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Monday, November 30, 2009

Another Reference by Landais to Jacob Nutter

Less than a week away from raising the American coast, the officers and passengers were so concerned about the near mutinous state of the crew that on Friday August 11th 1780, the officers went to Landais' cabin and attempted to convince him to make for the nearest American port; that being Boston.  Landais complained of being ill and refused to hear their petition.  Instead, he retired to his bed and fell asleep.  The officers, dismayed at Landais' lack of command since the incident of August 5th decided that they would appoint one of their own to command the ship.  The logical choice was the first lieutenant, James Degge.  The catch was that he had been previously put under arrest and confined to his cabin by Landais since the 14th of July for refusing to take Landais orders and assaulting him during a drunken fit.  The officers went to Degge and asked him to take command of the ship, which he accepted.

During the evening of the 11th, Landais awoke and looked at the compass mounted over his bed and noted that the course was not set as he expected for Philadelphia.  He went on deck to confront the officer of the watch about the unexpected course change.  Here is Landais' account per written testimony given at his court-martial.

"About an hour after, I believe, the steward brought me word all the officers wanted to speak to me.  I told them they might come, however they came in and told me they thought in their opinion in the present circumstances that the ship was not in a proper condition to go to Philadelphia and the neccesity to go to Boston and present me with a paper they said containing it.  I answered them I knew the situation the ship was in and thought selfish interest  was in great part the occasion of it.  As to their opinion I had not asked it since Congress' order was to carry the ship to Philadelphia I would never consent to break them.  They asked me to go on the Qtr deck.  I told them I was sick and knew too well how they had supported me and that they wanted me to go for to see me laughed at.  Mr. Elwood told me then to show him my orders as if I had satisfied him and the others it was in their power to go to Philadelphia.  I thought it pretty high of Mr. Elwood after I had told him it was Congress' orders to carry the ship to Philadelphia, to ask me to see it.  One may observe what share they had in all the people's conduct.  Mr. Blodget began to read their opinions.  I told them I would never listen to opinions against Congress' order.  Keeping looking then they resolved to leave their opinions on the table and went away.  I sent for my clerk who said their opinion as it is now.  The ship went always under sail.  I heard no tumult, neither saw the course altered, what convinced me it was the officers who initiated the people.  For how could I have prevented it if the people resolved to get Master of the ship.  As I have look half past nine the course was always kept.  I fell asleep and half past two AM I awoke, look at the compass, since the ship was steering WNW I got up, went to the companion, called for the officer on watch.  He did not hear.  Jacob Nutter, Qtr Master called Mr. Buckley who was laying on one of the starboard guns.  I told him to mind that the course was altered against my written order and went away... "

Here is the original handwritten testimony referencing Jacob Nutter:

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More From the Record - A Curious Reference

The Alliance sailed from L'Orient in late June of 1780, bound for America. To hear Captain Landais tell it, he was taking her to Philadelphia, but to hear the officers and crew tell it, Landais had promised them that their destination was Boston. Boston certainly suited most of the crew as a majority of them were New Englanders. The officers and crew enthusiastically supported Landais when he took back control of Alliance at L'Orient in early June while Jones was at Paris. But, things went sour soon after setting sail. The first mutinous incident occurred on August 5th, a fine day with light breezes and the ship was under easy sail and apparently not making all haste for America, the crew decided on their own to set more sail. Their was a confrontation between Landais and the crew, while the officers pretty much stood by to watch. Rather than force the issue Landais went below and allowed the ship to sail that day.

The next day Alliance struck soundings in "35 fathom" on the Banks of Newfoundland. It was traditional for a vessel after a cross-Atlantic passage to deal out fishing tackle for the the crew to fish, allowing them some fresh food after a month or more of ship's rations. In the morning of the 5th Alliance hove to and the officers distributed fishing tackle to the crew and they set about to make their catch.

