Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from John Walkar, 19 February 1779

From John Walkar6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Panbeaffe fabuary the 19 Day D 1779

Hon’d Sir

May it pleas your honner to take pity of a Misfortinate amarican. Now in the first place I Will give you an acounpt of my behaveour in the Amarican war. I was bourn in filidelfa goverment & in the towne of Lankinter & att the age of 23 in the mounth of June 1775 I inlisted my self in the Regiment of Colonel Domson & Company of Cap’t Roes7 in which I had Several ingagements with the enemies & in the mounth of october foloing general wasington gave out orders for six of our regiment to turne out volonteers to go on bord of a priveteer that lay in harber of plemouth att that time nam’d the wasington Commanded by Captain martaindell8 & I redy to Sarve the Congress by Sea & land I turnd out volontirily to go on bord of the above said vessel to go a Cruse in the mounth of november foloing att which time we Sat Sail to Crues & we tuock two prisses but after wards we mete with two ships the Lively & foy9 one of 20 guns & the other of 36 Ditto that toock us & brought us in to Boston whair we stade Eight days & then was Sent home to England in the friget daughter1 & when we got home to England our Captain patitiand to the Cort that his men ware willing to serve S: M. volontirily which was falce & by that he was Sent home to amarica again & I was put on bord of the royal oak & frome thence on bord of the ousstrige2 & was sent awy to the west Enges whair we Stade about a year & then we Came home again & was put on bord of the Cournwill3 whair I made my ascape for they gave me liberty to go a Shore for two days & I no soner was a Shore but I betoock to my Self to my heals & Came to dover whair I found a Smiglin bote & Came in her to Dunkark in france & thair I Stade 22 Days awating for a vessel to git home again but I Counld find none att that time for thair was none in the harber & now Seeing my Self naked for I had nither Shirts Stockens nor Shoes & but one three liver peace in my pokit and I Entred my Complants to the agant mister Coffin4 & he would not Suply me with necisaries & seing no likelyhoud of giting a vessel & Seing myself Start naked I sat out to Come to pares to see your honner but when I got as far as battune5 my mony was Spent & to beg I Could not for I Could not Speak french & theair I found recruters which inlested me for the regiment of Barwick and Company of odwier6 now liing in garison att panbeaffe in britana which I did with teers in my eyes for I Could not do no better for poverty made do it which i hope your honner will excuse me for it & if your honner will try & git me of frome hear & Send me home to my family again I will Sware a Legan to be faithfull & sarve the Congress untill the Day of my Deth.

I Rest your most afectianate and Humble Sarvant

John Walkar

Addressed: A / Monsiau monsieur Franklin / Enbasedour Des Amaricans / a Paris au a varsaille / Ci to Ci to

Notations in different hands: Walker. feby. 19. 1779. / Painbœuf. feb. 19. 1779 John Walkar a soldier of Pennsylvania, after having been three years in the Service of the U.S. was taken by the English & brought in England. He made his escape & went to Dunkerque. M. Coffin would not afford him any Aid. He resolv’d to come to Paris; but having no Money & unable to speak french, he was stopt & enlisten’d in the Regimt. de Berwick. He desires to be sent home./.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6A John “Rilkar” appears on the list of prisoners taken from the brig Washington by the Fowey and carried to England on the Tartar. Naval Docs., II, 1290; III, 522n. While his name does not appear on the list of members of the Lancaster County company, many men went along as independent volunteers, paying their own expenses and claiming the privilege of returning home at will. John B. Linn and William H. Egle, Pennsylvania in the War of the Revolution . . . (2 vols., Harrisburg, 1880), I, 37–8, [3]-5.

7William Thompson (1736–81) raised and commanded a battalion of Pa. riflemen from eight counties in the early summer of 1775: ibid., I, [3]-5. James Ross was a citizen of Lancaster borough, and his company, largely from that county, arrived in Cambridge on Aug. 18, 1775. Ibid., pp. 37–8.

8Sion Martindale, a seaman with experience on some of the finest ships belonging to the Newport and Providence merchants, was given command of the Washington (formerly the Endeavor). See William B. Clark, George Washington’s Navy . . . (Baton Rouge, La., [1960]), pp. 18, 36–7, and Naval Docs., II, 354–5.

9The frigates Lively, commanded by Capt. Thomas Bishop, and the Fowey, commanded by Capt. George Montagu.

1The Tartar, commanded by Capt. Edward Medows.

2The sloop Ostrich, which was ordered back to Europe with the Jamaica trade in July, 1777: Naval Docs., IX, 243, 329.


4Francis Coffyn.

5Bethune, between Dunkirk and Paris.

6Richard O’Doyer was a captain in the Berwick regiment, part of France’s famed Irish brigade, currently stationed at Le Croisic, near Paimboeuf, at the mouth of the Loire: Etat militaire for 1779, p. 298.

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