<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0605

Washington and Lee University

Sender: Marine Committee
Recipient: John Peck Rathbun

Sir,

As we have appointed you to the Command of the Sloop Providence of War, now
at Providence in the State of Rhode Island, we expect your good conduct
in this Station will be equal to the trust reposed in you, and that by
a dilligent attention to your duty, every thing possible will be done
for the benefit of your Country, which will recommend you to the esteem
and future favours of this Committee.1

We now think proper to give you the following instructions which you are to
Obey.

You are to loose no time in proceeding to join your Vessel at Rhode Island,
where you must exert yourself to have her fitted and Manned
immediately. When ready for the sea, you are to proceed on a Cruize in
such Lattitudes as will be most likely to fall in with, and intercept
the Enemies Transport Vessels coming to reinforce or Supply their Army
at New York: and you are to use your true endeavor to take, Burn. Sink.
Or destroy as many of the Enemies vessels of every kind as it may be
your good fortune to fall in with.

The prizes you may be lucky enough to take you will send into such ports of
the United States as you Shall think will be safest and most
convenient. You are to continue this Cruize for two Months when you are
to put into the most convenient Safe Port and apply to the Continental
agent there, with whom it is probable we will lodge fresh instructions
for you, but should that not be the case, you are to victual your Sloop
for an other Cruize of the Same Space as the present, and immediately
proceed to Sea again taking these instructions for your plan and
conforming to them Strictly. When your provisions are expended return
again into some safe port in these States, advise us of your arrival
and we will give you fresh orders.2

You will loose no Opportunity to give us an Account of your proceedings and
we depend much on your Vigilance and care in executing these orders.

It is expected from every Commander in our Navy that he use his Officers
and People well, Still preserving Strict discipline and decorum, that
prisoners be treated with humanity, and that great care be taken of the
Ships their materials and Stores, all which we desire you will
carefully observe.

Wishing you health and Success we remain, Sir, Your Most obed servts.

John Hancock
Wm. Whipple
Robt Morris
Oliver Wolcott
Richard Henry Lee
Thos Burke
Nathan Brownson
William Ellery

P.S. Inclosed you have Signals whereby to know American Vessels of War.

Notes:

Receiver’s copy, University of Texas Library. In a clerical hand and signed
by Brownson, Burke, Ellery Hancock Lee, Morris, Whipple, and Wolcott.

1 Congress had approved Rathbun’s appointment on April 19. JCC, 7:284.

2 Rathbun’s personal background and subsequent cruise are described in
William J. Morgan, Captains to the Northward: The New England
Captains in the Continental Navy (Barre, Mass.: Barre Publishing Co.,
Inc., 1959), pp. 80 – 82.