George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Nicholas Cooke, 14 April 1777

From Nicholas Cooke

Providence, April 14, 1777


Your Excellency’s Favors of the 14th ult. and of the 3d instant are now before me.1

In Pursuance of your Recommendation Mr Hutchinson, and Governor Shirley’s Son are permitted to go to Rhode Island. I have made Enquiry after the Mulatto Lad, Thomas Rogerson, but can as yet gain no Account that is perfectly satisfactory. I believe he was brought into this Place, and very soon after sailed for [ ] under the Care of Capt. [ ] Thus much may be relied upon, that he never was sold or treated as a Slave.

Capt. William Chace, who commanded the Privateer that took Mr Hutchinson and Master Shirley had the great Misfortune of having his Son, Mr John Chace who was Master of the Sloop [ ] captivated by the Mercury and arrived into Halifax,2 where he was cruelly treated, of which Capt. Chace had Intelligence before he sailed upon his Cruise. When he took the Prize in which Mr Hutchinson and Master Shirley were Passengers he carried them on Board the Privateer, with the sole View of making them instrumental in procuring the Release of his Son, who is still a Prisoner and it is thought on Board the Mercury. I have now to request your Excellency to apply to Lord Howe to give immediate Orders for Capt. Chace’s Release.3 Allow me to beg the Favor of a particular Attention to this Matter, and that you inform me of the Application and Success,4 which will give great Satisfaction to a respectable Family.

In Justice to General Varnum, I think myself obliged to inform your Excellency that when your Orders arrived for inoculating our two Continental Battalions, we had an Expedition on Foot to Rhode-Island, which was to have been made in Two or Three Days, and it was thought absolutely necessary by General Spencer and the Council of War here, that those Troops should be made Use of in that Attempt. When it was given up, the greatest Part of the Militia from Connecticut and the Massachusetts, whose Times were expired, returned Home, and left our Shores so naked, that we could scarcely keep the necessary Guards to prevent the Enemy from having a free Communication with the Main Land: This again obliged us to make Use of our Two Battalions5 for immediate Security.

When I wrote you on the 18th ult. that the Enemy upon Rhode-Island consisted of Six Hessian and Two British Regiments, I was led into that Mistake by a Man who pretended to have made his Escape from Rhode-Island, but hath since confessed that he was sent off by the Enemy: However the Accounts we have from several intelligent and observant People agree that their Numbers amount to full Four Thousand.

The General Assembly at the last Session ordered exact Returns to be made of all the Men in the several Districts in the State able to bear Arms; and will meet on the 16th instant, to take the most effectual Methods for compleating our Continental Battalions.6 I am, Sir, Your Excellency’s most obedient humble Servant

Nichs Cooke

LS, DLC:GW; Df, R-Ar.

1GW’s letter to Cooke of 14 Mar. has not been found.

2The draft reads: “and carried into Halifax in Irons about a Year ago.”

3The draft reads: “for Capt. Chace’s Discharge.” John Chace was captain and co-owner with John Brown of the sloop Defiance, which sailed from Providence for Charleston, S.C., on 30 March 1776 with a cargo of coffee, chocolate, cider, rum, oil, onions, and spermaceti candles. The Defiance was captured off Cape Romain, S.C., on 24 April by the British armed transport Golden Rule, and Captain Chace was soon transferred to the warship Mercury and taken to England, where in February 1777 he was reported to be ill in a hospital (see sailing permissions from Rhode Island, 5–30 Mar. 1776, 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 , 4:575–76; Public Advertiser [London], 16 Aug. 1776, 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 , 4:1321, n.2; deposition of Seth Clark, 30 Mar. 1777, ibid., 8:723–25).

William Chace was commissioned on 6 July 1776 to command the Rhode Island privateer Diamond, a sloop outfitted with six carriage guns and ten swivel guns that he owned in partnership with Nicholas and John Brown of Providence (see application for commission for the sloop Diamond, 6 July 1776, ibid., 5:945, and Nicholas and John Brown to William Chace, 7 July 1776, ibid., 960–61). During the next few weeks Chace captured five prizes including the ship Jane, which was taken on 22 July. Bound from the island of Dominica in the West Indies to Bristol, England, the Jane carried a cargo of sugar and oil and several passengers, including “a Youth about 7 years of Age, Son to the Governor of Dominica; Mr. Hutchinson, a Member of the Council of that Island; and Mr. Charles Hobby Hubbart, of Boston” (Providence Gazette, 17 Aug. 1776). Thomas Shirley served as governor of Dominica from 1775 to 1778 when the island was taken by the French. Shirley also was governor of the Bahamas from 1768 to 1774 and the Leeward Islands from 1781 to 1788. William Hutchinson, the councillor, was a nephew of Governor Shirley.

4The draft reads: “and its Success.”

5The draft reads: “of our Two Continental Battalions.”

6“An Act for numbering all persons able to bear arms within this state” was passed by the Rhode Island general assembly during its second March session, which began on 24 Mar. (see Bartlett, R.I. Records description begins John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, in New England. 10 vols. Providence, 1856–65. description ends , 8:188–90, 198). The assembly met again on 17 April. During that session it voted to set Continental recruiting quotas for various towns, and it authorized an additional recruiting bounty (see ibid., 200–203).

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