Pennsylvania Navy Armed Boat Argus


Captain Nathaniel Galt

Patrol Craft

7 April 1777-[November] 1777

Pennsylvania Navy Armed Boat

Commissioned/First Date:

5 April 1777

Out of Service/Cause:

[before] 21 November 1777/unknown



Date Reported:

Number/Caliber  Weight           Broadside

1/[2-pounder, 3-pounder, or 4-pounder]

Total: 1 cannon/

Broadside: 1 cannon/

Swivels: two


[modern]: 13 [total]


Minature galley, 35-37′ length on the keel, ten to twelve oars, with perhaps one lateen sail






Comments: Pennsylvania Navy Armed Boat Argus was built by Samuel Robins in the Philadelphia area in early spring of 1777, as part of the Pennsylvania Navy's guard boat program.1 Robins also built sister boats Repulse and Wasp.2 Argus was launched before 1 April 1777.3 These utility craft were between 35′ and 37′ long on the keel,4 with perhaps ten to twelve oars, and a small lateen sail,5 and built much like the larger galleys in the Pennsylvania Navy.6 The average cost was between £80 and £90.7 There was no provision for housing the crew, and only an iron pot was provided for cooking and an awning for foul weather cover.8 The guard boats were armed with one small cannon (a 2-pounder, 3-pounder, or 4-pounder) and two swivels.9 The standard crew was a captain, gunner, and eleven sailors.10 These boats were built to guard the river alarm posts, patrol the mouths of the small creeks emptying into the Delaware to prevent Tory boat traffic, and to command the chains of fire rafts.11 They were execrable sailers, unable to navigate the Delaware in any kind of seaway, being easily swamped.12

Nathaniel Galt was appointed as Captain to the “Guard Ship” Argus on 5 April 1777, along with a large number of additional officer appointments.13 Galt's appointment to Argus (described as a “Guard Boat”) was announced to Captain John Hazelwood (commanding the Pennsylvania Navy) on 9 April 1777, with orders for the new captains to collect their crews as quickly as possible.14

By September 1777 her muster rolls show the crew had deserted, been taken prisoner at Philadelphia, or was sick. She was apparently destroyed to prevent capture, or captured, or sunk, before 21 November 1777.15 Her captain was listed as being captured in January 1778.16 He was held prisoner in New York.17 On 20 November 1779 the Continental Congress wrote to its agent at West Point concerning the exchange of Galt.18 Galt was discharged from the Pennsylvania Navy on 8 May 1780.19

1 NDAR, "Pennsylvania Navy Board to Captain John Hazelwood," VIII, 307

2 NDAR, "Pennsylvania Navy Board to Captain John Hazelwood," VIII, 307; Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 20-21

3 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 22

4 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 20

5 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 21

6 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 20

7 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 21

8 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 21

9 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 22

10 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 341

11 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 20

12 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 20

13 NDAR, "Minutes of the Pennsylvania Supreme Executive Council," VIII, 277. Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 118, lists Galt’s date of commission as 1 April 1777. Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 341 lists Galt’s date of commission as 7 April 1777.

14 NDAR, "Pennsylvania Navy Board to Captain John Hazelwood," VIII, 307

15 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 340

16 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 341

17 Claghorn, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, 118

18 NRAR, 124

19 Jackson, Pennsylvania Navy, 341

Posted 21 September 2014 ©