Back
to
Navy
Continental Navy Ship Virginia





Virginia

Captain James Nicholson

Frigate

19 September 1776-31 March 1778

Continental Navy Ship


Commissioned/First Date:

September 1776/13 December 1775

Out of Service/Cause:

31 March 1778/captured by HM Frigate Emerald


Tonnage:

682


Battery:

Date Reported:13 December 1775

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside

28

Total: 28 cannon/

Broadside: 14 cannon

Swivels:


Date Reported:31 March 1778

Number/Caliber  Weight         Broadside

24/12 pounder    288 pounds 144 pounds

  6/  4 pounder      24 pounds   12 pounds

Total: 30 cannon/312 pounds

Broadside: 15 cannon/156 pounds

Swivels: six


Crew:

(1) 25 March 1778: 188 [total]
(2) 31 March 1778: 169 [total]


Description:

126'3½" on the berth deck, 34'10" in beam and 10'5½" depth in the hold


Officers:

(1) First Lieutenant Aquila Johns, [25] July 1776-[October] 1777
(2) First Lieutenant John Slemaker, [November] 1777-[January] 1778
(3) First Lieutenant Joshua Barney, [January] 1778-31 March 1778

(4) Second Lieutenant John Slemaker, 12 October 1776-[November] 1777
(5) Second Lieutenant Joshua Barney, 6 November 1777-[January] 1778

(6)Third Lieutenant John Fanning, [December] 1777-30 March 1778

(7) Captain of Marines John Stewart, 25 June 1776-[24 November] 1776
(8) Captain of Marines James Disney, [24 November] 1776-[December 1777]
(9) Captain of Marines Thomas Plunkett, [December 1777]-31 March 1778

(10) First Lieutenant of Marines Thomas Pownal, 25 June 1776-31 March 1778

(11) Second Lieutenant of Marines Richard Harrison, 25 June 1776-[November] 1776
(12) Second Lieutenant of Marines Thomas Plunkett, 25 June 1776-[December] 1777
(13) Second Lieutenant of Marines William Barney, January 1778-31 March 1778

(14) Surgeon [Thomas/George] Budd


Cruises:

(1) Baltimore, Maryland to Baltimore, Maryland, [14] June 1777-[1] August 1777

(2) Baltimore, Maryland to Baltimore, Maryland, 18 January 1778-21 January 1778

(3) Baltimore, Maryland to Annapolis, Maryland, 29 March 1778-29 March 1778

(4) Annapolis, Maryland to the Chesapeake Capes, 30 March 1778-31 March 1778


Prizes:


Actions:


Comments:



Continental Navy Ship Virginia had her origins in the resolution of 13 December 1775 by the Continental Congress to construct thirteen frigates for the newly founded Continental Navy. A great deal of political interest went into selecting the colonies where these ships were to be built. Maryland was selected as the locale to build one frigate. The Marine Committee was to oversee the construction of the vessels with the committee member from a selected colony in supervision of that colony’s ship. The member of the Marine Committee from Maryland in December 1775 was Samuel Chase.


Within a few days of the resolution the Marine Committee determined the official dimensions of the various rates of the new ships. The official dimensions of the 28-gun class have not survived, but were certainly fixed about this time. The records of the Rhode Island Frigate Committee perhaps reveal the official dimensions. The 28-gun ship dimensions given there are 124'4" length on the gun deck, 102'8½" length on the keel, 33'103/8" in beam, with 10'8" depth in the hold.1 Other sources give the official dimensions of the 28-gun class as 126'3½" on the berth deck, 34'10" in beam and 10'5½" depth in the hold.2 The Marine Committee had difficulties in distributing the official plans and there were variations in the individual ships.


The “standard” battery for the 28-gun ships was selected as twenty-six 12-pounders and two 6-pounders. This battery would have produced a broadside of 162 pounds. It was intended that they have swivel guns and cohorns in proportion. The Marine Committee gave the contracts for the cannons to a Pennsylvania foundry, which failed to meet the deadlines. As a result the batteries were not standard. Virginia was eventually armed with twenty-four 12-pounders, six 4-pounders and six swivel guns, producing a broadside of 156 pounds.3


Samuel Chase, the Marine Committeeman from Maryland, was “entirely unacquainted with Ship Building.” To assist him in supervising construction of the Baltimore frigate the Marine Committee arranged for a local committee to be formed, consisting of Chase, William Lux, Samuel Purviance, Jr., and Stephen Stewart. Before 20 January 1776 Lux had resigned, and Purviance had notified the Marine Committee, requesting his brother be added to the local committee. The Marine Committee met and requested Robert Morris to write to Lux, asking him to act on his appointment. Joseph Hewes notified Purviance that his brother would not be added in any case. Hewes warned Purviance that Chase would not be of much assistance, but thought the frigate would be ready sooner than some of those to the “Northward.”4 The contract for the ship was given to  George Wells, and she was built at his yard at Fell’s Point in Baltimore.5


Jesse Hollingsworth was selected as superintendent of the frigate at 22/6d per day, and the liberty of furnishing her with bar iron at £26 per ton.6


Lines of the Virginia, as re-drawn by Howard I. Chappelle, from The History of the American Sailing Navy. This is based on the Admiralty draft made after her capture.

Samuel Purviance, Jr. was fitting out, or superintending the frigate at Baltimore. Purviance decided to mount a guard on the frigate.7 This was presumably behind the request, on 27 May 1776, that Captain George Wells’s company of militia, chiefly consisting of carpenters working on the frigate, be recognized as a company of artillery. This request was forwarded by the Baltimore Committee of the Maryland Council of Safety.8


In a letter (28 May) to the Marine Committee Purviance had enquired about the battery for the frigate. Joseph Hewes wrote to Purviance on 2 June 1776 with information on the guns for the frigate. Although the Marine Committee had contracted with foundries in Pennsylvania for cannon for all the frigates, the committee wished no delays in getting the ships to sea. Purviance was, therefore, to obtain guns in Maryland for the Virginia. Hewes woud get the dimensions of the guns and forward them to Purviance, and suggested they be forged at Hughes’s foundry. The committee asked Purviance to use the Baltimore Committee of Safety to help push completion of the frigate. Hewes noted that the precaution of mounting a guard for the ship was a good idea.9


On 6 June the Continental Congress, upon recommendation of the Marine Committee, appointed “John Nicholson” to command the ship building in Maryland. The name Virginia was selected at the same time, and the Marine Committee was asked to assign the names and captains to the ships.10 By 12 June the Marine Committee had assigned the name Virginia to the Maryland ship, and corrected the name of her captain to James Nicholson. She was rated as 28 guns.11


The other officers for the new frigates were still to be appointed. On 19 June Commodore Hopkins recommended Robert Sanders, “living in Maryland,” for Lieutenant aboard the Virginia.12


Captain James Nicholson, Continental Navy.

Naturally, when Nicholson and Agent Purviance learned of Nicholson’s appointment, the matter of rank came up. Nicholson and Purviance were curious as to who the senior captains would be. On 21 June Purviance wrote to Joseph Hewes regarding this question. Hewes replied on 25 June. Congress had determined to work out the rank of the captains later. At this time only the fact of the appointments was being certified. Nicholson had been “strongly recommended, and Congress has a high opinion of his abilities and merit, and I have no doubt of his standing pretty high in rank.,” said Hewes. Hewes suggested that Nicholson, the board of commissioners building the frigate, and the Maryland delegates to Congress, should all concur when sea lieutenants were recommended. The Marine Committee would pay attention to Nicholson on all recommendations for warrant officers. The Marine officers were to be appointed “this day.” The Marine officers were Captain of Marines John Stewart, First Lieutenant of Marines Thomas Pownal, and Second Lieutenant of Marines Richard Harrison. All had been “strongly recommended” by the Maryland delegates.13 These three officers were appointed on 25 June.14 Hewes informed Purviance on 2 July 1776 that three lieutenants were allowed to the frigates, correcting an error in his earlier letter.15


On 22 July Hughes wrote to Purviance from Philadelphia concerning the frigates’ guns. He had a contract with the Continental Congress for 1000 tons of cannon at £36.10.0 per ton, to be delivered 1 January 1778. Hughes had had very little conversation with the Marine Committee concerning Virginia’s guns, it seemed to be left to Purviance and Nicholson. Hughes requested the draft and dimensions be sent to the foundry, where he expected to be soon.16


Hewes had not received any recommendations for lieutenants by 23 July. He therefore wrote to Purviance, urging that the recommendations on the lieutenants be sent forward as they had not been received. Dr. Budd had been mentioned to the Marine Committee, but had not yet been appointed. He probably would be appointed with the lieutenants.17 Purviance replied on 27 July, explaining Nicholson’s situation with regard to officers. He was currently in command of the Maryland Navy Ship Defence. Many of the officers of this ship were willing, even eager, to follow him to the Virginia, but Nicholson was “unwilling to distress the Province Service” by taking the best men out of the Defence. Until Nicholson got clear of the Defence he was hoping to let the matter of the officers be. However, Mr. Aquilla Johns was recommended as First Lieutenant.18


