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Andrew Doria

 

The anglicized spelling of Andrea Doria, a Genoese patriot, statesman, and admiral. Born at Oneglia (now Imperia) on the Gulf of Genoa, on 30 November 1466 of a well-established Genoese family, Doria lost his parents in early childhood. Forced to shift for himself he became a soldier of fortune and, at different times, served under several popes, the kings of Naples and France, and the Holy Roman Emperor. Although, as a mercenary, he fought under many flags, Doria maintained a constant devotion to Genoa, which lie liberated from France in the autumn of 1528. Thereafter, he served and controlled the city state for the remainder of his life. Widely recognized as the outstanding naval leader of his era, Doria fought the forces afloat of both the Ottoman Sultan and his Barbary vassals. The Genoese recognized his great contribution to their city by granting him the title, Liberator et Pater Patria, "Liberator and Father of our Homeland." After remaining active into his 10th decade, Doria died on 25 November 1560.

 

I

 

(Brigantine: cpl. 112; a. 14 4-pdr.)

 

The first Andrew Doria was a merchant brig whose purchase was authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 October 1775. Acquired by the Marine Committee in mid-November, the brig—whose merchant name seems to have been Defiance—was renamed Andrew Doria, moored in Wharton and Humphreys shipyard, and turned over for conversion to a warship to a trio of men who had won prominence in Philadelphia shipping circles: Joshua Humphreys, who was given charge of strengthening her hull while opening gunports; John Barry, who was to superintend her rerigging; and John Falconer, who was to oversee matters of ordnance and provisioning.

 

Three other merchantmen were also bought by the Marine Committee at about the time that it took possession of Defiance: the ship Black Prince, renamed Alfred; the ship Sally, renamed Columbus; and the brig Sally, renamed Cabot. The committee gave command of this small fleet to Commodore Esek Hopkins, a Rhode Islander who had commanded privateers during the French and Indian war.

 

Hopkins's orders called for him to take his fleet to Chesapeake Bay and, if it did not encounter markedly superior enemy forces there, to clear those waters of British warships and Lord Dunmore's fleet which had been preying upon American shipping and annoying coastal settlements. Upon completing that task, Hopkins was to sail south to render similar service in Carolina waters. If, for any reason, Hopkins found it impractical to carry out the above, he was to use his own judgement in conducting such operations which would be ". . . most useful to the American cause . . . ."

 

Commanded by Capt. Nicholas Biddle, Andrew Doria departed Philadelphia on the afternoon of 4 January 1776 as a warship in Hopkins's small fleet, moved down stream, and came to off Liberty Island (Mud Island) shortly after dusk. During the night, the weather turned bitterly cold, freezing the Delaware River from shore to shore and holding the American ships in the grip of the ice for more than a week. With the first thaw, a fifth warship, the sloop Providence, joined the American fleet. On the 17th, the ships dropped further downstream to Port Penn on the Delaware shore behind Reedy Island where cold weather returned and they were again ice-bound. They remained there until 11 February when Hopkins was able to move them—and the small sloop Fly, which had recently joined the squadron—to Cape Henlopen. There, two vessels from Maryland, the sloop Hornet and the schooner Wasp, completed Hopkins's force.

 

On 17 February, Andrew Doria and her consorts weighed anchor and, leaving the Delaware capes in their wake, stood out to sea. However, by this time, Hopkins had decided to take advantage of the discretion offered him and skip his missions in the Chesapeake and along the coasts of the Carolinas. Instead, he took his fleet to the Bahamas for a raid on the island of New Providence, to seize a large supply of gunpowder reportedly stored in the two forts that protected Nassau. In the event that his vessels became separated during the voyage south, Hopkins ordered his captain to rendezvous off the southern coast of Abaco Island, which they reached on 1 March. As she stood toward Abaco, Alfred captured two small coastal sloops, and Hopkins heard from the prisoners that New Providence lay undefended before him.

 

That intelligence and the prizes that brought it became the heart of the plan of attack against New Providence which was worked out in a conference of officers held on board the flagship later that day. Nassau Harbor lies on the northern coast of New Providence, immediately above Nassau, and was shielded on the northeast by Hog Island, a long, narrow strip of land running east and west roughly parallel to the shore, and on the northwest by a group of small keys.

 

Hopkins planned to take the city by frontal assault, slipping his landing party—which consisted of some 270 sailors and marines—into the harbor hidden on board the captured sloops. It was hoped that the American troops would not be detected until they began to dash ashore to assault Fort Nassau, which protected the harbor and the western approaches to the city. Success in this endeavor would enable the fleet to enter the harbor while the fort's guns, then in American hands, held the town at bay.

