Alphabetical List of Officers and Men of the Frigate Virginia captured on 31 March 1778

The Alphabetical List of 124 Officers and Men of the Frigate Virginia captured on 31 March 1778 is derived from the rolls of the HMS Emerald (ADM 36/7830), HMS Richmond (ADM 36/7833) and HMS St. Albans (ADM 36/7857) transcribed at the National Archives in Kew, England by Joseph and Joshua Ross in February 2014. The list has been edited to offer a complete spelling of the abbreviated Christian name in order to assist internet browsing and has been annotated to include various derivations of names in brackets from entries in all three British vessels. The list includes rate or quality if noted in the Muster records.

The 30-gun Continental frigate Virginia (James Nicholson) was taken without a fight on 31 March 1778 by British frigates Emerald (Benjamin Caldwell) and Richmond (John Lewis Gidoin) after losing her rudder and running aground in the Chesapeake Bay while attempting to evade the enemy. Normally carrying a compliment of 170 men, many had been left behind on the Virginia’s tender when the frigate left Annapolis, including Lieutenant John Fanning and Captain of Marines Thomas Plunkett. In a controversial manner, Captain James Nicholson left the vessel with nine volunteers in the ship’s barge just before her capture. Reporting to Vice Admiral Viscount Howe on 3 April 1778, Emerald’s commander Captain Benjamin Caldwell writes, “ I have the honour to acquaint Your Lordship, of our having taking the Rebel Frigate Virginia, of thirty Guns and one hundred and Fifty Nine Men, (there was many more Men belonging to Her, but some were Sick on Shore, and others left behind).

The thirty-five men not entered in the musters of Emerald, Richmond and St. Albans were probably on the Emerald’s tender Conqueror, sloop Senegal, ship Ariel, remained on board the Virginia assisting in rudder repairs and sailing the crippled prize or entered into British service. Examination of the Senegal’s Muster (ADM 36/7770) or Ariel’s Muster (ADM 36/7937) and the Virginia’s Prize Court Records (HCA 32/475/14) shed no light on the matter. Afterward, the Virginia was libeled, condemned and taken into the Royal Navy on 19 May 1778 as HM frigate Virginia (John Orde) with her prize shares divided among Emerald, Richmond, St. Albans (Richard Onslow), Senegal (Anthony J.P. Molloy) and Ariel. The two American perspectives on the tragic loss of the frigate Virginia are captured in the narratives of the two Continental Navy protagonists, escaped Captain James Nicholson and imprisoned Lieutenant Joshua Barney.

Two days after the loss, Nicholson presents his defense to the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress explaining, “This will inform you of my misfortune in losing the Virginia, at three o’clock in the morning of the 31st ult. I had weighed from Annapolis at eight the preceding morning, and had taken the advantage of going down the Bay in company with a brig which had a pilot on board, supposed to be one of the best in the Bay, to whom I had agreed to give 100 provided he carried me out clear of the ground. The wind blew hard at N.W. and in every other respect it was a most favourable time; and altho’ my tender was absent with 19 hands, I thought it most adviseable to proceed. At the above mentioned time she struck on the Middle Ground, and in about an hour and an half beat over it, with the loss of her rudder, and making as much water as we could well clear her from with four pumps; in which case, we thought it was adviseable to come to an anchor until day light, when we found one of the enemy’s ships about two gunshots off, abreast of us, and another further up the Bay; upon which I hoisted out my barge, and took such of my crew as inclined to run the risque of getting on shore, viz. 10 including myself, and with the greatest difficulty I got on Cape Henry, where I waited until 10 o’clock, when I saw the two ships. I immediately went to Portsmouth, got a boat, and came on board the St. Alban’s with a flag, in order to procure the parole of my officers, which I expect to accomplish; after which I shall proceed to Baltimore, and from thence shall immediately wait on Congress. The Virginia is obliged to be towed, and is not yet got up.

