|Virginia Navy Ship/Galley Dragon|
(1) Captain Eleazer Callender
13 December 1776-20 July 1779
|Virginia Navy Ship/Galley||
(2) Captain James Markham
13 December 1776
|Out of Service/Cause:||
[20 April 1781/destroyed by British raid on the Chickahominy River]
Date Reported: [nominal]
Number/Caliber Weight Broadside
20/6-pounder 120 pounds 60 pounds
Total: 20 cannon/120 pounds
Broadside: 10 cannon/60 pounds
Date Reported: 1 July 1777 [intended]
Number/Caliber Weight Broadside
2/18-pounder 36 pounds 18 pounds
2/12-pounder 24 pounds 12 pounds
16/ 4-pounder 64 pounds 32 pounds
Total: 20 cannon/124 pounds
Broadside: 10 cannon/62 pounds
Date Reported: [September] 1778
Number/Caliber Weight Broadside
Total: 16 cannon/
Broadside: 8 cannon/62 pounds
Date Reported: [unknown]
Number/Caliber Weight Broadside
8/6-pounder 48 pounds 24 pounds
4/4-pounder 16 pounds 8 pounds
Total: 12 cannon/64 pounds
Broadside: 6 cannon/32 pounds
(1) 31 January 1777: 4 [total]
81′ in length on the keel, with a 22′ or 23′ beam, and a depth in the hold of about 8′6′′, with a square stern, a long quarterdeck, a high waist and ten gun ports on each side
(1) First Lieutenant John Lurty, 17 April 1777-9 April 1778
(1) [unknown] vessel, November 1778, near the Chesapeake Capes
(1) Action with British Privateer Lord Howe, October 1778
In the summer of 1776 the Continental Congress requested Virginia to furnish six galleys for the protection of convoys transporting troops across Chesapeake Bay. In response to the request the state decided to build more substantial vessels than those it had so far hired or was building. The Virginia Navy Board authorized four galleys.1
These were fairly substantial craft. There seemed to be a common design for these four galleys. The dimensions were 81' in length on the keel, with a 20' or 21' beam, and a depth in the hold of about 7'. They had a square stern, a long quarterdeck, a high waist and ten gun ports on each side. These galleys were given a modified ship rig, with two sails on each mast. Because these galleys were ship rigged, they are often referred to as ships,2 and, a few times, as frigates.
The Virginia Navy Board altered the plans during the construction, increasing the ship galleys beam by two feet and the depth in the hold by eighteen inches, which enabled them to carry a heavier battery. Two of the four, later named Tempest and Tartar, were laid down at Frazer’s Ferry shipyard on the Mattiponi River.3 Although secure from British attack the site was isolated and the transportation of men and materials to the yard was expensive.4 Dragon was built at Fredericksburg5 and Gloucester was built at a third location.
Dragon was laid down at Fredericksburg in the late autumn of 1776.6 Her builder was Colonel Fielding Lewis.7 On 13 December 776, Captain Eleazer Callender officially joined the vessel as her commanding officer.8 Six days later, 19 December 1776, Callender, former commander of the Virginia Navy Sloop Defiance, was assigned to superintend her construction.9 For various reasons the ship galleys, which were supposed to be finished by early 1777, were delayed. One of the sisters, Tempest, was designed to mount twenty 6-pounder guns,10 with a nominal crew of 120 men.11 There is no reason to suspect that Dragon was designed to have a different battery or complement.
