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Friday, March 31, 2006

March 31. 1777
Just about five months past at the end of October, Guppy ran up to me at the boatyard where I was about my work. He waved the New Hampshire Gazette in my face all excited by the notice it contained. It read something to the affect of,

The private armed Brig Dolton of Newburyport, Eleazer Johnston, Esq. Commander, will put in at Kittery Point on or about Nov. 15th. She is preparing for a 12 week cruise and will sail on Nov. 25th. Any gentlemen volunteer or others who wish to enter on board said ship should apply to Captain Johnston at the public house on Kittery Point.

Guppy is my old friend and I have sailed with him before and he knew this would be a good opportunity to strike back at the British and make some money at the same time, just as many of our other Piscataqua men have recently. We both are familiar with Capt. Johnston who is a fine sailor and I thought this a good plan. My only misgiving was my promise to Rebecca to give up the sea life and work on shore. But the cruise was for a limited time and it certainly provided more opportunity for action and prize money than my recent militia service at Fort Washington or Kittery Point defending the approach to Portsmouth. There was initial excitement at the beginning of the war with rumor the British would attempt to take back Portsmouth but since that time they had made no attempt and we in the militia had sat by idly without contributing to the war effort. I broached the subject with Rebecca and after long discussion she agreed reluctantly to my plan.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

March 30. 1777
The rumors we heard yesterday were true and the Apollo did indeed sail today. We watched as she ran down through Hamoaze into Plymouth Sound with General Burgoyne on his way to bring a pay day to his troops.

We are turned down to the lower gun deck every night at the evening gun and as I lay in my hammock it becomes increasingly difficult to sleep with the coughing and moaning coming from our sick. More of our men fall ill every day with several more being sent up to the Royal Hospital. I have been remarkable healthy since the fever I had recently but I fear I will be stricken with something more serious.

The lad caught stealing several days ago was caught again last night rummaging through the belongings of some of the sick who had been sent up to the hospital. He was made to run the gauntlet again today.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

March 29. 1777
I spoke with Samuel Cutler our ship’s clerk today. He informed me that General Burgoyne will be sailing for Halifax tomorrow with a large sum of money to pay his troops who are stationed in Canada. He sails aboard the 32 gun frigate Apollo. Would that one of our privateers should capture his ship. That would make a fine prize.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

March 28. 1777
As with many other rumors told us by our British sentries the one told us yesterday concerning our move on shore to Mill Prison proved to be false. Many of us were almost viewing this as a positive thing, providing us a change and perhaps more room to move about. Instead we are to remain aboard this ship indefinitely with little contact to the world.

Monday, March 27, 2006

March 27. 1777
We are told that we will be sent up to Mill Prison tomorrow but this has not been confirmed by Captain Bowyer or our Captain Johnston. We continue to be in a sickly way. This past week one of our men broke out with small pox and was sent up to the Royal Hospital. About forty of us have the itch now but William Smith, Francis Little, and John Abbot one of our Portsmouth men were bad enough for the surgeon to send them up to the hospital. He visits us twice a day, morning and evening. I am trying to get word on Joseph’s condition.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

March 26.1777
It is four months since sailing from Portsmouth New Hampshire. How bold and confident we were that day when we sailed on the ebb tide down the swift waters of the Piscataqua. H0w full of good cheer and goodwill we were on the night that Captain Johnston conducted his recruting party at the inn in Kittery. We raised our cups to the good health and good luck of each man many times that night. Now half of us are sick, we have little hope of going home again and even smaller hope of good fortune. With tight quarters and idle time tempers grow short and disputes little and big break out nearly every day.

Friday, March 24, 2006

March 24. 1777
Our thief was caught last night, a youth aged 13 caught while attempting to steal some leftover food. He was caught in a trap intentionally layed for him. Some of the men earlier in the evening had mentioned their stock of food layed by the way. After lights out several remained awake. In the near pitch black of the night they could hear someone quietly rummaging through their stock and they set up the alarm which brought the sentry and other marines. The youth was caught by the neck until the guards came. This morning the first lieutenant conferred with Captain Johnston and he has allowed us to punish the young thief ourselves. Captain Johnston informed him that stealing in a ship’s crew was a serious crime and could not go unpunished. The shirt was stripped from his back and we formed two lines along the length of our deck and made him run the gauntlet twice with each of us thrashing his back with nettles given us by the British. I dare say he will not sleep on his back tonight while the rest of us sleep soundly.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

March 23. 1777
Our diet is none too bad as Captain Bowyer allows us the same rations as the common ship’s hand. Throughout the week we have pork and peas, birgu and cheese, beef and pudding, and small beer. We are not allowed rum which is probably just as well considering some of the trouble makers in our company.

