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Action at Beverly Cove





Action at Beverly Cove
10 October 1775



On the morning of 10 October 1775, Continental Army Schooner Hannah (Captain Nicholson Broughton) lay at anchor in Beverly Harbor, Massachusetts. Hannah was armed with four 4-pounders, some swivel guns, and had a crew of about fifty men.


For the past few days she had been day sailing out into Boston Bay, looking for incoming British transports. On 7 October Hannah had sailed in the evening and sailed overnight. At dawn she was she was two miles off Eastern Point.1 A sail was sighted: a small transport. Hannah chased her and fired four shots at her before her escape. On 9 October Broughton had sailed out to investigate again, saw nothing, and returned to port. A second sortie in the afternoon produced a similar result.2


Meanwhile, the midshipman in charge of the transport had reported to his superior, Vice Admiral Samuel Graves. Graves noted that “. . . a lieutenant who commanded a Transport, which arrived Yesterday, reporting that he had been chased in the Bay by a Rebel Schooner, which from her appearance he guessed to be his Majesty’s late Schooner Diligent, that the Rebels had taken some time ago at Mechias.”3 Graves seemingly also thought it was the Diligent. Graves immediately ordered HM Sloop Nautilus (Commander John Collins) to sea, “as being by much the best going Vessel of any then at Boston and none other being so ready and in all respects so proper for this sudden Service, to put to Sea immediately in quest of the Rebels.”4 Graves later wrote “The Nautilus is to cruize a few days in the Bay, where a Rebel Schooner last Saturday chaced and fired four Shot at one of the Transports coming in from Newfoundland.”5


Nautilus was an older sloop, having been built in 1762. She measured 316 tons and was armed with sixteen 6-pounders. Nautilus had a nominal crew of 125 men.6


Nautilus sailed at 1000 on 8 October, steering northeast toward Cape Ann under fresh gales. Two days later Collins was located five miles southeast of Halfway Rock.7 She was seen in the distance from Beverly by a journalist ashore: “I saw a ship with her sails hauled up, laying too.”8


Hannah sailed from Beverly at 1100 on 10 October, with fair weather and a westerly wind.9 Broughton probably ran east along the coast looking for targets, but no sails were seen. About 1300 Broughton sighted the Nautilus.10 He put about and began running back to Beverly, steering between Baker’s Island and Little Misery Island.11


Meanwhile, Nautilus had seen Hannah soon after she turned about: “The 10th instant saw standing into Salem a Schooner, the one I supposed I was in quest after.”12 Nautilus immediately raised sail and stood after the running schooner.13 Broughton soon saw he could not get to Beverly in time. Nautilus chased “her into a little Bay near to Beverley Bar, in which she run ashore . . . very near the beach”14 The small cove was known then as Beverly Cove.


Detail from 1776 Des Touches map of the three harbors area. Note Halfway Rock at the lower right. Also note the small cove to the immediate right of Beverly village. This was not labeled on the map, but was Beverly Cove.

 

 

Hannah went firmly aground. The crew went overboard and began stripping the schooner: “The Privateer run aground in a Cove a little without Beverly Harbour where the People speedily assembled, stripped her, and carried her Guns, &c. ashore.”15


Nautilus came in as near as possible, just within grapeshot range.16 Collins brought to, anchored within a half mile of Beverly Church, at 1530,17 and got his broadside to bear,  and began firing at the Hannah.18 After a few shots the men stripping the schooner left and ran up on the beach. Collins decided to burn the schooner and hoisted out his boat. The crew brought combustibles up on deck. By then the schooner was dry in the mud, for the tide was ebbing fast. Nautilus soon went aground herself, but resumed firing on the Hannah.19


Closeup of Beverly Cove from an old topographic map, about a century after the fight.