Among Callender’s tasks was to enlist a crew for the building ship galley. In January 1777 he enlisted four men, and sixteen in February 1777. The first junior officer enlisted was First Mate John Knowles, on 26 February.12 A free black, William Causey, enlisted for three years service, and was discharged by the captain of the Dragon on 16 February 1780.13 John Nuttall enlisted on 22 February 1777.14 By the end of February Callender had twenty-two men “aboard” and working on the vessel. It would have been more, but one man had deserted on 11 February, the same day he enlisted.15
Seventeen more men enlisted in March 1777 and one man deserted. Master Charles Bennett joined on 13 March, and Second Mate Thomas Watson on 21 March. Thirty-eight men were “aboard” by the end of March. Among these were Cook John Hall,16 later said to be a Midshipman.17 In April 1777 Captain Eleazer Callender was officially transferred from the Defiance to take command.18 First Lieutenant John Lurty came aboard on 17 April.19 Lieutenant Lurty had formerly served on the Virginia Navy Galley Page.20 A sailor, David Henderson, who enlisted as a steward on 1 April, and was later promoted to Midshipman, lists her officers as Callender, First Lieutenant John Lurty, [Second] Lieutenant John Hamilton, and Master John Cranberry,21 but this is not accurate, according to the muster roll.22 Lieutenant Theophilus Field was also said to be aboard as a Lieutenant about this time,23 but he is not listed on the muster roll. This seems to be another error. A total of five men joined the ship in April, bringing the crew up to forty-five.24
On 2 April 1777, the Virginia Navy Board officially named the galley ship as the Dragon.25 According to sailor Joseph Saunders, he enlisted when the Dragon was still on the stocks at Fredericksburg. She was “. . . commanded by Captain Ebenezer Callander, John Lurtie [sic, John Lurty], first Lieut. I helped to Rig her, was Laned [sic, launched?] in her and as soon as she drifted from the Warf [sic, wharf] into the Channel and ships crew came aboard, I was Entrusted with charge of the provisions and issuing rations and when the guns came on Board I was Entrusted with the Charge of Magazine & making cartridges &c. I continued to act in both of these Stations until a gunner was engaged & he took charge of that department.”26
Recruiting continued during the rigging and fitting out process. In May 1777 seven men joined the ship, bringing the crew up to fifty. Six men enlisted in June 1777, but one was discharged for “bad behaviour” and one died. At the end of June the crew was up to fifty-four men. Among those joining in June were Midshipman Nathaniel Craighill (on 6 June) and Midshipman Benjamin Rust (on 9 June).27 One James Tutt entered the Virginia Marines as a private on 25 June 1777. When the marines were disbanded, he “enlisted in the 2nd Virginia as a cadet under Captain Thomas. Minor. He was marched to Williamsburg, where meeting Captain Callender of the Dragon, he was prevailed upon to transfer to the naval service, in which he was appointed a Midshipman.”28 According to the muster roll Tutt entered on 25 June, but was not a Midshipman.29
Ebenezer Hazard was a merchant of Philadelphia and a surveyor for the new Continental postal service. In July 1777 he was in Fredericksburg On 1 July 1777 he recorded this observation: “Went to see a Galley built by the State of Virginia; she is called the Dragon, has three Masts, is to be rigged in the Manner of a Schooner, & to mount two I8 Pounders forward, two 12 Pounders aft, & 16 double fortified 4 Pounders amid-ships. I think her too narrow for her Length, & her Masts are too taunt. Cloudy in the Morning, but cleared up warm afterward”30
Another six men enlisted on the Dragon in July 1777, but one was discharged and one deserted, bringing the crew up to fifty-eight.31 Surgeon David (or Daniel) Brown (or Browne) was appointed to the ship on 1 July 1777, entered on 21 July, and served in that capacity until 3 May 1778. However, various distributions of medicines and supplies indicate he was still aboard in December 1778.32 Seaman Iverson Nuttall enlisted on 22 July 1777, joining his kinsman John Nuttall.33 Midshipman Richard Montague joined on 7 July and Craighill was discharged on 24 July.34
Four men enlisted on the ship in August 1777 and one man died, bringing the crew up to sixty-one. Alexander Davis joined as “2nd Mr.,” or Third Mate on 10 August.35 Dragon may have begun making trial and training runs on the Rappahannock about this time.36 On one occasion a sudden gale carried away one of her masts. Dragon’s carpenter, George Daniel, went into the nearby woods, trimmed a new mast and had it in place in a few hours’ time.37
On 2 September 1777 Second Mate Thomas Watson died, and Davis was presumably promoted to replace him. Twelve men entered aboard the Dragon, and three were discharged. There were sixty-nine men aboard at the end of September. In October 1777 six men came aboard, bringing the crew up to seventy-five.38
On 9 October 1777 the Virginia Navy Board informed Callender that it had given Dr. Daniel [David] Browne his medicine, and given him the commissions for Captain Eleazer Callender and First Lieutenant John Lurty (with the same dates as their former appointments by the Virginia Committee of Safety). A Second Lieutenant and Master would be appointed and sent to the Dragon as soon they could be found. When the Dragon was completely fitted Callender was to bring her to York Town. No blankets were available at this time, but the Navy Board hoped to have them by the time the ship arrived at York Town.39 Again, Second Lieutenant John Hamilton was said to be aboard the Dragon about this time, but was not on the muster roll.40
On 24 October 1777 Captain James Markham, of Virginia Navy Galley Page advertised for a deserter, offering a $20 reward. The deserter, if caught, was to be turned in to Eleazer Callender of the Dragon, at Fredericksburg.41
In November 1777 one man enlisted on the Dragon, but two were discharged and one died, a net loss of two, reducing the crew to seventy-three. In December 1777 one man enlisted, one was discharged and two enlisted, reducing the crew to seventy-one men.42
In January 1778 eight men entered aboard the Dragon, including Master John Granberry [Cranberry], on 24 January 1778. James Tutt, said to be a Midshipman, was discharged by the “Navy Board” on the same day. In February 1778 one man enlisted, one deserted and one died. At the end of February there were seventy-seven men aboard.43 With the master finally aboard the Dragon would seem to be ready for operations.
