[From contemporary copy in the Library of Congress. Spelling and capitalization closely followed.]
ON BOARD THE SHIP OF WAR SERAPIS, AT ANCHOR WITHOUT THE TEXAL, IN HOLLAND, Octr. 3, 1779.
HONORED & DEAR SIR, When I had the honor of writing to you on the 11 August, previous to my departure from the Road of Groa, I had before me the most flattering prospect of rendering essential Service to the Common Cause of France and America. I had a full confidence in the Voluntary inclination & Ability of every Captain under my Command, to assist & Support me in my duty With cheerful Emulation ; & I Was persuaded that Every one of them Would pursue Glory in preference to intrest.
Whether I Was, or Was not deceived, Will best appear by a relation of Circumstances.
The Little Squadron under my orders, Consisting of the B. H. R., [Bonhomme Richard] of 40 guns ; the Alliance, of 36 guns ; the Pallas, of 32 guns ; the Cerf, of 18 guns ; and the Vengeance, of 12 guns ; joyned by two privateers, the Monsieur and the Granville, Sailed from the Road of Groa at Daybreak on the 14. of August ; the Same day We Spoke With a Large Convoy bound from the Southward to Brest.
On the 18 we retook a large Ship belonging to Holland, Laden Chiefly With brandy & Wine that had been destined from Barcelona for Dunkirk, and taken Eight days before by an English privateer. The Captain of the privateer, Monsieur, took out of this prize Such Articles as he pleased in the Night ; and the Next day being astern of the Squadron and to Windward, he actually wrote orders in his proper name, and Sent away the prize under one of his own officers. This, however, I Superseded by Sending her for L’Orient under my orders, in the Character of Commander in Chief. The Evening of the day following, the Monsieur Separated from the Squadron.
On the 20 We Saw and chaced a Large Ship, but could not overtake her, She being to Windward.
On the 21 We Saw and Chaced another Ship that Was also to Windward, & thereby Eluded our pursuit: The Same afternoon, We took a brigantine Called the Mayflower, Laden With butter and Salt provision, bound from Limerick in Ireland for London: this Vessel I immediately expedited for L’Orient.
On the 23d, We Saw Cap Clear and the S. W. part of Ireland. That afternoon, it being Calm, I sent Some armed boats to take a brigantine that appeared in the N. W. quarter. Soon after, in the Evening, it became necessary to have a boat ahead of the Ship to tow, as the helm Could not prevent her from Laying across the tide of flood, Which Would have driven us into a deep and dangerous bay, Situated between the Rocks on the South called the Skallocks, and on the North Called the Blaskats; the Ship’s boats being absent, I Sent my own barge ahead to tow the Ship. The boats took the brigantine; She being Called the Fortune and bound with a Cargo of oil, blubber & staves, from Newfoundland for Bristol. This Vessel I ordered to proceed immediately for Nantes or St. Malo. Soon after Sun Set the villain who towed the Ship, cut the tow rope and decamped with my barge. Sundry Shot, Were fired to bring them too Without effect; in the mean time the master of the B. H. R., without orders, manned one of the Ship’s boats, and With four Soldiers pursued the barge in order to stop the deserters. The Evenin Was then Clear and Serene, but the Zeal of that officer, [Mr. Cutting Lunt,] induced him to pursue too far, and a fog Which came on Soon afterwards prevented the boats from rejoyning the Ship, altho’ I Caused Signal guns to be frequently fired. The fog and Calm Continued the next day till towards the Evening. In the afternoon Captain Landais came on board the B. H. R. and beheaved towards me with great disrespect, affirming in the most indelicate manner and Language, that I had lost my boats and people thro’ my imprudence in Sending boats to take a prize! He persisted in his reproaches, though he Was assured by MM. de Weibert and de Chamillard, that the barge Was towing the Ship at the [time of] Elopement, and that she had not been Sent in pursuit of the prize. He was affronted, because I Would not the day before Suffer him to chace without my orders, and to approach the dangerous Shore I have already mentioned, Where he Was an entire Stranger, and When there Was [not] sufficient wind to govern a Ship. He told me that he Was the only American in the Squadron, and Was determined to follow his own opinion in chacing Where and When he thought proper, and in every other matter that Concerned the Service, and that if I continued in that Situation three days longer, the Squadron Would be taken, &c. By the advice of Captain de Cottineau, and With the free Consent and approbation of M. De Varage, I sent the Cerf in to reconnoitre the