Connecticut Navy Brig Minerva


Captain Giles Hall

Armed Brig

3 August 1775-26 January 1776

Connecticut Navy Brig

Commissioned/First Date:

3 August 1775

Out of Service/Cause:

[26] December 1775/decommissioned and returned to owner


108, 113


Date Reported:

Number/Caliber  Weight        Broadside






(1) 2 August 1775: 1 [total]
(2) 1 September 1775: 42 [total]
(3) 1 October 1775: 62 [total]
(4) 1 November 1775: 64 [total]
(5) 1 December 1775: 50 [total]
(6) 1 January 1776: 3 [total]



(1) First Lieutenant Thomas Horsey, 3 August 1775-8 September 1775; (2) First Lieutenant James Hopkins, 8 September 1775-19 December 1775;(3) Second Lieutenant James Hopkins, 3 August 1775-8 September 1775; (4) Second Lieutenant Jehiel Tinker, 8 September 1775-14 September 1775; (5) Second Lieutenant Thompson Phillips, 14 September 1775-19 December 1775; (6) Master William Plummert [Plymert, Pluymort], 22 August 1775-17 December 1775; (7) First Mate William Warner, 24 August 1775-26 December 1775; (8) Second Mate John Cotton, 12 August 1775-26 December 1775; (9) Pilot Richard Dickerson, 16 September 1775-25 December 1775


(1) Rocky Hill, Connecticut to Middletown, Connecticut

(2) Middletown, Connecticut to New Haven, Connecticut, [7] December 1775-13 December 1775

(3) New Haven Connecticut to Rocky Hill, Connecticut, -[25] December 1775




On 1 July the Connecticut General Assembly resolved

“that two vessels of a suitable burthen be immediately fitted out and armed with a proper number of cannon, swivel guns & small arms and furnished with necessary warlike stores and well officered and manned for the defence of the sea coasts in this colony under the care and direction of his Honr the Governor and Committee of Council appointed to assist him in the recess of the General Assembly, who are hereby authorized and directed to procure, furnish and employ the same accordingly.”1

The governor and “Committee of Council” constituted the Connecticut Committee of Safety.

On 2 August the Committee of Safety selected a 108-ton brig belonging to Captain William Griswold of Weathersfield as the first vessel approved by the Assembly.2 The Governor and Council met again the following day. They determined that

“a certain brig called the “Minerva” belonging to Capt. Griswold and now lying in Connecticut River at Rocky Hill, is one proper vessel to be employed for the service aforesaid, and do therefore agree and resolve to take up and employ sd Brig in the service of this Colony as aforesaid during such term as sd Assembly or this committee shall find needful to employ her in sd service; and do hereby appoint Titus Hosmer & Ezekiel Williams Esqr and Capt. Giles Hall a committee to take up and retain said brig in the service aforesaid, to finish the contract for the hire and charter of sd brig and execute proper writings, to cause the same to be justly approved with all her furniture and tackle proper to be retained and used as an armed vessel and make a proper inventory thereof.” Hosmer, Williams and Hall were to “furnish, prepare and provide all necessary additional sails, rigging and furniture and also all proper & necessary ship stores and provisions, and furnish from the Colony stores as far as may be, the necessary cannon, swivels, small arms, pistols, shot, powder, &c. &c. . . .” They were to be given further directions from time to time by the Governor and Council. The Committee of the Pay Table was directed to draw on the Treasurer for the “sums of money as they shall find necessary to enable them to accomplish the service aforesaid ; and they to render their account of their disposition and disbursement thereof to the General Assembly, or to the Governor and Committee.”3

Giles Hall was appointed as “Captain and commander” of the Minerva, at the pay rate of £7 per month. Thomas Horsey of Derby, Connecticut was selected as the Minerva’s First Lieutenant, at £5 per month. James Hopkins was appointed as Second Lieutenant, at £4 per month. A steward and a cook were appointed and the brig was authorized a carpenter and a pilot. The complement was established at forty sailors and forty “soldiers or marines” exclusive of officers. Hall was to enlist the crew as volunteers, allowing one month’s advance pay. He was also appointed as pay master for the crew. The Governor and Council agreed to pay 4 shillings per month per ton for the charter of the Minerva, and that the colony would “risque the vessel . . .,” in other words, reimburse the owner if she was lost or damaged in service. The committee fitting out the Minerva was also to seek the rest of the warrant officers and recommend them to the Governor and Council.4 The brig was soon moved to Middletown to be fitted out, and when examined proved to be a 113 ton vessel, and thus, the flagship of the Connecticut Navy.5

