Sunday, May 26, 2024

ARP313 Crawford Expedition

Back in Episode 310, we covered the ongoing war in the west, when militia from around Fort Pitt massacred a Christian community of Moravian Indians and whites at Gnadenhutten, in what is today Ohio.

The militia were upset over repeated attacks on their homes and settlements by various groups of Indians who were being encouraged in such attacks by the British at Detroit.

Planning an Offensive

General William Irvine took command at Fort Pitt just weeks after the Gnadenhutten Massacre.  He had to deal with the fallout from those events, but could not do much about it.  His tiny Continental Garrison was no threat to anyone.  In fact, he feared he and his garrison would be attacked by local militia if they did not share the anti-Indian sentiments that were widely held.

Crawford Expedition
The basis for those sentiments was the fact that the region was in a constant state of alert.  War parties from what is today Ohio, Michigan and Canada, regularly traveled to the area around Fort Pitt where they killed, and often tortured, murdered, and mutilated isolated families on the small farms in the area.  The British and the Indians knew that settlers would continue pushing westward into Ohio unless they could be intimidated by the hostile reception they met. Instead, however, the raids only inspired a series of revenge raids into Ohio.

General Irvine had developed what he hoped would be a plan to put an end to this problem. After he had received orders to take command of Fort Pitt, but before actually taking command, Irvine wrote to Washington with his assessment.

It is, I believe, universally agreed that the only way to keep Indians from harassing the country is to visit them. But we find, by experience, that burning their empty towns has not the desired effect. They can soon build others. They must be followed up and beaten, or the British, whom they draw their support from, totally driven out of their country. I believe if Detroit was demolished, it would be a good step toward giving some, at least, temporary ease to this country.

The Continentals had embarked on the Sullivan Expedition in New York to wipe out Indian villages there a few years earlier.  That did not really end the fighting.  The British in Quebec continued to provide support for Indian and loyalist raids into New York.  Quebec was too large to take.  But Detroit was a much smaller outpost.  If they could remove the British from Detroit, perhaps the Indians would not get stirred up so much.  The problem was crossing Ohio to get to it.

Irvine believed that a Continental army of 2000 men, with five cannons and sufficient supply wagons, could take Detroit and leave a path of destruction through Ohio that would at least greatly reduce the attacks in the region.

William Irvine

While Washington liked the idea of taking Detroit.  Raising an army, however, was out of the question.  Following Yorktown, it had become impossible to get more recruits, supplies, or much of anything. Washington was struggling just to keep an army in the field around New York.  The struggle to feed his army was almost more than he could handle.  With no threat of an imminent offensive by the enemy, a war-weary Congress had given up on trying to get the states to contribute more to the war effort.  There was no way they would contribute to an offensive in the west that had no impact on the security of their home states.  If there was going to be any action, it would have to be locally sponsored.

The local militia around Fort Pitt were still highly motivated to take action.  The action at Gnadenhutten had done nothing to slow down raids.  On May 8, an Indian war party came across the home of a Baptist minister.  Although he was not home, the Indians killed and scalped his wife and children.  Everyone knew that the raids would continue if they did nothing.

About 500 men answered the call for militia.  All of them were volunteers.  They had to provide their own arms, ammunition, and everything else they would need. Their only compensation would be whatever they could plunder from the enemy.  Even so, the men believed in the necessity of countering this ongoing threat, and were willing to lend their support.

William Crawford

Militia Colonel David Williamson had led the militia who had attacked Gnadenhutten a few months earlier.  He would probably be seen as the obvious choice to lead this expedition. General Irvine believed that Washington’s orders prohibited him from leading his small Continental garrison on this expedition.

When the men voted on an officer to lead the expedition, Williamson was up there, but came in a close second.  The militia selected William Crawford to lead them.  

William Crawford
Crawford was an experienced frontiersman.  He had grown up on the Virginia frontier.  Early in life, he had teamed up with a teen-aged George Washington to work on several surveying projects.  Crawford, along with Washington, also joined the Braddock campaign back in 1754 and the Forbes Campaign to capture Fort Pitt from the French in 1758.  When Washington returned home to Mount Vernon, Crawford remained on the frontier, working as a surveyor, farmer, and fur trader.  He regularly had to deal with both friendly and hostile Indians.  In 1774, he fought as a major in Lord Dunmore’s War in what is today West Virginia.

When the Revolution began, Crawford took a commission as a lieutenant colonel in the 5th Regiment of Virginia.  A short time later, Crawford became colonel of the 7th Virginia, replacing Colonel William Daingerfield, who resigned. It’s not clear why Daingerfield resigned, but I have to assume it was because he got no respect.  Colonel Crawford took several other commands during the war, and raised another Continental regiment among the frontiersmen of 1777.  He fought under Washington in the Philadelphia Campaign, specifically at Brandywine and Germantown.

When the Army went to Valley Forge, Crawford was transferred to Fort Pitt, where he served under a series of commanding officers there over the next few years.  Due to frustrations, perhaps related to lack of promotion, or to the dearth of funding, or support that Congress gave to the western armies, Crawford retired in 1781.

Despite his retirement, Crawford turned out for service in 1782 when the militia prepared for its raid into the Ohio Territory.  By some accounts, General Irvine encouraged Crawford to lead the expedition and encouraged the militia to vote him into command.  It could be that Irvine, as well as others, did not trust Williamson after Williamson had led the Gnadenhutten Massacre.  It could also be that Crawford’s decades of experience on the frontier, and his years of command in the Continental Army simply inspired greater confidence in the men.

The Expedition

Crawford’s substantial force of 500 militia was not substantial enough to threaten Detroit itself.  He and Irvine decided their target would be a series of Indian towns along the Sandusky River. This would take them deeper into Indian Territory than any Patriot force had gotten during the Revolution, about 175 miles west of Fort Pitt and about 100 miles south of Detroit.

Although the expedition was made up of militia, two Continental officers also went with the group. John Knight served as surgeon on the expedition.   The other volunteer officer was known as John Rose.  In actuality, he was the Baron Gustave von Wetter-Rosenthal, a Russian aristocrat who fled to America after killing a man in a duel.  Rose had fought in the Quebec campaign and was, at the time, serving as General Irvine’s aide-de-camp.

Crawford Expedition Map
The militia left Fort Pitt on May 25, 1782.  They hoped their raid would be a surprise, but that hope was quickly dashed.  The militia were highly undisciplined. Men would leave the column and would fire their guns at wild game during the march.  Rose also noted that Colonel Crawford was not very commanding and often got into arguments with other officers about what actions to take.  A number of the militia lost faith in the mission and deserted before they reached any of their targeted destinations.

