From John Page
Wmsburg [Va.] in Council August 15th 1777
I have this moment received undoubted Information, by Express from Captain Bright of the Northampton armed Brigg of this State lying off Cape Charles that, last Night at 9 oClock, he saw from his masthead at least 100 Sail of Ships standing directly into the Capes1—This Fleet was seen on Tuesday last by James Henry Esqr. and several other Gentlemen of Accomack County on their Coasts2 An account of which they sent us by Express, which came to hand last night. After giving you this Information Sir, the Board would submit it to your Judgement whether the Regiment lately Ordered by our Assembly to join you, & which is now under Inoculation at Alexandria ought not to return to this place as soon as it would be safe for them to march through the Country or at least remain where they are till the Designs of the Enemy can be more certainly known. Presuming that your Excellency will approve of the latter the Board have given Directions that the Regiment shall not proceed on their march till further orders. I am with the greatest Respect & Esteem your Excellency’s Mo. obedt Servt
ALS, enclosed in John Hancock to GW, 21 Aug. 1777, DLC:GW.
1. Francis Bright, who commanded the Virginia navy brig Northampton from 1776 to 1780, and who was part owner and captain of the brigantine Courtney in 1782, had been ordered by the Virginia navy board to prepare his vessel for a four-month cruise along the Eastern Shore of Virginia on 30 July. A more detailed account of the sighting of the British fleet off the Virginia coast on 14 Aug. was given by Capt. Thomas Timpson of the Nancy on 17 Aug.: “Last Thursday the 14th Inst As he was Lying Abrest of Isaac’s Shoals Near Cape Charles, in Company with a Arm’d Brig, Capt Blith [Bright], and a Galley Capt [Celey] Sanders [Saunders] Both belonging to the State of Virginia, with Sundr[y] orther Vesals, when they descovered the Enemeys fleat, Standg in from Sea, th[e]y Counted destincly Sixty Sail and many Others that th[e]y Could not Count, att Dusk in the Eavening, then on the mast head of the Brig See the Whole fleet Standing into the Capes with the Wind S.E. & Tide of Flood Att this time the Brigg and Galley gott under way, fireing Signal gun’s to Alarm the Countrey, Capt Timson says he thinks th[e]y Both sent into Chirrystone to Watch the Enimeys motions, Capt Blith [Bright] Sent his Whale Boat to Williamsbourg to inform them of the fleet—the fleet being Large and Night Coming On Could not discover the Quantity of Man of Ware, amongst them, there Was three Saill of do Friggets had layed between the Capes for Some time before,—Capt Timson Say’s he attemted to gett out the Same day before he See the Fleet, that was Standing in, A man of Ware lying on the tale of the Midle ground, which Sent two Boats, to take him, which Oblig’d him to turn Back and Anchord by the Brigg” (Intelligence Report on the Movement of Vice Admiral Howe’s Fleet, 17 Aug. 1777, 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 , 9:764–65). Page also wrote to Maryland governor Thomas Johnson on this date to apprise him of Bright’s discovery of the fleet (ibid., 749).
2. The previous Tuesday was 12 Aug. 1777. James Henry (1731–1804) lived at Sea View, a plantation situated near metompkin Inlet on Virginia’s Eastern Shore in Accomack County. Henry, who had studied law at the University of Edinburgh and in Philadelphia before settling in Accomack County, where he became an outstanding attorney, had been instrumental in the founding of Onancock, the largest town on the Eastern Shore, in 1761.