Claghorn, Charles E. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, (Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, 1988.)
Hannings, Bud. "Captain John Trevett, USMC", (usmilitaryhistory.com/seniram, posted on July 10, 2011.)
JT, Brenna. "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823), (www.findagrave.com, record added - October 13, 2009.)
Kellow, Ken. entry for "John Trevitt", section entitled "Officer - T: American War of Independence at Sea", (www.awiatsea.com, revised - August 6, 2014.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
McBurney, Christian M. The Rhode Island Campaign: The First French and American Operation in the Revolutionary War, (Yardley, PA: Westholme Publishing, LLC., 2011.)
Smith, Charles R. Marines in the Revolution: Continental Marines in the American Revolution, 1775 -1783, (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S.Marine Corps, 1975.)
Captain of Marines John Trevett led a very interesting life that leaves several questions still to be answered concerning it. Practically nothing is known of his earlier life other than his birth year and his parents' names. He is variously cited as being from Pennsylvania and in other citations from Rhode Island. His name does not appear in several of the reference sources in which other individuals cited in this overall blog do appear. His last name is disputed in its actual spelling. Oddly enough, his "position" while he was on board the frigate South Carolina is even in dispute. He, like so many of his contemporary naval officers, spent time as a prisoner-of-war in the hands of the British and then reached France upon his release but, not through the "typical channels" by which the other released American prisoners-of-war reached France. He was a well-traveled, experienced and brave officer without a doubt but, pursued carpentry as his profession after the American Revolution, an occupation unusual for an officer to apply himself. Hopefully, the writer of this blog will help to clear up some of these "discrepancies" at least through this specific post.
The first issue to be addressed by the writer of this blog is that of the correct spelling of the last name of this Captain of Marines and his occupation while on board the frigate South Carolina. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 168, contains the following information:
John Trevotl (Frevott, Trivett, Trevett, Trevitt) carpenter?
In the course of this overall blog, there have been several instances of last names being spelled in various different manners. But, to the knowledge of the writer of this blog there has never been a case of so many variant spellings of a last name as there are here. A few of these can be discounted almost immediately. As far as the writer of this blog knows, the given last name (the single name outside the parenthesis) of this Captain of Marines, given as "Trevotl", never appears anywhere in print or in association to this specific first name. Nor does the second last name, being the first listed name inside the parenthesis, that of "Frevott". Neither does the third last name cited (the second name within the parenthesis) - that of "Trivett". Only the two last names cited within the parenthesis - that of "Trevett" and "Trevitt" - are associated with the first name of John. In fact, the latter of these last names, "Trevitt", only appears in a more modern citation. According to Kellow's entry for "Officers - T", contained within his overall website, "American War of Independence at Sea", the spelling of this specific officer's last name is "Trevitt". The entry for this officer is very brief, simply stating that he was a "Captain, Continental Marines". The entry also identifies him as being from Pennsylvania instead of from "Rhode Island".
But, the most convincing evidence must surely come form the very pen of John Trevett himself. According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, section entitled "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, the following entry appears and seems to have been written by John Trevett himself:
"This is to Whom it May Concern that I, John Trevett, sailed from Providence in a Sloop called the Catea [Katy]...".
The entirety of this rather short work seems to be written in the first-person narrative of a personal diary and is attributed to John Trevett, initially a midshipman and later an officer of marines on board of various Navy ships-of-war. Since it was John Trevett himself who wrote this dairy, we can safely assume that he would have spelled his last name correctly or, at least, how he preferred to spell it.Also, JT's entry for "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823)" spells the last name as "Trevett". Finally, the photo of the inscription on the headstone also records in stone that the last name is spelled in the same manner. Thus, it is safe to assume that the correct spelling of this individual's last name is "Trevett".