Despite the problems, the expedition kept up a pretty good pace.  In just over a week, they arrived near Upper Sandusky, a Wyandot village deep into Ohio country.  On arrival, they found the town abandoned.  The Wyandots had moved about 8 miles to the north.

Although scouts had reached the town, the main army was stills some distance away.  Crawford held a council of war.  Many men believed the town’s abandonment meant that the Indians knew about their approach and were planning an attack.  Many wanted to turn around and go home before it was too late.  Another group under Colonel Williamson wanted to march to the abandoned town and burn it.  Crawford did not want to divide his force, so he took the entire column toward the town and camped overnight.

Before they marched very far, scouts reported a large war party of Native Americans advancing on their position.

The Indians

It turns out that the expedition was no surprise at all for the enemy, and it had nothing to do with the lack of discipline among the militia.  Spies had reported the expedition before it had even left Fort Pitt.  A week and a half before the militia even got started, Major Arent Schuyler DePeyster was aware of the expedition and planning to attack it.  He assembled an army that consisted of a great many Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo, and Northern Wyandot warriors, as well as others, referred to generally as “Lake Indians” by the British.  Also with the group was a company of loyalist cavalry from Butler’s Rangers, the group that had been raised in upstate New York but had been pushed out of there by the Americans.

One of the war chiefs leading this group was a Delaware known as Captain Pipe.  He had grown up in what is today central Pennsylvania.  Pennsylvania settlers had forced his people west into Ohio.  Over the years, he attended several conferences and treaty negotiations at Fort Pitt.

When the Revolution began, Captain Pipe advocated to keep the Delaware neutral and out of the war.  He maintained this view even after General Edward Hand led an expedition into Ohio in 1778, with William Crawford part of that expedition.  The soldiers killed his wife and children.  Despite this, he still granted another Continental force under General Lachlan McIntosh permission to pass through his territory a few months later in another failed attempt to reach Detroit.  When McIntosh tried to compel the Delaware to join him in an effort to destroy Detroit, the Delaware refused, Captain Pipe moved his people further west, where the British held more influence.  Finally, in 1781, when a patriot raid under Colonel Daniel Brodhead destroyed his village again, Captain Pipe firmly allied with the British

Another commander was Dunquat, a Wyandot also known as the Half-King.  Unlike Captain Pipe, Dunquat was a firm British ally from the beginning of the war.  He led a group of mostly Wyandot and Mingo warriors on multiple raids against the American frontier as early as 1777. He had led attacks against Fort Henry and Fort Randolph earlier in the war, and was probably a key leader in the continual raids into western Pennsylvania.  

Dunquat had also been particularly protective of the Moravian communities in Ohio.  He had made efforts to move them to safer locations during the war, and was likely particularly outraged when the Fort Pitt militia massacred them only a few months earlier.

Also with the Indians was Simon Girty.  I’ve discussed his background before, but as a reminder Girty grew up on the Pennsylvania frontier.  When he was a teenager at the outbreak of the French and Indian War, his town was raided by Indians who killed his stepfather, and took him prisoner.  He was eventually adopted into the Mingo tribe under great Chief Guyasuta.  After Pontiac’s rebellion, the Mingo were forced to return all of their white captives.  They returned Girty, who did not want to leave and tried to return several times.  When that proved impossible, Girty made a living on the frontier, working as a trapper and a translator.  During this time, he got to know William Crawford.

He acted as a scout during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774.  At one point, he served under Crawford.  After Virginia Soldiers massacred Indian women and children during Dunmore’s War, Girty left the service and moved into Indian territory.  With the outbreak of the Revolution, he offered his services to the British in Detroit.  He had fought alongside Captain Pipe and Dunquat for many years, taking an active role in attacks on frontier forts and settlements. He strongly supported the attack on the Crawford Expedition in Ohio.

Battle of Sandusky

On June 4, 1782, a group of militia scouts under John Rose encountered a group of Delaware warriors under Captain Pipe.  They fought a running retreat as the outnumbered militia slowly fell back while fighting off the attackers.  Just when it looked like the militia scouts might be overrun and massacred, Crawford showed up with reinforcements to push back the Delaware.  

Crawford’s militia drove the Delaware back out of the woods and into an open prairie. There, Captain Pipe linked up with Dunquat’s Wyandot warriors.  This led to a three and a half hour battle between the two groups.  As it got dark the Indians withdrew.  That day, both sides lost five killed.  The Americans also had 19 wounded to the Indians’ 11.  

Both sides spent a sleepless night, clutching their weapons and fearing a night attack.  There was no attack, although men on both sides took time to scalp fallen enemies and steal their clothing and other personal items.  Fifteen militiamen deserted during the night, fleeing back to Fort Pitt. 

Battle of Sandusky
The next morning, fighting resumed.  The Indians were firing from 200 to 300 yards away with muskets, meaning there was little chance they would hit anyone.  Militia leaders believed the Indians were holding back because they had suffered heavy losses the day before.  In fact, the Indians were simply amusing the enemy, while waiting for reinforcements.  The Americans also observed that Butler’s Rangers were fighting alongside the Indians.  Even so, Crawford believed he could launch a night raid after dark and surprise the enemy. 

As the Americans watched the Indians fire at them from a distance, a group of about 140 Shawnee warriors slipped around the American line, effectively surrounding their camp.  Rather than attack after dark, the Americans decided, at that point, it would be better to slip away and retreat once the sun went down.  

That night, many of the militia rode off on their own, leaving the larger army divided.  The men also left behind many of their wounded, wanting to make a faster escape.  Crawford did his best to collect the wounded and keep the militia together in a single unit, but saw all that falling apart.

The following morning, the Americans had returned to the abandoned Wyandot village that they had found a few days earlier.  About half the militia had fled, reducing their numbers to less than 300.  A smaller group of Indians attacked the force, causing more of the militia to flee.  Colonel Williamson managed to mount an organized defense that drove off the attack, but leading to another three militia killed and eight wounded.

Over the next week, small groups of militia made their way back to Fort Pitt.  The main force under John Rose reached Mingo Bottom, just west of Fort Pitt, on June 13.  Indian pursuers managed to capture and kill a few stragglers.  In total, the militia suffered probably between 70 and 150 casualties.  We have that big spread, because numbers on frontier battles are just terrible.


There are no good numbers on exactly how many militia were killed outright or captured during the retreat.  We only have a few stories from survivors.  A scout named John Slover was captured with two other soldiers.  They were taken to a Shawnee town where they were forced to run a gauntlet. One of the prisoners was painted black, meaning the Shawnee had marked that man for death.  The men were badly beaten in the gauntlet.  The man marked for death was torn up with tomahawks and had his heart stuck on a pole outside of town.

