' AMERICAN REVOLUTIONARY WAR, 1775-1783
THE beginning of the struggle for American independence is usually considered to have been the skirmish at Lexington on 19th April 1775, though minor hostilities had occurred at sea from as far back as 1764. The Declaration of Independence was signed on 4th July, 1776, after a long delay the Admiralty gave notice in April, 1777, that they were "ready to issue commissions to private ships for cruising against the Americans." In March, 1778, Great Britain broke off relations with France, which was followed by the declaration of war by Spain on 17th April, 1780, and by Great Britain on Holland 2Oth December, 1780.
Latimer states that with two or three exceptions the owners of Bristol privateers "sustained disastrous losses. Only one important prize, in fact, was captured - a richly-laden French East Indiaman, brought in by the Tartar and Alexander, and which, according to Bristol Journal, had been insured by London underwriters for £100,000. This was the Ferme, taken in 1778. The most notable event of that year took place on 6th December, when the Lion, Captain John Shaw and Vigilant, Captain John Marshall, engaged at night the line-of-battle ships Orient, 74 guns, and Artesien, 64 guns; quite as noteworth an exploit as the action between the London privateer King George, Captain George Walker, and the Spanish Glorioso, 80 guns, on 6th October, 1747, though the latter is much better known. The Vigilant was taken, but the Lion arrived safely at Bristol.
In 1779 the Old England was taken by the French frigate Surveillante and the island of St. Bartholomew was captured by five privateers, which the Jackal of Bristol, Captain McDavitt, was one. On 24th August the St. Innis, a rich Spanish ship, was taken by the Amazon of Liverpool and Ranger of Bristol and brought into the latter port. The Cato was taken in May, the Mars was lost at sea with all hands, and the Jackal wrecked at St. Michael's with great loss of life. '
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