North Carolina Privateer Brig Bellona


Commander [Sylvanus] Pendleton

Brig [Brig/Sloop]

[July] 1778

North Carolina Privateer Brig

(2) Commander Gilbert Harrison
October 1780-2 December 1780

Commissioned/First Date:

[July] 1778

Out of Service/Cause:

2 December 1780/wrecked on Anastasia Island, East Florida


Richard and James Ellis et al of New Bern, North Carolina



Date Reported: September 1778

Number/Caliber  Weight     Broadside

16 [18]/

Total: 16 [18] cannon/

Broadside: 8 [9] cannon/


Date Reported: 2 December 1780

Number/Caliber  Weight     Broadside


Total: 16 cannon/

Broadside: 8 cannon/



2 December 1780: 70 [total]




(1) New Bern, North Carolina to, mid 1778-

(2) New Bern, North Carolina to New Bern, North Carolina, 10 September 1778-7 October 1778

(3) New Bern, North Carolina to the Cape Fear River, North Carolina, November 1780-November 1780

(4) Cape Fear River, North Carolina to Anastasia Island, East Florida, 26 November 1780-2 December 1780


(1) [unknown], 1778

(2) [unknown], 1778

(3) Brig Elizabeth (Kelly), September 1778

(4) Schooner Actaeon (Bunch), September 1778

(5) Sloop Sophia (Tinker), September 1778

(6) British Privateer Sloop Harlequin (Stephen Snell), September 1778


(1) Action with the Mary, mid 1778


North Carolina Privateer Brig Bellona was commanded by one [Sylvanus] Pendleton. She was fitted out by Richard and James Ellis and other citizens of New Bern, North Carolina, with a battery of sixteen1 or eighteen guns. Bellona was an especially swift vessel.2

She captured two prizes in early or mid 1778,3 seemingly on her first cruise. This may be the cruise which one Daniel McCarthy alludes to in a petition sent to the North Carolina legislature in 1789. On 9 November 1789 the petition was read to the General Assembly. McCarthy claimed that he had “ . . . received in the late War on board the Bellona Brig of War in an engagement with the Mary of London, which deprived him of his eyesight.” The General Assembly “endorsed read and that au allowance be made to him in consequence . . .” However, a Committee of the House recommended  “that as no provision appears to have been made by Law for the maintenance of seamen disabled on board of private vessels and as the Bellona at the time of the engagement aforesaid was neither in service of this State or the United States, the petition was rejected.”4

Bellona sailed on a cruise about 10 September 1778. She captured the brig Elizabeth (Kelly) bound from St. Augustine, East Florida to Antigua, British West Indies with a cargo of indigo and lumber. She also captured the schooner Actæon (Bunch), bound from New York, New York to New Providence, Bahama Islands, with a “considerable sum of specie” aboard. Sloop Sophia (Tinker), bound from New York to New Providence with dry goods was also captured. The British Privateer Sloop Harlequin5 (Stephen6 Snell), out of New York, was met while cruising off the North Carolina coast.7 Harlequin was armed with  six guns, four brass cabrons and eight swivels.8 Bellona captured the privateer and discovered she had taken two American vessels. With the number of prisoners now exceeding Pendleton’s crew he escorted the last two prizes into New Bern, arriving on 7 October 1778.9

The pension application of one Lewis Dishon, or Dishong, sheds light on Bellona’s final cruise. Dishon joined the Bellona at New Bern, North Carolina about October or November 1780.10 At that time the commander of the privateer was one Gilbert Harrison.11 From New Bern the Bellona sailed to the mouth of the Cape Fear River. Harrison went ashore and went to his home at White Oak, to take care of some personal business. In a few days he returned.12 Bellona sailed south on 26 November,13 intending to intercept British convoys coming from the West Indies.14 At this time she was armed with sixteen guns and had a crew of seventy men aboard.15

Bellona was off Tybee Island, Georgia within a few days. Here she sighted two British brigantines inbound to Savannah and gave chase, but the chase didn’t last long.16 Dishon says  “. . . After she had been out at sea, a few days, she met with a British fleet of merchant-men, & expected to make prizes of some of them -- but a British convoy ship of 44 guns, supposed to be the Gallatier,17 gave the Ballona chase from early in the morning until dark. After dark, Captain Harrison changed his course in order to deceive the pursuing enemy . . .”18 In the effort to escape the fast British frigate Harrison had thrown overboard part of his ballast. After shaking the enemy, Harrison’s lieutenant took the watch, with a good northeast wind blowing.19

Dishon said that “ . . . after having run some two hours, the Bellona ran on shore & was wrecked. One of the crew was drowned -- the rest clung to the wreck until morning. They were wrecked in nine miles to the south of St Augustine in East Florida. The crew saved their boat, on deck -- and at great hazard, they got on shore that day with the aid of the boat thus saved.”20 According to Josiah Smith, a prisoner at St. Augustine, she  “ . . . was carelessly suffer’d to drift on Shore in the Lieutenants Watch, and was so soon Bilged that One Man lost his life, and the others saved themselves with little else than what was on their backs on the Beach of Annastatia Island about 10 Miles South of the Look out, . . .”21