Johns was now supervising the frigate and was “well calculated for the Bussins.”19 Although the Virginia could have been launched before now (27 July) Purviance had been keeping the carpenters busy completing all that could be done before launch. He was afraid they would leave after her launch. He intended to launch her about the middle of next week.20


Nicholson was currently on operations against Lord Dunmore’s fleet. Soon he would give up the Defence to her new commander. Then Nicholson, Purviance, and his brother proposed to go up to Philadelphia, to meet with the Marine Committee and settle all the details of the Virginia.21 On 29 July the Maryland Council of Safety informed the Maryland delegation to Congress that Nicholson was going to Philadelphia “on business of his own,” in other words, to meet with the Marine Committee. While there he was to purchase salt provisions for the Maryland Navy. The delegation was asked to assist Nicholson with funds.22 Nicholson probably left the Defence on 31 July, as did Aquila Johns, who had served as Second Lieutenant on the Defence.23


On 1 August 1776 Purviance wrote a letter of introduction for Nicholson to Joseph Hewes, a virtual eulogy. Nicholson was going to Philadelphia to consult with the Marine Committee regarding the Virginia, building at Fell’s Point.24


On 7 August the Maryland Council of Safety wrote to the Maryland delegates in Congress, regarding Captain of Marines John Stewart. The Council of Safety had been informed of his appointment (he had been a lieutenant in Captain John Allen Thomas’s company). If this was so it must supercede his current commission. The Council had promoted other officers in consequence, had filled out their commissions, and had forwarded them for delivery, if Stewart had left, or to be returned, if not.25 On 9 August Thomas Pownal, serving as First Lieutenant in a Maryland militia unit, wrote to the Maryland Council of Safety to resign his commission. He had been appointed First Lieutenant of Marines on the Virginia and expected his commission to arrive soon.26


Virginia was launched on 12 August. “A fine Lance and a fine Ship,” said Jesse Hollingsworth.27 In finishing the ship materials were drawn from as far away as Philadelphia. An account of the Continental Navy “Commissioners of the Navy” dated 3 September indicates £2.8.0 worth of various materials, mostly canvas and cutlesses, furnished to the Virginia.28


Continental Navy Ship Virginia on the stocks at Fell’s Point, Maryland. Painting by Nowland Van Powell from Van Powell, The American Navies of the Revolutionary War

On 1 September 1776, Nicholson, apparently acting in both capacities (Captain, Continental Navy and Maryland Navy) wrote to the Maryland Council of Safety. He was sending a Mr. Morris to the Council with a request to order the Maryland Privateer Schooner Montgomery stopped and searched for four deserters from the Virginia. Nicholson thought they were aboard or soon would be. He wanted an example made of these to prevent thirty more from the Eastern Shore from running away. At the same time he was preparing the Defence for sea.29


On 13 September the Secret Committee requested the Maryland Council of Safety to supply four and a half tons of gunpowder be supplied to the Virginia for use in testing her guns and aboard the ship.30


Richard Henry Lee of the Marine Committee wrote to Purviance on 16 September. He reassured Purviance that Nicholson would not be forgotten when the rank of the captains was settled. However, “It is not probable that the Frigates will sail in fleets for some time; and therefore tis likely that no higher appointment than that of Captain will soon take place.” Purviance was informed that the frigate, although not officially named yet, would be the Virginia.31 The following day Hewes forwarded a printed handbill of the Articles of War to Purviance. Recruiting for the frigate’s crew could now begin.32


The Maryland Council of Safety agreed to furnish gunpowder for testing the Virginia’s guns on 25 September, in a very testy letter to the Secret Committee. Maryland was annoyed that it had not been furnished with certain supplies.33 The testiness carried over in a letter to Nicholson, calling on him, for the second time, to attend the Council of Safety and furnish his accounts for the Defence.34 Nicholson answered on 28 September. He had sent the clerk and the purser (of the Defence, presumably) down to the Eastern Shore to recruit for the frigate. When they returned in five or six days he would call on the Council of Safety, “let my business with the Frigate be ever so pressing.”35


By 1 October 1776 Virginia was being rigged, under the care of Lux & Bowly of Baltimore.36


On 10 October Congress settled the rank of the Continental Navy captains. Nicholson was selected as the most senior captain in the Navy, assigned to the 28-gun Virginia.37 Richard Henry Lee informed Samuel Purviance, on 11 October, that “I have the pleasure to acquaint you that in ranking the Captains of our Continental Ships, the Congress have placed Captain Nicjolson at the head, he being the first Captain..” Lee urged Purviance to ready Virginia for sea.38


Two days later the Marine Committee fixed the rank of the lieutenants of the Navy. This rank listing might simply be the rank of those commissioned on 12 October. Unfortunately it contains names of lieutenants commissioned before 12 October and leaves off a great many others commissioned before 12 October.39 With this list we can perhaps, deduce the Second Lieutenant of the Virginia. Aquila Johns (also Aquilla Johns or Aquila Jones), as mentioned above, was certainly the First Lieutenant of the Virginia. He had been supervising work on the frigate since late July 1776. Johns had previously served in the Maryland Navy Ship Defence as Second Lieutenant,40 with Nicholson. Johns is not ranked in the list of 12 October, nor is a date of commission known for him. The twelfth name on the list is John Sleymaker (Slemaker, Slaymaker). No date of commission is given for him.41 This Sleymaker is known to have been considered a good Chesapeake Bay pilot, and had served as Fourth Lieutenant on the Defence with Nicholson and Johns.42 He is almost certainly the Second Lieutenant of the Virginia. Slemaker was aboard the Defence until mid-September 1776, at least.43 There seems to have not been a Third Lieutenant appointed at this time.


Captain of Marines Stewart had apparently never reported for duty or taken up his commission. He was replaced on 22 October by one James Disney,44 who was recommended by Thomas Stone. Meanwhile, Purviance wrote to the Marine Committee to recommend Thomas Plunkett for the same job. On 24 November 1776, Richard Henry Lee informed Purviance that Disney had been appointed “very long before your recommendation.”45 Disney had been a Captain in Maryland Militia before the appointment.46 Second Lieutenant of Marines Richard Harrison left the frigate about this time. Plunkett replaced him and received his commission on 9 December 1776.47


Purviance informed Nicholson of Congress’s desire to get the Virginia to sea as soon as possible. Purviance passed along Nicholson’s response to Richard Henry Lee on 29 November. Nicholson thought that if he was provided with a large anchor and was able to enlist half the Defence’s crew he could have the frigate ready in a month. Defence had recently arrived at Annapolis. The crew’s enlistment would be up about mid-December 1776, and Nicholson expected to enlist many of them. Twenty-two of her 12-pounders were mounted, and the other two were expected to arrive any day. The 4-pounders had not all arrived, but would not be immediately mounted in any case. Provisions were being collected and muskets manufactured. Still needed were large anchors, blankets, and a set of light sails. Purviance had persuaded Nicholson to go up to Philadelphia in the coming week, on the business of the ship.48


The ordinary business of fitting out continued. Congress had now retreated to Baltimore. On 3 January an officer of the Virginia was ordered to take charge of the recaptured Lexington and her cargo.49 A few days later (6 January) Congress resolved to advance two months’ pay to seamen who enlisted on Virginia.50 By 7 January 1777 Virginia had opened a recruiting rendezvous, which had some success at obtaining the available men at Baltimore.51


On 24 January 1777 the Marine Committee directed Robert Morris (in Philadelphia) to obtain certain articles for Virginia and forward them to Baltimore. Chief among these was an anchor and cable. Morris was to take one from one of the incomplete Philadelphia ships and send it down by cart. An officer of Virginia delivered the letter, as well as others.52


On 15 February 1777 the Continental Congress passed a resolution calling on the several states to take effective measures to man the several frigates being built.53 William Whipple, then at Baltimore with the refugee Congress, reported that Virginia would sail about the end of February.54


On 8 April 1777 the Marine Committee issued sailing orders for Virginia. The Marine Committee had heard she was ready for sea and only awaited orders. Nicholson was to take her to sea and proceed to Martinique, report to William Bingham and pick up a cargo there. Instructions were given for disposal of prizes, a possible cruise in the West Indies, and other possibilities. It is possible that the receipt of these orders provoked the impressment issue.55


It was presumably about the beginning of April 1777 that Nicholson contacted the Marine Committee and informed them that he would never get the ship manned without impressment. Although the Marine Committee would not and could not actively encourage such an action, it did not disapprove of it.56 Nicholson, either explicitly or implicitly, was given to understand that other Continental ships had resorted to impressment,57 and that, if he did, he would be supported.58


Virginia was used as a temporary jail on at least one occasion. On 12 April 1777 Colonel Mordecai Gist, hearing of seven deserters from the Army aboard the Maryland Privateer Schooner Revenge, had the offenders removed. He discovered the lieutenant of the privateer had knowingly enlisted the deserters. Gist sent him to the Virginia for temporary confinement until he could be sent to the Assembly. The owners of the privateer smoothed things over and the lieutenant was soon released.59 Virginia was actively looking for men. On 13 April Nicholson persuaded Colonel Gist to send him three Army men then confined in jail for service aboard the frigate. If Gist’s action was not approved Nicholson promised to return the men.60 Other methods were also being used, for Nicholson’s press had started.


