Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Peachey, 31 March 1781

From William Peachey

Richmd. Coty. 31st. Mar: 81


By a Captain of Militia of this County (George Sysson by name) who was captured near the Mouth of Rappahanock River in a River Craft and who lately made his Escape after some Weeks detention on board of the Hibernia Sloop privateer from New York, I am inform’d that the Enemy have adobted a new Mode of getting supplies, which is by fitting out small Vessels with a few hands and a Cargoe of Allum Salt, brown Sugar &c. which they run up the different Rivers and trade, as friends, for flower, wheat Bread, Indian Corn, peas and brandy. Capt. Sysson says that the Shores as well on the Eastern as western sides of the Bay have been lately so well guarded as to prevent the privateers from getting any Supplies, so that they began to be greatly distress’d for both provisions and Spirits. The Vessel, on board of which he was kept, went twice into portsmouth Harbour and he understood that the Troops under Arnold were at short Allowance and the Inhabitants of portsmouth almost famished for want of Bread and none of them suffer’d to go out.

He says that Keeble (or Kibble) the pilot on Guin’s Island, he is satisfied, supplies the Enemy, has seen him on board and he knows that his Son has been employ’d in one of their whale Boats, saw him in their Cap and dress on board one at the Tangier Islands: Capt. Sysson further says that in an Engagement the Hibernia and a Schooner had with a baltimore Brigg off the Mouth of Rappahanock, the Officers of the privateers obliged himself and an old pilott of the Name of Boss whom they had taken, to take a muskett in hand and keep the Quarter Deck during the Action. That they grow short of Hands by Deaths, Desertions and Losses both by Water and Land.

This Account I thought my Duty to transmit to the Executive. If it will answer any good purpose, I have my Reward. Capt: Sisson, if call’d upon, is ready to make Affadavit thereto. I am Yr Excellency’s Most obedt. hum. Servt,

Willm: Peachey

RC (Vi); endorsed.

Capt: Sisson … is ready to make affadavit: There is in Vi a deposition sworn to and signed by George Sisson on 3 May 1781, setting forth the following facts: that he was captured on 15 Feb. 1781 by the brig Cornwallis, “in Currytoman [Currioman?] River,” the brig being in company with the sloop Hibernia and the schooner Trimmer, as well as an unnamed schooner; that he was kept on the brig only half an hour and was then sent on board the Hibernia, where he remained until 14 Mch.; that on 16 Feb. the Hibernia and Trimmer “Attacked a Baltimore Brig of fourteen or sixteen guns off the Mouth of Rappahannock, the Action Continued a Considerable time very sharp and Bloody before they quitted her and Run”; that during this action he and other prisoners were forced on “the quarter Deck and there Ordered to take up Arms against our Countrymen. We beged and intreated the Capt. to excuse us from a Service of this sort, but all in vain. He answered it was what all the prisoners should doe taken by him”; that the brig “fairly drubbed them both and Chaised us almost into Hampton Road”; that later they proceeded up the bay again, where they “fell in with a small Schooner Boat loaded with Allum Salt and Sugar”; that he understood this vessel “was the property of One of my Countrymen whose name I cou’d not learn employ’d by Genl. Arnold and Bound up Rappa. as far as Port Royal to purchase Flour and fresh Provisions. The Skipper shewed his Pass from General Arnold and then went off”; that the plan of “Traiding with the inhabitants I understood was greatly practized in divers plans, and … the Enemy got great Plenty of Provisions of almost every Kind”; and that during his stay at Portsmouth and on a cruise up the bay he “saw a George Keeble son of Walter Keeble, who appeared an Active man and Acted in Character of a first Lieutenant on board a Whale Boat.”

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