Connecticut was also fitting out a smaller vessel, the Spy. On 24 August, to further the fitting out of the two vessels, the Governor and Council ordered Deshon

“be directed forthwith to put the cannon, small arms, pistols, and every warlike implement now at N. London, suitable and proper for armed vessels, into proper order and condition for immediate use, and on receiving advice from Capt Hall of the larger armed vessel fitting at Middletown, shall be at or near Saybrook ready to receive them, to send them to him there and deliver on board his Brig. But if it shall appear there is not a sufficient quantity for both vessels, that they be properly proportioned between them.”6

The Committee of Safety received a letter from Hosmer, Williams and Hall on 24 August. They nominated various officers for the Minerva, including the bearer, William Warner (as First Mate). They had been unable to find a Gunner, and “praying that the bearer (Warner) going to Providence may inlist a Gunner there, as they cannot obtain one, and also sailors &c. It is agreed that he may do so if not disagreeable to Governor Cooke to whom the Governor is desired to write by sd Warner proposing it to him &c., which was done.”7

Trumbull wrote to Cooke the same day, explaining Warner’s mission. Trumbull noted that the fitting out of armed vessels could be a common good to both colonies and noted that the Minerva measured 113 tons. He also mentioned that another vessel, of 42 tons, was being fitted out. Trumbull wanted to know Cooke’s thoughts about recruiting Rhode Island sailors for the Connecticut crews.8

On 8 September 1775 Horsey declined his appointment, so Hopkins was pro­moted from Second to First Lieutenant and Jehiel Tinker was appointed to be Second Lieutenant along with other officers. The Council of Safety approved these changes on the recommendation of Minerva’s fitting out committee and also approved the issue of supplies.9 A number of warrant officers were appointed, including William Plummet [Plymert] as Master, and William Warner as First Mate. Benjamin Cranston of Providence, Rhode Island, was warranted as the Gunner. The Council also ordered that the Minerva be “supplied with 5 bbs. of powder and ball suitable from N. London to be delivered at Saybrook, and 300 weight of lead from Weathersfield.”10 It is clear that the Minerva was nearing the end of her conversion and fitting out process. As of 13 September 1775, the expense of fitting out was £530.11

On 14 September the officers were commissioned. Tinker had declined to serve, so Thompson Phillips was appointed Second Lieu­tenant.12 Plummert was warranted as Master, with Warner as First Mate. All the other warrants were also issued.13 Powder for the vessel was received on 19 September 1775.14

The muster roll of the Minerva reveals much information. The first entry is for Captain Giles Hall, dated 2 August 1775. One man enlisted on 10 August, and Second Mate John Cotton came aboard on 12 August. First Lieutenant James Hopkins joined on 14 August, along with two other men. Over the next week seven men enlisted in the crew. On 22 August Master William Pluymort came aboard, and on 24 August First Mate William Warner came aboard.  Twenty-seven other men had enlisted by 31 August, for a total crew of forty-two.15

In September 1775 twenty-one men joined the Minerva, including Second Lieutenant Thomas Phillips on 14 September and Pilot Richard Dickerson two days later. The first deserter ran away on 10 September. At the end of September sixty-two men were in the crew.16

On 9 October 1775 Governor Trumbull received a letter from John Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress, asking for the use of one of the Connecticut Navy vessels to intercept two brigs steering for Quebec with arms in their cargoes. The Committee of Safety ordered Minerva out on a cruise and approved supply arrangements on 9 October 1775.17 That same day the Governor ordered Captain Jeremiah Wadsworth to provision and store the brig for the voyage. He was to furnish necessary stores for a six month cruise, purchasing what was needed if necessary, and borrowing shot from the supplies for the Spy, if that was necessary.18 Wadsworth was also given an order to draw 600 pounds of gunpowder from Nathaniel Shaw, Jr., for the Minerva’s cruise.19 Wadsworth eventually furnished the supplies to the amount of £216.20

Trumbull wrote to George Washington the same day, notifying him of the Minerva’s mission. Trumbull wrote

