Friday, February 22, 2013

First Capture of the Career of Wimble's Revenge, 1741

James Wyat’s portrait from the frontispiece of his book.  [James Wyatt, The life and surprizing adventures of James Wyatt… (London, Eng.: printed and sold by E. Duncomb, in Butcherhall-Lane; T. Taylor, at the Meuse Back-Gate; and E. Cook, at the Royal-Exchange, 1748), 35.]

From: James Wyatt, The Life and Surprizing Adventures of James Wyatt… (London, Eng.: printed and sold by E. Duncomb, in Butcherhall-Lane; T. Taylor, at the Meuse Back-Gate; and E. Cook, at the Royal-Exchange, 1748)

Kind Reader,

I had never publish'd the following Account of my Life, had it not been at the Desire of Several of my particular Friends. As they had heard (a considerable Time after I enter'd Trumpeter on board the Revenge Privateer) that I was kill'd, with several others, by the Spaniards, in attacking a Bark near the Canary Islands, my returning safe to England surpriz'd them very much, and made them curious to enquire into the Manner of my Deliverance.

I therefore being fatig'd with continually relating the Account of our Cruize; our Engagements with the Enemy; my being made Prisoner, &c. resolv'd upon committing it to the Press, that every one might have an Opportunity of perusing it that was inclinable so to do.

As I have hereafter given an Account of the Revenge Privateer's Cruize, I shall speak a Word or two concerning the Officers. Captain [James] Wimble* (who was Commander of the Privateer) was exceeding kind to me; and behav'd, on all Occasions, with a great deal of Courage and Bravery: And all the other Officers behav'd in a Gentleman-like Manner, except one, viz. Mr. James Perry, whose ill Treatment I have mention'd at the Beginning of my Life, who nevertheless I freely forgave long before he was kill'd.

  • James Wimble, born 1697, Hastings, Sussex County, England; came to America circa 1718 for the Caribbean merchant trade; came to Carolina and purchased acreage on Scuppernong Creek on the Roanoke Sound and in the Lower Cape Fear; lived in Boston and owned the Green Dragon Inn; helped to found the town that later became Wilmington, North Carolina, known variously as "New Town," "New Carthage," and "New Liverpool." Afterward, during the War of Jenkins Ear, he turned privateer, leaving the Thames River in London in 1740 to prey on the Spanish. 
  • "… his Ship is called the Revenge… burthen of about two hundred Tons… she carries twenty Carriage and forty Swivel guns, one hundred and fifty Men, one hundred and seventy small arms, one hundred and seventy Cutlasses, thirty Barrels of powder, Sixty rounds of great [grape] shot and about a thousand weight of small… victualed for six Months, has two Suits of Sails, five anchors, five Cables, and about a thousand weight of spare Cordage…" --- From: James Wimble, “For Thomas Corbett Esq., Secretary of ye Admiralty,” Great Britain, British Public Record Office, National Archives, ADM.1./3878, copy at North Carolina Department of Archives and History (72.1713.2). ---

I have one Thing more to mention; and that is, To assure the Reader that I have inserted nothing in the Account of my Life, but what, to the best of my knowledge, is true: And therefore, though you should hereafter meet with some Things which may seem strange and surprizing; nay, almost incredible, yet you may be assur'd that they are true, and as such safely relate them to others…

The tale:

When I came to Plymouth, I happen'd to come in Company with one Mr. James Churchill, who had a Puppet-Show in the Town; and who promis'd me, if I would go with him, he would teach me the Trumpet.

Being now a little weary of the Sea, and having a great Desire to learn on that Instrument, I agreed to go with him. I travell'd with him. I travell'd with him four Years in England, during which Time I learn'd the Trumpet, and some other Musick.

After I left Mr. Churchill, I follow'd my Business of Woolcombing and Dying three Years, at Trowbridge in Wiltshire, near Bath; during which Time I married, and liv'd very well: But Mr. Motet coming into the Town with his Collection of wild Beasts, and wanting a Trumpeter, I agreed to go with him, and travell'd near four Years with him in that Capacity.

It would be needless to give an Account of the several Towns I travell'd through in England, as they are generaly well known, and Books almost every where to be had which describe them: And, as to myself, nothing very extraordinary happen'd. I shall therefore proceed to the chief Thing I intended, viz. to give a particular Account of every Thing that occurr'd worthy of Notice, from my going on board the Revenge Privateer, to my returning to England, and I believe the Reader will not think the Time ill spent in perusing it.