 

 

The militia from Beverly had come down and began a smart fire on the stranded Nautilus, with muskets and swivel guns. In Salem about 200 of the townspeople came to Salem Neck, bringing up three 4-pounder guns. These were put in very well concealed locations and began firing on the Nautilus. Collins said that “soon after a fire from Salem Side with three Pieces of Cannon, at different Stations, so well chosen that I could not see them with my Glass; . . .”20 According to Collins a “smart fire of Musquetry and Swivels took place . . .”21 For between two and three hours the British vessel was subjected to a “warm and well directed Fire.”22


Collins could see that he couldn’t get to the schooner, and decided it was time to leave. But Nautilus was now firmly aground. The British made two attempts to put a spring on the anchor cable. The first broke, the second was useless because she was stuck in the mud.23


The local militia began to make preparations to board the Nautilus, but, about 2000 the tide rose, floating the British warship.24 Collins thought it was time to leave. The wind blowing ashore it was necessary to cut the anchor cable. Nautilus finally made off.25


Collins later reported to Graves that Nautilus: “received a great many Shot mostly in my Rigging and Sails, about 20 through the Hammacoes and Hull, one Gun dismounted, and a Swivel shot in two; one man has lost his Leg, and another wounded in the Side. ‘tis very lucky they fired so high.26 One man later died of his wounds.27


The Americans had one casualty, a man whose hand was blown off by his own cannon,28 and Hannah was only slightly damaged. One or two buildings in Beverly were hit.29 One unintended casualty was Broughton, who took a “bad Cold.”30


Hannah was apparently hauled in to Beverly, where she remained, with a sprung keel. Broughton was transferred to another of the Army schooners. Hannah was discharged about 6 November 1775 from Army pay.

Summary Table

Vessel

Tons

Guns

Broadside

Men

Killed

%

Wounded

%

Total

%

Hannah

78

4

12

[50]

Militia

[200]

1

1

Nautilus

316

16

48

125

1

0.8%

1

0.8%;

2

1.6%

Time: 3 hours



1 Montgomery, Elizabeth, Reminiscences of Wilmington, in Familiar Village Tales, Ancient and New, Wilmington: Johnson and Bogia, 1872, p. 154

1 Hearn, Chester G., George Washington’s Schooners: The First American Navy, Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1995, p. 21

2 Nelson, James L., George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008, p. 115

3 NDAR, “Narrative of Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 362

4 NDAR, “Narrative of Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 362

5 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Samuel Graves to Philip Stephens,” II, 371-373

6 Winfield, British Warships in the Age of Sail 1714-1792, 275

7 Nelson, James L., George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea, New York: McGraw Hill, 2008, p. 115, from the Journal of the Nautilus

8 Nelson, George Washington’s Secret Navy, 115, from the Journal of Ashley Bowen

9 Ibid, 115

10 Ibid, 115

11 Hearn, 21, Clark

12 NDAR, “ Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

13 Nelson, George Washington’s Secret Navy, 115, from the Journal of the Nautilus

14 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

15 NDAR, “New England Chronicle, Thursday, September 28 to Thursday, October 12, 1775,” II, 416

16 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418; “Narrative of Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 438-440

17 Nelson, George Washington’s Secret Navy, 116, from the Journal of the Nautilus

18 NDAR, “New England Chronicle, Thursday, September 28 to Thursday, October 12, 1775,” II, 416

19 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418; “Narrative of Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 438-440

20 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

21 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

22 NDAR, “New England Chronicle, Thursday, September 28 to Thursday, October 12, 1775,” II, 416 and note

23 Nelson, George Washington’s Secret Navy, 117

24 NDAR, “New England Chronicle, Thursday, September 28 to Thursday, October 12, 1775,” II, 416 and note

25 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

26 NDAR, “Captain John Collins, R.N., to Vice Admiral Samuel Graves,” II, 417-418

27 NDAR, “Diary of Lieutenant John Barker,” II, 571 and note

28 Clark, George Washington’s Navy, 13

29 NDAR, “New England Chronicle, Thursday, September 28 to Thursday, October 12, 1775,” II, 416 and note

30 NDAR, “Colonel John Glover to George Washington,” II, 459-461


Posted 6 September 2017 © awiatsea.com