Thus, the writer of this blog feels certain that the issue of the correct spelling of the last name of this Captain of Marines has been settled. But, this leads to the next issue - that of the proper "position" or occupation of John Trevett on board the frigate South Carolina. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 168, seems to indicate that he was possibly a "carpenter" on board the patriot frigate. Yet, this is an unusual occupation for an officer to hold. Prior to the commencement of the American Revolution, individuals who became officers and leaders of men usually were occupied with some type of pursuit or skill fitting to their status within colonial society. These pursuits included surveying, larger scale farming or landowning, gold-smithing, silver-smithing, mercantile business and trade or some other similar type occupation. The occupation of "carpenter" seems to be an illogical or unlikely one for a former officer to choose as a career after the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain. This is certainly a skilled profession but, seems to better suited as an aspiration for a common man seeking to better himself in his post-war life. Only a single source addresses this "career move" by John Trevett after the American Revolution had concluded. This is found in Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, Appendix C, page 325, in the introductory comments prior to the actual text of the diary itself. This introductory text simply states that "...in the years following the Revolution, Trevett worked as a joiner (carpenter) 'until infirmities disease & blindness' rendered him incapable of any further labor...". But, it is interesting to the writer of this blog that this occupation would be cited in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 168, if he pursued this profession after the war instead of while he was on board the frigate South Carolina. He may well have had some background or aptitude for working with his hands prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. But, all of the references to his services during the American Revolution, the information is of the achievements of an officer of marines and not a carpenter. The writer of this blog is at a loss to discern the reason for the citation of "carpenter" as the "position" occupied by John Trevett on board the frigate South Carolina as opposed to "Captain of Marines" which is the position he seems to have occupied while on board the patriot frigate in the final years of the American Revolution.
The little bit of information we have concerning the early life of John Trevett deals with his parentage and date and place of birth. According to Hannigs's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 1, "...John Trevett, the son of Eleazar and Mary Church Trevett, was born during 1747 in Newport, Rhode Island.". This same information is confirmed by Brenna JT's entry for "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823), page 1. This same source also indicates that John Trevett was the third of four children born to Eleazar and Mary Trevett. As a matter of fact, according to the same source, all four Trevett children were born within a four year period from 1745-1748. Literally, all the remaining information we have related to the early, pre-Revolutionary war life of John Trevett are two passages of a single sentence each. The first passage comes from Hannings's article cited above, page 1, and states that "...details of his [John Trevett's] early life are unavailable, but it is thought that John spent time at sea on merchant ships.". The second passage comes from Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, and states that "...in early life he [John Trevett] was in the merchant service, and made a number of voyages from Newport to such places as Lisbon.". These tiny pieces of disjointed and scattered information constitute all that has come down to those of us who live in the modern period concerning the early, pre-Revolutionary War life of John Trevett, Captain of Marines.
A copious amount of information addressing John Trevett's services in the Continental Navy follows this brief synopsis of his of pre-war life. Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines, pages 325-342, contains John Trevett's first hand accounts of his services and actions fought on board the various different ships-of-war that he served of which he served. According to this work, page 325, this account of his life "...spans almost eight years of service from November 1775 to June 1783, [and] is now in the Newport Historical Society, Newport, Rhode Island.". For the sake of clarity and brevity, the writer of this blog will attempt to only cite those passages that best illustrate the services and dangers that Captain of Marines John Trevett experienced while he was in the service of the United States of America.
Captain of Marines John Trevett experienced quite a varied set of situations and circumstances in the course of the American Revolution. According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, the following information on John Trevett appears:
"John Trevett [Rhode Island] - Continental Navy. He was commissioned on February 13, 1776 as a Lieutenant on Marines on the ship Columbus. In 1777 he served on the sloop Providence commanded by Jonathan Pitcher. In February 1777 they captured, off Cape Breton, a transport brig with a small group of British soldiers. In 1778 he served on the Providence commanded by John P. Rathburn and they attacked Abaco on New Providence (Bahamas) and took Fort Nassau by surprise on January 30th and sailed away with 30 Americans released from prison and 1,600 pounds of gunpowder. Later he served as Captain of Marines.".
(Note: The following citations of Captain of Marines John Trevett's services during the American Revolution leave gaps in his service according to the source cited immediately above. This is due to this above source only citing naval officers of the American Revolution who served in the Continental Navy. Some of John Trevett's services, such as the service initially cited below, were on board privateers or privately owned ships-of-war. These types of services are not cited due to their not being on board of Continental Navy ships-of-war.)
