Saturday, January 14, 2012

Feb. 2: Permitted to Return to England

On February 2, 1776, President of Congress John Hancock wrote to Col. William Alexander, Lord Stirling, "I have the pleasure of Communicating to you the sense of Congress on your alertness, activity and good conduct, and on the readiness and Spirit of the gentlemen and others from Elizabeth Town who voluntarily assisted you in taking the ship Blue Mountain Valley."

Biographer Paul David Nelson described how Lord Stirling rallied 120 civilian volunteers in Elizabethtown, New Jersey on January 21 and headed to the British transport vessel floundering off Sandy Hook. Lord Stirling and the volunteers boarded the Blue Mountain Valley early the morning of January 22. On Monday, January 29, Congress recognized the spirit of Lord Stirling and the "gentlemen, and others" from Elizabethtown.

In keeping with American custom towards British merchant vessels, and in keeping with Lord Stirling's request, Congress authorized the release of the captain and crew. Hancock wrote, "I am further directed to inform you that in consequence of your recommendation, the congress have agreed that you deliver to Captain [James Hamilton] Dempster and his Mates, their several adventures which were on board the ship at the Time she was Taken, and that Captain Dempster be Liberated, and he has the permission of Congress to improve an opportunity of returning to England, from such port as shall be most agreeable to him."

On Jan. 31, Congress resolved, "That the private adventures of the captain and mates of the transport Blue Mountain Valley, be delivered up to them, [[and that they be permitted to return to England.]]"

Paul H. Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates to Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 3: January 1-May 15, 1776 (Washington, DC: Library of Congress, 1978), 186; Paul David Nelson, William Alexander, Lord Stirling: George Washington's Noble General (University, AL: University of Alabama Press, 1987), 70-71; Worthington Chancey Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789: Vol. 4: January 1-June 4, 1776 (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1906), 100, 106.
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