Slover also recognized the bodies of three other prisoners.  These were Major McClelland, as well as Colonel Crawford’s nephew and his son-in-law.  The heads of these men were also stuck on poles just outside the village. Slover and the other prisoner were separated and sent to different villages.  They were expected to be burned at the stake.  Slover managed to escape on a stolen horse, which is the only reason we have his story.

Colonel Crawford and Dr. Knight got separated from the main army during the retreat.  When a larger band of Delaware encountered them, Crawford and Knight surrendered.  Several other men with them fled into the woods. The Indians chased them down, killing and scalping them.

Crawford was taken to a Wyandot village where he met up with Simon Girty. Girty informed him that the Indians wanted revenge for the Gnadenhutten massacre and were not inclined to show mercy.  The following day, Captain Pipe arrived.  He ordered Crawford and several other prisoners painted black and carried to another town.  Four of the prisoners were tomahawked to death and scalped during the journey.  When they arrived at the new town, all the other prisoners, except Crawford and Knight, were tomahawked to death and scalped.  The warriors taunted Crawford by slapping his face with the scalps of his former comrades.

Crawford execution
The Indians wanted to make Crawford’s death a spectacle.  Captain Pipe, accompanied by a group of Delaware warriors, gave Crawford a "trial" with Girty serving as interpreter.  They asked if Crawford played any role in the Gnadenhutten Massacre, which Crawford truthfully denied. Another Delaware woman recognized Crawford as a leader from a 1778 campaign in which Captain Pipe’s brother and mother had been killed.  Even if he hadn’t been at Gnadenhutten, he was an Indian killer and was condemned to death by fire.  

The following day, more than 100 Delaware gathered to observe Crawford’s fate.  Captain Pipe and Dunquat were both present, as was Simon Girty and another British agent.  Girty offered to pay a ransom to save Crawford, but it was refused.  

Crawford was first stripped naked and beaten.  Warriors shot him with blanks, burning his skin with the powder residue.  They cut off his ears and pressed burning coals against his skin.  They forced him to walk across burning coals.  Crawford begged Girty to shoot him and end his misery, but Girty could not interfere.

After several hours, Crawford lost consciousness.  The Indians scalped him and put hot coals on his head.  The pain caused him to revive briefly.  He was forced to walk a bit more before his body was finally pushed into a fire and burned.  Again, the only reason we have this account is because Dr. Knight witnessed it.  The following day, Knight was bring carried to another village for execution.  Along the way, he managed to bash his captor with a log and escape into the woods.  After weeks of making his way through the woods, he managed to make it back to Fort McIntosh.


The failure of the Crawford Expedition only emboldened Indian attack from the Ohio territory.  We’ll get into some of those in a future episode.  

Next week, we return to Philadelphia as the Continental Congress adopts the Great Seal.

- - -

Next Episode 314 The Great Seal 

Previous Episode 312 Huddy-Asgill Affair

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Further Reading


William Crawford:

Brown, Paul Reconstructing Crawford’s Army of 1782

Quaife, M. M. “The Ohio Campaigns of 1782.” The Mississippi Valley Historical Review, vol. 17, no. 4, 1931, pp. 515–29. JSTOR,

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: American Strategy:

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Birth of an Expedition:

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Rout, Retreat, and Recovery

The Crawford Campaign, 1782: Captivity, Torture, and Execution:

Burning Colonel Crawford:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Boyd, Thomas Simon Girty, The White Savage, New York: Minton, Balch & Co. 1928. 

Brackenridge, H. H. Narratives of a late expedition against the Indians: with an account of the barbarous execution of Col. Crawford, Philadelphia: Francis Bailey, 1783. 

Butterfield, Consul W. An Historical Account of the Expedition Against Sandusky Under Col. William Crawford in 1782, Cincinnati: R. Clarke & Co. 1873. 

Butterfield, Consul W. The Washington-Crawford Letters, Cincinnati: R. Clarke & Co. 1877. 

Butterfield, Consul W. History of the Girtys, Columbus: Longs College Book Co. 1950. 

Paul, James A Narrative of the Wonderful Escape and Dreadful Sufferings of Colonel James Paul, after the defeat of Col. Crawford, when that unfortunate commander, and many of his men, were inhumanly burnt at the stake, Cincinnati: Spiller, 1869. 

Stone, William L. ”Journal of a Volunteer Expedition to Sandusky, from May 24 to June 13, 1782The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 1894.

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Brusman, Denver and Joel Stone (eds) Revolutionary Detroit: Portraits in Political and Cultural Change, 1760-1805, Detroit Historical Society, 2009 (borrow on

Glickstein, Don After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, Westholme Publishing, 2015. 

Sterner, Eric The Battle of the Upper Sandusky, 1782, Westholme Publishing, 2023. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, May 19, 2024

ARP312 Huddy-Asgill Affair

By the spring of 1782, the main Continental Army under George Washington had settled back into defensive lines around British occupied  New York City.

Following their loss at Yorktown, the British had given up on all offensive operations in America.  Britain had begun discussing peace terms with American commissioners in Europe.  Many believed the war would soon be over and British rule in America at an end.

Charles Asgill
There was one group who feared this result even more than the leaders in Britain.  They were the loyalists.  American colonists who had stood by the King.  They had also risked their lives, their fortunes, and their honor in this dispute.  As it was coming to an end, that was proving to be a bad bet. They stood to lose everything, including possibly their lives if convicted of treason in the newly independent United States.  They were living as outlaws or under British protection that might soon go away.

The loyalists, also called Tories, continued the war from British occupied New York by continuing raids into New Jersey.  Many of these loyalists were New Jersey natives who had taken refuge in New York.  Leading the effort was the royal governor of New Jersey, William Franklin.  Benjamin Franklin’s son remained a committed loyalist, still fighting to bring the colonies back under crown rule.

Even after Yorktown, the loyalists continued their raids, by some accounts becoming even more brutal.  British General Henry Clinton noted that he believed these loyalist refugees in New York intended to prevent “all future reconciliation between Great Britain and the revolted colonies.”

Capture of Huddy

In late March 1782, the loyalists conducted a raid on the town of Toms River, New Jersey.  They targeted the town’s salt works.  About 80 loyalists took whaleboats to make the 50 mile journey to the patriots down on the New Jersey coast.  The Patriots at Toms River were commanded by Joshua “Jack” Huddy.

