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Jackson, Henry (1747-1809) to Henry Knox

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.00343 Author/Creator: Jackson, Henry (1747-1809) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 17 June 1776 Pagination: 6p.+addr. + docket 37.2 cm. x 23.2 cm.

Summary of Content: Responds very late to Knox's two previous letters because he is busy. Briefly outlines his daily routine. Gives an account of the recent plans, activities, and capture of the privateer Hero, captained by James Tracy, while pursuing a prize of transport vessels near Cape Ann, Massachusetts. Continues with discussion of Nathaniel Tracy's efforts to have the prisoners exchanged and the injuries sustained by the forty member crew. Discusses raising a company of soldiers in Boston. He is helping the cause without joining the Continental Army because his parents do not want him to leave. He will manage the company and seeks Knox's advice. Discusses an unchallenged British gunship laying in Nantasket Road. Explains details of and problems associated with recent activities led by General Benjamin Lincoln against British vessels at Long Island in Boston Harbor. The British vessels were discomfited and no Continental soldiers were lost. Reports plans to build batteries around Boston Harbor. The last page contains an account of very recent naval engagements with British ships that arrived not knowing the British fleet had already left and the assistance rendered by privateers from Connecticut. Jackson was colonel of the 16th Massachusetts regiment from 1777 to 1779 and commanded the 9th or Boston regiment from 1779 to 1782. After the Revolution, he commanded the 4th Massachusetts regiment, and was major-general of Massachusetts militia from 1792 to 1796. Very detailed letter.

