King George, The Massachusetts Province Ship, 1757–1763: A Survey

AT 1 p.m. on the fourth of August 1756, his Majesty’s Declaration of War against the French king was proclaimed from the balcony of the Court House in Boston. Sixteen days later, Governor William Shirley sent down a message to the House of Representatives which warned that because of war with France

We may hourly expect that our Sea Coasts will be infested with Privateers, of that Nation, which will much Endanger our Trade from Europe and the West Indies, as also our Coasting Vessells which bring Us the most of our Bread Corn from the Southern Colonies:—Therefore I desire Gendemen, you would make proper Provision for taking up some suitable vessell to be well Armed and Manned for the Defence of our Sea Coasts, which ought to be done without delay.1

The maintenance of armed vessels by the Provincial government was no innovation at the beginning of the French and Indian War, for in one form or another it had become an established, routine practice in wartime since King William’s War at the end of the seventeenth century. During periods of hostility many ships had been requisitioned or hired from private shipowners to fulfill short-term needs as they arose, but others were acquired by or built specifically for the longer-range requirements of the Massachusetts-Bay government.

Into this latter category had fallen such vessels as the two between 1694 and 1713/14 called Province Galley, the snow Prince of Orange and the ship Massachusetts-Frigate of King George’s War, and the durable little sloop Massachusetts which served almost continuously under Captain Thomas Saunders (1704–1774) of Gloucester from at least the mid-1740s for twenty years or more.2 Into it also were about to fall the snow Prince of Wales, Captain Nathaniel Dowse, and the last of the big Massachusetts Province vessels of force, King George.

The status of these vessels depended largely upon one’s personal point of view. To some, they constituted an actual Massachusetts navy—the later precedent for the Massachusetts State Navy of the Revolutionary War. To others, they were adjuncts to the station ships and special forces of the Royal Navy in New England waters, but to the Navy they were merely glorified privateers operating under the jurisdiction of a Provincial establishment. However one may have thought of them, nevertheless, their clear purpose was to protect the trade and the fisheries of Massachusetts-Bay from illicit traders, pirates, enemy privateers, or from any other destructive outside influences. Nearly all, at one time or another, combined with their counterparts from other American colonies or with squadrons of the Royal Navy in expeditions against the French in Canada, many served as transports for the various Royal Governors when negotiating with the Indians in the eastern province of Maine, and all did what they could to patrol the length of the “Massachusetts coast,” which effectively encompassed the waters from Narragansett Bay to the fishing grounds beyond Sable Island.

Neither of the two large Province vessels of the last war could be recommissioned in 1756 because the snow Prince of Orange had been overset and lost off Marblehead in 1745, and the twenty-two-gun ship Massachusetts-Frigate (so-called to distinguish her from the ten-gun sloop of the same name) had been sold as a merchantman following an abortive attempt after the war by several Boston merchants to use her for importing Protestant servants from northern Ireland. Only the sloop Massachusetts remained in service.

Now, with Shirley on the verge of relinquishing the Governorship and with the Legislature about to go into recess, a committee of the House was joined with members of the Council to consider before the next sitting the best means possible for securing the coast.

The resulting report, made on 14 October 1756, was predicated upon the assumption that the governments of Connecticut and Rhode Island would provide armed vessels to cover their own trade but that they could not be expected to extend their range into Massachusetts waters beyond Nantucket Island. The committee’s opinion, therefore, was that

Two suitable Vessells be provided at the Charge of this Government, the one for the Protection of our Coasters from the Southward, and another for the Protection of the Fishery, and other inward Bound Vessells; and for which the Guns & other Warlike Stores which were reserved in the Sale of the Massachusetts Frigate [are] now in the Commissary’s Care.…3

To raise an estimated £7,000 to finance the venture, there would be collectible duties of sixpence per ton on all vessels other than common coasters and fishermen; sixpence a ton annually on coasting, fishing, and whaling vessels; sixpence a pound on the sale of tea; tuppence the pound on coffee; and a five percent excise on china-ware. Similar taxes had been levied for the support of the Province vessels of the last war, but they had been lifted after the peace.

Of the two vessels subsequently contracted for, the snow Prince of Wales was the first to be launched and was fitting out in Boston Harbor by the beginning of April 1757. The more formidable King George was expected to join her by the middle of that month, but as the date approached without the naming of anyone to command her, the House became alarmed by the Council’s apparent procrastination.