Coast, and Endeavour to take the boats and people, the next day, While the Squadron Stood off and on in the S. W. quarter, in the best possible Situation to intercept the Enemie’s merchant Ships, whether outward or homeward bound. The Cerf had on board a pilot Well acquainted With the Coast, and Was ordered to Joyn me again before Night. I approached the Shore in the afternoon, but the Cerf did not appear; this induced me to Stand off again in the night in order to return and be rejoined by the Cerf the Next day ; but to my great Concern and disapointment, tho’ I ranged the Coast along and hoisted our private Signal, neither the boats nor the Cerf joined me. The Evening of that day, the 26, brought with it Stormy Weather, With an appearance of a Severe gale from the S. W., yet I must declare I did not follow my own judgment, but Was led by the assertion Which had fallen from Captain Landais, When I in the evening made a Signal to Steer to the Northward and Leave that Station, Which I Wished to have occupied at Least a Week longer. The gale increased in the Night With thick Weather; to Prevent Separation, I carried a top Light and fired a gun Every quarter of an hour. I Carried, also, a Very moderate sail, and the Course had been Clearly pointed [out] by a Signal before night, yet With all this precaution, I found myself accompanied only by the Brigantine Vengeance in the morning, the Granville having remained astern with a prize. As I have since understood the tiller of the Pallas broke after midnight Which disenabled her from Keeping up, but no apology has yet been made in behalf of the Alliance.
On the 31, we saw the Flamie Islands situated near the Lewis, on the N. W. coast of Scotland; and the next morning, off Cap Wrath, We gave Chace to a Ship to Windward. at the Same time two Ships appearing in the N. W. quarter, Which proved to be the Alliance and a prize Ship Which she had taken, bound, as I understood, from Liverpool for Jamaica. The Ship Which I Chaced brought too at noon. She proved the Union letter of Marque, bound from London for Quebeck, With a Cargo of naval Stores on account of government, adapted for the service of the British armed Vessels on the lakes. The public despatches Were lost, as the Alliance Very imprudently hoisted American Colours, though English colours were then flying on board the B. H. R. Captain Landais Sent a Small boat to ask Whether I Would man the Ship or [he] Should, as in the Latter Case he Would Suffer nor boat nor person from the B. H. R. to go near the prize. Ridiculous as this appeared to me, I yielded to it for the Sake of pease, and received the prisoners on board the B. H. R., While the prize was manned from the Alliance. In the afternoon another sail appeared, and I immediately made the Signal for the Alliance to chace, but instead of obeying, he Wore and Laid the Ship’s head the other Way. The next morning I made a Signal to Speak with the Alliance, to Which no attention Was Shown. I then made Sail With the Ships in Company, for the second rendezvous, Which Was not far distant, and Where I fully Expected to be Joined by the Pallas and the Cerf.
The 2 of September We Saw a Sail at daybreak, and gave Chace ; that Ship proved to be the Pallas, and had met With no Success While Separated from the B. H. R.
On the 3 the Vengeance brought too a Small Irish brigantine, bound homewards from Norway. The Same Evening I Sent the Vengeance in the N. E. quarter to bring up the two prize Ships that appeared to me to be too near the Islands of Shetland, While with the Alliance and the Pallas, I Endeavoured to Weather Fair Isle, and to get into my Second rendezvous, Where I directed the Vengeance to join me With the three prizes. The Next morning, having Weathered Fair Isle, and not Seeing the Vengeance nor the prizes, I spoke the Alliance and ordered her to Steer to the Northward and bring them up to the rendezvous.
On the Morning of the 5 the Alliance appeared again, and had brought too two Very Small Coasting Sloops in ballast, but Without having attended properly to my orders of yesterday. The Vengeance Joined me Soon after, and informed me that in Consequence of Captain Landais’ orders to the commanders of the two prize Ships, they had refused to follow him to the rendezvous. I am to this moment ignorant what orders these men received from Captain Landais, Nor Know I by Virtue of What authority he Ventured to give his orders to prizes in my presence and Without Either my Knowledge or approbation. Captain Ricot further informed me that he had burnt the prize brigantine, becasue that Vessel proved Leaky ; and I Was Sorry to understand afterward that though the Vessel Was Irish property, the cargo Was Property of the Subjects of Norway.
