Josiah Granville Leach.

Some account of the Tree family and its connections in England and America online

. (page 3 of 6)
Online LibraryJosiah Granville LeachSome account of the Tree family and its connections in England and America → online text (page 3 of 6)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook



latter being killed in one of the early engagements of
the first year of the war while in command of an artil-
lery company.

Among the members having command of conti-
nental ships of war during the Revolution, were Cap-
tains John Barry, Richard Dale, "William Hallock,
James Robinson, Elisha Warner, James Young, "Wil-
liam Allen, John Cox, George Nicholson, and Isaiah
Robinson. The most distinguished, perhaps, among
all these, if it is permissible to make distinctions
where all were gallant officers and won lasting laurels
in the course of the discharge of their duty, may be
named Captain John Barry, who had first the brig
''Lexington" of 16 guns, and afterwards the ship
"Raleigh" of 30 guns, and whose achievements, while
in coromand of these two vessels, made him a promi-
nent figure among the naval heroes of the period ; and
Captain Lambert Wickes, who gave the greatest prom-
ise of a brilliant career, but which was unfortunately
cut short by the foundering of his ship during the War.
He it was, who commanded the brig "Reprisal" of 16
guns, which was the first United States war vessel
to appear in European waters. He carried Dr. Benja-
min Franklin to France, and took along with him at
the same time into the French port of Havre, fourteen
prizes which he captured on the voyage, in the Bay of
Biscay. Another member of this Club so founded by
Lambert Tree and other captains, was Richard Dale,
who, if he had never done anything else would have



rendered his name immortal by his association with
Captain John Paul Jones as his lieutenant and second
in command, in the famous sea-fight off Flamborough
Head between the '^Bonhomme Eichard" (42 guns)
and the British frigate ^^Serapis" (50 guns), which
terminated in the surrender of the British ship. Rich-
ard Dale was a brilliant officer, and subsequently rose
to the rank of Commodore.

Other members of the Club who commanded ships
and distinguished themselves in later wars, were Cap-
tains Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge, John
Rogers, James Cooper, John Carson, Thomas Ander-
son, William Barnes, John Cochran, Thomas Burrows,
Gerard Byrne, William Davis, Joseph H. Dill, and
William Fleming.

Stephen Decatur was in command of the ship
''Delaware" (20 guns) at the time of the French
troubles, and had the honor of capturing the French
vessel of war "La Croyable" after an engagement off
the Delaware capes. He also commanded the "Phila-
delphia" (36 guns) and received the thanks of Con-
gress, as well as being presented with a sword in 1804,
for attacking and capturing a Tripolitan frigate of 44

William Bainbridge received the thanks of Con-
gress and a gold medal for his services while in com-
mand of the "Constitution" (44 guns) for capturing
the British frigate "Java," in 1813, after a brave and
skillful combat.



Finally, another man, through whose princely en-
dowments to the City of Philadelphia her sons for
several generations have enjoyed immeasurable bene-
fits, was enrolled among the members of the Club.
That man was Captain Stephen Girard, who entered
the organization in 1788. He amassed during his life
an immense fortune, which in the end he distributed
in a manner to contribute to the well-being and ad-
vancement of his fellowmen.

Thus it will be seen that this little charitable Club,
founded by Lambert Tree and other captains, on the
4th of July, 1765, became the veritable nursery of the
American Navy

Prior to and during the Revolution, Pennsylvania,
also, turned to its Merchant Marine for military and
naval commanders and found such among those en-
rolled in the membership of the noted Club in ques-
tion. Of those in service prior to the Revolution, were
Captains John Sibbald, Samuel Mifflin, and Thomas

