<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0459

Washington and Lee University

The Examination of John Grannis on the Subject Matter of the Petition of
several officers of the Frigate Warren agst Commodore Hopkins and
Papers therein inclosed.2

Question. Where do you live?

Answer. In Falmouth in the County of Barnstable in the Massachusetts Bay.

Qu. Are you an Officer of the Warren Frigate, and what Officer, and how
long have you been an Officer on Board said Frigate?

A. I am Capt. of Marines, have been so from the 14th June 1776, was
sometime recruiting, and have been on board her from Time to Time
upwards of Three Months.3

Q. Are you the Man who signed the Petition against Esek Hopkins Esqr. by
the Name of John Grannis?

A. Yes.

Q. Do you know the other Subscribers to said Petition?

A. Yes.

Q. Are any of them Officers of the Warren, and if Officers what Offices do
they sustain?

A. John Reed is Chaplain and belongs to Middleborough, and James Sellers is
Second Lieut. of the Warren and of Dartmouth, both of
Massachusetts-Bay, Richard Marvin is Third Lieut. and of Providence,
George Stillman first Lieut. of Marines, Barnabas Lothrop Second Lieut
of Marines & both of Barnstable. Samuel Shaw is a Midshipman of
BridgeWater, Roger Haddock is Master of the Frigate and formerly was of

York, and John Truman is Gunner and James Brewer Carpenter and both of
Boston in the State aforesaid.

Q. Have you a personal Acquaintance with Essek Hopkins Esqr?

A. Yes I have had a personal Acquaintance with him since I came on board
the Ship.

Q. Did you ever hear him say any Thing disrespectfull of the Congress of
the United States, and what and when?

A. I have heard him at different Times since I belonged to the Frigate
speak disrespectfully of the Congress, have heard him say that they
were a Sett or Parcel of Men who did not understand their Business,
that they were no Way calculated to do Business, that they were a
Parcell of Lawyers Clerks, that if their Measures were followed the
Country would be ruined and that he would not follow their Measures. I
have heard him say the above in Company on Ship Board and Words to the
same Effect on Shore. Sometimes the above was spoken of Congress in
general, but more frequently of the marine Committee.

Q. Did you ever hear him speak disrespectfully of Congress or the Marine
Committee before Prisoners?

A. No. I never was in his Company when Prisoners were present.

Q. Do you know any Thing about his Treatment of Prisoners?

A. I was on board the Frigate Providence when there [were] about Twenty
Prisoners on board. They were called into the Cabin where I was and
were asked by Capt Whipple4 whether
they would do Ship’s Duty? They answered No. Capt. Whipple said it was
his Orders from the Commodore to put them in Irons, to keep them on Two
Thirds Allowance and by God he would obey the Commodore’s Orders. They
were sent out of the Cabin with an Officer, who returned & said he
had put them in Irons. There were also some Prisoners sent on board the
Frigate Warren, who were forced to do Ships Duty by Commodore Hopkins
Orders, and he refused to exchange them when a Cartel was settled and
other Prisoners were exchanged, but don’t know that it was their Turn.
The Reason he assigned for not exchanging them was that he wanted to
have them inlist on board the Frigate.

Q. Do you know any Thing about a British Frigate being aground last Winter
in the River or Bay leading up to Providence in the State of
Rhode-Island &c and what?

A. I did not see the Diamond Frigate when She was on Shore in Jany.
last.5 I was then on board the Warren.
which with the continental Fleet lay just above a Place called Fields
Point. Commodore Hopkins went down the River in the Sloop Providence
and sometime after he returned I heard him say that the People in
Providence blamed him for not taking the Diamond, but that the Men were
not to blame for they went as far as he ordered them, and would have
gone further if he would have permitted them, but that he did not think
safe to go nearer with that Sloop, for that the Diamond fired over her.
I heard a Number of People who said they were at Warwick Neck when the
Diamond was aground there say that Commodore Hopkins was so far off the
Ship that his Shot did not reach her, that the Ship lay so much on a
Careen that She could not bring any of her Guns to bear upon the Sloop.
And further I heard some American Seamen, who were Prisoners when the
Diamond was aground, say after they were exchanged that the Ship lay so
much on a Careen that She could not have hurt the Sloops People so long
as they kept out of the Reach of her Small Arms. They also said that it
was the Intention of the Enemy to have fired the Ship and left her if
the Sloop had come near enough to have played upon her. One of the
Seamen who told me the above was one Weeks and another of them was
named Robinson Jones, both of Falmouth aforesaid and young Men of good
general Reputation.

Q. Were the Frigates manned when you came from Providence?

A. No. There were then about One hundred Men on board the Warren, and I
heard some of the Officers of the Frigate Providence say that in last
December they had on board about One hundred and seventy Men, and the
last of February I heard them say that so many of their Men were dead
& run away that they were then not better of[f] for Men than the

Q. Commodore Hopkins is charged with being an Hindrance to the proper
Manning of the Fleet. What Circumstances do you know relative to this

A. For my Part his Conduct and Conversation is such that I am not willing
to be under his Command. I think him unfit for command, and from what I
have heard Officers and Seamen say I believe that that is the general
Sentiment of the Fleet, and his Conversation is at Times so wild and
orders so unsteady that I have sometimes thought he was not in his
Senses and I have heard some others say the same. And to his Conduct
and Conversation it is attributed both by People on board the Fleet as
well as by the Inhabitants of the State that the Fleet is not manned,
and it is generally feared by People both on board the Fleet as well as
ashore that his Commands would be so imprudent that the Ships would be
foolishly lost, or that he would forego Opportunities of getting to
Sea, or attempt it when impracticable. The Seamen belonging to the
Columbus left her when their Time of Service expired, and went into the
Army, and I heard some of them say that they would not inlist again
into the Continental Fleet so long as Commodore Hopkins had the Command
of it. The Character that Commodore Hopkins bore was a great hindrance
to me in getting Recruits.6

Q. Had you Liberty from Commodore Hopkins or Capt. Hopkins to leave the
Frigate you belong to?

A. No. I came to Philadelphia at the Request of the Officers who signed the
Petition against Commodore Hopkins, and from a Zeal for the American

Q. Had you, or to your Knowledge either of the signers aforesaid ever any
Difference or Dispute with Commodore Hopkins since your or their
entering into the Service?