3 large fish had been caught when Landais, who had been below in his cabin, noticed the ship was not making way. He went upon the quarter deck and ordered the officers to stop fishing and set sail again. The surgeon argued that there were a number of sick on board and that food with real substance would do them good. Landais responded that the sooner they sail for America, the sooner everyone would have what they wanted and that loitering on the banks would consume more stores than they would gain by fishing. The surgeon said this was ridiculous as it would only take a couple of hours to catch all they needed as they were in prime fishing ground. Landais prevailed and the ship filled away again.

Here is Landais' account from his Court Martial Proceedings:
"Next morning at six o'clock seeing the color of the water changed I ordered to steer WNW. At 9AM Mr. Buckley came to acquaint me we had bottom by 35 fathoms. I ordered him to fill again and to steer W by N but looking at my compass I saw they kept the ship bearing to the left of them. I went on the Qtr deck, seeing no officer there I told the men at the wheel which to put the helm a weather. I suppose Mr. Buckley was fishing as the rest, but seeing him soon after on the gangway. I told him to order let fall the fore sail, etc. I think staying for fishing was no more necessary in the course we were in than rigging a lightening rod and those who had initiated the first revolt might entice a second one and though inconsistent with their wishes to go to Philadelphia, to stay there. Some pretend it would be useful for the sick people. None have shown they thought so, even the officers who ought to know the meaning of an article of Congress resolve which is that no body is to have fish caught till the sick people have their sufficiency of it, but the said officers kept them fish for themselves..."

In the evening of the same day, Landais was in his cabin and I think he was probably dining with Mr. Arthur Lee, one of the former commissioners to France, headed for home. According to testimony given by Steven Waters, Captain's Steward, during Landais Court Martial proceedings, at dinner Jacob Nutter sent in to the cabin one of the fish. Who had requested it was not known, but Landais suspected it was Arthur Lee, who he imagined was colluding with the officers and crew to work against him. Landais claimed that he had ordered the fish to be given to the sick and had not ordered any for his cabin. Here is some of the testimony:

Question (from Landais): Who sent the fish for the cabin? Did you tell me who sent for the fish?

Answer (by Waters): Mr. Nutter sent them. Who sent for them I don't know.

Was this a malicious act by crew trying to antagonize the Captain? What was Jacob Nutter's role in all of this? I don't know.

This court martial testimony comes from original documents now recorded on microfiche. I purchased a copy of the microfiche from the National Archives and Records Administration. Here is a portion of the page with reference to Jacob Nutter...  (you may click on the image for a better view)

Friday, November 27, 2009

AllIiance Crew - Second Letter to Franklin

As mentioned in the previous post, the Alliance Crew became more frustrated at their condition, having not received a response from Franklin in more than a month and a half.  The crew sent a more forceful letter to him on June 1st, which Jacob Nutter also signed.  Here is the body of the letter...

"L'Orient, 1 June 1780 on board the Alliance
May it please your excellency
Once more to hear the humble petition of the Mariners and Marines on board the Continental ship Alliance now lying in the port of L'Orient.

Excellent Sir

Having repeatedly petitioned your Excellance on this subject, Receiving No answer Obliges us to Address you again.

Considering ourselves therefore as free people We suppose that we have an undoubted right to ask for that which is to all intents and purposes our own, more especially when we recollect that we have taken so many valuable prises which are all safely arrived in the different ports where they were ordered. If the Union And Betsy are given up, it is not for us to sustain the loss, But when we consider that they are paid for, as in all probability they are, our suffering families, makes our hearts to ache at the thought of Leaving France without our full due of prise money and six months wages during the time of that successful cruise, it cannot be expected that we can or will quietly weigh our anchor till we have received the farthing, we therefore Once more apply to your Excellancy as the person Intended And appointed by our country to see Justice done by Every Subject of the United States in (Europe) to take our posts and see that we Enjoy our full property, and also Restore unto us our Rightful commander under whom We entered and are willing to serve, as we are conscious that he is undeserving of the aspersions that are cast upon his character and reflects cowardice upon ours Whereas upon the Evening of the 23 of Sept. had things been managed According to his Wise decerning No ship would have been lost nor so much blood spilt and the ships have been taken with less Damage done them, we are fully pursuaded that had we not left the scarborough to the pallace the momement we did the Richard must have Sunk or Struck Which is the opinion of many of the Richards crew. Moreover if our request be granted most of the people who came from prison will be content to serve their country under him But at present we are unanimous in our Resolve to Claim our Lawful Commander Pr. Landais as our Captain has done no wrong, and provided he be cupable let us take him with us to be granted a greater uneasyness will prevail among us, we hope therefore that Your Excellency will well consider the matter and send a satisfactory answer to Mr. Pearce our gunner as we desired before, as a meer Receipt will only aggravate us more. If this be granted it will warm our minds with fresh courage and bind us under fresh Obligations to pray for your Excellency and serve our country.

