George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Gurdon Saltonstall, 8 April 1776

From Gurdon Saltonstall

N. London [Conn.] April 8th 1776
P.M. 2 Clock.

May it please Your Excelencey

Comodore Hopkins with the Fleet & Prizes, came this morning into this Harbour, and waiting on him, aboard the Alfred, he desired me to write Your Excelencey, & ask the favour that he might enlist out of Your Troops, 150 or 200 Seamen, and if not that number of Seamen to be had, compleat the number with Landmen, To Man The Fleet; as he is badly Manned, and more then 50 Invalids.1As to the Number of Ships in the Fleet, & Prises, & the late Engagement, I must beg leave to refer Your Excellencey to the bearer Mr James Rice, who has been on board the Comodore & can Viva Voce, give you a fuller Accot than I can now write.2

The Comodore has brought his Excellencey Montford Browne Esqr. Govr of New Providence, Thomas Erwin Esqr. a Gentleman of the Council for South Carolina, & Receiver of the Kings quit Rents—Bavage Esqr. Secretary of New Providence & ½ pay Officer, who are on their Parole of Honour on Shore—& about 70 Prisoners.3 I am Yr Excellenceys Most Obedt & Most Hume Servt

G. Saltonstall

⟨E⟩nclosd You have Inventory of Stores taken at New Providence.4


1At a conference with Esek Hopkins aboard the Alfred on the afternoon of 9 April, GW agreed to lend him 200 men from the army for the purpose of attacking the small British fleet under Capt. James Wallace’s command at Newport. The next day Gen. Nathanael Greene called on volunteers from his brigade, which was then in New London, to join the fleet for “a few days” (Greene’s orders, 10 April 1776, in Showman, Greene Papers description begins Richard K. Showman et al., eds. The Papers of General Nathanael Greene. 13 vols. Chapel Hill, N.C., 1976–2005. description ends , 1:209). Although about one hundred and seventy soldiers boarded the commodore’s ships, Wallace sailed from Newport before Hopkins could initiate his plan, and in May Hopkins reluctantly returned most of the borrowed men to GW. See GW to Hancock, 22 April, GW to Hopkins, 25 April, and Hopkins to GW, 1, 12, 22 May 1776. See also Hopkins to Hancock, 1 May 1776, in Clark and Morgan, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964—. description ends , 4:1358–60.

2Capt. James Rice of New Haven was instrumental in outfitting the Connecticut armed brigantine Defence and building the galley Whiting for the colony during the winter and spring of 1776. Hopkins’s prizes included the British armed schooner Hawke, which was taken near the east end of Long Island on 4 April, and the bomb brig Bolton, which was captured the next day. On 6 April Hopkins’s fleet of five vessels engaged the British warship Glasgow off the Rhode Island coast. Each side inflicted considerable damage on the other before the Glasgow escaped into Newport.

3Hopkins seized Gov. Montfort Browne, Thomas Irving, and James Babbidge (Babbage) during his successful attack on New Providence (now Nassau) in the Bahamas on 3–4 March. Their parole is printed ibid., 786, n.3. Browne was exchanged for Lord Stirling in October 1776. He subsequently raised the Prince of Wales American Regiment among Connecticut Loyalists and took part in the Danbury raid in April 1777. Browne returned to the Bahamas in 1778 and was relieved as governor in 1780. Irving, who had gone to the Bahamas for his health, was banished to England in 1778 but returned to Charleston, S.C., in 1780 to serve as a councilor while the British occupied the city. Babbidge was a half-pay lieutenant from the disbanded 78th Regiment of Foot, or Fraser’s Highlanders, which had served under Wolfe at Quebec in 1759. The seventy other prisoners came from the two vessels that Hopkins’s fleet captured on 4–5 April and from the Glasgow’s tenders which were apparently taken on 6 April (Hopkins to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., 8 April 1776, ibid., 711–12).

4The inventory of artillery and ordnance stores removed from forts Nassau and Montagu 3–4 Mar. 1776 is in DLC:GW. The most important items that Hopkins’s fleet brought from New Providence were 88 cannon, 15 mortars, 5,458 shells, 11,236 cannon balls, and 24 casks of gunpowder. Hopkins missed another 150 barrels of gunpowder that Governor Browne sent off in a small sloop the night before he surrendered. A similar version of this inventory enclosed in Hopkins’s letter to Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., of 8 April is printed ibid., 711–12.

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