Captain John Sibbald, one of the founders, was the
first Pennsylvanian to win naval honors. In the sum-
mer of 1739, on the eve of the declaration of war by
England against Spain, Governor Thomas of Pennsyl-
vania issued letters of marque to the sloop ' ' George, ' '
the first privateer fitted out and sailing from Philadel-
phia. The "George" carried 10 guns and 10 swivels,
under the command of William Axon, Captain Sibbald
being his lieutenant. Shortly after the vessel sailed



on her first voyage the command fell to Sibbald, who,
returning with the ''George" the next year, was pre-
sented with a sword, in recognition of his gallant ser-
vices. On his second voyage he covered himself with
glory, and made many valuable captures. In 1743,
a new and larger ship, the "Wilmington," with 150
men, and armed with 24 carriage and 24 swivel gims,
was fitted out at Philadelphia, and placed under Cap-
tain Sibbald 's command; and in 1757, he was given
command of the "Pennsylvania," a war vessel fitted
out by the Province of Pennsylvania for coastwise
defence, and generally known as the "Province Ship."
At the outbreak of the Eevolution he was still living
at Philadelphia, but was then too old to enter active

Captain Samuel Mifflin, also a founder of the Club,
was given command in 1755, of the "Battery" con-
structed on the water front of Philadelphia. Most of
the sea-captains of his day armed their ships with
heavy guns for defence against the attack of pirates,
and it is conjectured that Captain Mifflin had had
experience in such direction, and so was selected to
direct the artillery of the "Battery." He became
one of the leading citizens of Philadelphia. During
the Eevolution, he was in command of an artillery
regiment, and was tendered, but declined, appointment
as commodore of the Pennsylvania Navy.

Captain Thomas Leech joined the Club in 1769.
As early as 1753 he was in command of vessels



sailing from Philadelphia. During the following year,
while on a passage from the Island of Jamaica, his ship
was captured by a French man-of-war, and he was
carried to Port au Prince and imprisoned there. On
8 June, 1757, he was commissioned second-lieutenant of
the Province man-of-war ' ' Pennsylvania, ' ' commanded
by Captain John Sibbald, as before mentioned, and
two years later, when Captain Sibbald resigned his
command, Captain Leech was chosen to succeed him,
upon the recommendation of the latter. About the
time the War of Independence was begun. Captain
Leech retired from the sea, and in 1776 he was chosen
by Congress one of the signers of four millions of the
bills of credit issued by order of that body, and in De-
cember of the same year he was appointed by the
Council of Safety '*to take charge of the sick soldiers
in and near the City." Captain Leech was a son of
Honorable Thomas Leech, an eminent Philadelphian,
and one of the committee who procured for Pennsyl-
vania the famous ''Independence Bell."

The most important State naval force organized
during the Eevolution, was the one formed by Penn-
sylvania, known as the Pennsylvania Navy. During
its existence it had five commanders, four of whom, —
Captains Thomas Eeed, Andrew Caldwell, Samuel
Davidson, and John Hazelwood, — ^were cotemporaries
of Captain Tree in the Club mentioned.

Captain Thomas Read, brother of George Read,
a Signer of the Declaration of Independence, was com-



missioned 23 October, 1775, Captain of the Montgom-
er}'-, the flag ship of the Pennsylvania Navy, and from
that time until 13 January, 1776, he was in command
of the fleet. For some time after the latter date he
was second in command, until 7 June, 1776, when he
resigned, to enter the Continental service. While in
the State service, he led the fleet in the noted fight on
the Delaware, May, 1776, with the British war ships,
*'Eoebuck" and "Liverpool." Upon entering the
Continental Navy he was placed in command of the
frigate ' * George Washington, ' ' one of the largest ves-
sels in the Navy. At the battle of Trenton he was in
command of an artillery company, composed of men
from his own ship.

Captain Andrew Caldwell, the second commander
of the Pennsylvania Navy, was the first to bear the title
of Commodore, being appointed such, 13 January,
1776, resigning the same on account of ill health, 25
May following. He later became a member of the
Council of Safety, and of the State Naval Board.
From 1778 until 1782 he was one of the wardens of
the port of Philadelphia.