On 20 January 1778 Midshipman Richard Montague was promoted to First Lieutenant of Marines aboard the Dragon.44 Montague was the only Marine officer associated with the Dragon.
In the spring of 1778, Dragon was at Frazer’s Ferry, on the Mattiponi River, ready for a cruise. About this time, a sailor, Lewis Hinton, recalled that the officers aboard were Callender, Lieutenants Hamilton and Chamberlayne, Midshipmen Francis Webb, Allen Wilson, Samuel Eskridge, William Eskridge, and Joshua McWilliams.45 On 30 March 1778 Ambrose Lewis transferred to the Dragon from the Page.46 According to the muster roll, nine men joined the Dragon in March 1778, including Midshipmen Francis Webb and Alvin Wilson. None of the other names above are on the muster roll. One man was “exchanged,” which means turned over to another vessel, perhaps to the Page for Ambrose Lewis. Three deserted and one was discharged. In addition there are fifteen men who entered the Dragon with no date given, but whom were probably aboard by the end of March, there are two discharged at unknown dates, and one deserted at an unknown date. It is likely that the crew aboard the Dragon numbered ninety-three.47
In March 1778 Callender was ordered to ready the Dragon for action and then proceed to York. At York Dragon joined with Virginia Navy Ships Tempest and Tartar. These vessels were ordered to proceed to Cape Charles to survey the various channels there. The object was to find a secure anchorage for a force under the command of Captain Richard Taylor of the Tartar.48 As there are only three entries in the crew in April 1777 (bringing the men aboard up to ninety-six),49 it seems fairly certain that Dragon was at sea on this mission in April.
On 9 April 1778 First Lieutenant Lurty was recommended as a Captain in the Navy, and seems to have transferred to the Virginia Navy Brig Northampton. A few days before, Hamilton was recommended as a Lieutenant, i.e., as First Lieutenant, to replace Lurty.50 Presumably, Field moved up to Second Lieutenant about this time.
On 3 May 1778 Lurty was discharged to take up his new command, along with another man. On 13 May Surgeon Brown, First Mate Alexander Davis, Master John Granberry, and another man were discharged. One man deserted the same day. It is clear that the Dragon was in port at this date, with a crew of ninety men. Even so, it is equally clear that the muster roll is clearly wrong about Surgeon Brown. In June 1778, three more men enlisted in the Dragon, bringing the crew up to ninety-three.51
In August 1778, perhaps in preparation for more active campaigning, Surgeon Brown drew medicines and clothing from the Virginia Navy Board.52 In that month one man enlisted, one man deserted (but was listed as being paid at the end of the muster roll), and three deserted on 19 August.53
In late summer, perhaps September 1778, the Virginia Navy Ship/Galleys Tempest (Captain Celey Saunders), Tartar (Captain Richard Taylor) and Dragon, and Virginia Navy Brig Northampton (Captain John Lurty),54 accompanied by a tender, sailed with sealed orders escorting two ships from Philadelphia,55 and possibly, Virginia Navy Schooner Defiance (Captain Joseph Wrenn), a trading vessel bound for Cap François, Saint-Domingue.56 To strengthen the crew the Dragon was ordered to receive six men from the Virginia Navy Galley Henry and as many as were needed from the Page.57 Two men enlisted on the Dragon in September 1778, Midshipman Henry Wills (as Willis), on 6 September, and Midshipman Thomas Dawson, on 12 September.58 If the transfers took place, Dragon would have had at least 100 men aboard for the cruise.