On 11 April one Philip Miller, a sailor aboard the Defence, was going ashore at Fell’s Point in the ship’s boat. He was confronted by First Lieutenant Aquila Johns of the Virginia, seized, detained, “assaulted,” and taken aboard the Virginia.61 On the 13th Captain George Cook (Maryland Navy Ship Defence) reported this incident to Governor Thomas Johnson. Johns declined to release the man upon Cook’s request. A man belonging to the Defence had enlisted aboard the Virginia, but was absent at sea on one of Defence’s tenders. Johns had taken up the first man as a replacement for the second. Bad blood seemed to exist between the crews of the two ships. Cook reported that one of his men, ashore on leave, “was unmercifully Beat for belonging to the Defence.” These actions, Cook felt, were an insult to Maryland and her naval service.62 As for Miller, he was “beat & abused” aboard Virginia. On 15 April he was allowed to go ashore to collect clothing, under care of a midshipman, and made his escape. He immediately filed an affidavit with the local authorities.63


Miller was not the only impressed man. About the same time one John Coram, master of the schooner Betsey, was aboard the Virginia, having been impressed. A petition for his release was sent to Governor Johnson.64 Two young men were seized shortly before 28 April. A protest and request for help was to Governor Thomas Johnson on that date by a friend of the mother of one of the detainees.65 The impressment was widely known locally. On 20 April Philip Key, writing to Richard Lee, reported that Virginia had been fully manned, “by a very warm press.”66


Governor Thomas Johnson of Maryland soon heard these reports. He later said “almost every Body I saw told me there was a press in Balt.” Some of the people in state service had been, by violence, carried aboard, and one had been before the Council. Johnson believed the reports to be true. The action showed a contempt for Maryland authorities. The Assembly was then in session. If a true emergency or necessity were present they might have been consulted,67 for Maryland had a law preventing impressment.68


On 24 April Governor Johnson, after consulting his Council, wrote a blunt letter to Nicholson. The Council had received “repeated” accounts of Nicholson’s having impressed sailors and others residing in, or visiting, Baltimore. “Besides the wrong to the Individuals, it’s consequences have been injurious to the Town, in deterring People from going to Market there, for fear of being treated in the same manner.” Johnson stated that Nicholson did not have such authority to interfere with people, except over voluntarily enlisted sailors, and called for the immediate discharge of all impressed men. A copy of the letter was sent to the Continental Congress.69


Nicholson replied to this letter the next day. He stated he had been condemned without a hearing, and stated that the Whig inhabitants of Baltimore were being treated in this manner by the State lately, thus implicitly questioning Johnson’s loyalty. Nicholson stated he had no orders from Congress to impress, but would not have done it if he thought it would not be approved. Impressment was taking place in Philadelphia and in some of the Northern states “every day.” Nicholson thought Johnson would know his character better than to believe he would resort to impressment except under necessity. He had none aboard who were married and who was not “a proper person to serve his Country.” If he found, upon a second examination, that any were married, he would discharge them. “In short Sir I thi I have done my duty to My Country and myself, and while I can plead that, I care not for the threats of any Council of Maryland.”70


The Maryland Council reacted immediately to this gross insult. Two letters were written, one to John Hancock, and one to the Maryland Delegates in the Continental Congress, on 26 April. The letter to Hancock presented copies of the letter to Nicholson and his reply. The Council could not understand Nicholson’s reasoning that Congress would approve impressment, but noted that, under Maryland law, impressment was illegal. The idea that Congress would approve such measures was injurious to that body’s reputation, the Maryland Council thought. The Council demanded an immediate order to Nicholson to discharge all the impressed men “and we submit to Consideration, whether the Gross Conduct of Capt Nicholson, and the Contempt in which he holds the executive Power of this State, does not make his Dismission from the Service, not only proper, but, to preserve the Confidence of this State, in the Justice of the Congress, and its regard for our internal Government, highly necessary.”71 In the letter to its delegates, the Council presented copies of all three letters. It amplified the circumstances, noting the fear of people to come to Baltimore because of the press. If the power of Continental officers was universal, above that of the states, Maryland wished to know it and quickly. Implicit in all this was a threat to the union of the United States. If Nicholson had seen the real necessity of this measure, he could have conferred with the Assembly, then sitting. Maryland wished this matter resolved as soon as possible, for the Virginia could sail at any time.72


On 29 April the letters from Maryland were presented to the Continental Congress. The letters were referred to the Marine Committee, and a report on them was to be presented the next day. The Marine Committee was directed by Congress to order Nicholson to dismiss all the impressed men, and not to sail until further orders. The Marine Committee passed this order to Nicholson the same day.73


In passing the order along to Nicholson the Marine Committee undertook to explain the resolve to discharge the impressed men. There must have been quite a discussion about this in the Marine Committee. The explanation was more or less to the effect that men who had signed the Articles of War and accepted the bounty money should not be discharged. Arthur Middleton opposed this in the Marine Committee as an arbitrary assumption of power.74 A copy of the Marine Committee’s orders and a letter from the President was sent to the Governor and Council of Maryland, but not the original resolve of Congress.75


Congress took up this matter again on 1 May 1777. It was resolved that the Continental Congress would never support any Continental officer in violating state laws or treating a state’s officers with contempt. Congress further resolved to suspend Nicholson from his command until he gave satisfaction to Maryland for the “disrespectful and contemptuous letter” he had written to Governor Johnson. Nicholson was to be served with a copy of these resolves. If he did not make satisfaction within five days he was to be dismissed. The resolutions were to be transmitted by the Marine Committee and they were to give orders for the immediate dismissal of the impressed men.76


The Maryland delegates to Congress also transmitted copies of the resolves to Maryland on 1 May. They assured Governor Johnson that no one in Congress or on the Marine Committee had encouraged Nicholson “in the manner he has done.” He would have been dismissed immediately “but many Gentlemen thought him a good officer” and thought Maryland’s governor and council would accept an apology. The frigates at Philadelphia had been impressing sailors. Since there had been no complaints, Pennsylvania had “winked” at the measure and even encouraged it from necessity.77


Another epistle was written by Robert Morris to Governor Johnson on 1 May. Morris, one gathers, was one of the “winkers” on the Marine Committee. He called the dispute “unfortunate” and commented that impressment had been under way in Philadelphia for some time. He did not support it, except for “necessity.” Nicholson had merely followed his brother officers’ example. Morris suggested no great harm would have come to Maryland if they had restricted their intervention to complainants. Nicholson’s letter was another matter. It was “unwarrantable” and the terms of the resolution placed his future in Maryland’s hands. Although his loss would be unfortunate for he was “an excellent & Capable” officer. Morris had been told he was of “high Spirit” and would not make the concessions. Morris could only repeat his loss would be unfortunate to the service “especially as the next in Command (Capt Manly) is vastly his inferiour in abilities...”78


Continental Agent William Lux received the Marine Committee orders at 1600 on 4 May. He immediately gathered up Daniel Bowly as a witness and served Nicholson with the orders and resolves at 1830, reading them to him and leaving him a copy. Lux then forwarded copies of all the orders and resolves to Governor Johnson, at Annapolis, with a certificate of serving the papers to Nicholson. First Lieutenant Aquila Johns took command of Virginia at this time, if he ever actually did.79


Nicholson immediately (5 May) wrote to Governor Johnson. He stated it had never been his desire to violate the laws or hold the state’s officers in contempt. He had reviewed his letter and regretted several sentences in it and “was very sorry I sent it.” Nicholson thought that “some persons who wish not my wellfare” had misrepresented the letter and prejudiced Governor Johnson’s opinion. He was not guilty of any crime, said Nicholson. He would make such concessions as the Governor and Council required “as is consistant with my honor as a Gentleman and an Officer,” and asked what was required. He did not desire to be dismissed at this time, not from private motives, but only to assist his country. If a stranger were appointed to Virginia, Nicholson thought most of the officers would resign and “Consequently delay her sailing a long time.” This was another veiled threat. Not one word was said about the impressed men.80


The Council replied to Nicholson on 8 May. They expressly stated that Nicholson’s disavowal of his first letter was “a necessary Atonement, and will, as to us, be satisfactory.” As to the impressed men they must be discharged, even though “through Fear or Force” they had signed the ships’s articles or received the bounty. As to the officers resigning that “has no Influence on us. We would be sorry to see such a Spirit take Place in any Body of Officers, and should assuredly rather meet than give Way to such a Humour.”81


