George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Nathanael Greene, 18 August 1776

From Major General Nathanael Greene

Long Island Augt 18th 1776


I have thought proper to communicate to you certain Intelligence which I have recieved from my Brother respecting Captain Grimes, whose Conduct (if I have been rightly informed) does not entitle him to that Place in your Esteem which he now holds, nor to that Confidence which you have thought proper to put in him.

His leaving the Gally at Rode Island in the Time of the Attack, to take Convoy of the Prizes, the Insult which he afterwards gave said Captain, who has ever been held in the highest Esteem, whose Character stands fair and unimpeached; and who has given convincing Proofs of his Courage and Conduct, together with the Information that was given me of his refusing to make the Attack at the Time the Fire Ships went up the River, and the Reluctance that was shewn this Morning to comply with the Orders given him by General Putnam, induc[e]s me to thinck, that he is much more fond of Parade and shew than he is desirous of signalizing himself in any Action that may be of Service to the Country.

If the Report of his Refusal is founded in Fact, and General Putnam’s Orders were not complied with, I think he ought immediately to be put under an Arrest and instantly removed from his Command.1 I am Your very hume Servt

Nathanael Greene


1This confused report about John Grimes, captain of the Rhode Island row galley Spit-Fire, apparently came from Greene’s younger brother Christopher, who visited the Long Island camp about this time (see Nathanael Greene to Elihue Greene, 6 Sept. 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 , 1:296–97). The captain who recently had abandoned his row galley in Rhode Island was not Grimes but John Hyers of the row galley Washington. On 21 July Grimes, in obedience to orders from the Rhode Island assembly, attempted to sail the Spit-Fire from Newport to New York in company with the Washington. Hyers refused to move his vessel from Newport, however, saying that his crew had left him and that he would not take orders from Grimes in any case. Hearing that Hyers had “planed on Porpos that his men Should Lev him so as to have an Excus for not Goiing” to New York, Grimes sent one of his lieutenants and part of his crew aboard the Washington and made the galley’s former sailing master, Ebenezer Hill, its new captain (Grimes to Nicholas Cooke, 22 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 , 5:1178–80; see also Cooke to Grimes, 24 July, in “R.I. Revolutionary Correspondence,” description begins “Revolutionary Correspondence from 1775 to 1782, Comprising Letters Written by Governors Nicholas Cooke, William Greene, John Collins, Jonathan Trumbull, Generals Washington . . . and others.” Collections of the Rhode Island Historical Society 6 (1867): 105–300, plus an unnumbered “Appendix” of four pages. description ends 158–59). The Spit-Fire and Washington then proceeded to New York, where they arrived on 28 July (see GW to Hancock, 29 July). The captains and crews of both Rhode Island galleys fought bravely in the engagement with the Phoenix and Rose on 3 Aug., but neither vessel actively attacked those warships on 16 Aug. when the American galleys and fire ships made a second attempt to destroy them (see Benjamin Tupper to GW, 3 Aug., and Heath to GW, 17 Aug.). The Spit-Fire and Washington left New York sometime during the next several days and arrived at Providence on 26 Aug. (see the Providence Gazette; and Country Journal, 31 Aug.). Ebenezer Hill was commissioned officially as captain of the Washington on 19 Dec. 1776. Grimes and Hyers left the Rhode Island naval service by the end of 1776 and subsequently commanded Massachusetts privateers.

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