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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Jan 15. 1777
We are now held captive on board HMS Raisonable, 64 guns, Capt. Fitzherbert at Plymouth England. We are poorly treated, most of us having been turned down into the cable tier since our capture on Dec. 24th. The weather is continued warm and the air here is stifling and nearly unbearable with stench from the ship’s cables and the close confinement of our people for three weeks. We are forced to lie directly on the bare cables making a very uncomfortable bed. We are allowed but a short period of time each day to take fresh air on the quarter deck. There are several sentinels that watch over us every watch. Our food rations have been very meager and we are become weak for lack of nourishment. I have been unable to write since our capture until this day when some of our people obtained pen, ink and paper from one of the Raisonable’s crew that showed some compassion for us. This compassionate treatment is unusual. All of our belongings but what we had on our persons when captured has been stolen from us contrary to the promises made to us by Captain Fitzherert at the time the Dolton was taken.

We were taken on Dec. 24th at about 10 P.M. The Raisonable had been in chase since early afternoon. After evening fell it was clear we had little hope for escape. The moon was near full and the weather clear. The Raisonable approached and fired a gun. She then spoke us warning that we should be sunk if we did not let her board us to check our papers. Their first lieutenant with a compliment of marines boarded the Dolton with swords drawn. He demanded of Captain Johnston to see the Dolton’s papers. They went to the Captain’s cabin for some time and when they came out the Raisonable’s lieutenant declared that we were American pirates, traitors to the crown and should be taken immediately into custody despite the letter of marque issued by the Honorable Continental Congress. Several boats from the Raisonable were employed to take us off the Dolton and bring an English crew to man the Dolton. We had no time to collect our personal possessions and were assured they would be returned to us once on board.

Charles Herbert, one of our young Newbury men reported the Raisonable crew informed him we had missed by one day the opportunity to approach a poorly protected convoy of English transports bound for America. If we had sailed from Portsmouth on our originally appointed day we should have had our pick of prizes. But we were delayed by the misconduct of the gang from Newburyport. Instead we are now held prisoner and we know not when or if we shall ever see our families and home again.

Dolton taken by HMS Raisonnable

1 comment:

  1. One of my primary sources for events occuring during the Dolton crew's captivity comes from "A Relic of the Revolution" by Charles Herbert, a 19 year old from Newburyport. A link to an on-line version of his nearly daily journal can be found here:

    I will provide links and references to other sources soon.


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