We whose names are underwritten do declare the whole of What is Recorded hearin are our Real sentiments."

Most of the crew signed this letter.  Interestingly, there were several men that signed and then crossed their names out.  These were former crew members of the Bonhomme Richard who were protesting in their own way, signifying that they did not agree with the majority sentiments of the Alliance crew and were remaining loyal to John Paul Jones.  At this time, Landais had already returned to L'Orient and the Alliance crew were aware of his presence and would have preferred him for their commander over John Paul Jones.  Here is a post-note to the letter commenting on the Richard's crew signatures..

"n:b: those few whose names are oblitterated are belonging to the Richard who did it unknown to us, the greater part of them being anxious to signe the same"

If I obtain permision for UPENN I will also publish an image of the original letter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Documents Referencing Jacob Nutter

About 3 years ago as I did a google search on Jacob Nutter's name combined with Benjamin Franklin's name, I made a typo and spelled Nutter as Nuter.  To my extreme surprise I came across a hit in the search that was quite remarkable.  Here is the result of that search:

"Calendar of the papers of Benjamin Franklin in the library of the ... - Google Books Result by University of Pennsylvania. Library, Arthur ... - 1908 - Biography & Autobiography - 5 pages

From Jacob Nuter, et al., of the crew of the " Alliance." 1780. April 14. L'Orient. Petition to have their wages and prize-money paid in France, ... - "

I was astonished to see a letter from Jacob Nuter, et al, of the crew " Alliance".  I was not sure what was contained in the letter, but I quickly contacted the University of Penssylvania Libary and they very kindly offered to send me a photocopy of the entire letter.  Here is a bit of the letter, including Jacob Nutter's signature.

Note: Waiting for Permission from UPENN Library to Publish the image of the letter.

Here is the top of the letter:

Note: Waiting for Permission from UPENN Library to Publish the image of the letter.

This is the full text of the letter:
To His Excellency Benjamin Franklin Esq.

We are informed that the Private Men that formerly belonged the Ship Bon Homme Richard are to receive their Wages and Prize Money in France for their Services on board said Ship. Now Sir as many of us have been absent from our Wives and Families a long Time and some of us have been Confined in Prison a great While and we have been flattered with those words that we were to receive our Wages and all our Prize money before we sailed and now we understand that only the Bon Homme Richard’s Company are to be paid and as we one and all of us have engaged in the same Cause as those Men that were in the Bon Homme Richard we think it very hard that we cannot enjoy the same Priviledges as those in the aforesaid Ship. The Reason that we are very desirous to have our Dues at this present Time is because that we are inclined to assist those our unhappy Countrymen who are just relieved from Prison and also to furnish ourselves with such Neccesaries as we greatly stand in Need of. We humbly beg that your Honour would take this Matter into your Consideration and send us an Answer as soon as possible that we may all gain Satisfaction and Contentment is the earnest Desire of your most Obedient and most Humble Servants the Private Men belonging to the Continental Ship Alliance.

On Board the Alliance at L’Orient Apr. 14th 1780.

Jacob Nuter
Thomas Chase
John Simson
Daniel Knight
Ebenezer Brown
Kirtlan Griffing...
and 88 others.

The Remainder of the Ships Company are Imployed upon the Ships Duty and cannot attend to Sign but they gave their Consent that it may be sent in behalf of the whole.