Captain Huddy was an active patriot and a longtime leader in the New Jersey militia.  He had spent much of the early war fighting his loyalist neighbors, forcing many of them to take refuge in New York.  Many loyalists asserted that Huddy was a murderer who had no compunctions about executing loyalists when discovered in New Jersey.  One particularly notable event happened in 1777. Huddy was involved with a group that captured and hanged an alleged spy named Stephen Edwards, who was taken from his bed at night, given a quick trial and then hanged.

Later in the war, Huddy received a letter of marque from the Continental Congress, authorizing him to use his whaleboat to target British boats and settlements along the New Jersey coast. Huddy had some successful seizures, which he had sold at auction in Toms River.

Huddy’s reputation made him a target to be killed or captured.  In September of 1780, a loyalist force led by an escaped slave named Titus tried to capture Huddy.  Titus was an active loyalist, given the nickname of Colonel Tye for his efforts on behalf of the loyalists during the ongoing guerilla war in New Jersey.

Colonel Tye surrounded Huddy’s home with several dozen loyalists.  Huddy managed to hold out for some time with the help of only a servant girl, who reloaded muskets as he fired from multiple locations inside the house.  Apparently, he had a whole cache of muskets that he had confiscated from loyalists in the area.  Eventually, the loyalists set the house of fire, forcing Huddy to surrender.

The loyalist tied up Huddy and put him aboard a whaleboat for return to New York as a prisoner.  The local militia, however, turned out in time to attack the loyalists.  They got into a firefight, killing six of the enemy.  During the fight, Huddy was shot in the hip, probably by his would be rescuers.  He still managed to escape his captors and swim back to freedom.

The following summer, Huddy had largely recovered from his wound and took command of the blockhouse in Toms River.  When the loyalists attacked in March 1782, Huddy commanded about 25 patriot militia, who took refuge in the block house.  Eventually, they ran out of ammunition and had to surrender to the larger attacking force.  The raiders burned the town and carried Huddy back to New York in a whaleboat - this time successfully.  There, the militia captain was held in the notorious Sugar House Prison for a time and aboard a prison ship in New York Harbor.

The British then transferred Huddy to William Franklin’s loyalists, believing they wanted to trade him for a loyalist prisoner being held in New Jersey.

Up Goes Huddy for White

Instead, other events intervened.  About the same time the loyalist captured Huddy, another loyalist, Philip White also crossed enemy lines into New Jersey.  There are conflicting accounts of what White was doing in New Jersey.  By some accounts, he was conducting a raid. By others, he was just visiting his wife.

Capt. Huddy led to his hanging
In any event, White was a wanted man.  As a member of Franklin’s Associated Loyalists, White had participated in the past in numerous raids in New Jersey, killing and wounding several patriots.  Two years earlier, White had been part of an attack on the home of a patriot named John Russell.  In the attack, Russell was wounded and his father killed.

When White returned to New Jersey in late March 1782, Russell managed to capture the man who killed his father.  Exactly what happened next was also a matter of dispute, but the undisputed part is that White was killed.  The patriots claimed that White was shot and killed while trying to escape while being transferred for trial. The loyalists in New York believed that the patriots, specifically Russell who was avenging his father, had killed White in cold blood, then mutilated his body, then buried him in a shallow grave.

Huddy, of course, had nothing to do with the death of White.  He was in British custody at the time of White’s death.  But when word of White’s death reached the loyalists in New York, they were outraged.  White’s brother in law, Loyalist Captain Richard Lippincott, took custody of Huddy.  He and his men promptly took him to a tree on Sandy Hook, New Jersey and on April 2 unceremoniously hanged him without trial.  They put a placard on his body that read “Up goes Huddy for Philip White.”

The New Jersey militia, friends of Huddy, recovered his body, and the placard.  The militia called on Washington to take action regarding this outrageous murder of a prisoner of war.  Otherwise, the militia would stop taking any prisoners when they were capturing loyalists.  New Jersey was in danger of becoming like the southern colonies, where prisoners were routinely murdered after battle.

Washington’s Response

The execution of an American prisoner was something Washington had to take very seriously.  Since the war began, Britain had threatened to treat American prisoners as captured criminals - guilty of treason and subject to hanging.  The only reason this did not happen was likely due to threats by Washington and others in the American leadership that if American prisoners were hanged, they would begin hanging British prisoners.

Less than a year before this incident, the British had called the American’s bluff by hanging Colonel Isaac Hayne in Charleston (See Episode 293).  The Americans had threatened retaliation then, but ended up doing nothing.  Now the Continental leadership was faced with a second execution.  There had to be some sort of response.

Washington received word of Huddy’s hanging in a letter from the Monmouth, NJ Militia.  He was staying in Newburgh, New York at the time.  Within days, he convened a council of general officers and regimental commanders at West Point.  Twenty four officers participated in the deliberations, among them Major Generals William Heath was the senior officer. Robert Howe, and the Baron Von Steuben also participated.

Washington submitted all the documentation he had, and asked the council to answer four questions: 

  • 1st Upon the State of Facts in the above Case, is Retaliation justifiable & expedient?
  • 2d If justifiable, Ought it to take place immediately? Or should a previous Representation be made to Sir Henry Clinton & Satisfaction be demanded from him?
  • 3d In Case of Representation & Demand, who should be the person or persons to be required?
  • 4 In case of Refusal & Retaliation becomg necessary, of what Discription shall the officer be on whom it is to take place; & how shall he be designated for the purpose?

Each officer wrote out his own answer to each question.  On the first, they unanimously agreed that yes, retaliation was justifiable and expedient.  On the second question, the vast majority thought a demand of satisfaction to General Clinton would be appropriate, although a minority argued for immediate action - just hang someone, right now.  To the third question the majority believed they should demand Captain Lippincott, the loyalist officer in command of hanging Huddy, should be turned over for trial and execution.  To the fourth question, if the demand for Lippincott should be refused, the majority answered that a British captain should be selected at random and executed.  Several officers qualified this by saying the selected captain should be one who was captured in battle, not one such as those captured at Yorktown or Saratoga, who were promised certain guarantees of good treatment in exchange for surrender.

Washington acted on the answers, writing to President John Hanson to let Congress know what he was planning, then to British General Clinton to demand that Lippincott be turned over, or that a British Captain would be selected by lot and hanged.  Hanson did not respond, but Congress voted unanimously to support Washington’s plans in this matter.

Even before receiving Congress’s response, Washington wrote to General Clinton to demand Lippincott, or whoever was responsible, be turned over.  If not, Washington would order a British captain to be executed in his place.  Washington told Clinton “To save the innocent, I demand the guilty.”  