A. I never had, nor do I believe that either of them ever
had.7 I have been moved to do and say
what I have done and said from a Love to Country, and I verily beleive
that the other Signers of the Petition were actuated solely by the same
Motives. Jno. Grannis

The Sub Committee appointed to take the Examination of John Grannis have
examined him as above and report the same to the Marine Committee


Manuscript, Papers of Continental Congress, item 58, U.S. National Archives
and Records Administration, Washington, D.C. Written by William
Ellery and signed by John Grannis.

1 This document was written sometime after Grannis left Rhode Island about
February 24 and before the Marine Committee submitted his complaints
about Commodore Hopkins to Congress on March 25. See JCC, 7:202; and
Morgan, Naval Documents, 7:1275 – 77.

2 Since Commodore Esek Hopkins’ censure by Congress on August 16 1776 – for
which, see Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the Inquiry into Esek Hopkins’
Conduct, August 12, 1776 – congressional dissatisfaction with his
performance as commander of the Continental Navy had grown. After
returning to his command in the wake of that episode, Hopkins further
offended many delegates by failing to carry out cruises off Nova
Scotia and North Carolina ordered by the Marine Committee in August
and October 1776, by allowing the fleet to be bottled up in
Narragansett Bay in December of that year, and by failing to destroy
the British frigate Diamond when it was temporarily aground off Rhode
Island in January 1777. But Congress’ patience with Hopkins finally
reached the breaking point after he came under attack by ten officers
and men stationed aboard his own flagship, the Continental frigate
Warren. As most of these men were natives of Massachusetts, they
first turned for advice to Robert Treat Paine, a delegate from the
Bay State who was then at home in Taunton, and around February 11
they sent him a list of charges against the commodore and his son
Capt. John Burroughs Hopkins, which accused the former in particular
of being irreligious, disrespectful to Congress, unprincipled,
inhumane toward prisoners, incompetent, and an obstacle to naval
recruitment. Paine evidently advised the discontented officers and
men to drop their charges against Captain Hopkins and concentrate on
the ones against his father. In any case, John Grannis, a captain of
marines aboard the Warren, left Rhode Island near the end of February
with a series of papers listing the complaints of the Warren’s
officers and men against the elder Hopkins, which he brought to
Philadelphia and presented to the Marine Committee. After
interrogating Grannis about these charges, the Marine Committee laid
them before Congress on March 25 and on the following day Congress
suspended Hopkins from his command. It is a measure of Congress’
dissatisfaction with Hopkins at this time that it took this drastic
step without giving him an opportunity to defend his conduct. After
this it was not surprising that Congress dismissed him from
Continental service altogether on January 2, 1778. See JCC 7:202,
204, 10:13; and Edward Field, Esek Hopkins, Commander-in-Chief of
the Continental Navy during the American Revolution, 1775 – 1778
(Providence: Preston & Rounds Co., 1898), pp. 162 – 76. The
documents submitted to Robert

Treat Paine and to the Marine Committee are in PCC, item 58, fols. 225 – 33,
and Morgan, Naval Documents, 7:1167 – 68, 1234 – 35, 1265, 1275 – 77. Other
contemporary documents dealing with Hopkins’ efforts to defend
himself against the accusations of his subordinates are in Field,
Esek Hopkins, pp. 192 – 218.

3 According to Hopkins’ testimony in March 1777, however, Grannis “never has
been onboard the Ship Warren three nights together, nor I believe ten
days this five months past – and all that he can have against me as we
are entire Strangers, is that after several times desiring him to go
onboard and do his duty, as the ship was liable to be attack’d at any
time; I at last threaten’d to break him and get another man in his
Room if he did not – upon which he went onboard but staid only two
nights.” See Alverda S. Beck, ed., The Letter Book of Esek Hopkins,
Commander-in-Chief of the United States Navy, 1775 – 1778 (Providence:
Printed for the Rhode Island Historical Society, 1932), p. 138.

4 Abraham Whipple, commander of the Continental frigate Providence.

5 For other accounts of this incident, see Morgan, Naval Documents, 7:
845 – 46, 852 – 54, 891 – 92, 923 – 26, 959.

6 The fact that privateering was more lucrative than Continental naval
service because the former offered one-half shares in prizes taken
and the latter only one third was also a significant factor in the
navy’s recruiting problems. Beck, ed., Letter Book of Esek Hopkins,
pp. 22 – 23, 29 – 30.

7 See above, note 3, for evidence that there were indeed personal differences
between Grannis and Hopkins.

8 Aside from Ellery, who kept the notes of Grannis’ interrogation, the
identities of the members of this subcommittee are not known.

It should also be noted that on March 25 the Marine Committee approved
three resolves pertaining to the distribution of prize money among
the officers and crews of Hopkins’ fleet, in response to a letter of
February 14 from the commodore to the committee. The resolves are in
the Nathaniel Shaw Collection, CtNIHi, and the letter is in Morgan,
Naval Documents, 7:1199 – 1200.