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Captain Mugford

From Diary of the American Revolution, Vol I. Compiled by Frank Moore and published in 1859.

May 23. –Last Friday, the Continental armed schooner, Franklin, commanded by Captain Mugford, in sight of the British men-of-war, took, and carried into Boston, a ship from England, about three hundred tons burden, mounted with six carriage guns.

The enemy, intolerably vexed and chagrined that the prize should be taken and unloaded in their open view, formed a design of wreaking their vengeance on Captain Mugford. The Sunday following, he, in company with Captain Cunningham, in the Lady Washington, a small privateer armed with swivels, blunderbusses, and muskets, fell down from Boston in order to go out in the bay. The enemy, observing their sailing, fitted out a fleet of boats for the purpose of surprising and taking them in the night; and the Franklin’s running aground in the gut gave them a good opportunity of executing their plan.

The Lady Washington came to anchor near Captain Mugford; and between nine and ten o’clock he discovered a number of boats, which he hailed, and received for answer that they were from Boston. He ordered them to keep off, or he would fire upon them. They begged him, for God’s sake, not to fire, for they were going on board him! Captain Mugford instantly fired, and was followed by all his men, and cutting his cable, brought his broadside to bear, when he discharged his cannon loaded with musket balls, directly in upon them. Before the cannon could be charged a second time, two or three boats were alongside, each of them supposed to have as many men as the Franklin on board–which had only twenty-one, including officers. By the best accounts they were not less than thirteen boats in all, many of them armed with swivels, and having on board, at the lowest computation, about two hundred men.

Captain Mugford and his men plied those alongside so closely with firearms and spears, and with such intrepidity, rapidity, and success, that two boats were soon sunk, and all the men either killed or drowned. But while the heroic Mugford, with outstretched arms, was righteously dealing death and destruction to our base and unnatural enemies, he received a fatal ball in the body, which in a few minutes put a period to his life, from which, had it been spared, his oppressed country would undoubtedly have reaped very eminent advantages.

After our brave men had maintained this unequal contest for about half an hour, the enemy thought proper to retire. The carnage among them must have been great, for besides the two boat loads killed and drowned, many were doubtless killed and wounded on board the others. Great execution was done by the spears. One man, with that weapon, is positive of having killed nine of the enemy!

The number of the boats which attacked the Franklin was about eight or nine. The remainder, to the number of four or five, at the same time attacked Captain Cunningham in the Lady Washington, who then had on board only six men besides himself. This brave little company gave the boats such a warm reception that they were soon glad to give over the contest, after suffering, it is thought, considerable loss.1

 

1 Pennsylvania Evening Post, June 1; another account in the same paper, of May 28: –Last Saturday night, (May 18,) the brave Captain Mugford, commander of the armed schooner Franklin, after seeing his prize safe in Boston harbor, was going out again, but the tide making against him, he came to anchor off Pudding Gut Point. The next morning, by daybreak, the sentry saw thirteen boats from the men-of-war making for them. They got ready to receive them before they could board the schooner; she sunk five of the boats, and the remainder attempting to board, they cut several of the crews’ hands off as they laid them over the gunwale. The brave Captain Mugford making a blow at the people in the boats with a cutlass, received a wound in the breast, on which he called his lieutenant, and said, “I am a dead man; don’t give up the vessel; you will be able to beat them; if not, cut the cable and run her on shore,” and then expired in a few minutes. The lieutenant then ran her on shore, and the boats made off. The men that were taken up from the boats that sunk, say they lost at least seventy men. The schooner had but one man killed besides the captain.

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