NB. It is the desire of the Ships Company that your Excellency would be pleased to direct your Answer to Benjamin Pierce Gunner of the Continental Frigate Alliance L’Orient.

After reading the letter, I don't believe that Jacob Nutter actually penned it (instead it was probably Benjamin Pierce, Ship's Gunner to whom all correspondence was to be directed), but he was the first to make his complaint to Benjamin Franklin concerning the poor conditions on board Alliance and the crew's desire to go home as soon as possible, especially since many of them had been in prison and away from home for over three years.

At the time the letter was written the American members of the crew of the, now sunk Bonhomme Richard and the Alliance crew were all together on the Alliance at L'Orient.  There were very hard feelings between the Richards and the Alliances with the Richards accusing Captain Landais and the Alliance crew of firing on the Bonhomme Richard rather than the Serapis, killing a number of men.  The Alliance crew denied that this was the case and felt unfairly treated and were concerned the Richards would receive thier prize money but the Alliances would not.

Most of the crew, including the Richards, were nearly destitute and had threatened to mutiny against John Paul Jones while he was commaning the ship during a cruise in the earlier part of the year.  Many of the Alliance crew had been at Mill Prison and had purposely enlisted on the Alliance a year earlier thinking that she would be quickly making her way back to America with supplies for the war effort, but instead Benjamin Franklin reassigned her to John Paul Jones' flotilla delaying by more than a year any hope of making it home. 

Benjamin Franklin being one of the American Commissioners or representatives to the Court of Louis the XVI was also responsible for all American naval activities in Europe and therefore the crew petitioned him for assistance.  Franklin did not respond to this letter since the crew sent a second one on the first of June using more forceful language than this first one.  More on that letter in the next post.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Another Letter and Loan Note

Here is another letter / loan note.  I assume they are written by the same person as they are on adjacent pages and in the same hand.  You may click on the images below to enlarge them.

The first part of the letter reads as follows:

Sir I cant but condole your unhappy Condition and as I had
the happiness to Participate in your Prospearity So give me
leave leave to Share with you as a friend and bear a part
As much as may be in your Sufferings and I intreat you.

How grievous So ever Such a restrain may Proove to So noble

And generous a Sole as yours that you would not afflict
yourself but bare with your wanted Patieunt and bravery
This your misfortune and as a true Christan what
Cannot at Preasent be helpt or redressed Considering
That Such Casualies and mischances frequently befall
Mankind and let it move immediately Sir be your
Comfort and Consolation that it happens by any
Neglect or Extravagance of your own that your
Fortune and Circumstances are Sunk thus low but
By Ineveitable loses and mischances that have Even
Concerned your Diligence and baffled your Industry
Insomuch that I think I may Say that fortune
her Self Strives against you however be not any
Ways Cast Down but think that you may yet live
Not only to overcome the Storm of adversity but to
See many Prosperous Days Remember the Eclips
holy jobe Sufferred and with him also be Comforted
That your healp is in the lord and that god will
Not leave nor for Sake those that trust in him
These things Eye thought fit to Put you in mind of
In hopes they may Establish you in an Unconquerable
Resolutions to undergo what is layd upon you till it
Cant be Redressed and So till I have the opportunity to
Pay you a Visit I take leave to Subscibe myself Sir
          Your Constant and faithful  friend to serve you

Quite the letter of lament.  This person must have been in pretty bad shape to have been compared to "holy jobe".

The second, adjacent letter, in the same hand reads:

Acquittance in full for money in the way of of trade
or lent without any obligation may the 3 – 176?
Then Received of mr John Jones the Sum of ten
Pounds Due from him to me upon account and
Is in full of all in all manner of Debts Dues
Or Demands Due from him to me or any ways
Depending between us which in law or Equity
I Cant justly or lawfully Demand or lay Clame
In witness thareof I have Set my hand the Day
of the Date and year above mentioned
                  Witness                Alexander Summuels

I do not know if these letters are really related.  I am also not sure of the actual date of the second letter, but it does not appear to be in the 1770's.  If not, why was it included in this book?  I do not know of an Alexander Summuels (Or Alexander Samuels).