 

The marines and sailors embarked in the two prizes on the evening of 2 March and headed for New Providence, hoping to arrive at daybreak. While following the sloops, the fleet attempted to remain out of sight until the landing force had secured the fort. Andrew Doria—popularly referred to as "the Black Brig"—outdistanced her consorts and found it necessary to lay-to until the other American warships caught up.

 

As the troop-carrying sloops headed into the harbor, Fort Nassau's guns opened fire. The shot fell far short, but clearly demonstrated that the American fleet had been detected and that its intentions had been surmised. Hopkins recalled his ships.

 

During another conference of officers on board Alfred, Hopkins decided to land his troops some two miles down the coast from Fort Montague, which protected the eastern approches to Nassau. The fleet rounded the eastern extremity of Hog Island and proceeded to Hanover Sound, where most of the ships anchored. The prize sloops, covered by Wasp and Providence, continued on toward the landing point. The marines and sailors finally went ashore on 3 March and marched to Fort Montague, whose garrison surrendered without offering any real resistance.

 

Hopkins sent the island's governor a message promising respect for persons and property if powder, ordnance, and military stores were surrendered. Unfortunately, he failed to send any of his warships to guard the entrance to Nassau Harbor, and the governor took advantage of this oversight to ship most of the island's gunpowder to safety at St. Augustine, Fla.

 

On 4 March, the Americans took Fort Nassau and the town of Nassau. The fleet remained for almost a fortnight, dismantling the guns of the forts and loading the captured materials of war. During this stay in the hot climate of the Bahamas, large numbers of the crew of each ship were stricken by a virulent fever. This complicated an already serious health problem caused by an outbreak of smallpox on all of the warships but Andrew Doria, whose men had been protected by vaccination due to the far-sighted insistence of Capt. Nicholas Biddle. As a result of their immunization, Andrew Doria was selected to serve as a hospital ship for the fleet and continued in this role for the remainder of the expedition.

 

On the afternoon of the 16th, Hopkins's fleet finally departed Nassau and headed north. During the homeward voyage, Andrew Doria joined Providence in overhauling a schooner which, since she proved to be a South Carolina vessel bound for France, the Americans released to resume her voyage. The next day, Andrew Doria and Fly carried out another wild goose chase pursuing a schooner which proved to be French and thus had to be released.

 

About an hour after midnight on 6 April, a lookout in Andrew Doria's rigging sighted two vessels to the southeast. Biddle passed the word of the discovery to Hopkins who ordered the fleet to head for the strangers. Since the larger ship headed toward the Americans, before long she was within hailing distance and identified herself as ". . . his majesty's ship of war Glasgow . ..." A broadside from Cabot into the British frigate opened a fierce fight in which the American men-of-war were unable to fight as a squadron. In attempting to avoid a salvo from the English frigate, Cabot crossed Andrew Doria's bow, forcing Biddle's brig onto a port tack which avoided a collision but took her away from the action. Meanwhile, Alfred and Columbus, Hopkins's largest warships, took on Glasgow but received worse punishment than they inflicted.

 

Just as Andrew Doria had worked himself into position to reenter the engagement and opened fire, Glasgow's captain, realizing that he was overmatched, stood off to the northward. Andrew Doria, followed at a distance by her consorts, gave chase and kept up a running fight with her bow chasers until recalled by Hopkins, lest Glasgow lead his little fleet into the jaws of the powerful Royal Navy squadron then operating in Rhode Island waters. When the American fleet had reformed, it retired to New London, Conn., where it arrived on the morning of 8 April.

 

Instead of a respite, however, Andrew Doria immediately began preparations to return to sea on a reconnaissance cruise ordered by Hopkins and was ready to sail shortly after mid-afternoon on the day of her arrival. However, light wind, fog, and a grounding kept the brig from reentering the Atlantic until nightfall of 9 April. About midday of the 12th, a cry from aloft reported the sighting of a sail near Montauk Point. After an hour's chase, Andrew Doria pulled abreast of John and Joseph, a schooner originally owned by Nathaniel Shaw of New London, which British frigate Scarborough had captured off the coast of Georgia and which was headed for Halifax, Nova Scotia, under a prize crew. Andrew Doria headed back to New London with the recapture and reached that port on 14 April.

