Sunday, January 27, 2019

"MURDERED By The King’s Troops" - The Looting of Lexington Dead and Wounded After the Battle

Last week, we discussed the lack of haversacks amongst Massachusetts militia in 1775.  During our discussion, we referenced the Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Massachusetts Bay. These legislative records are available online and are a treasure trove of information. 

Not surprisingly, the records contain claims submitted in 1775 and 1776 for arms and equipment lost or damaged during the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

As we reviewed the legislature’s response to these petitions, we discovered several claims from Lexington militia men or their family asserting that in the aftermath of the battle, British troops looted the dead and wounded of their arms and equipment.

For example, John Tidd asserted “on the 19th of April he received a wound in the head (by a Cutlass) from the enemy, which brought him (senceless) to the ground at wch time they took from him his gun, cartridge box, powder horn &c.” Thomas Winship, who was wounded in the engagement, sought compensation for a “sum of one pound for shilling sinfull for a gun lost in the Battle of Lexington.” 

Lucy Parker submitted a claim on behalf of her deceased husband, Jonas Parker. In her appeal, she listed “a musquet, &c. Taken from her husband.” 
Jonathan Muzzy submitted a petition on behalf of his son who was killed in the engagement. In his application, he listed “a gun, powder horn, &c. Taken from his son.” Another father, Moses Harrington, noted that “his son Caleb Harrington was MURDERED by the King’s troops, had his gun taken by said troops, valued at £3.” 

Of course, it should be noted that the claims we found were not limited to the dead and wounded. Fifty-four-year-old militiaman Marrett Munroe asserted he had “a gun & hat taken from him.” Munroe was not injured during the battle so we suspect he may have lost or discarded these items as he fled off the town common. 

Lieutenant William Tidd, who also escaped the engagement unharmed, submitted a petition asserting his “losses by the Kings troops on the 19th of April 1775 … [included] ... a musket cut as under &c.” In a deposition years later, Tidd recalled being chased from the green by an officer on horseback. He claimed “I found I could not escape him, unless I left the road. Therefore I sprang over a pair of bars, made a stand and discharged my gun at him; upon which he immediately turned to the main body, which shortly after took up their march for Concord.” 

It is possible Tidd lost his possessions as he hurdled over the fence. As for the “musket cut as under”, this appears to be a reference to a damaged gun.  Whether this occurred at the battle or later in the day is unknown. 

Benjamin Wellington, who was captured by an advance British patrol prior to the Battle of Lexington, also submitted a claim for property taken from him. As the milita man reported, a “gun, bayonet, &c.” were stolen from him after he was detained.

So why were British soldiers seizing Lexington arms and equipment? Lieutenant Colonel Smith in his official report to General Gage noted one of the purposes of the light infantry advancing on Captain Parker’s Company was “to have secured their arms.” Similarly, Major Pitcairn ordered his troops to “not to fire, but surround and disarm them.” So it is likely the soldiers were simply following orders to disarm the militiamen they encountered.

A more plausible explanation is that the light infantry simply wanted to remove any potential threat by disarming those militiamen, dead or alive, who remained on the field as well as collect any weapons and accoutrements that were abandoned during the fight.

Of course, on a slightly related note, the nerds are excited to have found these claims as they collectively represent yet another snapshot of Captain Parker’s Company at the Battle of Lexington. For several years we have asserted that the town's militia was not sparsely armed and equipped and took the field prepared for a military campaign. 

These legislative records are yet another step closer to proving this theory.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

“Bread and Provisions on a March" - Why Massachusetts Militia Companies Did Not Carry Haversacks on the Eve of the American Revolution

Since 2000, the nerds have repeatedly witnessed individuals assert that haversacks were commonly worn by Massachusetts militia and minute companies when they fielded against British forces on April 19, 1775. The two most common arguments advanced have been militia and minutemen were in possession of haversacks because they were previously issued to Massachusetts troops during the French and Indian War and the item was acquired on the eve of the American Revolution from a third party source.

Unfortunately, neither argument is valid.

To begin with, what was a haversack? According to Bennet Cuthbertson, author of Cuthbertson’s System for the Complete Interior Management and Economy of a Battalion of Infantry, a haversack was made of “strong, coarÅ¿e, grey linen” and carried a soldier’s “bread and provisions on a March.”

