Revolutionary War Naval Battles: William Vernon Jr. Autograph Letter Signed. Six pages, 7.5" x 9.5", Montauban [France], August 22, 1778. Freshly arrived in France, young Princeton graduate Vernon Jr., the son of successful Newport, Rhode Island, slave trader William Vernon, writes to his brother [Samuel] about the French and British naval Battle of Ushant (July 27, 1778), as well as news of other European wars.

    Though he was now in France, where he was soon to be introduced to Louis XVI's court by Benjamin Franklin, Vernon Jr. was happy that his family back in America was "prospering and rising Superior to British Tyranny" and enjoying "the company of that adorable Goddess Liberty". Some credit for making that liberty possible, Vernon Jr. believed, went to the French, particularly their navy. Shortly after the French government formally recognized the United States in February 1778, France began militarily aiding the thirteen struggling American colonies. Writing of one of France's earliest naval engagements in the war, Vernon wrote that the French king "has authorized his Captn. of Ships of War &c to take or destroy all Ships of war, merchant-men &c which appertain to the King of Great Britain or his Subjects. The cause of that declaration was the following. [British] Adml. [Augustus] Keppel cruising with his fleet near the Coast of France, three French Frigates were observing his motion, two of which the Unicorn and Pallas, were made Prizes of, the third was engaged by a British Frigate but made her escape. After that the fleet parted from Brest [France]. . . . About fifty leagues off Brest the two fleets met on the 27 of July two hours before Sun-Set began to engage; it continued very warm and close until night put an end to it. Our accounts say that Mons. [Louis Guillouet, comte d'Orvilliers] d'Orvellia, who commands the French fleet, prepared to renew the combat at day-break, but that the British fleet was not to be found."

    Vernon's report continued with news of the aftermath, along with the stated hope that "Spain join her fifty Ships of the line to the Navy of France." Vernon also boasts that if French Admiral Count d'Estaing were to encounter the remaining British ships, "he will undoubtedly either take, destroy, or disperse, provided that they do not form a junction with [British] Admiral [Richard] Howe." Vernon devotes the final page of the letter to news of "hostilities . . . between the King of Prussia and the emperor of Germany." At the time of this letter, Vernon Sr. had already been appointed by the Continental Congress to the Eastern Naval Board. Some separation at the folds. From the Papers of William Vernon.

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