Wed, 22nd Oct 2008 12:00

Maritime and Scientific Models, Instruments & Art (Association)

 
  Lot 28
 

28

THE LOG BOOK OF THE...

THE LOG BOOK OF THE AMERICAN-WAR-OF-INDEPENDENCE 20-GUN CONVOY ESCORT PERSEUS, CAPTAINED BY THE HON. GEORGE KEITH ELPHINSTONE BETWEEN THE LIZARD AND SANDY HOOK, NEW YORK, 1776, AND LATTERLY BY WILLIAM OGILVIE CRUISING THE AMERICAN COAST IN PERSEUS AND THE PRIZE THOMAS IN 1777

written over approximately eighty hand-ruled pages in a fair hand, the first cruise between the Lizard and New York dating between August 1st and October 12th 1776 with regular weather reports and much detail on how Elphinstone ran the convoy, handled his ship and pursued "strange sails": September 3rd: Made signal for the Convoy to come under our stern & Bore down upon the Leeward most ships at ½ past 6 hauled on the wind & shortened sail. 16 of the Convoy in sight..., September 13th: Blowing hard... at 9 PM Thos. Hanigh[?] fell from the Main Topsail yard arm in to the sea who we gave up for lost Blowing too hard for hoisting the Boats out. Fired 8 guns as a signal for the Convoy to make more sail..; September 26th: At 10 AM Saw a Schooner amongst the Convoy, bore down and found her to be a Rebel, gave chace, made the signal for the Convoy to come under our stern at Noon.. September 27th: Alone continuing to chace and gaining very fast.. at 4 began to fire at the chace which continues rowing and sailing. at 5 convoy in sight & continuing to fire at the chace, at 8 fired Swivels & small arms at the chace which struck & proved to be the Viper sloop [?funded] by commission from the Congress of America 9 days from Boston...the prisoners on Board in Number 41 -- ; September 28th: at 5PM saw a sail to the NSW standing across us. At 7 saw the above heaving SSW, gave chace at 9 finding the chace to be a rebel began to fire. at 10 she struck and proved to be the Betsy Schooner load with Dye, wood & potashes &c. from Boston... brought the prisoners on Board & sent a Mate one Midshipman & men to take charge of her... The second cruise under Command of William Ogilvie between October 25th and November 3rd, capturing an un-named brig as prize on November 2nd; The third and last cruise logged in this volume is for the prize snow Thomas from Cape Fear to Antigua between January 16th and February 8th, 1777. Bound between vellum-covered boards, the front with faded inscription.

8 x 6½in. (20 x 16.5cm.)

HMS Perseus was a 20-gun sixth-rate frigate of the Sphinx class, ordered on the last day of October 1775. Built rapidly over the winter months of 1775-6, she measured 108ft 1in. in length with a 30ft 6½ in. beam and was launched on 20 March 1776. The speed of her construction and the nature of her design are both highly indicative of the turbulence that surrounded the Admiralty in those months. The relationship between the British government and her American colonies was rapidly dissolving and war was expected. It was an unsettling prospect as the British had no quality dockyards on the eastern seaboard of America. To fight a war, moreover, every single British soldier and gun would have to be transported across the full breadth of the Atlantic and then maintained there with an unbroken supply of provisions, all of them sent from England. In 1775, therefore, the Navy was desperate to increase its number of small, fast ships that could escort the crucial trans-Atlantic convoys and also threaten American privateers and the hostile frigates of their French allies. The Perseus was part of that building programme.

As usual in war-time, the Royal Dockyards concentrated on the largest ships, and small, privately owned yards built the frigates. The Perseus, therefore, was built by John Randall and Co. of Rotherhithe. Her construction cost the Admiralty £4,507.1.4d, with another £4,310.5.10d going on fitting out and coppering. It is unsurprising from the speed of her construction that she was in a poor state when her first captain, George Elphinstone, the future Lord Keith, came aboard in July 1776 and prepared to take her to America. Elphinstone went on to have an eminent naval career as a full admiral and a viscount, and at the apogee of his service he particularly distinguished himself in the orchestration of the defences to meet the threat of invasion in home waters during the Napoleonic Wars. When Napoleon finally surrendered and was taken to Plymouth, it was Lord Keith who dealt with him personally and broke the news that he was to be exiled to the desolate rock of St. Helena. Connoisseurs of the Patrick O'Brien novels will recognise Lord Keith and his wife 'Queeny' who appear in them frequently. O'Brien researched much of the detail for his novels in logbooks such as these. The Perseus was Elphinstone's second ever command and his service aboard her on the East Coast of America was unmistakable proof of his quality; indeed so much of the War of American Independence was a disaster for British forces, but Elphinstone was involved in the few distinguished successes, some of which feature in this log.

Elphinstone was soon to make his mark on the Perseus and before long he had her sailing as fast as any frigate, and he declared her to be the 'avowed and most complete little ship in America and I believe the swiftest in Europe.' Her service record suggests no different, and by the end of the war she had captured, or been involved in the capture of, no less than eight American and French privateers. Some of those captures, and the fights leading up them, are described in detail in this log.

Written in the hand of William Ogilvie, the handwriting is clear and legible, offering a rare insight into a period in which the Royal Navy was stretched as never before and challenged with success by the French Navy. There are few moments of British maritime greatness from the War of American Independence. The French fought with bravery and skill at both the Battle of Ushant in 1778 and again at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, the latter leading directly to the surrender of Yorktown which in turn led to the end of the war with Britain losing her American colonies. This log is particularly rare, therefore, for its illustration of British success in a war that is usually noted for the failure of British sea power.

