Action of 1777-09-04

4th September 1777
Part of : The American War of Independence (1775/04/19 - 1784/01/14)
Previous action : Action in Narragansett Bay 27.8.1777
Next action : Alert vs Lexington 19.9.1777


United States of America

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Raleigh (32) Thomas Thompson 3? Casualties
Alfred (30) Elisha Hinman

Great Britain

Ship NameCommanderNotes
Camel (24) The Hon. William Clement Finch (1753-1794)
Druid (16) Peter Carteret (c.1722-1777) CO Killed 6 killed, 16 wounded
Weazle (16) Charles Hope (d.1808)

Notes on Action

On September 4th, 1777, the Camel, 22, Captain the Hon. William Clement Finch, the Weazel, 16, Commander Samuel Warren, and the Druid, 14, Commander Peter Carteret, were convoying the homeward bound trade from the Leeward Islands, when a sudden attack was made upon the Druid by an enemy who had stolen into the fleet. This was the 32-gun American frigate Raleigh, Captain Thomas Thompson. On September 2nd, cruising in the company of the Alfred, 24, she had captured a vessel of the convoy, and ascertained from her master the order of sailing and the signals used. On September 3rd, the Americans were in sight of the convoy, and managed to get near without exciting any suspicion; they were unable, however, to cut off any of the merchantmen, as the Alfred was a very bad sailer. Finally Captain Thompson decided to leave his consort behind; ran into the midst of the British fleet; exchanged signals with the British ships; and bore down upon the unsuspecting Druid, till, having selected his position, he ran out his guns and gave her for twenty minutes broadside after broadside. Taken completely by surprise she could make but feeble reply. Her Commander, Carteret, was mortally wounded at the first fire; her Master was killed; the command passed to Lieut. John Bourchier. The convoy had meantime fallen into great confusion, each ship suspecting her neighbour to be a disguised enemy. But, as it was seen that the surprise had proceeded from one solitary ship and that other enemies did not appear, the British warships, supported by several armed merchantmen, made all sail to come up with the Raleigh. She had therefore to draw off when the British vessels neared her. She left the Druid in a terribly damaged state; with masts, yards, and rigging much shattered; several shot holes betwixt wind and water; five feet of water in the hold, and six men killed and sixteen wounded. On her part the Raleigh is said to have only lost three men. She was chased after the action by the Camel and Weazel, but, being clean, could not be overtaken. The engagement is instructive as showing the difficulty of concentrating against a bold assailant the ships engaged in protecting a convoy. The Raleigh and the Alfred did not, however, succeed in capturing a single ship. The Alfred appears throughout to have held back.

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