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Massachusetts Privateer Ship American Tartar




American Tartar

Commander John Grimes

Frigate

29 November 1776-28 August 1777

Massachusetts Privateer Ship


Commissioned/First Date:

29 November 1776

Out of Service/Cause:

28 August 1777/captured by HMS Bienfaisant


Owners:

John Dean, Joseph Barrell et al of Boston, Massachusetts


Tonnage:

318, 350


Battery:

Date Reported: 29 November 1776

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

24/

Total: 24 cannon/

Broadside: 12 cannon/

Swivels:


Date Reported: 20 July 1777

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

20/9-pounder     180 pounds    90 pounds

12/4-pounder       48 pounds    24 pounds

Total: 32 cannon/228 pounds

Broadside: 16 cannon/114 pounds

Swivels:


Date Reported: 2 August 1777

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

10/9-pounder      90 pounds   45 pounds

8/6-pounder        48 pounds   24 pounds

2/4-pounder          8 pounds     4 pounds

4/3-pounder        12 pounds     6 pounds

Total: 24 cannon/158 pounds

Broadside: 12 cannon/79 pounds

Swivels:


Date Reported: 6 August 1777

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

24/

Total: 24 cannon/

Broadside: 12 cannon/

Swivels:


Crew:

(1) 29 November 1776: 151 [total]
(2) 20 July 1777: 200 [total]
(3) 2 August 1777: 110 [total]
(4) 6 August 1777: 100 [total]
(5) 8 August 1777: 130 [total]


Description:

The ship had an image figurehead, and was painted black and yellow with tarred sides and short topgallant mastheads; the guns on the main deck were painted black, those on the quarterdeck and forecastle were painted red.


Officers:

(1) First Lieutenant John Adams, 29 November 1776-; (2) First Lieutenant John Guliker, -28 August 1777; (3) Second Lieutenant Alexander Mackay, 29 November 1776-28 August 1777; (4) Third Lieutenant Oliver Reed, 29 November 1776-28 August 1777; (5) Master John Eveleigh, 29 November 1776-28 August 1777; (6) Captain of Marines William Smith, 29 November 1776-22 September 1777; (7) Surgeon Samuel Blanchard, 29 November 1776-28 August 1777


Cruises:

(1) Cape Ann (Gloucester), Massachusetts, to sea with the Continental Navy Ship Hancock, Continental Navy Ship Boston, and several privateers, 22 May 1777-28 August 1777


Prizes:

(1) Brigantine Sally, June 1777

(2) Brig [unknown], [13] July 1777

(3) Brig [unknown], [13] July 1777

(4) Ship Royal Bounty (William Kerr), [15] July 1777, off the Shetland Islands

(5) Ship Janet, [15] July 1777, off the Shetland Islands

(6) Snow Charming Jenny (Walker), [15] July 1777, off the Shetland Islands

(7) Ship Nautilus (George Corney), 20 July 1777, fifteen miles northwest by north of Lewis, Scotland

(8) Ship Peggy, 28 July 1777, fifteen miles west southwest of the Naze, Norway

(9) Brig Fanny (Joseph Mills), 28 July 1777, fifteen miles west southwest of the Naze, Norway

(10) Ship Thomas and Elizabeth (Anthony Watson), 28 July 1777, forty-eight miles east northeast of the Naze, Norway


Actions:

(1) Action with Pole, 12 July 1777
(2) Action with Bienfaisant, 28 August 1777


Comments:


Massachusetts Privateer Ship American Tartar was commissioned under Commander John Grimes on 29 November 1776,1 then a resident of Marblehead, Massachusetts.2 She was listed as having a battery of twenty-four guns and as having a crew of 150 men. Her $10000 Continental bond was signed by Grimes, and by John Dean and Mungo Mackay of Boston, Massachusetts. Her owners were listed as Dean and Joseph Barrell and others.3 American Tartar had formerly been the Britannia, sailing out of New York.4


American Tartar was a large vessel for a privateer. Her tonnage by measure was 318 tons.5 Other sources indicate it was 350 tons.6


Aboard the American Tartar as First Lieutenant or John Adams,7 John Eveleigh as Master,8 Alexander Mackay as Second Lieutenant,9 Oliver Reed as Third Lieutenant,10 William Smith as Captain of Marines,11 and Samuel Blanchard as Surgeon.12 Evidently Adams left before American Tartar sailed, for John Galeker13 [Guliker] was First Lieutenant on the cruise.