“Pursuant to request from the Continental Congress this day received have given orders to Capt Giles Hall Commander of the Brigantine Minerva to sail with all possible dispatch on a cruise to the River St Lawrence or thereabouts in quest of two vessels from England bound to Quebec with Arms, &c as I presume you will be fully advised of before this reaches you by the same express from the Continental Congress, and it is supposed sundry armed vessels will be dispatched from the Colonies of Massachusetts Bay and Rhode Island for the same purpose. This enterprize, as yet, remains a prefound secret with us and the orders are given to Capt Hall not to be opened until he is out of sight of land. The Minerva will sail in a few days.”21

The “profound secret” didn’t stay that way long. It seems to have gotten about among the crew by mid-October. The order to sail to the north was not welcome aboard the Minerva. The Gulf of St. Lawrence was a long way from Long Island Sound, which is where the crew thought the Minerva was going to operate. As a result of the grumbling, all of the crew, except for ten or twelve men, flatly refused to obey the orders to sail north.22 The muster roll allows the date of the mutiny to be pinpointed more precisely. The last man enlisted was on 11 October, bringing the crew up to seventy. On 14-15 October three men deserted and one was discharged. No more men were enlisted after mid-October, but two more were discharged. Thus it seems that the disturbance began about 14 October.23

The Connecticut government was embarrassed by this failure. On 2 November 1775 the Governor and Council met, and grilled Captain Hall and First Lieutenant Phillips. The Council reported its findings:

“The brig Minerva an armed vessel in the service of this Colony, commanded by Capt. Giles Hall, having been lately ordered by this Board on a cruise to the northward on an important enterprise for the defence and safety of this Colony, and the hands on board having neglected and refused to obey said orders, said Capt. Hall and Lt. Phillips of Said Brig being notified were present to be enquired of in the premises; and being examined &c. it appears that all the hands or soldiers and marines on board, except about 10 or 12, being duly noticed of said orders utterly declined and refused to obey the same and perform said cruise, which through their disobedience has wholly failed.”24

The Council ordered that “all the said hands who were guilty of such disobedience be forthwith dismissed and discharged from the service of this Colony on board said brig, in manner and at the discretion of the Committee hereafter appointed; and that their wages and title to receive any for former services on board the same be suspended for further consideration.” The committee to investigate the mutiny was immediately appointed and consisted of Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold, Samuel Huntington and Benjamin Huntington.25

The Council ordered the committee

“to repair to Lyme or Saybrook, or where it shall be necessary, to make such further enquiry as they shall think proper in the matter aforesaid, and to dismiss and discharge said disorderly and disobedient hands as aforesaid, and to direct, authorize and impower said Capt. Hall to inlist and retain other men so many as they shall think proper, instead of the men so discharged, for such term as shall by the General Assembly or the Governor or this Committee be judged necessary, and until orderly dismissed.”26

There is no record of the inquiry, but two men were suspended on 8 November, perhaps the ringleaders of the mutiny. Another twelve were discharged, bringing the crew down to fifty, at the end of November. No other men were ever enlisted for the Minerva.27 On 22 November the Council ordered that the gunpowder stored at Saybrook for the Minerva to use on this voyage be transferred to New Haven or Norwalk.28

On 18 November a summary drawn up by the Connecticut treasury (“Committee of the Pay-Table”) shows that a total of £815 had been spent on the Minerva to that date,29 to which an additional £41 would be added on 22 November.30 It does not seem that she had been to sea by that date and its probable that the Committee of Safety was considering decommissioning the brig.

As the Continental Congress’s Naval Committee was then in the process of organizing the Continental Navy and searching for suitable vessels, there was some thoughts in Connecticut that the Minerva could be passed on to the new Continental Navy. Her delegates to Congress pointed out two flaws in that thinking: (1) Pennsylvania had spent over £50000 on her colony’s navy, without asking for reimbursement and (2) when asked to send the Minerva out for eastern service the brig had been “unfit.” There was a possibility that she might be used to transport recruits for the Continental Navy to Philadelphia, however.31

In early December 1775, Governor Trumbull received a report from the Spy that an armed brig of the enemy was cruising in Long Island Sound. On 4 December Trumbull ordered the Minerva out in pursuit of the brig.32 The immediate effect, on the receipt of these orders, was the desertion of five men on 5-6 December.33 Even so Hall took the Minerva out. He reported, from New Haven,  to Governor Trumbull on the results on 13 December:

