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Virginia Privateer Ship Pocahontas




Pocahontas

Commander Eleazer Callender

Sloop-of-War

[August] 1779-12 September 1780

Virginia Privateer Ship


Commissioned/First Date:

[August] 1779

Out of Service/Cause:

12 September 1780/captured by HMS Alcide


Owners:


Tonnage:

242, 283


Battery:

Date Reported: [September] 1780

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

14/6-pounder     84 pounds   42 pounds

Total: 14 cannon/84 pounds

Broadside: 7 cannon/42 pounds

Swivels:


Crew:


Description:

98′ in length, 82′10.5′′ in length on the keel, 25′4′′ in beam, with a depth in the hold of 10′10′′


Officers:

(1) First Lieutenant John Hamilton, [August] 1779-12 September 1780


Cruises:


Prizes:


Actions:


Comments:

Virginia Privateer Ship Pocahontas is sometimes listed as a unit in the Virginia Navy,1 but it seems pretty clear she was a privateer vessel. Pocahuntas was built on the Rappahannock River in 1777 and fitted out at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Pocahuntas measured 98′ in length, 82′10.5′′in length on the keel, 25′4′′ in beam, with a depth in the hold of 10′10′′. Her tonnage lis listed as 242, but calculates to 283 if the measurements are correct. She was probably armed with fourteen 6-pounders.2


Captain Eleazer Callender of the Virginia Navy Ship Galley Dragon resigned his commission on 20 July 1779, and took command of the Pocahontas as her privateer commander.3 His First Lieutenant on the Dragon, John Hamilton seems to have left at the same time and entered the Pocahontas with Callender.4


Nothing is known of the movements of the Pocahontas until 12 September 1780. She was at sea and was captured by the 74-gun HMS Alcide (Captain Charles Thompson), 5 a part of Vice Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney’s fleet, while it was en route to New York, New York. She was taken into New York. Pocahontas was tried and condemned in the Vice Admiralty Court there in 1780. Callender appears in these records as “Calendar.” Pocahontas is described as an American merchant vessel with a letter-of-marque.6 She was purchased into the Royal Navy on 2 October 1780, for £1642.12.9, and re-named on May 28 1781 as HM Sloop Pacahunta.7


Both Callender and Hamilton were confined at New York.8 The treatment of the crew of the Pocahontas, coupled with that of  the men of the Centurion (Benjamin Slade), while prisoners aboard the Alcide, led to investigation by a committee of the Continental Congress. On 7 October 1780 the committee reported, recommended that the Board of Admiralty issue orders concerning British prisoners to all American naval captains.9 The Continental Congress accepted the report, resolving that:


“That the Board of Admiralty be directed to obtain the names of the crew of the Schooner Centurion, late commanded by Benjamin Slade and captured by the Alcide British Ship of War; and the names of the crew of the Ship Pocohuntus, late commanded by Capt. Calender, and captured by the Alcide, and demand the said crews to be immediately exchanged.


That if the British shall refuse to exchange the crews of the said vessels, or make any unusual and unnecessary delay therein, the Board of Admiralty be directed to make Report thereof to Congress, in order that timely and the most decisive measures be taken in the Case.


That the Board of Admiralty be directed to issue their orders to the Captains of all vessels, requiring them, in case of their being captured to make report to the Admiralty of the United States, as soon as possible, the names, and state of health of their respective crews at the time of their capture, in order to their being claimed in exchange.”10


No action saved Lieutenant Hamilton: he died on the prison ships between 15 and 20 November 1780.11 Callendar eventually got back to Virginia and survived the war.



1 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 135

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

3 Brumbaugh, Revolutionary War Records, 7

4 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 196

5 Winfield. British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792, 74

6 HCA 32/424/2/1-11

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

8 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 196

9 NRAR, 163

10 JCC, 18:909

11 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 196


Posted 21 September 2014 © awiatsea.com