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Connecticut Privateer Ship Governor Trumbull




Governor Trumbull

Commander Henry Billings

Frigate

18 November 1778-5 March 1779

Connecticut Privateer Ship


Commissioned/First Date:

18 November 1778

Out of Service/Cause:

5 March 1779/captured by HM Frigate Venus


Owners:

Howland & Coit et al of Connecticut


Tonnage:

247


Battery:

Date Reported: 18 November 1778

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

20/

Total: 20 cannon/

Broadside: 10 cannon/

Swivels:


Date Reported: 16 January 1779

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

20/

Total: 20 cannon/

Broadside: 10 cannon/

Swivels:


Date Reported: 5 March 1779

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

20/

Total: 20 cannon/

Broadside: 10 cannon/

Swivels:


Crew:

(1) 18 November 1778 : 151 [total]
(2) 16 January 1779: 115 [total]
(3) 5 March 1779: 103 [total]


Description:


Officers:

(1) First Lieutenant John Towers, November 1778-5 March 1779; (2) Second Lieutenant Andrew Perkins, November 1778-5 March 1779


Cruises:

(1) New London, Connecticut to Stonington, Connecticut, [25] November 1778-[17] December 1778

(2) Stonington, Connecticut to Guadeloupe, French West Indies, 25 December 1778-[January] 1779

(3) Guadeloupe, French West Indies to sea, [February] 1779-5 March 1779


Prizes:

(1) British Transport Ship Marquis of Rockingham, [14] December 1778, with Connecticut Privateer Sloop American Revenue [salvage and rescue]


Actions:

(1) Action at Man of War Bay, Tobago, 16 January 1779


Comments:


The 247-ton1 Connecticut Privateer Ship Governor Trumbull was built at Willet’s ship yard at Norwich in 1777 as a purpose built privateer. Governor Trumbull was deemed a “model” ship in most respects and there were great expectations for her.2 She was commissioned on 18 November 1778 under Commander Henry Billings of Norwich, Connecticut. She was listed as being armed with twenty guns and as having a crew of 150 men.3 Her $10000 bond was signed by Billings, Joseph Howland of Norwich and Henry Putnam.4 The First Lieutenant of the Governor Trumbull was John Towers and her Second Lieutenant was Andrew Perkins.5 She fitted out at New London. An advertisement for crewmen appeared in The Connecticut Gazette of 17 November, which indicated she would sail on 23 November.6 Before the end of the month Governor Trumbull sailed from New London, Connecticut,7 and promptly got involved in a search and rescue mission.


On 17 December 1778 the Connecticut Privateer Sloop American Revenue (Commander William Leeds) arrived at New London with several items of sails, rigging, and stores which had been salvaged from the wreck of the British Transport Ship Marquis of Rockingham. The Governor Trumbull had assisted in the salvage operations. Marquis of Rockingham was bound from Newport, Rhode Island to New York, New York with a cargo of hay. On 13 December she was castaway on Gardiner’s Island, New York. Only five people out of her crew of twenty-two were saved, the rest drowning or freezing to death.8 Governor Trumbull returned to Connecticut, putting in to Stonington in mid-December.9


Billings sailed from Stonington Point, bound for the West Indies, on 25 December. By mid-January 1779 the Governor Trumbull was off the British island of Tobago. Billings was planning a raid upon the lightly defended island. On 16 January fifty Americans landed in Man of War Bay. The landing party marched to a house owned by Callow and Henderson. Three white men were made prisoners there and three sick blacks were taken and carried away. Meanwhile, the Americans threw up a small entrenchment at Man of War Bay, and armed it with two cannon and some swivels.10


The landing party proceeded to the sugar works of one Gordon, which they attacked and burned. The Americans lost three men in this skirmish. From there they moved on to the estate of one Guise, which was also laid waste. Of course the alarm was well out by now. Planters Archibald Stewart, Edmund Lincoln and Lieutenant Oswald Clark mustered fifteen militia and marched toward the northeast quarter of the island, to assist the planters there. The British militia came upon the American landing party in their entrenchment and immediately attacked with small arms. Stewart was shot in the head with a swivel gun; Lincoln was hit in the thigh by a cannon ball. The attack fizzled out.11


Lieutenant Clark reorganized his men, dividing them into two parties. A second attack, perhaps on the American flanks, forced them from their entrenchments. They “suddenly retreated on board their Vessel and left the Island.”12 The Americans left behind twenty-six prisoners and two dead men.13 Stewart died of his wound, but Lincoln recovered. The British noted that the American ship had twenty guns and a crew of 115 men.14


Billings steered away to the north. Admiral Byron, reacting to the news, sent cruisers into the area, but Governor Trumbull was long gone.15


On the morning of 5 March 1779 Governor Trumbull was northeast of the north end of St. Bartholomew’s. She was sighted by HM Frigate Ariadne at 1100. Ariadne ordered HM Frigate Venus (Captain James Ferguson), in company with her, to chase the American. The weather was fresh and clear and the chase was on. At 1430 Venus opened fire, and expended twenty 12-pounder and four 6-pounder rounds before Billings hove to. Venus reported the Governor Trumbull had twenty guns and 103 men aboard. The prisoners were removed and a prize crew of a lieutenant, two petty officers, and seventy men went aboard. On 7 March the prize was escorted into St. John’s, Antigua. The next day the prisoners were sent ashore to the jail.16 The prize was libeled and condemned at Antigua and taken into British service as the Tobago.17



1 Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792, 291

2 Middlebrook, Maritime Connecticut, II, 101

3 NRAR, 320. In Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 25, the crew is listed as 100 men.

4 NRAR, 320

5 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5

6 Middlebrook, Maritime Connecticut, II, 101, from transcript of the advertisement

7 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5

8 The Connecticut Journal [New Haven], Wednesday, December 23, 1778, datelined New London, December 18

9 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 6, from Jonathan Fanning’s pension application.

10 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5, from the diary of Joseph Senhouse

11 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5, from the diary of Joseph Senhouse

12 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5-6, from the diary of Joseph Senhouse

13 The Connecticut Journal [New Haven], March 3, 1779, datelined New London, February 26

14 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 5-6, from the diary of Joseph Senhouse

15 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 6; The Connecticut Journal [New Haven], Wednesday, March 3, 1779, datelined New London, February 26, 1779

16 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 6, from the log of the Venus

17 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 6-7

18 Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 25. On p. 270 Claghorn lists Governor Trumbull’s commander as Nathaniel Saltonstall.

19 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 6


Posted 21 September 2014 © awiatsea.com