In the Evening I Sent for all the Captains [to] Come on board the B. H. R., to Consult on future plans of operation. Captains Cottineau and Ricot obeyed me, but Captain Landais obstinately refused, and after sending me Various uncivil messages, Wrote me a Very Extraordinary Letter in answer to a Written Order, Which I had Sent him, on finding that he had trifled With my Verbal orders. The Next day a pilot boat came on board from Shetland, by Which means I received Such advices as induced me to change a plan Which I otherwise meant to have pursued, and as the Cerf did not appear at my Second rendezvous I determined to Steer towards the third in hopes of meeting her there.
In the afternoon a gale of Wind came on, which Continued four days Without intermission. In the Second night of that gale, the Alliance, With her two Little prizes, again Separated from the B. H. R. I had now with me only the Pallas and the Vengeance, yet I did not abandon the hopes of performing Some essential Service. The Winds Continued Contrary, So that We did not see the land till the Evening of the 13, When the hills of the Cheviot in the S. E. of Scotland appeared. The next day We Chased Sundry Vessels and took a Ship and a brigantine, both from the Firth of Edinburgh, Laden with coal. Knowing that there lay at anchor in Leith Road an armed ship of 20 guns, With two or three fine cutters, I formed an Expedition against Leith, Which I purposed to Lay under a Large contribution, or otherwise to reduce it to ashes. Had I been alone, the Wind being favorable, I Would have proceeded directly up the Firth, and must have Succeeded; as they lay there in a State of perfect indolence and Security, Which Would have proved their ruin. Unfortunatley for me, the Pallas and Vengeance Were both at a considerable distance in the offing; they having chaced to the Southward ; this obliged me to Steer out of the Firth again to meet them. The Captains of the Pallas and Vengeance being Come on board the B. H. R., I Communicated to them my project, to Which many difficulties and objections Were made by them : At Last, however, they appeared to think better of the design after I had assured [them] that I hoped to raise a contribution of 200,000 pounds sterling on Leith, and that there was no battery of Cannon there to oppose our Landing. So much time, however, was unavoidably Spent in pointed remarks and Sage deliberation that Night, [that] the Wind became Contrary in the morning.
We continued Working to Windward up the Firth Without being able to reach the Road of Leith, till on the morning of the 17, When being almost Within Cannon Shot of the town, having Every thing in readiness for a descent, a Very Severe gale of Wind came on, and being directly Contrary, obliged us to bear away, after having in Vain Endeavoured for Some time to Withstand its Violence. The Gale Was so Severe, that one of the prizes that had been taken the 14 Sunk to the bottom, the Crew being With difficulty Saved. As the alarm had by this time reached Leith by means of a cutter that had Watched our motions that morning, and as the Wind Continued Contrary, (tho’ more moderate in the evening) I thought it impossible to pursue the Enterprise With a good prospect of Success, Especially as Edinbourgh Where there is always a number of troops, is only a mile distant from Leith, therefore I gave up the project.
On the 19, having taken a Sloop and a brigantine in ballast, With a Sloop laden With building timber, I proposed another project to Mr. Cottineau, Which Would have been highly honorable tho’ not profitable; many difficulties Were made, and our Situation Was represented as being the most perilous. The Enemy, he Said, Would Send against us a Superior force, and that if I obstinately Continued on the Coast of England two days longer, We Should all be taken. The Vengeance having chaced along Shore to the Southward, Captain Cottineau Said he Would follow her With the prizes, as I Was unable to make much Sail, having that day been obliged to Strike the main-top-mast to repair its damages; and as I afterward understood, he told M. De Chamillard that unless I joined them the next day both the Pallas and the Vengeance Would Leave the Coast. I had thoughts of attempting the Enterprise alone after the Pallas had made sail to join the Vengeance. I am persuaded even now, that I Would have Succeeded, and to the honor of my young officers, I found them as ardently disposed to the business as I could desire: nothing prevented me from pursuing my design but the reproach that Would have been Cast upon my Character, as a man of prudence, had the Enterprise miscarried, It Would have been Said, Was he not forewarned by Captain Cottineau and others?