It is with great Concern that the House are informed by your Message, that the Consideration of the Affair of putting the Province Ship into Commission, is again referred for several Days to come, notwithstanding this House, fully sensible of the Necessity of her being speedily Commissioned, signified their earnest Desire thereof, by a Message to his Majesty’s Council, six Days agone; and being still of the same Opinion, now beg Leave to represent to your Honours, that there is now an Embargo on all our Navigadon, and the Mariners sensible of this, and under Necessity to get Employ as soon as possible, would very readily (in sufficient Numbers) inlist themselves, whilst, if there should be any longer Delay, there is Danger that an Impress would be necessary, which might not only take up longer Time to procure Men, and force many against their Wills, who will doubtless embrace the first Opportunity to desert, and so continually give fresh Occasions to renew an Impress, a Thing abhorrent to the English Constitution, and particularly odious in this Country, but also distress the Trade and Fishery, which this Ship (at an immense Cost to the Province) is designed to protect, by breaking up the Companies and Crews of many of the Vessels, and besides give Occasions for horrid Murders; a late Instance of which we have experienced, with uncommon Aggravations.

We would but mention, that as it’s necessary the Ship should be fit for the Sea, as soon as the Embargo is over, in order to answer the Purposes for which she was built, so we think this can scarcely be done, but by the Assistance of the Officers and Company, or at least, neither so well, nor by a great deal so cheap; a Consideration of much Weight, in a Time of such a heavy Burthen of Charge on the Province.

For these and divers other Reasons that might be urged, we earnesdy move your Honours, that Commissions may be made out (as soon as possible) to some suitable Person to command, and Officers to assist in navagating the said Ship, that so she may be (with the greatest Dispatch) manned and fitted for the Sea, for his Majesty’s Service.4

On the eighteenth of April, the House’s appeal was reenforced by a petition from eighty-seven merchants and shipowners of Marblehead, “largely concerned in its Trade and Fishery,” who begged leave “to recommend Captain Benjamin Hallowell [Jr.] who has now the care of Said Ship, whose courage is well known, and whose Conduct has been generally approved: as a proper Person to Command the same.”5

Within a week of the ship’s launching, most probably on the day following, Hallowell was actually confirmed, but the reasons for his selection are not apparent, nor can his connection with the vessel during construction be accounted for unless, as the son of a well-known Boston shipbuilder, he was serving as an informal agent or superintendent to assist John Ruddock, the builder. Hallowell’s father, Benjamin Senior, owned a shipyard at the foot of Water and Milk Streets where they were intersected by Batterymarch. Among those vessels already built by him had been the Province snow Prince of Orange of 1740 (in thirty-two working days from the laying of the keel) and the twenty-four-gun frigate Boston of 17471748 for the Royal Navy. Father and son were both Masons, members of the First Lodge; the father was its Master at one time.

Almost nothing of Benjamin Hallowell, Jr.’s personality during his term as commanding officer of King George comes through from surviving documents, but a short digression to look at his later career serves to suggest the timber of which the man was made. Thirty-two years old when he assumed command of the Province ship, he was a stoutish, deceivingly youthful appearing shipmaster whom we may now characterize in the light of his future affairs as a man of good character but one of iron will and susceptible to the arrogance of widening circles of influence: “high flying, high Church, high state,” John Adams was to describe him before the Revolution.

In 1746, he had married Mary Boylston, sister of Nicholas and Thomas Boylston, and from about that time became captain of several Boston merchant vessels in the West India trade, including the 150-ton ship Knowles (which from 1754 he also owned) and the 125-ton ship Reeves, of which he was both owner and captain in 1755.

After serving throughout the French and Indian War as captain of King George, Hallowell embarked for England in June 1763, carrying with him letters and recommendations from Thomas Hutchinson and others, where, on 9 March 1764, he was appointed Comptroller of Customs at Boston, replacing Nathaniel Ware, by deputation from the Commissioners of Customs. He returned to New England and was sworn in on 18 July 1764. From that moment, he became upswept in the mounting passions of pre-Revolutionary Boston. His house on Hanover Street was ransacked by a mob during the Liberty riots of 1768. Hallowell himself was dispatched to England to report on them. On Christmas Day 1770, now a full Commissioner of Customs, he arrived again at Boston where he remained until Royal authority crumbled and Boston was evacuated by the British in 1776. He died at York, Upper Canada, on 28 March 1799.

One of his sons was Ward Nicholas Boylston (1747–1828), the benefactor of Harvard College, who took the name Boylston in 1770 to become heir to the estate of his uncle. Another son became Sir Benjamin Hallowell, later Carew (1760–1834), and served under Nelson at Aboukir Bay in command of H.M. frigate Swiftsure.

