Back
to
Navy
Continental Navy Sloop Sachem





Sachem

(1) Captain Isaiah Robinson

Armed Sloop

[25] June 1776-20 September 1776

Continental Navy Sloop

(2) Captain James Robinson
[25] September 1776-3 April 1777


Commissioned/First Date:

2 May 1776

Out of Service/Cause:

5 April 1777/captured by HM Frigate Perseus


Tonnage:

50, 60, 70


Battery:

Date Reported: 10 October 1776

Number/Caliber  Weight   Broadside

10

Total: 10 cannon/

Broadside: 5 cannon

Swivels:


Date Reported: 29 September 1777

Number/Caliber  Weight    Broadside

10/3 pounder     30 pounds   15 pounds

Total: 10 cannon/30 pounds

Broadside: 5 cannon/15 pounds

Swivels: six


Crew:


Description:


Officers:

1) First Lieutenant Joshua Barney, [15] May 1776-20 September 1776
(2) [First] Lieutenant Samuel York, [October] 1776-5 April 1777


Cruises:

(1) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to sea and return, July 1776-7 September 1776

(2) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to Martinique, French West Indies, and return to Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia, [25] October 1776-16 December 1776

(3) Chincoteague, Virginia to sea and return, [20] December 1776-[25] December 1776

(4) [Chincoteague Inlet, Virginia] to [Maurice River, New Jersey], 6 January 1777-16 January 1777

(5) Maurice River, New Jersey to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, [January] 1777-[January] 1777

(6) Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to sea, [3] April 1777-5 April 1777


Prizes:

(1) British Transport Brig Three Friends (Anthony Stalker), 12 August 1776


Actions:

(1) Action with Three Friends, 12 August 1776


Comments:



Continental Navy Sloop Sachem was formerly HM Sloop Tender Edward captured by Captain John Barry in the Lexington, on 7 April 1776. She was purchased by the Marine Committee on 2 May 1776, and began fitting out at Philadelphia.1 Sachem’s tonnage was variously estimated as 50,2 60,3 and 70 tons, and she was armed with ten guns and assorted swivel guns.4  According to her accounts, she loaded 2-pounder and 3-pounder ammunition.5 On the return of Wasp from her patrol about 11 May, First Lieutenant Joshua Barney was ordered aboard Sachem and began fitting her out. Barney was officially commissioned in June 1776. About the end of June, Captain Isaiah Robinson reported aboard.6


Lieutenant Joshua Barney, Continental Navy. Painting by Charles Wilson Peale, 1788.

On 2 July 1776, Robinson was given permission to cruise with Captain John Barry of the Lexington, both vessels being at Philadelphia.7 On 6 July, both vessels dropped down the river, but according to Sachem’s accounts, her ammunition was not put on board until 8 and 13 July.8

Soon after Sachem was at sea and encountered the brig Three Friends (Anthony Stalker).9 The Three Friends was bound from Antigua to the British Army with rum and sugar. She mounted six guns and fought the Sachem obstinately,10 killing a mate and two other men of Sachem’s crew.11 According to Barney, she fought for two hours, and was a British letter of marque vessel. All the officers aboard Sachem were killed or wounded except Barney and Robinson.12 Barney was sent to take charge of the prize. He was ordered to take the prize upriver being particularly attentive to protect the private property aboard her.13 Sachem arrived in the Delaware River on 7 September 1776, with the prize brig in company. A large turtle, being sent to Lord North and found on the Three Friends, was presented to Robert Morris.14 Three prisoners from the Three Friends were turned over to Pennsylvania on 9 September, when the prize had gotten up to Philadelphia.15 Three Friends was libeled on 11 September. She was tried and condemned on 27 September.16


On 20 September, Isaiah Robinson was appointed to the Continental Navy Brig Andrew Doria,17 and on 10 October, when the Continental captains were ranked, James Robinson was commanding the Sachem, and ranked twenty-second on the list.18 James Robinson was a former merchant skipper. In April 1776 he was in charge of the brigantine Polly, bound from Honduras with logwood and mahogany. Polly was captured by one of Lord Dunmore’s cruisers and taken in to Virginia. Robinson was a prisoner there for two months. He escaped and got to Philadelphia. Robinson petitioned the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety on 9 July 1776, seeking command of a Pennsylvania Navy vessel. Robinson stated that he had served in the Royal Navy as a Master and had been offered reinstatement in that position during his confinement. He turned the job down because of his many connections in America during his twenty years’ residence in Philadelphia, where he was married and had children. During the French and Indian War he commanded a privateer, the King of Prussia. Robinson’s petition was endorsed by twenty-six prominent persons from Philadelphia’s merchant class, including men who became privateer owners, judges, Navy officers, and the like.19 Pennsylvania had no openings, so Robinson was available in September 1776 when the Marine Committee needed a captain.