During King George’s War and the French and Indian War, Massachusetts troops received a variety of military supplies from both His Majesty as well as the colony itself. While British supply records are silent on the issue, a search of the Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Massachusetts Bay, between 1741 and 1764 reveals a single instance in which the Massachusetts legislature authorized the colony to issue haversacks to provincial troops. Specifically, in 1761, the colony ordered “the commissary general … to provide for each of said soldiers one haversack and one wooden bottle containing about three pints, also a large hatchet to every ten men, and a tin kettle containing about two gallons to every six men in each of said regiments.” 

Cuthbertson noted that this item was “always issued as part of the Camp-equipage” and was considered regimental and not individual property. Thus, at the end of a campaign season, it would have been returned to the regimental or government stores. While in storage it was likely the bags would have rotted, been eaten by rats or other vermin, or been disposed of at the end of the campaign season

We asked noted historian and expert tailor Henry Cooke about his thoughts on the issue. As Mr. Cooke noted, haversacks were typically issued on an as-needed basis. He also pointed out that haversacks were only issued to troops who were on the move. If a soldier was located at a fixed position, for example as part of a garrison, there would be no need for a haversack to be issued.

Interestingly enough, in 1761 the theater of war had shifted from North America to the Caribbean. As a result, most, if not all Massachusetts provincial troops were stationed at fortifications in Nova Scotia and New York and did not participate in military campaigns. As a result, it is unlikely haversacks ever made their way into soldiers’ hands and instead remained in storage.

However, for argument’s sake, assuming haversacks were brought home by provincial soldiers at the conclusion of military service, why does the item not appear in Massachusetts estate inventories between 1761 and 1783?

Probate records comprise all materials related to a deceased’s estate. Documents often found in probate records include wills, administration accounts, and estate inventories. Of these documents, estate inventories are often the most significant as it lists a person’s possessions at death and their rated or fair market value. Interestingly, estate inventories from 18th Century Middlesex, Essex and Norfolk Counties reveals extensive information about male clothing and their worldly possessions, but yield no information about haversacks. For example, the inventory of the estate of Samuel Jones describes in detail a wide array of personal items, including one hat, three coats, five breeches, over eight shirts and seven pairs of stockings. However, a haversack was noticeably absent from the inventory list. Similarly, a review of William Wilson estate details a wide array of personal items and belongings, including “one staffe….one gun”, but fails to reference a haversack. The inventory list of Job Brooks went to great length to identify his worldly belongings and included references to insignificant items such as a hat case and garters. Unfortunately, a haversack was never identified amongst his personal clothing. Finally, the estate inventory of Captain John Parker of Lexington describes several military items, including a knapsack and powder horns but makes no reference to haversacks.

A second common argument advanced is that haversacks could have been acquired from a commercial vendor or a third party. Unfortunately, this argument is not supported by existing documentation. A review of Boston, Salem and Newburyport newspaper advertisements on the eve of the American Revolution yields no examples of haversacks being offered by commercial merchants. Furthermore,, Massachusetts runaway descriptions that appeared in colonial newspapers between 1760 and 1776 make no reference to males wearing or carrying haversacks.

Is it possible that local towns or the Committee of Supplies provided its militia and minute companies with haversacks? Between October 1774 and April 1775, Massachusetts was in full wartime preparation mode. Towns and villages, as well as the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, scrambled to supply its minute and militia companies with muskets, cartridge boxes, bayonets, belting, blankets and canteens. Conspicuously absent from this list of supplies were haversacks.

The strongest evidence demonstrating that haversacks were not utilized by Massachusetts minute and militia companies in 1775 are the claims for lost property following the Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Battle of Bunker Hill. Militiamen submitted a wide array of compensation claims for items lost during both of these engagements. The list of discarded property included knapsacks, guns, shirts, coats, canteens, neckerchiefs and even shoe buckles. To date, we have not encountered a single claim for a lost haversack.

Given the above, it is fair to conclude that haversacks never made their way into the ranks of Massachusetts militia and minute companies on the eve of the Battles of Lexington and Concord.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"I am as you are" - Newburyport Street Justice During the Stamp Act Crisis

Following the conclusion of the French and Indian War, England recognized the harsh realities of its post-war debt. By January 5, 1763, Britain’s funded debt was a staggering £122,603,336 with an annual interest of £4,409,797. A year later, the debt was almost £7,000,000 larger and by January of 1767, it had increased yet another £7,000,000.