The American Tartar was a very strong vessel, being armed with a battery of twenty-four guns, ranging in caliber from 9-pounders down to 4-pounders, and was capable of fighting off a small British frigate. She cost over £12000 to fit out. On 22 March 1777 her owners petitioned the Massachusetts authorities for permission to enlist a crew and sail, despite the current embargo on privateer departures. The owners also offered to allow the American Tartar to sail with the two Continental Navy frigates, Hancock (Captain John Manley) and Boston (Captain Hector McNeill), which were preparing to patrol off the New England coast.14 The Massachusetts authorities quickly accepted the offer.15


On 22 May 1777 the Continental frigates and associated privateers sailed from Boston, pausing off Cape Ann to allow the big privateer to work out of harbor and join the fleet.16 American Tartar’s participation in the fleet was brief. She chased vessels to the west northwest of the fleet on 24 May, and participated in the chase of a large vessel off Portsmouth, New Hampshire on the same day; a vessel which turned out to be friendly.17 For a few more days Grimes stayed with the fleet and then the American Tartar broke away and steered for northern European waters.


On his passage to Europe Grimes captured the 140-ton brigantine Sally. She was sent off to Boston, where she was libeled on 17 July 1777, in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District. Sally’s trial was to be held on 29 July.18 Sally might have been a recapture.


At 1700 on 12 July, at 56°N, 26°W 19 (or 50°N, 20°W),20 the American Tartar fell in with the ship Pole (Maddock). Pole had sailed from New York on 26 June bound for Liverpool, England with passengers. Pole was armed with sixteen 6-pounders and had forty men aboard, including the passengers. Grimes bore down on the Pole with English colors flying from American Tartar’s yards. He ran up alongside the Pole and hailed Maddock, asking from where Pole had come and whether she was a “King’s ship.” When Maddock answered in the affirmative,21 Grimes “gave orders to hoist the thirteen stripes and fire away.”22 A heavy engagement began which continued until 2020. The action was fought at close quarters, within hailing distance. The British fought hard and well, clearing the American Tartar’s forecastle deck three times. The cries of wounded men could be heard on the Pole. Finally Grimes sheered off and left the Pole. The British reported two mates and a passenger wounded when Pole made Liverpool on 20 July. Maddock was able to give a complete description of the raider, as well as a positive identification, for he had seen her name painted on her stern,23 and estimated her crew as about 200 men.24


According to Maddock, the American Tartar had an image figurehead, and was painted black and yellow with tarred sides and short topgallant mastheads. The guns on the main deck were painted black, those on the quarterdeck and forecastle were painted red.25


Grimes began to look for easier prey and soon found what he was looking for. About 13 July, off the Shetland Islands, a brig loaded with lumber and hides was captured. The hides were removed and the tackle and furnishings were stripped and the brig was burned.26 A second brig was captured, with a cargo of tar.27 She was kept with the American Tartar for the time being.