I made Sail along Shore to the Southward, and next morning took a coasting Sloop in ballast, Which With another that I had taken the night before, I ordered to be Sunk. In the Evening, I again met With the Pallas and Vengeance off Whitby. Captain Cottineau told me he had Sunk the brigantine, and ransomed the Sloop, laden With building timber that had been taken the day before. I had told Captain Cottineau the day before, that I had no authority to ransom prizes.
On the 21 we saw and chaced two sail, of Flamborough Head, the Pallas chaced in the N. E. quarter, while the B. H. R. followed by the Vengeance chaced in the S. W. The one I chaced, a brigantine collier in ballast belonging to Scarborough, Was Soon taken, and Sunk immediately afterwards, as a fleet then appeared to the Southward. This was so late in the day that I Could not Come up With the fleet before Night; at Length, however, I got so near one of them, as to force her to run ashore, between Flamborought Head and the Spurn. Soon after I took another, a brigantine from holland belonging to Sunderland; and at DayLight the next morning, Seeing a fleet Steering towards me from the Spurn, I imagined them to be a convoy, bound from London for Leith, which had been for some time Expected, one of them had a pendant hoisted, and appeared to be a ship of force, they had not, however, Courage to Come on, but keept Back all Except the one Which Seemed to be armed, and that one also keept to Windward very near the land, and on the Edge of dangerous Shoals Where I could not With Safety approach.
This induced me to make a Signal for a pilot, and Soon afterward two pilot boats Came off; they informed me that the Ship that Wore a pendant Was an armed merchant Ship, and that a King’s frigate lay there in Sight, at anchor Within the Humber, waiting to take under Convoy a number of merchant Ships bound to the northward. The pilots imagined the B. H. R. to be an English Ship of War, and consequently Communicated to me the private Signal Which they had been required to make. I Endeavoured by this means to decoy the Ships out of the port, but the Wind then changing, and With the tide becoming unfavourable for them, the deception had not the desired effect, and they Wisely put back. The Entrance of the Humber is Exceedingly difficult and dangerous, and as the Pallas was not in sight, I thought it not prudent to remain off the Entrance; i therefore Steered out again to join the Pallas off Flamborough Head. In the night We Saw and chaced two Ships, until 3 o’clock in the morning, When being at a Very Small distance from them, I made the private Signal of reconnoisance, Which I had given to Each captain before I Sailed from Groa. One half of the answer only Was returned. In this position both Sides lay too till dayLight, When the Ships proved to be the Alliance and the Pallas.
On the morning of that day, the 23, the brig from Holland not being in Sight, we chaced a brigantine that appeared Laying too to Winward. About noon We Saw and chaced a large ship that appeared Coming round Flamborough Head, from the Northward, and at the same time I manned and armed one of the pilot boats to send in pursuit of the brigantine, Which now appeared to be the Vessel that I had forced ashore. Soon after this a fleet of 41 Sail appeared of Flamborough Head, bearing N. N. E.; this induced me to abandon the Singl Ship Which had then anchored in Burlington Bay; I also Called back the pilot boat and hoisted a Signal for a general chace. When the fleet discovered us bearing down, all the merchant ships Crowded Sail towards the Shore. The two Ships of War that protected the fleet, at the Same time Steered from the land, and made the disposition for the battle. In approaching the Enemy I crowded Every possible Sail, and made the Signal for the line of battle, to Which the Alliance Showed no attention. Earnest as I Was for the action, I Could not reach the Commodore’s Ship until Seven in the evening, being then within pistol shot. When he hailed the B. H. R., we answered him by firing a Whole broadside.
The battle being thus begun, Was Continued With unremitting fury. Every method was practised on both Sides to gain an advantage, and rake Each other ; and I must Confess that the Enemie’s Ship being much more manageable than the B. H. R., gained thereby several times an advantageous situation, in spite of my best endeavours to prevent it. As I had to deal With an Enemy of greatly Superior force, I was under the necessity of Closing with him, to prevent the advantage Which he had over me in point of manoeuvre.
