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Hampton, William
Autograph Letter Signed, Philadelphia, December 29, 1800 to Robert Ralston, describing the French Invasion of Curaçao

quarto 4 pages, accompanied by fair copy of letter from Hampton to a Mr. Brown, dated Curaçao, September 5, 1800, 1 ½ pages and a fair copy of letter to The Secretary of State, signed B. H. Phillips, dated Curaçao, October 25, 1800, 2 ½ pages. Each item in very good clean and legible condition. Three items: seven pages total.

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A very interesting and highly detailed letter regarding the invasion of Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles, in September 1800, dated Philadelphia, from William Hampton to Robert Ralston. Hampton was the commander of the merchant brig, Sally, of Philadelphia, Robert Ralston to whom the letter is addressed was the ships owner. Captain Hampton took an active role during the fight to drive the French off, for which he was acclaimed in the contemporary letter copy addressed to the Secretary of State, John Marshall, Marshall in 1800 helped negotiate the Convention of 1800, also known as the Treaty of Mortefontaine, which put an end to the skirmishes between the two countries in the Caribbean which had been going on since the XYZ affair. The type of skirmishes described in these manuscripts.

Hampton's letter reads:

"D Sir,

Agreeably to your request I herewith annex a short sketch of the proceedings during the invasion & siege of Curacao -

On the 17th August 1800 I arrived in the harbour of Amsterdam in the Island of Curacao where I found five strong privateers, & from eight to twelve hundred French troops from Guadaloupe and all the inhabitants under arms to oppose them in case of an attack, at the same time there was an embargo which prevented any Vessel from departing.

On the 3d September the French left the harbour with ten vessels full of men and was joined in the offing by three more direct from Guadaloupe - On their departure Governor Leuffer dismissed all his Militia troops and kept the few dutch regular soldiers, about four hundred in number to defend the place in the fortifications in case of an attack. -

On the 4th at night the signals of alarm were given and on the 5th in the morning it was confirmed that the French had landed at St. Michaels and got possession of the two forts at that place, to convince myself of the truth of this report, I walked from Amsterdam to St. Michaels and back, the distance about sixteen miles & on my return found that it was the opinion of Mr. Phillips and the Governor that the only hope of relief was to dispatch a Boat to the American Commodore at St. Kitts for assistance, I therefore furnished that Boat with American sailors & spar'd Mr. Brown my Mate to go as Navigator, who was absent on that business near one month & was the means of the Merrimack & Patapsco coming to the relief of the Island - (see the instruction to him No 1 -) On the 7th the French made their attack on the dutch troops who were our only defence - At this time I went with my boat & transported from the French to the dutch shore six boat loads of soldiers & with my ship's company went into Fort Amsterdam to make our defence, the Governor & his party in their retreat left a number of punts or flat bottom boats on the French shore, sufficient to enable the French party to cross the harbour - the whole of these I removed under the fire of the French guns & secured them on the dutch side of the harbour, with the assistance of only one of my men - this circumstance is mentioned by Mr. Phillips in his letter to the Secretary of State (No. 2). During the whole of this night myself & people at the particular desire of Governor Leuffer kept guard and was caution'd to remember the darkness of the night and the treachery of Toulon - This circumstance convinced me that the Governor had not confidence in his Officers which with other marks of disaffection satisfied my mind of the necessity of immediate relief for this reason I concluded to comply with a request that was made of me, and at a great risk got on board the British Frigate Neriede at sea on the 8th at 11 o'clock at night, after making two attempts, in the first of which I had two men wounded in a small yall, and in the second three ... On the 13th with the assistance of a few Americans I had erected the two gun Battery alluded to by Mr. Phillips & have reason to believe that the Island wou'd have surrender'd but for the measures that were pursued - On the 15th the last summons was sent by the French demanding a surrender of the fort in twenty four hours & in case of refusal the Garrison must expect to be put to the Sword - This occasion'd such teror in the dutch troops that the firing in the forts ceas'd and a Council of war was held - The event of which wou'd have been a surrender of the Island had not Lieutenant Hodgson from the Neriede with about twenty five Men & myself with forty Americans requested the fire to be renewed or we must quit the Island with our boats and go on board the Neriede - Our request was consider'd as granted by the Governor's making no reply till the dutch forts opened the fire by the orders of Lieutenant Hodgson & myself, which was kept up day & night for six days, after which time the Merrimack & Patapsco made their appearance -