David Henderson, a midshipman aboard the Dragon relates the story of the cruise:
“That while he was on Board said Ship, she was ordered in Company with the ship Tartar Richard Taylor Captain, the ship Tempest Ceely Saunders Captain, and the Brig Northhampton Capt. John Lurty upon a private expedition against the Island of Bermuda for the purpose of making reprisals upon the British, and with that view we sailed from the Capes of Virginia some time in the year 1778. The whole fleet under the command of Richard Taylor Commodore, but in a few days after leaving the Capes, we discovered Two large British vessels which afterwards proved to be the Roabuck & the Emerald,59 with a Large Sloop Tender with them. They immediately gave chase to us, the Tender out Sailing us came so near as to fire on us, and had nearly cut off the Brig Northhampton, But the rest of the Fleet shortned sail so that she might keep up, and the night coming on, we succeeded in eluding them, and the next day all got back safely into the Bay.”60
Joseph Saunders, another sailor aboard the Dragon, recalled this incident: “ . . . that these vessels were ordered on a cruise to the South, destination not published - and in a day or two after they put to sea, came in sight of a British 14 [sic: 74] gun ship, which gave chase to our fleet, and came up with them. Night came on, our fleet separated, changed their course, evaded her pursuit, and returned to their station near the Capes of Virginia”61
Some time later, perhaps in late October 1778, Captain Richard Taylor of the Tartar, who was acting as “Commodore” of the squadron, left his ship anchored under the North Cape and went aboard the Virginia Navy Sloop Patriot. Taylor was sounding the channel leading out to the bay to become familiar with its depth and course. He had only a small crew of fifteen men aboard. While doing this Taylor noticed the Dragon in chase of a British privateer, the Lord Howe.62
According to sailor Joseph Saunders, “On this Station a sail came in sight -- gave chase to our ship -- we housed our guns, concealed our men and let one sail hang loose, let some of the sails hang half-mast, she proved to be a privateer came down upon us and fired ahead of us began to take in sail, found her mistake, we gave a broadside or two. She hauled up her sails, ran by us giving us a broadside & made her escape.”63 He added that the privateer, “ . . . being a fast sailor, soon got out of our reach. . . .”64
Taylor bore down on the chase and attacked her in the little sloop, “ . . . determined to keep her in play until the Dragon could come up, and attacked her with such spirit with his swivels and muskets as obliged her to defend herself till the Dragon came near enough for Captain Taylor to run to her for a reinforcement of men, and a fresh supply of ammunition, which was now nearly expended.”65
Sailor Henderson relates that “ . . . Commodore Taylor being in sight, and finding she was likely to escape, came alongside the Dragon in a small boat his tender and after getting some information, and manning his Boat from such of the Dragons Crew as choose to accompany him gave chase to the Privateer, and soon came up with her and commenced action . . .”66 Joseph Saunders remembers that “ . . . captain Taylor, now commodore heard the firing, and in a tender came along side the Dragon - after that came up with the Preentour[?] as she proved to be took a number of men and some officers and gave chase after and came up with her, and engaged her.”67
Lord Howe was overtaken about an hour before sunset. She mounted eight 4-pounders and had a full crew. As the Patriot closed in she ran afoul of the Lord Howe, her jib-boom passing into one of the Lord Howe’s cabin windows. The crew of the Patriot attempted to board the Lord Howe but were driven back.68 Patriot was shaken off by the Lord Howe and the action began again.
Patriot attacked her bigger adversary, and “She returned the fire, and maintained the contest valiantly for a considerable time . . .”69 Finally, the Lord Howe managed to deliver a raking broadside into the Patriot. Taylor received a crippling wound when his leg was broken and “several of his boats Crew so much wounded, that they were obliged to give over the chase, and let the Privateer escape.”70 Taylor ordered the sloop’s master, Brittain, to veer away from the enemy.71 The Lord Howe veering away was encouraged by the now too late arrival of the Dragon. She got off a broadside, but the Lord Howe threw her guns overboard and escaped.72 The Americans had one73 or two,74 men killed and eight wounded in this fight.75 “Lieut. Hambleton [sic, Hamilton?], I think, next in command bore away & left her to take care of his wounded.”76
Taylor felt that he had not been properly supported by Callender. He was said to have been so angry at Callender that he refused to speak to him the next day. However it appears that the Dragon’s captain had done all he could to get into the fight. The Northampton, laying at Smith’s Island, fired one shot at the British privateer, but was wind bound and unable to get into the action.77
