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14-gun Revolutionary War Salem Privateer Corvette GENERAL PICKERING, 1778

Captain Jonathan Haraden (1744-1803), who had previously served as lieutenant and then captain of the Massachusetts Navy sloop Tyrannicide, took command of the Salem, Massachusetts 14-gun letter-of-marque [3-masted] ship General Pickering in 1778, about the same size as Tyrannicide; a letter-of-marque was a ship used primarily as a merchant ship, but had special permission from the court to behave as a privateer when occasion offered. She was a corvette or mini-frigate. Over the next few years, Haraden carried many lucrative cargoes (bringing back weapons and cognac brandy from France, and further weapons, molasses, sugar, rum, ginger, and chocolate from the Caribbean), and he captured numerous enemy merchant ships, making himself and his ship’s owners wealthy. He had many lucky escapes from larger warships and privateers. One of the latter, Achilles, was a large former British East Indiaman of about 36 heavy guns that he encountered in June 1780 along the Biscay coast of Spain, after he had just sent a rich prize into a Spanish port. Hundreds of spectator craft came out to watch the coming battle. When Haraden ran out of cannonballs, he took crowbars from the cargo and fired them at the enemy. Achilles, surprised and much damaged in her rigging, broke off the engagement. General Pickering’s owners gratefully presented Haraden with a silver hot-chocolate pot and a pair of silver canns, each engraved with a clear portrait of the brave little ship, made by Boston silversmith Benjamin Burt. The silver is now in the collections of the Peabody-Essex Museum in Salem. Alas, her luck did not hold for ever: General Pickering and one of her flotillas of prizes were captured by Admiral Rodney’s fleet when they sailed unsuspectingly into the Dutch Caribbean port of Sint Eustatius (Statia) that Rodney had taken on 3 February 1781 before the Dutch even knew that war had been declared. She was not taken into the Royal Navy, and no record has been found of her subsequent career. Haraden was released, and successfully commanded the privateer Julius Caesar, a new sister-ship of General Pickering. She measured about 65 feet (20 metres) length on deck and 21 feet beam.

The Ship General Pickering

Colonial Navy Inc. (non-profit, tax-exempt) plans to build a full-sized operational copy of General Pickering to take part in a year-round sail-training program with several other historic ship copies. She is to be built of cold-molded wood-epoxy laminates for strength and longevity. With the 250th anniversary of American independence around the corner, it is the right time to get General Pickering sailing again and seen by as many people as possible. Among the historic ports that the ship will visit are Salem and Sint Eustatius. 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. Contributions, which are tax-deductible, may be sent to Colonial Navy Inc., 710 South Henry Street, Williamsburg, Virginia, 23185-4113. Please designate General Pickering.

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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