If Johns ever commanded Virginia he was soon out of office. On 11 May he was at Samuel Hughes’s foundry, where he had been several days, attempting to hire wagons to transport some of Virginia’s guns to Baltimore. Johns wrote to Nicholson stating that he could not obtain wagons without impressing them. Colonel Stull, then at the foundry, was not inclined to do this although he offered his help in privately talking to wagon owners. Francis Lewis, a member of the Marine Committee then at Baltimore, passed the letter to the Maryland Council. The Council wrote to Stull and others on the 12th. Impressment was to be avoided if possible. If enough wagons could not be rented the Council approved impressment, with payment to be made by drafts on Samuel Purviance. Impressment would only be done to prevent Virginia’s “lying to the Injury of the Cause and Reproach of our State.”82


Governor Johnson answered Morris’ letter on 14 May. He informed Morris that Nicholson had made no apology and had avoided saying one word about the impressed men. He had only discharged two men, and those only after giving $40 security to return aboard or obtain substitutes within ten days. Obviously, to the Governor, Nicholson had no intention of complying with the order “even in the very cautious Terms it is drawn.” Johnson thought that Nicholson could have applied to the Assembly for help and could have recruited in Virginia.83


On 15 May the Governor wrote to the Marine Committee, enclosing copies of Nicholson’s letters and one of the Council’s to Nicholson. The Council was not happy and was not satisfied with Nicholson’s apology. It concluded that he “has no very good Will to make Concessions” and “he shows little Sign of a real concern” for having written his first insulting letter. The apology was of little concern to the Governor and Council. Many people expected great things of Nicholson and so the Governor and Council explicitly waived the requirement for an apology. As to the discharge of the impressed men, which Nicholson had avoided mentioning in his letter, “we hope and expect a peeremptory Order for the Discharge of such as have been impressed.”84


Congress took up the Nicholson affair about 23 May. The Congress was unanimously of the opinion that he had not made satisfaction that he ought to have made to Maryland. Upon examining the particular orders from the Marine Committee to Nicholson for the release of the impressed men it was found that the Marine Committee had undertaken to explain the resolves of Congress and had done so in a “narrow limited Sense.” This explanation was to the effect that impressed men who had accepted the bounty and signed the ship’s articles should not be discharged. The Marine Committee was “severely handled for presuming to explain at all the Resolve but the more rephresible for giving a Sense to it which might have defeated the whole design of it.”85


William Paca and Charles Carroll were directed to prepare a set of resolutions. They presented them immediately. The first declared Nicholson dismissed from the Virginia for not making satisfaction to the Governor and Council of Maryland; the second restored him to command on his explicit disavowal of his original letter to the Governor and Council; the third resolve ordered the commanding officer of the Virginia to discharge every impressed man who should be considered as such by outside monitors selected by Maryland.86


These resolutions were assured of unanimous passage, but were not presented. Francis Lewis came to Paca and Carroll and informed them he had conversed with the Council, and had been told the concessions contained in Nicholson’s first letter satisfied the Governor and Council. Lewis told the delegates that Nicholson had written a second letter and had discharged every man who did not choose to remain aboard the frigate. From these assurances Paca and Carroll did not present their resolutions, but wrote to the Governor and Council for more information on 24 May. Paca attempted to clear up another point: there was, he said, no intimation, from either Congress or the Marine Committee that Nicholson should impress sailors.87


The Council challenged Lewis in a letter to Paca dated 29 May. “Mr. Lewis has very much mistaken the Council.” Both Council and Governor were “sensible of the Indignity” offered by Nicholson’s first letter. When Nicholson’s second letter was received Lewis was in town and was several times in the Council room: he knew the letter was not satisfactory. He attempted to make it appear so, and to ameliorate Nicholson’s actions. Lewis “may recollect that he told the Governor, Nicholson had told the Marine Committee that it was impossible for him to man the Frigate without impressing Men, and that instead of discouraging it, they seemed rather to approve . . .” This agreed with statements in Nicholson’s first letter.88


After this the Council wrote to Nicholson, the letter of 28 May, which was personally delivered by Lewis. The Council presumed he wanted to influence Nicholson to comply with the Council’s “moderate” terms. The only letter from Nicholson since was the one dated 12 May, a copy of which was sent to the Marine Committee, and which the Council did not esteem as a “very genteel one.” The discharge of the men was the important point. It may have been done, but the Council was not so informed. Two men  only had been discharged, and these had to give $40 security to return or find replacements. The Council had waived the point of satisfaction, not because it thought Nicholson had complied, but only because many people had great expectations of his service.89 This Maryland Council was clearly not of that opinion.


On the afternoon of 30 May a local justice of the peace boarded Virginia to oversee the discharge of the impressed men, said to be over thirty in number.90 On 31 May the final act of this episode was enacted. The justice of the peace who had boarded Virginia to oversee the discharge had reported that thirteen men had signed the ship’s articles, but now wished to be discharged. The  Maryland Council so ordered.91


During this whole long episode the Royal Navy was maintaining its blockade of the Virginia Capes and the two navies, Maryland and Virginia, were attempting to deal with it. In a consultation on 29 April the subject of Virginia came up. Governor Johnson noted that Virginia had long been expected at Annapolis “though all we know is from Report, having little Correspondence with him.” He continued “From some late Instances of his Conduct, there is not great Probability of our Wishes or Advice influencing him in any Degree . . .” If there was a hope of clearing the bay with Virginia’s help Maryland would request it, going through Congress if necessary.92


Soon after the end of the impressment affair Virginia sailed, perhaps attempting to follow the Marine Committee’s orders of early April. At any event the British blockade at the Virginia Capes prevented her from getting to sea. She went into the York River, where she was on 16 June 1777. Here were collected some Maryland and Virginia Navy craft. On the 16th the Maryland Council ordered Captain John David, commanding the Maryland Navy Galley Conqueror, to proceed to the York River and confer with Nicholson about an attack on the blockading vessels. David was to get what assistance in men he could from Nicholson, and act in concert with any force he commanded.93 Conqueror did not sail until 24 June, when David reported he planned to attack one of the British vessels, provided Nicholson furnished him with men.94


Near the end of June Nicholson advised Samuel Purviance, Jr. that he needed cash or a credit lodged at Virginia for his necessities. He planned to run Virginia up the York River to get into fresh water and avoid the tenedos worm. If the enemy withdrew from the mouth of the river Purviance thought Virginia would come up to Baltimore to heave down and clean.95 On 5 July 1777 the Continental Congress ordered $5000 paid to Virginia Continental Agent John Tazewell for use by Virginia.96


Meanwhile, Virginia had undertaken some very minor operations. On 1 July 1777 she led a small fleet of Virginia and Maryland Navy vessels down the York River and out toward York Shoal. HM Frigate Thames (Captain Tyringham Howe) saw two brigs, six galleys, Virginia, and other craft amounting to seventeen sail coming down at 0930. She cleared for action and hoisted signals to the other British vessels. The Americans anchored on Egg Island Flats soon after. About 1400 the British came to sail as did the American fleet, steering back up the York River.97


Virginia under sail in 1777, a modern painting. Pointed out by William Disney.

On the 2nd the American fleet returned to the mouth of the York River, where Virginia remained until 6 July, although other craft came and went. On the 6th the British did not see the frigate and assumed she had returned up the river.98 Virginia was back by the 10th, with her usual escort of small craft. This time she was visible in Hampton Roads.99 Virginia apparently departed York River on 21 July. The British saw her at 1400 turning out of the river. She sailed up the bay at 1500, accompanied by five sail of smaller vessels.100


Virginia was at Baltimore on 1 August 1777 when word was received that the British invasion fleet of 228 sail had arrived off the Delaware Capes. Francis Lewis, a member of the Marine Committee, was also at Baltimore. On the morning of the 2nd Nicholson inquired of Lewis for his opinion of Nicholson’s taking 150 of his men, armed, up to Philadelphia by way of Head of Elk. If the orders were countermanded at Head of Elk they could return. Lewis agreed and proposed to Governor Johnson to add men from the Maryland Navy Ship Defence. Nicholson’s men would leave on the night of the 2nd or the morning of the 3rd.101


Nicholson was soon back. The British fleet hesitated, then sailed south, entered Chesapeake Bay, and sailed up the bay towards Head of Elk. Although an invasion of Maryland was not the object this was not certainly known at the time. Nicholson, aboard Virginia at Baltimore, counted 150 sail from the maintopmast head on 21 August.102 On the 22nd John Hancock directed Nicholson to destroy Virginia if the enemy attempted to seize the shipping at Baltimore and the frigate could not be saved. He was to strip the ship if possible first.103 Most of Virginia’s crew were with Nicholson manning the lower battery at Baltimore.104 On the 23rd the fleet had passed up the bay but Baltimore still feared an attack.105