Clinton’s Departure

Clinton’s  response expressed “Surprise & Displeasure” at the tone of Washington’s letter and its “improper language”.  He assured Washington that he had only become aware of Huddy’s hanging a few days before he received Washington’s letter.  This was about a month after the incident took place.  Clinton assured Washington that such an act of cruelty was not the policy of the British Government nor his personal standards.  He had ordered an inquiry into events and would bring those responsible to trial.  He then scolded Washington for even considering hanging an innocent British officer.  He called it an act of barbarity.  Clinton went on to say it was up to each army to punish the wrongdoing of their own officers and men.

What Clinton left out of his letter to Washington, was the fact that this was not going to be his problem for much longer.  On March 27, about two weeks before Huddy’s hanging, Clinton had received a letter from Lord Germain that his resignation as Commander of North America had been accepted.  The following day, Clinton received a second letter that had been written several weeks after Germain’s letter.  The second letter was from Germain’s replacement Wellbore Ellis.   It informed Clinton that General Guy Carlton was on his way to replace Clinton.  Until Carleton arrived, Clinton should turn over command to General James Robertson.

Recall that Clinton hated Robertson.  The general simply refused to turn over command.  Robertson, who was also the Royal Governor of New York, protested, but there was not much else he could do.  Clinton outranked Robertson within the military.  Both men were also probably well aware by this time that the North Government had probably fallen or was still in the process of falling so that getting any clear direction from London for a while would probably be impossible.

Clinton did actually take some action in the matter. After receiving Washington’s letter, he ordered Lippincott arrested and held for court martial.  William Franklin, who was the head of the loyalists, objected that Lippincott was not a soldier and should not be tried by court martial.  Clinton ignored the objection and convened a court martial of 16 officers headed by General Robertson. Clinton was pretty confident this was not going to be resolved before he left.  He was right.  The Court martial convened, but was still considering the matter when General Carleton arrived on May 5.

Clinton hung around for another week before departing for London aboard a ship with the departing Hessian commander General Wilhelm von Knyphausen.  Clinton would return to begin his public feud with Cornwallis over who was responsible for Yorktown.  Knyphausen was simply headed home for retirement.


With no satisfactory response forthcoming, Washington continued with the selection of a British captain to become the victim of American retaliation.  Washington wrote to Colonel Moses Hazen, who was responsible for the British prisoners of war being held in western Pennsylvania and Maryland.  He ordered that a British captain be selected by lot and sent to Philadelphia.  Washington initially requested that an officer be selected from those who had been captured unconditionally in battle, not those who had surrendered and were given terms of protection as part of their surrender.  However, when it turned out that there were not captains that met that former criterion, Washington permitted lots to be selected among thirteen captains who has surrendered with the Army at Yorktown.

Day Tavern in Chatham, NJ
where Asgill was held awaiting execution
Remember that most officers at Yorktown had been paroled and allowed to return home.  The only officers being held were those who had been retained to keep the enlisted prisoners in order.  The prisoners were gathered at the Black Bear Inn in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  When informed the captains refused to draw lots.  They viewed this how process as immoral and illegal, and would play  no part in it.  In response, the Americans simply put their names in a hat.  In another hat, they placed 12 blanks and one marked “unfortunate.”  A drummer boy then drew a slip from each hat.  On the eleventh draw, Captain Charles Asgill’s name came up, along with the slip “unfortunate.”

Asgill was the youngest captain, having just turned 20 years old a few weeks earlier.  He was from an important family.  His father had been Lord Mayor of London.  Asgill joined the army at age 16, against the wishes of his father.  He had been promoted to captain less about a year earlier, a promotion he probably regretted by this point.  Upon hearing his fate, his commanding officer told him only “For God’s sake, don’t disgrace your colors.”

The unfortunate prisoner was carried first to Philadelphia, then to Chatham, New Jersey, the area where Captain Huddy had lived.  He was kept under close confinement, amid particularly hostile neighbors who had erected a gallows with a sign that said “up goes Asgill for Huddy.”


While there had been a pretty strong call for blood among the Americans after Huddy’s hanging. Once Asgill became the face of American vengeance, opposition to his execution became more vocal. Even Colonel Alexander Hamilton wrote to Washington, saying that murdering an innocent man would greatly damage Washington’s reputation.  Washington may have had second thoughts, but at this point he could not back down.  He feared that doing so would mean that neither the British leadership, nor anyone else, would trust his resolve.  

Washington delayed final execution, perhaps waiting for a determinative response from the British army.  General Carleton had suspended the Lippincott court martial almost as soon as he arrived, and debated simply turning over Lippincott, who he regarded as a criminal.  Turn him over to the Americans and make this whole thing go away.  That, of course, would have greatly angers the loyalists.  In June, Carlton also disbanded William Franklin’s Association of Loyalists, which had taken Huddy from British custody. Around this same time, Franklin left New York for London.

The court martial reached its decision in late June - not guilty. The court concluded that Lippincott had only been following orders given to him by William Franklin and that he believed his actions were in the line of duty, and not out of malice. 

Carleton then seemed to embark on a policy of procrastination to avoid any action against Asgill.  He wrote to Washington about the court decision in July, two weeks after the verdict, but failed to include the court records.  

Then, after more than a month, Carleton announced that the records were ready and asked for permission for Chief Justice William Smith to carry those records to Washington.  Carleton said Smith could provide further explanation.  A frustrated Washington responded that he was sending General Heath to meet with an officer at the British front lines and that any explanation could be in writing.  Carleton then responded he would just mail the records and Washington could get them soon.  In this case, the mail took another two weeks to arrive, far longer than normal.

Having received the court records, Washington still hesitated to act. Instead, he forwarded the records to Congress and asked them again what it wished to do. By this time, it was late August, almost five months had passed since Huddy’s hanging.

The delay gave Asgill’s advocates time to act.  Most specifically, his mother, Lady Asgill, wrote to the French Foreign Minister Vergennes pleading for her son’s life.  Lady Asgill argued that her son had surrendered to the French at Yorktown under their word that he would be protected and not subject to reprisals.  She called upon French honor to request her son’s life be spared.

Vergennes sent the letter to the King and Queen of France, resulting in a request from Queen Marie Antoinette requesting the release of Captain Asgill.  Meanwhile for months, Congress dithered and failed to reach a decision.  A majority still wanted to hang Asgill.  Finally, in November 1782, after receiving the letter from Vergennes it changed its determination.  It voted to release Asgill as a gift to the King of France.