Another sailor reported that the Dragon was armed with sixteen guns about this time.78
The Dragon returned to Yorktown following this fight and was there about two weeks refitting.79 On 20 October 1778, Iverson Nuttall was promoted to Midshipman.80 One man was discharged on 29 October, indicating she was in port at that time. Five men enlisted in early November 1778 and three deserted in a “jailbreak” on 23 November.81
Dragon seems to have returned to the lower bay about this time.82 Two men are shown by the muster roll to have died, one on 24 November and one on 27 November, which may have happened at sea.83 Two Virginia vessels were recaptured there, both with cargoes of flour. Finally Callender exited the Virginia Capes and cruised north as far as the Delaware Capes. One member of the crew reported they were “often chasing, oftener chased by the enemy”.84 One man enlisted on 1 December 1778, probably at sea. The same man was discharged on 21 December, by which time Dragon was likely back in port.85
The Dragon seems to have returned to port about the middle of December 1778 to refit. On 17 December 1778, Surgeon Brown drew supplies and provisions from the Virginia Navy Board, “for his mess” aboard the Dragon. At the same time Brown was given a leave of absence by the Navy Board, to last until the end of December.86
On 1 January 1779 Lieutenant Hamilton drew various items of provisions and supplies from the Navy Board.87 The next day First Mate John Knowles was discharged. The muster roll ends on 20 January 1779, when eighty-six members of the crew were paid.88 On 25 January 1779, Midshipman David Henderson drew various supplies for the cabin mess of the Dragon.89
In late February 1779, Dragon went back to her station with the squadron, which was now commanded by Captain Callender.90 A letter published in the Virginia Gazette, from an officer aboard the Dragon, dated 1 March 1779, informed the public that the Bay was “quite clear of the pirates, and have been so ever since we came down with the fleet, they sometimes make their appearance at a distance. Yesterday we convoyed eight vessels from Baltimore, and about ten leagues from the capes we saw a brig and a sloop of the enemy’s, but they were very cautious and would not come near us, and it was out of our power to get to them, as they were to windward of us. Soon after, we saw three large ships and a small vessel to leeward; the weather being hazy, we could not discover whether they were friends or enemies, but am apt to believe they were the latter. There has been within these fifteen days past, a great number of arrivals from France and the West Indies, and at least thirty sail gone out, all of which we have the greatest reason to believe got clear.”91
About this time Lieutenant Hamilton seems to have resigned his command. He was replaced when Second Lieutenant Theophilus Field was promoted to First Lieutenant on 10 March 1779.92 Another source gives the date of the promotion as 4 August 1779., but this may be the official confirmation date.93
Around mid-March 1779 Callender’s squadron went down to convoy a number of merchant vessels out to sea.94 The muster roll lists one man enlisted on 10 March 1779 and one discharged on 20 March, which is likely the date Dragon and her squadron sailed.95 Around the end of March 1779 the squadron was joined by two “large” Maryland Navy Galleys, commanded by Commodore Grayson and Captain Nicolson.96 These were the Maryland Navy Galleys Conqueror (Captain James Nicholson) and the Chester (Captain John Gordon; Commodore Grason). They were armed with four 18-pounders and ten 4-pounders. Callender reported that the capes had been clear of the enemy for some time.97
Perhaps not long after this the Dragon went to Richmond and took on a cargo of rigging for the ship Jefferson, then under construction at the Chickahominy ship yard. At that time Lieutenant Chandler was serving aboard as First Lieutenant. When Dragon arrived at the shipyard most of her crew were turned over to the Jefferson.98
Callender resigned his commission on 20 July 1779,99 however he probably left the Dragon somewhat earlier. Callender took command of the Pocahontas, either a privateer or a trading vessel of the Virginia Navy. At the same time, his former Lieutenant, Hamilton, entered the Pocahontas as First Lieutenant.100
A ration list from about this time contains a list of forty-five men aboard the Dragon, including Ambrose Lewis, Joshua Singleton, Joseph Saunders [as Sanders], Edwin Eskridge, Francis Webb, Iverson Nutall [as Hutall], and William Booth.101
Sailor Ambrose Lewis was discharged on 15 April 1779.102 This is perhaps an indication of crew dispersion following a change of command, as Callender resigned his commission on 20 July 1779. He certainly left the Dragon earlier, however.103
Joseph Saunders says that when Callender resigned his commission he was replaced by Captain James Markham. “He was an old Infirm man and soon resigned, . . .”104 Markham seems to have been transferred to the Virginia Navy Ship Tempest, rather than resigning.