I miss my conversations with Joseph however I have made the acquaintance of a number of the Newbury men and I have been friends with many of the Piscataqua men for years. I find most of us were motivated by patriotic concern for America and desire to earn ourselves extra money when we signed onto the Dolton. In fact several of our Portsmouth men set their name to the Association Test in March of last year, pledging their loyalty to the United American Colonies and promising to risk their lives against the British army and navy. This resolution also moved to disarm all who were not loyal to the American cause. I would have signed this too had I still resided in Portsmouth but Rebecca and I removed ourselves to Kittery during the previous year. Most of the boys were looking for adventure. But it becomes plain now there are others in our number that were only motivated by profit and would just as soon take an American vessel as British if it would profit them. I do not trust them and will watch my speech around them as they would likely turn informant on us to improve their condition. I cannot abide those that would betray America for a few shillings.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

March 22. 1777
Our sentries tell us some of the new recruits recently pressed into service on this ship have come down with the small pox. We are all quite afraid that it will spread into our company but there is little we can do to avoid it. Some of our people particularly those from larger towns such as Boston have already survived this scurge but many of us from smaller towns have not faced it yet.

To add to our troubles there is a thief in our midst but we have not caught him. Several men have found small things missing and are growing angry over it. We are all now keeping a sharp lookout for this thief and when we catch him he shall be properly punished.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

March 21. 1777
We have passed now into the Spring season from Winter. The weather was pleasant today as I worked on deck at some odd jobs for the Master at Arms. While on deck I had the opportunity to survey our surroundings here at Hamoaze and Plymouth Dock. We are told that Plymouth Dock, or Dock as the locals call it, lays about three miles west from Plymouth Town. Dock’s population numbers thirteen thousand which is about the same as Plymouth Town. The King has built a large naval yard here and there are a large number of businesses on shore to service the fleet. We are also told that Dock serves as one of the Navy’s headquarters in addition to those located to the east at Portsmouth. From the Burford we can see much constant activity on shore and a steady stream of boats running from shore to the ships in the harbor. Several boats have come out to the Burford today bringing new crew for this ship as well as provisions. The Hamoaze runs down to a narrow channel to Plymouth Sound and then the English Channel. The Hamoaze is on the lee side of a hill called Mt. Edgecombe which protects the harbor from weather coming off the Channel. The hills and surrounding countryside are extremely green for this time of year by comparison to New England.

It is nearly four months since we sailed from Portsmouth on our cruise. I often think of Rebecca and my children and how they are getting on. I trust that my cousin William Treadwell will watch after them per his promise to me. I have written a message to Rebecca informing her of my condition and circumstances. I hope to send this note back to Kittery at my first opportunity.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

March 19. 1777
Joseph Shillaber is very sick with the fever and the surgeon ordered that he be sent up to the hospital with several others. Joseph is one of my best friends from the time that I was a boy in Portsmouth. I fear for his well being as he is not that strong. I was surprised when he appeared at the inn the night Captain Johnston started recruiting for crew members of the Dolton since he is better with book keeping than sea going ways. However, he insisted in participating in the war against the British and the prize money would assist him since his father’s business was faltering due to the blockade of the American coast. When we left Portsmouth I took it upon myself to watch after him and show him the ropes. I will care for his few possessions while he is gone. Guppy and I shall miss him while he is gone.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

March 17. 1777
Nothing exceptional. After several weeks on the Burford we are now getting into a routine. Each morning we are mustered out and counted by our sentries. We continue to be divided into the messes we had aboard the Dolton. Each day one of our messmates is appointed to draw our rations and bring them back to the mess. Our officers reside above decks but we confer with them nearly every day to see what news they have heard. At times we still receive a newspaper from friends among the Burford crew which we share througout our people but the news generally bodes ill for us. To keep up our spirits those of us who are well enough play at games during the day with balls fashioned from old cloth and rope ends. My friend Joseph Shillaber has taken sick and is laid up with our other sick at the far end of this deck. I look in on him several times a day to check on his condition. We are not allowed candles or lamps in the evening and therefore we are asleep soon after dark.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

March 15. 1777
Several of us are discussing plans for escaping this ship. We are moored several cable lengths from shore which makes swimming very difficult, especially with the cold water at this season. Very few of us are capable of swimming such a distance and most are not capable of swimming at all. We also have considered commandeering one of the ship’s boats during the night but we have observed the sentries to be vigilant and this to not be an option. With poor health, little clothing and no money or friends on shore it would be impossible for us to make our way to safe haven in France. One or two individuals might possibly make their escape and we may sponsor one or two volunteers when the time is right to carry messages for us back to America.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

March 14. 1777
Today the Raisonable in company with the Augusta sailed upon a cruise. One of our boys spied her from an open port and called several others over to look. At the sight of her they set up a chorus of boos and insults to such an extent that it alarmed our sentries, they thinking that we were getting up a riot or attempting an escape. Several armed marines came down to our deck and our people were promptly quieted.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

March 12. 1777
I have been quite sick with fever these two days past. Although I am still weak I feel that I am on the mend and my appetite is returning. Some friends provided me with tea to go with a light breakfast which is all I can manage. The Burford surgeon came to see us and upon examining me he confirmed that I should be fully recovered in several days. Others in our company are not recovering and the doctor ordered them sent on shore to the hospital. Several of them could not walk and they were loaded into nets justs as so much cargo and hauled directly out of the hold through the main hatch and placed into boats to take them on shore. On shore they will be put into carts and taken the two miles or so to the hospital. The weather is squally with rain and wind so their trip will not be pleasant.

