Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from the American Prisoners at Dinan, 15 November 1778

From the American Prisoners at Dinan

ALS:6 American Philosophical Society

Dennant Castle November 15th: 1778

The Petition of the under Subscribed Americans Confined in Dennant Castle—Humbly Sheweth,

That your poor Petitioners, Imboldened by your Destinguished Character for Justice, and well known Zeal for our Countrys cause, Once More, Beg leave to lay our Circumstances before you, Being of Opinion our Former Petitiones Unfortunately Miscarryed—as We never Received (or Saw) any Answers—only one Directed to Harisson, Driver & Lamb, desireing all Sutch as were Americans, or had been in her Service, and were Willing to take an Oath of Fidelity, to Stand, or fall by her Cause, shou’d Subscribe their Names in answer to that, which made us your Petitioners, Joyfully Annex ours in Company with the above Persons,7 but Immagin there is some Missunderstanding, they haveing since Obtained their Inlaregent, and not the least Mention of us—Who Humbly Persume, If our Sufferings, and Servitude, Joined to those of our, Relations, & friends, who are at present in the Service, can any way Claim Your further Notice, no poor Prisoners here, can with Justice have a Better Title to Your Protection, as we have Sarved our Country by land and Sea— Abraham Fairman taken at the Battle of Bunkers Hill, and Sent in Irons on Board the Preston Frigate to England, during which time he Suffered Many Hardships & was afterwards forced into the English Service— John Williams taken with Capn Courtnor8 on board the Oliver Cromwell, made his Esscape and got home, but was Afterwads taken with Captain Alexander on Board the Dellawire Frigate, at Philadelphia—9 Keatings Brother in law Captain Tatem, has at present, the Command, of A Company under Lieutenant Colonel Thackson,1 and so are the most of his friends and Kindred in the service at Virginea, As likewise Wm. Berrys, who was himself Dangerously Wounded, at the Ingagement, under General Moor, on Bald Head,2 having received A ball thro his Thigh, he was left, at Newburn Hosspital, But when Recovered, went with Capt: Josua Amsted in the Pensilvania Farmer3 to Bring Stores and Amunition, and Afterward in Cornelius Annilals who was Lieutenant with Capn. Amstead on Board the Pensylvania Farmer, But got the Blueford Scooner, on Board which Scooner he was Taken & Carryed Prisoner to Jamaica, and so Afterwards forced into the English Service, as we have all been, wholy Against our Inclination and to our greatest Regrett, I am fearfull of taking up to much of our Honours time, in Dwelling upon these, Subjects: therefore Conclude Imploaring Your Speedy Answer to this, that we may be Delivered out of our Prest: Uncertain Situation For which Your poor Petitioners, will as in Duty bound ever Pray for Your Success & Aternal Felesity

Wm Berry
Wm Keating
John Williames
Abraham Fairman
Robt: Boughass
John Hanlen
James White

To B. Franklin Esqr—ambasador, for the United States, of America—

Addressed: To / B. Franklin Esqr / Ambasador for the united / States of America, at / Passey Near Pariss

Notation by John Adams: Prisoners, in dinant.—

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6In Keating’s hand. He signed for all the petitioners, as he had for their earlier petition (XXVII, 581–2).

7Robert Harrison had made an appeal on Oct. 7; John Lamb (Lemon) and Edward Driver had written, with John Nichols, on Oct. 12. The commissioners answered those letters on Oct. 15, saying that the four prisoners’ names had been submitted to Sartine, and requesting proofs of allegiance from the other prisoners. William Keating, however, had written an individual appeal on Oct. 8 which BF endorsed; why Keating was not included in the commissioners’ Oct. 15 letter is a mystery. The prisoners responded to the Oct. 15 letter with a petition, penned by Keating, dated Oct. 21. That petition had gone unanswered; but as Harrison, Driver, “Lamb,” and Nichols, who were named in the Oct. 21 petition, had apparently been released in the meantime, the remaining prisoners were understandably concerned. See XXVII, 517, 522, 547, 558, 581–2.

8More recently Harmon Courter (XXV, 682n) had been carrying dispatches to Congress. By May 5 he had written of his safe arrival in Boston: XXVI, 400.

9The Delaware, commanded by Capt. Charles A. Alexander, was captured on Sept. 27, 1777: Naval Docs., IX, 973.

1James Thackston, Lt. Col. 4th N.C. Regiment: Heitman, Register of Officers, p. 396. A number of Tatums served in that state’s regiments: ibid., pp. 392–3.

2For Gen. James Moore (1737–77), see the DAB. During the summer of 1776 he conducted a raid on Bald Head, an island at the mouth of Cape Fear River where a British garrison was stationed to assist the fleet in its effort to block American shipping: David Stick, Bald Head: a History of Smith Island and Cape Fear (Wendell, N.C., 1985), p. 29.

3Joshua Hampstead, Jr., was captain of the N.C. brig of that name which cruised off New Bern in September, 1777: Naval Docs., IX, 1112, 943.

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