 The next day, about 14 July 1777,28 still off the Shetland Islands,29 the American Tartar encountered the 300 ton30 ship Royal Bounty (William Kerr), from Greenland bound to Leith, Scotland.31 Royal Bounty was soon secured, and a prize crew of nine men put aboard, under Captain of Marines William Smith.32 She was kept with the raider for the next three weeks.33 Thirty barrels of tar were removed from the second brig to the Royal Bounty, and she was released to her master. The tackle and hides from the first brig were also stored on the Royal Bounty.34


The next day35 the ship36 or brig37 Janet, owned in Irvine, with a cargo of deals 38 and calf skins, was captured, also near the Shetland Islands, and in bound from Norway. Some 800 calf skins were removed to the American Tartar,39 as was Janet’s crew. They were detained aboard. Janet was kept in company with the raider for the time being. Next the snow40 or brig41 Charming Jenny (Walker) was captured,42 perhaps on 15 July.43 Charming Jenny was bound from Memel to Workington. Grimes now had fifty-five prisoners aboard the American Tartar.44 After stripping the Janet of part of her cargo (being some calf skins),45 Grimes put most of his prisoners aboard the Janet,46 including the skipper and crew of the Royal Bounty,47 and released her as a cartel vessel. Janet arrived at Banff, Scotland on 8 August 1777.48 Charming Jenny was burned.49


Grimes evidently took a liking to Captain Walker while he was aboard the privateer. Grimes tried to get Walker to enlist with him, and confided to Walker his plans for an assault, or at least a landing, on Orkney and Zetland Islands. Grimes also let Walker know that he had served on HMS Tartar during the Seven Years’ War and had moved to America when peace came, settling on Long Island. When the British invaded New York they took or destroyed all Grimes’ property and used his wife and family “extremely ill.” Walker also reported the American Tartar’s Second Lieutenant was a former Newcastle keelboatman who had been transported to America for theft. One can almost hear the disdainful tone of expression. Perhaps Grimes preferred the company of former thieves to that of the countrymen of those soldiers who had raped his wife.50


American Tartar was now steered down near the Isle of Lewis. The 180-ton51 ship52 or brigantine53 Nautilus (George Corney) was captured some fifteen miles northwest by north of Lewis, at 1700 on 20 July. Nautilus was en route from Greenland to Liverpool with blubber and whalefin and had a crew of thirty-four men aboard. Grimes detained the whaler for two days, removing various articles of cordage, sails, provisions, and stores. He then put a prize crew of eight men aboard, along with three of Corney’s apprentices and a British prisoner from a recaptured vessel, and sent Nautilus off for America. She arrived safely at Salem, Massachusetts54 and was libeled on 11 September 1777.55 Trial was set for 7 October 1777.56


The American Tartar then bore away for the Naze of Norway: the talkative Grimes told Corney his orders were to “take, sink, burn, and destroy” all ships from the Baltic. Grimes had his crew paint out the name Tartar on the stern of the ship, using paint removed from the Nautilus.57


General area of the Skagerrak. “The Naze of Norway” is now Lindesnes.

She was next heard from, if this be her, off Akersund [Eigersund], Norway. Here Grimes sent his boat ashore to obtain provisions, which were paid for. Witnesses noted that the American Tartar had twenty-six or twenty-eight guns and a full crew. A vessel thought to be a prize was in company with her.58

On 28 July, some fifteen miles west southwest of the Naze, the ship Peggy, from Memel to Glasgow with a cargo of lumber, was captured. About a half hour later the brig Fanny (Joseph Mills), from Christiana [Oslo], Norway, to Berwick, Scotland with a cargo of deals, was secured. At 2200 the ship59 or brig60 Thomas and Elizabeth (Anthony Watson), St. Petersburg, Russia to Leith, Scotland, with a cargo of deals and iron, was captured, forty-eight miles east northeast of the Naze.61 The Thomas and Elizabeth was plundered of her cabin furniture and fittings which were put aboard the privateer. Since she was leaky she was scuttled. Fanny was stripped and her tackle and furniture put on the Royal Bounty. She was then burned.62 After plundering the Fanny and the Thomas and Elizabeth, Grimes put the crews aboard the Peggy and released her as a cartel vessel. She arrived at Whitby, England on 2 August 1777 with the prisoners.63


About 4 August Royal Bounty was ordered away to Boston, Massachusetts. However, Royal Bounty was recaptured by HM Frigate Diamond’s tender64 on 22 September 1777,65 off Cape Ann, Massachusetts.66 The prisoners were removed to the Diamond and turned over to Halifax jail on 25 October 1777.67 On 8 November 1777 Smith was sent aboard a cartel at Halifax for exchange,68 and his exchange had been effected by 10 December 1777, along with the prize crew.69


By now the Admiralty was well alerted to the presence of the raider. On 6 August HM Frigate Pelican (Captain Henry Lloyd) was ordered to sail from the Downs and patrol a line between the Naze of Norway and Jutt’s Reef, both to intercept the American Tartar and to protect British shipping in the area.70 By this time Grimes was steering for home waters.