His first shipboard assignment came very early in the conflict with Great Britain. This service was on board the sloop Catea or Katy out of Providence, Rhode Island. According to the Wikipedia article, "USS Providence (1775)", page 1:
"From early 1775, British men-of-war searched Rhode Island shipping, especially the frigate [HMS] Rose, annoying the colony's merchants who had become wealthy through smuggling. On June 13 , Deputy Governor Nicholas Cooke wrote the frigate's Captain James Wallace demanding restoration of several ships which [the] Rose had captured. Two days later, the Rhode Island General Assembly ordered the committee of safety to fit out two ships to defend the colony's shipping, and appointed a committee of three to obtain the vessels. That day, the committee chartered the sloop Katy from John Browne of Providence and the sloop Washington at the same time. The General Assembly appointed Abraham Whipple as commander of [the] Katy, the larger ship, and made him commodore of the tiny fleet. (Whipple had won fame in the burning of [the] British armed schooner Gaspee in 1772.) Before sunset that day, Whipple captured a tender to HMS Rose. Katy cruised in Narragansett Bay through the summer protecting coastal shipping.".
The next patriot ship-of-war that John Trevett served on board of was the Providence but, this patriot ship was one and the same as the Katy as illustrated by John Trevett's diary entries. According to Smith's work, Marines of the Revolution, "Appendix: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, the following entry appears:
"...I, John Trevett, sailed from Providence [Rhode Island] in a Sloop called the Catea [Katy], Commanded by Abraham Whipple, Esq., of Providence, with a number of passengers, to sail with a fleet of armed vessels fixing at Philadelphia, in the month of Nov. 1775. Arrived there the same month [actually December 5] and found ship called the Alfred 1 ship called the Columbus 1 brig called the Calbot [Cabot] 1 brig called the Andrew Doria [Andrea Doria] and then our Sloops name was altered and she called the Providence.".
This re-christening of the sloop-of-war Catea [or Katy] is confirmed by the Wikipedia article, "USS Providence (1775)", page 2, in the following passage:
"Katy was purchased by Rhode Island October 31 , soon after she returned to Providence. Late in November, she sailed for Philadelphia carrying seamen enlisted by Commodore Esek Hopkins in New England for Continental service. She arrived on December 3  and was immediately taken into Continental service and renamed Providence.".
According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, cited above, John Trevett was first commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines on board "...the ship Columbus...". According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 1, "... the Columbus was one of the first five warships commissioned in the Continental Navy.". It was this ship-of-war upon which John Trevett was commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines and initially served as a part of the Continental Navy. One of the first cruises of the Columbus as a ship-of-war of the Continental Navy involved a fleet-sized assault on the British-held Bahamas Islands. The fleet contained eight ships-of-war and a combined force of 914 sailors and marines. According to Smith's work, Marines of the Revolution, page 45, the following information is known concerning this Continental Navy ship-of-war in involved in this assault:
Captain Abraham Whipple
Captain Joseph Shoemaker
1st Lieutenant John Trevett
Only one other ship in the entire fleet was as large as the Columbus. This was the ship Alfred which had two more 9-pounders on board her. This is the patriot ship-of-war upon which sailed the Commander of the Fleet Esek Hopkins, who was in charge of the overall invasion attempt. This data compilation for this specific Continental Navy ship-of-war is found in a list of vessels entitled "The First Continental Fleet, February 17, 1776". According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, John Trevett was commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines on board this ship-of-war on February 13, 1776. The date of the list of the assaulting vessels is "February 17, 1776". According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 2, "...on the way to the Bahamas, Midshipman Trevett was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Marines.". This corroborating information should indicate that John Trevett received his promotion to Lieutenant of Marines in mid-February 1776 as the fleet of which he was a member was voyaging to capture the British-held Bahamas.