On 23 October 1777, the  Marine Committee, under the impression that Nicholson was ready for sea, wrote up a set of sailing orders and forwarded them . He was to proceed down Chesapeake Bay, furnishing a convoy for such Continental and private merchant vessels as were in the area and then follow the orders of the Commercial Committee. These orders sent him to Saint-Domingue to pick up a cargo for return to the United States. Nicholson was to, if he could, cruise off the coast of Hispaniola and rid that area of small British cruisers. He was also to call on the governor, Comte d’Argout, and express the thanks of the United States for his “favourable attention to the Interests of the United States of America . . . and that you were desired to beg a continuance of the same friendly disposition . . .”106


On 2 November 1777 Captain Hyde Parker, Jr., commanding the British ships at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay, reported to Vice Admiral Viscount Howe that he had received intelligence that Virginia was ready for sea.107 Nicholson, by 3 November, had decided that he could not break out with Virginia. The British had HM Frigates Phoenix, Emerald, Richmond, Perseus, and HM Sloops Otter and Senegal at the bay’s mouth. He proposed to go to the Delaware, with 100 of his crew, and join the fighting in the Pennsylvania galleys.108


The Marine Committee was not pleased with this proposal. In a letter to Nicholson of 6 November, the Marine Committee began with “This Committee being wearied with the long delay of the Frigate Virginia under your Command in port, and with the great expence Accruing on that Account, have determined that you shall proceed to sea by the first favourable opportunity . . .” The actual procedure was left to Nicholson’s judgement. The instructions of 23 October 1777 were forwarded to him. The bearer of the letter was Lieutenant Joshua Barney, appointed to serve as Second Lieutenant on the Virginia, should Nicholson find him acceptable.109


The appointment of Barney opens the question of Virginia’s lieutenants. First Lieutenant Johns had apparently left the Virginia, perhaps in October 1777, and been replaced by Slemaker. This would have left two vacancies in the lieutenant’s slots. One of these was filled by Barney, noted above as being sent to Nicholson to act as second lieutenant. The other lieutenancy was, seemingly, still left vacant at this time.


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

Virginia was going no where. The Marine Committee, taking note of the fact that Virginia had not sailed, sent a more peremptory letter to Nicholson on 2 December 1777: “We find it necessary to give you the following Instructions which you will please to Observe. We desire that you will proceed with the frigate Virginia down the bay as low as you can with prudence place said frigate not to be exposed to superior attack from the enemy and there wait for a fresh northwest wind and other favourable circumstances to proceed to sea upon the Voyage directed by your Instructions of the 23d of October last.” Nicholson was to obtain a “fast sailing Tender” to precede the frigate and furnish intelligence. In conclusion the committee stated “We expect the speedy execution of these Orders . . .”110


Nicholson now claimed he was short of men. On 12 December Lieutenant Barney turned up at York, Pennsylvania, and called on the Marine Committee with a “representation” from Nicholson that the Virginia was short handed. The Marine Committee had an answer for that: they sent Barney to the Navy Board of the Middle Department, with a request that the Navy Board supply him with fifty or sixty of the Continental crews from the vessels recently destroyed in the Delaware, now gathered at Bordentown, New Jersey. The Marine Committee also requested the Navy Board furnish masters and crews for two trading vessels then at Baltimore, which were to be convoyed to sea by the Virginia. The committee suggested the men could go down to Head of Elk and from there by water, with wagons carrying their baggage.111 Many of these men were from the Andrew Doria. It was probably about this time that Lieutenant of Marines William Barney went down to join Virginia.112 It may also have been about this time that Lieutenant John Fanning was sent to the frigate.


On 19 December the Marine Committee sent orders to Nicholson to ship a small quantity of tobacco on the Virginia. He was to receive the tobacco from an agent of the Commercial Committee and then follow that committee’s orders in regard to the tobacco. Nicholson was not to “incommode the Sailing or fighting” of the Virginia by this transaction.113 Before this letter was mailed the committee heard the report of a large French vessel with clothing, due to arrive in Chesapeake Bay. On the 20th Nicholson was advised to keep an eye out for her, giving the skipper intelligence. Nicholson was also to keep this information secret.114


Second Lieutenant of Marines William Barney, Joshua Barney's older brother.

Perhaps about the end of 1777, Captain of Marines Disney resigned his commission. Second Lieutenant Thomas Plunkett was promoted to replace Disney.115

In a recommendation to General Howe of plans for the forthcoming campaign, Virginia is mentioned as being at Baltimore on 12 January 1778. She is described as a “Fine Frigate” of twenty-eight guns.116 About 12 January some men deserted from the Virginia and were reported to be at Sharpe’s Island. Nicholson got one of the Maryland Navy armed vessels, probably the schooner Dolphin (Captain Daniel Bryan), and put his master, a mate and four men aboard. Dolphin was then sent off to retrieve the deserters.117

Virginia was still in port on 14 January, being furnished with salt.118 Virginia sailed on 18 January. The Marine Committee wasted no time in letting the agent know his next obligation. In a letter to the Purviances, dated 20 January, there is the statement “We rejoice to hear that Captain Nicholson is off your hands, and now require you to make up your accounts with this Committee . . .”119


Virginia sailed from the Patuxent on 18 January with a good northwest wind.120 Virginia, accompanied by the Maryland Navy [Schooner] Amelia, a tender to the Maryland Navy Brig Defence. Amelia (Captain Henry Massey) which was serving as a scout vessel for Virginia, ran south all day. As evening fell the died down. Had the wind continued Virginia could have continued south and east, right out of the bay. Furthermore, Lieutenant Slemaker, “who it is said was well acquainted with the Bay, refusing to act as pilot she put back.”121 The British frigates and tenders normally lay in Hampton Roads, detaching small forces in moderate weather. In order to run the blockade the Virginia, or any other vessel, needed to have a good wind and not have to lay to or anchor in the southern part of the bay.122 Virginia apparently anchored off New Point Comfort to await a more favorable moment.


At 1100 on 20 January Virginia and Amelia were sighted by two British frigates of the blockading force based in Hampton Roads, Emerald (Captain Benjamin Caldwell) and Richmond (Captain John Lewis Gidion). The British ships began chasing to the north and Virginia ran before them in squally weather with fresh breezes. By afternoon the British were past Cherry Stone Point. Night fell and they continued to sail north during the night.123 At 0600 the next day the Emerald saw an enemy brig going in to Annapolis. Ahead of her was the Virginia. At 0800 she was seen to be running north toward Baltimore. Caldwell, the senior British captain, thought it was wiser to anchor.124


Virginia returned to the mouth of the Patapsco River on the morning of 21 January. Agent Purviance reported that he had “narrowly escaped,” from the British frigates, which had chased him from New Point Comfort until he got into the Patapsco.125 Virginia tied up behind a water battery and chain stretched across the northwest branch of the river, between Whetstone Point and later Lazaretto Point, where she took on board 20 more seamen.126 The Virginia had proved to be a “very fast Sailer. The Frigate which Chased her being accounted amongst the first Rate Sailers in the Brittish Navy.” Even so, “The Enemy’s Cruisers being now aware of the design, will certainly render it much more hazardous for her to get out.” Lieutenant of Marines Plunkett was dispatched with this letter, arriving at York on 24 January.127


Nicholson anchored off Point Comfort. The master, mate, and the four sailors had never returned in the Dolphin, nor had the deserters turned up. Nicholson informed Governor Johnson of his difficulty, and apologized for detaining the Amelia and the Dolphin. If the Dolphin returned she would be forwarded immediately by the agents at Baltimore.128 Nicholson reported to the Marine Committee on 23 January concerning the break out attempt, noting that the enlistment of some of his crew would soon expire.129 As Virginia lay at anchor in the river routine maintenance was performed, including scaling the guns by firing them. Such an exercise on 23 January produced an alarm among some locals.130


It would seem that Lieutenant Slemaker left the Virginia about this time. The relationship between him and Nicholson can not have been good at this point. Barney moved up to the first Lieutenant’s slot.