Many years later Barney remembers in his autobiography, “… at day light we saw three of the Enemy’s Frigates near us, we had passed them; & the loss of our rudder prevented us getting to sea, the moment Capt. Nicholson saw the Enemy he ordered the Barge to be hoisted out & left us, not waiting to take his papers or even the private Signals with him & in that manner escaped onshore; so soon as he was gone I ordered the Cable cut, in order to run the Ship on shore at Cape Henry, which could very easily have been done, the wind being fair, but in this I was overruled by the other Lieut. & Pilot, who declared we could not approach the land so that all I could say was without effect: the men gave themselves up, broke open store & slop room got drunk &c & would do nothing. I then cut the Rudder away which hung by its ropes & at 10 O’clock the Enemy’s Frigate Emerald Capt. Caldwell came & took possession of our Ship… The next day Capt. Nicholson came on bd. in a Flag of Truce to enquire after his Cloaths, on which occasion I could not help upbraiding him with his conduct in quitting his ship the first man, who if he had remained onbd. there was not the least doubt but we should have ran the Ship on shore where she might have been destroyed by which means prevented her falling into the enemies hands & saved 300 men from being made prisoners.”

William Anderson
James Arn
Joshua Barney, 2nd Lieutenant
William Barney, Lieutenant of Marines
Anthony Bell
Simon Benjamin
Edward Bolf
Jervis Boswell
David Brenan
Jeremiah Brun
Thomas Burke
Stephen Burn, Midshipman
Timothy Burn
Alexander Burrell
Clement Cannon, Master’s Mate
Michael Carney
Charles Chelton, Purser
George Clark
Richard Clarke
Denis Coleman
Shed’k Davis
Joseph Day
Thomas Dennison
John Dick
Michael Dollas
Alexander Duffy, Master
Thomas Dunnick
Peter duRask
Charles Endele [Indle]
Thomas Eunich
Charles Fay
Peter Fems
Richard Foster
Jacob Fox
James Fulton, Surgeon’s 1st Mate
George Gilles [Giles]
John Grant
Joseph Griffiths
John Grimes
Will Guthrie
Joseph Halston
Anthony Hanson
Thomas Harcombe
John Herring
Anthony Higgins
William Jackson
Thomas James, Midshipman
Boswell James
Thomas Jennings
Joseph Jimes [Tims]
Jacob Jobb
Richard Jones
John Jones
Edward Kelly
John Killen, Captain’s Clerk
John King
Robert Lambert
John Langdon
Liven Langret, Master
Denis [Daniel] Larken
Richard Francis Larrimore
Henry Lawrence
John Lee
John Lomas
Jacob Long
Patrick Lynch
James Lynch
John Mathews
Daniel McDonald
Frederick McDonald
Charles McDonald
John McFerline
Joseph McGregor [McGrigor]
John McHenry
John McKew
James McMahon
Henry Mills
Lawrence Molten [Molton]
Andrew Moor [Moer]
Joshua William Morgan
David Murron, Surgeon
Samuel Murron, Surgeon’s 2nd Mate
Michael Neigle [Nigle]
Thomas Nelson
Joseph Newton
Thomas Osoncoatt
William Padeson
James Philips
Isaac Pirris
John Power
Thomas Pownal, 1st Lieutenant of Marines
John Radley
James Ragan
Anthony Remey [Renny]
Will Rice
Matthew Richards
Nathaniel Richards
John Baptist Roberts
Samuel Ropkins, Master’s Mate
Hampton Round, Midshipman
Thomas Seymour, AB
John Shanks
Peter Sharp, Midshipman
John Sleymaker, 1st Lieutenant
Philip Sovel
Henry Spencer, Carpenter
David Spring, Gunner
William Stack
James Stackable
James Stephenson
Walter Taylor
George Teague
John Thomas
Benjamin Thompson, Midshipman
Joshua Tull
Jacob Tycen, AB
James Wallace
John Walter, AB
Richard Watts
Thomas Westmuch
Aaron Williams
Richard Wisewau
Mathew Wright
John Young, Midshipman

This entry was posted in Continental Navy Crew Lists, Frigate Virginia. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *