George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Captain John Barry, 9 March 1778

From Captain John Barry

Port Penn [Delaware River] March 9th 1778

Dear General

Tis with the Greatest Satisfaction Imaginable I inform You of Capturing two Ships & a Schooner of the Enemy. The two Ships were Transports from Rhode Island Loaded with forage One Mounting Six four Pounders with fourteen hands Each the Schooner is in the Engineering Department Mounting Eight Double fortified four Pounders & twelve four Pound howitz Properly fitted in Every Particular & Manned with thirty three men1 Among the Prisoners is a Lieutenant in the Same Departmen with the Schooner the Lieutenant together with the Captain of the Schooner Being Verry Solicitous for the Liberty of a Fortnight thoug⟨ht⟩ Proper By the Advice of Nicholas Vandyke Esqr. (a Member of Congress) to allow them their Parole for a fortnight to Go to Philadelphia with Some Officers Lady’s that were taken in the Schooner,2 the Schooner is a most Excellent Vessel for Our Purpose & as there Are a Number of Ships Expected in Under Verry Little Convoy with the farther assistance of about forty men should Give a Verry Good account of them, as the Enemy are Greatly Necessiated for want of Forage, the Schooner is Unloaded But have not as Yet the Manifest of the Cargo But are a Number of Engineering Tools on Board. Shall Give You a Circumstantial account of the Whole Cargo as Soon as Possible By the Bearer Mr John Chilton have Sent You a Cheese Together with a Jar of Pickled Oysters which Crave Your Acceptance3 Should have Remitted the Particulars Together with the Letters & Dispatch for General De hester Before4 But a fleet of the Enemys Small Vessels appearing in Sight Obliged me to Burn One of the Ships & am afraid the Other will share the same fate after Discharging her But am Determined to hold the Schooner at all Events Inclosed You have the Articles of the Schooners Capitulation as we Sent a flag on Board her After Boarding the two Ships5 & am Sir with Due Respect Your Excellncies Most Obedient Humbl. Servt

John Barry

ALS, DLC:GW; copy (extract), enclosed in GW to Henry Laurens, 12 Mar., DNA:PCC, item 152; copy (extract), DNA:PCC, item 169. The extracts omit the passage discussing the gifts carried by Chilton and the passage mentioning the enclosure of the articles of capitulation.

1The two ships captured on 7 Mar. were the Mermaid and the Kitty; the schooner was the Alert. The New-Jersey Gazette (Trenton) of 18 Mar. gave a report of the action that was widely reprinted: “We learn that on the 12th instant a fleet of transports, under convoy of several vessels of war, arrived at Philadelphia from Rhode-Island. On their passage up the Delaware, two of the transports, viz. the Katy and Mermaid, with forage, one of which mounting six four pounders, being at some distance a-head, were attacked by eight of our armed boats under the command of Captain Barry, who, after a smart though short engagement, obliged both of the ships to strike. Soon after the armed schooner Alert, mounting eight four pounders and ten howitz, came up, when another action commenced, and the Alert, notwithstanding she bravely defended herself, was also obliged to submit. The other armed vessels, which were convoying the remaining part of the fleet, observing at a distance the fate of the ships and schooner, made haste to their assistance, but our people having taken out the passengers, &c. and stripped the ships, set fire to them, by which they were destroyed. Captain Barry intended to have run the schooner into Christiana Creek, but finding himself too closely pursued by the enemy, he put her ashore near Hamburgh a little below Newcastle, where he got out most of the valuable articles.” For other accounts, see Pennsylvania Gazette (York), 21 Mar.; Royal Pennsylvania Gazette (Philadelphia), 13 Mar., or Pennsylvania Evening Post (Philadelphia), 13 Mar.; Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York), 11 April; Scull, Montresor Journals description begins G. D. Scull, ed. The Montresor Journals. New York, 1882. In Collections of the New-York Historical Society, vol. 14. description ends , 481; and “Matthewman Narrative,” description begins “Narrative of Lieut. Luke Matthewman of the Revolutionary Navy.” Magazine of American History with Notes and Queries 2 (1878): 175–85. description ends 178.

2Nicholas Van Dyke (1738–1789), a New Castle lawyer who was first elected to represent Delaware at the Continental Congress on 22 Feb. 1777, attended Congress, somewhat irregularly, until August 1781. He served as president of Delaware from 1 Feb. 1783 to 27 Oct. 1786. Daniel Moore, the captain of the schooner Alert, apparently was not commissioned in the Royal Navy. He may be the Capt. Daniel Moore of New York who died in 1780 of wounds incurred in an engagement with the “Rebel brig Holker” while commanding the cruiser Sir George Rodney (Royal Gazette [New York], 12 July 1780). The lieutenant was 2d Lt. James Stratton, whose rank in the corps of engineers dated from 2 Feb. 1775. According to a report in Rivington’s Royal Gazette (New York), 21 Mar., those on board the Alert included “Mrs. Wellington, Mrs. Sproule, and her family,” probably the spouses of Capt.-Lt. James Wellington (Willington) and Lt. George Sproule.

3Reputedly John Chilton was a Continental warrant officer.

4Barry apparently is referring to Hessian letters captured with the Alert. Hessian major Carl Leopold Baurmeister wrote that “Counsellor of War Lorentz had sent by this schooner a package of letters from New York addressed to Paymaster Schmidt. On the 10th all these letters were returned from Valley Forge under a flag of truce with a very courteous letter from General Washington to his Excellency Lieutenant General von Knyphausen. All the letters were opened, but returned intact. Among them was one with £1,900 sterling on the paymaster’s account” (Baurmeister, Revolution in America description begins Carl Leopold Baurmeister. Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776–1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces. Translated and annotated by Bernhard A. Uhlendorf. New Brunswick, N.J., 1957. description ends , 155; see also Muenchhausen, At General Howe’s Side description begins Friedrich von Muenchhausen. At General Howe’s Side, 1776–1778: The Diary of General William Howe’s Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen. Translated by Ernst Kipping. Annotated by Samuel Smith. Monmouth Beach, N.J., 1974. description ends , 48, and Jedediah Huntington to Jabez Huntington, 13 Mar., Huntington Papers description begins Huntington Papers: Correspondence of the Brothers Joshua and Jedediah Huntington during the Period of the American Revolution. Hartford, 1923. In Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, vol. 20. description ends , 404–5).

5The articles of capitulation, dated 7 Mar., were signed by Daniel Moore, master of the schooner Alert, and Luke Matthewman, a lieutenant in the Continental navy, and ratified by Barry. The schooner was surrendered on condition that “Every Lady in the Ship is to have their Baggage &c. Belonging to their own Private Property. The Lady’s are to Be Sent to Philadelphia By the first Conveyance. The Men to Remain Prisoner of War ’till Exchanged. Dilworth the Pilot to be held as a Prisoner of War” (DLC:GW).

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