Sold for £6,200
Estimated at £7,000 - £9,000

(inc. buyer's premium of 24%)


 
THE LOG BOOK OF THE AMERICAN-WAR-OF-INDEPENDENCE 20-GUN CONVOY ESCORT PERSEUS, CAPTAINED BY THE HON. GEORGE KEITH ELPHINSTONE BETWEEN THE LIZARD AND SANDY HOOK, NEW YORK, 1776, AND LATTERLY BY WILLIAM OGILVIE CRUISING THE AMERICAN COAST IN PERSEUS AND THE PRIZE THOMAS IN 1777

written over approximately eighty hand-ruled pages in a fair hand, the first cruise between the Lizard and New York dating between August 1st and October 12th 1776 with regular weather reports and much detail on how Elphinstone ran the convoy, handled his ship and pursued "strange sails": September 3rd: Made signal for the Convoy to come under our stern & Bore down upon the Leeward most ships at ½ past 6 hauled on the wind & shortened sail. 16 of the Convoy in sight..., September 13th: Blowing hard... at 9 PM Thos. Hanigh[?] fell from the Main Topsail yard arm in to the sea who we gave up for lost Blowing too hard for hoisting the Boats out. Fired 8 guns as a signal for the Convoy to make more sail..; September 26th: At 10 AM Saw a Schooner amongst the Convoy, bore down and found her to be a Rebel, gave chace, made the signal for the Convoy to come under our stern at Noon.. September 27th: Alone continuing to chace and gaining very fast.. at 4 began to fire at the chace which continues rowing and sailing. at 5 convoy in sight & continuing to fire at the chace, at 8 fired Swivels & small arms at the chace which struck & proved to be the Viper sloop [?funded] by commission from the Congress of America 9 days from Boston...the prisoners on Board in Number 41 -- ; September 28th: at 5PM saw a sail to the NSW standing across us. At 7 saw the above heaving SSW, gave chace at 9 finding the chace to be a rebel began to fire. at 10 she struck and proved to be the Betsy Schooner load with Dye, wood & potashes &c. from Boston... brought the prisoners on Board & sent a Mate one Midshipman & men to take charge of her... The second cruise under Command of William Ogilvie between October 25th and November 3rd, capturing an un-named brig as prize on November 2nd; The third and last cruise logged in this volume is for the prize snow Thomas from Cape Fear to Antigua between January 16th and February 8th, 1777. Bound between vellum-covered boards, the front with faded inscription.

8 x 6½in. (20 x 16.5cm.)

HMS Perseus was a 20-gun sixth-rate frigate of the Sphinx class, ordered on the last day of October 1775. Built rapidly over the winter months of 1775-6, she measured 108ft 1in. in length with a 30ft 6½ in. beam and was launched on 20 March 1776. The speed of her construction and the nature of her design are both highly indicative of the turbulence that surrounded the Admiralty in those months. The relationship between the British government and her American colonies was rapidly dissolving and war was expected. It was an unsettling prospect as the British had no quality dockyards on the eastern seaboard of America. To fight a war, moreover, every single British soldier and gun would have to be transported across the full breadth of the Atlantic and then maintained there with an unbroken supply of provisions, all of them sent from England. In 1775, therefore, the Navy was desperate to increase its number of small, fast ships that could escort the crucial trans-Atlantic convoys and also threaten American privateers and the hostile frigates of their French allies. The Perseus was part of that building programme.

As usual in war-time, the Royal Dockyards concentrated on the largest ships, and small, privately owned yards built the frigates. The Perseus, therefore, was built by John Randall and Co. of Rotherhithe. Her construction cost the Admiralty £4,507.1.4d, with another £4,310.5.10d going on fitting out and coppering. It is unsurprising from the speed of her construction that she was in a poor state when her first captain, George Elphinstone, the future Lord Keith, came aboard in July 1776 and prepared to take her to America. Elphinstone went on to have an eminent naval career as a full admiral and a viscount, and at the apogee of his service he particularly distinguished himself in the orchestration of the defences to meet the threat of invasion in home waters during the Napoleonic Wars. When Napoleon finally surrendered and was taken to Plymouth, it was Lord Keith who dealt with him personally and broke the news that he was to be exiled to the desolate rock of St. Helena. Connoisseurs of the Patrick O'Brien novels will recognise Lord Keith and his wife 'Queeny' who appear in them frequently. O'Brien researched much of the detail for his novels in logbooks such as these. The Perseus was Elphinstone's second ever command and his service aboard her on the East Coast of America was unmistakable proof of his quality; indeed so much of the War of American Independence was a disaster for British forces, but Elphinstone was involved in the few distinguished successes, some of which feature in this log.

Elphinstone was soon to make his mark on the Perseus and before long he had her sailing as fast as any frigate, and he declared her to be the 'avowed and most complete little ship in America and I believe the swiftest in Europe.' Her service record suggests no different, and by the end of the war she had captured, or been involved in the capture of, no less than eight American and French privateers. Some of those captures, and the fights leading up them, are described in detail in this log.

Written in the hand of William Ogilvie, the handwriting is clear and legible, offering a rare insight into a period in which the Royal Navy was stretched as never before and challenged with success by the French Navy. There are few moments of British maritime greatness from the War of American Independence. The French fought with bravery and skill at both the Battle of Ushant in 1778 and again at the Battle of the Chesapeake in 1781, the latter leading directly to the surrender of Yorktown which in turn led to the end of the war with Britain losing her American colonies. This log is particularly rare, therefore, for its illustration of British success in a war that is usually noted for the failure of British sea power.