First Lieutenant Barney had departed the Sachem, going with Isaiah Robinson to the Andrew Doria.20 He was replaced, presumably about this time, by First Lieutenant Samuel York.21 On 18 October, Sachem was turned over to the Secret Committee to perform a mission to Martinique to pick up badly needed blankets and winter clothing for the Continental Army. Sachem sailed about 25 October on her voyage.22


Continental Navy Sloop Sachem. A modern painting by Nowland Van Powell.

Sachem returned from her cruise to Martinique before 16 December 1776, probably putting into Chingoteague, Virginia.23 By 23 December, she was trying to get around to Philadelphia, and Robert Morris reported to Congress that she was “hourly” expected there.24 On 6 January 1777, Robinson she tried again. For ten days Sachem was chased off and on the coast by British cruisers and tenders, but he finally got into Delaware Bay and anchored in the mouth of the Maurice River, New Jersey. Morris reported his arrival and noted that she would be unloaded by wagon.25
Eventually Sachem worked up to Philadelphia, where her crew was given leave, while she was refitting.26 It was suggested she be sent to cruise off the Virginia Capes on 3 February 1777,  to warn incoming shipping that the area was full of British cruisers, but nothing came of this.27 On 14 February 1777, Robinson  advertised  for  his crew  to  report aboard.28


Sachem was at Philadelphia on 12 March 1777, when the Marine Committee ordered her to sea, to proceed to St. Eustatius with a cargo of indigo shipped by the Secret Committee. At St. Eustatius Robinson was to report to Samuel Curzon, Jr,, unload, and pick up any return goods that Curzon, Henricus Goddet, or Cornelius Stevenson, might have on hand. He was instructed to call on the governor, ask for protection of the neutral port, and keep his crew well behaved. He was not to violate the neutrality of the port. Robinson was to return to Philadelphia, or to Chesapeake  Bay.29 On 29  March,  Robinson,  still  at Philadelphia, received a packet of letters for William Bingham at Martinique, which he was to deliver at Martinique by sending an officer ashore and getting a receipt, or by forwarding from St. Eustatius, in a neutral vessel. This packet was to be kept ready for sinking in case Sachem should be captured.30


Sachem dropped down the river in early April. Robinson took under convoy a schooner, Neptune (Daniel Van Vorhus31 [Voorhees])32, which was outward bound from Philadelphia with a cargo of flour, hoops and staves.33 About 3 April 1777 Sachem and Neptune sailed, clearing the Delaware Capes. Two patrolling British frigates, the Roebuck (Captain Andrew Snape Hamond) and Perseus (Captain Charles Phipps) sighted the two sail at 0900 on 5 April, 144 miles southeast of Cape Henlopen, and chased. The weather was windy with strong gales and a few squalls, favoring the bigger ships. Around noon, Perseus fired a few shots at the Neptune, which hove to. Perseus put a prize crew aboard and continued the chase after Sachem. At 1700 Perseus closed up with Sachem. Several cannon and small arms were fired into her before she hove to. A prize crew was sent over and the prisoners removed.34 The prize arrived in New York on 18 April.35


As a British prize, and before her formal trial, Sachem was used as a tender or transport. Her guns were reduced to four carriage guns and two swivels, and she was given a crew of six men under a Peter Bryson. Bryson was given a pass or license on 19 June 1777, by Vice Admiral Viscount Howe to proceed to Cadiz, Spain and return to New York with a cargo of fruit and wine for the British Army. Bryson’s pass was only good for two months after he left Cadiz. In this pass Sachem is noted as measuring 60 tons.36


Bryson evidently made his trip in a timely manner. Sachem was at New York on 29 September 1777, when she was libeled in the New York Vice Admiralty court. In the libel the British reported that she was armed with ten guns and measured about 70 tons. She was condemned on 24 October 1777.37


In December 1777, one of Sachem’s crew members turned up at Boston, where he petitioned the Navy Board of the Eastern Department for a portion of his wages. The Navy Board granted him £12 on his account.38


In February 1778, Lieutenant Samuel York was aboard the “prison ship,” presumably at New York. On 24 February the Rhode Island Council of War proposed his exchange, among others.39 The exchange was agreed to on 28 February.40



1 NDAR, “Autobiography of Joshua Barney,” V, 924 and note

2 NDAR, “Condemnation Proceedings Against the British Sloop Edward,” IV, 801-802

3 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe’s Pass for Sloop Sachem,” IX, 148-149 and 149 note