On 28 August the American Tartar was out in the ocean, presumably steering for a French or Spanish port. At 46°54'N, 40°26'W and 417 miles northwest of Corvo, she fell in with a British warship. The stranger was not the light frigate that the American Tartar was designed to fight off, but the 64-gun British battleship HMS Bienfaisant (Captain John Macbride). The weather was squally, windy, and rainy, which favored the bigger ship in the chase that followed. Bienfaisant had spotted the American Tartar early, chasing from 0500. The British battleship only got within gunshot eleven hours later, at 1600. Macbride opened fire with her bow-chasers, firing twenty-seven rounds of ball and eight more rounds of grape and canister as Grimes tried to out maneuver the big ship. At 2200 Macbride had Bienfaisant close enough to fire two shots at a time, which was done. This brought Grimes to heave to and surrender, knowing he was finished. Bienfaisant’s First Lieutenant was sent over and many of the prisoners removed. The next day the British sent over Bienfaisant’s Fourth Lieutenant as prizemaster, with three petty officers and fifty men for a prize crew. Bienfaisant kept her prize with her for the time being.71


American Tartar was taken or sent into St. Johns, Newfoundland. There she was purchased into the Royal Navy in September 1777 as HM Sloop Hinchinbrook. The prisoners were at Halifax some time after. Grimes was permitted to go to Boston on parole, to arrange an exchange. He was attempting to negotiate the exchange on 1 December 1777, when the Rhode Island General Assembly voted in his favor, after working out a complicated arrangement of exchanges for other officers.72 However, on 10 December Governor Nicholas Cooke of Rhode Island, in a letter to the Massachusetts Council, seemed to discourage any assistance in an exchange from prisoners held in Rhode Island.73 By 31 December the Massachusetts Commissary of Prisoners had arranged the terms of Grimes’ exchange and notified Captain Sir George Collier at Halifax.74


Other prisoners from the American Tartar were at Halifax on 8 November 1777. Surgeon Samuel Blanchard was put on a cartel for exchange that day (along with Captain of Marines William Smith [see above]). Remaining at Halifax were First Lieutenant John Guliker [Galeker] and Third Lieutenant Oliver Reed, who was in the prison hospital.75



1 Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 73

2 The New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, November 3, 1777

3 Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 73

4 The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, November 3, 1777

5 Information from Mr. Brooks.

6 Granville Hough Ship Listing “A”

7 Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, I, 55

8 Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, V, 407

9 Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, X, 110

10 NDAR, “Edward Brooks to James Bowdoin,” X, 433 and note;  Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, XIII, 87

11 NDAR, “Prisoners Captured from the Massachusetts Privateers Buckram, American Tartar, and Lee by H.M.S. Diamond,” X, 347-349; Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors of the Revolutionary War, XIV, 579

12 NDAR, “Edward Brooks to James Bowdoin,” X, 433 and notes

13 NDAR, “Edward Brooks to James Bowdoin,” X, 433 and note

14 NDAR, “Petition of the Agents for Privateer Ship American Tartar to the Massachusetts General Court,” VIII, 179-180

15 NDAR, “Owners of Massachusetts Privateers to the Massachusetts General Court,” VIII, 375-376; “Acts and Resolves of the Massachusetts General Court,” VIII, 434-436 and 436 note; “Agreement with Owners of the Massachusetts Privateer Satisfaction to Cruise with Captain John Manley,” VIII, 907-908 and 908 note

