Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Dumas, 3 October 1779

From Dumas

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Oct. 3d. 1779.

Copy from New-Lloyd’s List, No. 1097,2 receiv’d this morning from Amsterdam, Tuesday 28 Sept. 1779

Hull, Sept. 25. The Seraphis frigate, & Countess of Scarborough armed Ship, having the Fleet from the Baltic under Convoy, were attacked, between Flamborough-head & Scarborough by Paul Jones’s Squadron,3 when after a severe engagement, in which the Seraphis lost her Main-Mast, Bowsprit, Mizen Topmast, & otherwise much scattered,4 as was also the Countess of Scarborough, they were both taken; the Merchant-Ships separated during the action. Part took Shelter on the Coast near Scarborough, & two are arrived at Hull.— A valuable Ship, bound to Quebec, was taken on the North of Scotland; also a Letter of Marque of Leverpool; & several other prizes were taken & sunk off Whitby by Jones’s Squadron.5

Dear & honoured Sir from the Helder, Road of Texel 3d. Oct. 1779. at 6 a
Clock in the Evening.

I congratulate you with all my heart with the above Intelligence; & I think I can congratulate you also with the very apparent arrival to morrow morning of the victorious squadron on this Road; for there are at least 5, if not 7 men of war, at anchor, at the very entrance of this road,6 the greatest of which has his colours flying, of which, at Such a distance, we can only distinguish here, that they are not the colours of this country, & I think I may guess that they are American colours; for my telescope, if not my imagination gives me red & white lines, & a blue Square in the head corner. The Nordern wind, that has favoured them hitherto, is not so good for them to come quite within the capes. This night I shall hear more of them; & if the post is not then gone, you shall have it. To morrow very early in the morning, if the wind should still hinder them to come near us, I shall hire a sailing sloop, & go to them, provided I am sure that they are our friends.

I have your last favour of the 27th. past, with the pensylvania papers, & another written Extract, for which you have my hearthy thanks. They are a very welcome entertainment for me in those Desarts.

I am in a hurry, with great respect, for ever Dear & honoured Sir yr. most obedient & humble servant


I guess the two prizes to be with them; for I see one them without his Main mast.
His Exc. B. Franklin

Addressed: His Excellency/ B. Franklin, Esqr. Min. Plenipo:/ of the united States &c./ Passy.

Notation: Dumas. Oct. 3d. 1779

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

2A weekly compendium of shipping news provided by the marine underwriting firm: Godfrey Hodgson, Lloyds of London (New York, 1984), pp. 52–3, 65.

3Most accounts follow Jones and attribute the action to Sept. 23rd; Schaeper, Battle off Flamborough Head, pp. 7–16, compares the evidence for that date and the 24th. For a defense of the traditionally assigned date see Ira Dyer’s review of Schaeper’s book in the North American Society for Oceanic History Newsletter, XVI (1991–92), 5–6. News of the battle was sent to London by the Admiralty at Hull, which dispatched a messenger at 3:00 A.M. on the 25th: ibid., p. 15.

4Dumas here miscopied the word “shattered”; see the extract from this letter in the Sept. 28 issue of the Public Advertiser.

5The ship bound for Quebec was the letter of marque Union, the Liverpool letter of marque, the Betsy. For the ships taken off Whitby see Jones’s letter immediately below.

6Jones’s squadron now consisted of the Serapis, Alliance, Countess of Scarborough, Pallas, and Vengeance: Morison, Jones, p. 251.

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