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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Nov 29. 1776
Yesterday the weather cleared with a stiff northwest gale. Course continued E.N.E. Just after meridian Capt. Johnston called all hands to the quarter deck. He stood upon the capstan the better to speak to us all. Now that we have been sailing a couple of days and you are settled into your watches, I can share with you our mission. I know you are all anxious to learn where we shall cruise, he said. There has been some rumor running throughout the Dolton that we shall cruise off Halifax. This is not true. Mr. Hooper the Dolton’s owner has given us orders to take the Dolton to the merchant shipping lanes off the coast of Spain. We should find fat British plumbs there with no convoy protection. At this there was some considerable excitement and murmuring among the crew. Some of the crew were surprised as they expected to cruise near the New England coast or in the Indies and were none too happy at this news. Others expressed approval by setting up a round of huzzahs. He continued. We shall sail for about one month to reach the Spanish coast. We then shall take up station there and hunt for British merchant vessels for one month. Prizes we capture will be sent to our agents in France for condemnation. God willing we will return to New England in February or March. I know of several other privateers with similar plans. If successful the British may be forced to pull some of their blockaders from the New England coast to protect their ships near to home.

He then gave orders that we begin exercises at our stations. We were beat to quarters by the drummer. There was some general confusion as many of those on board needed to learn to use their new weapons. The marine sharp shooters climbed into the top and lined the side of the ship practicing with their muskets. Sailors were given pikes and instructed how to board another ship under arms. I took up station with my crew at our gun. We practiced running the gun in and out without firing. We practiced loading and firing. At the lieutenant’s orders we sent the boys to the hold to fetch powder cartridges so that we could practice live firing. My crew profitted by the practice but one of the boys did not heed my warning and was injured by the recoil of the gun and was sent to the surgeon for treatment.

Late afternoon just before dark the lookout saw a sail bearing E.S.E. We took up chase and came close enough to her to see that she was a sloop. Evening came and we gave up the chase.

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