4 NDAR, “Libel Against Continental Navy Sloop Sachem,” IX, 979-980 and 980 note

5 NDAR, “Commissioners of the Continental Navy in Account with the Sloop Sachem,” V, 953 and note

6 NDAR, “Autobiography of Joshua Barney,” V, 924 and notes

7 NDAR, “Marine Committee of the Continental Congress to Captain John Barry,” V, 878

8 NDAR, “Commissioners of the Continental Navy in Account with the Sloop Sachem,” V, 953 and note

9 NDAR, “Autobiography of Joshua Barney,” VI, 782 and note

10 NDAR, “Minutes of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety,” VI, 766 and note

11 The Pennsylvania Ledger: or the Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, & New-Jersey Weekly Advertiser [Philadelphia], Saturday, September 14, 1776; The New-York Gazette; and the Weekly Mercury, Saturday, September 21, 1776, datelined Philadelphia, September 11.

12 NDAR, “Autobiography of Joshua Barney,” VI, 782 and note

13 NDAR, “Captain Isaiah Robinson to Lieutenant Joshua Barney,” VI, 748 and notes

14 NDAR, “Autobiography of Joshua Barney,” VI, 782 and note

15 NDAR, “Minutes of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety,” VI, 766 and note

16 NDAR, “Continental Bond for the Pennsylvania Letter of Marque Brigantine Three Friends,” VI, 967 and note. She was bought by Moore, Donaldson & Mercer of Philadelphia, who bonded her as a privateer on 23 September, four days before her condemnation. Ibid.

17 NDAR, “Minutes of the Continental Marine Committee,” VI, 915; “Commissioners of the Continental Navy in Account with the Sloop Sachem,” VI, 1320 and note

18 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VI, 1200-1201

19 NDAR, “Petition of James Robinson to the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety,” V, 993-994

20 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain Isaiah Robinson,” VI, 936 and note

21 NDAR, “Rhode Island Council of War to Charles Waller,” XI, 418-419

22 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Robinson, Continental Sloop Sachem,” VI, 1319; “Commissioners of the Continental Navy in Account with the Sloop Sachem,” VI, 1320; “Willing, Morris & Co. to William Bingham,” VI, 1337-1339; “Secret Committee to William Bingham, Martinique,” VI, 1354-1355

23 NDAR, “Robert Morris to the Committee of Secret Correspondence,” VII, 496-497

24 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577

25 NDAR, “Congressional Committee in Philadelphia to John Hancock,” VII, 972-973

26 NDAR, “Captain James Robinson to the Crew of Continental Sloop Sachem,” VII, 1203

27 NDAR, “Richard Henry Lee to Robert Morris,” VII, 1096-1097

28 NDAR, “Captain James Robinson to the Crew of Continental Sloop Sachem,” VII, 1203

29 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Robinson,” VIII, 93

30 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Robinson,” VIII, 223-22; “Robert Morris to William Bingham,” 224

31 NDAR, “List of Vessels seized as Prizes, and of Recaptures made, by the American Squadron, between the 1st of January, 1777, and the 22nd of May following, according to the Returns received by the Vice Admiral the Viscount Howe,” VIII, 1053-1063

32 HCA 32/409/12/1-4

33 NDAR, “List of Vessels seized as Prizes, and of Recaptures made, by the American Squadron, between the 1st of January, 1777, and the 22nd of May following, according to the Returns received by the Vice Admiral the Viscount Howe,” VIII, 1053-1063

34 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Perseus, Captain Charles Phipps,” VIII, 277-278 and 278 note

35 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Eagle, Captain Henry Duncan,” VIII, 366-367 and 367 note. See also NDAR, “Narrative of Captain Andrew Snape Hamond,” VIII, 330-331 and 331 note; “New-York Gazette, Monday, April 21, 1777,” VIII, 393-394 and 394 note

36 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe’s Pass for Sloop Sachem,” IX, 148-149 and 149 note

37 NDAR, “Libel Against Continental Navy Sloop Sachem,” IX, 979-980 and 980 note. See also HCA 32/445/1/1-4, where she is described as an American armed sloop.

38 NDAR, “Votes and Resolutions of the [Continental] Navy Board of the Eastern Department,” X, 778 and note

39 NDAR, “Rhode Island Council of War to Charles Waller,” XI, 418-419

40 NDAR, “Charles Waller to Governor Nicholas Cookem” XI, 462 and nore


Revised 6 August 2014 © awiatsea.com