On 17 May 1779, Surgeon Justice Livingston drew supplies for four Virginia Navy vessels (Dragon, Tartar, Patriot and Fly).105
On 3 July 1779, the new Captain, James Markham, placed an advertisement in the Virginia Gazette for twelve deserters, offering a reward of $60 each for their detention and return to any Virginia Navy vessel. Markham also announced that all men on furlough had to report aboard the Dragon by 20 July or be considered as deserters.106
About 15 July a brig was overset near Newport News. The Tempest’s crew assisted in the recovery, and Markham offered his assistance in the Dragon. He was thanked by the owners on 20 July 1779 in Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette.107
When the Virginia Navy Galley Protector was captured and burned at Wicomico Warehouse on 7 July 1779, her captain, John Thomas, and the remaining crew were transferred to the Dragon. After remaining with her for a short time they were again transferred to the ship Washington.108 Isaac Booth, from the Protector, was listed as a pilot aboard the Dragon on 2 September 1779 and 7 October 1779.109
First Lieutenant of Marines Richard Montague resigned in August 1779.110
According to one source the Dragon was armed with eight 6-pounders, four 4-pounders and two swivels, with no date given. The likely time for this smaller battery would be the fall of 1779.111
There was an overhaul of the Virginia Navy in October 1779. Among the acts passed by the General Assembly was an order to sell various Virginia Navy vessels, among which were the Dragon.112
A list of the crew needing rations, dated 7 October 1779, contains 106 names. The officers listed were Markham, First Lieutenant Joshua Singleton, Surgeon John Swope, and Dr. “Daniel Browne,” which would seem to indicate two Surgeons were aboard. Other officers were Master John Moore, First Mate Joseph Saunders, Second Mate Richard Smart, Midshipmen Edwin Eskridge, Francis Webb, Thomas Dawson, Howson Kinzer, “Iversoon Mittall,” [Iverson Nuttall], Joshua McWilliams, David Henderson, and Presley Nail. William Booth is listed as the Pilot. This list clearly contains men from the Protector as well as the original Dragons.113
There are three other lists drawn up on the same day for the officers of the ship. By comparing all three, the rank of the officers and their names can be somewhat straightened out. John Swope is listed as “Doctor” on one list, “Surgeon” in another, and as Lieutenant in the third. He certainly was a Surgeon. Joshua Singleton is noted to have “resigned in 1777,” which is clearly impossible as he appears on all four lists. A Lieutenant Theophilus Field appears on three lists. Midshipmen Iverson Nuttall and Howsen Kenner reveal their real names on these lists.114
First Lieutenant Joshua Singleton was aboard by this time. He later stated “He served on board of that Ship as Lieutenant during his command when he (Capt Markham) . . .”115 A list dated 7 October 1779 shows both Markham and Singleton aboard the Dragon.
Dragon seems to have not participated in any further active operations. William Causey was discharged on 16 February 1780,116 Midshipman Iverson Nuttall on 22 February 1780, and John Nuttall “left her at the navy yard on the Chickahominy towards the close of the war,”117 which may indicate another crew dispersal as enlistments expired.
On 25 March 1780 the Dragon and the Tartar were transferred to the Virginia Board of Trade. The Board of Trade promised this would save “several thousand Pounds to the State in the freight of the Tobaccoes which the Executive engaged to deliver to Mr. Defsancy in York River.”118 The “Defsancy” in this statement was Jean-Baptiste-Lazare Th*veneau de Francy, the secretary to the Caron de Beaumarchais. Beaumarchais was the principle gun runner in France and the tobacco was to repay him for part of his shipments.
Markham seems to have been transferred to the Tempest on 7 April 1780.119 First Lieutenant Joshua Singleton took temporary command. He later stated “He served on board of that Ship as Lieutenant during his command when he (Capt Markham) quitted He commanded till the crew were discharged.” Singleton resigned his commission on 16 December 1779.120
In May 1780 the General Assembly reversed itself amid the threat of continued British invasions and raids. Among the vessels ordered repaired and refitted was the Dragon.121 This would seem to reverse the transfer to the Board of Trade.
Joseph Saunders said “. . . then Capt. Edward Traviss [Edward Travis] commanded Dragon about or before the time for which I enlisted expired, I was promoted to a Master’s mate and being pleased with my Station, I continued in the service, while many of my comrades took discharges and went home, . . .”122
Again, on 15 July 1780 an advertisement appeared in Clarkson and Davis’s Virginia Gazette, announcing the sale of the ships Tartar and Dragon at the Chickahominy Shipyard, for “ready money.” The sale was to take place on 6 August 1780. The ships were said to be in “very good repair . . . and . . . well found.” The advertisement was placed by Captain James Maxwell.123 Another sailor, Joseph Ranger, recalled that Travis commanded the Dragon after Callender left. He also stated that Thomas Chandler was her lieutenant and that Edward Eskridge was a midshipman aboard the Dragon. William Booth was a pilot and Joseph (or Josiah) Saunders was board as a lieutenant.124 Other statements give Lieutenant Hamilton command of the Dragon,125 but this is incorrect.