Captain Samuel Davidson, the third commander,
and the second commodore, at the organization of the
Navy was commissioned captain, and given command
of the "Warren." In March, 1776, he was transferred
to the "Arnold Battery," which he commanded in the
fight on the Delaware, May, 1776. On 15 June, the same
year, he was promoted commodore, retaining this posi-



tion until 27 August following. In 1779 and 1780 he
was on tlie sea, connnanding armed ships, sailing under
letters of marque from the Continental government.

Captain John Hazlewood, the last commander, was
appointed in 1775 to command the fire vessels attached
to the Pennsylvania Navy; was made second in com-
mand of the Navy, 1 October, 1776, and promoted com-
modore, 6 September, 1777. He was in command of
the fleet throughout the many engagements which took
place on the Delaware during the period the Brit-
ish were in possession of Philadelphia. By a vote of
Congress, 4 November, 1777, Commodore Hazlewood
was honored with a sword for his gallant conduct in
the action of 22 and 23 October, in which the British
lost two of their war ships, the Augusta and Merlin.

Among others of Captain Lambert Tree's associ-
ates in the Club, who engaged in either the military
or naval service in the war for Independence, the
following may be mentioned: Captains Charles Alex-
ander, John Ashmead, Charles Biddle, William
Budden, Joseph Blewer, John Burrows, Henry
Dougherty, Richard Eyre, Paul Cox, Nathaniel Gait,
George Geddes, William Greenway, Alexander Hen-
derson, Thomas Houston, Robert Hardie, Blathwait
Jones, Robert Knox, Peter Long, Benjamin Loxley,
James Montgomery, Thomas Moore, Isaac Roach,
William Richards, Jeremiah Simmons, and Joseph

Captain Charles Alexander, entered the Pennsyl-



vania Navy as commander of the "Bull Dog," in July,
1775; was transferred to the "Chatham" in October
following; resigned, 12 April, 1776, to enter the Con-
tinental service, becoming captain of the frigate
"Delaware," with 24 guns, and ranking ten among the
captains of the Continental Navy.

Captain John Ashmead commanded the Continental
brig "Eagle," with which he made several voyages to
the East Indies, to procure munitions of war for the
Continental government.

Captain Joseph Blewer was a member of the Pro-
vincial Convention which met at Carpenter's Hall, in
June, 1776 ; also of the Council of Safety in the same
year, and of the Naval Board of Pennsylvania, in 1777.
He subsequently became one of the wardens of the port
of Philadelphia. His son was taken prisoner in the
battle of Germantown.

Captain William Budden, while in the naval service
of the Continental Congress was taken prisoner by the
British ship "Liverpool," and was subsequently ex-
changed, by special vote of Congress, for an officer
of the British Navy.

Captain Charles Biddle, of the distinguished Phila-
delphia family of his surname, had a notable experi-
ence as commander of privateers during the Revolu-
tion. In 1785 he was chosen vice president of the
Supreme Executive Council of Pennsylvania, a posi-
tion which corresponds to the present lieutenant-
governorship. At the time he was chosen, Benjamin



Franklin was chosen president of the Council. Cap-
tain Biddle was a brother of the gallant hero of the
United States Navy, — Captain Nicholas Biddle, — who
lost his life at the blowing up of the frigate '^Ran-
dolph," in the engagement with the British ship
"Yarmouth," 7 March, 1778, in Charlestown harbor,
South Carolina. He was also the father of the emi-
nent Nicholas Biddle, president of the Bank of the
United States. Captain Biddle 's '' Autobiography, "
published a few years ago, is one of the most inter-
esting works of its kind that has ever appeared in

Captain John Burrows was in very active service
as the commander of privateers, sailing under letters
of marque from Congress. In 1779 he commanded the
brig ''Hibernia," 35 men and 11 guns; in 1780, the
sloop "Industry," 15 men and 6 guns; in 1781, the
brig "Schuylkill," 35 men and 8 guns, and in 1782,
the schooner "Don Quixote," 16 men and 8 guns.

