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Recapture of Falcon’s Prizes 14 May 1775






Recapture of Falcon’s Prizes: The First Naval Encounter of the War
14 May 1775

HM Sloop Falcon (Commander John Linzee) was anchored in Holme’s Hole on 11 May 1775. At 1100 Falcon stopped a schooner from Boston, and, in the afternoon stopped another sloop. At 1800 Linzee1 sent his barge out2 and took a wood sloop,3 returning from Nantucket4 in ballast,5 for having no clearance.6


This vessel was owned by Simeon Wing of Sandwich, Massachusetts and was skippered by his son, Thomas Wing. For years past she had been used to take wood to Nantucket Island. It was the usual practice for them to settle with the Customs officers once a year, they paying twelve pence a trip. This was the usual practice for craft engaged in this trade. When Wing returned from Nantucket, going through Vineyard Sound, the barge from the Falcon came out an captured the sloop.7


Brought over to the Falcon, Wing was told his vessel would be released if he would inform Linzee of any vessels recently arrived from the West Indies.8 Wing apparently acted ignorant, but finally “an indian Fellow on board” the sloop informed Linzee that a vessel owned by Jesse Barlow had recently brought in a cargo from the West Indies. She was now laying in Buzzard’s Bay with a cargo of provisions, bound back to the West Indies.9 Eventually Wing, apparently, confirmed that there was a sloop at Bedford or Fairhaven, in Dartmouth that had just arrived from the West Indies.10


A portion of Buzzard's Bay, from the Des Barres chart.

 

Instead of releasing the wood sloop, Falcon armed and manned her, to send her in search of the West India sloop.11 This was done on the  morning of 12 May, while Falcon was anchored in Holme’s Hole. Falcon sent her gunner’s mate, surgeon’s mate, and 11 men,12 under Midshipman Richard Lucas,13 on board the sloop captured the previous day.14 According to other sources, fourteen,15 fifteen,16 or twenty-three17 men were put on Wing’s sloop and they set off up Buzzard’s Bay after Jesse Barlow’s vessel, with Wing still aboard.18


The British found the West India sloop, whose cargo had been landed by now.19 The British seized the sloop20 and her master21 and put a prize crew and some guns and ammunition aboard.22 The master was apparently put on Wing’s sloop. Both vessels with all the crew, passengers, and masters then sailed off.23 They proceeded to Martha’s Vineyard where they anchored about three miles apart.24


Jesse  Barlow, irked at losing his sloop,  now applied to his friends ashore in Dartmouth for help.25

As it happened there were two companies of Massachusetts troops (later taken into Continental service) being raised in the area, commanded by Captains Daniel Egery [Egry] and Nathaniel Pope. The officers agreed to furnish men for the expedition. An old 40-ton sloop, the Success,26 was collected, and Egery took command of her, with Pope as his lieutenant.27 Barlow financed half the cost of the expedition.28 This sloop29 was armed with two swivel guns30 and manned with thirty men.31


Meanwhile, Lucas, the prize and the tender (another prize) had sailed off to rendezvous with the Falcon. The night was foggy32 and the wind was light,33 and Lucas didn’t get very far. Both sloops anchored during the night,34 perhaps to the east of West Island in Buzzard’s Bay,35 about three miles apart.36


The Americans sailed in the evening from Fairhaven, in chase of the “royal pirates.”37 Steering mostly by tide and with light winds the Americans spent the night in the fog. At sunrise one of the sloops was sighted and closed. The Americans got close enough to surprise her38 and she surrendered without firing a shot.39 Pope and two other men went aboard the sloop and sailed her into Fair Haven.40


The second sloop was seen to the west, raising sail. Success set out after her.41 As the Americans closed in the “pirates fired on them; the fire was immediately returned, by which three of the pirates were wounded, among whom was the commanding officer . . .” The Americans boarded her at once.42 One man died within a day of his wounds.43