Dragon was not sold, however. She seems to have been in the lower James River in late 1780. Joseph Saunders said that “ . . . when the British came into Hampton Rhoads [sic, Hampton Roads], Ship Tempest, I think, however, one of the Ships commanded by Capt. Richard Barron and the Dragon, that Lay there, were obliged to give way to Superior force, and go up James River.”126 Sailor Hinton says that, in 1780 or 1781 the Dragon and other vessels were “besieged” by the British fleet while laying in the James River. The Dragon retreated up the Chickahominy River. Hinton says that, with no hope of the ship escaping, he left the service in 1781.127 Dragon was stripped and sunk to preserve her hull.128 Many of her crew turned over to the Virginia Navy Brig Jefferson, including Lieutenant Chandler, who took command of the brig.129
Meanwhile, Governor Jefferson, seeking some offensive action against the British fleet, approved a proposal of Captain B. Edgar Joel. Describing himself as a “man animated perhaps by a spirit more enterprising than the most part of his fellow creatures,” Joel proposed to prepare a fire ship with which to attack British shipping. In support of this proposal, Jefferson wrote to General Thomas Nelson, Jr. suggesting that Captain Joel “have everything provided which he may think necessary to insure success.”130
Bearing the governor’s letter, Joel proceeded to the Chickahominy shipyard and selected the Dragon, “which had lain many months there, under water” and was considered unfit for service.131 She had been used by the Board of Trade from March 1780. Dragon was valued at no more than £50 by Jefferson.132
Assisted by yard personnel, Joel raised the Dragon, and prepared her as a fire-ship.133 This took five or six days: a necessary delay but “the usual fatality attending our service.”134 On February 6, 1781, Dragon sailed from the yard. The Dragon did not go far, however. Because of the inefficiency of her pilot, she ran aground and stuck fast on a bar at the mouth of the Chickahominy.135 Joel “condescended even to the meanest employments of a common sailor”136 and extricated her after three days of labor. Again the Dragon made ready to proceed against the enemy, but on the eve of departure General Nelson cancelled her mission because he believed there was no longer possibility of surprising the enemy.137
Joel protested vigorously by letter to Governor Jefferson: “. . .at the instant, when everything was prepar’d and I ensured of success was going to proceed on an enterprize, beyond the resolution of everyone; to be thus stop’d is surely strange! and must cast a shade on me, which to prevent, you must allow me to give to the Public a circumstantial account of my conduct, of my offer, assiduity, exertion and design, that the People of this Country may see, I dared to serve them. And the Enemy in their laugh at the abortion of the scheme, may not join my name to the objects of their ridicule. Schemes out of the common Line, either for danger or singularity of the attempt, until crown’d with success is beyond the comprehension of the vulgar.”138
It would seem then, that the Dragon was returned to the Chickahominy shipyard. She lay there in her very decayed state until the spring of 1781.
In April 1781 the British at Portsmouth, Virginia, recently reinforced, launched a major raid up the James River. The junior commander, turncoat Benedict Arnold, reported that “On the 20th Lieutenant Colonel Abercrombie, with the Light Infantry, proceeded up the Chickahominy in Boats; Lieutenant Colonel Simcoe with a Detachment to York; Lieutenant Colonel Dundas, with another Detachment, landed at the mouth of the Chickahominy, and Major General Phillips & myself landed with Part of the Army at Williamsburg.”139
Despite American efforts to evacuate the shipyard and some brief resistance by the Virginia Navy Galley Lewis, the yard was captured and destroyed. Colonel James Innes reported to Governor Thomas Jefferson that “They possessed themselves of the Ship-Yard, about 4 o-clock yesterday, and I was apprehensive from the fire discovered in that Quarter last night, they have totally destroyed it.” A second letter the following day noted “Last night they destroyed the Vessels & Buildings at the Ship Yard & some Naval Stores at Diascon Bridge.140 If Dragon was still at the Chickahominy shipyard she may well have been burned at this time.
If however, Dragon had managed to escape up the James, she may have been with the Virginia fleet collected at Osborne’s Landing. Arnold caught and captured or destroyed this fleet on 27 April 1781. While no mention is made of Dragon’s presence not all the vessels there are known. At least one source says she was destroyed at Osborne’s.141
Finally, one source states that she survived the war, sinking at her berth in Norfolk, Virginia, in the early 1800s.142
1 Goldenberg, Joseph A., and Stoer, Marion West, “The Virginia State Navy,” in Eller, Ernest McNeill, Chesapeake Bay in the American Revolution, Centrevillr, Maryland: Tidewater Publishers, 1981, 176-177. Herafter, Goldberg and Stoer, “Virginia Navy.”
2 Goldberg and Stoer, “Virginia Navy,” 177. In Sanchez-Saavedra, E. M., A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787, Westminster, Maryland: Heritage Books, 2007, 161, it is referred to as a schooner rigged ship.
