1778. March 7
ended in a very wild Vagary, in which all the Men were powdered over with flour, and wet again to the Skin. Whether these whimsical Diversions are indulged in order to compell the Men to wash themselves, shift their Cloaths and wash away Vermin, or whether it is to awaken the Spirits of the Men which are very apt to sink in a long Voyage, I know not: but there is not in them the least Appearance of Elegance, very little Wit, and a humour of the coarsest kind. It is not superiour to the dances of Indians.
March 8. Sunday. 1778.
The same Wind and Weather continued and We went at the rate of seven and a half and Eight Knots.
Mr. Barrons our first Lieutenant, appeared to be an excellent Officer, very Attentive and diligent in his Duty; thoughtfull for the Safety of the Ship, and considerate about Order, conomy and regularity among the officers and Men. He had great experience at Sea. Had used the Trade to London, Lisbon, the West Indies, the Southern States, and I am sorry to add Africa.
This morning the Captain ordered all hands upon the Quarter Deck to Prayers.Mr. William Cooper, the Captains Clerk, had prepared a composition of his own, a very decent and comprehensive Prayer, which he pronounced in a grave and proper manner. The Officers and Men all attended, in clean Cloaths and behaved very soberly. The Weather was cloudy the whole of this day. Towards night it became rainy and windy, and the Ship rolled a little in the old fashion. We were about two thousand miles from Boston.
The Hurricane in the Gulph Stream surpassed all Powers of description. Neither Milton in Verse, nor Gibbon in prose could have given any adequate Idea of it, but the present and subsequent turbulent Weather, as I was a Student in French turned my Attention to Boileaus description of a Tempest. As the Book happened to be at hand I amused myself with it and became very familiar with it. As it was the first morsel of french Verse, except Moli res, which I ever attempted to Understand, it may be inserted here.
Comme l'on voit les flots, so levez par l'orage,
Fondre sur un Vaisseau, qui s'oppose a leur rage,
Le Vent avec fureur, dans les voiles fr mit;
La Mer blanchit d'ecume, et l'air au loin g mit;
Le Matelot troubl, que son Art abandonne,
Croit voir dans chaque flot, la mort qui l'environne.
March 9. 1778. Monday.
Last night the Wind shifted to the North West, and blew fresh. It was then fairer for Us than before. The Weather was fair and We proceeded on our Voyage at a great rate. Some of our Officers thought We should reach our Port, by thursday night: others by Saturday night: But these made no Account of Cruisers and Chace's, nor any allowance for the variability of the Winds. From this time however till Saturday, We were in great Confusion and hurry.
Tuesday March 10. 1778.
We espied a Sail and gave her chace. We soon came up with her, but as we had borne directly down upon her, she had not seen our Broadside and knew not our force. She was a Letter of Mark, with fourteen Guns, Eight nines and Six Sixes. She suddenly turned and fired a broadside into Us, but did Us no other damage, than by cutting some of our rigging, piercing some of our Sails, and sending one of her Shot through our Mizzen Yard. I happened to be standing in the gang Way between the Quarter Deck and the Main Deck, and in the direction from the Ship to the Yard, so that the Balls flew directly over my head. We upon this Salutation, turned our broadside towards her. As soon as she saw this she struck her colours. Our Sailors were all in a rage to sink her for daring to fire. But Captain Tucker very promptly and prudently ordered his Officers not to fire, for he wanted the Egg, without breaking the Shell. I suspected however that the Captain of the Prize knew our force better than he pretended, and that he discharged his Broadside, that he might have it to say that he had not surrendered his Ship, without firing a Gun.
The Prize was the Ship Martha, Captain McIntosh from London to New York, loaded with a Cargo of great Value. The Captain told me that seventy thousand Guineas had been insured upon her at Lloyds and that she was worth Eighty thousand. The Behaviour of the Captain was that of a Gentleman, and he bore his misfortune with fortitude but his Mate cryed like a Child in despair. The Sailors seemed to me to felicitate themselves that it was not a British Man of War, and that they were not impressed. There were two Gentlemen on board as Passengers. Mr. R. Gault was One, and Mr. Wallace of New York the other. There were two young Jews, on board. That and the next day were spent in dispatching the Prize, under the command of the third Lieutenant, Mr. Wells to Boston.
