J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, July 21, 2015

“Upon which an Engagement began”

Yesterday’s account by a Massachusetts artillerist of a battle with British troop transports in Boston harbor mentioned “a fine privateer Brigt. commanded by Capt. Harding of New Haven.”

That brig had actually been commissioned and equipped by the colony of Connecticut. Its captain was Seth Harding (1734-1814), a native of Eastham, Massachusetts, who had also spent time sailing from Nova Scotia.

Harding’s name appeared as “Seth Harden” when the 24 June 1776 Norwich Packet printed his 19 June report from Boston to Connecticut governor Jonathan Trumbull:
I SAILED on Sunday last from Plymouth---soon after we came to sail, I heard a considerable Firing to the Northward---in the Evening fell in with four armed Schooners, near the Entrance of Boston Harbour, who informed me they had been engaged with a Ship and Brig, and were obliged to quit them.---

I soon after came up into Nantasket Road, where I found the Ship and Brig at an Anchor. I immediately fell in between the two, and came to Anchor about eleven o’Clock at Night. I hailed the ship, who answered, from Great-Britain.---

I ordered her to strike her Colours to America.

They answered me by asking what Brig is that?

I told them the Defence.

I then hailed him again, and told him I did not want to kill their Men, but have their Ship I would at all Events; again desired them to strike; upon which the Major (since dead) said yes, I’ll strike, and fired in a Broadside upon me, which I immediately returned; upon which an Engagement began, which continued three Glasses [i.e., ninety minutes], when the Brig and Ship both struck.

In this Engagement I had nine wounded, none killed; the Enemy had 18 killed, and a Number wounded-----My officers and Men behaved with great Bravery, no Men could out do them.---We took out of the above Vessels two hundred and ten Prisoners, among whom is Colonel [Archibald] Campbell, of General Frazer’s Regiment of Highlanders---the Major [Robert Menzies] was killed.-------

Yesterday a Ship was seen in the Bay, which came towards the Mouth of the Harbour, upon which I came to sail with four Schooners in Company; we came up with her, and took her without any Engagement; there were on board about one hundred and twelve Highlanders.
Harding continued to have success commanding privateers for Connecticut. In 1778 he received a commission in the Continental Navy, where his luck was not so shining.

TOMORROW: Yet another battle report from 1776.

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