Captain Paul Cox served as lieutenant-colonel of a
regiment of Philadelphia militia under Colonel Sharp
Delany, and also in the same capacity under Colonel
William Bradford. In 1778 he was chosen by Con-
gress one of the signers of the Continental bills of

Captain Henry Dougherty was appointed captain
of the "Experiment," of the Pennsylvania Navy, 17
July, 1775; was transferred two weeks later to the
"Washington," and in October, 1776, to the "Mont-

4 49


gomery, ' ' the flag ship of the fleet ; resigning his com-
mission, 14 May, 1777.

Captain Eichard Eyre, entered the Pennsylvania
Navy in September, 1775, as captain of the '' Chat-
ham," was transferred, 1 October, 1776, to the
''Delaware," with which vessel he was sent to Toms
River, New Jersey, in February, 1777, to protect the
Continental Salt Works at that point. In the follow-
ing July, under orders of the Naval Board of Penn-
sylvania, he joined the Continental fleet under Captain
Isaiah Robinson, sent by Congress ''on a secret

Captain Nathaniel Gait was placed in command of
the "Argus," in April, 1777; was taken prisoner in
January, 1778, and retired from the navy in 1780.

Captain George Geddes was in command of the
Continental privateer "Hope," in 1779; of the brig
"Holker," in 1781, capturing many prizes; and of the
ship "Congress," later the same year. This ship car-
ried 200 men and 24 guns, and while Captain Geddes
was in command he performed one of the most gallant
feats of the war, in the capture of the British sloop-of-
war " Savage," in an engagement which lasted two
hours, off Charleston, South Carolina.

Captain William Greenway was appointed to com-
mand the "Hornet" of the Pennsylvania Navy, 4
July, 1777, having previously commanded the "Vul-
ture" of the same fleet.

Captain Robert Hardie was commissioned captain



of the ''Terror," of the same Navy, 27 March, 1776,
and was transferred to the "Burke," 8 August, 1777.

Captain Thomas Houston was first-lieutenant of
the ''Franklin" of the Pennsylvania Navy from 2
September, 1775, until 11 March, 1776, when he be-
came captain of the "Warren."

Captain Alexander Henderson became captain of
the "Bull Dog," 2 October, 1775, and was transferred
to the "Dickinson," 1 October, 1776.

Captain Blathwait Jones was appointed, 15 Febru-
ary, 1777, chief-engineer for building the fortifications
at Billingsport, New Jersey, ordered by Congress, and
was given the "Pay Rank and Rations of a Lieut.

Captain Robert Knox commanded one of the Phila-
delphia battalions of militia, and was also one of the
justices of the courts of Philadelphia.

Captain Peter Long was the Quarter Master of the
Pennsylvania Navy from its organization until 21 May,

Captain Benjamin Loxley commanded a company
of artillery in 1775, and the next year was engaged
in the manufacture of cannon for the army.

Captain James Montgomery was appointed to com-
mand the "Ranger," of the Pennsylvania Navy, 31
August, 1775, and was transferred to the ' ' Chatham, ' '
29 May, 1776, resigned this command, 1 August follow-
ing, to accept an appointment in the Continental



Captain Thomas Moore was made commander of
the ''Hancock," of the Pennsylvania Navy, 10 October,
1775. In August, 1777, he was placed in command of
five vessels of the Navy, and was sent by the Naval
Board to re-inforce the Continental Navy, upon request
of the Continental Naval Board.

Captain William Richards was appointed commis-
sary of the Pennsylvania Naval Board, 9 May, 1776,
having previously rendered important service on com-
mittees in furthering the war.

Captain Isaac Roach was commissioned second
lieutenant of the ''Hancock," in the Pennsylvania
Navy, 27 October, 1775; promoted first lieutenant of
the "Franklin," 16 February, 1776; and captain of
the "Congress," 28 September the same year. In
April, 1777, he was transferred to the command of
the "Delaware."