We soon fell in chace of another Vessell
, and overtaking her, found her
to be a French Snow, from Bourdeaux to Miquelon. We then saw another Vessell
, chaced and came up with her. She proved to be a French Brig from Marseilles to Nantes. This last cost Us very dear.... Mr. Barrons our first Lieutenant, attempting to fire a Gun as a Signal to the Brigg, the Cannon burst, and tore in pieces the right leg of this worthy officer so that the Surgeon was obliged to amputate it, a little below the Knee.
I was present at this afflicting Sc ne, and, together with Captain Tucker, held Mr. Barron in our Arms, while the Doctor put on the Turnequett and cutt off the Limb. Mr. Barron bore it with fortitude, but thought he should die, and his principal concern seemed to be for his family.
I could not but think the fall of this officer, a great loss to thePublic United States. His Prudence, moderation, Attention and Zeal were qualities much wanted in our Infant Navy. He was by Birth a Virginian.
He said he had a Mother, a Wife and Children who were dependant on him and in indigent Circumstances, and intreated me to take care of his Family. I promised him, that as soon as I could write to America I would recommend his Family to the Care of the Public as well as of Individuals. I recollect to have done something of this: but the Scenes of distraction in which I was soon involved, I fear, prevented me from doing so much as I ought to have done, and I feel it, to this hour to be one of the omissions which I ought to regret.
March 19. Thursday.
Captain McIntosh assured Us that by his Reckoning when he was taken he was in the English Channel, and We had been beating about in it for some time. For the last five days We had been tossed in another Gale: I had been scarcely able to stand or sit, without holding fast with both my hands, upon some lashed Table, or
Gun, or the Side, or beams of the Ship or some other fixed Object, such was the Agitation and perpetual motion of the Vessel by violent Gales and a heavy Sea. In the course of [the]
last five days We had seen a great Number of Vessells
two of which if not four were supposed to be large British Men of War, for they chased Us a long time and drove Us in various directions all out of our Course. The Wind had been much against Us, but this morning it veered and We steered, at least our head lay by the Compass South East. We consoled Ourselves as well as We could by reflecting, that possibly We had been favoured
by the last Gale as We had been by the first. By the last We had escaped Cruisers, as We did by the first, which I own I considered as an Escape, because although We all agreed, Officers, Passengers and Men, in the necessity of Fighting the Frigate in the Gulph
Stream, yet I
had reasons enough to be apprehensive of the Consequences of an Engagement perhaps with a superiour
force, probably with a superiour
number of Men and certainly with greater Experience in the Officers and stricter discipline among the Men.
Possibly this violent Gale from the South East, had driven all the Cruisers from the Coast of Spain, and the southerly part of the Bay of Biscay, and by this means have opened a clear passage for Us to Bourdeaux. This was possible and so was the contrary. Heaven alone knew.
March 20 Fryday. 1778.
Yesterday afternoon the Weather cleared up and the Wind came about very fair. We had a great run, last night. This Morning espyed a Sail under our leward Bow, chased and soon came up with her, a Snow from Amsterdam to Demarara and Essequibo.
I made Inquiry to day of our Prisoner, Captain McIntosh, concerning the Trinity House. He says it is the richest corporation in the Kingdom. That the Earl of Sandwich is an elder Brother of it. That any Master of a Vessell may be made a younger Brother of it, if he will. That there are many thousands of younger Brothers. That this house gives permission to every Vessell to take out, or take in ballast, and that a few pence, six pence perhaps a Ton are paid them for such Licence. That they have the care of all Lighthouses &c.
I had omitted to keep a regular and particular journal, even when the Weather might have permitted it, from an Apprehension that these Papers might possibly fall into hands of an Ennemy as there might be no Opportunity of destroying them. My publick Papers were always prepared to be sunk in the Sea, at the moment when the preservation of the Ship should be no longer practicable.
We had now so fine a Wind that a few days We thought, would determine whether We were to meet any capital disaster, or arrive safe in port.
March 21. Saturday 1778.
Five Weeks had elapsed Yesterday, since my Embarkation. We went East South East.
March 27. Fryday.
On Wednesday Evening Mr. Barrons died, and Yesterday was committed to the Deep, from the Quarter Deck. He was laid in a Chest made for the purpose by the Carpenter; about a Dozen twelve pound Shot were put in with him and then nailed up. The Fragment of the Gun which destroyed him, was lashed on the Chest, and the whole launched overboard, through one of the Ports, in presence of all the Ships company after the funeral Service had been read by Mr. Cooper.
In the course of the last Week, We had some of the worst Winds, We had ever felt.