After reviewing the state of Britain’s finances, Chancellor of Exchequer, George Grenville, concluded that the American colonies had benefited greatly from the protection of the Crown while contributing very little in taxes. At the same time, Grenville pointed out, an active smuggling trade coupled with massive colonial customs mismanagement, particularly in the New England region, had led to an annual £6,000 deficit in duties collected in American ports. Accordingly, he suggested that a direct tax be levied on the American colonies in order to generate additional revenue.

The first two revenue-raising measures that Great Britain imposed on her American colonies were the Sugar Act of 1764 and the Stamp Act of 1765. The Sugar Act established tariffs on colonial trading and also attempted to curb the American practice of smuggling sugar and molasses from the West Indies by placing a three pence per gallon tax on foreign molasses. The act established a list of “enumerated goods” that could be shipped only to England, including lumber, and set forth procedures for the accounting, loading and unloading of cargo in port. Violations of the act were prosecuted in a vice-admiralty court, where defendants would be denied the right to a jury trial and where the presumption was of guilt rather than innocence.

The second revenue-raising measure was the Stamp Act, which levied an unprecedented direct tax on almost every piece of public paper in the colonies. Newspapers, almanacs, deeds, wills, custom documents, even playing cards were among the many papers subjected to the tax. The Stamp Act went so far as to impose a tax upon tax receipts.

The Sugar and Stamp acts brought on an explosion of riots, boycotts and protests throughout the colonies, particularly in Massachusetts. At first, the colony’s response was peaceful, with the inhabitants merely boycotting certain goods. However, resistance soon became violent. It began on August 14, 1765 with an effigy of Andrew Oliver, an appointed stamp distributor, being hung from a “liberty tree” in plain view by the “sons of liberty.” That evening, the Oliver’s luxurious home was burned to the ground. The following evening, incited by a rumor that he supported the Stamp Act, the home of Thomas Hutchinson, Lieutenant Governor of the colony, was surrounded by an unruly mob. When Hutchinson refused to accede to the demand that he come out and explain his position, the mob broke several windows and then dispersed. Two weeks later, on August 28, 1765, an even larger mob assembled and descended upon the homes of several individuals suspected of favoring the Stamp Act, including again that of the Lieutenant Governor. As Hutchinson later described it, “the hellish crew fell upon my house with the rage of divels and in a moment with axes split down the door and entered. My son heard them cry ‘damn him he is upstairs we’ll have him.’ Some ran immediately as high as the top of the house, others filled the rooms below and cellars and others remained without the house to be employed there. I was obliged to retire thro yards and gardens to a house more remote where I remained until 4 o’clock by which time one of the best finished houses in the Province had nothing remaining but the bare walls and floors.”

Of course, mob violence was not limited to just Boston. Weeks after the riots, the violence spread northward to Newburyport and as Joshua Coffin described in his work A Sketch of the History of Newbury, Newburyport, and West Newbury, from 1635 to 1845, the seaport community instituted its own brand of street justice.

In late September, Newburyport officials declared “the late act of parliament is very grievous, and that this town as much as in them lies endeavour the repeal of the same in all lawful ways, and that it is the desire of the town that no man in it will accept of the office of distributing the stampt papers, as he regards the displeasure of the town and that they will deem the person accepting of such office an enemy to his country.” However, when an unknown Newburyport resident disregarded the town’s warning and accepted an appointment as a “stamp distributor”, an angry mob quickly mobilized.

According to Coffin, the crowd immediately started a campaign of intimidation against the stamp distributor. “In Newburyport, the effigy a Mr. I— B—, who had accepted the office of stamp distributor, was suspended, September twenty-fifth and twenty-sixth, from a large elm tree which stood in Mr. Jonathan Greenleaf's yard, at the foot of King street, [now Federal street], a collection of tar barrels set on fire, the rope cut, and the image dropped into the flames. At ten o'clock, P. M., all the bells in town were rung. ‘I am sorry to see that substitute,’ said a distinguished citizen of Newburyport, ‘I wish it had been the original.’”

