Man O War Blown To Bits

Running around in the heat of a
Revolutionary War battle leads
to disaster for the HMS Augusta

From the diary of Robert Morton, 23rd [October] - 5th day of the Week [1778]

This morning 2 of the British ships moved nearer to the fort in order to do more execution than they have yet been able to do, - After the British Batteries erected on Province Island and the British ships had been firing near 6 hours at the Mud Island Fort - The [frigate] Augusta a near 64 Gunship by some means other caught fire, burnt near 3 hours and then blew up, and the Zebara [correction: HMS Merlin] a 16 gun sloop likewise caught fire and about 3 o'clock in the afternoon likewise blew up; to the great amazement of the inhabitants, and the disappointment of the soldiery, who having a number of troops embarked ready to storm the fort, which in all probability would have surrendered in one hald an hour, and the besieged fallen victims to their vengeance.

In a letter to Philadelphia and U.S. ambassador to France, Benjamin Franklin (in Paris), May 16, 1778 from American Revolutionary Thomas Paine

On the road between Germantown and Whitemarsh we were stunned with a report as loud as a peal of a hundred cannon at once, and turning round I saw a thick smoke rising like a pillar and spreading from the top like a tree. This was the blowing up of the Augusta.

From the journal of British military engineer Captain John Montresor, Ocotober 23, 1777

Before the Explosion of the Augustas Powder Magazine which was at 1/2 past 10 A.M. many of the seamen jumped overboard apprehending it, some were taken up by our ships boats, but the Chaplain, one Lieutenant and 60 men perished in the water. The Augusta has got around but not on the Chevaux de frises [underwater river defenses] as did the Merlin sloop of war but nearer the Jersey shore.

In a letter from American cavalry officer Captain Henry Lee to George Washington, November 3, 1777

The ships blown up the other day were the Augusta & Merlin sloop of 18 guns. The Augusta took fire from her own cannonading, one Lt., chaplain & forty privates perished in the explosion. The Merilin being fast on ground was set fire to, by order.

From John Miller, a Germantown, Pennsylvania printer, October 23, 1777

10 Minutes past 12 a Violent Shock that shook the Earth & about 20 Minutes after Another Shock not quite so Violent.

From Hugh Smyth, Continental Postmaster

The shock was felt at campt; several windows were exploded....Headquarters are 16 miles from Philadelphia on the old York Road.

All images created and produced by Cannonball Press, Brooklyn, NY