Thomas Lynch was born in St. James Parish, Berkeley County, S.C., in 1727. He served in the Colonial Legislature of South Carolina and represented the Colony in the Stamp Act Congress, heading the committee which drafted the petition to the House of Commons. Elected to both the First and Second Continental Congresses, Lynch joined Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Harrison on a committee sent to Cambridge, Mass., to confer with General Washington upon “the most effectual method of continning, supporting, and regulating the Continental Army.” In the ensuing discussions, Washington told the committee of his plan to arm ships to prey upon British supply lines. The gentlemen from Congress approved of the scheme and recommended it to Congress, thus giving essential political support to the establishment of “George Washington’s Navy,” the first organized naval force of the new Nation.
William Francis Lynch was born in Norfolk, Va., 1 April 1801. He was appointed a midshipman 26 January 1819, and first saw service in Congress and next in U.S. schooner Shark under Lt. Mathew Perry. Subsequent service included duty with Commodore Porter’s “Mosquito Squadron” in the West Indies and in the Mediterranean.
Lieutenant Lynch had his first command, the Poinsett, from 3 March to 30 December 1839. In 1947, he proceeded to the Sea of Galilee, dragging overland two copper hulled boats and sailed down the Jordan River despite both hostile Arab tribesmen and hazardous rapids. His expedition ended with the successful exploration of the Dead Sea.
In 1849 he was commissioned commander and in 1850 was promoted to captain. In 1852, he requested permission to explore the interior of Africa for purposes of possible colonization. In his exploration in west central Africa, he caught a fever, and was forced to return to the United States.
On 21 April 1861, he resigned from the U.S. Navy. He was initially appointed captain in the Virginia Navy and on 10 June 1861, captain in the Confederate States Navy. He commanded naval batteries at Aquia Creek, Va., during their shelling by Union gunboats in May 1861, was in charge of the defense of Roanoake Island in February 1862, and led Confederate naval forces at Vicksburg from March to October 1862. Later in command of ships in North Carolina waters, he commanded southern forces during the Union attack on Fort Fisher, N.C., in December 1864 and January 1865.
After the defeat of the Confederacy, he was paroled 3 May 1865 in Richmond. He died in Baltimore on 17 October of the same year.
(Sch: a. 2 4‑pdrs., 2 2‑pdrs., 4 swivels)
The first Lynch, a fishing schooner chartered by order of General Washington 26 January 1776 from Col. John Lee of Marblehead, Mass., was commissioned 1 February 1776 at Manchester, N.H., Comdr. John Ayers in command.
Lynch eluded fire from HMS Fowey when she sailed 7 February 1776 from Manchester to fit out at Beverly, Mass. Shortly after midnight 2 March, Lynch slipped out of Beverly and dodged Fowey and Nautilus to make her way to rendezvous in Cape Ann Harbor with three other ships in the little American fleet commanded by Commodore John Manley.
On the night of the 4th, Manley’s schooners drove off British brig Hope in a spirited engagement. The next day they took their first prize, Susannah, a 300‑ton English merchantman laden with coal, cheese, and porter for General Howe’s beleaguered army in Boston. After escorting their prize to Portsmouth, Manley’s squadron returned to Cape Ann, where on the 10th he captured a second prize, Boston‑bound transport Stokesby, a 300‑ton ship carrying porter, cheese, vinegar, and hops. Lynch and the others escorted the prize toward Gloucester, but Stokesby ran hard aground. After much of the prize’s cargo had been removed, British brig Hope arrived and put the torch to the hulk.
While Manley’s squadron was at Gloucester, General Howe evacuated Boston and Washington ordered his ships to dog the British fleet and pounce upon any stragglers. The patriot schooners departed Gloucester 21 March and sighted a merchant brig off Boston Light that afternoon. They chased their prey and by evening were close enough to open fire. Their quarry then hove to, but two English men‑of‑war, Savage and Diligent, arrived to compel the American schooners to abandon their prize.
Soon afterwards, Manley divided his fleet, keeping Lynch and Lee with his flagship Hancock. On the afternoon of 2 April they sighted brig Elizabeth. This prize, an American vessel captured by the British the previous October, was full of loot plundered from the warehouses of patriot merchants just before the evacuation of Boston, and carried a goodly number of Tory refugees. Many of the Tories were transferred to Lee, their leaders were taken on board Hancock, and the captive crew was imprisoned in Lynch, which accompanied Hancock to Portsmouth, arriving 4 April to refit and recruit.
Underway again 13 May, Lynch joined Lee and Warren in Cape Ann Harbor. A fortnight later HMS Milford pursued the schooners but they escaped in the fog. On 7 June they captured British transport Anne carrying a light infantry company of the 71st Highland Regiment and some twoscore British tars sent out as fleet replacements. The Highlanders were transferred to Lynch and taken to Plymouth.
Cruising the New England coast through the summer, on 26 August Lynch and Warren encountered British frigate Liverpool and scurried away in opposite directions. Warren was captured while Lynch escaped and a few days later reached Boston. Lynch next cruised athwart the transatlantic shipping lanes. On 27 September she ran across a fleet of 120 sail bringing a division of Hessians to reinforce General Howe. Frigate HMS Unicorn peeled off the convoy and chased the schooner. Lynch only managed to escape by jettisoning her guns and water, enabling her to stay out of range until darkness allowed her to slip away. The schooner was laid up after reaching Boston.
Late in February 1777 Lynch was reactivated to take important dispatches to France. Under command of Capt. John Adams, she got underway from Boston 3 March and reached Nantes 2 April with valuable intelligence for the American Commissioners at Paris. On 19 May, while trying to slip away from the French coast, Lynch, again carrying important secret documents as well as arms and clothing for the American Army, was intercepted by British ship‑of‑the‑line Feudroyant south of Belle Isle. Unable to escape, Adams was captured before he could run the schooner aground, but he did manage to sink the dispatches. Feudroyant took her prize to England, arriving Plymouth 23 May.