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Letter from Commodore Hopkins to President of Congress



[Read May 31, 1776. Referred to the Committee on the Instructions given to Commodore Hopkins.]

Providence, May 22, 1776.

GENTLEMEN: When I arrived at New-London I delivered thirty-six guns, and all the other stores but twenty-six guns and some trucks, which were then on board the Alfred, Columbus, and Cabot; and as I could not get ballast in room of the guns, brought them here, and delivered to Governour Cooke, which he put into the fort to prevent the return of the King' s ships, which I consented to on condition they should be subject to order of Congress. Three days past I received your orders to deliver twenty to the city of Philadelphia Committee. I came up here, and found that Governour Cooke had gone a long journey. I then called such of his Council and members of Assembly as could be got together, laid the order of Congress before them, and desired they would deliver the guns. The Council determined they could not be delivered before you were acquainted with the present circumstances of the Government, which they have sent one of their members, Mr˙ John Collins, to represent to you. I then gave the Committee an order on Governour Trumbull for twenty of the guns left at New-London, and I hope he will deliver them, as they may be better spared from there than here, as the consequence of moving the cannon from here would be the blocking up of the fleet in this river, or such part of them as are now here.

The sickness that has attended the fleet since we left New-Providence still continues in a great-measure, and has rendered the fleet useless, as near one-half the whole number are sick and unfit for duty. Eight days past I sent the Providence to New-York to carry the sailors to General Washington, which I borrowed of him to bring the fleet round here. The Cabot and Andrew Doria are cleaned, and manned with upwards of two hundred men, and sailed last Sunday morning by the Light-House on a cruise; and as I put a number of hands out of the Alfred on board the Andrew Doria, it has left her almost without hands, and the most I now expect is, to fit and send the Columbus and Providence on a cruise in about ten days, which will leave the Alfred without any hands more than the officers, the sickness discouraging new hands from entering. The brigs carried near four months' provisions with them, and have procured near the same for the other vessels which I have, and shall draw on your Treasurer for. I am likewise obliged to furnish the officers and people with some money, and the Hospital bill will be a large sum.

I think it would be for the publick advantage, and should


be extremely glad if you would send or appoint some agent to transact the business here, and also of the prizes. Should also be glad you would direct what is to be done with the sloop which I took at New-Providence to bring the guns and stores. As no other person in that Island suffered one shilling, it would be hard the owner should not have his vessel, or be paid for her. Hope you will also give me directions what I shall do with the slaves taken in the armed vessels, for ray giving them without salvage would disaffect the officers and people, without your orders so to do.

The reason of my leaving the Alfred to be the last vessel fitted out is, she is tender-sided, and the most unfit vessel in the fleet for service, and her mainmast has a nine-pound shot through it, and cannot get another easily in this place; although it is fished in the best manner we could do it, I am still in doubt whether it will bear hard crowding on. Upon the whole, all the chance I have of manning the Alfred is, when the Assembly sits to get orders from them to ship sailors out of their Army at Newport. If that fails, she and the new ships built here will hardly get manned, without you give orders for sailors to be shipped out of the Army, Enclosed you have copies of the sentence of two Court-Martials, on the Captains of the Columbus and Providence , the latter of which I have confirmed, the other shall wait your directions for; and as for the rest of Captain Hazard' s conduct, I could have looked it over; but as he was found guilty in the affair of the Glasgow, I could not pass it by.

I am, with great respect, gentlemen, your most obedieat, humble servant.


To the Honourable John Hancock, Esquire, President of the Congress at Philadelphia.