Samuel Barrington letterbooks
Scope and Contents
The letterbooks document British naval strategy and policy in the West Indies from the French recognition of the United States in February 1778 through the Battle of Grenada (July 6, 1779). Contents include orders, secret orders and commands received by Barrington from the Royal Admiralty and its offices; communications and intelligence reports from junior officers in the British fleet, and from Admiral John Byron; letters, petitions and memorials by members of the governments of several West Indies islands; and letters from French commanders and an American agent concerning prisoner exchange and prisoner welfare. The letterbooks have been disbound and the letters have been kept in the order in which Barrington arranged them, which was by correspondent or group of correspondents and then chronologically. There are two series: Series I, Letterbook One, and Series II, Letterbook Two. The major topic of each letter is generally indicated in the box and folder listing for that letter.
Series I, Letterbook One , opens with "Admiralty Orders and Letters," consisting largely of letters from the Admiralty and the Admiralty Board. Many are signed by Philip Stevens, Admiralty Secretary; other orders and instructions are signed by the full Admiralty Board, which included the Earl of Sandwich, the Viscount of Lisburne, and others. In addition to the official letter of appointment, located in folder 2, the subseries contains copies of Barrington's secret instructions to take the island of St. Lucia; an extract of a letter from Lord George Germain detailing British hopes for the speedy surrender of Martinique and Guadalupe; copies of petitions from West Indies residents to Germain; and business correspondence regarding provisioning, supplies, prizes, and changes in command.
Letters from Barrington's subordinates are principally concerned with intelligence of d'Estaing's fleet and of other French troop movements in North America. Folders 38-49 contain letters from Admiral John Byron, who replaced Barrington as commander in chief in the West Indies. A letter written January 28, 1779 offers Barrington the option of staying in the West Indies under Byron or returning to England; several folders contain charts of the line of battle and the lists of signals used during the Battle of Grenada on July 6, 1779. The final letter from Byron, written on July 10, directs Barrington to return to England at once to inform the Admiralty of "the true state of these Islands."
Series II, Letterbook Two , opens with letters from General James Grant concerning the logistics of the attack on St. Lucia. These are followed by correspondence concerning prisoner exchange, primarily from the Marquis de Bouillé, although there are two from d'Estaing himself. Folder 61 contains a letter from William Bingham, U.S. agent for the West Indies, proposing a prisoner exchange between the British and American forces; there is no reply noted.
Folders 79-119 hold letters received by Barrington from governors and representatives of various islands, including William Mathew Burt, governor of St. Christopher; Edward Hay, governor of Jamaica; Valentine Morris, governor of St. Vincent's; and George, Lord Macartney, governor of Grenada. Subjects include the repeated demands of the island governments for better defense by the British Navy; reports of skirmishes and attacks and intelligence concerning the French fleet; the collapse of the defenses on Domenica; shipping schedules and provision requests; and prisoner exchanges and prison living conditions. The letters by Morris give his version of the fall of Domenica and his view of the future defense of St. Vincent's. Letters from Edward Hay, Governor of Jamaica, are much concerned with the French prisoners being held at Bridgetown in the wake of a riot and attack on them by some Jamaicans, "white and black."
The letterbook concludes with routine correspondence from the Admiralty's Victualing Office and the Office of Sick and Hurt Seamen.
- 1778 - 1779
Language of Materials
Conditions Governing Access
Conditions Governing Use
Immediate Source of Acquisition
1.04 Linear Feet (4 boxes)
A record for this collection is available in Orbis, the Yale University Library catalog
Subjects include Barrington's secret orders to attack St. Lucia; intelligence on the French fleet and preparations for the battle of Grenada; prisoner exchanges with the French Navy; the defensive requirements of the British West Indies and the fears of the inhabitants; and Barrington's plans to return to Great Britain in July 1779. Other correspondence includes routine messages concerning provisions, shipping, and the welfare of Barrington's sailors.
SAMUEL BARRINGTON, 1729-1800
Barrington's command was superseded on the arrival of Admiral John Byron from North America in early 1779, and he sailed for England shortly after taking part in the inconclusive Battle of Grenada on July 6 of that year. He refused command of the Channel fleet, and remained out of service until April 1782, when he was appointed to the Channel fleet as Lord Howe's second in command. In 1787 he was promoted to Admiral, and served for the last time in 1790, again as Howe's second in command. Admiral Samuel Barrington died in 1800.
- Anglo-French War, 1778-1783
- Anglo-Spanish War, 1779-1783
- Barrington, Samuel, 1729-1800
- Bingham, William, 1752-1804
- Bouillé, François-Claude-Amour, marquis de, 1739-1800
- Burt, William Mathew
- Byron, John, 1723-1786
- Estaing, Charles Henri, comte d', 1729-1794
- France -- History, Naval -- 18th century
- Gambier, James Gambier, Baron, 1756-1833
- Great Britain -- History, Naval -- 18th century
- Great Britain. Admiralty
- Great Britain. Royal Navy
- Howe, Richard Howe, Earl, 1726-1799
- Macartney, George Macartney, Earl, 1737-1806
- Morris, Valentine, -1789
- Sandwich, John Montagu, Earl of, 1718-1792
- Stephens, Philip
- United States -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783 -- Naval operations
- Vaughan, Wilmot, Earl of Lisburne, 1728-1800
- West Indies, British -- History -- 18th century
- Guide to the Samuel Barrington Letterbooks
- Under Revision
- by Beinecke Staff
- May 2003
- Description rules
- Beinecke Manuscript Unit Archival Processing Manual
- Language of description note
- Finding aid written in English.
Part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library Repository
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