The Marine Committee answered Nicholson’s letter on 28 January. The committee were “perfectly satisfied that your best endeavours” had been used to get Virginia out. Even though the attempt had been unsuccessful the committee expected that would not prevent another attempt. As for the crew, the men whose enlistments had expired should be re-enlisted, allowing them the bounty. The Navy Board of the Middle Department had sent down about twenty sailors, collected from the survivors of the vessels in the Delaware, and forwarded them to Baltimore about 13 January. These men should be arriving soon and could be added to Virginia’s crew. The use of a “small fast sailing Tender” to act as a scout boat was again authorized. The committee again urged Nicholson to “embrace the first opportunity of pushing out confiding in your vigilence & good conduct.”131


On 1 February 1778, before the Marine Committee’s letter of 28 January had been received, Nicholson approached Francis Lewis, a member of the same committee, concerning the use of a tender vessel as a scout. Nicholson wanted to use one of the Maryland Navy’s small armed vessels. Lewis wrote to Maryland Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr. asking if one of the largest of the small vessels at Annapolis could be used. Nicholson planned to use the first fair wind to proceed to sea, according to Lewis. Lieutenant Joshua Barney was sent off with the letter.132 Under the impetus of Lewis’s request, the Maryland Council seemingly loaded the Maryland Navy Schooner Dolphin (Captain Daniel Bryan) to Virginia for this purpose.133 Since the Dolphin was apparently already being used by Nicholson this was simply an extension of an existing situation. On 17 February, following his return to Congress, Lewis inquired of the Purviances whether Virginia had gotten to sea.134


The continued lack of success in getting Virginia to sea inspired the Maryland Council, in a letter to Governor Patrick Henry of Virginia, to suggest that the Virginia be laid up and her crew distributed to the galleys of the two states. The crew “would be much more usefully employed than they are at present,” said the Maryland Council.135


Seeing no movement from the Virginia by 19 February the Maryland Council wrote to Nicholson, recalling the Dolphin.136 Nicholson ignored this letter, as he was wont to do with Maryland communications. His tenders (Amelia and Dolphin) were active in the bay, even if Virginia was not. About 22 February a gentleman sent by Governor Johnson with orders concerning Loyalist recruiting on the Big Annemessex River complained to Colonel Joseph Dashiell. The man had been en route to Dashiell with the governor’s instructions when he was chased in the bay by one of Virginia’s tenders. Thinking she was British he sank the instructions overboard.137


Nicholson wrote to the Marine Committee on 25 and 26 February, informing them of the situation of the Virginia. The crew had demonstrated their “fondness” for the ship; Nicholson thought they would “chearfully make another treat.” Nicholson sent Lieutenant Barney to deliver the letters. The Marine Committee answered on 4 March 1778. The committee urged Nicholson to make another attempt to break out as soon as possible. The committee had written Governor Johnson requesting the continued use of the Amelia or Dolphin as a scout boat and requesting he furnish a skilful pilot138 as it was necessary to have his permission to enlist a pilot. The letter to Governor Johnson, dated the same day, notes that Virginia did not have a pilot aboard during her first attempt, which was the cause of her failure to get out.139 The committee assured Nicholson that “we retain a tender regard for your Character, and hope you will by this succeeding attempt be enabled to wipe off any malicious reflections (if any there be for we know of none) on your character—“140 At the same time Thomas Plunkett was promoted to Captain of Marines to replace Disney.141


From Barney the Marine Committee learned of another problem in Baltimore. In the letter to Nicholson the problem was explained. The “late” agents (the Purviances) would probably not continue to supply the Virginia unless money was forthcoming from the committee, “this we are restrained from doing until the large sums already placed there is accounted for . . .” Consequently the Marine Committee appointed Stephen Steward of West River the agent for supplying the Virginia. He had been furnished money for that purpose.142 In he letter to Steward he was directed to call on Francis Lewis at Baltimore and receive $4000 from him for his agency.143


By now the British squadron anchored in Hampton Bay knew of an impending break out attempt by the Virginia. Based on this information and information concerning some inward bound French shipping, Captain Richard Onslow, commanding the squadron, made a different disposition of his force. On 7 March HM Frigates Emerald (Captain Benjamin Caldwell) and Solebay (Captain Thomas Symonds) and HM Sloops Senegal (Commander Anthony J. P. Molloy) and Otter (Commander Matthew Squire) were ordered to take station between the tail of the Horseshoe Shoal and the Middle Ground. The ships would station themselves at equal distances to “stop up the passage into the Chesapeake Bay.” If ships chased, one frigate and one sloop was always to be left in the channel.144


Lieutenant Barney was sent down the bay to scout the positions of the British vessels about 6 or 7 March in a pilot boat, probably the Dolphin.145 Pilot John Slemaker (the former lieutenant) also seems to have been aboard the Dolphin.146 The Dolphin was chased into Tangier Sound while on this scout, passing a large sloop from Baltimore. Barney went near the sloop to hail her skipper and warn him that a British vessel was close. The Americans received a volley of musketry from the sloop followed by a demand to haul down their colors. Barney hauled off and tacked, coming up on the other side of the sloop. Tied up to the sloop was a British ship’s barge, full of British sailors disguised in blankets and tarred jackets. Barney engaged using the Dolphin’s swivel guns, wounding one Gray, the officer commanding the barge. The British surrendered and Barney took the men aboard, returning the sloop to her owner.147


Barney sailed up to Baltimore where the prisoners were landed. Gray was cared for and a flag of truce was sent down the bay to retrieve his personal effects. The officer’s effects were returned, along with a note from Commander Squire of the Otter, dated 9 March, thanking Barney for his kind treatment of Gray. Squire sent an English cheese and some porter with the thank you note.148


Pilot Slemaker returned to Annapolis and reported to the Maryland Council about 12 March. Slemaker did not like the new British dispositions at all. Writing to Nicholson the Maryland Council hoped that there would be no immediate attempt to “run the the Virginia: indeed we think the Chance of getting through so small, that we wish you not to make a Push, if you orders give you any Latitude.” The Maryland Council had already mentioned these thoughts to some members of Congress. Since the Amelia and the Maryland Navy Galley Plater had been used for and by the Congress, and would be for some time, the Council requested the return of the Dolphin for the same operations.149 Slemaker took this letter to Nicholson, arriving at Baltimore on 15 March.150


Nicholson rejected the Maryland Council’s advice on 15 March. He thought that the Maryland Council would have received the Marine Committee’s letter of 4 March by now, requesting continued use of the Dolphin. The Virginia was now ready for sea and “altho’ there is but little probability of getting to Sea, unless, their orders are Contradicted by the return of the next post, and I can have use of the Boat, I shall make another Attempt.” As for Sleymaker, he had refused to act as a pilot for Virginia since her first attempt to break out. Since then, despite every effort in Virginia and Maryland, Nicholson had been unable to procure a pilot. There were pilots in Baltimore who claimed they could run the ship to sea from Patuxent River in the night, yet none had agreed to go. Nicholson dispatched the Dolphin with this letter to Annapolis, putting two of his crew aboard to help navigate.151


Some members of Congress and the Marine Committee wondered at the supposed difficulty of getting Virginia out to sea. In a letter of 16 March to William Vernon, William Ellery noted that Virginia “hath made two fruitless attempts to pass out Chesapeak. She is order’d to make another. There are four or five Men of war in that bay; but I cannot think it is so difficult to pass by them, as it is to pass those in our Bay.”152 The Continental Board of War suggested that Virginia’s crew could be put to work making tents for the Army, if she could not get to sea.153 It would seem that many people were becoming frustrated with the inability of Virginia to escape the bay.


As it happened the Purviances had a brig at Baltimore with an old Chesapeake Bay pilot aboard.154 This might possibly be the Maryland Privateer Brig Saratoga (Commander Alexander Murray), armed with twelve guns. Saratoga’s pilot was “supposed to be one of the best in the bay . . .” Nicholson promised to pay this pilot £100 if he could get Virginia out without going aground.155


Virginia began her next breakout attempt by moving down to Annapolis from Baltimore with the Saratoga. On 30 March, at 0800, Virginia raised anchor and made sail. She was accompanied by the brig. The wind was very favorable, coming hard out of the northwest. Virginia’s tender (the Dolphin perhaps) was absent with nineteen men156 under Captain of Marines Plunkett and  Lieutenant John Fanning.157 The Virginia worked her way down the bay without mishap, the brig preceding her. As night fell the brig hoisted a stern lantern to guide the ship.158


About 0130 on 31 March, a brig armed with ten guns passed by the blockading squadron. She was seen by Solebay, which slipped her cables and went in chase.159 This would have been the Saratoga. She had pulled away from the Virginia, making the pilot useless. Virginia was about an hour and a half behind the brig. All seemed to be well until 0300 when the frigate struck on the shoals of the Middle Ground. The hard northwest wind pushed her along the shoal, bumping the bottom and opening leaks.160 The tide was going out and the frigate heeled to her starboard side as she slide along the shoal. Her rudder was forced back, springing the pins,161 and shattering it to pieces.162 The experience, played out in relatively slow motion, was surely sheer terror for many of the men aboard. At 0430 the Virginia was pushed over the shoal. She was leaking badly. Nicholson put four pumps to work, which just about balanced the incoming water. With no rudder the ship could not be steered, and the leaks could not be repaired in the dark. Virginia dropped anchor to await daylight.163


The last run of the Virginia, 30-31 March 1778.

