George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Watson, 30 October 1775

From William Watson

Plymouth [Mass.] 30 October 1775


Major Tupper the bearer of this will inform your Excellency in what manner he has conducted with the two Vessels taken by him at the Vinyard, it is therefore unnecessary for me to enter into particulars—I wod just observe that Dartmouth is a place of greater safety than this port being much less exposed to Storms & better adapted at this time for fitting out an arm’d Vessel than Plymouth (as the Cannon, if they can be had at Rhode Island, as I understand they can) may be more readily come at—any orders respecting this or any other business shall be obeyed with punctuality & all the dispatch in my power—I have wrote to Mr Leonard Jarvis of Dartmouth to get the Brig graved immediately, a step which Major Tupper thinks necessary as she is very foul & full of worms.1

I wod Inform your Excellency that the Scooner Harrison Capt. Coit will sail this afternoon weather permitting,2 & that the Brigantine Washington will be ready in 2. or 3 days provided Capts. Martendal & Bowen can procure the Cannon & get them from Bristol in season, these Gentlemen set out last Wednesday on that business, I have not heard from them since, the late excessive Rains must have impeded them much or they must have met with difficulty in procuring the cannon—no time shal⟨l⟩ be lost in dispatching the Washington, provisions are ready—powder & Ball match rope & cartridge-paper it will be necessary to send from head Quarters, our Town stock of powder & shott are so exhausted that we think it unsafe to spare any more, more especially as we are threatned with destru⟨ct⟩ion & know not how soon the execution [of] these threat may be attem[p]ted.3 I have the Honour to be with much Respect your Excellencys most obedient much obligd Humb. Servant

William Watson


1For a discussion of the capture of the two vessels at Martha’s Vineyard, see GW to Benjamin Tupper, 20 Oct. 1775, n.1. GW soon decided that neither of these vessels should be armed. On 6 Nov. Stephen Moylan wrote to Watson: “Such articles on board the Vessels taken by Major Tupper as are Subject to perish: you had better have sold off immedy; the Vessels & apurtenances to be securely Laid up, & the Cargoes Carefully Stored, until farther orders from hence, a manifest of the Cargo, you will please to Send us, as soon as made out—The advanced Season of the Year & the difficulty in procuring Cannon, will prevent the General’s ordering more Armed Vessels to be fitted out for the present” (DLC:GW). In a draft of a letter to Watson that was written on 2 Nov. but was never sent, Moylan gives similar instructions regarding the cargoes and tells Watson that GW wishes Tupper’s vessels to be “laid up” at Dartmouth (now New Bedford), Massachusetts. GW’s refusal to arm an additional vessel this year does not appear in the draft, however (ibid.).

2William Coit (b. 1742), a lawyer from New London with earlier experience as a ship master, became a captain in the 6th Connecticut Regiment in the spring of 1775 and served at Roxbury before taking command of the Harrison. Coit tried to sail from Plymouth on 26 and 31 Oct. only to run aground each time on a sandbar near the harbor’s mouth. After the first attempt, Coit wrote to Joseph Reed or GW blaming the mishap on “the Stupidity & Unskilfulness of the Pilot” (Joseph Reed to Ephraim Bowen, Jr., 29 Oct. 1775, ibid.) and apparently complaining about the condition and sailing qualities of the Harrison. Reed answered Coit’s letter of 26 Oct., which has not been found, on 29 Oct.: “I am very Sorry for The Accident that happened, but we hope more Care will be taken in future—The Vessel was well recommended, & as she is a good Sailor we hope you will soon put yourself in a better. We expect a Brig & a Schooner taken at Martha’s Vineyard will be in Plymouth in a few days, Major Tupper who took them requested they might be fitted out from hence, to which the Advance of the Season &c. was objected, but the General consented he might take one of them if he could man & fit her out at Plymouth immediately—If he should want one of them he is to have her, upon those Terms, but you may have the other if you can immediately Shift into her without loss of Time—but we rather wish you should proceed in the Harrison as she is fitted out & sails well—There are a great many Vessels on the Coasts so that you may do your Country great Service & acquire much Honour yourself if you proceed immediately” (ibid.). Coit finally got to sea with the Harrison on 4 Nov., and the next day he captured two vessels carrying provisions. See Ephraim Bowen, Jr., to GW, and Watson to GW, both 6 Nov. 1775. Coit left the Continental service at the end of 1775. The Connecticut council named him captain of the warship Oliver Cromwell on 11 July 1776 but dismissed him the following April.

3The Washington, commanded by Sion Martindale of Bristol, R.I., did not sail until 23 November. Martindale, an experienced seaman who had been serving as a captain in the 3d Rhode Island Regiment, was captured with his vessel on 4 December. See GW to Hancock, 14 and 31 Dec. 1775. Imprisoned for a time in England, Martindale was subsequently sent to Halifax, Nova Scotia, where he escaped in June 1776. In March 1777 the Rhode Island general assembly appointed Martindale a major in charge of the forts and stores at Bristol but dismissed him in December of that year. For Martindale’s and Ephraim Bowen’s journey to Bristol, which began on Tuesday 24 Oct., see Bowen to GW, 16–17 Oct. 1775, n.3, and Nicholas Cooke to GW, 28 Oct. 1775.

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