According to Hannings's article, page 2, the surprise and seizure of the two forts guarding the harbor at Nassau were the first amphibious landing in the history of the US Marine Corps and the first time that the flag of the United States had flown over foreign soil, which was taken by patriot forces. Also, according to Hannings's work, page 2, "...while on the island (British-held Bahamas), Lieutenant Trevett was one of the marines who detained and held Montford Browne (the British governor of the Bahamas).
According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326, the next patriot ship-of-war that John Trevett served on board of was the Continental brig Andrew Doria. The following passage is taken from the personal diary of John Trevett and is dated "May 1776":
"I am now about to begin a new cruise in the Continental brig Andrew Doria, Nicholas Biddle, Esq., Commander.".
Again, according to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 2, the following passage appears:
"After arriving back in America, Lieutenant Trevett was transferred to the Andrew Doria, commanded by Captain Nicholas Biddle. On May 19, 1776, Trevett arrived at the ship, which at the time had a complement of only 32 marines under Lieutenant Isaac Craig. In addition to Trevett, 17 other Marines bolstered the command.".
According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326, the Continental brig Andrew Doria went on to complete several successful cruises but, one of these cruises illustrates the adventures the John Trevett, Lieutenant of Marines during the American Revolution. According to both Hannings's article "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 2 and Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "AppendixC: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326 relate the following incident, but the basics of which are quoted from Hannigs's article, page 2:
"On the 29th [May], two British transports were seized and each of the vessels was transporting a company of Scottish troops. After the capture, the Americans disarmed the British and placed all British officers aboard the Cabot. The plan was upset when five British warships intercepted the Americans returning to Providence [RI]. On the Oxford, which was one of the prizes, Trevett was aboard as the prize-master's mate. The British prisoners retook the Oxford and sailed toward Virginia to join with other British forces. On 20 June, the Oxford arrived at the Virginia Capes. The crew was confident they would encounter forces of Governor Dunmore. The British inquired about the location of the governor and immediately received information on his location and how to reach him. The British were jubilant, but they were unaware that the information was erroneous and the location was actually where elements of the Virginia navy were posted. The Oxford proceeded up the James River and soon encountered two Virginia naval vessels. The Oxford had troops, but no arms and all of the captured British officers had been transferred to the Cabot. A company of Virginians marched the British captives to Richmond, while Trevett and the other marine with him, Lieutenant John McDougal, accompanied the Virginians. Once the column reached Williamsburg, Trevett and McDougal separated from it. After receiving some financial aid, the pair departed for Providence [RI].".
(Note: If the portion of Smith's work Marines in the Revolution, entitled "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines" is to be believed, then this is exactly the type of encounter that John Trevett experienced continually through out the course of the American Revolution. It is remarkable that with all the hairbreadth escapes, perilous situations, and intense combat that he experienced, he was only wounded once in the entirety of the war and that was towards the end of the conflict. Hannigs's article appears to be a condensation of the much longer and much more detailed diary of Captain of Marines John Trevett.)
According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 3, the following information is recorded:
"Back in Rhode Island, after a stop in Philadelphia, Trevett and McDougal reported back to the Andrew Doria. The ship embarked on a new cruise accompanied by the Columbus, and after seizing four ships, Trevett sailed back to Providence aboard one of the prizes."
This is confirmed in Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326, where the following passage appears:
"July, 1776. I was at Newport but a few days before I sailed again with Capt. Biddle, we took several prizes, some of them from Lord Dunmore, 1 brig from Barbadoes bound to Newfoundland, this prize I went on board of and arrived safely at Providence.".
At this point in the narrative, a pair of slight discrepancies occur. According to Hannigs's article, page 3, "...afterward, Lieutenant Trevett embarked aboard the brigantine Hampden as the ship's Marine officer, but a mishap occurred and her Marine complement transferred to the Providence commanded by Captain Hoysted Hacker.".
Yet, according to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326, nothing is mentioned at all concerning "...the brigantine Hampden..." nor is "...a mishap..." referred to a the cause of the marine complement being transferred to the Providence. The account, according to Smith's work, page 326, is as follows:
"When our cruise was out, Capt. Biddle went into Philadelphia, and by that means, I went on board the Sloop Providence Captain Histed (Hoysted) Hacker, and I soon found we were to sail under command of John Paul Jones Esq.".