At daylight two British frigates were seen nearby, one within two gunshot range and abreast of the Virginia. Nicholson ordered the barge hoisted out and called for volunteers to man her. He said, in his letter to the Marine Committee, that he “took such of my crew as were inclined to run the risque of getting on shore . . .”164 In plain truth Nicholson was going to abandon ship. The wind was blowing violently.165 With nine men the captain went ashore, getting on to Cape Henry. There he waited and watched to see what happened.166


Lieutenant Barney was left in command. Barney apparently called a council of officers. He suggested cutting the ship’s anchor cables, in the hope that she would drift ashore on Cape Henry. From there the crew could be saved and the ship destroyed. There was a real danger that Virginia might miss Cape Henry and drift, unmanageable, into the open ocean. The other officers rejected this suggestion. As the crew waited for the British to come discipline broke down. Some of the crew broke into the ship’s liquor and got drunk. There was little else to do.167


The British had been watching Virginia since a half hour after she had cleared the shoal. At 0500 Emerald’s lookouts sighted the Virginia at anchor to the east with her sails loose. Caldwell cleared for action and waited for flood tide. At 0800 the tide came and Emerald stood toward the Virginia. The Americans raised their colors and waited. At 0900 Emerald fired a single 6-pounder at the Virginia, which promptly surrendered. Caldwell sent a boat on her to take possession. He reported she was armed with thirty guns and had 159 men aboard. At 1000 Richmond joined the Emerald and the American prisoners were transferred to the two frigates.168 Her crew was later reported to be from 140 to 170 men.169


The British moved Virginia to Lynnhaven Bay at 1000,170 and got her leaks stopped.171 Nicholson claimed she was still aground on 2 April.172 Virginia was sent to New York, New York, where she was libeled on 6 May 1778 and was condemned on 28 May as a prize of the Emerald’s. Her prize shares were divided among Emerald, Richmond, St. Albans, Senegal, and Ariel.173 She was taken in to the Royal Navy as HM Frigate Virginia, rated as a 32-gun frigate.


Nicholson, waiting on Cape Henry, saw the British frigates move down and capture the Virginia. He went up to Portsmouth, got a boat, and went out to St. Albans174 on 1 April,175 to arrange the parole of his officers,176 and to ask for the return of his personal effects.177 Barney, also aboard the St. Albans, saw Nicholson and became very angry. He approached his captain and publically “. . . upbraided him with his conduct in quitting the ship . . . when if he had remained on board there was not the least doubt but we should have run the ship ashore where she might have been destroyed.”178 Nicholson was still aboard the St. Albans on 2 April 1778. It was from aboard the British ship that he reported the loss of the Virginia to the Marine Committee.179 Finding he was unlikely to obtain the paroles he returned ashore,180 to proceed to Baltimore and then to Congress.181


Lieutenant of Marines William Barney was sent to Baltimore for exchange on 11 April.182  Lieutenant of Marines Pownal and naval Lieutenant Barney were kept on the Emerald, where they were well treated.183 On 12 April they were transferred to the St. Albans.184 A little later in April Pownal was sent to New York. He was transferred to a prison ship and then to HMS Ardent.185 In June 1778 Pownal was supplied with £25 of necessities.186 In late August 1778 he was exchanged.187 Joshua Barney was also exchanged in August.188


The Marine Committee received Nicholson’s letter about 10 April and it was read on the floor of Congress.189 The Marine Committee was directed to make a report concerning the loss. The report was presented to Congress on 18 April., and outlined the Marine Committee’s dilemma. There were not enough naval officers present to provide a court of inquiry for Nicholson, but it was necessary to have such an inquiry. Congress directed “That the navy board in the middle district, with William Smith, Esq. of Baltimore, and Stephen Stewart, Esq. of West river, in the State of Maryland, or any three of them, be, and they are hereby appointed and fully authorized to make a strict enquiry and examination into the causes of the loss of the said frigate, and the conduct of James Nicholson, late commander of the said frigate; and that to that end they repair to Baltimore as speedily as possible, and call before them the said James Nicholson, and examine all persons, evidences and papers necessary, and make report of such their enquiry, together with the evidences, to the Marine Committee, to be laid before Congress.”190


On 27 April Henry Laurens notified the Navy Board of the Middle Department of the inquiry to be performed on the loss of the Virginia. Laurens had conversed with Smith, who had promised his assistance. Stewart would, Laurens believed, also give his assistance.191 There is no evidence that a report was ever presented, but apparently Nicholson was cleared of any possible charges.


We already know Barney’s opinion of Nicholson’s actions. On 31 May 1778, William Ellery, in a letter to William Whipple, wrote “I don't know which is the most criminal not to assist a ship overpowered by numbers, or to deliver up a ship without firing a gun. If the Devil were a coward I should think that he possessed some of our sea captains; . . . Congress have lately passed a resolution punishing cowardice with death. A little Bynging would be of infinite service.”192



1 NDAR, “Journal of the Committee Appointed to Build Two Continental Frigates in Rhode Island,” III, 799-800

2 Chapelle, Howard I., The History of the American Sailing Navy, Bonanza Books: New York, 1949, 62

3 Chapelle, American Sailing Navy, 90

4 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” III, 1038

5 Chapelle, American Sailing Navy, 61

6 NDAR, “Jesse Hollingsworth to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VI, 198-199

7 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” V, 348

8 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to the Maryland Council of Safety,” V, 278 and note

9 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” V, 348

10 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” V, 397-398

11 NDAR, “John Hancock to Thomas Cushing,” XI, 497

12 NDAR, “Commodore Esek Hopkins’ Recommendations for Officers for the New Frigates,” V, 623-624 and 624 note

13 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” V, 737

14 JCC, 5:478

15 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” V, 879

16 NDAR, “Samuel Hughes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” V, 1182 and note

17 NDAR, “Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr., Baltimore,” V, 1192 and note

18 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Joseph Hewes,” V, 1246-1247 and 1247 note

19 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Joseph Hewes,” V, 1246-1247 and 1247 note

20 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Joseph Hewes,” V, 1246-1247 and 1247 note

21 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Joseph Hewes,” V, 1246-1247 and 1247 note

22 NDAR, “Maryland Council of Safety to the Maryland Delegates in the Continental Congress,” V, 1274

23 NDAR, “A Crew List of the Maryland Ship Defence,” V, 1310-1312 and 1312 note

24 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Joseph Hewes,” VI, 8-9 and 9 notes

25 NDAR, “Maryland Council of Safety to the Maryland Delegates in the Continental Congress,” VI, 105-106 and 106 note

26 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 465

27 NDAR, “Jesse Hollingsworth to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VI, 172 and note

28 NDAR, “Account Against the Continental Frigate Virginia,” VI, 668 and note

29 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VI, 641-642 and 642 notes

30 NDAR, “Secret Committee of the Continental Congress to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VI, 807 and note

31 NDAR, “Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Purviance, Jt.,” VI, 863-864

32 NDAR, Joseph Hewes to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” VI, 877

33 NDAR, “Maryland Council of Safety to the Secret Committee of the Continental Congress,” VI, 993-994

34 NDAR, “Maryland Council of Safety to Captain James Nicholson,” VI, 994 and note

35 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VI, 1039 and note

36 NDAR, “Lux & Bowly to Daniel of St. Thomas Jenifer,” VI, 1095

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

38 NDAR, “Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” 1222-1223

39 Allen, Naval History of the American Revolution, ii, 704

40 NDAR, “Journal of the Maryland Council of Safety,” IV, 671; “A Crew List of the Maryland Ship Defence,” V, 1310-1312

41 Allen, Naval History of the American Revolution, ii, 706-707

42 NDAR, “A Crew List of the Maryland Ship Defence,” VI, 1310-1312

43 NDAR, “Bill of John Slemaker, Pilot of the Maryland Ship Defence,” VI, 774

44 Marines, Marines in the Revolution, 170

45 NDAR, “Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” VII, 266-267

46 Marines, Marines in the Revolution, 170

47 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 464

48 NDAR, Samuel Purviance, Jr. to Richard Henry Lee,” VII, 326-327

49 NDAR, “Richard Henry Lee to Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” VII, 856

50 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VII, 873

51 NDAR, “Captain George Cook to the Maryland Council of Safety,” VII, 879 and note

52 NDAR, “John Hancock to Robert Morris,” VII, 1032-1033

53 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VII, 1213

54 NDAR, “William Whipple to John Langdon,” VII, 1213

55 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” VIII, 296-298

56 NDAR, “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1041-1042; “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1045

57 NDAR, “Robert Morris to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 887-889

58 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 430-431

59 NDAR, “Colonel Mordecai Gist to Brigadier General William Smallwood,” VIII, 330 and note

60 NDAR, “Colonel Mordecai Gist to Colonel John Stone, Annapolis,” VIII, 336

61 NDAR, “Affidavit Respecting Impressment of Philip Miller,” VIII, 354

62 NDAR, “Captain George Cook to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 336 and note

63 NDAR, “Affidavit Respecting Impressment of Philip Miller,” VIII, 354

64 NDAR, “Affidavit Respecting Impressment of Philip Miller,” VIII, 354

65 NDAR, “Nicholas Thomas to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 459

66 NDAR, “Philip Key to Richard Lee,” VIII, 389

67 NDAR, “Governor Thomas Johnson to Robert Morris,” VIII, 966-967

68 NDAR, “Maryland Council to the Maryland Delegates in the Continental Congress,” VIII, 445-446

69 NDAR, “Governor Thomas Johnson to Captain James Nicholson,” VIII, 421

70 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 430-431

71 NDAR, “Maryland Council to John Hancock,” VIII, 445

72 NDAR, “Maryland Council to the Maryland Delegates in the Continental Congress,” VIII, 445-446

73 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VIII, 468 and note

74 NDAR, “William Paca to Governor Thomas Johnson and the Maryland Council,” VIII, 1026-1027

75 NDAR, “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1041-1042

76 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VIII, 886 and note

77 NDAR, “Maryland Delegates in Congress to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 887

78 NDAR, “Robert Morris to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 887-889

79 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VIII, 886 and note

80 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson,” VIII, 915-916

81 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain James Nicholson,” VIII, 935-936