The Province ship King George, “built by Mr. John Ruddock, for the Service of this Government,” was launched near midday on Monday, 18 April 1757, when (as was usual to be said upon such occasions) she was “judg’d to be one of the compleatest Vessels that has been built in these Parts; she is to mount 26 Carriage Guns but pierced for 30.” Captain Benjamin Hallowell, reported The Boston Gazette, and Country Journal on 25 April, “by the Appointment of the Honourable His Majesty’s Council, is Commander of said Ship; and such Dispatch is made in the fitting her for Sea, that its supposed she may be ready for sailing in a few Days.…”

It is most regrettable that details of King George’s general appearance and dimensions are so scanty, but it may be said that she apparently did not mount more than twenty carriage guns and probably should be described, therefore, as a ship-rigged sloop of war rather than as a frigate. Her tonnage is variously reported between 400 and 430. Simeon Skillin, Boston’s noted ship carver, is believed to have cut her figurehead which, presumably, represented the Monarch.

As early as February 1757, the Legislature had established a complement for her of 125 men, officers included, a number considered by Hallowell insufficient for the proper working of the vessel and so increased by another twenty-five men after the second cruise of the season. The ship was administered not unlike one directly under the control of the Navy, with most commissioned and warrant officers borne on the books as might be expected but with the notable exception of a Purser.

The scale of wages, which remained much the same during the first years of the war, is given below:6

Rank Wages/Month

(New Tenor)


£8. 0.0


5. 0.0

Sailing Master

4. 0.0


4. 0.0






3. 0.0


3. 0.0


3. 0.0


£3. 0.0







Boatswain’s Mate

2. 5.0


2. 5.0


2. 5.0

Quarter Master

2. 5.0

Seamen (each)

2. 0.0

The first recruiting advertisements appeared in the press concurrently with the news of the launching.

All able-bodied Seamen that are inclined to serve His Majesty, on board the Ship KING GEORGE, a Ship of War built and equipped by this Government, and commanded by me the Subscriber, are desired to repair on board the said Ship, lying in the Harbour of Boston, where they shall be well received and enter into immediate Pay, at Fifteen Pounds old Tenor per Month; and shall have one Month’s Pay advanced to them before sailing: And for their further Encouragement, they are hereby notified, that the whole of the Prizes, that shall be taken by the aforesaid Ship, will be shared among the Officers and Seamen that are on board at the Time of the Capture, in the same Proportion as Officers and Seamen share on board his Majesty’s Navy.

Province of the Massachusetts

Bay, Boston, April 20, 1757   Benj Hallowell, jun.

☞A Number of others A Number of others who are not compleat Seamen will be received on board said Ship.7

King George sailed in 18 May 1757, exactly one month after the launching. She made eight cruises during the summer and autumn, a number unequalled in later years but from the point of view of prizes captured a dismal season.

To facilitate this survey of her six active seasons, we shall examine the yearly establishments one at a time and summarize the principal events, as the author has had the opportunity to uncover them, of individual cruises. What follows provides the framework upon which further investigations may be hung.


Launched, 18 April

First Cruise (18–28 May): no significant activity.

Second Cruise (31 May–13 June): no significant activity.

Third Cruise (19–28 June): the following letter, dated 17 June from Robert Hooper, Jr., of Marblehead, to Secretary Andrew Oliver explains why Hallowell was ordered to sea:

Sir—Almost every Vessell that arrives See the sloop which has hovered on the Coast for a Month past, a snow of mine from Lisbon being well armed Cleared her about 8 days ago fired three shott at her, She did not Show any Colours, this morning two Fishermen arrived from the Bay of Funday and saw her about 30 Leagues from Cape Ann Sometimes with her sailes down and sometimes up. She made no attempt to speak with them, I am fully Convinced she is Waiting for the Flagg of truce. I really think it wod be best to send the [Province] Ship out and let her Cruize between Cape Ann and Cape Cod and so farr as Browns Bank, I think it hardly Possible to miss her.8

Miss her he did, however, for no trace of the rogue vessel could be found despite an intensive sweep of Massachusetts Bay and well beyond.

Fourth Cruise (30 June–13 July): no significant activity.

Fifth Cruise (?–2 September): On 19 August, Hallowell “chased a French Privateer Schooner, of 8 Guns, with a white Bottom, brown Quarters, and Gaff-top-sails, off Bank Quero; but Night coming on, a thin Fog arising, and he becalm’d, the Privateer row’d off, otherwise he makes no doubt of his taking her:—That the Fishermen acquainted him, that on the 12th ult. two 36 Gun French Frigates were seen steering to the Tail of the Grand Bank, in order, ’tis tho’t, to cut off the Fishery.”9

Sixth Cruise (13 September–first week of October): King George sailed for New York with government funds on board for delivery, arriving there 19 September and sailing thence on a cruise by the twenty-third. Between 3 and 6 October, she returned to Boston with several transports in convoy.

