George Washington Papers

Instructions to Captain Nicholson Broughton, 2 September 1775

Instructions to Captain Nicholson Broughton

[Cambridge, 2 September 1775]

  • 1. You being appointed a Captain in the Army of the United Colonies of North America, are hereby direct⟨ed⟩ to take the Command of a Detachment of sd Army & proceed on Board the Schooner Hannah at Beverly lately fitted out & equipp’d with Arms Ammunition & Proviss. at the Continental Expence.
  • 2. You are to proceed as Commander of sd Schooner immediately on a Cruize against such Vessels as may be found on the High Seas or elsewhere bound inwards or outwards to or from Boston in the Service of the ministerial Army & to take & seize all such Vessels laden with Soldiers, Arms, Ammunition or Provisions for or from sd Army or which you shall have good Reason to suspect are in such Service.
  • 3. If you should be so successful as to take any of sd Vessels you are immediately to send them to the nearest & safest Port to this Camp under a careful Prize Master directing him to notify me by Express immediately of such Capture with all Particulars & there to wait my farther Direction.
  • 4. You are to be very particular & diligent in your Search after all Letters or other Papers tending to discov⟨er⟩ the Designs of the Enemy or of any other Kind & to forward all such to me as soon as possible.
  • 5. Whatever Prisoners you may take you are to treat with Kindness & Humanity as far as is consistent with your own Safety—their private Stock of Money, & Apparel to be given them after being duly search’d, and when they arrive at any Port you are to apply to the Committe⟨e⟩ or to any Officer of the continental Army Stationed at such Port for a Guard to bring them up to Head Quarters.
  • 6. For your own Encouragement & that of the other Officers & Men to Activity & Courage in this Service, over & above your Pay in the continental Army you shall be entitled to one third Part of the Cargo of every Vessel by you taken & sent into Port (military & naval Stores only excepted, which with Vessels & apparel are reserved for the publick Service)—which sd third Part is to be divided among the Officers & Men in the followg Proportions.

    Captain 6 Shares
    1st Lieutt 5 Do
    2d Lieutt 4 Do1
    Ship’s master 3 Do
    Steward 2 Do
    Gunner’s Mate & Sergt
    Privates 1 Share each

  • 7. You are particularly charged to avoid any Engagement with any armed Vessel of the Enemy tho’ you may be equal in Strength, or may have some small Advantage; the Design of this Enterprize being to intercept the Supplies of the Enemy which will be defeated by your running into unnecessary Engagements.
  • 8. As there may be other Vessels employed in the same Service with yourselves you are to fix upon proper signals & your Stations being settled so as to take the greatest Range avoid cruizing on the same Ground—if you should happen to take Prizes in Sight of each other the Rules which take Place among private Ships of War are to be observed in the Distribution of the prize Money.
  • 9. In Case of retaking the Vessel of any Friend to the American Cause I will recommend it to such Person to make a suitable Compensation to those who have done such a Service—but such Vessels are not to be deemed as coming within the Directions respecting other Vessels.
  • 10. You are to be extremely careful & ⟨frugal of your⟩ Ammunition—by no Means to waste any of it in Salutes or for any Purpose but what is absolutely necessary.

Df, in Joseph Reed’s writing, DLC:GW; copy, in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, DNA:PCC, item 152; copy, DNA:PCC, item 169; copy, NjMoHP; Varick transcript, DLC:GW. Mifflin’s copy was enclosed in GW to Hancock, 12 Oct. 1775. None of the manuscripts have datelines, but the version of this document printed in Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 3:633–34, closes: “Given under my hand, at Head-Quarters, Cambridge, this second day of September, 1775. George Washington.” GW gave almost identical instructions to Sion Martindale on 8 Oct. 1775 (DS in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, P.R.O.: Adm 1/485) and to William Coit on 22 Oct. 1775 (DS [photocopy], in Thomas Mifflin’s writing, DLC:GW).

Nicholson Broughton (1724–1798), an experienced shipmaster from Marblehead, became a captain in Col. John Glover’s Massachusetts regiment on 19 May 1775. It was probably Glover, a fellow townsman and longtime business associate, who chose Broughton to command the Hannah, a 78—ton schooner formerly used in the West Indies trade which Glover leased to the Continental army on 24 Aug. for conversion into a warship. The first of several armed vessels that GW sent out to intercept British supply ships and troop transports, the Hannah sailed from Beverly on 5 Sept. and the next day recaptured an American merchant vessel (Broughton to GW, 7, 9 Sept. 1775). On 10 Oct. the Hannah ran aground while trying to evade a British warship, and although rescued, the Hannah was retired from military service soon afterward. Broughton took command of the armed schooner Hancock about 16 Oct. and a few days later sailed in company with the armed schooner Franklin, commanded by John Selman, to the mouth of the St. Lawrence River to intercept British powder ships (GW’s instructions to Broughton, 16 Oct. 1775). The two captains missed the powder ships and subsequently displeased GW by seizing Canadian officials and property in violation of his orders to them (Philip Callbeck and Thomas Wright to GW; GW to Hancock, both 7 Dec. 1775). Reprimanded by GW, Broughton and Selman resigned their Continental commissions in December. During 1776 Broughton participated in the New York campaign as major of Col. Timothy Pickering’s Massachusetts militia regiment. He later served on a privateer that was captured by the British and spent some time in an English prison before securing his release and returning to America.

1The Mifflin copy includes the ship’s surgeon, who was also allowed four shares.

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