3 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 57 note
4 Goldberg and Stoer, “Virginia Navy,” 177
5 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 35
6 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 57
7 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 35; Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 57
8 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in Brumbaugh, Gaius Marcus, Revolutionary War Records, Vol. 1 - Virginia, 1936: Washington, D.C., 10-13, hereafter as VMR.
9 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 57; VMR, 7.
11 “The Virginia Navy of the Revolution,” 12
12 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
13 Website “Free African-Americans” at http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/revolution.htm, accessed 12/11/2011
15 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13. Causey is not listed on the muster roll.
16 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13; http://vagenweb.org/gloucester/rostern-r.html, accessed 12/11/2011
17 VMR, 7
18 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 35
19 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
20 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 58
22 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13. Cranberry or Granberry joined much later, Hamilton is not listed on the muster roll, but he was clearly aboard the Dragon about this time.
24 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
27 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
28 Virginia Soldiers of 1776, containing record of heirs) 1048.
29 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
30 Hazard, Ebenezer, and Shelley, Fred, “The Journal of Ebenezer Hazard in Virginia, 1777,” in The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Vol. 62, No. 4 (Oct., 1954), pp. 400-423. Courtesy of Will Graves.
31 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
32 Pension Application of David Brown, transcribed by C. Leon Harris, at Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Online here. Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13.
34 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
35 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
36 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 58
37 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 58
38 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
39 NDAR, “Virginia Navy Board to Captain Eleazer Callender,” X, 103
40 VMR, 7
41 NDAR, “Purdie’s Virginia Gazette, Friday, October 24, 1777,” X, 268
42 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
43 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
44 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 227
47 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
48 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 58
49 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
50 VMR, 7
51 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
53 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
54 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of he Revolution, 58; Statement of Joseph Saunders in Pension Application of Richard Taylor, transcribed by C. Leon Harris, at Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Online here.
55 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of he Revolution, 58
56 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 58
57 VMR, 7
58 Analysis of the muster roll of the Dragon, in VMR, 10-13
59 These were HM Frigate Roebuck (Captain Andrew Snape Hamond), 44 guns, and HM Frigate Emerald (Captain Benjamin Caldwell), 32 guns. Roebuck was in a special class of two-decked frigates. From a distance they appeared much like standard 74-gun battleships.
61 Statement of Joseph Saunders in Pension Application of Richard Taylor, transcribed by C. Leon Harris, at Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Online here. The “14 gun ship” is probably a copyist’s error for 74-gun ship. See note 33.
62 Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette, November 13, 1778
65 Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette, November 13, 1778
68 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 59-60
71 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
72 Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette, November 13, 1778
74 Dixon and Hunter’s Virginia Gazette, November 13, 1778
77 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
79 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
81 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
82 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
83 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
84 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
85 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
88 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
90 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, April 2, 1779
91 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, March 5, 1779
92 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 186
93 http://boards.ancestry.com/topics.Military.amerrev.va/232/mb.ashx. Accessed 1-4-2012
94 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, March 26, 1779
95 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 60
96 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, April 2, 1779
97 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, April 2, 1779
98 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 80
99 BVMR, 77
100 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 196
103 VMR, 7
106 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, July 3, 1779
107 Dixon and Nicolson’s Virginia Gazette, July 20, 1779
109 http://archiver.rootsweb.ancestry.com/th/read/BOOTH/1998-02/0887864816, accessed 12/11/2011
110 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 227
111 Sanchez-Saavedra, E. M., A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774-1787, 161
112 Hening, Wiliam Waller, The Statutes At Large, being a Collection of All the Laws of Virginia, from the First Session of the Legislature in the Year 1619, Richmond: George Cochrane, 1822, vol X, 217 Online.
113 VMR, 7-9
114 VMR, 9-10
116 Website “Free African-Americans” at http://www.freeafricanamericans.com/revolution.htm, accessed 12/11/2011
119 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 221
123 Clarkson and Davis’s Virginia Gazette, July 15, 1780
128 Pension Application of Joseph Ranger, transcribed by C. Leon Harris, at Southern Campaign American Revolution Pension Statements & Rosters Online here. According to Sanchez-Saavedra, Virginia Military Operations, 161, she sank at her berth in 1780.
130 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 68
131 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 68
132 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 94 and 94 note
133 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 68
134 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 94
135 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 68
136 Stewart, Virginia’s Navy of the Revolution, 94
137 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 68
138 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 69
139 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 72, quoting Arnold’s report
140 Cross, A Navy for Virginia, 72-73, quoting Innes to Jefferson
141 Goldberg and Steer, “Virginia Navy,” 194 note
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