ON THE WATERS OF BUZZARDS BAY
WITHIN SIGHT OF THIS SPOT THE
FIRST NAVAL BATTLE
OF THE
REVOLUTIONARY WAR
WAS FOUGHT ON
MAY 14, 1775
TWENTY FIVE DAYS AFTER THE
BATTLE OF CONCORD AND LEXINGTON
A GALLANT FORCE OF FAIRHAVEN MEN
COMMANDED BY
CAPT. NATHANIEL POPE
AND CAPT. DANIEL EGERY IN
THE SLOOP SUCCESS, CAPTURED
TWO BRITISH SLOOPS AND THERE CREWS
THIS TABLET PLACED BY THE
NEW BEDFORD CHAPTER
SONS OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION
1927

Historic marker at Fort Phoenix, Fairhaven. Picture from www.millicentlibrary.org/ cochran/ page9.html


Both sloops were taken into Dartmouth.44 Captured were Falcon’s gunner, Surgeon’s Mate, a Midshipman (Lucas), eight sailors and three Marines.45 The prisoners were sent first to Taunton jail,46 then to Cambridge. Nine of the prisoners arrived at Worcester on 23 May.47 When Wing and Barlow applied to the Dartmouth people for their vessels they were told that the two sloops would be released on Wing paying $8 and Barlow $10. The two paid the money but the Dartmouth people continued to hold the vessels, stating that they needed to seek the orders of Congress. Finally they offered to deliver up the vessels if Wing and Barlow paid an additional $45 and signed bonds to indemnify the Dartmouth people. Fed up with this business Wing and Barlow requested the Committee of Correspondence of Sandwich to lay the affair before the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which was done on 29 May.48


The Massachusetts Provincial Congress, on 2 June 1775, ordered the Dartmouth people and Wing and Barlow to appear before the Congress for an investigation.49



1 NDAR, “Journal of His Majesty’s Sloop Falcon, John Linzee, Commanding,” I, 311-312

2 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

3 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515; “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

4 NDAR, “Journal of His Majesty’s Sloop Falcon, John Linzee, Commanding,” I, 311-312

5 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

6 NDAR, “Journal of His Majesty’s Sloop Falcon, John Linzee, Commanding,” I, 311-312

7 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

8 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

9 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

10 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

11 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515. Linzee’s motives are variously given for this enterprise: (1) to use the sloop to haul livestock off the Elizabeth Islands or; (2) to capture the West India sloop.

12 NDAR, “Journal of His Majesty’s Sloop Falcon, John Linzee, Commanding,” I, 322 and notes

13 From R.C. Brooks e-mail May 2008

14 NDAR, “Journal of His Majesty’s Sloop Falcon, John Linzee, Commanding,” I, 322 and notes

15 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

16 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Newport, Rhode Island, dated May 10 [1775],” I, 303

17 The New York Gazette, and the Weekly Mercury, Monday, May 22, 1775

18 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

19 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

20 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515; “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

21 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

22 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

23 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

24 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

25 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

26 Society of the Daughters of the American Revolution, Lineage Book, vol. XVIII, Washington: 1904, 29 ; Hurd, Duane Hamilton, History of Bristol County, Massachusetts With Biographical Sketches of Many of Its Pioneers and Prominent Men, J. W. Lewis & Co: Philadelphia, 1883, 269; Peffer, Randall, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society A Schooner Adventure Around Buzzards Bay, Sheridan House: 2000, 103

27  Lineage Book, vol. XVIII, 29; Hurd, History of Bristol County, 269

28 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

29 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Newport, Rhode Island, dated May 10 [1775],” I, 303, says two sloops and dates the incident a week ahead.

30 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

31 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515; “Extract of a Letter from Newport, Rhode Island, dated May 10 [1775],” I, 303

32 Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 103

33 Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 103

34 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

35 Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 103; Hurd, History of Bristol County, 269

36 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515. Note the location given here is Martha’s Vineyard, but they probably didn’t get so far.

37 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

38 Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 103

39 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

40 Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 103

41 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515; Peffer, Logs of the Dead Pirates Society, 104

42 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

43 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Newport, Rhode Island, dated May 10 [1775],” I, 303

44 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515; “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

45 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Samuel Graves to Philip Stephens,” I, 690-692

46 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Newport, Rhode Island, dated May 10 [1775],” I, 303

47 NDAR, “Massachusetts Spy, Wednesday, May 24, 1775,” I, 515

48 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559

49 NDAR, “Nathaniel Freeman to the Massachusetts Provincial Congress,” I, 558-559


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