George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Watson, 29–30 January 1776

From William Watson

Plymouth [Mass.] 29[-30] Jany 1776


I must ask your Excellencys Pardon for omitting in my last, some very meterial circumstances relative to the capture of Commodore Manlys last prizes1—I had not when I wrote, got an exact account of the matter, since w[hic]h the Commodore tells me that he had taken the prizes, & had put his people on board them some time before the Tender came to Their assistance, that there were two other Vessels from Nova scotia with stock, in company with these ships, & that the whole fleet with the Tender, wod have been taken, had it not been for the cowardice of one of our Continental armed Vessels, who was very near them, but dared not engage, & who made the best of his way off—Commodore Manly fought in very disadvantageous circumstances not haveing more than sixteen of his own people on board; but then, he receivd considerable assistance from his prisoners, more particularly from the Captains, who did as much as they dared do in such circumstances.2

Your Excellency will please to direct me in what manner I shall conduct with these Captains relative to what they brot with them on their own account, memorandum of w[hic]h is inclosed. If these people are indulged to return to Plymouth to take care of their effects (provided their private adventures are given them) will it be any disadvantage to the public? however, your Excelly will much oblige our people, particularly the people belonging to the armed vessels, if youl permitt the Bazes & Chex, to be stop’d here, as they are greatly wantd to make them shirts.3

Commodore Manly is now in our harbour, has been puzled with the Ice, (with which we are now blocked up) but has received no damage—The Harison Capt. Dyar is now in the Ice, has lost a⟨n⟩ anchor & cable, but we hope to find them again, we are now cuting the ice & hope to get him out without further damage.

I shall do every thing in my power to forward geting these vessels to sea, as a large number of ships from England are expected with provisions, & but one of them is of any force.

Capt. Morton, of the artilery, the bearer of this, takes charge of the prisoners, Capts. Hall & Grindall, who wod have been sent forward before, had not the extreme cold weather prevented.4 I am most respectfully your Excellen⟨cy’s⟩ most obedient much obliged very hume servant

William Watson

Tuesday morning [30 January] 8 OClock The Hancock, Manly & the yankee Barnes now under sail bound on a cruize.5


2The British tender was the General Gage, and the two captains who assisted Manley were James Hall of the Happy Return and Jonathan Grendall of the Norfolk. Manley was short-handed aboard the Hancock because of the prize crews that he had put on the two captured vessels. At the end of the engagement, it was reported, “Manley had but six cartridges left” (extract of a letter from Whitehaven, 18 June 1776, in Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 3:996, n.2). The rigging of the Hancock was somewhat damaged in the fighting, and Manley’s gunner was wounded (Boston-Gazette, and Country Journal, 5 Feb. 1776, ibid., 1132–33). On 1 Feb. Stephen Moylan wrote to Watson: “There must be an enquirey made into the Conduct of that Captain who So shamefully deserted his Commodore[.] please to Let the General know which of the schooners it was” (DLC:GW).

3The enclosed “Memorandum of Sundrys belonging to the Captains Hall & Grindal” lists “12 peaces Check lining Cost £36.12.2d., 10 ps. Red baze 14.1.6, 4 ps. Coorse lining 6.1.4, two Ullage Jama[i]ca rum, 1 hand Gun, 20 barrells beefe, 8 Ditto Pork” (DLC:GW). “The General,” Moylan replied to Watson on 1 Feb., “thinks it will be proper that the Captains of these vessels prove upon oath their private property—after which you may deliver to them all except the beef & pork, which he thinks most probable belongs to the vessels, if it does not, it is clear that they must be meant for Supplying the Enemy, upon that principle he does not think it will be proper to give them unto the Captains—His Excellency has no objections to these Gentlemen returning to Plymouth nor has he any objections to their disposeing of the Check & Baize at your place if they Chuse it” (ibid.).

4Dimond Morton served in Col. Henry Knox’s regiment of Continental artillery from December 1775 to December 1776.

5Corban Barnes (c.1733–1807) of Plymouth commanded the privateer Yankee, a sloop of 75 tons. On 23 Feb. the Yankee and the armed vessel Harrison engaged the British warship Hope off Plymouth, and Barnes was credited with saving the Harrison from destruction (Watson to Joseph Trumbull, 26 Feb. 1776, in Clark, Naval Documents description begins William Bell Clark et al., eds. Naval Documents of the American Revolution. 11 vols. to date. Washington, D.C., 1964–. description ends , 4:84–85).

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