Permit me to mention that Cap. John Mc Dougal was complimented by the Underwriters in London for recapturing the Ship two friends from the French - and Cap. Anderson of the Ship London Packet was rewarded in a similar manner for the defence which was made in an action with a French privateer on his passage from Surinam to Baltimore. - The success of the defence made at Curacao was not less but vastly more beneficial I cannot therefore but hope that if application is made to the Offices where the Brig Sally & her cargo was insured that in consideration of the Salvage of one fourth which was assessed on all American property, being relinquished by the British Commander ... a return will be made of the premium for the Voyage..."

Curacao, October 25th, 1800, B. H. Phillips to the Secretary of State (John Marshall) (fair copy).


When you refer to my letter of the 2d Augt you will find that I advised that the French had landed their Troops, which with the Crew of the Vengeance, amounted to about 2000 men. -

On the 3d of Sept. their Squadron sailed out of the Harbour, at which time they were joined by 3 other strong privateers then in the Offing. -

On the 4th they came to anchor in the bay of St. Michael (about 8 miles W. of the Harbour which they had left) and on that and the following day they disembarked all their Troops, the Governor in the mean time had marched to oppose their designs with about 400 men & on the 8th he return'd principally to avoid being cut off, as the French had disposed of their army in such a way as to bring the whole force to act at one point, and cut off the retreat of the Governor & his party.

By the sentiments expressed in the French manifest, dated the 25th Messidor, it is easy to discover what wou'd have been the situation of the Americans & their property here, had the French been victorious & in consequence of conviction and at the request of the Government I wrote to the Commander of the American Squadron for assistance, the Merimack & the Patapsco immediately came down - They arrived off the Harbour the 21st the Evening of which the Enemy had formed their design of attacking Fort Republican the principal fort on the Island and commands both the Fort Williams & the entrance of the Harbours, but on seeing the two American ships, they abandoned their design'd attack and retired to their head quarters -

As I have already observed the Island capitulated on the 10th and was ratified on the 13th but no other British ship being near to aid the Nereide Cap. W judged it not prudent to enter the Harbour and it was on consultation between the A Com Capt W & myself (I was then on board the Nereide with my family and had been from the 11th) that the Patapsco shou'd enter the Harbour she being cover'd by the fire of all the batteries, which was accordingly done, without the loss of a Man, and only two slightly wounded, this took place on the 22d & the French evacuated on the night of the 23d The Nereide enter'd 24th & took possession.

I am under the necessity of regretting the lukewarm conduct of the major part of the American masters, some were even suspected of carrying on intercourse with the common enemy, but while I regret the indifference of the many, I am happy to know one who I cannot forebear mentioning - Capt. William Hampton of the brig Sally of Philadelphia, volunteered on all useful occasions - he was a principal in erecting a battery of 2 18 lb guns, which annoyed the enemy more than the regular forts for they had positioned their battery under an entire shelter from the Fort Republican and the other forts did but little execution. - There were no bombs on either side. - He undertook & executed unarmed with the assistance of only one of his sailors in his own boat the most meritorious services - services which the frigate Ceres's boat with 25 arm'd men declined as too hazardous - His ingenuity, enterprise, coolness, judgement & courage do honor to himself & his country, for my own part, I conceive myself bound to give public testimony to merit so conspicuous -

To Capt H with the American sailors, together with the 28 ships of war is Curacao indebted for not being sacked, & I am sorry to add that they have been ungratefully treated. -

The day before yesterday Ad: Lord Hugh Seymour arrived from Jamaica and there is a prospect of several excesses & improper transactions being redressed, & the Interest of individuals & of the Island better'd. - I mentioned in my last that the Decade, had gone for Guyana to treat for our intercourse with the province of Curracas - She has since return'd without the Officers being permitted to stay on shore - their papers were sent to Carracas and on the return of the messenger were desired to depart - & have done nothing. It is therefore probable that no Spanish produce or at best but very little will be found at this market hereafter."