This passage implies that the real reason for Lieutenant John Trevett transferring to the sloop Providence from the Andrew Doria was both patriot ships-of-war being in Philadelphia, PA at the same time. On the other hand, Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 3, does not mention the command presence of John Paul Jones at all as an important and not-to-be overlooked part of this episode.
According to Hannings's article, page 3, "...following the conclusion of the cruise, Lieutenant Trevett took a leave of absence...". The reader is left to consider whether or not this "...leave of absence..." was brought on by his concern for his family due to a very real British invasion of Rhode Island. Again, according to Hannings's article, page 3:
"On 8 December 1776, a British naval force under Sir Peter Parker arrived at Newport [RI]. The fleet included four brigades two British and two Hessian. The Americans defenses at Castle Hill were abandoned upon the approach of the British. The troops landed and occupied the colonial base. Afterwards, the British established a post known as Green End Fort in the southwest sector of Rhode Island between Middleton and Newport. The British invasion caused many families to depart their homes and Trevett's family was included. After getting his family to safety, Trevett reported back to duty aboard the Providence.".
According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 326, the following account is given in the words of John Trevett himself:
"Shortly after (the 6th of Dec.) the British took possession of Newport. The ship Warren, Ship Providence & Sloop Providence, lay near Gould Island but we made the best way to Providence, while the British fleet was running into Narriganset [Narragansett] bay, the Sloop Providence had some men on shore cutting wood.".
Dec. 6th 1776. This day my Father and Mother and a kinswoman and a young son of my Brothers went off for East Greenwich, they had but a few hours notice, they took with them some beds, and bedding, and a few trunks with clothing, and left there [their] home with all the remainder of the furniture behind, with their wood, provisions, and every thing necessary for the Winter, and fortunate for them, the day they arrived at East Greenwich they fell in with Mr. Peleg Olden, who took them into his house, and treated them with every kindness that a good man could do, but to end this affair, all that he left behind, was lost partly by the British but mostly by our own people.".
This constituted a major invasion and subsequent occupation of Rhode Island by the combined British-Hessian forces. The citation from Hannings's article cited above contains within it a slight air of seeking revenge for the difficulties and exasperations suffered by the loyal civilian patriots who endured the occupation of their homeland. John Trevett, Lieutenant of Marines, had family that suffered loss of property, fear of the invaders, and refugee-like conditions. He might have longed to strike back at this implacable foe.
A portion of the Continental Navy was trapped in Providence, RI harbor, which provided a new set of considerations and potentialities. According to McBurneys' work, The Rhode Island Campaign, pages 12-14, the following information is shared concerning the sealing off of Providence, RI harbor by the British invading forces:
"Like Governor [Nicholas] Cooke, Commodore [Esek] Hopkins, the newly minted head of the Continental navy, had a difficult choice before him. In Providence, he had the frigates Warren (32 guns), Providence (28 guns), and Columbus (30 guns), the brig Hampden (14 guns), and the sloop Providence (12 guns). Several of the ships had already wreaked havoc on British shipping. But, his ships were outmatched by [British Commodore Sir Peter] Parker's -- five of which bristled with fifty or more cannons. Furthermore, Hopkins had long-standing orders from the Continental Marine Committee to attack British shipping in the Atlantic. Now, even Governor Cooke pleaded for him to save his squadron by immediately sailing for Boston. Concerned over the city's safety, however, Hopkins chose to stay put.
Hopkins believed his ships could be 'of more service' at Providence 'than at sea.' He also pointed to a shortage of sailors, but he could have managed with skeleton crews. Indeed, the sloop Providence had just returned from a successful voyage attacking British supply ships off the Canadian coast. And three of Hopkins's ships were under sail in upper Narragansett Bay when Parker's British fleet arrived on December 7. An officer of the Warren later claimed that his superior had ignored the offers of one hundred discharged army veterans to board the ships and help them get to Boston. 'Commodore Hopkins refused, being determined to keep them [the ships] in this State,' Hopkins's accuser insisted. The commander of the Continental navy allowed his parochial desire to defend his hometown to prevail over his broader duty to the country. And by ignoring the Marine Committee's orders he played into British hands.".
