George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Benjamin Tupper, 5 October 1780

Camp Octr the 5th 1780


In the begining of the present war my mind was some taken up in some small Interprises by water, and however I might fail in some attempts yet my mind is often taken up upon those matters.

as the project of Mr Bushnell was a matter of speculation for a considerable time, at present it seems to be out of every bodys thought (for aught I know) but my own—I never was satisfied but his plan with some Improvments might prove affectual for the distruction of a number of the Enemies Ships, and as another experiment of that Nature would be of no great expence, would humbly propose the folowing method, (taking this as granted that 25 or 30 lb. of power Blown off six feet under water along side of a ship will sink her) as the only difficulty has been in fixing the magazian of power in a proper position for that purpose would beg leave to propose the following Stratagem, let an officer be orderd to recruit a number of men (perhaps 50 or 60) for the purpose of Guard boats, let it be their orders always to be on the sea-coast as nigh the Enemies ships as he can with safty at least with six light boats well mand, let it be publickly known that his orders are to watch the enemis motions especialy to prevent their landing a party in the night to destress the Inhabitants, while this is prepairing let there be prepaird six Machines, for blowing up ships which I think might be made for 60 dollars each in good money, when all is ready let the officer take post agreeable to the known orders, as soon as this is affected let him acquaint the Commanding officer of the British fleet what his orders are, and that some circumstances has made it necessary for him to Act in a different manner from what he has done, and that he has long saught for the present opportunity to serve the thing (I mean a shipping trick he is now exchanging his paper money a way for provisions which he would be glad to supply the fleet with as fast as he can colect it, and not be suspeted provided his boats might come along side of the ship and return at a proper hower to prevent suspision that he might be able to turn his paper into hard let the officer be provided with such things as would best sute their tastes [&] untill he is prity well established in their minds, then having his Machines ready as the time may best serve to fix under the botom of his own boats, one to each who shall have a proper ship assignd him, and to have them fixt in such a manner that by sticking in a small tack to the side of the Ships with the boat-hook which must be so fixt as to be easily disingagd from the boat hook—at the same time a Wier must be made fast to the forementiond tack and to the Machien which is still under the boat when this is done he must have a screw fixt runing through the boat which all this time has secured the Machine and the screw must be so fixd that by a little exartion with his heel may turn the screw so as to disingage the whole at the same time set the clock work going which may run from one to ten hour at the masters pleasure let them be all fixd at a certain hower to run the same time, and if it should succeed might perhaps destroy a number of the British ships in a moment, if the scetch or out-lines here drew should not be agreeable to your Excellency yet I hope that my officiousness will be excused when I assure your Excellency that if it proceeds from an Enthusiastic head it is from an honest Intent of your Excellencys most obedent humble Servant

Benj. Tupper

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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