George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Barnard, 22 July 1776

From Benjamin Barnard

Nantucket [Mass.] 22 July 1776. Asks “permission . . . to make a request to Lord How for the Liberation of a Son and Brother of mine who Were taken on board the Brigt. Mercury (on their Return from a Long and Tedious Whale Voyage On the Coast of Brazil) George Bunker Master About four Weeks ago & are detain’d on board The Cerberes Frigate Capt. Symons.”1


This letter was carried by Micajah Coffin, who also brought GW a similar letter dated 23 July from Reuben Swain of Nantucket. Swain requests permission to ask Lord Howe to free his son and a son-in-law who were captured on the brig Speedwell and another son-in-law who was captured on the brig Pembroke. Both vessels were taken by H.M.S. Greyhound five weeks earlier while returning from whaling voyages in Brazilian waters, and the prisoners, Swain supposes, are aboard the Greyhound (ALS DLC:GW). Swain apparently was unaware that the Speedwell and Pembroke had been recaptured on 27 June by the American armed sloops Schuyler and Montgomery (see Joseph Davison to GW, 27 June, and note 2).

1The British frigate Cerberus, commanded by Capt. John Symons, captured the Mercury off Block Island on 24 June (see Journal of H.M.S. Cerberus for that date 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 , 5:729). Under command of a prize master, the Mercury arrived at Plymouth, England, on 25 July, and a few weeks later it anchored in the Thames River, where, according to the London Chronicle, “the people” were “taken out and put on board a man of war” (ibid., 6:506, 559).

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