Benjamin Franklin Papers

To Benjamin Franklin from Michael Bright, Champion Wood, Levy Yonger, and Bartholomew Cashman, 21 February 1782

From Michael Bright, Champion Wood, Levy Yonger, and Bartholemew Cashman6

ALS: American Philosophical Society

Bason Prison Haver de grase Feby. 21st. 1782

Honour’d Sir,

We are very sorry to inform you that after makeing our escape from forton Prison in England by givin four Guineas a Peice to the Comisarys Clarks, thay gave us some of the french Prisoners Names that had enter’d into the Bretish service to pass with the french Prisoners, after we arrived here, we went to the Comisary for a Pass Port to go to LOrient after he had examin’d us he sent us to Prison where we Remain in a Dismal situation distitute of money Cloths and Nessarys of Life and know not what is the Reason of our being Confind, Capt. Middleton a Gentleman that came the same way was Cleared and had a Pass Port for Burdox.7 If you would be so kind as to send orders to the Comisary to Releice us we should take it very kind, likewise we shoul be very glad if you would send us something to support our selves till we could get to LOrient or else ware in order to git to America.

Sir, We think it very hard that after suffering some of us Thirty Months and others 18 Months for our Countrys Cause and then, when we arrived in france to be put into Prison and [know] not what for, and not allow’d to speek to any of our Country Men that is in the Town.

Sir, We Remain your friends and Country Men8

Michl. Bright } of Philada.
Champon. Wood
Levy Yonger } of Cape Ann
Bartholemew Cashman } Boston

Addressed: To / The Right Honourable / Dr. Benjamin Franklin / American Plenapotentary / at / Paris

Notation: Bright, Michael &c. Havre Fevr: 21. 1781.

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

6Bright had been steward aboard the Active and quite likely was the Michael Bright of Philadelphia (1762–1812) who was the son of Jacob and Susanna Rittenhouse Bright: Kaminkow, Mariners, p. 23; W.A. Newman Dorland, “The Second Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry,” PMHB, LIV (1930), 184–5; Elaine Forman Crane et al., eds., The Diary of Elizabeth Drinker (3 vols., Boston, 1991), III, 2118. Wood was captured while serving aboard the Hetty, Cashman while on the Daniel, and Yonger (Younger) while on the General Glover: Kaminkow, Mariners, pp. 35, 210, 213.

7Capt. William Middleton of Annapolis, Md., had been captured just outside Chesapeake Bay and committed to Forton prison on May 24, 1781: Claghorn, Naval Officers, p. 207. He had been carrying dispatches from Lafayette to Barras, according to a petition written to Lafayette on his behalf by the Nantais firm of Wallace, Johnson & Muir on Feb. 12, 1782, and forwarded by Lafayette to BF (APS). Multiple confinements in the black hole had left Middleton deaf and weakened by illness. The firm begged Lafayette to arrange for him to be exchanged for Hugh Crawford, second officer of the ship Marie from Glasgow, captured in September, 1781, by the American privateer Somerset and now living in Ancenis under the firm’s bond. Their model for this proposal was the recent exchange of John Kinnier for Capt. Bell. Claiming acquaintance with BF, they are sure he will help.

We have no record of BF’s direct involvement in the case, but Middleton received financial assistance in April from John Bondfield, and in May from JW (at Lafayette’s direction): Account XXVII; JW to Lafayette, May 7, 1782 (Yale University Library).

8The men wrote again from Honfleur on Feb. 26 (APS). They had been imprisoned at Le Havre for eight days and were en route to Brest where the commissary was sending them on board a man of war. They begged BF to send orders to Brest for their relief. On the same day Bright wrote a similar letter to James Cuming at Lorient, which was fowarded to BF: Bright to Cuming, Feb. 26; Cuming and Macarty to BF, March 25, both at APS.

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