It was my intention to lay the B. H. R. athwart the enemie’s bow, but as that operation required great dexterity in the management of both Sails and helm, and Some of our braces being Shot away, it did not exactly succeed to my Wishes, the Enemie’s bowsprit, however, came over the B. H. R.’s poop by the mizen mast, and I made both Ships fast together in that Situation, Which by the action of the Wind on the Enemie’s Sails, forcer her Stern close to the B. H. R.’s bow, so that the Ships lay Square along side of each other, the yards being all entagled, and the cannon of Each Ship touching the opponent’s Side. When this position took place it Was 8 o’clock, previous to which the B. H. R. had received sundry eighteen pounds Shot below the water, and Leaked Very much. My battery of 12 pounders, on Which I had placed my chief dependance, being Commanded by Lieut. Deal and Col. Weibert, and manned principally with American seamen, and French Volunteers, Were entirely silenced and abandoned. As to the six old eighteen pounders that formed the Battery of the Lower gun-deck, they did no Service Whatever: two out of three of them burst at the first fire, and killed almost all the men Who Were stationed to manage them. before this time too, Col. de Chamillard, Who Commanded a party of 20 soldiers on the poop had abandoned that Station, after having lost some of his men. I had now only two pieces of Cannon, nine pounders, on the Quarter deck that Were not silenced, and not one of the heavyer Cannon Was fired during the rest of the action. The purser, Mr. Mease, Who Commanded the guns on the Quarter deck, being dangerously Wounded in the head, I was obliged to fill his place, and With great difficulty rallied a few men, and Shifter over one of the Lee quarter-deck guns, So that We afterward played three pieces of 9 pounders upon the Enemy. The tops alone Seconded the fire of this little battery, and held out bravely during the Whole of the action; Especially the main top, Where Lieut. Stack commanded. I directed the fire of one of the three Cannon against the main-mast, With double-headed Shot, While the other two Were exceedingly Well Served With Grape and Cannister Shot to Silence the Enemie’s musquetry, and clear her decks, Which Was at last Effected. The Enemy Were, as I have Since understood, on the instant of Calling for quarters, When the Cowardice or treachery of three of my under officers induced them to Call to the Enemy. The English Commodore asked me if I demanded quarters, and I having answered him in the most determined negative, they renewed the battle with Double fury ; they Were unable to Stand the deck, but the fire of their Cannon, especially the lower battery, Which Was Entirely formed of 18 pounders, Was incessant, both Ships Were Set on fire in Various places, and the Scene was dreadful beyond the reach of Language. To account for the timidity of my three under officers, I mean the gunner, the carpenter, and the master-at-arms, I must observe that the two first Were Slightly Wounded, and as the Ship had received Various Shots under Water, and on of the pumps being Shot away, the Carpenter Expressed his fear that she Should Sin, and the other two concluded that She Was Sinking; Which occasioned the gunner to run aft on the poop without my Knowledge, to Strike the Colours. fortunately for me, a Cannon ball had done that before, by carrying away the ensign staff: he was therefore reduced to the necessity of Sinking, as he Supposed, or of Calling for quarter, and he preferred the Latter.
All this time the B. H. R. has Sustained the action alone, and the Enemy, though much Superior in force, Would have been Very glad to have got clear, as appears by their own acknowledgements, and by their having let go an anchor the instant that I laid them on board, by Which means they Would have escaped had I not made them well fast to the B. H. R.
At last, at half past 9 o’clock, the Alliance appeared, and I now thought the battle was at an End; but, to my utter astonishment, he discharged a broadside full into the stern of the B. H. R. We called to him for God’s Sake to forbear firing into the B. H. R.; yet he passed along the off Side of the Ship and continued firing. There was no possibility of his mistaking the Enemie’s Ship for the B. H. R., there being the most essential difference in their appearance and Construction; besides, it Was then full moon Light, and the Sides of the B. H. R. Were all black, while the Sides of the prizes Were yellow. yet, for the greater Security, I Shewed the Signal of our reconnoissance, by putting out three Lanthorns, one at the head, (Bow,) another at the Stern, (Quarter,) and the third in the middle, in a horizontal line. Every tongue Cried that he Was firing into the Wrong Ship, but nothing availed; he passed round, firing into the B. H. R.’s head, stern, and broadside, and by one of his Vollies Killed several of my best men, and mortally wounded a good officer on the forecastle. My Situation Was really deplorable. The B. H. R. received various Shot under Water from the Alliance; the Leack gained on the pump, and the fire increased much on board both Ships. Some officers persuaded me to strike, of Whose Courage and good sense I entertain an high opinion. My treacherous master-at-arms let Loose all my prisoners Without my Knowledge, and my prospect became gloomy indeed. I Would not, however, give up the point. The Enemie’s main-mast begain to shake, their firing decreased, our Rather increased, and the British colours Were Struck at half an hour past 10 o’clock.
