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Narrative of Captain Smith


Captain SMITH' S Narrative.

On Monday, the 15th of April, I was on the field exercising the three companies stationed in Baltimore, when Mr˙ Samuel Purviance, Chairman of the Committee, came out to me, and begged I would immediately attend the Committee, that an affair of the greatest consequence demanded my attention; that there would be occasion for eight or ten of my men, under my own command, to go in Captain Nicholson' s tender. He then found it necessary to inform me of the business, and enjoined the strictest secrecy. I kept the troops about a quarter of an hour longer on duty, and discharged them all, except my own company, out of which I chose ten good men and a Sergeant, and ordered them to be in readiness at half past one. I waited at Mr˙ Purviance' s, (on the Committee, as I thought.) but found only the Chairman there. He showed me the different letters respecting the business I was to go on; and I agreed with him that too much despatch could not be made. I then went in quest of Major Gist, but could not find him.


About one o' clock, Mr˙ Samuel Purviance passed by the barracks; I spoke to, and told him that I was ready, and waited but for orders; he said I should have them immediately. I again went in search of the Major, and found him at dinner. I told him my men were ready. As soon as he had finished dining, he went to Mr˙ Purviance' s, where I followed him in about ten minutes, and found him reading my instructions.

(Mr˙ Purviance mentioned that if the Governour was still at Annapolis, I should have nothing to do, as he supposed the Council of Safety would put him under guard before I could get down.)

I received my instructions from the Major, and with my men went immediately to the Point, where I went on board the Defence' s tender, commanded by Lieutenant Nicholson. After taking proper stores from the Defence, we proceeded down, arrived, and came to anchor off the harbour of Annapolis, at about three o' clock, on Tuesday morning. At daybreak I went ashore, and delivered a letter to Messrs˙ John Smith, Benjamin Nicholson, and John Sterrit. They told me what had passed between them and the honourable Council. I asked them whether I might not inform the Council of my business. They said the Council had enjoined the strictest secrecy, and advised me not to mention it till I had their (the Council' s) leave.

(I showed them my orders. They advised me not to show them to any person, as it was their opinion they were in some degree improper. They said they were to wait on Major Jenifer after breakfast, and would let me know when they returned how I was to act. On their return to the Coffee-House, they told me he highly approved of the tender' s being sent down; and that they were to meet the Council at one o' clock, who would give me orders.)

About eleven o' clock, I observed the Governour' s boat hove out, and cleaning. I thought it my duty to make it immediately known to the honourable Council, and accordingly waited on them, and was refused admittance. I with difficulty persuaded the doorkeeper to ask Mr˙ B˙ Nicholson (who was with them) to come out. After half an hour' s attendance, he came. I told him what I had seen, and begged he would tell the Council that I waited their orders whether to remain with the tender, or return home. They answered by Mr˙ Nicholson, that they desired me to remain with the boat, and act according to the orders I had received, or words to that amount. A short time after sunset I went on board. The Midshipman who came on shore for me pointed at a schooner lying off the Governour' s wharf, which he said had come out, and on seeing the tender' s boat rowing towards her, put back immediately, and came to where she then lay. On my return to Annapolis next morning, (Wednesday,) we knew her to be Mr˙ Sprigg' s. About eleven she hove up, and attempted going out, but was brought to by the tender. About twelve, the Governour' s boat also got under way, and the tender brought her to. I saw what was done, and thought it my duty to go on board. I searched the last-mentioned boat narrowly, and found porter and claret, which made me suspect his Excellency intended making his escape. I put a guard on board, with some of the Defence' s people, and am sorry to say that two bottles of porter and some of claret were drunk by them. Mr˙ Sprigg came off to us, and seemed much surprised that we should dare to stop his boat; and asked what orders we had. I thought his question impertinent, and answered it as it deserved — with silence. I went ashore with him, he grumbling all the time. Secretary Smith was on the wharf. He asked Mr˙ Sprigg what was the matter, that by order from the Council of Safety his schooner was stopped. Mr˙ Smith immediately replied, that he could assure him that the Council of Safety had given no such orders. I said it was sufficient I had my orders for what was done. I then went to dinner, and there understood, by verbal orders from Mr˙ Duvall, that the affair was settled, and I might return home. Mr˙ Sprigg came in, and I promised to send his boat up to Annapolis according to his desire. I went down to the wharf with intention to go on board, where I met Lieutenant Nicholson, with a pass from the Governour for his mulatto to pass unmolested in Chesapeake-Bay. We thought proper to deliver it to some member of the honourable Council; and seeing Mr˙ Carroll talking with Mr˙ Sprigg, we went up to him, and Lieutenant Nicholson delivered it. Mr˙ Sprigg complained of ill treatment. Lieutenant Nicholson told him he


only did what he had a right to do. He replied, he supposed that he (Lieutenant Nicholson) might think he was right. I answered, that he not only thought so, but was so. Mr˙ Carroll said that the Council had given no such orders. Both Lieutenant Nicholson and myself assured him that we had orders; and on being asked to show them, we did so, and promised to leave copies of them; which we did, with Mr˙ Duvall. About two o' clock we went on board, and returned to Baltimore town.

N˙ B. The paragraphs marked ( ) I recollected since I, Samuel Smith, wrote the narrative delivered to the honourable Council. I wrote it in a great hurry, or I might then have remembered many other circumstances relative to this affair.