16 NDAR, “Journal of Captain Hector McNeill,” VIII, 1018

17 NDAR, “Journal of Captain Hector McNeill,” VIII, 1023-1024

18 The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], Thursday, July 17, 1777

19 NDAR, “The General Advertiser. Liverpool, Friday, July 25, 1777,” IX, 530-531 and 531 note

20 The New-York/ Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, October 13, 1777

21 NDAR, “The General Advertiser. Liverpool, Friday, July 25, 1777,” IX, 530-531 and 531 note

22 The New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, October 13, 1777

23 NDAR, “The General Advertiser. Liverpool, Friday, July 25, 1777,” IX, 530-531 and 531 note

24 The New-York Gazette and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, October 13, 1777

25 NDAR, “The General Advertiser. Liverpool, Friday, July 25, 1777,” IX, 530-531 and 531 note

26 AVCR, 67

27 AVCR, 67-68

28 Conclusion from the information in AVCR, 67-68. Not in August, as stated in the deposition there.

29 AVCR, 67

30 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” XI, 406-407 and 407 note

31 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562; “Master’s Log of H. M. S. Diamond,” IX, 950 and note; IX, 1125 [index]

32 NDAR, “Prisoners Captured from the Massachusetts Privateers Buckram, American Tartar, and Lee by H.M.S. Diamond,” X, 347-349

33 AVCR, 67

34 AVCR, 67-68

35 AVCR, 67

36 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

37 AVCR, 67

38 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

39 AVCR, 67

40 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

41 AVCR, 67-68

42 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

43 AVCR, 67

44 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

45 AVCR, 67

46 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

47 AVCR, 67

48 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

49 AVCR, 67. According to this source this brig was captured two weeks later, not the same day.

50 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562

51 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 15-16

52 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550; “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note

53 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 15-16

54 The Continental Journal [Salem], September 11, 1777

55 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550; “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note

56 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 15-16

57 NDAR, “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note. But these are very unlikely orders for a privateer vessel.

58 NDAR, “Extract of a letter from Akersund, In Norway, July 9.,” IX, 475. The date of the visit is given as 8 July. However, it would not be possible for American Tartar to be off Norway on 8 July and engaged with the Pole in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean only four days later. The extract was published in August. It would seem that either the date was wrong, or that this is another privateer vessel. The latter case seems unlikely, and American Tartar was operating at the mouth of the Skagerrak at the end of July.

59 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550; “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note

60 AVCR, 67

61 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550; “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note

62 AVCR, 67

63 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550; “London Packet, or, New Lloyd’s Evening Post, Friday, August 8, to Monday, August 11, 1777,” IX, 564-565 and 565 note

64 AVCR, 67

65 NDAR, “Extract of A Letter from Edinburgh, August 11.,” IX, 562; “Master’s Log of H. M. S. Diamond,” IX, 950 and note; “Prisoners Captured from the Massachusetts Privateers Buckram, American Tartar, and Lee by H.M.S. Diamond,” X, 347-349

66 AVCR, 67

67 NDAR, “Prisoners Captured from the Massachusetts Privateers Buckram, American Tartar, and Lee by H.M.S. Diamond,” X, 347-349

68 NDAR, “Edward Brooks to James Bowdoin,” X, 433 and notes

69 NDAR, “Governor Nicholas Cooke to the Massachusetts Council,” X, 698 and note

70 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Captain Henry Lloyd, H.M.S. Pelican, Downes,” IX, 549-550

71 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Bienfaisant, Captain John Macbride,” IX, 613-614 and 614 note

72 NDAR, “Proceedings of the Rhode Island General Assembly,” X, 643-644 and 644 note

73 NDAR, “Governor Nicholas Cooke to the Massachusetts Council,” X, 698 and note

74 NDAR, “Massachusetts Commissary of Prisoners to Captain Sir George Collier, R.N.,” X, 837-838 and 838 note

75 NDAR, “Edward Brooks to James Bowdoin,” X, 433 and note


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