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14-gun Continental Navy brig CABOT, 1775

The second vessel authorized by Congress for the salt-water Continental Navy 1 November 1775 was the 14-gun [2-masted] brig Cabot, (formerly a Maryland-owned merchant brig, Sally, that was likely in the Caribbean trade for sugar, molasses, rum, coffee, ginger, chocolate, and mahogany). Cabot, was named after Genoese/Italian explorer Giovanni Caboto, who sailed from England to Newfoundland in 1496. Commanded by Commander John Burroughs Hopkins of Rhode Island in 1776 (he was the nephew of Rhode Island former elected Governor Stephen Hopkins, who founded the Continental Congress in 1774 and the Continental Navy in October 1775, and son of Commodore Esek Hopkins, first commander-in-chief of the Navy), she was one of eight ships that took part in the March 1776 raid on Nassau in the Bahamas, the first fleet operation of the Continental Navy. Being small enough to get in close to the beach, she likely helped land the Continental Marines in their first-ever amphibious landing there. Near the end of the fleet’s return to New England, she took part in the night-time combat with the 20/24-gun British frigate Glasgow off Rhode Island on 8 April 1776, a battle in which things went rather poorly for the inexperienced Americans, and the frigate escaped in spite of overwhelming American fire-power.

The Brig-Riggrd Ship Cabot

Hopkins having been promoted to captain of a larger ship, Cabot was turned over to Commander Joseph Olney of Rhode Island in 1777. Olney’s ambitious but achievable scheme to capture the 28-gun British frigate Milford went wrong when two Massachusetts Navy brigs, supposedly assisting Cabot, fled the scene without firing a shot. That left the diminutive brig alone to face the wrath of the frigate, so Olney ran her on shore near Yarmouth, Nova Scotia on 26 March 1777. She was the first Continental Navy warship to be captured, but the crew all escaped. She was taken into the Royal Navy, and because she was particularly fast she was intended to carry dispatches. As such, she took part in the Battle of Dogger Bank against the Dutch in the North Sea on 5 August 1781. Two eye-witness portraits of her exist: an oil painting in England of the Battle of Dogger Bank, and a watercolor by Randle in Canada. She measured about 65 feet (20 metres) long on deck and 21 feet beam.

Colonial Navy Inc. (non-profit, tax-exempt) plans to build a full-sized operational copy of Cabot to take part in a year-round sail-training program with several other historic ship copies. She will be built of cold-molded wood-epoxy laminates for strength and longevity. Now that the 250th anniversary of American independence is around the corner, it is the right moment to get Cabot sailing again and seen by as many people as possible. Our Project Director is John Millar, who built the full-sized operational copies of the 24-gun frigate Rose and the 12-gun sloop Providence, so he is the right person to supervise this new ship. Cabot and Providence are identical in size. Contributions, which are tax-deductible, may be sent to Colonial Navy Inc., 710 South Henry Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, 23185-4113. Please designate Cabot.

Colonial Navy Inc.’s historic ship line-up: ships Batchelors Delight, General Pickering; barque Surprise; brigs Tartar, Cabot, Andrew Doria; schooner* Royal Savage; ketch Thunder;* sloop Enterprise; cutter Dolphin.

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