 

While she was in port, "the Black Brig" unloaded the ordnance captured from Nassau and was careened to have her bottom scraped. Meanwhile, Hopkins had sailed with the rest of his fleet to Providence, R.I., and the brig weighed anchor shortly after daybreak on 4 May to rejoin them. She escorted two American merchantmen to a safe offing and then headed for the entrance to Narragansett Bay which she reached the following morning. She sailed up the bay and anchored with the fleet below Providence that afternoon.

 

A week later, Hopkins directed Biddle to prepare his ship for a cruise in company with Cabot. The two ships got underway on 19 May and, on their first night out, were chased by the Royal Navy frigate Cerberus. Their commanding officers having previously agreed to separate in the event of an encounter with a clearly more powerful foe, Cabot turned eastward toward Nan-tucket Shoals while Andrew Doria headed south and within an hour had lost sight of both her consort and their pursuer.

 

On the morning of 21 May, the brig spotted and set out after a large ship which proved to be Two Friends, a sloop laden with sugar rum, molasses, and salt from the Virgin Islands and bound for Liverpool. Biddle placed a prize crew on board the vessel and sent her to Newport which she reached on the 25th and where she was condemned and sold.

 

During ensuing days, Andrew Doria cruised in a northeasterly direction hoping to encounter British transports bringing reinforcements to America for a spring offensive, but encountered nothing until 29 May when a lookout in the maintop called down word of two ships to northward which he could see but not identify in the false dawn. Biddle immediately ordered a pursuit. Two hours later, the brigantine reached hailing distance of her closer adversary, a transport whose otherwise smooth sides were interrupted by seemingly countless gunports from which cannon protruded. Instead of fighting, the strange ship identified herself as the unarmed British transport Oxford, which was bringing troops from Glasgow. She took in her sails and lowered a boat which carried her master to Andrew Doria. The weapons staring from her gunports proved to be wooden dummies. As soon as Oxford's master had come on board his captor, Andrew Doria got underway again after the second ship which she soon overtook and captured without a fight. Identified as the transport Crawford, she and her consort had sailed from Scotland in a convoy which also included 31 other transports who were also carrying soldiers belonging to two Highland regiments. Besides their crews and their troops, each of Andrew Doria's two new prizes also carried the wives and children of some of the Scottish officers and soldiers.

 

After placing prize crews in the transports and bringing all weapons, officers, and navigators from the British ships on board Andrew Doria, the three ships headed westward toward home. The voyage proved to be uneventful for almost a fortnight. Then, on the morning of 11 June, five ships appeared on the horizon, approaching Biddle's little convoy from the northwest. Apparently confronted by a substantially superior force, Biddle again resorted to his old tactics for such a situation—he scattered his ships in the hope that some, if not all, would escape. Crawford sailed off to the southwest and Oxford headed west, while Andrew Doria stood eastward. She never saw her prizes again.

 

The Scottish highlanders in Oxford overpowered the American prize crew and took the ship to Hampton Roads, hoping to be welcomed by Lord Dunmore's Loyalist government of Virginia. When they reached Norfolk, however, they were surprised to find that Dunmore and his Tory followers had abandoned Virginia and withdrawn to Gwynn's Island in the Chesapeake, and were promptly arrested by patriotic officials of Virginia and Oxford again fell into American hands.

 

Crawford, unfortunately, fell prey to the British frigate Cerberus after a day-long chase. After eluding the British ships which had scattered his little convoy, Biddle headed Andrew Doria back toward Narragansett Bay, and the brig reached safety in Newport harbor on 14 June.

 

Ten days later, Biddle headed Andrew Doria out to sea again to escort Fly to New London where they arrived on the afternoon of 26 June. The armed schooner got underway again the next day to deliver the cannon captured at Nassau to New York. Biddle departed himself on 30 June and headed Andrew Doria north toward Cape Sable but saw no other vessel until 11 July when a lookout sighted a large ship to the northeast. The brigantine overhauled the stranger after a brief chase and Biddle learned that this prize was the merchantman Nathaniel and Elizabeth, heavily laden with sugar and rum from Jamaica, bound for London. He put a prize crew on board with orders to take her to the nearest friendly port and then resumed his cruise, ultimately anchoring in Newport harbor on the afternoon of 21 July. Unfortunately, Nathaniel and Elizabeth, Biddle's last prize, ran aground while fleeing from Cerberus and was a total loss.

 

Andrew Doria departed Newport on 10 August in company with Columbus, but after cruising together for more than a week they encountered a British ship-of-the-line and fled in opposite directions, with Andrew Doria headed for waters off Bermuda. Biddle soon came upon a large heavily laden ship and ordered the stranger to "heave to and send your master on board."

