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A FAIRLY SUCCESSFUL RAID ON NEW PROVIDENCE, BUT THEY LET A BRITISH SLOOP-OF-WAR ESCAPE-CHARACTER OF THE FIRST NAVAL COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF AND OF THE MATERIAL WITH WHICH HE HAD TO WORK-ESEK HOPKINS, A LANDSMAN, SET TO DO A SAILOR'S WORK-CREWS UNTRAINED AND DEVOID OF ESPRIT DE CORPS"-GOOD COURAGE, BUT A WOEFUL LACK OF OTHER NEEDED QUALITIES-HOPKINS DISMISSED FOR DISOBEDIENCE OF ORDERS.
THE career of Commodore Esek Hopkins as commander-in-chief of the American navy lasted for a year and ten days. If it was not a glorious career it was at least an instructive one, and the candid student is likely to conclude that, under the circumstances, it was creditable to his reputation. He was badly handicapped from the beginning in a variety
of ways, but in spite of this he accomplished something.
As already noted, Commodore Hopkins received his appointment chiefly through the influence of John Adams, and because he was the brother of the capable Governor of Rhode Island. The student of American history should keep in mind that the colonists were still monarchists in 1775, and that they followed the monarchial system of appointing favorites to office. That is to say, the man who had the most influence, who had what politicians call a "pull," got the appointment, regardless, usually, of his fitness for the place. Commodore Hopkins had been a brigadiergeneral in the Rhode Island militia by appointment of his brother. He had served in various capacities at sea, but it is likely that training had made him a soldier rather than a sailor, and no greater mistake can be made by executive authority than to appoint a soldier to do a sailorman's work.
Further than this, the vessels under the command of Hopkins were all built for carrying cargoes and not for fighting-they were not as swift or as handy as fighting ships of the same size. Worse yet, they were manned by crews brought together for the first timemen who were not only unacquainted with each other, and therefore devoid of esprit de
corps, but who were unaccustomed, for the most part, to the discipline necessary on а man-of-war and untrained in the use of great guns. When compared with the crews of the
Kingston Jamaco april of 8:1742
I have sent you in &ford a bill of 2: Change
and moloses Dearer and Dearer Enery day 7 you may Expect I Shall Kite Emery opertinenty and I am of Humbleiten Jak Makins
A Letter from Esek Hopkins.
British warships they were more inferior in these two respects than were the raw militia. around Boston when compared with the British regulars. The raw militia could at least shoot well.
With these facts in mind it is worth while
comparing the American ships with the British naval forces on the coast. As said, Commodore Hopkins had eight vessels, of which two only were ships, and the others were brigs or smaller, and all were lubberly merchantmen. All told, this squadron mounted just 114 guns, of which the largest was a cannon that could throw a round cast-iron ball weighing nine pounds. Even of these there were less than
fifty. And the powder to load them and the muskets with which the seamen had been armed were all borrowed from the commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Yet this puny squadron, "poor and contemptible, being for the greater part no better than whale boats," as a British authority truly says, was to go to sea to make war- -against what force does the reader suppose? A navy of 112 ships, carrying 3,714 guns, of which force no less than seventy-eight ships, carrying 2,078 guns, were either already on the American coast or under orders to go there.
Nor does a comparison of the number of guns 114 against 2,078-give an idea of the utter inefficiency of the American sea power; for, while the best of the American guns was but a nine-pounder, at least a fourth of the on the British ships—at least 500 of them— eighteen-pounders or heavier. For every nine-pounder in the American ships there were
at least ten of double that size in the British, not to mention the 1,500 and more guns in the fleet that included six-pounders, nine-pounders, and twelve-pounders. "Poor and contemptible" were just the words for describing the
comparative merits of the American warships. And in the matter of experience and training the American crews were but little better than
their ships and guns. As will appear further on, there were to be fights between British ships manned by experienced, thoroughly disciplined crews of full numbers against Yankee