A Voyage to the East Indies in the Ship Duke of Grafton

(124 total)
A Voyage to the East Indies: Inside Front Cover

I do not know the history of this book, but think I recollect my father saying it was a record kept by one of the Pierce family of his voyage to India in 1779. I have read it but do not find any name or reference giving a clue. It is interesting as showing the hardships endured by travellers in those days, now over 150 years ago.

Richard Pierce left England in Command of the H.E.I. Coy’s “Halsewell,” in 1779. See page 128 of “East Indiamen The East India Coy’s Maritime Service,” by Sir Evan Cotton (1949)
–––– . . . ––––
Master Mariner

A Voyage to the East Indies: Page 3

A Voyage to the East Indies in the Ship Duke of Grafton

A Voyage to the East Indies: Page 5

The Duke of Grafton, East Indiaman. Captn Saml. Bull Commander, left Portsmouth on Sunday the 7th of March 1779 with Twelve other Indiamen, under the convoy of Sir Edwd Hughes Knt. in the Superbe 74 Gunship & eight Men of War and sloops, Transports & other vessels to the number of Forty sail or upwards. We proceeded down Channel with a fair wind to Plymouth, off which place we were joined by the Belleisle Man of War, and the Nymph sloop of Eighteen Guns, which latter had been dispatched from Portsmouth a few days before, to acquaint the Belleisle of the Admiral’s Intention to sail speedily. The Grafton was very deeply laden, having been freighted considerably beyond her Tonnage. Her ship’s company consisted of 120 men for the most part Landsmen many of whom had never before seen the Sea. People unacquainted with those affairs would wonder, why so easy a Service, where there is more Pay, and less danger than in the Navy, should be so destitute of good Seamen, but they must be inform’d that after a man in the capacity of a common sailor on board an Indiaman has been absent from his native country and Friends for the space of two or perhaps three Years, when he has overcome the Dangers of the Sea, a long Voyage, the Scurvy, Inclemencies of foreign climates, and [end page 5]

A Voyage to the East Indies: Page 6

a numerous Train of assailing Evils; immediately on his return to England, before he has seen his relations or even had an Oportunity of informing them of his return, he is dragg’d from his Ship perhaps emaciated by disease, and confined to the Hold of one of his Majesty’s Tenders, there to reexperience the shocking miseries he flatter’d himself he was freed from. Happy would it be for those Men, and for the Navy, and Kingdom in general, could some Expedient be hit on to man his Majestys Navy in a more respectable Manner, and explode a Practice disgraceful to the Service and shocking to Humanity.) There were likewise on board two Companies of the 73rd Regt of Foot or Sd. M[?]sends Highlanders, and twenty five of the Company’s Recruits, who were all (except the Officers) stowed on the Orlope Deck; betwixt the after part of the after & fore part of the fore Hatchway. So that with those before mention’d, and nine Passengers the Ship was uncommonly crouded. We had a continual fair Wind & fine Weather till we got clear of the Land, which was three Days after our Sailing. At this Time Hostilities were eagerly carried on betwixt England, & France by Sea, and with great success on our side; our Cruizers [end page 6]

A Voyage to the East Indies: Page 7

having taken a vast Number of their Martinique, St Domingo and other West Indiamen, with seven or eight very valuable East Indiamen, to revenge which, it was reported & not without gaining Credit, that they had collected a pow’rful Fleet to intercept us in our Passage. This Scheme might have been easily effected, & if attended with Success (as the Weather was very favourable for a Cruizer in the Bay) would not only have procur’d them Honour, but have amply repaid their numerous Losses. In the Chops of the Channell we fell in with the Courageux, Lord Mulgrave, on a Cruize, who join’d, & proceeded with the Fleet. We pursued our Course without Interruption or Loss of any Part of the Fleet, for A Week; At the End of which we parted from our Convoy in a Fog, & was left a single, comparatively defenceless Ship, which would have fall’n a prey to a frigate, or almost any Adventrous Privateer. The Perturbation we were in is not easily to be described, since we had Nothing to expect but a Visit to France. Our Ship carried Twenty, nine Pounders on the Gun-Deck, and six, four pounders on the Quarter Deck, but then we were so deep and unwieldy, that a swiftsailing light Ship, might easily have Kept in [end page 7]

A Voyage to the East Indies: Page 8

such a Position as to prevent us from bringing our Guns to bear upon her. In this Dilemma we had one Circumstance to console ourselves with viz. the having such a Number of Soldiers on board, that would have dealt destruction to a vessel that might have attempted to board us, a Method much depended on by small Privateers The Soldiers were station’d on every Part of the Ship, and if a small vessel appear’d they conceal’d themselves, by lying flat on the Deck till within Musquet Shot, but on the Contrary if a Ship of Force superior to ourselves came in Sight, we station’d the redcoats so that they might be seen at a considerable Distance, hoisted a Man of War’s pendant, and fix’d wooden Guns, so as to make us appear like a fifty Gun Ship. Indeed we cut a very formidable Figure. We parted from the Fleet in the direct Track of the Cruizers, and for several Days after our Separation had very little Wind, and that little, foul; At last a fair and fresh Breeze sprung up, which carried us along briskly. We now daily saw a Number of Vessels, which we brought too, & most of them proved to be dutch. Here we had an Oportunity of observing the cunning & policy of those [end page 8]