Not satisfied that their message had been properly conveyed, members of the mob then armed themselves with clubs and patrolled the town questioning strangers and residents alike about their position on the crisis. “Companies of men, armed with clubs, were accustomed to parade the streets of Newbury and Newburyport, at night, and, to every man they met, put the laconic question, “stamp or no stamp”. The consequences of an affirmative reply, were anything but pleasant.”

As Coffin noted, when one stranger was unable to answer the mob’s questions, they beat him severely. “In one instance, a stranger, having arrived in town, was seized by the mob, at the foot of Green street, and, not knowing what answer to make to the question, stood mute. As the mob allow no neutrals, and as silence with them is a crime, he was severely beaten.” A second man fared better when he was able to provide a clever answer. “The same question was put to another stranger, who replied, with a sagacity worthy of a vicar of Bray, or a Talleyrand, ‘I am as you are.’ He was immediately cheered and applauded, as a true son of liberty, and permitted to depart in peace, wondering, no doubt, at his own sudden popularity.”

The actions of the mob had the desired effect. By November 1, 1765, “not a sheet of stamped paper was to be had throughout New England, New York, Pennsylvania, and the two Carolinas.” The following March the act was repealed.

When word reached Newburyport, the town quickly celebrated. “The joy of the people, on hearing the intelligence, was as great, as their indignation had been at its passage . . . ‘Our people … were almost mad with drink and joy. A deluge of drunkenness.”

Saturday, January 12, 2019

"I Was Forced to Crawl Upon My Hands and Knees" - The Continued Adventures of the Castaway Phillip Ashton

When we last left Marblehead castaway Phillip Ashton, the young man had successfully escaped from his pirate captors, befriended a fellow castaway who later disappeared during a violent storm and struggled to overcome the challenges of Roatan Island.

However, did Ashton eventually escape from the island?

Following the disappearance of his fellow castaway, Ashton found a “canoo” and “put off for the Island of Bonacco, an Island of about 4 or 5 Leagues long, and some 5 or 6 Leagues to the Eastward of Roatan.” While paddling about the island, he observed a sloop off in the distance. For some inexplicable reason, Ashton decided to approach the ship by land rather than water. He pulled his canoe ashore and spent the next two days making the difficult overland journey. According to the castaway, “I could go but very slowly, and sometimes the Woods and Bushes were so thick that I was forced to Crawl upon my Hands and Knees for half a Mile together.” When he arrived at his destination, he discovered the sloop and its crew were gone. Exhausted from his journey, Ashton collapsed to the ground and fell asleep.

Unfortunately, his slumber was disrupted when he was awoken by musket fire. Startled, he saw Spanish pirates rowing towards the shoreline. According to Ashton “I started up in a fright, and saw Nine … large Canooes, full of Men firing upon me. I soon turned about and ran as fost as my sore Feet would let me into the Bushes; and the Men which were Spaniards, cryed after me, ‘O Englishman, we'll give you good Quarter’ … So I made into the Woods, and they continued Firing after me, to the Number of 150 small Shot at least, many of which out off several small twigs of the Bushes along side of me as I went off. When I had got out of the reach of their Shot, into a very great Thicket, I lay close for several Hours; and perceiving they were gone by the noise of their Oars in Rowing off, I came out of my Thicket, and Travelled a Mile or two along the Water side.”

Ashton eventually paddled back to Roatan Island, where he remained for eight more months.

In June 1724, he spied a pair of long boats carefully approaching the shoreline. He “came down upon the Beech shewing my self openly to them; for their caution made me think they were no Pirates … But before I called, they, who were as full of fears as I could be, lay upon their Ors and hallooed to me, enquiring who I was, and whence I came; I told them I was an English Man, and had Runaway from the Pirates. Upon this they drew something nearer and enquired who was there besides myself; I assured them I was alone. Then I took my turn, and asked them who they were, and whence they came.”

When the sailors revealed they were English, the castaway became elated. After recounting his harrowing adventures with pirates and Spaniards, the crew brought him aboard their ship. Ashton later suggested that his rescuers may have been pirates. “They were Bad Company, and there was but little difference between them and the Pirates ... only I thought they were not now engaged in any such bad design as rendred it unlawful to Joyn with them, nor dangerous to be found in their Company … they treated me with a great deal of Civility.” 

