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Massachusetts Privateer Ship Viper




Viper

Commander William Williams

Sloop-of-War

9 May 1780-30 October 1780

Massachusetts Privateer Ship


Commissioned/First Date:

9 May 1780

Out of Service/Cause:

2 December 1780/sold out of service


Owners:

Jonathan R. Livingston and David Dickson, both of Boston, Massachusetts


Tonnage:


Battery:

Date Reported: 9 May 1780

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

16/

Total: 16 cannon/

Broadside: 8 cannon/

Swivels:


Date Reported: 29 November 1780

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

16/6-pounder      96 pounds  48 pounds

Total: 16 cannon/96 pounds

Broadside: 8 cannon/48 pounds

Swivels:


Crew:

(1) 9 May 1780: 121 [total]
(2) 10 July 1780: 130 [total]
(3) 10 July 1780: 90 [total]


Description:


Officers:


Cruises:

(1) Boston, Massachusetts to Boston, Massachusetts, [20] June 1780-[18] July 1780

(2) Boston, Massachusetts, to [Philadelphia, Pennsylvania], 22 October 1780-[November] 1780


Prizes:

(1) Schooner [unknown], [June] 1780

(2) British Privateer Brig Resolution (Thomas Ross), 10 July 1780

(3) Ship Sarah, off Sandy Hook, New Jersey, 31 October 1780


Actions:

(1) Action with Resolution, 10 July 1780
(2) Action with [the former] Hetty, 30 October 1780


Comments:


Massachusetts Privateer Ship Viper was commissioned on 9 May 1780 under Commander William Williams of Boston, Massachusetts. She was listed as being armed with sixteen guns and as having a crew of 120 men. Her $10000 Continental and £4000 Massachusetts bonds were signed by Williams and by John R. Livingston and David Dickson, both of Boston.1 According to the petition, the lieutenant was one Morris,2 and the Master was John Waddle.3


Viper sailed out to cruise off the Nova Scotia coast about late June 1780. An un-named schooner was captured and sent into Boston, perhaps in late June.4


On 10 July 1780 she was off the Halifax, Nova Scotia lighthouse. The British Privateer Brig Resolution (Thomas Ross) was coming out to sea.5 Resolution was armed with sixteen guns and was owned by Benjamin Mulberry Holmes, formerly a resident of Boston. She had been fitted out specifically to cruise in Boston Bay.6 The two privateers began a “hot engagement” during which both were shot up and disabled. The British surrendered with eight killed and ten wounded. They claimed that the Americans lost thirty-three men killed and wounded. The British reported Viper had a crew of 130 men and mounted twenty-two guns. The Americans scoffed at these claims and reported that Viper had sixteen guns, a crew of ninety men and lost one killed and two wounded in the action.7 Viper returned to Boston from this cruise on 17/18 July.8 The Resolution got into Boston on 20 July.9


Viper began refitting for her next cruise. A crew list, dated 30 September 1780,10 indicates some of her officers for the next cruise. There were two lieutenants aboard the Viper: First Lieutenant John Larcher of Providence, Rhode Island,11 and Second Lieutenant John Wardell.12 Viper’s Master was Benjamin Jones,13 and her First Mate was David Lamb of Boston.14 Two Second Mates are listed, Charles Chadwick15 and Reuben Hamlin,16 Her Captain of Marines was William Lamb of Boston.17 The Surgeon aboard was William Truen.18


After refitting, Viper sailed from Boston on 22 October 1780. On 30 October19 she was off Sandy Hook, New Jersey20 in the early morning. A sail was seen bearing down. When Williams turned to chase the stranger took flight. About 1200 the two vessels were within pistol shot and Williams showed his colors and delivered a broadside. A "spirited" duel began which lasted for thirty minutes, when the British drew ahead. Williams "ported his helm" and delivered a raking broadside. Just then he was shot in the chest, which threw the Viper into confusion, and the British vessel escaped. Williams died six hours later (he was the only American casualty). The British vessel was a 16-gun privateer21 (formerly the Hetty, owned in Philadelphia)22 out of New York. Viper's First Lieutenant took command and steered for Philadelphia.23


The next day (31 October)24 she captured a ship with a cargo of provisions25 (beef, pork, butter, raisons)26 bound from Cork, Ireland to New York, New York.27 This was the ship Sarah,28 Both Viper and Sarah arrived at Philadelphia on 20 November.29


Sarah was advertised for sale on 28 November, along with her cargo. The sale was set for 4 December 1780.30 Before she went to the auction block, another advertisement was published on 29 November:


“To be sold on Saturday next, the 2d of December, at twelve o'clock, at the Coffee house, The Privateer Ship VIPER, Of sixteen Six pounders; With all her Tackle, Apparel, Furniture and Stores, as she came from Sea, per Inventory. JOHN BAYARD, Auctioneer.”31


It appears that this was the last mention of the Viper.



1 Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 317

2 MASSRW 11:58

3 MASSRW 16:369

4 The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury August 28, 1780, datelined Boston, July 24, 1780

5 The Massachusetts Spy: Or, American Oracle of Liberty [Boston], August 24, 1780, datelined Halifax, July 11, 1780

6 The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury August 28, 1780, datelined Boston, July 24, 1780

7 The Massachusetts Spy: Or, American Oracle of Liberty [Boston], August 24, 1780, datelined Halifax, July 11, 1780

8 The Massachusetts Spy: Or, American Oracle of Liberty [Boston], August 24, 1780, datelined Halifax, July 11, 1780; The New-York Gazette; and The Weekly Mercury August 28, 1780, datelined Boston, July 24, 1780

9 The Massachusetts Spy: Or, American Oracle of Liberty [Boston], August 24, 1780, datelined Halifax, July 11, 1780

10 MASSRW 2:480

11 MASSRW 9:511

12 MASSRW 16:552. This man may be the “John Waddle” that was the Master on the first cruise.

13 MASSRW 8:900

14 MASSRW 9:430

15 MASSRW 3:235

16 MASSRW 7:169

17 MASSRW 9:440

18 MASSRW 16:80

19 The Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser [Boston], December 4, 1780

20 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 21, 1780. According to Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208, the action was off Cape Hatteras, North Carolina.

21 Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208

22 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 21, 1780. Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208, says she was named the Hetty, but this not certain.

23 Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208

24 Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208

25 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 21, 1780

26 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 28, 1780

27 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 21, 1780

28 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 28, 1780. According to Maclay, History of American Privateers, 208-209, she was the ship Margaret (beef, pork, butter and porter), from Charleston, South Carolina to New York. This seems unlikely, and I don’t believe two prizes were sent to Philadelphia.

29 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 21, 1780

30 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], November 28, 1780

31 The Pennsylvania Gazette [Philadelphia], November 29, 1780


Posted 21 September 2014 © awiatsea.com