Prizes taken by the Privateer Schooner "Hannah and Molley", Agreen Crabtree, Master

I have identified twelve prizes captured by Capt. Crabtree in the HANNAH AND MOLLEY. The information comes primarilly from notices and descriptions printed in contemporary newspapers. By law, every enemy vessel brought into a Massachusetts port had to be "libelled" before the Court of Admiralty, where a trial would be helt to rule upon the legality of the capture. For several weeks before the trial date, the libel notice would appear in several regional newspapers so that anyone with an interest in the captured vessel or its cargo, could put foreward any claims they might have.

A published libel followed a standard form. The following is an example taken from the Boston Gazette, 11 November 1776:

State of Massachusetts Bay Maritime Court, Eastern District

To whom it may concern

Libels are filed before me, in behalf of the owners of, and the officers, marines, and men on board the private armed schooner HANNAH & MOLLEY, against the schooner BRITANNIA, burthen about 40 tons, Jonathan Baker late Master -- against the schooner BETSEY, burthen about 30 tons, Bartlett Bradford late Master, and their several cargoes and appurtenances, which vessels are said to be the property of some subjects of the King of Great-Britain, and taken and brought to said Eastern District. And for the trial of the justices of said captures, a Maritime Court will be held in the east Precinct of Pownalborough, on thursday the fourteenth day of November, 1776, at the hour of ten in the forenoon, when all persons that are in any way concerned in the said vessels, or either of them, may appear and shew cause, (if any they have) why the same vessels, or either of them, should not be condemned.

TIM. LANGDON, Judge of sd Court.


compiled by John J. Hartwell ( Comments, questions, additions and corrections invited.



Two unnamed sloops taken "off the grand passage" mentioned in Crabtree's application for a privateer's commission as already siezed. This was strictly speaking an act of piracy, a fact that was overlooked at the time. One of these is mentioned in the Portsmouth (N.H.) Freeman's Journal (13 July 1776) reports: "Wednesday last was bro't into Falmouth, by Capt. Crabtree, a sloop from Annapolis Royal bound to Halifax, taken off the Grand Passage, loaden with lumber, Hand Spikes, Butter, Cheese, Potatoes, etc." No libels or other accounts found.


Brigantine ROYAL GEORGE, Dennis Doyle, Master. 100 tons burthen. Taken August 31st, jointly by HANNAH & MOLLEY and the sloop DOLPHIN (Capt. Samuel Waters, Salem), and brought into Gouldsborough. Ten weeks out of waterford, "Ireland, bound for Halifax, ... She parted Company with 12 other Provision Vessels the Day on which she was taken.(N.H.Gazette, 14 Sept.1776). A provision vessel for the British army, cargo consisted of "200 tierces of pork, 231 barrels of beef, 270 firkins of butter, 25 sacks split peas, 24 boxes candels, 30 boxes of soap, 20 barrels pork."(Boston Gazette, 30 Sept.). Libelled at Pownalborough, 15 October. Vessel and cargo both sold by auction at Salem on Nov. 27th. (Boston Independant Chronicle, 21 Nov.) This is Crabtree's largest and most profitable prize. (NOTE: Sloop DOLPHIN, Capt. Samuel Waters of Salem, 8 swivels, 25 men. Burned by her crew at the time of the Bagaduce campaign, 1779)


Schooner BRITANNIA, Jonathan Baker, Master. Burthen 40 tons. Taken off Yarmouth, N. S. 20 September. Libelled 14 Nov. (with BETSEY and PEGGY, see below, though not taken at the same time). Prize was duly condemned and sold with cargo, but Isaac Smith of Boston appealed the decision to the Mass. Supreme Judicial Court (File 137542, contains 17 documents). He claims to have been 5/6th owner of the vessel. Found in his favor, therefore the entire cargo but only 1/6th of vessel was condemned. Crabtree ordered to reimburse Smith 50 pounds.

Vessels taken in Port Medway (Liverpool) raid of 26 Nov. (see XXX):

Sloop PEGGY, Bartlett Bradford, Master. Burther 45 tons, loaded with hay.

Brig BELLA, - Smith, Master. Loaded with timber. Later retaken by a British cruiser.

Ship (unnamed), - Austin, Master. Plundered of guns, sails, and cargo, but not taken off.

Schooner BETSEY, Robert Foster, Master. Burthen 30 tons. Taken the next day (Sept. 27) off Bear Island (Liverpool). Foster was badly wounded in the fight.


Sloop POLLY, Samuel Hall, Master. Burthen 30 tons. Taken 4 Feb. in Bucks Harbor. Cargo, salt. Libelled and condemned, 1 April. Appealed to the SJC (File #139761). Ordered released. A document in the appeal file names six members of HANNAH & MOLLEY's crew: Isaac Gilpatrick, Oliver Wooster, Samuel Rogers, Zebulun Rowe, Carpenter Bradford, and David Jenkes.

For much of the latter part of the year, HANNAH & MOLLEY sailed under orders from the Mass. Board of War. Cruising and carrying supplies to military posts in Maine (Especially Machias). (See XXXX.)

Schooner RESOLUTION, John Long, Master. 15 tons burthen. Taken in Passamaquoddy Bay sometime in early October, "with dispatches for the enemy" (Diary of John Allen). Long was a well-known "disaffected person", often in trouble for trading with the enemy. Arrested, he escaped from Falmouth gaol, and took up privateering for the British. He later received a Loyalist Grant. Libelled 25 Feb. 1778, at Pownalborough.

Schooner MAYFLOWER, John English, Master. Taken 21 October off St. Johns (N.B.). Libelled and condemned, but ordered released after appeal (SJC file # ) -- English found to have been using the vessel to bring his family from Nova Scotia to Mass., not for trade.


Schooner MAYFLOWER, William Graves, Master. Burthen 15 tons. Date and location of capture unknown. Libel first published 27 April, to be held 6 May (postponed later to 23 June).

No further prizes identified, though there may have been others. As Royal Navy patrolling of the Eastward increased, it became more and more difficult for the small Maine privateers. Crabtree probably "retired" from service.