Adams Papers

From John Adams to the President of Congress, 18 August 1781

To the President of Congress

Amsterdam August 18th. 1781


We have recieved at last Parkers Account of the Action with Admiral Zoutman: according to which, the Battle was maintained with a continual fire for three Hours and forty Minutes, when it became impossible to work his Ships.1 He made an Attempt to recommence the Action, but found it impracticable. The Bienfaisant had lost his Main-Top-Mast, and the Buffalo her Mizzen Yard, and the other Vessels were not less damaged in their Masts, Rigging and Sails. The Enemy did not appear in a better Condition. The two Squadrons remained some time over against each other; at length the Dutch retired, taking with their Convoy the Course to the Texel. He was not in a Condition to follow them. The Officers, and all aboard, behaved with great Bravery: and the Enemy did not discover less Courage. He incloses the particulars of the killed and wounded, and of the Damages, which the Vessels have sustained. The last is prudently suppressed by the Ministry.—List of the killed and wounded in the Action of the 5th. of August.

killed. wounded. total.
Fortitude 20 67 87
Bienfaisant 6 21 27
Berwick 18 58 76
Princess Amelia 19 56 75
Preston 10 40 50
Buffalo 20 64 84
Dolphin 11 33 44
104 339 443
The Dutch List is killed. wounded. total.
Admiral De Ruyter 43 90 133
Admiral General 7 41 48
Batavier 18 48 66 besides Capt. Bentink
Argo 11 87 98
Holland 64
Admiral Piet Hein 9 58 67

I have the Honor to be, with the greatest Respect, Sir, your most obedient and most humble Servant.

John Adams

RC in John Thaxter’s hand (PCC, No. 84, III, f. 374–377) endorsed: “Letter 18 Aug 1781 John Adams Read 12 Novr.”

1At dawn on 5 Aug. Vice Adm. Sir Hyde Parker’s squadron with a merchant fleet from the Baltic sighted Rear Adm. Johan Arnold Zoutman’s squadron, also with a merchant fleet, outbound from the Texel. The resulting Battle of the Dogger Bank was conducted at half-musket shot and resulted in extraordinary casualties for the number of vessels engaged. They exceeded, for example, those in the 1778 battle off Ushant in which thirty ships of the line fought on each side. The Dutch proved that they could fight the British navy on equal terms. The battle did much for their morale and was hailed as a victory. The action, however, left the status quo unchanged and was a British victory in the sense that Parker’s convoy went on to England, while Zoutman’s put back into port (Mackesy, War for America description begins Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775–1783, Cambridge, 1965. description ends , p. 395; Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence description begins Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence, Boston, 1913. description ends , p. 189–194). The account given here by JA is from a French translation of Parker’s report of 6 Aug. that appeared in Dutch newspapers, including the Gazette de Leyde of 21 August. See also the report in the English newspapers, such as the London Chronicle of 9–11 August.

2It is unclear where JA got his casualty figures. While the listing of British casualties agrees with official sources, that for the Dutch is incomplete and understates their losses. The figures accepted by most authorities, and which appeared in the Gazette de Leyde of 21 Aug., put the Dutch losses at 142 killed and 403 wounded for a total of 545.

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