George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain Ephraim Bowen, Jr., 16–17 October 1775

From Captain Ephraim Bowen, Jr.

[Plymouth, Mass.]
[16–17 October 1775]

May it Please Your Excellency

According to the Instructions recieved at Head Quarters, I went to Watertown, to Colo. Warren, from thence proceeded for this town & Arriv’d on Saturday evening; Capt. Adams being out of town, I did not see him till yesterday Morning, when I went to Kingston where he was with his Vessill, he engagd to have her at Plymouth that evening, which he performd The People here give the Vessel an Excellent Character as a Sailer; have this day set the Carpenters to Work on her, the Capt. Says she will be ready in four or five days, if he is not oblig’d to wait for guns.1

I deliverd the Letter to the Committe, who promis’d me all the assistanc in their Power,2 There are Four Single Fortified Carriage guns here, which will carry about a 3 or 3¼ lb. Shott, & Seven Swivels of Different, Size Bores, one of which is Brass, one Excellent Wall piece (& two Cohorns if wanted), there are several Single Fortified Guns of abt 6 & 8 lb. here. The Committe are of Opinion that if these guns should not answer, that they may be had in Providence or Bristoll, which I think very probable, & as I am wel Acquainted there, if Yr Excellency pleases, will go there & Procure them.3 William Watson Esqr. was Recommended, by Colo. Warren as a Proper Person as Agent, to Procure provisions & take Charge of Prises—which he engages to do, & if required will get it from under his hand,4 Please to give me further Instructions as Soon as Possible5—I am Yr Dutiful Servant

Ephraim Bowen Jr

ALS, DLC:GW. The context of this undated letter indicates that it was written at Plymouth on 16 October. See note 1. According to Bowen’s journal for 15 Oct.—18 Nov. 1775, however, he “wrote to his Excellency Genl Washington concerning the Guns—Vessell &c.” on 17 Oct. (DLC:GW).

Ephraim Bowen, Jr. (1753–1842), an officer in the 2d Rhode Island Regiment, oversaw the outfitting of the armed schooners Harrison and Washington at Plymouth between 14 Oct. and 18 November. Bowen became an assistant deputy quartermaster in September 1776 and deputy quartermaster for Rhode Island the following year.

1Joseph Reed instructed Bowen on 13 Oct. to “go by Water Town & apply to Col. [James] Warren to nominate a proper Person as Agent to procure Provisions for 1 Month for 50 Men & to manage such Prizes as may be sent in.” At Plymouth Bowen was directed “to inquire for Captn Daniel Adams who went down a few Days ago to set the Carpenters at Work upon his Schooner—you are to inquire in Plymouth what Character she has as a Sailor if not a good one take up one instead of her which can be well recommended if she is a Stranger in the Port & nothing said agst her proceed in fitting her out. . . . The hire of the Vessel to be agreed for with the Owner at a Sum not exceeding 5/ Sterlg per Month—per Ton the Owner to fit her up with Sails suitable for the Service particularly Topsails. . . . You are to endeavour to get Guns both Carriage & Swivel at Plymouth upon Loan if possible—their Value to be paid—if left in the Service the General to pay for them” (DLC:GW). Bowen arrived at Plymouth on Saturday 14 Oct., and according to his journal, he went to Kingston, Mass., on 15 October. Daniel Adams of Plymouth owned the schooner Triton which became the armed schooner Harrison.

2Joseph Reed wrote to the Plymouth committee of safety on 13 Oct. asking the members to help Bowen with the equipping of Daniel Adams’s schooner, “particularly in procuring Guns suitable for the Vessel” (ibid.). Bowen presented the letter to the committee on 16 October.

3“If it is absolutely necessary to procure proper Guns at Providence & Bristol,” Reed replied to Bowen on 17 Oct., “you must go, but we have always found that when Gentlemen Sent upon this Business go among their Friends, they are apt to Stay too long & are induced to favour their Friends in such Articles as may be wanted so as to delay the Business—I therefore think it necessary to give you this Caution” (ibid.). Bowen used guns at Plymouth to equip the Harrison, but he went to Rhode Island between 24 Oct. and 1 Nov. to obtain guns for the armed schooner Washington. “I have no Friends in Providence or Bristol who can Reap any advantage in this Business, Thro’ my means,” Bowen wrote to Reed on 19 Oct., “& be asur’d that I would not Lose one moments time to the Detriment of the Cause in which I am engagd” (ibid.). See Bowen’s journal, 15 Oct.—18 Nov., Reed to the Bristol Committee of Safety, 20 Oct., and Bowen to Reed, 29 Oct. 1775, all ibid.

4William Watson (1739–1815) was a prominent merchant in Plymouth and a member of the town’s committee of safety. See instructions to Watson, 17 Oct. 1775, signed by Joseph Reed by order of GW, ibid.

5See Joseph Reed to Bowen, 17, 20, and 29 Oct., Edmund Randolph to Bowen, 31 Oct., and Stephen Moylan to Bowen, 8 Nov. 1775, all ibid.

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