvright, 
Samuel Proctor, 
Charles Neyle, 
John Cochran, 
Edward Giles, 
M. T. Woolsey, 
Daniel S. Dexter, 
Wilson Elliott, 
Calvin Stevens, 
John Pemberton, 
Alexander Lavv^s, 
Edward Attwood, 
Robert T. Spence, 
Philip Moses, 
George D. Evans, 
Leroy Opie, 
James Ferguson, 
Marshall Glenn, 
John Harris, 
Charles Morris, Jr. 
John Goodwin, 
James Biggs, 
John Patton, 
Thomas Swartwout, 

John Orde Creighton, 
Jacob Vickery, 
Richard Harrison, 
James Renshaw, 
Walter Lawrence, 
Samuel Aldrick, 
James Bryden, 
Andrew H. Voorhees, 
Henry P. Casey, 
John Wood, 
Sidney Smith, 
Ezra Manfz, 
James Nicholson, 
Charles Robinson, 
Isaac B. Forman, 
Wm. Miller, 
Wm. H. Thorn, 
Walter Boyd, 
John M. Haswell, 
John D. Henley, 
Edward Randolph, 
Daniel T. Patterson, 
Charles Angier, 
James Mackay, 
James Saunders, 
Sewall Handy, 
Robert Innes, 
Benjamin Fendall, 
Benjamin Turner, 
John Davis, 
Benjamin F. Stoddert, 
Bernar Henry, 
Montg. Newman, 
Wallace Wormly, 
Lawrence Keen, 
William Cutbush, 
John Brown, 



Samuel Allen, 
Jon. C. Shaw, 
Lloyd Nicoll, 
Geo. S. Hackley, 
Richard B. Baker, 
Jno. Provaux, 

Wm. Smith, 
Jos. Israel, 
George Mann, 
Wm. M. Smith, 
Samuel Cooper, 
Charles Clarke. 

List of Officers retained on the Peace Establishment. 

We have set opposite to every name, the ultimate station each 
individual attained as far as can be ascertained, and as a means of 
showing the average fortunes of those who have been engaged in 
the hardy service of the sea. 


John Barry - 
Samuel Nicholson 
Richard Dale 
Thomas Truxtim - 
Richard V. Morris 
Alexander Murray 
Samuel Barron 
John Rodgers 
Edward Preble 
James Barron 
William Bainbridge 
Hugh G. Campbell 


died at the head of the navy, in 1803. 

do. do. do. in 1811. 

resigned in 1802. 

do. in 1802. 
dismissed without trial, in 1804. 
died at the head of the service, in 1821. 
died 1810. 

died at the head of the service, in 1838. 
died in 1807. 

at the head of the service, Nov. 1838. 
died in 1833. 
died in 1820. 

Charles Stewart 
Isaac Hull - 
Andrew Sterrett 
John Shaw - 
John M'Rea - 
Isaac Chauncey 


second on the list of captains, Nov. 1838. 

third do. do. do. 

resigned a master commandant, in 1 805. 

died a captain, in 1823. 

resigned 1803. 

fourth on the list of captains, Nov. 1838. 



Robert W. Hamilton 
John Ballard 
John Rush  
John Smith - 
Freeborn Banning 
Richard Somers - 
Stephen Decatur - 
George Cox - 
John H. Dent 
Thomas Robinson, Jr. 
John Cowper 
John T. R. Cox  
William C. Jenks - 
David Porter 
John Cassin - 
Samuel Evans 
George G. Lee 
Charles Gordon - 
Richard H. L. Lawson 
Godfrey Wood 
Edward Wyer 
Geo. W. Tew 
Henry Vandyke - 
John M. Claggett - 
Phil. C. Wederstrandt 
Joshua Blake 
Joseph Tarbell 
James R. Caldwell 
Lewis C. Bailey - 

Jacob Jones - 

resigned 1802. 

resigned 1801. 

resigned 1802. 

died a captain, in 1815. 

resigned 1802. 

killed in battle, a master com., in 1804. 

killed in a duel, a captain, in 1820. 

resigned, a master commandant, in 1 808. 

died, a captain, in 1823. 

resigned, a master commandant, in 1809. 

resigned in 1801. 

resigned in 1804. 

dismissed in 1804. 

resigned, a captain, in 1826 

died, a captain, in 1822 

died, a captain, in 1824. 

resigned in 1805. 

died, a captain, in 1817 

resigned in 1804. 

resigned in 1802. 

resigned in 1805. 

died on the Mediterranean station, 1803. 

killed in a duel, in 1803, 

lost in the Bay of Gibraltar, 1801. 

resigned, a master commandant, 1810, 

resigned in 1806. 

died, a captain, in 1815. 

killed in battle, in 1804. 

dropped subsequently, under the reduc 

tion law- 
fifth on the list of captains, Nov. 1838 

Wm. Henry Allen 
Samuel Angus 

Thos. O. Anderson 



killed in battle, a master com., 1814. 
dismissed and subsequently pensioned 

captain, in 1824. 
resigned, a lieutenant, 1807. 