Captain Jeremiah Simmons was commissioned first
lieutenant of the "Warren," 19 September, 1775;
became first lieutenant of an artillery company in the
Philadelphia militia, 24 February, 1776, and on 1
October, 1776, was appointed captain of the "Ar-
nold," of the Pennsylvania Navy.

Captain Joseph Stiles was commissary of Military
Stores at Philadelphia, and in 1778 was chosen a
Port Warden.

Captain Lambert Tree who, by his early death was
prevented the opportunity of winning laurels on the
sea during the Revolution, left surviving him a



widow and two sons. He married at Philadelphia, 26
March, 1764, Mrs. Margaret Hamilton, the widow
of Gustavus Hamilton, and daughter of William and
Margaret Donaldson, of Darby near Philadelphia.
William Donaldson was one of the substantial citizens
of Darby, where he appears to have resided as early
as 1719. He held a number of public offices, and was
a landed proprietor; Boone Island, opposite Philadel-
phia, being one of his possessions, a portion of which
he conveyed to James Eouse in 1757. By his wife
Margaret he had a number of sons and daughters, in-
cluding son Arthur Donaldson, a noted man in his
day, who was a ship-builder, civil-engineer, and an
inventor, and a man of large affairs and great public

Previous to the Revolutionary War the wharfage
accommodations of Philadelphia had become much im-
paired by the accumulation of mud, and Arthur Don-
aldson invented a dredging machine for cleaning and
deepening docks, a description of which was given in
the Pennsylvania Magazine of History for 1875. A
committee of the American Philosophical Society, ap-
pointed to examine the machine at work, recommended
an award to the builder of one hundred pounds for
his ingenuity. In 1785 he was granted by the General
Assembly of Pennsylvania the exclusive privilege for
a term of years, of making and using in the Delaware
river this machine for cleaning docks. It was called
* ' The Hippopotamus. ' ' He was also the inventor of a



balance lock, and his inventive abilities secured for him
an offer from Robert Fulton of a partnership in his
steamboat scheme.*

Mr. Donaldson rendered valuable service to the
cause of the patriots in the Revolutionary contest.
On the request of the Pennsylvania Council of Safety,
he built and sunk the famous ''Cheveaux de Frieze"
in the Delaware river at Mud Island below Philadel-
phia, to obstruct the advance of the British by that
route upon the city. The following are some of the
minutes of the Council of Safety on the subject, found
in the Colonial records of Pennsylvania :


Present :

In Committee of Safety,

Philad'a, 13th March, 1776.

John Nixon,f Chairman,
James Biddle,
Owen Biddle,
Robert Whyte,
George Clymer,

* ScharflF and Westcott'a History of Philadelphia, page 2338.
f Colonel John Nixon was the first to read to the public the
Declaration of Independence.



Thomas Wharton, jun'r,
Samuel Howell,
Daniel Eoberdeau,

Resolved, That Arthur Donaldson be employed to
launch the Cheveaux-de-Frieze built at Gloucester, and
that he be fully authorized to procure anything for the
purpose, hire persons under him, on the best and
cheapest terms, and that he draw on this Board for the

Present :

In Committee of Safety,

Phila., 26th of March, 1776.

John Nixon, Chairman,
Owen Biddle,
Jno. Cadwalader,
Alex'r Wilcocks,
Thomas Wharton, jun'r,
Daniel Eoberdeau,
Samuel Howell,
James Biddle,

Resolved, That Mr. 0. Biddle and Mr. Clymer em-
ploy Arthur Donaldson to build two piers to sink, for
fixing the Boom for obstructing the navigation of the
passage at Fort Island.



Present :

In Committee of Safety,

Phil., 6th Apr., 1776.