According to Hannings's article, page 3, the following information is shared:
"During February 1777, the Providence was able to break out and safely evade the blocking force. After the ship got to the open seas, it captured a British transport and it was Trevett who took the prize into New Bedford, Massachusetts.". This offensive activity on the parts of the patriot ships against British shipping in the waters off Rhode Island is confirmed by McBurney's work, The Rhode Island Campaign, page 46:
"By the spring of 1778, Continental ships were finally having some success slipping through the British blockade. The Continental frigates Warren (32 guns), and Providence (28), the sloop Providence (12) and the brig Hampden (14), had each escaped.".
Later, during May 1777, Captain John Peck Rathburn assumed command of the sloop Providence. He worked to fit the vessel out for sea, and at about the same time Trevett learned that his brother, Constant Church Trevett, was seized by the British when they captured the merchant ship he was aboard as it sailed from the West Indies to America. Lt. Trevett was able to get a British captain to be offered in a prisoner exchange, but the exchange never occurred. His brother died on a British prison ship in New York.".
An account of this tragic incident is related in the very words of John Trevett and is found in Smith's work, Marines of the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 329. This account is as follows:
"May 1777 We are Now fixing our Vessel for Capt. John P. Rathbun [Rathburn] And I have Jest [just] Recevd an Account of My Brother Constant Church Trevett being Taken. He commanded a Mercht. Vesel Bound from the West Endeas [Indies] to Carolina and was Taken by the British and sent for New York and put on Board a British Prison ship Called the Old Jersey I Emeadely [immediately] sent on to Boston and Procurd a British Capt to send to New York and itt was Done in a short time but Tew [too] Late; for before the British Capt. Arrived he was no More He Died with hared [hard] Treatment from the British Piruts [pirates] as I May say & say the Truth, Black Bard [Blackbeard] the Notoris Pirut [notorious pirate] was a Christian to them Bilingate Villins [villains] that had the Command Att New York I shortly Arfter [after] saw some Americans that was on Board the same Prison ship My Brother ware [was] tha [they] ware [were] Exchanged and had Gott Home tha [the] Most of them lucked [looked] as if tha [they] ware [were] in a Deap [deep] Consumption I herd a Nuff [enough] from My Poor Americans to Convince Me that iff I had My Choise [choice] I had Rather be Taken by Turks; but I most stop Heair [here] and say but Lettel [little] Mark well Revenge is swiet; we shall sail in a short Time on a Cruse [cruise] --".
(Note: the 18th century medical term "consumption" was used a to describe a sickness that constitutes the modern medical condition known tuberculosis. The description of "...a Deap Consumption..." would describe the advanced state of this sickness which would also indicate the imminent death of the afflicted individual.)
So, John Trevett received a quite personal blow in the death of his brother Constant Church Trevett. He could only attribute this extreme personal loss to the actions of his enemies - the British forces operating here in the North American colonies. Yet, he chose to end his diary account of his tragedy with the words - "Mark well Revenge is sweet; we shall sail in a short time on a Cruise". The implication here is that he plans on exacting vengeance on the enemy for his brother's death. In light of his future battles and daredevil actions of a most dangerous nature, he fully intended to carry that personal anger and sense of revenge to the enemy.
According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 3, the following information appears:
"About June 1777, Lt, Trevett was promoted to the rank of captain of Marines. That November the Providence, in port since the previous August, embarked from New Bedford en route to the Carolinas.... during December while off Charleston, a British privateer was spotted and engaged... The battle continued from just after midnight until after dawn... Soon after, a borading party bolted upon the privateer and lowered its colors. The prize was taken to Georgetown.".