William Butler 
Joseph Bainbridge 
William Burrows - 
William Blake 
Samuel G. Blodgett 
Clement Biddle 
James Biddle 
P. C. Blake 
Edward Bennett - 
Johnston Blakely - 
Thomas T. Beall - 
Walter Boyd 
Peter E. Bentley - 
James Biggs 
E. R. Blaine 
Thos. Brown 
Michael B. Carroll 
George Calder 
Edward N. Cox - 
Aaron F. Cook 
William Campbell 
William M. Crane 
Stephen Cassin 
J. Orde Creighton - 
H. P. Casey 
William Cutbush - 
Henry J. Cobb 
J. P. D. H. Craig - 
Richard Carey 

Charles Coomb 
AVinlock Clark - 
James Decatur 
William Duncanson 
John Dorsey 
Daniel S. Dexter - 
John Davis - 

resigned 1807. 

died, a captain, in 1824. 

killed in battle, a lieut. com., in 181.S. 

did not join, and was dropped. 

drowned, a lieutenant, in 1810. 

resigned 1804. 

ninth captain, November, 1838. 

resigned 1804. 

died, a lieutenant, in 1810. 

lost at sea, a mast, com., in 1814. 

resigned 1803. 

dismissed in 1810. 

resigned 1802. 

resigned 1803. 

resigned in 1804. 

died, a captain, in 1828. 

resigned a master commandant. 

resigned 1802. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1809. 

permitted to retire, in 1801. 

resigned 1802. 

eighth captain, November, 1838. 

fifteenth captain, in 1838. 

died, a captain, in 1838. 

retired in 1805. 

resigned 1805. 

resigned 1803. 

retired in 1805. 

retired under peace establishment law, 

in 1801. 
died in 1804. 

drowned, a lieutenant, in 1810. 
killed in battle, a lieutenant, in 1804. 
dropped from list, 
killed in battle, in 1804. 
died, a master and commander, 1318. 
died, a lieutenant, in 1818. 



David Deacon 
George Dabney 
John Downes 
Samuel Elbert 
John Gallaway 
James Gibbon 

J. M. P. Gardner 
Sloss H. Grinnell 
Ed. Giles - 
Allen J. Green 
Jno. Goodwin, Jr. 
Geo. H. Geddes 
Wm. Gregory 
Jas. S. Higginbotham 
Alex. C. Harrison 
Bernard Henry 
George Hackley - 
James Haight 
Sewal Handy 
Thos. R. Hardenburgh 
Philip Henop 
A. J. Hinton 

John D. Henley - 
Seymour Hooe 
Alfred Hazard 
John Hartley 
John Montresor Haswell 
Theodore Hunt 
Daniel C. Heath - 
Robert Henley 
Ralph Izard 
Joseph Israel 
Robert Innes 
A. K. Kearney 
Charles Ludlow - 

twenty-first captain, November, 1838. 

resigned 1805. 

twelfth captain, November, 1838. 

died, a lieutenant, in 1812. 

died in 1804. 

burnt in Richmond theatre, a lieutenant, 

in 1811. 
died, a master commandant, in 1815. 
retired, a lieutenant, in 1807. 
resigned 1804. 
resigned 1803. 
died in 1804. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1811. 
did not accept, 
died, a lieutenant, in 1808. 
died, a lieutenant, in 1809. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1812. 
died in 1805. 
resigned 1802. 
resigned 1804. 

did not join, and was dropped, 
resigned 1801. 
subsequently discharged under reduction 

died, a captain, in 1835. 
resigned 1801. 
dismissed in 1809. 
resigned 1802. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1810. 
resigned, a master commandant, in 1811. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1805. 
died, a captain, in 1828. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1810. 
killed in battle, in 1804. 
drowned on service, in 1802. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1808. 
resigned, a master commandant, in 1813. 



