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Andrew Doria vs. Racehorse





Continental Navy Brig Andrew Doria Captures HM Sloop Racehorse
8 December 1776



Continental Navy Brig Andrew Doria (Captain Isaiah Robinson) sailed from St. Eustatius, Netherlands West Indies on 1 December 1776. Andrew Doria had been sent to St. Eustatius to pick up a cargo of munitions and clothing and return them to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.1 It seems that at this time Andrew Doria had a crew of one hundred men,2 and was armed with fourteen 4-pounders and fourteen or sixteen swivel guns.3


On 8 December4 lookouts on the Andrew Doria saw a sloop and another vessel and gave chase. As Andrew Doria approached the second vessel broke off and the sloop ran before the Andrew Doria. Robinson was soon close enough to find out the chase was HM Sloop Racehorse (Lieutenant William Jones).5 Jones gave the position as between 22° and 23° N, near the Turks and Caicos Islands.6


Racehorse was a “very fine”5 sloop of ninety tons.7 Racehorse was the former sloop Hercules, purchased in June 1776 at Jamaica in the British West Indies for the Royal Navy. She measured 59' length on the deck, 43' length on the keel, with a beam of 20'9" and a depth in the hold of 9', and measured 98 45/94 tons.8 She had been ordered fitted out on 12 February 1776 as a cutter, with a crew of forty-five men,9 but was to be raised to the status of a sloop on 31 August 1776, armed with ten guns,10 4-pounders,11  and a crew of eighty men, and was to be commanded by a Master and Commander.12 The First Lieutenant of the Boreas, William Jones, was assigned to the Racehorse.13 Racehorse patrolled the north coast of Jamaica and in the Windward Channel in the summer and fall of 1776, before she was assigned to the escort of a homeward bound Jamaica convoy. Racehorse was returning from her escort mission and was proceeding to the Turks Islands, her patrol station.14 She had taken three prizes in her passage, sending all to Port Royal, which weakened her crew.15 Racehorse had a crew of sixty men aboard at this time.16 The last prize was the vessel seen by Andrew Doria as the American brig had given chase.17


As Racehorse and Andrew Doria squared away, a running battle began, described as “very obstinate.”18 For two hours and forty-five minutes the action continued.19 Finally, after he had been wounded in the right arm,20 Jones surrendered the Racehorse. Andrew Doria had two killed, and one or two men wounded.21 Her main mast was shot through and she had other damage.22 Racehorse had three shot in her mainmast, many shot holes in her sails and heavy damage to her rigging.23 Several men had been killed (thrown overboard during the action) and eight wounded.24 Jones “defended her obstinately & is certainly a brave Man.”25


A photograph of a painting by either C. T. Warren or A. W. Warren, purporting to show the Andrew Doria-Racehorse action. There are at least two difficulties with this painting: (1) Andrew Doria’s colors are incorrect; (2) Racehorse seems to be portrayed as a schooner. For a larger black and white view, from Theodore Roscoe and Fred Freeman, Picture History of the U. S. Navy, 116, see here.

 

After removing the crew and the officers, the Racehorse was ordered into Philadelphia. When the Andrew Doria arrived on 23 December, Jones was sent to the Pennsylvania Council of Safety with a request that he be granted an honorable parole.26 He appeared before the Council the next day, with a letter from Morris and escorted by Robinson.27 Racehorse arrived at the chevaux-de-frise in the Delaware River on Christmas Day.28 Jones advised Howe he was a prisoner on 27 December and requested warm woolen clothes for his crew.29 An exchange of Jones for the recently captured and paroled Captain William Hallock was suggested.30 Meanwhile Morris suggested the Racehorse be purchased for the Continental Navy31 and Congress so ordered on 13 January 1777.32 She was libeled on 1 February 1777, tried on 21 February 1777,33 and advertised for sale on 26 February 1777.34 Jones was still awaiting exchange on 31 January 1777.35


Summary Table

Vessel

Tons

Guns

Broadside

Men

Killed

%

Wounded

%

Total

%

Andrew Doria

14

28

100

2

2%

[5]

5%

[7]

7%

Racehorse

98

10

20

60

[3]

5%

8

13%

[11]

18%

Time: 2 hours, 45 minutes



1 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-576 and 576 note

2 NDAR, “Deposition of John Trotman,” VII, 486-486; “Extract of a Letter from St. Eustatius, November 16, 1776,” VII, 190; “Extract of a Letter from a Gentleman at New York, to his Friend at Glasgow, dated February 2, 1777, brought by the General Howe,” VII, 107. The last source states that the crew numbered 104 men.

3 NDAR, “Deposition of John Trotman,” VII, 486-486

4 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

5 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Clark Gayton to Philip Stephens,” VII, 898-901 and 901 note

6 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

7 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Clark Gayton to Philip Stephens,” V, 517-522. In her advertisement for libel she is stated to be thirty tons. NDAR, “Libel Filed in Pennsylvania Admiralty Court Against the British Sloop of War Racehorse,” VII, 1083-1084 and 1084 note

8 Winfield

9 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Vice Admiral Clark Gayton, Jamaica,” IV, 906-907 and 907 note

10 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Vice Admiral Clark Gayton,” VI, 580-581

11 NDAR, “Captain John Barry to the Continental Navy Board of the Middle Department,” X, 598-601

12 NDAR, “Lords Commissioners, Admiralty, to Vice Admiral Clark Gayton,” VI, 580-581

13 NDAR, V, Appendix C, 1353-1375

14 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

15 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Clark Gayton to Philip Stephens,” VII, 898-901 and 901 note

16 JCC, 7:292

17 NDAR, “Vice Admiral Clark Gayton to Philip Stephens,” VII, 898-901 and 901 note

18 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note

19 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

20 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

21 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note; “Pennsylvania Packet, Saturday, January 4, 1777,” VII, 860 and note

22 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note

23 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note

24 NDAR, “Pennsylvania Packet, Saturday, January 4, 1777,” VII, 860 and note. Seven, besides Jones.

25 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note

26 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 574-577 and 577 note; “Pennsylvania Packet, Saturday, January 4, 1777,” VII, 860 and note

27 NDAR, “Robert Morris to the Pennsylvania Council of Safety,” VII, 592 and note

28 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 600 and note

29 NDAR, “Lieutenant William Jones, R.N., to Vice Admiral Richard Lord Howe,” VII, 614-615

30 NDAR, “Congressional Committee in Philadelphia to George Washington,” VII, 862-863 and 863 note

31 NDAR, “Robert Morris to John Hancock,” VII, 869-871

32 NDAR, “Journal of the Continental Congress,” VII, 946

33 NDAR, “Libel Filed in Pennsylvania Admiralty Court Against the British Sloop of War Racehorse,” VII, 1083-1084 and 1084 note

34 NDAR, “Pennsylvania Evening Post, Saturday, February 22, 1777,” VII, 1263 and note

35 NDAR, “Executive Committee of Congress to George Washington,” VII, 1071 and note


Posted 1 December 2010 © awiatsea.com