 

The prize proved to be Molly, which had belonged to a Jonathan Hudson of Maryland, but had been seized early in the war by Virginia's Governor Dunmore. Commanded by Bridger Goodrich, a member of a large and highly unpopular Norfolk Tory family, Molly had left Hampton Roads carrying some 15,000 bushels of wheat which Dunmore had confiscated from the the plantations of Virginia patriots and was sending to Halifax, Nova Scotia, for the use of royal troops gathering there in preparation for planned offensive operations against New York. Biddle removed Molly's Tory sailors and two slaves and replaced them with a prize crew. Molly reached Philadelphia on 17 September.

 

The day after she took Molly, Andrew Doria captured another vessel belonging to Dunmore's fleet, the brig Maria, with his loyalist followers and their belongings. Four slaves were among the passengers, and Biddle brought them on board his ship before letting the Tory refugees continue their voyage to Bermuda. The following day, the 110-ton merchant brigantine Lawrence fell into Biddle's hands, yielding a cargo of rum, sugar, limes, sea coal, copper, and tinware. Lawrence was soon followed by another 110-ton brigantine, Elizabeth, which was carrying cargo to support the British forces that were invading New York. Both vessels arrived safely at Rhode Island and were tried on 1 October. Soon thereafter, the brig Betsy—another of Dunmore's fleet evacuating Tories from Gwynn's Island— became a prize and, after removing her slaves, Biddle let her proceed. Biddle's next victim—the brig Peggy, bound for St. Augustine, Fla., with more of Dunmore's loyalists—was sent to Providence under a prize crew.

 

From the four of Dumnore's vessels, Biddle had freed 15 slaves. He kept them on board for a few days more, cruising near Bermuda, and then headed for the Delaware capes which he entered on the morning of 17 September. After sailing up Delaware Bay, he anchored at Chester, Pa., that evening.

 

This ended his last cruise in the brigantine, because he had been selected to command Randolph, one of the four new frigates being built at Philadelphia for the Continental Navy. Capt. Isaiah Robinson took command of Andrew Doria, and he took her down the Delaware on 17 October for a voyage to the West Indies to obtain a cargo of munitions and military supplies at St. Eustatius. When she reached that Dutch island on 16 November, Andrew Doria fired a salute of 11 guns and received a reply—the first salute to an American flag on board an American warship in a foreign port.

 

When the brig had loaded her cargo, she got underway for Philadelphia. While sailing past Puerto Rico on her homeward voyage, Andrew Doria fought the Royal Navy's 12-gun sloop of war Racehorse in a two-hour battle which ended when the British warship struck her colors. Robinson placed an American crew on board tne prize with orders to take her to Philadelphia where she arrived early in January 1777. She was purchased by the Continental Navy and renamed Surprize.

 

Andrew Doria also captured the snow Thomas on 12 December, bound from Jamaica with mahogany and logwood; Robinson gave command of her to It. Joshua Barney, who brought Thomas to Chincoteague Inlet on 26 December, only to be retaken by the British frigate Perseus on 12 January 1777.

 

Andrew Doria remained in the Delaware into the spring. On 18 April, Surprize and Fly, and two Pennsylvania Navy row galleys, were ordered to clear the Cape May channel of British frigates and sloops. The following month, Surprize and Columbus were ordered to sail for the West Indies to rendezvous with Biddle's new frigate Randolph at Abaco to prey on the Jamaica fleet. However, since no records of such an operation have been found, we must assume that it never got underway. On 25 August, Andrew Doria, together with the frigate Delaware, ship Champion, sloop Surprize and two Pennsylvania Navy fire ships were ordered to again clear the Cape May channel of British frigates, but this project came to nought.

 

Andrew Doria remained in the Delaware as part of the forces charged with defending Philadelphia after the mighty British fleet under Vice Admiral Lord Howe entered the river in September 1777. Following the British occupation of Fort Mifflin on 16 November 1777, Andrew Doria, with the remaining ships of the Continental Navy, sought shelter under the guns of Fort Mercer, at Red Bank, N. J. With the evacuation of Fort Mercer on 20 November, Capt. Robinson gave orders on 21 November for the ships to be burned to prevent capture. This was done shortly thereafter.

 

 

Andrew Doria receives a salute from the Dutch fort at St. Eustatius, 16 November 1776, the first rendered to the American flag by a foreign power, as depicted in this painting by Philips Melville. (NH 92866-KN)


15 August 2005