Friday, March 10, 2006

March 10. 1777
I have taken ill today with aches over my entire body, fever and loss of appetite. Guppy Studley said he had never seen me devoid of hunger before therefore I must truly be sick and not looking for an excuse for him to wait on me. Our surgeon, Dr. Smith, told me I must move to an area in our quarters reserved for our sick. There are now quite a few of our number in the same condition. He told me the Burford’s surgeon will be inspecting us in two days and if I am not on the mend I may be sent on shore to the Royal Hospital. My friend Joseph Shillaber, a Portsmouth man, has loaned me his blanket to help relieve my chills.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

March 9. 1777
News has reached us that Mill Gaol located between Plymouth and Dock is being specially prepared for our occupation by the Commissioners for Sick and Hurt Seamen. We are told this prison has been in use off and on for nearly 100 years as a place of internment for prisoners of war.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

March 8. 1777
Nothing exceptional today. The weather has been mild the past two days. The Captain continues to employ us at various tasks as he continues to be short of his own crew. Several of us have been busy at reworking some rigging. Others of our number are at work fashioning boxes and chests for the Master at Arms.

We hear that the Dolton was condemned and sold to be pressed into service as a privateer for the British. This is an unfortunate turn of fate for her and for us. The Somerset, 74 guns, has sailed for the America station. We saw her run down the Sound the day before yesterday while we were about our tasks on deck. There is more activity in this harbor than I ever did witness anywhere on the North American coast.

Prayers were read by the Captain on board ship last Sunday and our people were allowed to attend. I have not been a regular attender of church since I was a boy and was forced by my mother to go. Sitting for hours in my father’s pew caused me great distress as I found it impossible to sit still. However in the present circumstances I find great comfort in hearing the gospel and I will make a bargain with the Lord to become a regular attender should I ever find myself a free man at home again.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Feb 27. 1777
Capt. Bowyer asked for volunteers from our company to assist getting the guns from the Boyne on board the Burford. The Boyne returned to Plymouth last night having lost one of her masts in a storm. The Burford is short of hands so those of us who were well enough were pleased to assist in this request. With my experience as a mattross moving guns about at Fort Washington I was given charge of a gang of men to rig and haul up the guns into the Burford which took most of the day. It is a relief to perform some physical labor, even in the service of the King. Extra rations were the reward for our effort.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Feb 26. 1777
A newspaper provided to us by a friend was discreetly circulated amongst us today. In it we read that Parliament has passed a motion by 112 to 35 declaring us guilty of high treason. We are to be committed to prison without bail until January 1, 1778 at which time we we shall be put on trial. It is three months since we sailed from Portsmouth and if all had gone according to plan we should be soon returning to that port with full pockets and resting again in our own beds. Instead, we are condemned to wait for nearly a year before we face trial and then likely the end of a noose. Without my liberty I can do nothing for my family or for my country in this position and shall take any opportunity to make my escape before I face trial.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Feb 24. 1777
The Master at Arms of this Ship, Mr. Holland, informs us that one of our crew, Ebenezer Hunt of Newburyport, died four days ago of fever at the Royal Hospital. This was a severe blow to his Newbury friends. Given the present state of our people I fear he will not be the last of our number to succomb on these shores.

Feb 21. 1777
The Raisonable dropped down from the dock to her moorings today in preparation for sailing. Viewed from this vantage she is a handsome ship but after passing through her her bowels for so long with such ill treatment I can only hope she and her commander will rot in hell.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Feb 19. 1777
In the past two days Capt. Bowyer fulfilled his promise and has provided our company with clothing and bedding. Some of our number were nearly naked and this will ease their discomfort. We were told to throw our old clothes overboard in an attempt to rid us of the vermin that plague us all. The bedding is a relief to us after sleeping on bare boards and cables for the previous two months. Today the first lieutenant of the ship confirmed to us that Capt. Bowyer acquired these items at his own expense. His Christian charity will not soon be forgotten.

Doctor Smith the Dolton's surgeon is kept busy all day tending to our sick which grows in number despite our improved conditions. Other than a cold I have been remarkably healthy and now assist him where I can. The Burford's surgeon visits us every few days to examine our health and consults with Dr Smith.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Feb 15. 1777
A number of our men are sent on shore to the Royal Hospital by order of Capt. Bowyer. Some are gravely ill. Mr. Cutler is keeping a record of men sent and allowed me to take down his list.

Thos. Bayley Newburyport
Nath'l Bayley Newburyport
Eben'r Hunt Newburyport
Will Horner Ireland
Jos. Clark Boston
Dan'l Lane New Gloucester
Dan'l Cottle Newburyport
Rueben Tucker Newburyport
Jona. Whitmore Newburyport

Some of these are the agitators that have caused trouble since we sailed from Portsmouth.

Also this day sailed the Boyne 74, Torbay 74, Alboine 74, Bellisle 64 and Thetis 32 on a cruise.