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Raid on Essequibo and Demerara
Part of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War
Date24–27 February 1781
LocationEssequibo and Demerara
 Kingdom of Great Britain  Dutch Republic
Six vessels Unknown
Casualties and losses
None 14-15 merchant vessels captured

The raid on Demerara and Essequibo took place between 24 and 27 February 1781 in the context of the Fourth Anglo-Dutch War (1780–1784). Six British privateers entered the rivers and captured 15 Dutch vessels before withdrawing.

Background[edit | edit source]

The Fourth Anglo-Dutch War was a conflict between the Kingdom of Great Britain and the Dutch Republic. The war, contemporaneously related to the American Revolutionary War, broke out over British and Dutch disagreements on the legality and conduct of Dutch trade with Britain's enemies in that war. In 1781 France induced the Dutch to side with them and the Americans.[citation needed]

The raid[edit | edit source]

The privateers had heard of the outbreak of war between Britain and the Dutch Republic and decided to take advantage of the situation. They did not have letters of marque authorizing offensive action and so had they failed in their attack the Dutch would have been within their rights to hang any captives as pirates. Britain too could have hanged them for piracy, but the privateers "trusted to the Honour of the Government, that no advantage would be taken of that defect, while they only did what appeared to them to be good service to their country as well as to themselves; and what in their judgement would greatly distress the enemy."[1]

The privateers Bellona, Mercury, and Porcupine arrived at Demerara on 21 February. Hornet joined them the next day. Two privateer schooners from Barbados, the Halton and the Polly, also joined the raid. British reports state they succeeded in bringing out from under the guns of shore batteries 15 prizes of a total tonnage of 4,098 tons (bm), and mounting 124 guns between them. (The privateers between them mounted some 118 guns and mustered a tonnage of about 800 tons (bm).) The largest vessel they brought out was the Boreas, 600 tons (bm) of Amsterdam. Privateers and prizes then left on 27 February.[2]

They left behind four vessels, two of them American. As of 3 March there were also nine merchant vessels in the river at Essequibo.[3]

Dutch reports agree on the losses but point out that the sole defensive structure at Essequibo, Fort Zeelandia, was in no state to be of any use and that the Council at Essequibo had given the commander, Captain Severyn, instructions to put up no more than a token resistance.[4]

Aftermath[edit | edit source]

On 27 February 1781 two sloops, HMS Barbuda (Commander Francis Pender), and HMS Surprize (Captain George Day), that Admiral Lord Rodney had sent appeared at Demerara.[4] In March, the sloops accepted the surrender of "Colony of Demarary and the River Essequebo".[5]

The vessels the privateers had captured became droits to the Admiralty as the privateers had had no commission to seize them.[6]

From 2 February 1782 to February 1783 the French occupied the colony after compelling Governor Robert Kinston to surrender.[7] At that time the French captured Barbuda and five other small British warships. The peace of Paris in 1783 restored the territories to the Dutch.[7]

Privateers[edit | edit source]

Name Master Tons (bm) Armament Complement Home port
Bellona[2] Patrick Driscoll 150 26 × 12 & 6-pounder guns + 6 × swivel guns Bristol
Mercury[8] Robert Craggs 200 24 guns, or 10 × 4-pounder guns + 8 × swivel guns 100 Bristol
Porcupine[9] J. Jackson 90 18 guns, or 14 × 4-pounder guns + 6 swivel guns 70 Bristol
Hornet (built Bordeaux c.1777)[10] John Kimber 350 22 × 24-pounder carronades (main deck) + 10 × 12-pounder guns (Fc) 180 Bristol,[10] or Liverpool[3]
Halton[2] Oden Whitehouse 8 guns Barbados
Polly[2] Newbold 4 guns Barbados

The first Dutch report of the privateers reports that the squadron consisted of two 3-masted ships, a brig, and two schooners. A letter from the privateers calling for the surrender of the colony bears the names of four captains, with the names being at variance to those in the table above: "Wm. Maclure, Robert Boreal, Fil. Hardy, and Benj. Wenbold".[4] The names of the masters in the table and most of the ship details are consistent with those in the Remembrancer.[3]

Captured vessels[edit | edit source]

The table below lists 14 vessels found at the mouth of the Demerara River that the privateers captured.[3] This list appears to be missing is a vessel of 200 tons and 12 guns, given the discrepancy between the numbers in the table and the total tons and armament that Powell reported.[2]

Name Master Tons (bm) Armament Complement Cargo Home port
Guidl. Vreight Christ. Catnea 200 12 guns 32 Coffee, sugar, & cotton Flushing
Eansesindgheyd Andrew Chris. Denta 400 10 guns 26 Flour & lumber Middleburg
Vreede John Deweades 120 4 guns 26 Coffee & sugar Amsterdam
de Vrouguer, An. Colyns and Ana Maria Mart. Sclossen 206 8 guns 18 Cofffee, cotton, & sugar Amsterdam
Young Aaron J.A. Ruge 152 6 guns 14 Amsterdam
De Boreas Jean Ricart 600 10 guns 26 Provisions, iron, & lumber Amsterdam
Yofrowd Ana Louisa Tunis Sweeris 400 12 guns 20 Planks and bricks Amsterdam
Zeelente Poost Cornelius Keifer 180 6 guns 12 Coffee and sugar Amsterdam
Haast U. Lang Seam Jonge Juff. Margarete Cornelius Van Kakum 250 12 guns 37 Sugar, coffee, and cotton Middleburg
Middleburg Hope Hans Zuidella 400 12 guns 24 Sugar, coffee, & cotton Middleburg
ship Barnes 350 8 guns 20 Coffee, cotton, & sugar Amsterdam
De Vreheyd Petterse 350 8 32 Sugar, coffee, cotton Middleburg
snow Oudman, Zwartje 200 4 guns 16 Provisions and planks Rotterdam
schooner 90 8 Timber St Eustatius

Citations and references[edit | edit source]

  1. Clowes et al. (1897-1903), Vol. 4, p.62.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Powell (1930), p. 253.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Remembrancer (1780), pp.308-9.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Rodway (1891), Vol. 1, pp.275-283.
  5. "No. 12181". 21 April 1781. https://www.thegazette.co.uk/London/issue/12181/page/ 
  6. Annual Register (April 1781), p.48.
  7. 7.0 7.1 Henry (1855), p.239.
  8. Powell (1930),p.276.
  9. Powell (1930), p.279.
  10. 10.0 10.1 Powell (1930), p.266.
  • Clowes, W. Laird, et al. (1897-1903) The royal navy: a history from the earliest times to the present. (Boston: Little, Brown and Co.; London: S. Low, Marston and Co.).
  • Henry, Dalton G. (1855) The History of British Guiana: Comprising a General Description of the Colony: A narrative of some of the principal events from the earliest period of products and natural history.
  • Powell, John Williams Darmer (1930) Bristol privateers and ships of war. (Bristol: J.W. Arrowsmith).
  • Rodway, James (1891) History of British Guiana, from the Year 1668 to the Present Time. (J. Thomson).

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