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Loss of HM Frigate Blonde





Loss of HM Frigate Blonde and the Rescue of Her Crew
10-15 May 1782



Massachusetts Privateer Ship Lyon was commissioned on 14 March 1782 under Commander William Tuck of Salem, Massachusetts.  She was listed as having a battery of twenty-six guns and as having a crew of ninety men. Lyon was owned by the Cabots of Beverly, Massachusetts.2


About the beginning of May 1782, Lyon sailed from Beverly, Massachusetts with a cargo of spars and masts, bound for France. Shortly after sailing, off Salem in Boston Bay, Lyon was captured by HM Frigate Blonde (Captain William Thornbrough). The British noted that Lyon had twenty guns.3 Blonde took sixty-four of her men, including Tuck, aboard and left the rest on the Lyon.4 Accompanied by the prize, Blonde sailed for Halifax.


 

Extract from a navigation map to show Blonde Rock's location relative to Great Seal Island.

 

 

On 10 May Blonde drove hard aground on an unknown rock to the south of Nova Scotia and about three miles from Great Seal Island. Lyon could not assist and separated, proceeding to Halifax which she got into on 13 May.5 The crew of the Blonde began working to save themselves from the wreck. The sixty-four American prisoners aboard volunteered to man the pumps and kept at it night and day as the crew were slowly moved by boats to the to the Seal Islands,6 only one man being lost, “who perished due to his own obstinacy . . .”7 About 270 men got ashore on the desolate, isolated and uninhabited island, with almost no provisions.8

About two days later, two American privateers appeared, the Massachusetts Privateer Sloop Lively (Commander Daniel Adams) and the Massachusetts Privateer Schooner Scammel (Commander Noah Stoddard).9 The privateers sent a landing party ashore for water and discovered the British crew. [cite]. This discovery presented a dilemma for the Americans. They wanted to obtain the release of the American prisoners held by the British, but both privateers were small. The total crew of the two numbered only ninety-five men. Even adding in the prisoners the British would still outnumber the Americans substantially. If rescued they could easily rise and seize the privateers.


Extract from modern topographic map to show the Seal Islands in relation to mainland Nova Scotia.

 

After Thornbrough and Adams discovered that they were both members of the order of Freemasonry,10 a deal was struck. The American vessels would evacuate the British and deliver them to the mainland, and the British would liberate the prisoners among them. The Americans loaded the British and delivered them ashore on the mainland. Adams furnished Thornbrough with passports to prevent any American privateers annoying them as they made for Halifax; and Thornbrough gave Adams a similar passport against British cruisers, until the privateers made port in Massachusetts.11


Thornbrough was so impressed and thankful that he caused the following letter to be printed:


“To the Printer, Sir :


“In justice to humanity, I and all my officers and Ship’s company of His Majesty’s late Ship Blonde by the commanders of the American Private Ships of War, the Lively and the Scammel (Captains Adams and Stoddart), have the pleasure to inform the Public that they not only readily received us on board their Vessels and carried us to Cape Race, but cheerfully Supplied us with Provisions till we landed at Yarmouth, when on my releasing all my Prisoners, sixty-four in number; and giving them a Passport to secure them from our Cruisers i n Boston Bay, they generously gave me the Same t o prevent our being made Prisoners or plundered by any of their Privateers we might chance to meet on our Passage to Halifax.”


“For the relief and comfort they so kindly affoarded us in our common Sufferings and Distress, we must arduantly hope that if any of their Privateers should happen to fall into the hands of our Ships of War, that they will treat them with the utmost lenity, and give them every endulgance in their Power and not look upon them (Promiscuously) in the Light of American Prisoners, Captain Adams especially, to whom I am endebted more particularly obliged, as will be seen by his letters herewith published. My warmest thanks are also due to Captain Tuck of the Blonde's Prize Ship Lion (Letter of Marque of Beverly) and to all his officers and men for their generous and indefatigable endeavors to keep the Ship from Sinking (night and day at the Pumps) till all but one got off her and by the blessing of God saved our Lives.”12



1 McManemin, Captains of the Privateers, 237

2 NRAR, 380; Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 207

3 The Pennsylvania Evening Poft, and Public Advertiser [Philadelphia], Friday, July 5, 1782, datelined Halifax, May 14 and May 28

4 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

5 The Pennsylvania Evening Poft, and Public Advertiser [Philadelphia], Friday, July 5, 1782, datelined Halifax, May 14 and May 28; The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

6 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

7 The Pennsylvania Evening Poft, and Public Advertiser [Philadelphia], Friday, July 5, 1782, datelined Halifax, May 14 and May 28; The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

8 The Pennsylvania Evening Poft, and Public Advertiser [Philadelphia], Friday, July 5, 1782, datelined Halifax, May 14 and May 28; The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

9 The Pennsylvania Evening Poft, and Public Advertiser [Philadelphia], Friday, July 5, 1782, datelined Halifax, May 14 and May 28

10 The Freeman’s Journal: or, The North-American Intelligencer [Philadelphia] July 17, 1782

11 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette

12 The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser [Philadelphia], July 11, 1782, from the Nova Scotia Gazette


Posted 15 August 2012 © awiatsea.com