This prize proved to be the British Ship of War the Serapis, a New Ship of 44 guns, built on their most approved Construction, With two compleat batteries, one of them of 18 pounders, and Commanded by the brave Commodore Richard Pearson. I had yet two enemies to encounter far more formidable than the britons; I mean fire and Water. The Serapis Was attacked only by the first, but the B. H. R. Was assailed by both: there Was five feet Water in the hould, and Tho it Was moderate from the Explosion of so much gunpowder, yet the three pumps that remained Could With difficulty only Keep the Water from gaining. The fire broke out in Various parts of the Ship, in spite of all the Water that could be thrown to quench it, and at length broke out as low as the powder magazine, and Within a few inches of the powder. in that dilema, I took out the powder upon the deck, ready to be thrown overboard at the Last Extremity, and it was 10 o’clock the next day, the 24, before the fire Was entirely Extinguished. With respect to the situation of the B. H. R., the rudder Was Cut entirely off, the stern frame, and the transoms Were almost Entirely Cut away, the timbers, by the lower Deck especially, from the mainmast to the Stern, being greatly decayed with age, Were mangled beyond my power of description, and a person must have been an Eye-Witness to form a just idea of the tremendous scene of Carnage, Wreck, and ruin, that Every Where appeared. Humanity Cannot but recoil from the prospect of Such finished horror, and Lament that War Should produce Such fatal consequences.
After the Carpenters, as well as Capt. de Cottineau, and other men of Sense, had Well Examined and Surveyed the Ship, (Which Was not finished before five in the Evening,) I found every person to be Convinced that it Was impossible to keep the B.H.R. afloat so as to reach a port if the Wind Should increase, it being then only a Very moderate breeze. I had but Little time to remove my Wounded, which now became unavoidable, and Which Was effected in the Course of the night and the next morning. I Was determined to Keep the B. H. R. afloat, and, if possible, to bring her into port. For that purpose, the first lieutenant of the Pallas continued on board, With a party of men to attend the pumps, With boats in Waiting ready to take them on board, in Case the Water Should gain on them too fast. The Wind augmented in the Night and the next day, on the 25, So that it Was impossible to prevent the good old Ship from Sinking. They did not abandon her till after 9 o’clock: the Water Was then up to the Lower deck; and a little after ten, I Saw With inexpressible grief the last glimpse of the B. H. R. No Lives were lost With the Ship, but it Was imppossible to save the stores of any sort Whatever, I Lost even the best part of my Cloaths, books, and papers; and Several of my officers lost all their Cloaths and Effects.
Having thus Endeavoured to give a Clear and Simple relation of the Circumstances and Events that have attended the little armament under my com, I Shall freely Submit my Conduct therein to the Censure of my Superiors and the impartial public. I beg leave, however, to observe, that the force that Was put under my command Was far from being Well composed, and as the great majority of the actors in it have appeared bent on the pursuit of intrest only, I am Exceedingly sorry that they and I have been at all concerned. I am in the highest degree Sensible of the Singular attentions Which I have Experienced from the Court of France, Which I Shall remember With perfect gratitude until the End of my Life ; and Will always Endeavour to merit, while I Can, Consistent With my honour, Continue in the public Service. I must speak plainly. As I have been always honored With the full Confidence of Congress, and as I also flattered myself With Enjoying in Some measure the Confidence of the Court of France, I Could not but be astonished at the Conduct of M. de Chaumont, When, in the moment of my departure from Groa, he produced a paper, a Concordat, for me to Sign, in Common with the officers Whom I had Commissioned but a few days before. Had that paper, or Even a less dishonorable one, been proposed to me at the beginning, I would have rejected it With Just Contempt ; and the Word deplacement among others should have been necessary. I Cannot, however, Even now Suppose that he Was authorized by the Court to make Such a Bargain With me; Nor Can I Suppose that the minister of the marine meant that M. de Chaumont should Consider me merely as a Colleague With teh Commanders of the other Ships, and Communicate to them not only all he Knew, but all he thought, respecting our destination and operations. M. de Chaumont has made me Various reproaches on account of the Expence of the B. H. R. wherewith I cannot think I have been justly chargeable. M. de Chamillard can attest that the B. H. R. Was at Last far from being well fitted or armed for War. If any person or persons Who have been charged With the Expense of that armament have acted Wrong, the fault must not be Laid to my charge. I had no authority to Superintend that armament, and the persons Who had authority Were So far from giving me What I thought necessary, that M. de Chaumont Even refused, among other things, to allow me Irons for securing the prisoners of War.