James T. Leonard 
James Lawrence - 
William Livingston 
A. B. Lord - . - 
Daniel M'Niell, Jr. 
Joseph Murdock - 
Louis M'Lane 

William Miller 
Joseph Maxwell 
Charles Mills 
Daniel Murray 
Geo. A. Marcellin 
Charles Morris, Jr. 
Charles Moore 
George Merrill 
Archibald M'Call - 
William M'Intosh - 
George Mitchell 
James Mackay 
Thomas M'Donough 
Humphrey Magrath 
George Mann 
W. R. Nicholson 
Jno. B. Nicholson 
James Nicholson 
William F. Nicholls 
William Newman 
Edward O'Brien 
Peter S. Ogilvie 
Francis Pat ton 
Daniel Polk - 
Oliver H. Perry 
Benj. Page - 
Octavius A. Page 
Henry Page - 
Daniel T. Patterson 

died, a captain, in 1832. 

killed in battle, a captain, in 1813. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1804. 


retired, a lieut., in 1807. 

died in service. 

resigned in 1802 ; afterwards secretary 

of state, &c. 
retired in 1807. 
died, a lieutenant, in 1806. 
resigned 1804. 

lesigned, a lieutenant, in 1811. 
died, a lieutenant, in 1810. 
sixth captain, November, 1838. 
died, in service, early, 
died, a lieutenant, 1822. 
resigned 1802. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1808. 
fate unknown, 
resigned 1803. 
died, a captain, in 182.5. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1809. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1811. 
killed in a duel, in 1805. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1810. 
resigned 1804. 
resigned 1804. 
resigned 1803. 
retired in 1 804. 

lost at sea, a lieutenant, in 1805. 
resigned, a lieutenant, in 1806. 
resigned 1804. 

died at sea, a captain, in 1818. 
resigned 1803. 
died, a lieutenant, in 1813. 
resigned 1803. 
eleventh captain, November, 1838. 



George Parker 
Stephen Proctor - 
States Rutlcdge 
Charles G. Ridgely 
Heathcote J. Reed 
George W. Reed 
Charles Reed 
Benj. Franklin Read 
Jos. Richardson 
John Rowe - 
James Renshaw 
Charles Robinson 
Benjamin Smith 
Arthur Sinclair 
Robert Stewart 
William Scallen 
John Shattuck 
G. W. Spottsvvood 
Maurice Simons 
Daniel Simms 
John Shore - 
H. Savage - 
W. P. Smith 
Sidney Smith 
Thomas Swartwout, Jr. 
Robert T. Spence 
Simon Smith 
W. M. Smith 
Richard Thomas - 
John Trippe 
Rob. L. Tilghman 
William Thorn - 
Edward Trenchard 
Jonathan Thorn - 
Benjamin Turner - 
Jacob R. Valk - 
Jacob Vickery 

died at sea, a master com., in 1814. 

resigned 1803. 

resigned 1802. 

tenth captain, November, 1838. 

died, a lieutenant, in 1812. 

died, a master commandant, in 1813. 

resigned 1806. 

died, a lieutenant commandant, in 1812. 

resigned 1803. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1808. 

fifteenth captain, November, 1838. 

resigned 1807. 

died, a lieutenant, in 1807. 

died, a captain, in 1831. 

drowned, a lieutenant. 

resigned 1806. 

fate unknown, a lieutenant. 

resigned 1803. 


resigned 1804. 

resigned 1803. 

resigned 1801. 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1808. 

died, a master commandant, in 1827. 

killed in a duel, in 1801. 

died, a captain, in 1827. 

died at sea, in 1806. 


resigned 1802. 

died, a lieutenant commandant, in 1810. 

resigned 1802. 

retired in 1805. 

died, a captain, in 1824. 

blown up, a lieutenant, in 1810. 

killed in a duel, a lieutenant, in 1807. 

resigned in 1808. 




Sybrant Van Schaick 
A. Woodruff 
Daniel Wurts 
E. Willis - 
Henry Wadsworth 
John Wood - 
Walter Winter 
Lewis Warrinsjton 
Charles Wilson 
M. T. Woolsey 
Wallace Wormley 
Samuel Woodhouse 

resigned, a lieutenant, in 1807. 

resigned in 1803. 

resigned in 1802. 

drowned in Bay of Gibraltar, 1800. 

killed in battle, a lieutenant, in 1804. 

resigned in 1804. 

drowned, a lieutenant, in 1813. 

seventh captain, November, 1838. 

resigned 1803. 

died, a captain, in 1838. 

entered marine corps. 

twentieth captain, November, 1838. 

This list contains the names of the officers who were left in the 
service, after various changes, and it will be seen that, of even them, 
many soon after resigned. Officers, however, were retained, whose 
names do not appear here, but who declined. Among these was 
Com. Talbot, dec. &c. 

Of twenty-three medical gentlemen retained, but one, Dr. Cow- 
dery, now the oldest surgeon, is still in service. Of thirty-one of- 
ficers of the marine corps, all have left it, or are dead, and we can 
trace the public career of but one, who is still living, the present 
Brig. Gen. Fenwick, of the artillery. 

Note. — In describing' Tripoli the author was unable to procure an ac- 
curate chart, though he has since been more successful. On examination, 
he finds that his distances are a ti'ifle too great. The town is also a 
little larger in some directions than he had supposed. But the chart 
given will correct these mistakes. 





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