The Hannings's article, page 3, goes on to state that "...Captain Rathburn, while in South Carolina, pondered another visit to the Bahamas to seize the HMS Mary, and despite the great odds, he chose to initiate the risky plan. On January 27, 1778, the Providence sailed for New Providence.". The sloop Providence ran into trouble almost immediately and Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 331, gives a much fuller account:
"Now we are Agoing on a New Cruse and a New Yeair [Year] Jan[uary] 1778 I have had A Long time to think of What I am A Going to undertake but I am Very well satisfied that we Are in a Good Cause & we are fiting [fighting] the Lords Battel [Battle] And we are Getting under sail Runing Down from George town that Next Day put to sea standing to the Southward the Next Dat att day light saw a sail to the Eastward then saw tew [two] More that Pruved to [be] Biritish one ship Brigg and sloop tha [they] Gave Chase the ship Ganed farst [fast] on us by 2 PM the ship we Could Discaper her Teair [tier] of Guns Night Come on And Dark we Haled Down All sail & put our Lights out of sight and in a Few Hours we Could see her and she passed and When she Gott out of our sight we Alterd [altered] our Corse and the Next Morning we Could see no sail Att all now we had hove over a board [overboard] so much of Our Wood and started so Much Warter [water] that we Concluded to Make All sail for Abaco we had A short Pasage [passage] to Abaco we Come to Anker [anchor] and went to fixing a scalling Lader...".
The next four pages of the "Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", pages 331-335, are filled with adventures, deceptions of the enemy, bluffing of the startled population and governmental officials, and bravado on the part of the tiny invading force. According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 4, they did succeed in taking the HMS Mary without a shot being fired as well as seizing "...the other four ships in the harbor.". Lieutenant John Trevett participated in almost all of these actions and paints himself as heroically leading the marine component of this small-scale invasion attempt that would ultimately constitute the only actual invasion and temporary occupation of foreign soil by a Continental force during the course of the American Revolution.
According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 6, on the return voyage to the colonies, Captain John Trevett commanded the prize-ship HMS Mary. After the arrival of the small fleet from its victorious assault on New Providence, Bahamas, John Trevett related a surprising incident that closely concerned them. According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 335:
"Now is March 1778 we are Arrived with the sloop Providence at Bedford the ship we Left att Old Town Reparing and Getting a New Rudder then we are A going to Bring her to Bedford -- Capt. Rathbun [Rathburn] and My self sett out for Boston to Call on the Board of Warr [Navy Board of the Eastern Department] setting thare we spent part of Tew Days and Returned to Tarnton [Taunton] Capt, Rathbun sett out for his Home and Left Me Att Tarnton to Go to Plimouth with Lawyer Paine to the Triall of the Ship we had the Triall and itt Did not sute [suit] the Capters [captors] as she was a Commishon [commission] ship we Appealled to a Hier Pope [court?] so that I Returnd [returned] to Taunton with Lawyer Paine; Letters Rote [wrote] to one Mr. Lewis Att Congress from Mr. Paine and a Number of Papers Lawyer Paine furnished Me with to send on to Congress then sett out for York Town [York, Pennsylvania] and in June I went on My Jurnea [journey]...".
Even in the journey to York, Pennsylvania, Captain of Marines John Trevett experienced adventures. He complained about travelling in the hottest weather he had ever experienced up to that point in time. He fell in with a troop of Light Horse and thought that they were British until he had ridden more miles onward and realized that they were General Washington's Light Horse, the mounted portion of Washington's Life Guard. After he arrived in York, PA, he discovered that Philadelphai had been evacuated by the British occupying forces and that Congress, initially located in York, PA, had removed themselves back to Philadelphia, PA. So, he went to Philadelphia, PA and delivered some of the documents in his possession to the appointed lawyers, afterwards returning to Providence, RI only to find out that:
"Then I Made the Best of My Way for Providence in the state of Rhodisland [Rhode Island] I Arrived att Providence in JUly When I Arrived att Providence I herd [heard] of Bedford [Rhode Island] being Burnt I sett out for Tarnton [Taunton] & Bedford I found A Grate part of our Cargo Bunt [burned] in the stores att Bedford and our ship Mary had got Feted [fitted] att Old Town Gott as far as Woodes Hole [Wood's Hole] When the British burnt Bedford and Farehaven [Fairhaven] tha [they] Burnt our ship att that time att Woodes Hole so this Finished My Jurne [journey] to York Town --.".