Full Transcript: [draft]
"…[2] The last Letter I wrote, you remember I mention'd we were about form'g and Independent Company of Gentlemen in this Town - not to Play Soldier - but for ...real service - we went round the town and got about 50 to Sign for that purpose & form'd ourselves into a Company - Since wh: we have admitted about 25 more - and last Monday we Chose our Officers - Willm. Bant 1st: Lt - 2d dont you look at the 3d but think one moment - Sam Jarvis 3d Benja. Hichbaum 4th John Tyler Adjutant Sergant's J Laughton[,] W Gale[,] J Coolidge[,] L Pitts[,] Capt. Nah: Jarvis[,] J Turner -
Harry be assur'd was it not for my Old Folks who I know it would kill was I to go from them (you know there tender make) I would Joyn the Continental Army Immediately - I don't wish to be in Active - I think such a Company as this will be of Service to the Town & Continent and as a member of this Company I think am do'g my duty as a friend to the Cause, which if I mean the Company to Consist of 100 Men Therefore think We have sent a Letter & Petition to the Continental Congress - And I think I shall have the Cheif [sic] Management of the Company[.] wish you would write me your Opinion fully upon it will some advice what Miliatary [sic] Books [3] are best to look over to have a Clear Idea of the Manor and duty of Each officer - I will give you as particular account of Expedition of last Friday as I Can -
To the shame and disgrace of somebody but I dont know that, that 50 Gun Ship should lay in Nantasket road so long as she did without being taken or drove out - There has been for this week post Transports arming every day in Nantasket & it was expect'd the whole of the 3000 Highlands would arrive and take Possession of Long Island & fortify there - Therefore an Expedition was Plan'd by the Committee of War of the Generall Court Accord'g a Thursday Night there was 500 Men to take Possession of Long Island & throw up a two gun Battery 18 Pounders and to carry down one of them Large sea Mortars - a two Gun Do on Spiticks Island 18 Do 300 Men - 2 Gun Do on Nantasket Do 1000 Men & these Battery were all to be open'd on the ship'g at Sunrise on Thursday Morg: the whole to be Command'd by General Lincoln - There was a time in Nantasket 1-50 Gun ship 1 28 Do [9?] Transport Ships 2 Brigs and 2 Schooners - A Thursday I went round the Town wh: two drums & Fifes to beat up for Volunteers to go on this Expedition we found Volunteers Enough offer but had no Arms and out of the whole town could not muster but about 50 Men wh: Arms - About 6 OC Thursday Evg: the Troops Embark'd from here for Long Island there were all Continental Troops - Those that were to take Possession of the other two Post's were Militia from Hingham[,] Weymouth[,] Brantree &ccc - About 7 OC Thursday Evg: I sat of[f] from the long wharf with the General in his Barge for Nantasket - the Cannon & Ammunition set of[f] from Framtown at the same time & expect to get to there severall post by 12 OC - we got down with the general about 10 OC - & there we all were all Night & no Cannon nor Ammunition came - [4] which put us in the utmost distress - Suppos'g they would get read on Long Island before us - as was ye: Case, for before we got ours down they began to Fire from Long Island on the Ship'g which brought on a heavy Cannonade that put the Ship'g in the utmost Confusion possible - at the same time the ships saw all our cannon[,] Ammunition &cc coming down to us for they did not get down till 7 OC Fryday Morg: no bad Conduct - but ow'g to the Wind [illegible] away in the Night - they Play'd upon them with Shells & Cannon from Long Island so very hot that they all quit'd Nantasket Road before we could get our Cannon Ready to Play - which was a Mortification to us, and am sure that if we could have got our Battery Ready before they left the Road we should have stop some of them - so grant a sight I never saw in my Life, to see 15 Sale of Vessells all in the utmost Confusion possible. I was not but ½ mile from them the whole time could hear every word that past on board - the wind being fair for in they got out wh: the greatest Expedition and came too of the Light House - Collo: Burbeck & son was at Long Island wh: the Cannon &cc and fired very well the shells all Burst too high but in good direction - By the time the ships had got well anchor'd of Light House we got one of our Eighteen pounds on the Lights of Nantasket and without any brest work attack'd the Ships. we fired three shot before they return'd one, the 4th shot we fired I am sure struck the Comodore - I turn'd my Eyes to the Light house & saw 4 Boats Leav'g it & vow'g for the Comodore and in an Instant the Light House was all on fire - & in five moments it blew up from the very foundation, & such a Noise I never heard in my life [5] by this time they were all under Sail & our Cannon Play'd upon them, as they went from us we follow'd them upon point Alderton till they got out of reach, they fired but two shot at us while they [illegible] at the Light House - they all went out to Sea have not heard of them since -
In the whole Cannonade from them we never Cost the Hair of a Mans head & no Accident hapen'd but I believe but Trifli'g - There is to be a grand Battery on the Hights of Nantasket another on Long Island & one on point Alderton Immediately - the Large powder Ship we took is to fixt our & sent down into Nantasket as a Decoy so that we may be able to Catch some of the Transports in the Trap - I forgot to mention that we in Barge in go'g down to Nantasket like have been taken by the Men of Wars Guard Boats - It was a very dark night, about ½ past 9 OC we hard the row'g of some Boats - we look about & saw 5 Boats put'g [illegible] after us, there was 22 Men in our boat we [were?] Load'd and stood on our guard, the Lad's all Stript & pull'd like men for the shore -- & twenty believe had we been ½ Mile further from the Shore being Lazy … [6] This Moment News from below - which you depend on yesterday Morg. was seen from Bacon Hill two large top sale Vessell in the Bay, with three of our Continental Cruzors Round them they all apper'd to be standg: into Nantasket Road we suppos'd that the Topsale Vessells were Transports bound in here from Scotland not nowg: the Fleet was gone - but it was all Conjecture till this moment when a boat is arriv'd from Nantasket & gives the followg Acc Viz the 2 Large Vessell are a Ship & Brig from Scotland with 210 Highlands on board - our Cruzors came up with in the morg. & engag'd & they beat them off - the ship mounted 6-6 pounds the Brig 2-4 Do - & Not know'g the fleet had left this run into the Road, as soon as they got in our Battery began to Play on them - this was after dark & they attmp'd to run out again - but a Large Privateer Barge from Connecticut with 140 Islands 14 Guns came up that moment & an Engage began between them at last they both Struck - the Major of the Highlands & 8 privats is killd & Number Wound - we lost in ye. Brig 1 hand & 4 Wound'd …"
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People: Jackson, Henry, 1747-1809
Knox, Henry, 1750-1806
Tracy, Nathaniel, 1751-1796

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: Military HistoryNavyPrivateeringRevolutionary WarMaritimeGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyTransportationInjury or WoundPrisoner of WarRecruitmentContinental ArmyChildren and FamilyBattleFortification

Sub Era: The War for Independence

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