After I left Mr. Moret, I enter'd as a Trumpeter on board the Revenge Privateer, Capt. James Wimble Commander, on the Twenty-ninth of May 1741, who was going on a Cruize against the Spaniards.

On the Second of July we left the Hope, and the same Day pass'd through the Downs, Drums beating, Trumpets sounding, and Colours flying. At Deal we set our Agent ashore, and saluted him with seven Guns; but a Man of War lying in the Downs return'd the Salute with five, thinking it was intended as a Compliment to him.

1783 Map of Kent made by Emanuel Bowen showing its relationship to East Sussex and London.  Also shows the location of the “Downs” and Dover.  Deal, where James Wimble's brother Thomas lived in the 1740s, can be seen to far right.  Greenwich and Woolwich Royal Navy Yards is located on the Thames, on the approach to London and within the jurisdictional area of Kent as well.

The Third of July we went into Hastings. Here the Captain went ashore to see some of his Friends, whom he brought on board a short Time after. While they were on board making merry, the Captain discover'd a Sail, and order'd us to give her Chace. We made all the Sail we could, and in about an Hour came up with her. We fir'd twice at her before she would bring to, which made us imagine she would prove a Prize, but we afterwards found her to be a French Fishing-Boat, with twenty-four Hands on board. After examining her, and finding no Fire-Arms, or prohibited Goods on board, we discharg'd her, not at that Time being at War with France.

"Hastings from the Shore" by

Joseph Mallord William Turner, Hastings from the Sea ('Hastings, Deep Sea Fishing') 1818 © The British Museum

The Ninth of July we saw three Sail off the Coast of France. We gave them Chace, and after some Time came up with two of them. They prov'd to be French Vessels, laden with Salt. One of the Captains told our Lieutenant, who was sent on board him in order to search his Vessel, that he had spoke with the third Sail, which we saw to the Leeward; that she came from Malaga; and that she was laden with Spanish Goods.

Upon this Information we immediately gave her Chace; and, though she made all the Sail she could from us, yet in about three or four Hours we came up with her, she being but an indifferent Sailer. We fir'd four Times at her. She had made every Thing ready to fight us, but seeing the Number of our Hands (which were an Hundred in all, though three parts of them were Boys) she at length brought to. We brought the Captain and Mate on board our Ship, and put twelve of our Men on board theirs, one of which was the Master, and our Captain gave him Orders to carry her into Plymouth.

When the Mate of the Ship we had taken came on board our Ship, and saw how poorly we were mann'd, he said, had he known it before, the Ship should not have been carried into Plymouth by us; upon which we imagin'd she would prove a good Prize.

Catte Water, Plymouth, Devon, c1880 (Dave Upton Photography)

The Tenth of July we got safe into Catwater, pass'd by the Hastings Man of War in the Sound, and saluted the Fort at Ten o'Clock at Night; but the Salute was not return'd, it being too late.

On the Eleventh of July Mr. William Warren*, our Second Lieutenant, was sent Express to London, in order to acquaint the Owners with our Success. He return'd to Plymouth in about eight or ten Days, and brought Mr. Parker, our Chief Agent, with him. When they came, our Lieutenant told us, he was sure she would prove a good Prize. In searching the Ship we had taken, we found several Things that were not in her Bills of Lading, particularly two Casks of Camphire: And while we stay'd at Plymouth, which was about three weeks, we search'd the Ship continually to see what we could find.

  • 2nd Lieut. William Warren was referred to as "2nd Lieut. William Richardson" in the transcript of a Rhode Island trial for another prize ship taken in America by Revenge.

The Agent brought with him from London about Three Hundred Pounds, which he lent to those of the Ship's Company whom he judg'd most deserving, of which I had about Forty Shillings.*

  • £300 = $1175 = $50,000 (in 1993 U.S. dollars); Wyatt's part of 40 shillings is roughly $85 (in 1993 U.S. dollars): "We convert colonial currency to pounds sterling and pounds sterling to dollars at the "standard 17th and 18th century rate" (developed by Sir Isaac Newton in 1704) of 4s,6d "sterling" per dollar (or 0.255 pounds = 1 dollar), and $4.44 18th century dollars = 1 pound "sterling." From:

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