Friday, February 22, 2013

The Quarrel: Tales from Captain James Wimble's Revenge

Illustration from James Wyatt’s account of Wimble’s Revenge* showing Master at Arms James Parry shooting at Trumpeter James Wyatt
  • Story from the War of Jenkin's Ear (1739-48) privateer Revenge, commanded by 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.

The Quarrel  

(continued from First Capture of the Career of Wimble's Revenge)

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)

Part of "A True Mapp and Description of the Towne of Plymouth and the Fortifications thereof at the last siege, A. 1643" showing Plymouth Harbor and the Catwater.

While our Ship lay at Plymouth, I went to Wenbury to see my Mistress, my Master being dead. She receiv'd me very kindly, and would have had me settled to my Business. I told her at present I could not, because I belong'd to a Privateer that lay at Plymouth, and was oblig'd to return there again in two or three Days. After staying a Day or two with her, the Captain sent for me, and I returned to Plymouth.

When I came to our ship, I found one of our Midshipmen (whose Name I have forgot) was drowned in Catwater *, in endeavouring to swim ashore. He was buried very decently in the new Churchyard, in Plymouth; and those of our Men that made the best Appearance, and which were fore and would not run away, attended at the Funeral. Every one had a Pair of Pistols stuck in his Belt, a Hanger by his Side, and there was Swords cross'd on the Coffin Lid. 

Great Britain’s Coasting Pilot, G. Collins 1693

  • The lower reaches of the River Plym, known as the Cattewater, have been used as an anchorage for ships since at least the medieval period. See: the Cattewater Wreck

"Catwater, Plymouth" [1856] from the collection: The Ports of England

While we lay in Catwater, one Mr. James Parry (sometime Organist of Ross in Herefordshire, and Author of a Book, entitled, Memoirs of the life of Mr. James Parry, &c [1741]) our Master at Arms, having some Words with me, challenged me to fight him at Small Sword. I readily accepted the Challenge; but the next Day, when we were to have gone ashore, the Small Sword was objected against by some of the Ship's Company, as a Weapon that did not belong to the Ship; and therefore it was insisted, if we were resolv'd to fight, it should be with Hanger and Pistol: But Mr. Parry refused to fight me with those Weapons. 

Unknown origin [From: DUELING AND THE 18TH CENTURY SMALL SWORD by Emery Lee]

  • By far, the most common weapon of the 18th century aristocracy was the French Small Sword, a weapon that came into vogue in Europe around the fourth quarter of the 17th Century. The smallsword is instantly recognizable for its hilt, typically featuring an 8-shaped plate, a single short quillon, two small arms (that get progressively smaller in the course of the 18th Century) and a knucklebow. [From: DUELING AND THE 18TH CENTURY SMALL SWORD by Emery Lee]

A few Hours after this Affair was over, I ask'd our Captain, who was then going ashore, if I might go to Plymouth. He told mr, when the Boat return'd, which would be about Half and Hour, I might go. On the Boat's returning, I went into her, but Mr. Parry order'd me to come back, pretending that the Captain had left no Orders for me to go; and order'd the Centry, if I offer'd to put off the Boat, to fire at me, he being the principal Officer at that Time on board.

I took the Boat-Hook, ande push'd off the Boat; upon which the Centry not firing, as Mr. Parry had commanded him, he took the Musquet from him, and immediately fir'd at me, which went through one of the Oars, and took off a Piece of the Rollock. Mr. Parry's firing the Musquet at me so intimidated the Men, that they were afraid to row; but, being resolv'd to go ashore, as I had ask'd Leave of the Captain, I took up the Oars and row'd myself.

When I came ashore, having found the Captain, I acquainted him with what had happen'd, and he assur'd me I should have Satisfaction. In a litle Time the Captain came aboard, and I with him. We immediately went to Mr. Parry's Hammock; but finding him asleep, and very drunk, the Captain desir'd I would take no Notice of it at that Time. When he was up, we tax'd him with it, but he swore he knew nothing of it; and, as he said he was heartily sorry for what we told him he had done, I assur'd him I freely forgave him, and should concern myself no farther about it.

I observ'd before, that I had about Forty Shillings of the Agent; with that money and some I had of my own, I bought an Hundred Weight of Biscuits, and some other Things, which I afterwards sold to good advantage in the Ship.


This portion of the tale relates many aspects of mid-18th-century maritime tradition. Impressment of the unwilling to serve on board a ship was problematic when not at sea where the impressed sailors could not escape. Also evident was that they impressed young men or boys readily as older, experienced men were probably more difficult to find.

Although written to "enhance" the gentlmanly qualities of Mr. Wyatt, this story gives us an idea of the propriety of the day… the tendency to strongly feel a slight and redress a wrong, also the just as quick tendency to show Christian charity and forgive. The fact that Wyatt finished his story about the quarrel between him and Parry so quickly to relate the profit he made from his purchases ashore illustrates just how common these quarrels and the violence they evoked must have been.

One interesting note here is also that James Wyatt's 1748 tale was not the only copy to be found. Interestingly enough, James Parry's book mentioned by Wyatt, of 1741, I did find. In that book, he mentions nothing of this adventure, which had not yet happened, of course. Still, in 1770, Parry republished his book… this time with the same tale that Wyatt told, repeated verbatim with the exception that the roles were reversed. This time, in the 1770 version of Parry's, Wyatt shot at HIM in the launch. Whereas, we must believe some literary license took place, it is certainly apparent that Parry plagiarized Wyatt (actually quite common then) and it does not bode well for any future defense of his actions.  :)

A portrait of James Parry from his own 1770 revised book. [James Parry, The true Anti-Pamela: or Memoirs of Mr. James Parry, Late Organist of Ross in Herefordshire…, Vol. 1, 2nd ed. (London : printed for J. Lever, Bookseller. Stationer and Printseller, at Little Moorgace, near Moorfields, 1770), 1. ]

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