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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Friday, February 19, 2010

“Brave Manly’s Commodore”

Of all the captains Gen. George Washington ordered to sea in late 1775 and early 1776, one found spectacular success: John Manley (c. 1733-1793).

His schooner, the Lee, captured a string of British cargo ships in the fall of 1775, including the ordnance brig Nancy, as described back here. In February, Washington promoted Manley to commodore, telling all the other captains to follow his orders.

Manley became a national hero even before there was an official American nation. This image of him appeared on a broadside published in Salem above the following song. Join in if you know the tune!

Most humbly Addressed to all the JOLLY TARS who are fighting
By a SAILOR.—It may be sung to the Tune of WASHINGTON

BRAVE MANLY he is stout, and his Men have proved true,
By taking of those English ships, he makes their Jacks to rue;
To our Ports he sends their Ships and Men, let’s give a hearty Cheer
To Him and all those valiant Souls who go in Privateers.
And a Privateering we will go, my boys, my Boys,
And a Privateering we will go.
O all ye gallant Sailor Lads, do’nt never be dismay’d,
Nor let your Foes in Battle ne’er think you are afraid,
Those dastard Sons shall tremble when our Cannon they do roar,
We’ll take, or sink, or burn them all, or them we’ll drive on Shore.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
Our Heroes they're not daunted when Cannon Balls do fly,
For we’re resolv’d to conquer, or bravely we will die;
Then rouse all you NEW-ENGLAND Oaks, give MANLY now a Cheer,
Likewise those Sons of Thunder who go in Privateers.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
Their little petty Pirates our Coast shall ne’er infest,
We’ll catch their sturdy Ships, Boys, for those we do like best;
Then enter now my hearty Lads, the War is just begun,
To make our Fortunes at their Cost, we’ll take them as they run.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
While Shuldham he is flying from WASHINGTON’s strong Lines,
Their Troops and Sailors run for fear, and leave their Stores behind
Then rouse up, all our Heroes, give MANLY now a Cheer,
Here’s a Health to hardy Sons of Mars who go in Privateers.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
They talk of Sixty Ships, Lads, to scourge our free-born Land,
If they send out Six Hundred we’ll bravely them withstand;
Resolve we thus to conquer, Boys, or bravely we will die,
In fighting for our Wives and Babes, as well as LIBERTY.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
While HOPKINS he is triming them upon the Southern Shore,
We’ll scour our Northern Coast, Boys, as soon as they come o’er;
Then rouse up, all my Hearties, give Sailor Lads a Cheer,
Brave MANLY, HOPKINS, and those Tars who go in Privateers.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
I pray you Landsmen enter, you’ll find such charming Fun,
When to our Ports by Dozens their largest Ships they come;
Then make your Fortunes now, my Lads, before it is too late
Defend, defend, I say defend an INDEPENDENT STATE.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
While the Surf it is tossing and Cannon Balls do fly,
We surely will our Foes subdue, or cheerfully will die,
Then rouse, all you bold Seamen, brave MANLY’s COMMODORE
Should we meet with our desp’rate Foes, bless us, they will be tore,
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
Then cheer up, all my hearty Souls, to Glory let us run,
Where Cannon Balls do rattle, with sounding of the Drum;
For who would Cowards prove, or even stoop to Fear,
When MANLY he commands us in our bold PRIVATEER.
And a Privateering we will go, &c.
“Shuldham’ was Adm. Molyneux Shuldham (c. 1717-1798) of the Royal Navy. He was the top-ranking British naval officer in America in the first half of 1776, between Admirals Samuel Graves and Richard Howe, which suggests this verse was written in those months, before Massachusetts had legally become “an INDEPENDENT STATE.”

“Hopkins” was Esek Hopkins (1718-1802) of Rhode Island, commander of the small Continental navy from February 1776 to January 1778. Legally, neither Manley nor Hopkins commanded privateers at this point in the war; Manley had an army commission from Washington, and Hopkins a naval commission from the Continental Congress. But everyone, even Washington himself, was casual about the line between privateers and publicly-funded warships.

More about that line, and Comm. John Manley, in my talk at Longfellow House on Saturday afternoon: “Cambridge: Birthplace of the American Navy?”

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