In Short, While my Life remains, if I have any Capacity to render good and acceptable Services to the Common Cause, no man Will Step Forth with greater cheerfulness and alacrity than myself, but I am not made to be dishonoured, nor can I accept of the half Confidence of any man living ; of Course I Cannot, Consistent With my honor and a prospect of Success, undertake future Expeditions, unless When the object and destination is communicated to me alone, and to no other person in the marine Line. In Cases Where troops are Embarked, a like confidence is due alone to their Commander in Chief. On no other Condition Will I ever undertake the Chief Command of a private Expedition; and when I do not Command in Chief, I have no desire to be in the secret.
Captain Cottineau Engaged the Countess of Scarborough and took her after an hour’s action, while the B. H. R. Engaged the Serapis. The Countess of Scarborough is an armed ship of 20 six pounders, and Was Commanded by a King’s officer. In the action, the Countess of Scarborough and the Serapis Were at a Considerable distance asunder ; and the Alliance, as I am informed, fired into the Pallas and Killed some men. If it Should be asked Why the Convoy Was Suffered to Escape, I must answer, that I Was myself in no condition to pursue, and that none of the rest Shewed any inclination, not even Mr. Ricot, who had held off at a distance to Windward during the Whole Action, and Witheld by force the pilot boat With my Lieutenant and 15 men. The Alliance too, Was in a State to pursue the fleet, not having had a Single man wounded, or a Single Shot fired at her from the Serapis, and only three that did execution from the Countess of Scarborough, at such a distance that one Stuck in the Side, and the other two just touched and then dropped into the Water. The Alliance killed one man only on board the Serapis. As Captain de Cottineau charged himself with manning and securing the prisoners of the Countess of Scarborough ; I think the escape of the Baltic fleet Cannot So Well be Charged to his account.
I should have mentioned, that the main-mast and mizen-top-mast of the Serapis fell overboard soon after the captain had come on board the B. H. R.
Upon the Whole, the captain of the Alliance has beheaved so Very Ill in Every respect, that I must complain loudly of his Conduct. He pretends that he is authorized to act independent of my command: I have been taught the Contrary ; but Supposing it to be so, his Conduct has been base and unpardonable. M. de Chamillard Will Explain the particulars. Either Captain Landais or myself is highly Criminal, and one or the other must be punished. I forbear to take any steps With him until I have the advice and approbation of your Excellency. I have been advised by all the officers of the Squadron to put M. Landais under arrest; but as I have postponed it So long, I Will bear With him a Little Longer until the return of my Express.
We this Day anchored here having, Since the action been tossed to and from by Contrary Winds. I Wished to have gained the Road of Dunkirk on account of our prisoners, but Was Overruled by the majority of my Colleagues. I Shall heasten up to Amsterdam, and there if I meet With no orders for my government, I Will take the advice of the French Ambassador. It is my present intention to have the Countess of Scarborough ready to transport the prisoners from hence to Dunkirk, unless it should be found more Expedient to deliver them to the English ambassador, taking his obligation to Send to Dunkirk, &c. immediately an Equal number of American prisoners. I am under Strong apprehensions that our object here will fail, and that thro’ the imprudence of M. de Chaumont, who has Communicated Every thing he Knew or thought on the matter to persons Who Cannot help talking of it at a full table. This is the way he keeps State Secrets, tho’ he never mentioned the affair to me.
I am ever, &c.
JNO. P. JONES.
His Excellency BENJAMIN FRANKLIN, ESQUIRE, &c. &c.
[This manuscript bears the contemporaneous endorsement: “An exact copy.”-COMPILER.]