“Agreeable to your Honours Directions dated 4th instant , I improved ye first Opportunity that Wind & Weather permitd and proceeded to Cruize in ye Sound with Intention to proceed as Far up ye Sound as White Stone or Hunts Point, but on Saturday last [9 December] being a Little Eastward of Newhaven spoke with Capt Niles in ye Schooner Spy who Confirmd ye Report of that Armd Sloop that yr Honr ordered me after, was actually returnd back and passed by New York, in confirmation of which I thought proper to Put into this Harbour & on Hearing yr Honours appointment of the General Assembly meeting on ye 12th inst. December thought proper to Tarry here for yr Honours further Orders.”34

The Connecticut Assembly met on 12 December. On 15 December the Assembly ordered

“That Capt. Giles Hall, commander of the brigantine Minerva, now in the Colony’s service, be directed and he is hereby directed and ordered, forthwith to deliver to Jonathan Fitch, Esqr, at New Haven, all the guns and warlike stores now on board said brigantine; and having so done, he is further directed to dismiss as many hands as he shall think proper, reserving a sufficient number to sail said brigantine into Connecticut River, and proceed with her with all possible dispatch to Rocky Hill, and deliver her to the owner according to charter party. And in case he should be prevented by ice in the river, he is to lay said vessel in the most convenient and safe place and to discharge the hands, reserving only a sufficient number to take proper care of said vessel, and make return to his Honor the Governor and Council of War of his proceedings, and make up his portledge bill and muster roll and lay the same before the Committee of the Pay-Table for adjustment and payment.”35

The same day Hall wrote to Deputy Governor Matthew Griswold asking for particular directions on what to do with the brig if the weather prevented her being delivered. He also wanted further directions on discharging the men.36 It seems from the muster roll that Giles was able to deliver the brig back to Rocky Hill. The crew were discharged throughout the month of December, including the  master on the 17th, the two lieutenants on the 19th and the two mates on the 26th. The remaining three men (captain, clerk and steward) discharged themselves in January 1776, Hall being the last to go. On 25 January 1776 the crew’s payroll was settled. From her commission it had cost the colony in excess of £520 to man a brig that put to sea for no more than seven days.37 In May 1776 the colony paid Griswold £125.12.0 for the rental of the brig.38

1 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 15-16

2 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 17

3 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 17-18

4 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 18-19

5 NDAR, “Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut, to Nicholas Cooke, Deputy Governor of Rhode Island,” I, 1220

6 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 20

7 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 21

8 NDAR, “Jonathan Trumbull, Governor of Connecticut, to Nicolas Cooke, Deputy Governor of Rhode Island,” I, 1220

9 NDAR, “Minutes of the Connecticut Council of Safety,” II, 48

10 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 21

11 NDAR, “Ezekiel Williams to Thomas Seymour and Oliver Ellsworth,” II, 88

12 NDAR, “Minutes of the Connecticut Council of Safety,” II, 97

13 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 21

14 NDAR, “Lieutenant James Hopkins* Receipt for Powder for the Connecticut Brigantine Minerva,” II, 150

15 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

16 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

17 NDAR, “Minutes of the Connecticut Council of Safety,” II, 378

18 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticur,  I, 23. The letter is dated 7 October. This is either a transcription error, or the letter was received in Connecticut two days after it was written in Philadelphia, which seems very unlikely. Further, both the minutes of the Committee of Safety and Governor Trumbull state that Hancock’s letter was received 9 October, and the instructions to Wadsworth were issued the same day.

19 NDAR, “Minutes of the Connecticut Committee of Safety,” II, 378

20 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticur,  I, 24

21 NDAR, “Jonathan Trumbull to George Washington,” II, 378

22 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 23

23 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

24 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 23

25 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 23

26 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 23

27 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

28 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 24

29 NDAR, “Cost of Fitting out Connecticut Armed Vessels,” II, 1066-1067

30 NDAR, “Titus Hosmer to the Connecticut Committee of the Pay Table,” II, 1093

31 NDAR, “Connecticut Delegates in the Continental Congress to Jonathan Trumbull,” II, 1295-1296 and 1296 notes

32 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 28

33 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

34 Middlebrook, History of Marirtime Connecticut, I, 28

35 NDAR, “Journal of the Connecticut Assembly,” III, 114

36 NDAR, “Captain Giles Hall to Matthew Griswold,” III, 115

37 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 25-27, the muster roll of the Minerva. Analysis of the roll.

38 Middlebrook, History of Maritime Connecticut, I, 24

Posted 21 September 2014 ©