<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0161

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Marine Committee
Recipient: Captain Nicholas Biddle

Sir

I have undoubted intelligence that there are not any men of war at the
Capes indeed as an evidence of it a large Ship is come up the Bay, I
therefore think it highly proper that you proceed to Sea immediately,
and as you have now more men considerably than you had when I gave your
last orders, I think proper to recall those and instead thereof you
must observe the following Instructions.

You are first to make returns to the Board of Assistants of all the Stores
in each department, that your Boatswain, Gunner and other officers may
account for what is under their respective care and the same with
provisions. Return also a compleat List of your officers and men on
board, but as I would wish you not to loose one Moments time in getting
out to Sea these returns can be made out as you go down and may be sent
up from the Capes therefore you are to make the best of your way down
the moment the Ice will permit, and I expect the Hornet and Fly will be
in readiness to go down with you. If so you had best keep them ahead to
look out. (Several Merchantmen will also go down with you, and you are
to convoy them fairly off to Sea and keep with them for a few days if
possible, soon as you find yourself fairly out at Sea, you will no
doubt try the Ships Sailing and I expect she will perform wonderfully
in that way, you will of course exercise your Men at the great guns,
and prepare them for Action soon as possible.

The Marine Committee now at Baltimore have instructed Commodore Hopkins “to
fit out the two Continental Frigates Warren and Providence with all
possible expedition, and to order them forthwith to proceed on a Cruize
upon the enemies ships of war that are interrupting the commerce of the
United States from the Harbour of Newport to the Capes of Virginia and
they are to take, burn, sink, and destroy all such of the enemies
Vessels as they shall fall in with.”1
These are the Instructions for those Ships and therefore I think they
must be proper for you and for your encouragement in this service I
must observe that there are no Cruizing Ships an over match for you
except the two Deckers, for altho you think you have not seamen enough
yet that is just their case, except the Roebuck there is none of them
halfmanned, therefore you have only to avoid two Deckers or engaging
when there is more than one in sight. Any of their other single Ships
you need not fear, especially if you can persuade your men to board,
remember what a glorious exploit it will be, to add one of their
frigates or 20 Gun Ships to our Navy, in a few days after you get out
and if the Randolph has but Heels I think you can and will do it, you
will then get seamen plenty. If your ships sails remarkably fast you
may take libertys with them, If she does not be more cautious and try
to find out her trim. I shall send a Copy of these Instructions to
Congress and it is possible they may send fresh orders to you, which
shall be lodged with Henry Fisher at Lewis Town, and the light House
will be Ordered to shew a large white sheet when they have any orders
for you and find a frigate in sight.2

Should any unfortunate accident befall you destroy these orders rather than
let the enemy get them, and you will as opportunitys occur transmit us
Accounts of your proceedings. You’l observe that many merchant Vessels
are expected in with valuable Stores to this port, therefore you’l
afford them all possible protection and had best keep in their tract as
long as you can.

I wish you would send me signals by which you may be known, in case we
should send out any of our small Cruizers to look for you, also to
deliver to the other frigates that may go from hence Rhode Island
&c. You will be careful of the Randolph, her Stores and Materials,
kind to your officers and men, but observing Strict discipline, humane
to your Prisoners, and send your prizes into safe ports.

With the best wishes for your Success I am Sir, Your obedt. sert,

Robt Morris V.P.

Notes:

Letter book, Marine Committee Letter Book, Marine Committee Miscellaneous
Papers, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration,
Washington, D.C. Addressed. “Captain Nicholas Biddle of the frigate
Randolph.”

1 See Marine Committee to Esek Hopkins, January 21,1777.

2 Biddle’s sailing instructions were drastically altered in the middle of
February. See Marine Committee to Nicholas Biddle, February 15, 1777.