In late November, Asgill was released.  He rushed to New York, only to find that a British packet ship had just left.  Anxious to return home, Asgill abandoned his luggage, commandeered a row boat and sailed after the ship.  He managed to catch it, boarded it and returned home in time for Christmas.

The Americans never took vengeance for Huddy’s murder.  However, the dispute, which lasted for about eight months, maintained a particular state of bitterness between the two countries.  Carleton had hoped to ease relations as the British reduced resources in America.  He also hoped to reach some plan for the exchange of prisoners.  The Americans had about 12,000 British prisoners by this time.  The result of this ongoing dispute kept the two sides at a higher level of hostility and prevented any large-scale prisoner exchange.

Next week: we head west again, as the Americans push into the Ohio Territory, hoping to stop continuing Indian raids into the area around Fort Pitt.

- - -

Next Episode 313 Crawford Expedition

Previous Episode 311 Battle of the Saintes

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Further Reading


Asgill Affair:

Damon, Allan L. “A Melancholy Chase” American Heritage, Feb. 1970.

Duke, Clair To Save the Innocent, I Demand the guilty: The Huddy-Asgill Affair, Kansas State Univ. 2017.

Documents of the American Revolution, Joshua Huddy Era:

Ward, Matthew H. “Joshua Huddy: The Scourge of New Jersey Loyalists” Journal of the American Revolution, Oct. 8, 2018.

“To George Washington from John Covenhoven, 14 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to John Brooks, 19 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to John Hanson, 20 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to Henry Clinton, 21 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“To George Washington from Henry Clinton, 25 April 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to Moses Hazen, 3 May 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

“From George Washington to Moses Hazen, 18 May 1782,” Founders Online, National Archives,

Washington Came this Close to Killing an Innocent Man:

Video: Discussion of Joshua Huddy with Author Robert Mayers:

Video: Prof. Peter Enriques on The Asgill Affair (Prince William Public Libraries):

Video: Charles Asgill, Setting the Record Straight (Anne Ammundsen):

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Humphreys, David The Conduct of General Washington: Respecting the Confinement of Capt. Asgill, New York The Bollard Club, 1859. 

Mayo, Katherine General Washington’s Dilemma, Port Washington, NY: Kennikat Press, 1970 (originally published 1938) (borrow only).

Paine, Thomas The American crisis, and a letter to Sir Guy Carleton, on the murder of Captain Huddy, and the intended retaliation on Captain Asgill, of the Guards, London, Daniel Isaac Eaton, 1796. 

Stryker, William S. The Capture of the Block House at Toms River, New Jersey, March 24, 1782, Trenton: Naar, Day & Naar, 1883. 

 Vanderpoel, Ambrose E. History of Chatham, New Jersey, New York: Charles Francis Press, 1921. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Ammundsen, Anne The Charles Asgill Affair: Setting the Record Straight, Heritage Books, 2023. 

Fleming, Thomas The Perils of Peace: America's Struggle for Survival After Yorktown, Harper Collins, 2007.  

Fowler, Willam H. Jr. American Crisis: George Washington and the Dangerous Two Years after Yorktown, 1781-1783, Walker & Co. 2011. 

Glickstein, Don After Yorktown: The Final Struggle for American Independence, Westholme Publishing, 2015. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Sunday, May 12, 2024

ARP311 Battle of the Saintes


Following the Franco-American victory at Yorktown in October 1781, General Washington pleaded with Admiral de Grasse to make use of the French naval fleet for a few other actions.  Washington believed that even a few weeks at Charleston, SC would allow Nathanael Greene’s southern army to take that town.

The French commander would not budge.  He had already spent longer than he had planned in Virginia.  The only reason he had removed his fleet from the West Indies in the first place was to avoid peak hurricane season.  His focus was on protecting French Islands in the West Indies, and capturing some British ones.  North America was just a sideshow.   

Almost as soon as he could, de Grasse sailed his fleet away from Virginia and back to the West Indies.  By November 26, his fleet was back at Martinique.

St. Eustatius

The same day the French fleet arrived in Martinique, another French squadron was capturing St. Eustatius.  The British had captured the tiny Dutch island colony only a few months earlier.  A fleet under Admiral George Rodney had captured the island in January 1781 before the Dutch governor there was even aware that the Dutch Republic was at war with Britain.  The Dutch had only about 60 militia on the 8 square mile island and could offer no resistance.

Admiral Rodney was pleased to take control of St. Eustatius, mostly because it offered him pay day.  Rodney had wracked up massive debt before the war. He even had to flee to France to avoid creditors.  When the Revolution began, he had to borrow money from a French officer to return to England.

As commander of the fleet, Rodney would be entitled to a pretty large share of any booty his fleet captured.  He spent weeks on the island, fleecing its population.  Of particular interest to Rodney was the small community of Jewish merchants on the island.  Rodney had the Jewish population moved to St. Kitts, while he pillaged their property, even cutting open their clothing and digging up the cemetery in search of hidden money.  

He did not stop there.  Anything of value on the island was subject to seizure.  Much of the property actually belonged to British merchants and should not have been seized.  Rodney did not seem very concerned and confiscated everything. For the next few weeks, Rodney kept the Dutch flag flying over the island, hoping to lure more merchant vessels into port where he captured and confiscated them.

St. Eustatius, 1781
Rodney remained at St. Eustatius with his fleet for about four months, even missing another major naval battle in the region due to his obsession with plundering the wealth of the island.

When the fleet left, the British Army left two regiments to hold the island.  The commander, Lieutenant Colonel James Cockburn, was not expecting an attack and did not seem to worry much about his defenses.

On the night of November 26, 1781, an invasion force of 1500 French soldiers under the command of the Marquis de Bouillé landed on St. Eustatius.  The British garrison did not even notice.  The following morning, Colonel Cockburn went out for a morning ride.  The French soldiers captured him and took him prisoner.

When the French attackers approached the fort, they found most of the garrison outside its walls on morning drill.  When the surprised British garrison saw the approach of the enemy, they rushed back into the fort.  The French simply followed through the open doors and forced an immediate surrender.  They managed to capture the island even without having the French fleet available. St. Eustatius had gone from Dutch, to British, to French occupation, all within a single year.

St. Kitts

With the arrival of French reinforcements under de Grasse, the French looked at some larger targets.  They first focused on the British held Bahamas near the end of 1781, but found the defenses there too strong to take.  

Instead, the fleet sailed north to St. Kitts, a larger island next to St. Eustatius.  They almost immediately took the nearby small island of Nevis, which they could use as a staging area. St. Kitts had a much larger defense.  Some estimates indicate as many as 12,000 British regulars and militia on the island.  I suspect the British numbers are greatly inflated by expectations of local militia who did not really materialize in the numbers expected.  The French managed to land about 8000 soldiers on St. Kitts on January 11, 1782.  Admiral de Grasse provided naval support while the marquis de Bouillé led the army.  