British forces soon arrived on the scene. Dishon said “At that time there was a British force stationed at St. Augustine, under command of a Colonel Glazier:22 -- this force captured Bellona’s crew, among whom was the declarant, on the night of the day in which the crew got to land. The declarant & the rest of his crew were taken prisoners by the British, about the 2nd or 3rd day of December 1780 . . .”23 Josiah Smith adds these details: “ . . . they were before Night made Prisoners by a detachment of Soldiers sent from hence and brought to Town about Noon this day. many of them being Europeans, were separated from the Americans and the Officers; the former being confined in the guardhouse, and the latter sent to the Castle, where they remained till Thursday noon the 7th when they were all (the Captain Excepted) sent over to the look out, on Annastatia Island, to be there confined under a Guard of Soldiers. The Euro peans have, some enter'd on board Vessels bound to Sea, and others by drink &c enter'd as Soldiers in the 60th Regiment. The Cap tain has been permitted to stay and diet in General Gadsdens apartment, being supplied with Meat & Drink from our Mess.”24

The imprisonment of the crew was somewhat relieved by the other American prisoners at St. Augustine. Smith, in his diary entry for 8 January 1781, explains: “. . . A representation being made to our Company that the unhappy Crew of the late Privateer Brigg. Belona, was very much in want of Cloathing &c it brought in a general Collection amongst us, and the Sum of *-Sterling being raised, twas laid out in Shirts, Trowsers, and Shoes which we sent to be distributed to the most needy of them at the place of their Confinement, the lookout on Annas tatia Island. Some days before this, being informed that Several of said Crew were Sick at the Hospital, and much in need of refreshing Neces sarys, a Collection of * Sterling was paid in, and laid out in such Articles as they desir’d most.”25

Most did not wish to remain as prisoners. On the night of 16 January 1781 “ . . . At Night about 10 O’Clock a small Minorcan Galley build Boat was run away with by 2 Sailors of the Bellonas Crew, A sergeant & 6 Soldiers of 60th Reg’t . . .”26 It can be speculated that the 60th Regiment soldiers were former members of the Bellona’s crew.

On 10 February 1781, Harrison, his officers, and any of his crew who would not enter into British service, forty-six in all, sailed for Charlestown, South Carolina aboard HM Sloop Loyalist (Commander Ardesoif). One of the crewmen escaped during the embarkation.27 Not all the Bellona’s crew were sent to Charlestown. Dishon remained a prisoner at St. Augustine until 5 May 1782. He says he

 “ . . . and four more men of the crew made their escape -- and were about 20 or 22 days in the wilderness. While in the wilderness, the declarant & his comrades got on the track of the cattle, which one McGirt, a robber, had taken from Georgia to St. Augustine for the British. He discovered the track of a cow that had got away from McGirt’s drove & was returning towards Georgia; & he & his men pursued it & finally overtook her & made beef of a part of her -- which perhaps saved their lives -- as they were nearly starved. At length they reached Ogeechee, the edge of the white settlement, & thence made their way home where they arrived the latter part of June 1782.”28

1 The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Friday, October 23, 1778, datelined Baltimore, October 6

2 Kell, Jean Bruyere (ed.), North Carolina's Coastal Cartaret County During the American Revolution 1765-1785, ERA Press: Greenville, North Carolina, 1975, p. 68. The brig is described here as belonging to the "State."

3  Kell,  North Carolina's Coastal Cartaret County During the American Revolution, 68.

4 O’Brein. Michael J., The McCarthys In Early American History, Dodd, Mead and Company, New York, 1921, 120 .[]

5 The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Friday, October 23, 1778, datelined Baltimore, October 6

6 Kell,  North Carolina's Coastal Cartaret County During the American Revolution, 68.

7 The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Friday, October 23, 1778, datelined Baltimore, October 6

8  Kell,  North Carolina's Coastal Cartaret County During the American Revolution, 68.

9 The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Friday, October 23, 1778, datelined Baltimore, October 6

10 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon, Brought to my attention by Will Graves. For this third version of Bellona Mr. Graves has assisted in the research, enabling the full story of the wreck and prisoners to be told.

11 Smith, Josiah and Webber, Mabel L., “Josiah Smith’s Diary, 1780-1781,” in The South Carolina Historical and Genealogical Magazine, Vol. 33, No. 2 (Apr., 1932), 79-116, p. 90

12 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon,

13 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  90

14 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon

15 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  90

16 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  90

17 HM Frigate Galatea

18 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon.

19 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  91

20 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon.

21 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  90

22 Lieutenant Colonel Beamsley Glazier was secretary to Governor Patrick Tonyn and commanded the garrison in East Florida., and

23 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon.

24 “Josiah Smith’s Diary,”  90

25 “Josiah Smith’s Diary, 1780-1781,” 96

26 “Josiah Smith’s Diary, 1780-1781,” 96-97

27 “Josiah Smith’s Diary, 1780-1781,” 104

28 Pension Application of Lewis Dishon.

Posted 21 September 2014 ©