Geo. Clymer,* Chairman,
James Mease,
Owen Biddle,
Sam'l Howell,
Alex'r Wilcocks,
James Biddle,
Sam'l Morris, jun'r,
Dan'l Eoberdeau.

Resolved, That Capt. Rice and Mr. A. Donaldson
be desired immediately to construct two Chevaux de
Prize, for the purpose of stopping the passage between
the Cheveaux de Prize now sunk, and that they be
made in such form that they may float, when properly
loaded for sinking.

In Committee of Safety,

Phila., 16th July, 1776.

Owen Biddle, Chairman,
George Clymer,
Samuel Howell,
Robert Morris,
Thomas Wharton, jun'r.

Present :

• George Clymer was one of the Signers of the Declaration of



James Biddle,
Alex'r Wilcocks,
James Mease.

Resolved, That Mr. Thomas Penrose and Mr.
Arthur Donaldson be requested, and they are hereby
authorized to fix the two Piers at their proper stations
in the line of the upper Cheveaux de Frize, near Fort
Island, and also to fasten the Boom thereto.

In Council of Safety,

Sept. 21st, 1776

Thomas Wharton, jun'r President,
Samuel Morris, sen'r,
Henry Keppele, jun'r,
James Cannon,
Francis Gurney,
Fred Kuhl,
George Gray,
John Bull,
Timothy Matlack,
John Weitzel,
Joseph Blewer,
John Hubley.
******** Ik-
Resolved, That Capt. Wm. Brown * be appointed

• Captain William Brown was a member of the " Captains of
Ship's Charitable Club."



Commander of the Floating Battery now building by
Mr. Arthur Donaldson.

Ordered, That Capt. Wm. Brown do raise men for
the Floating Battery now building by Mr. Arthur


In the construction of the floating batteries and
Cheveaux de Frize it appears that Arthur Donaldson
most effectively executed his work. Leake in his ' ' Life
and Times of John Lamb," p. 192, inserts a letter
written by Gen. H. Knox to Col. John Lamb, in which
he says that ''the enemy have not yet been able to
raise the Chevauz de Frize at Mud Island."

It also is recorded in the published journals of Col.
James Montresor and his son, Capt. John Montresor,
two able and energetic officers of the Engineer Corps
of Great Britain from 1757 to 1778, that several attacks
were made at the point in the Delaware known as Mud
Island, and that the floating batteries near Philadel-
phia, Oct. 12, 1777, poured upon the British a very
heavy cannonade.

Philadelphia was evacuated by the British June 18,
1778, and Arthur Donaldson's services were in 1784,
after the close of the War, again called into requisition
to remove the floating batteries and other obstructions
which he had constructed in 1776 by order of the Com-
mittee of Safety.

The following are some of the minutes of the Su-
preme Executive Council on the subject, as found in
the Pennsylvania Colonial records :




The Council met, Phil., Mon., May 3rd, 1784.
Present :

His Excellency John Dickinson Esq., President,
The Hon. James Irvine,
George Wall, junior,
John McDowell,
Sebastian Levan,
Stephen Balliott,
Samuel John Atlee,

The following orders were drawn on the treasurer,
to wit:

In favor of Levi Hollingsworth and Arthur Donald-
son, for eleven hundred pounds to be by them applied
in removing or destroying the Cheveaux de Frize in
the river Delaware, to be paid out of the duties which
have arisen by the late Impost laws, according to reso-
lution of the General Assembly dated the twenty-fourth
day of Sept., 1783.


Articles of agreement for removing or destroying
the Cheveaux de Frize in the river Delaware, were this
day signed by his Excellency the President, in behalf
of the Commonwealth, on the one part, and by Arthur
Donaldson and Levi Hollingsworth, on the other part.
And at the same time a bond was executed by the said



Arthur Donaldson and Levi Hollingsworth, for their

1 3 5 6

Online LibraryJosiah Granville LeachSome account of the Tree family and its connections in England and America → online text (page 3 of 6)