Home Massachusetts April 5, 1776: Capt. Robert Campbell Pleads for Help

April 5, 1776: Capt. Robert Campbell Pleads for Help

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On April 5, 1776, Robert Campbell wrote to the Massachusetts General Court begging for help. His ship was damaged and stuck off the coast of Cape Cod, with about 30 loyalists aboard — five men, the rest women and children.

The British evacuate Boston

The British evacuate Boston

One of his passengers was Jolley Allen, a wealthy loyalist fleeing Boston during the evacuation. Allen had paid Campbell to take him and his family along with the British fleet.

The Inept Robert Campbell

Campbell was unusually inept. As more than 100 British ships began leaving Boston Harbor on March 17, Campbell managed to collide with two other fleeing British ships. Then he got separated from the fleet, nearly capsized Sally, ran her aground, freed her, shredded her sails and nearly sank her when a plank gave way. They finally managed to land on Cape Cod on March 29.

Here is the letter Campbell wrote:

Truro, April 5, 1776.

MAY IT PLEASE THE HONOURABLE COURT: I beg leave to inform your Honours I have a sloop on shore at Cape-Cod, put in there in distress, having thirty souls on board, and not one drop of water.

It was with the utmost difficulty I got clear of the fleet, without the loss of the sloop, as my intention was to part them, to put into some port to repair, and to proceed to the Province of New-York, I beg such directions as may enable me to dispose of the passengers and secure my property. Should it be suggested that I may be an enemy to my country, I can produce proper testimony, if required, I have not acted any part in favour of the Ministerial Troops; but my intention is, by means of the sloop, to be useful to my country, and provide for my family.

I should have been glad to have had it in my power to make myself better known, but cannot at present, as I am illy able to hold a pen, having frozen my fingers for want of help on board.

I beg leave to subscribe myself a friend,


The names of the persons that arrived at this place on board the Sloop Sally, 28th March, 1776: Robert Campbell, Master; Peter Harris, Patrick Prout, Daniel Wisel, wife and child; Jolly Allen, wife and his seven children; Sally Bradford; servant maid; Lilla Coppinger, belonging to Mr. Allen’ s family; Mrs. Eleanor Barry, and her five children; Mrs. Nancy Crowfoot and child; Mrs. Joanna James and her son; Mrs. Dolly Stone, Mary Barrett, and Elizabeth Winslow — thirty persons in number.

Read what happened to Jolley Allen here.

1 comment

Sarah H. Gordon April 6, 2014 - 4:38 pm

I wonder if this is the same Campbell who went to Crown Point from the Worcester area during the French and Indian War

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