James Madison Papers

Board of Admiralty to Abraham Whipple, 24 March 1780

Board of Admiralty to Abraham Whipple

FC (NA: PCC, Marine Committee Letter Book, fol. 271).

March 24th. 1780


We wrote you the 26th february in answer to your letter of the 7th January, since which we are favoured with yours of the 14th february.2 In your letter of the 7th. January you request that a quantity of Bread and flour may be sent you from hence, this is not in our power at present to accomplish and if it were the dificulty of Procuring Vessels to transport it together with the probabiltity of its falling into the enemys hands is such that it would be very imprudent at this time to attempt it. We are also informed by the South Carolina Delegates that the State can furnish the Squadron with A Substitute for those Articles3

The Board have an high opinion of your Zeal for the Service of your Country and doubt not your exerting it on every Occasion relying on your prudence and Oeconomy, We are

Sir Your very Hble servants    By Order

John Brown Secy4

1Captain Abraham Whipple (1733–1819) of Providence, R.I.

2John Brown’s letter to Whipple of 26 February is in Charles O. Paullin, ed., Out-Letters of Board of Admiralty, II, 163. Whipple’s two letters have not been found. On 23 December 1779, Whipple’s fleet, consisting of the frigates “Providence,” “Boston,” and “Queen of France” and sloop of war “Ranger,” reached Charleston to co-operate with General Benjamin Lincoln in defending that city against the British forces comprising ships and General Clinton’s army. With the exception of the “Queen of France,” which had been sunk to help block the Cooper River against the enemy, Whipple’s vessels were surrendered to the British when they captured Charleston on 12 May 1780 (Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution [2 vols.; Boston, 1913], II, 403, 495, 497).

3On 29 February 1780 the North Carolina delegates in Congress informed Governor Richard Caswell of that state that “North Carolina assumed [the obligation to furnish] the flower because South Carolina could furnish none, and the Troops from Virginia and north Carolina cannot be Subsisted upon Rice” (Burnett, Letters description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress (8 vols.; Washington, D.C., 1921–36). description ends , V, 58).

4John Brown (1748–1833) of Pennsylvania became secretary of the Marine Committee soon after its establishment on 14 December 1775 and, when the Board of Admiralty succeeded the Marine Committee in 1779, he continued as secretary. When Robert Morris became agent of marine in September 1781, he sent Brown to Boston as naval agent. The Navy Board at Boston continued to operate, however, and did not turn over its records to Brown until the spring of 1782 (information from Rear Admiral E. M. Eller, Director of Naval History, Department of the Navy; Emelin Knox Parker, “A Biographical Sketch of John Brown.” typescript, March 1929, in Historical Society of Pennsylvania).

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