Thus, for all his efforts and labors for the prize vessel "HMS Mary" were all for naught. Congress initailly refused to class the prize ship as a prize and instead classed it as a commission ship, thus denying the crew of its prize money for the capture of it. Captain John Trevett must have won the confidence of his commanding officer, Continental Captain John Peck Rathburn. He was dispatched on a trip to York, PA to deliver official documents to Congress to prove that the ship in question was a prize ship. Then, he returned home only the find out that the former HMS Mary had been burned by the British themselves. Captain of Marines John Trevett sums it all up by stating the obvious with no further comment - as the conclusion of his trip to York, PA.
The description of this adventure is followed by the recording of an interesting incident in the life of John Trevett, Captain of Marines. John Trevett, judging from the adventures and hair-breadth escapes he had experienced to this point in time, was not the type of man to shrink from actively participating in any courageous endevour against the British Crown. Yet, this entry almost smacks of a personal reason for not taking part in the cited expedition. Also, too, there is the question of when this account was drafted - either a contemporary one drafted in 1779 or one of several years after the fact. John Trevett does not seem like the kind of man that would choose to not take part in a desperate action in order to take care of personal business. This curious entry in the life of John Trevett is found in Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 335-336 and is as follows:
"This is now July 1778  Now thare [there] is an Expedition fiting [fitting] out att Boston for PerNobscut [Penobscot Bay] and our sloop [Providence] Praparing [preparing] to Join the Fleet now I have some buzness [business] to Settel and I have no Enclenation [inclination] to go to PerNobscot as I think the British well [will] Gett Information Either att New York or Newport before tha [they] Can Gett Redy [ready] to sail and if tha [they] Due [do] I now [know] thre [three] or fore [four] Large British ships can Block them in and that will be the Lors [loss] of All our shiping; and as I have since the first of the War had no time to settel My own besness [business] I will take this Oppertunity [opportunity] and I sett out for East Greenwitch Whare [where] My Farther [father] then Lived.".
Captain of Marines John Trevett had chosen to miss the expedition that would go down in United States history as the greatest single loss of US warships prior to the bombing of Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. Over forty ships-of-war were surprised by the arriving British ships-of-war and would flee up the Penobscot River from the approach of the small, but heavily armed British Royal Navy contingent. The captains of these various different ships-of-war knew they were trapped and their crews were ordered to burn the ships rather than allow them to be captured by the British. Commodore Dudley Saltonstall, overall patriot commanding officer of the expedition, and Colonel Paul Revere, the patriot artillery commander of the expedition, would both face a courts-martial due to their roles in this patriot fiasco. Commodore Saltonstall would be dismissed from the Continental Navy but, would go on to win acclaim as a very successful commanding officer of privateers. Colonel Paul Revere would avoid penalty but, would spend a good portion of the remainder of his life defending his actions at Penobscot Bay.
(Note: Bud Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC" does not contain any reference to this event at all nor any reference to Captain John Trevett being connected with the Penobscot expedition.)
The writer of this blog feels the need to state at this point that the "Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines" contains certain phrases and literary elements that could indicate that his diary was not a contemporary creation but, was actually drafted at a later date. The introductory comments by Charles R. Smith, the author of Marines in the Revolution, state nothing at all concerning the date of the diary itself except he does state that "...the first several pages of the original diary no longer exist, the missing material has been taken from a copy made by Eleazor Trevett following his father's death.". These missing pages of the diary could possibly shed light on the date of the writing of the diary -- again, whether or not it is a contemporary writing or if it was drafted at some later date. Even though the dates are recited in the present tense, there is something about the tone and the fact that several times he seamlessly changes tenses to the past tense such as in the case at the end of his diary when he is addressing his time on board the frigate South Carolina.