The castaway and his new friends remained on the island for an additional six to seven months hunting, fishing and making repairs to their boats. One day, as some of the crew was on shore tarring the hulls of their long boats, Ashton heard “the report of a Gun, which we thought was much louder than a Musket … This put us into a great Consternation, and we knew not what to make of it. Within a Minute or two we heard a Volley of 18 or 20 small Arms discharged upon the shoar, and heard some Guns also fired off from the shoar. Upon which we were satisfied that some Enemy, Pirates or Spaniards were attacking our People … Then they called to us, and told us they were Pirates, and not Spaniards, and we need not fear, they would give us good Quarter; supposing this would easily move us to surrender ourselves to them.”

Ashton and a few other men were able to escape and remained hidden from the pirates. Unfortunately, the other crewmen did not fare so well. They were captured, beaten and put to sea onboard a “flat” without any supplies. To his horror, the castaway later learned the raiding party was affiliated with his former captor, the pirate Edward Low.

After the pirates left the island, the flat returned. After some discussion, the crew decided to abandon Roatan Island for the mainland. Surprisingly, Ashton and another Englishman named Symonds declined the offer to join them and remained behind. As Ashton later recalled, Symonds was desperate to get to Jamaica while he longed for New England.

Three months later, two vessels appeared off the coast of Roatan Island. “The Larger Vessels came to Anchor at a great Distance off; but a Brigantine came over the Shoals . . . I plainly saw they were Englishmen, and by their Garb & Air, and number, being but three Men in the Boat, concluded they were Friends, and shewed my self openly upon the Beech before them: as soon as they saw me they stop'd rowing, and called out to me to know who I was. I told them, and enquired who they were. They let me know they were honest Men, about their Lawful Business, I then called to them to come ashoar, for there was no Body here that would hurt them. They came ashoar, and a happy meeting it was … Mr.Symonds … came up to us and became a sharer in my joy.”

To his joy, Ashton discovered the smaller of the two vessels was the Diamond of “Salem,(within two or three Miles of my Fathers House) Capt. Dove Commander, a Gentleman whom I knew. So now I had the prospect of a Direct Passage Home. I sent off to Capt.Dove, to know if he would give me a Passage home with him, and he was very ready to comply with my desire; and upon my going on Board him, besides the great Civilities he treated me with, he took me into pay; for he had lost a hand and needed me to supply his place.”

The castaway was finally going home. “We came to Sail … and thro' the good hand of GOD upon us came safe thro' the Gulf of Florida, to Salem-Harbour, where we Arrived upon Saturday-Evening, the first of May: I went the same Evening to my Father's House, where I was received, as one coming to them from the Dead, with all Imaginable Surprise of Joy.”

Later that year, Ashton's Memorial was published with the help of his minister. Some historians have suggested that the author Daniel Defoe borrowed elements of the story for his 1726 novel The Four Years Voyages of Capt. George Roberts.

Phillip Ashton remained in Marblehead for the remainder of his life. He married twice before passing away in 1746 at the age of forty-four.

Wednesday, January 2, 2019

“I Was Upon An Island From Whence I Could Not Get Off" - The Adventures of Phillip Ashton, Castaway

Admittedly the nerds have spent the past few weeks recovering from a very serious “dispute” with pneumonia. During our illness, we had the opportunity to watch several popular movies from the 1980s through the early 2000s, including the 1986 groundbreaking film The Transformers. However, it was the 2000 drama Cast Away that caught our attention. After watching this movie we started to look for any 18th century accounts of individuals who were stranded on faraway islands and lived to tell their story.

Almost immediately, we stumbled across Phillip Ashton and his 1725 account entitled Ashton's memorial: An history of the strange adventures, and signal deliverances, of Mr. Philip Ashton.

Phillip Ashton was born in Marblehead in 1702. When he was twenty years old, he was employed as a fisherman on the Schooner Milton. According to Ashton, on June 15, 1722, he and five other crewmates were off of Cape Sable, Nova Scotia. At approximately four o’clock in the afternoon, the crew finished their work for the day and anchored at Port Rossaway. Shortly thereafter, a brigantine was observed bearing down on their vessel. At the time, Ashton and his fellow fisherman thought nothing of it and assumed it was another New England ship preparing to drop anchor for the night.

