George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Artemas Ward, 29 July 1776

From Brigadier General Artemas Ward

Boston 29 July 1776


Yesterday the armed Schooners Franklin and Hancock, commanded by Captains Skimmer and Tucker, sent into Marblehead a Ship from Hallifax bound to New York with refugee Tories and Tory Goods on board. The Invoices which Mr Glover the Agent sent me, I have inclosed.1 The same day Captain Burk in the armed Schooner Lee came into Marblehead to refit, having a few days since engaged a Ship and a Schooner (supposed to be Transports) and was likely to have taken them both, but, by some unhappy accident a quantity of powder took fire and blew up part of his Quarter Deck, killed two Men and wounded several more, by which accident he was obliged to leave the Vessels he had engaged and come into port to refit.2

All the Articles your Excellency wrote for, which I could procure of the Agents, I have forwarded to Norwich; Invoices of them which I received from Mr Bradford and Mr Glover are inclosed.3 Mr Glover informs me he let Col. Glover have the Arms taken in the Ship Anne, for the use of his Regiment, and he being at New York can give an account of them. Mr Bradford informs me he has a prospect of collecting the most of the Arms he parted with, which if he accomplishes, I will have them forwarded immediately. The Agent for the Connecticut Brig Defence, which assisted in taking three of the Scotch Ships, protested against sending the Articles wrote for, until the decision of the Court of Admiralty was obtained and a division made, but I thought in the present circumstances I should be justified in ordering them to be immediately forwarded.4 I am Your Excellencys Obedient Humble Servant

Artemas Ward

P.S. I have inclosed an Hallifax News paper which was found on board the prize.5

LS, DLC:GW; LB, MHi: Ward Papers.

1For an account of the capture of the ship Peggy, see James Bowdoin to GW, this date, n.1. The following enclosures are in DLC:GW: “Invoice of Sundrys Shipt on board the Ship Peggy, James Kennedy Ma[ste]r for Newyork, or Head quarters of the Royal Army in America, by Patrick Reid on Accot & risk of James Wilson Junr & Co. Merchts in Kelmamoch North Britain,” Halifax, 28 June; “Inventory of Effects the Property of Mr John Semple Shipt on board the Ship, Peggie, James Kennedy Mastr,” Halifax, 29 June; and “Inventory of Merchandize, Household Stuff & Sundry Stores the Property of Benjamin Davis shipt by him on board the peggy Capt Kenedy,” no date. The “Memorandum of Wm Smith Fernture,” docketed 28 June, in DLC:GW also may have been enclosed. For John Bradford’s subsequent efforts to obtain copies of invoices of all the goods aboard the Peggy, see his letter to Hancock of 12 Aug. 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 , 6:151–52. The goods listed on Patrick Reid’s invoice apparently constituted the most valuable part of the cargo. Worth a total of £1,509.1.9 sterling, they included large quantities of wine, beer, rum, mutton hams, salt beef, kettles, canteens, men’s stockings, and cloth (DLC:GW; see also the New-England Chronicle [Boston], 2 Aug. 1776).

John Skimmer (d. 1778), a merchant shipmaster from Boston, received a brevet commission from General Ward in June to command the armed schooner Franklin. In March 1777 the Massachusetts council gave Skimmer a privateering commission for the armed schooner Lee, and in November 1777 on the recommendation of John Bradford, the Marine Committee consented to Skimmer’s having a continental commission. Skimmer sailed from Marblehead in May 1778 in command of the Continental brigantine General Gates, and in August he was killed during an engagement with a British armed vessel (see William Bell Clark, “The Continental Brigantine General Gates,” American Neptune, 10 [1950], 280–87).

2William Burke commanded the armed schooner Warren, which was damaged while attempting to capture the British transport Unity near Sable Island east of Nova Scotia. For the British captain’s account of the encounter and his efforts to repeal the Warren by cannon and musket fire, see 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 , 6:577. The Warren was repaired by late August when it put to sea again, only to be captured on 26 Aug. a few miles off Cape Ann by the British warship Liverpool. Burke and his crew were taken to Halifax, and some weeks later Burke was moved to a prison ship in New York Harbor. “He remained a prisoner,” Burke later said, “untill the last of February 1778, When with great hazard and difficulty he and three more made their escape, taking two British Soldiers along with them” (Burke’s memorial to Congress, 30 April 1778, DNA:PCC, item 41). On 1 May 1778 Congress commissioned Burke a captain in the Continental navy (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 10:412), and soon afterwards he was given command of the brigantine Resistance. Burke’s service in the Continental navy was brief, however. While sailing off Cape Cod in August 1778 in an effort to find d’Estaing’s French fleet and guide it into Boston Harbor, Burke encountered British warships and was captured a second time. Paroled in October 1778, he was confined subsequently to commanding privateers.

3These enclosures have not been identified.

4Samuel Eliot, Jr., agent for Seth Harding, captain of the Defence, wrote Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, Sr., on 8 July that the case of the three Scotch transports was to be heard by the admiralty court on 23 July and that “it is absolutely necessary that two intelligent persons who were on board the brig [Defence] should attend the trial. . . . There are many claimants; but my counsel affirms that half the ship George and brig Annabella will be adjudged to the Colony brigantine” (Force, American Archives description begins Peter Force, ed. American Archives. 9 vols. Washington, D.C., 1837–53. description ends , 5th ser., 1:134). The trial date was moved subsequently to 30 July (see John Bradford to the Massachusetts Council, 25 July, 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 , 5:1209), and on 5 Aug. Bradford wrote Hancock that he had spent the previous “week at Salem Attending the trial of the scotch Vessells which are Apportion’d as follows vizt 9/16 of the ship Lord How[e] to the [Continental armed] Schooners 4/16 to the Connecticut Brig [Defence] 3/16 to this Colony Sloop [Tyrannicide]. 11/16 of the Brig Annabella and the ship George to the Schooners 5/16 to the Brig” (ibid., 6:58–59).

5GW forwarded this unidentified newspaper to Congress with his letter to Hancock of 5 August.

Index Entries