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Loan Notes Witnessed at Mill Prison

There are several very interesting notes or letters in Nutter's notebook that appear to be unrelated to him. How or when they were put in the notebook are questionable and whether these were original documents or just copies is unknown. For example, here is one with several interesting aspects...

It reads:
"From a Single bill for money with Payment, Be it known unto all men by these Presents that I John Brown of Derby in the County of Derby gentleman Do owe and Stand Indebted unto John Da... (possibly Davis) of Chester in the County of Chester the Sum of twenty Pounds of lawful money of England and to be Paid the Said John Brown his heirs Executors Administrators or assigns at and upon the Seventeenth Day of September next Ensuing the Date here of Which Payment will and truly to be made.  I bind Myself my heirs Executors and administrators to the Said John brown his heirs Executors Administrators Or assigns in the Penal Sum of forty Pounds of the Like money firmly by these Presents.  In witness There of I Set my hand and Seal the Second Day of June in the forth year of the reign of our Suvring lord the Congres of the States of Amaricka and in the year of our lord 1778.  Signed Sealed and Delivered.
John Dimond
Henery Lunt Witness"

Clearly this is some sort of loan note originally written on 2 June 1778.  I have trouble making sense of this whole affair.  It appears that John Brown is borrowing 20 pounds from John Da... but that the sum borrowed will not be paid until the 17th of September 1778.  Davis? was also bound to eventually pay double if he did not make the 20 pound load as agreed.  It was common for prisoners at Mill Prison to borrow money from others to assist in their escape.  Is this the reason for the loan?  Did Jacob Nutter participate at all in this transaction or was this note written in the notebook before he purchased it, possibly in August of 1778.

There is also the interesting mixture of English money and reference to the Congress of the United States.  Perhaps this is due to the two American witnesses to this transaction.

Who John Brown was I do not know.  There are at least two references to John Brown I have run across, one of them being an english sailor later on the Bonhomme Richard.

If the second party listed in the note was truly John Davis, then it might make sense.  There was a John Davis, identified as an Englishman, on the Lexington, and he is listed in Nutter's book as being in the first gang that was released from prison 5 October 1778 to join the British Navy.

Henry Lunt is was one of the Dolton's crew originally sailing with Jacob Nutter who eventually went on to serve as one of the lieutenants of the Bonhomme Richard under John Paul Jones.

John Dimond was a Marblehead man and part of a prize crew from the brig Freedom.  Their prize ship was captured 29 April 1777 and this is how Dimond came to be at Mill Prison.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Nutter's Notes Concerning Prisoners Released to the British Navy 1778.

On the back inside cover of Jacob Nutter's notebook he made the notation "Left mill prison the 5th of October 1778.  Then there is a list of names.  There is a second group of names with the notation "Second gang october the.....

Charles Herberts journal describes what these gangs represented and why they were being released.

This is from Charles Herbert's book "Relic of the Revolution" published in 1847. 

The list of men from Nutter's notebook are as follows:

Left mill prison the 5th day of October 1778
John Burnell
Richard Howard
William Smith
Edward Speeler
James Lowrey
John Davis
Umphery Potter
William Orsburn
David Clark
Frances Colburn
Bartholemy Barrell
William Bright
Robert Macelary
William Hall
Robert Richey
Frances Courtlen
William Creber
William Carpenter
Thomas Welch
Benjeman Loceet
Nichles Shais
Edward Lewas
Thomas Marles
Andrew Grase
William Deton
John George Stamfield
William Anderson
Benjaman Rigle
Thomas Runnels
Joseph Holt
Henery Beckley
Ellexander Fraser

The Second Gang:
Alexander Neal
James Lyons
Samuel Williams
Matthew Clear
Matthew Branson
John Steward
John Dagon
Joseph Engerson
Aaron Twidgley
Edward Hart
John Wigens
Willian Foord
Cuf Scott a negro

These names listed, match very closely with those names listed at the back of Herbert's book.