The French took the capital, Basseterre, without any resistance.  The British retreated into a defensive position in the hills about nine miles away.  With the British behind fortifications on Brimstone Hill, the French settled in for a siege.

Adm. Samuel Hood
Things looked bleak for the British defenders until another fleet entered the scene.  British Admiral Hood, after supporting the failed effort to relieve the British army at Yorktown, had also sailed back to the West Indies. Hood’s fleet of 21 ships of the line and nine frigates arrived at Antigua on January 21, where they took on supplies and about one thousand soldiers.  

Hood then sailed to relieve the siege on St. Kitts. The British fleet arrived about two weeks after the siege had begun.   Hood formed a line of battle and hoped to catch the French under de Grasse off guard.  The British managed to take a couple of frigates caught off guard by the newly arrived fleet, but the fighting with those frigates alerted the rest of the French fleet.  The larger French fleet included 29 ships of the line, which sailed out to sea to do battle.  De Grasse was also concerned that four additional French ships that were due to join the fleet would not be caught by the British before they could join with the rest.

The two fleets moved away from the island, with some firing, but not a full engagement.  One British frigate, the Solebay, was badly damaged.  The captain drove the ship ashore on Nevis, removed the crew and set the ship on fire in order to deny it to the enemy.

Admiral Hood took advantage of his position to sail into the anchorage at St. Kitts that the French fleet had just left.  The French line attacked the British rear, threatening to sink the last three ships in the British line.  Three other British ships were able to turn and support the ships that were at risk. They sailed directly for the French flagship the Ville de Paris and forced it to turn away.  

The French passed along the British line, exchanging broadsides, which did more damage to the French fleet than to the British.  By this time, it was evening and the French withdrew.

Repulse of French Fleet Jan. 1782
The British were in an awkward position.  Hood’s fleet was just off the shore of St. Kitts.  The ships had to remain far enough from shore to avoid the French shore batteries from the army on the island.  At the same time, they were aware that the French fleet would be back for another attack.  The French navy could not simply abandon the large French army on St. Kitts.

As expected, the following morning, the French fleet under de Grasse brought its line against the British to exchange a brutal series of broadsides that greatly damaged both fleets.  Witnesses claimed they began to lose sight of the nearby enemy due to all the smoke from near continuous cannon fire.

Badly damaged the French fleet withdrew.  Casualties on both sides were pretty even, with a little over 300 killed or wounded on each side.  

While the British now controlled the waters around St. Kitts, but the French army on the island continued the siege against the British garrison in the hills.  On February 13, about a month after the siege began, the British soldiers on the island surrendered.  

The French now controlled the island.  The French navy under de Grasse had received reinforcements and was ready to renew the battle with the British fleet.  Hood had been expecting the arrival of reinforcements of his fleet with twelve ships of  the line under Admiral Rodney, but Rodney was still at St. Eustatius, looking for more treasure.  On the night of February 14, the British fleet at St. Kitts quietly sailed away, leaving lights on floating rafts to give the illusion that the fleet remained at anchor.  At dawn the following morning, the French looked out to see that the British fleet had vanished.

With French control of St. Kitts secured, the French fleet returned to base at Fort Royal in Martinique while the British retreated to St. Lucia. Both fleets had to make considerable repairs before the next inevitable naval confrontation.

The Saintes

By spring of 1782, the French fleet had consolidated at Martinique with 33 ships of the line.  The British fleet under Admiral Rodney finally joined with the fleet under Admiral Hood giving the British a total of 36 ships of the line.  Since Rodney outranked Hood, he took command of the combined fleet.

France coordinated with Francisco Saavedra de Sangronis, General Bureau for the Spanish Indies; and Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana to develop a plan to take all of the British islands in the West Indies.  For the European powers, these islands were far more valuable than North America.  The sugar plantations on these islands were the source of most colonial wealth.

In early April, the Comte de Grasse sailed the French fleet out of Martinique.  He hoped to join with a Spanish invasion force of twelve additional ships of the line.  The Spanish had also assembled an army of 24,000 men, who would combine with another 10,000 French soldiers who had arrived in the West Indies from France and another 5000 French soldiers under de Grasse, and who had recently fought at Yorktown.  

This was a combined huge army and navy for the time: a total of 60 warships and 40,000 soldiers.  For French and Spanish military planners, the West Indies had become the priority of the war, more important than North America, more important than Gibraltar.  Control of the West Indies would break Britain economically and greatly enrich France and Spain. 

When de Grasse left Martinique, he had a total of about 150 ships in the fleet.  Only 34 of these were ships of the line.  A few more were smaller frigates, but most of the smaller vessels were slow moving troop carriers that would only be a burden in a sea battle.  De Grasse hoped to avoid a sea battle and bring the fight directly to Jamaica.  Jamaica was one of the largest and most valuable colonies still under British control

Rodney, however, received intelligence that the French fleet had left port.  He set sail with his own fleet, hoping to catch the enemy at sea, before it could combine with the Spanish fleet. The British fleet divided into three commands.  Admiral Rodney directly commanded one squadron, Admiral Hood commanded a second squadron.  Vice Admiral Samuel Francis Drake commanded a third squadron.  Although the French fleet was larger, the British ships were faster and better equipped.

The French fleet had left port on the morning of April 8.  British intelligence had been on top of French activities and was well aware of the movement.  That same afternoon, Admiral Hood’s squadron spotted the French fleet.  It was too late in the day, and not enough wind for the fleets to engage then, but battle would begin the following morning.  Even after Admiral Rodney’s squadron caught up, the French ships outnumbered the British by 2-1.  

The two fleets engaged on the morning of April 9th.  Hood’s squadron took considerable damage that day, but the fighting was inconclusive.  Overnight, Drake’s ships had arrived and took a position in the front of the British fleet, while Hood’s damaged ships fell to the rear where the men could work on repairs.

The French still hoped to avoid a major engagement at sea before joining with the Spanish.  They simply sailed away.  De Grasse continued on his original course after the engagement, separating the distance with the British fleet overnight.  The British would have to pursue them.  The French managed to keep a distance until the night of the 11th, when two of the French ships of the line collided with each other.  One of the ships was very badly damaged and began drifting back toward the enemy fleet. Rodney, seeing an opportunity, sailed his fleet at the two damaged ships. De Grasse had to turn his fleet around to protect them.  During the night rescue, de Grasse’s flagship the Ville de Paris also collided with one of the damaged ships causing more damage to both ships.  