Suddenly, “a Boat from the Brigantine, with Four hands, came along side of us, and the Men Jumpt in upon our Deck, without our suspecting anything but that they were Friends, come on board to visit, or inquire what News; till they drew their Cutlashes and Pistols from under their Clothes, and Cock'd the one and Brandish'd the other, and began to Curse & Swear at us, and demanded a Surrender of our Selves and Vessel to them . . .being in no Capacity to make any Resistance, were necessitated to submit our selves to their will and pleasure.”

It turned out the raiders were under the command of the famed English pirate Edward Low. The entire crew was seized, forcibly transferred over to the brigantine and thrown into the hold for several hours. Afterwards, Ashton was transferred to a captured “Schooner belonging to Mr. Orn of Marblehead, which the Pirates made use of for a sort of a Prison.”

The next day the fisherman and his crewmates were brought back to Low’s brigantine. Once on board, the pirate simply asked Ashton if he was married. When he refused to answer, Low “Cock'd his Pistol, and clapt it to my Head, and cryed out, You D-g! why don't you Answer me? and Swore vehemently, he would shoot me thro' the Head, if I did not tell him immediately, whether I was Married or no . . . I was sufficiently frightned at the fierceness of the Man, and the boldness of his threatning, but rather than lose my Life for so trifling a matter, I e'en ventured at length to tell him, I was not Married.”

In response, Low asked Ashton to join his crew. The fisherman refused, citing obligations to his parents and God. The pirate was obviously not pleased with the response and ordered Ashton to to be hauled below deck and thrown in irons. Over the next week, the physical and verbal abuse continued.

Following Ashton’s capture, Low’s fleet left Cape Sable and traveled towards the Grand Banks, where it seized several Spanish and Portuguese fishing vessels. Afterwards, the pirates patrolled the Scottish coast for potential prizes. Ultimately, Low set his sights on the West Indies and arrived at the Gulf of Honduras the Spring of 1723.

While anchored off the tiny island of Roatan, Ashton begged a ship’s cooper to let him join the expedition to collect fresh water. The cooper and Low reluctantly agreed. Once ashore, Ashton assisted the crew with a variety of tasks. However, when the opportunity presented itself, Ashton “ran as fast as the thickness of the Bushes, and my naked Feet would let me. I bent my Course, not directly from them, but rather up behind them, which I continued till I had got a considerable way into the Woods, & yet not so far from them but that I could hear their talk, when they spake anything loud; and here I lay close in a very great Thicke, being well assured, if they should take the pains to hunt after me never so carefully they would not be able to find me.”

Search parties were sent out to recover Ashton. As he later recalled, “At length they set a hallooing for me, but I was still silent: I could hear them say to one another. The D-g is lost in the Woods, and can't find the way out again; then they hallooed again; and cried, he is run-away and won't come again; the Cooper said, if he had thought I would have served him so, he would not have brought me ashoar. They plainly saw it would be in vain to seek for me in such hideous Wood, and thick Brushes. When they were weary with hallooing, the Cooper at last, to shew his good Will to me, (I can't but Love and Thank him for his Kindness) call'd out, If you don't come away presently, I'll go off and leave you alone … So finding it in vain for them to wait any longer, they put off with their Water, without me; and thus was I left upon a desolate Island destitute of all help.”

Once Low and his fleet left the island, Ashton assessed his situation. “I was upon an Island from whence I could not get off; I knew of no Humane Creature within many scores of Miles of me; I had but a Scanty Cloathing, and no possibility of getting more; I was destitute of all Provision for my Support, and knew not how I should come at any; everything looked with a dismal Face; the sad prospect drew Tears from me in abundance.”

He spent the next sixteen months as a castaway. Because he lacked any weapons to kill animals native to the island, Ashton was forced to survive on coconuts and fruit native to the island. “I had no Knife, or other Instrument of Iron with me, by which to cut up a Tortoise, when I had turned it; or to make Snares or Pitts, with which to entrap, or Bows & Arrows with which to kill any Bird or Beast withal; nor could I by any possible means that I knew of, come at Fire to dress any if I had taken them; tho' I doubt not but some would have gone down Raw if I could have come at it.” 