82 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Colonel John Stull, Joseph Sprigg, and Dr. Henry Schenebeley,” VIII, 955-956

83 NDAR, “Governor Thomas Johnson to Robert Morris,” VIII, 966-967

84 NDAR, “Governor Thomas Johnson to the Continental Marine Committee,” VIII, 973 and note

85 NDAR, “William Paca to Governor Thomas Johnson and the Maryland Council,” VIII, 1026-1027

86 NDAR, “William Paca to Governor Thomas Johnson and the Maryland Council,” VIII, 1026-1027

87 NDAR, “William Paca to Governor Thomas Johnson and the Maryland Council,” VIII, 1026-1027

88 NDAR, “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1041-1042

89 NDAR, “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1041-1042

90 NDAR, “Maryland Council to William Paca,” VIII, 1045

91 NDAR, “Order of the Maryland Council,” VIII, 1050

92 NDAR, “Governor Thomas Johnson to Governor Patrick Henry,” VIII, 476-477

93 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain John David,” IX, 124

94 NDAR, “Captain John David to Governor Thomas Johnson,” IX, 165

95 NDAR, “Samuel Purviance, Jr., to Robert Morris,” IX, 197

96 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” IX, 222

97 NDAR, “Journal of H. M. S. Thames, Captain Tyringham Howe,” IX, 198-199 and 199 note. See also NDAR, “Captain Tyringham Howe, R. N., to Captain Benjamin Caldwell, H. M. S. Emerald,” IX, 205 and note.

98 NDAR, “Journal of H. M. S. Thames, Captain Tyringham Howe,” IX, 225-226 and 226 note

99 NDAR, “Journal of H. M. S. Thames, Captain Tyringham Howe,” IX, 257 and note

100 NDAR, “Journal of H. M. S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell,” IX, 310 and note

101 NDAR, “Francis Lewis to Governor Thomas Johnson and the Maryland Council,” IX, 695

102 NDAR, “William Lux to Governor Thomas Johnson,” IX, 779

103 NDAR, “John Hancock to Captain James Nicholson,” IX, 784

104 NDAR, “Major Nathaniel Smith to Governor Thomas Johnson,” IX, 785

105 NDAR, “Major Nathaniel Smith to Governor Thomas Johnson,” IX, 788

106 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” X, 253-254 and 254 note

107 NDAR, “Captain Hyde Parker, Jr. to Vice Admiral Viscount Howe,” X, 379-380 and 380 note

108 NDAR, “James Lovell to William Whipple,” X, 387 and note

109 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” X, 425

110 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” X, 652

111 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to the Continental Navy Board of the Middle Department,” X, 714-715 and 715 note

112 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 430

113 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” X, 757

114 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” X,, 764-765 and 765 note

115 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170, 464

116 NDAR, “Henry Stevenson to General Sir Wailliam Howe,” XI, 102-103

117 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 181 and notes

118 NDAR, “Samuel and Robert Purviance to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 119 and notes

119 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Robert and Samuel Purviance, Jr.,” XI, 175 and note

120 NDAR, “Samuel and Robert Purviance to President of Congress,” XI, 189 and notes

121 Letter,  William Ellery to William Whipple, 31 May 1778 in Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 9:783-784

122 NDAR, “Samuel and Robert Purviance to President of Congress,” XI, 189 and notes

123 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell,” XI, 176 and note; “Journal of H.M.S. Richmond, Captain John Lewis Gidoin,” XI, 176 and note

124 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell,” XI, 180 and note

125 NDAR, “Samuel and Robert Purviance to President of Congress,” XI, 189 and notes

126 DANFS, http://www.history.navy.mil/danfs/v3/virginia-i.htm, accessed 7/25/07

127 NDAR, “Samuel and Robert Purviance to President of Congress,” XI, 189 and notes

128 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 181 and notes

129 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 222 and 224 notes

130 NDAR, “Colonel Joseph Dashiell to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 202-203 and 203 note

131 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 222 and 224 notes

132 NDAR, “Francis Lewis to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 262 and note

133 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 380 and note

134 NDAR, “Francis Lewis to Samuel and Robert Purviance,” XI, 363

135 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Governor Patrick Henry,” XI, 348, 14 February 1778

136 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 380 and note

137 NDAR, “Colonel Joseph Dashiell to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 459 and notes

138 NDAR, Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 509-510 and 510 note

139 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 510 and notes

140 NDAR, Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 509-510 and 510 note

141 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 464

142 NDAR, Continental Marine Committee to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 509-510 and 510 note

143 NDAR, “Continental Marine Committee to Stephen Steward,” XI, 511

144 NDAR, “Captain Benjamin Caldwell, R.N., to Captain Thomas Symonds, R.N., Commander Matthew Squire, R.N., and Commander Anthony J. P. Molloy, R.N.,” XI, 541

145 Paine, Ralph D., Joshua Barney: A Forgotten Hero of Blue Water, The Century Co,, New York and London: 1924, 76-77

146 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 620 and notes

147 Paine, Joshua Barney, 77

148 Paine, Joshua Barney, 77-78

149 NDAR, “Maryland Council to Captain James Nicholson,” XI, 620 and notes

150 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson, Jr.,” XI, 648 and notes

151 NDAR, “Captain James Nicholson to Governor Thomas Johnson. Jr.,” XI, 648 and notes

152 NDAR, “William Ellery to William Vernon,” XI, 661-662

153 NDAR, “Continental Board of War to Samuel and Robert Purviance,” XI, 664, 16 March 1778

154 Letter, William Ellery to William Whipple, 31 May 1778, in Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 9:783-784

155 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

156 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

157 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170; Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 105

158 Van Powell, Noland, The American Navies of the Revolutionary War, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York: 1974, 48

159 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell.” XI, 848-849 and 849 notes

160 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

161 Van Powell, American Navies, 48

162 Letter, William Ellery to William Whipple, 31 May 1778, in Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 9:783-784

163 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

164 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

165 Letters of Delegates to Congress: Volume 9 February 1, 1778 - May 31, 1778, William Ellery to William Whipple, 31 May 1778, 783-784

166 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

167 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170

168 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell.” XI, 848-849 and 849 notes

169 NDAR, “Captain Benjamin Caldwell, R.N., to Captain Richard Onslow, R.N.,” XI, 848 and notes

170 NDAR, “Journal of H.M. Sloop Senegal, Commander Anthony J. P. Molloy,” XI, 849 and note

171 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell.” XI, 848-849 and 849 notes

172 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

173 NDAR, “Journal of H.M.S. Emerald, Captain Benjamin Caldwell.” XI, 848-849 and 849 notes. See also HCA 32/475/14/1-15.

174 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

175 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170

176 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

177 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170

178 NDAR, Miller, Nathan, Sea of Glory: A Naval History of the American Revolution, Naval Institute Press, Annapolis: 1974, 317-318

179 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

180 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 170

181 Letter, Nicholson to Marine Committee, 2 April 1778, in The Pennsylvania Evening Post [Philadelphia], Wednesday, May 20, 1778

182 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 431

183 Smith, Marines in the Reivolution, Marines, 170. In 1787 Pownal petitioned Congress for a reduction in the amount of the slops charged to him while aboard the Virginia, because of the inflation. His bill was $626 and Pownal thought it should be $62. Congress referred the petition to the Commissioner of Accounts for Marine accounts on 7 July. JCC, 32:309. However see note 187 below.

184 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 465

185 Smith, Marines in the Reivolution, Marines, 170.

186 Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 465

187 Smith, Marines in the Reivolution, Marines, 170. On 8 May 1787 Pownal petitioned Congress for his back pay of $800. Because of depreciation he had received $62. Pownal asked for relief. Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 466. His petition was heard on 7 July, but was noted as a petition to reduce the amount of the slops charged to him while aboard the Virginia, because of the inflation. His bill was $626 and Pownal thought it should be $62. Congress referred the petition to the Commissioner of Accounts for Marine accounts on 7 July. JCC, 32:309. The memorial was acted upon on 1 August 1787 but the result is not known. Smith, Marines in the Revolution, 466.

188 Paine, 94

189 JCC, 10:329

190 JCC, 10:363-364

191 Letter, Henry Laurens to John Nixon, Francis Hopkinson, and  John Wharton, “Commissioners of the Navy Board at Borden Town, New Jersey,” in Smith, Paul H. (ed.), Letters of Delegates to Congress 1774-1789, 9:504

192 Letter, William Ellery to William Whipple, 31 May 1778, in Smith, Letters of Delegates to Congress, 9:783-784


Revised 6 August 2014 © awiatsea.com

web analytics