De Grasse tried to move his fleet toward Guadeloupe, while the British gave chase.  The following day, April 12, Drake’s squadron moved into a line of battle to engage the French fleet.  At that point, de Grasse had no choice but to engage.  The ships exchanged broadsides  Right behind Drake’s line was Rodney’s squadron, which fired additional broadsides into the enemy fleet.

Ville de Paris attacked
The French line faltered leaving gaps between the ships. Rodney ordered the British to sail into the gaps, allowing the British to fire on the French from both sides of their ships at the same time, essentially doubling the amount of lead they could throw at the enemy at once - and giving the enemy limited opportunity to fire back.  Hood’s squadron brought up the rear, inflicting even more damage on the French fleet.  The slow moving French ships began throwing their dead and badly wounded into the water to lighten their loads.  Sailors reported seeing large numbers of sharks gathering behind the ships to feast on the dead.

The British had the advantage, and began to focus on several isolated French ships.  A few French captains lowered their colors and surrendered.  Admiral de Grasse, aboard the Ville de Paris continued to fight even after his flagship was badly damaged and surrounded by the enemy.  Many of the French ships who were able to do so, sailed away, leaving their comrades aboard damaged ships no choice but to surrender.  At around 6:00 PM, the Ville de Paris lowered her colors and Admiral de Grasse surrendered.  

The next few days saw very little wind.  The British fleet remained near Guadalupe, trying to effect repairs on both its own ships and several captured prizes.  After about a week, the wind returned.  Admiral Hood took ten ships in search of French stragglers.  He came across five ships, managing to capture four of them.

Adm George Rodney
Admiral de Grasse survived the battle without being wounded, but all of the other officers and all but three sailors aboard the Ville de Paris were dead or wounded after the battle.  On that one ship alone, the French suffered 400 killed and 700 wounded.  There are some widely disparate estimates of total French casualties among the entire fleet, ranging from 3000 to 9000 killed and wounded, including the deaths of six ship’s captains.  There were also between 5000 and 6000 French soldiers and sailors captured.  Nine French ships of the line were either captured or sunk.  By contrast, the British lost about 1000 casualties, about one-quarter of whom were killed.  Total British casualties across the entire fleet were less than the casualties of a single French ship, the Ville de Paris.  Among the British casualties were 50 sailors who were aboard a captured French ship that blew up after its surrender.

Admiral de Grasse became the first French admiral to be captured during a sea battle.  Command of the remainder of the French fleet in the West Indies fell to another admiral, the Comte de Vaudreuil.  He eventually joined up with the Spanish fleet. But the decimation of the French fleet and the loss of much of the Spanish army to disease meant that they called off the planned invasion of Jamaica before they even got to the island.

Admiral de Grasse did reach Jamaica, but only as a British prisoner.  Admiral Rodney returned to Jamaica with his fleet, along with his prizes and prisoners.  From Jamaica, a British ship of the line under Vice Admiral Peter Parker would carry De Grasse back to England.  There, de Grasse eventually would be granted parole and returned to France to face the consequences of his loss.  

Admiral Rodney would discover that officials in London had removed him from command because of accusations of his actions on St. Eustatius.  Admiral Hugh Pigot arrived in Jamaica to take command of the British fleet.  Pigot had been kept out of the war because of political disputes with the North Government. When the Rockingham Government took control, Pigot received this command.

The British victory became known as the Battle of the Saintes, a reference to all the nearby islands named after various saints.  The result was that the Spanish and French gave up on any new major offensives in the West Indies.


The Spanish fleet never arrived to assist the French fleet.  As the Battle of the Saintes was coming to an end, the Spanish commander Juan Manuel Cagigal y Monserrate left Havana aboard transport ships with 2500 soldiers.  Cagigal did not have his own ships.  Instead, he hired American privateers to carry his army.  He ignored orders to join the planned invasion of Jamaica and instead carried his army to the British-held Bahamas.

Bernardo de Galvez

On May 6, the Spanish fleet arrived outside Nassau.  Cagigal managed to convince the British commander there, Vice Admiral John Maxwell, to surrender without firing a shot. Spain took the 600 man British garrison prisoner and captured a frigate and a bunch of smaller ships, as well as 77 merchant ships..

Despite the success, Galvez was upset that Cagigal had disobeyed orders and had not joined the planned invasion of Jamaica.  The attack on Jamaica had not happened anyway because of the defeat of the French fleet.  Even so, Galvez had Cagigal arrested and imprisoned.  Spain ended up crediting Galvez with the capture of the Bahamas, even though Galvez had not approved the operation and in fact resisted it every step of the way.

The Bahamas would remain under Spanish control as the war in the West Indies came to an end.

Next week, we head back to North America as British and American leaders tangle over the Huddy-Asgill Affair.

- - -

Next Episode 312 Huddy-Asgill Affair

Previous Episode 310 Gnadenhutten Massacre 

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Further Reading


The Capture of St. Eustatius:

Battle of St. Kitts:

St. Kitts, Captured By The French

Monk, Will “Battle of the Saintes” Journal of the American Revolution, Sept. 17, 2020.

Battle of the Saintes:

American Revolution: Battle of the Saintes

Beerman, Eric. “The Last Battle of the American Revolution: Yorktown. No, the Bahamas!. (The Spanish-American Expedition to Nassau in 1782).” The Americas, vol. 45, no. 1, 1988, pp. 79–95. JSTOR,

Beerman, Eric “Old Navy: The 1782 American-Spanish Expedition” Proceedings, Dec. 1978:

Free eBooks
(from unless noted)

Balch, Thomas The French in America During the War of Independence of the United States, 1777-1783, Philadelphia: Porter & Coates, 1891. 

Mundy, Godfrey B. The Life and Correspondence of the Late Admiral Lord Rodney, Vol. 2 London: John Murray, 1830. 

Shea, John Gilmary The Operations of the French Fleet under the Count De Grasse in 1782-82, New York: Bradford Club, 1864. 

Books Worth Buying
(links to unless otherwise noted)*

Lewis, James A. The Final Campaign of the American Revolution: Rise and fall of the Spanish Bahamas, Univ of S.C. Press, 1991 (borrow on 

Rogozinski, Jan A Brief History of the Caribbean, Facts on File, 1999 (borrow on 

Shachtman, Tom How the French saved America: Soldiers, Sailors, Diplomats, Louis XVI, and the Success of a Revolution, St. Martin’s Press, 2017. 

Trew, Peter Rodney and the Breaking of the Line, Pen and Sword Maritime, 2006.

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.