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Incidents
Oliver Cromwell vs.
Two Merchant Brigs





Massachusetts Privateer Brig Oliver Cromwell Driven off By Two Merchant Brigs
6 August 1777



Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell was commissioned on 29 April 1777 under Commander William Coles (or Cole) of Beverly, Massachusetts. Oliver Cromwell was said to be armed with sixteen 6-pounders and to have a crew of 130 men.1 She was said to measure 162 tons.2 Oliver Cromwell sailed about 20 July 1777,3 bound across the Atlantic to patrol off the southern coast of Europe.


On 2 August 1777 Oliver Cromwell fell in with Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Fancy (Commander John Lee). The two privateers lay to and Coles invited Lee aboard for dinner. In the conversation Lee said that he had taken nine prizes, “Some of which were retaken, Some were in Ballast which he gave the prisoners, & 4 he had sent Home . . .” The two skippers agreed to sail together for a few days. On the evening of the next day a British warship chased the two American privateers and they separated.4


This British warship chased Oliver Cromwell unsuccessfully for several days. At 0700 on 6 August, in fair and pleasant weather,  Oliver Cromwell sighted a sail ahead (with the warship was still in chase) and captured her at 0800. The prize was a brig from Cork, Ireland in ballast. After placing some prisoners aboard, Oliver Cromwell released the brig.5


Soon after another prize, the 120-ton6 brig7 (or brigantine),8 Queen of Portugal (Richard Tibbey9 [Tibby]),10 was captured. She was from Cork to Lisbon, Portugal with a cargo of butter and beef. This vessel was the former Pennsylvania Privateer Brigantine General Montgomery.11 Although Queen of Portugal was under the Portuguese flag, her crew was removed leaving only Tibbey and the passengers aboard.12  The prize was placed under the command of one Gray, and she accompanied the Oliver Cromwell for a time. Aboard the Queen of Portugal were a number of passengers, including some “Laidys,” whom it was determined should be landed on British territory. Recalling that a British warship was still in pursuit, Oliver Cromwell sailed again. At 1500 she sighted two brigs and ran down to them, Coles ordering Gray to keep away to the west.13


After the Queen of Portugal separated, Coles tried to close the two brigs, but the wind died down and Coles’s crew broke out the oars. The two brigs, Rawlinson (W. Preston) and Sally (Cleland), kept close together and formed into a line of battle. As the Oliver Cromwell closed up the Sally opened fire, which Coles ignored until he was in close.14 Coles ordered Cleland to strike and Cleland replied that he did not intend to. Coles fired two guns; Sally returned a broadside.15 Oliver Cromwell now poured two quick broadsides into Sally.16 Cleland was killed at the second shot and John Jugwood, his First Mate, took command. Rawlinson lay on Sally’s off side and only fired one gun. After a half-hour part of Sally’s crew ran for cover.17 After a few minutes of exchange the first brig struck: “She...[did]...earnestly beg of us to desist our Fire on her.”18 Coles then headed for the other brig,19 assisted by Sally dropping astern,20 and engaged her for three glasses (an hour and a half), before she fell off disabled. The first brig had resumed firing with her bow-chasers,21 having come up on Oliver Cromwell’s stern.22 Coles conferred with his officers (with the warship still in chase). The action was broken off and Oliver Cromwell sailed away, changing course.23


The unknown author of a journal kept aboard the American ship said that “Capt Coles (to his eternal Honour be it remembered) with all other officers behaved with the greatest Magnanimity & Brivery possible . . . Through the marvellous goodness of God not one Life was lost on our Side; our 1st Lieut. [William Russell] Was wounded by a Cannon Shott in both his thighs, just above the Knees, one or two of the Men were very slightly wounded, - our Brig recd. Several Shotts in her Hull, Rigging & but ye Damage was inconsiderable . . .”24


Summary Table

Vessel

Tons

Guns

Broadside

Men

Killed

%

Wounded

%

Total

%

Oliver Cromwell

162

16

48

130

0

0%

3

2%

3

2%

Sally

1

1

Rawlinson

Time: [3 hours]



1 Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 66; NDAR, VIII, 463 and note; X, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” 354-355 and 355 note; Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 230

2 Howe, Beverly Privateers, 342

3 NDAR, “Extract of a letter from Bilbao, Sept. 17,” IX, 647 and note

4 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 150, quoting from the journal.

5  NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

6 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 90 and notes

7  NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

8 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 90 and notes

9 NDAR, “Libels Filed in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District,” X, 90 and notes

10  NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

11 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

12 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter dated Nantz, August 21, fram a Passenger on Board the Queen of Portugal, Capt. Tibby, from Corke to Lisbon,” IX, 592-593 and 593 note

13 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

14 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

15 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Capt. John Jugwood, of the Brig Sally, of Lancaster, dated Cove of Corke, Aug. 15,” IX, 569-570 and 570 note

16 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

17  NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Capt. John Jugwood, of the Brig Sally, of Lancaster, dated Cove of Corke, Aug. 15,” IX, 569-570 and 570 note

18 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note;  “Extract of a Letter from Capt. John Jugwood, of the Brig Sally, of Lancaster, dated Cove of Corke, Aug. 15,” IX, 569-570 and 570 note

19 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

20 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Capt. John Jugwood, of the Brig Sally, of Lancaster, dated Cove of Corke, Aug. 15,” IX, 569-570 and 570 note

21 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note

22 NDAR, “Extract of a Letter from Capt. John Jugwood, of the Brig Sally, of Lancaster, dated Cove of Corke, Aug. 15,” IX, 569-570 and 570 note

23 NDAR, “Journal of a Cruise in Massachusetts Privateer Brigantine Oliver Cromwell, Captain William Coles,” IX, 552-553 and 553 note. Another account is in Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 230

24 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 151


Posted 7 January 2011 © awiatsea.com