Thorn Captures Elizabeth

Massachusetts Privateer Ship Thorn Captures Elizabeth
2 June 1781

Massachusetts Privateer Ship Thorn (Commander Samuel Tucker) sailed out on patrol about 27 May 1781.1 She captured her first prize about 1 June 1781. It was the 210-ton snow Fly (William Foster),2 bound from Antigua, British West Indies to Quebec, Quebec with a cargo of molasses and rum. From Foster, Tucker learned that the prize had recently separated from a convoy escorted3 by a 200-ton ship named Elizabeth (Timothy Pine)4 and two smaller vessels.5

Tucker now looked for and found the convoy, then hoisted English colors and ran in between two of the escorts. He hailed the largest and asked if she was the Elizabeth bound for Halifax, and received an affirmative answer. Tucker then announced he was the sloop-of-war Thorn, recently recaptured from the Americans. The conversation progressed, as did Thorn, edging ever closer to Elizabeth. Finally, Pine protested “You keep too close to me!” Tucker turned, cursed at his helmsman and ordered him to keep off. This was the signal to run aboard the Elizabeth, and raise American colors. As boarders went over the Elizabeth’s rail both ships fired simultaneously. Tucker broke his sword over Pine’s head. A hot scrimmage followed on Elizabeth’s deck, before the British crew were driven below. Thorn’s first lieutenant and five sailors were killed, as were five British sailors. The other escort came up, looked, and fled. Tucker cut out6 the 100-ton sloop Maria (Jonathan Armstrong)7 from the convoy. The sloop was  bound from St. Eustatius to Halifax, 8 and was sent into port by the Thorn, arriving before 7 June.9 She was sent into Newburyport.10 Maria, Fly and Elizabeth were advertised for sale on 14 June, with the auction to be held at Newburyport on 21 June. Six 4-pounders were to be sold at the same time.11 On 6 June 1781, the Thorn returned to Salem from her ten day patrol, to land prisoners.12

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Time: [20 minutes]

1 Smith, Tucker, 79

2 Smith, Tucker, 105

3 Smith, Tucker, 79

4 Smith, Tucker, 105. The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], March 29, 1781, confirms her tonnage as 200 tons. However, this information is contradicted by The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], Thursday, September 20, 1781. When she was finally libeled she was described as a 150-ton ship and her master was listed as Dunkinson. She was libeled in the Massachusetts Maritime Court of the Middle District on 20 September 1781, with her trial set for 2 October 1781

5 Smith, Tucker, 79

6 Smith, Tucker, 79

7 Smith, Tucker, 105

8 The Massachusetts Spy: Or, American Oracle of Liberty [Worcester],Thursday,  June 14, 1781

9 The Connecticut Journal [New Haven]

10 Smith, Tucker, 79

11 The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser [Boston], June 14, 1781

12 Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, 301, from the Boston Gazette of 11 June 1781

Posted 30 January 2009 ©