<br /> Lee Letter: n340_0643

Washington and Lee University

In Marine Committee

It being this day determined to form a plan for intercepting the Jamaica
Fleet that will Sail from that Island for Great Britain about the 26th
day of July next, Resolved

That this Committee will Order such of the Continental Frigates and
Cruizers as can conveniently be spared or appointed for this service to
Randevouz at Abacoa One of the Bahama Islands near to New Providence on
or before the 25th day of July next.

That as it is uncertain what number or which of the ships or Cruizers may
be so Ordered, those that arrive at the said Station are to wait until
the 28th day of July, each employing themselves in taking on board
wood, Water &c if wanted and to be got until that day when the
several Commanders are to meet and producing their Commissions to each
other the Senior officer is to be deemed Commodore and may hoist a
broad Pennant during the continuance of this service. The Commodore and
every Commander are then to pay due obedience to the following
Instructions exerting themselves in their respective stations to
execute them and to accomplish what this Committee have in view.

The grand Object of this expedition being to intercept the Jamaica fleet
that will be departing from that Island about the Time the Commodore
assumes his Command, he is to hold a Council of war assisted by all the
Commanders and determine the following points.

First where is the best Cruizing Ground.

Second, How to station the Squadron over that ground so that the enemies
fleet cannot pass by unobserved.

Third, fix Signals for discovering the Enemy, their numbers, force and
Number of the Convoy, how they bear. distance &c.

Fourth, fix Signals for knowing each Other generally, & each ship in
particular with all other necessary & proper Signals for the well
governing & managing the fleet during the Cruize and in time of
action.

Fifth, each Commander to be supplied with a Copy of these orders, Copies of
the Proceedings of the Council of War, Signals &c and copies of
such other orders as the Commodore & council may think proper to be
given to each captain in addition to these Instructions which orders
are to have the same object in veiw and are to be calculated for the
more effectual accomplishment of it. The Commodore or Council of war
are empowered to order or do any thing they may think necessary or
essential to enable the Squadron to perform the intended service,
whether pointed out by the Committee or not. The Commodore must call on
each Captain for any intelligence he may have gamed respecting our
enemies before he arrived at the Randevouz and particularly respecting
the Jamaica fleet, the force and number of Ships of war intended as
Convoy to that fleet, and proper advantage must be made of any
intelligence so gained. These things done and the sooner they are
accomplished the better, the Squadron must weigh and sail under the
Signals and Orders of the Commodore to the appointed Station which we
suppose will be near the Havannah and as there will be some time to
wait for the Jamaica fleet geting that length such time cannot be
better spent, than in repeating the Signals agreed on constantly in
order that they may become familiar to every one, and whenever they
appear to be misunderstood to any Ship or Ships an explanation should
immediately take place. The men should be constantly exercised at the
Guns, and infinite pains taken on board every Ship to sweeten the air,
and keep not only the ship clean but the Men so in their Cloathing and
Persons. During this

Cruize there is little doubt but Prizes will be taken by the Squadron
before the Jamaica fleet appears and such may be sent into Georgia or
Carolina, but in doing this care must be taken that no ship is much
weakened by sending away their men in such Prizes. Should they be of
little value it may probably be best to burn them and encourage the
Seamen found on board to enter our Service by offering them share of
Prize Money to be taken, Pay and allowance equal to those already
engaged and assurance of good treatment. It may not be amiss for the
Commodore to send One of the small Cruizers into the Havannah with a
Polite Letter to the Governor asking leave for the Ships of war
belonging to the United states of America to send in their Prizes there
until convenient to bring them away or for sale if that will be
permitted. When the main object of this enterprize appears the Jamaica
Fleet, it must be the business of the Commodore to keep the Frigates
together until he finds out the strength of the Convoy and if it be
such as he judges he can cope with, with a tolerable prospect of
success, He is to make the proper disposition for Attacking to the best
advantage and engage their ships of war whilst all the smaller vessells
are employed in attacking and taking the Merchantmen. It must be
remembered that the enemy generally send home for Convoy such of their
ships of war as have been long in the West Indies. They are frequently
foul and ill manned which are circumstances favourable for engaging
them, even if they should appear of superior force. If you can but make
Prizes of the Convoy or any part of them, we think it will then be in
the power of the Squadron to take any number of the Merchantmen and
such as cannot be manned and brought into Port may be sunk or Burned.
Should the Convoy consist of such or so many Ships as it would be folly
or rashness to engage, the Squadron in that case had best to seperate
and hover after the fleet, for as we have little doubt but most of our
ships will outsail theirs, being cleaner you may in this manner pick up
a vast many of their Merchant ships altho protected by Superior force,
and for this purpose every ship or Cruizer may follow the fleet as long
and as far as the Commander shall think prudent, but the Squadron is
not to seperate until the Commodore shall give orders or make signals
for that purpose. If the Squadron seperate in this manner each
Commander will return into the first safe Port in the States after he
has performed his Cruize and rendered his Country all the services he
can for that voyage, each giving us immediate notice of his Arrival and
preparing again the Vessel he commands for further service against he
receives fresh Orders. On the Contrary if the Squadron are successful
in taking a number of Prizes it will be best to bring them into the
first safe Port or Ports in these states delivering the Prizes to the
Agents, and each Ship to be got ready for further services immediately.
If the fleet arrive any where in the neighbourhood of Congress we can
and will transmit fresh Orders – if too distant the Commodore must call
a Council of war of all the Commanders with him and any enterprize or
expedition planned by that Council, that has for its object the service
of the united states of America, to distress or disable the enemies of
these states or to Capture their ships of war or Merchantmen will meet
our Approbation & if executed with vigour will merit the praise of
all America. Our ships should never be Idle. The Navy is in its infancy
and a few brilliant strokes at this CEra would give it a Credit and
importance that would induce seamen from all parts to seek the employ
for nothing is more evident than that America has the means and must in
time become the first Maritime power in the world. The several
commanders employed to execute this Plan now laid down will have an
opportunity to open the first Ideas of the importance of our Navy and a
glorious chance of immortalizing their own names besides inriching all
the brave Fellows under their command. To them then under Heaven we
look for that success which is the Object of our
wishes.1

Notes:

Letter book, Marine Committee Letter Book, Marine Committee Miscellaneous
Papers, U.S. National Archives and Records Administration,
Washington, D.C.

1 According to Gardner W. Allen, A Naval History of the American Revolution,
2 vols. (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1913), 1:216 – 21, the Marine
Committee’s ambitious plan was never carried out, owing to an
inadequate supply of American warships.