He also had to share the island with swarms of insects and dangerous predators, including crocodiles. “There are many Serpents upon this, and the Adjacent Islands. There is one sort that is very Large, as big round as a Man's Wast, tho' not above 12 or 14 Feet long. These are called Owlers. They look like old fallen Stocks of Trees covered over with a short Moss, when they lye at their length; but they more usually lye coiled up in a round. The first I saw of these greatly surprised me; for I was very near to it before I discovered it to be a Living Creature, and then it opened it's Mouth wide eno' to have thrown a Hat into it, and blew out its Breath at me. This Serpent is very slow in its motion, and nothing Venemous, as I was afterwards told by a Man, who said he had been once bitten by one of them. are several other smaller Serpents, some of them very Venemous, particularly one that is called a Barber's Pole, being streaked White and Yellow. But I met with no Rattle-Snakes there … The Islands are also greatly infested with vexatious Insects, especially the Musketto, and a sort of small Black Fly, (some|thing like a Gnat) more troublesome than the Musketto; so that if one had never so many of the comforts of Life about him, these Insects would render his Living here very burthen|some to him; unless he retired to a small Key, destitute of Woods and Brush, where the Wind disperses the Vermin. The Sea hereabouts, hath a variety of Fish; such as are good to Eat, I could not come at, and the Sharks, and Alligators or Crocodiles, I did not care to have anything to do with; tho' I was once greatly endangered by a Shark, as I shall tell afterwards.”

Approximately eight months into his plight, Ashton encountered another castaway. As he recalled, “Sometime in November 1723. I espied a small Canoo, com|ing towards me with one Man in it. It did not much surprise me. A friend I could not hope for; and I could not resist, or hardly get out of the way of an Enemy, nor need I fear one. I kept my Seat upon the Edge of the Beech. As he came nearer he discovered me & seemed g’tly surprised. He called to me. I told him whence I was, & that he might safely venture ashoar, for I was alone, & almost Dead. As he came up to me, he stared & look'd wild with surprise; my Garb & Countenance astonished him; he knew not what to make of me; he started back a little, & viewed me more thorowly; but upon recovering of himself, he came forward, & took me by the Hand & told me he was glad to see me. And he was ready as long as he stayed with me, to do any kind offices for me. He proved to be a North-Britain, a Man well in Years, of a Grave and Venerable Aspect, and of a reserved Temper. His Name I never knew, for I had not asked him in the little time he was with me, expecting a longer converse with him; and he never told me it. But he acquainted me that he had lived with the Spaniards 22 Years, and now they threatned to Burn him, I knew not for what Crime: therefore he had fled for Sanctuary to this Place, & had brought his Gun, Amunition, and Dog, with a small quantity of Pork, designing to spend the residue of his Days here, & support himself by Hunting. He seemed very kind & obliging to me, gave me some of his Pork, and assisted me all he could; tho' he conversed little . . . Upon the Third Day after he came to me, he told me, he would go out in his Canoo among the Islands, to kill some Wild Hogs & Deer, and would have had me to go along with him. His Company, the Fire and a little dressed Provision something recruited my Spirits; but yet I was so Weak, and Sore in my Feet, that I could not accompany him in Hunting: So he set out alone, and said he would be with me again in a Day or two. The Sky was Serene and Fair, and there was no prospect of any Danger in his little Voyage among the Islands, when he had come safe in that small at near 12 Leagues.”

Unfortunately for Ashton’s newly found friend, a powerful storm quickly overtook the island. “There arose a most Violent Gust of Wind and Rain, which in all probability overset him; so that I never saw nor heard of him any more. And tho' by this means I was deprived of my Companion, yet it was the Goodness of GOD to me, that I was not well eno' to go with him; for thus I was pre|served from that Destruction which undoubtedly overtook him.”

Nevertheless, the kindness of the mysterious castaway proved beneficial to Ashton, as he left behind “Five Pound of Pork, a Knife, a Bottle of Powder, Tobacco Tongs and Flint, by which means I was in a way to Live better than I had done. For now I could have a Fire, which was very needful for me, the Rainy Months of the Winter; I could cut up some Tortoise when I had turned them, and have a delicate broiled Meal of it: So that by the help of the Fire, and dressed Food.”

Coming soon … how Phillip Ashton escaped from Roatan Island.