Seventh Cruise (12 October–29 November): Arriving at Halifax on 18 October, Hallowell learned that the Province snow Prince of Wales had been captured off Louisbourg on the twenty-ninth of September. In company with a bomb ketch, King George steered a course for Louisbourg, where the bomb looked into the harbor and reported nineteen “topsail vessels,” mostly of the line, to be seen but nothing actually recognized as Prince of Wales. The bomb subsequently carried away her bowsprit during a storm and limped back to Halifax. At month’s end, King George was cruising twenty leagues south of Sable Island, taking care not to proceed further eastward lest she fall afoul of a French fleet expected to sail from Louisbourg.

Eighth Cruise (1–24 December): Soon after Prince of Wales’ capture, rumors began to circulate that she had been stationed off the coast by the French as a decoy. The first speculative report had followed immediately upon confirmation of her capture: “As ’tis said she will be soon sent out as a Cruizer, ’tis hoped our coasting Vessels and others, will be upon their Guard, lest they be decoy’d and taken by her.” On 30 November, a sloop from Halifax arrived at Boston with the news that she had been chased for four hours off the Bay of Fundy by an unidentified brigantine. “Some suspect her to be the late Province Snow, but alter’d for a Decoy.” King George was sent out to investigate but returned without having made contact, the object of the search, in the meantime, having proven herself an American vessel which had simply attempted to speak the sloop. Rumors, however, continued until Prince of Wales was retaken the next summer in consequence of the capitulation of Louisbourg.

With the end of the normal cruising season long overdue, King George was laid up for the winter, only Hallowell and a small ship-keeping crew remaining in pay until a renewed establishment authorization sent her to sea again in the spring.


On the second of March, Governor Thomas Pownall, who had assumed the helm of government upon his arrival at Boston the previous August, touched in a message to the House upon refitting her: “That you will make also sufficient Establishment and Provision for the Ship of War King George: which I propose to fit out for Cruizing without Delay, for the Protection of the Trade and Fishery of this Province.”

Benjamin Hallowell, Jr. memorialized the House the same day, praying for an augmentation of wages for the surgeon whom he could not replace and who refused to remain without an increase of pay; also that an establishment be created for a sailmaker. The investigating committee recommended the scale of wages remain as before except for an increase of ten shillings a month to £4 for the surgeon and a reduction of the cook’s pay by five shillings to £2. A sailmaker was added at £2.10.0 and, for a like amount, a surgeon’s mate. The cooper was dropped from the official establishment but nevertheless continued to be borne on the books.

An establishment for provisions was concluded about the same time. Each man, each week, would receive six pounds of bread, four pounds of pork, three pounds of beef, one and a half pounds of flour, one quart of peas or beans, seven gills of rum, and three gallons of beer.

By the middle of March, recruiting advertisements were again making their appearance in the press, with excellent results. When the ship sailed on her first cruise of the year a few weeks later, she had on board 161 officers and men, eleven more than the authorized complement.

Muster lists for King George survive for the years 1758 through 1763. Much information may be derived from them; much of it interesting and surprising. The lists for 1758, 1759, and 1762 specify the towns and regions from which the men came. Boston and its immediate vicinity during these three years provided the majority of the commissioned and warrant officers, but Salem produced two pilots and Marblehead, Charlestown, and Braintree one sailing master each.

As for the men themselves, they are shown to have been drawn from the following areas in the following proportions:

Boston and immediate vicinity (including Braintree, Cambridge, Charlestown, Chelsea, Nantasket, Point Shirley, and Roxbury) provided almost sixty-six percent of the men, led by Boston proper with fifty-five percent and Braintree next with four percent. The North Shore and other areas of Essex County (Andover, Beverly, Cape Ann, Lynn, Manchester, Marblehead, Newbury, Salem, and Salisbury) contributed about twenty-eight percent of the total, led by Salem (16%) and followed by Marblehead (5%). The South Shore to Cafe Cod townships accounted for most of the remainder.

These same lists also demonstrate the constantly shifting officer corps on board. Only Benjamin Hallowell, Jr. and his First Lieutenant served continuously. Six other officers served aboard for two seasons, although not necessarily consecutive ones; four served three years each. Only Gunner Edward Burbeck and Cook John Greenough stuck it out any longer: both for four years straight. Surgeons caused the greatest difficulty, were the hardest to please, and were the most volatile. Eight persons filled that slot in five years.

King George, in addition to her principal function as a guarda costa, became a nursery for several future naval officers or privateers-men of the Revolutionary War. Hallowell’s lieutenant was a man named Daniel Souther. In 1776, Souther became captain of the Massachusetts State Navy brigantine Massachusetts. Eleazor Giles of Salem, who functioned as King George’s pilot in 1762, became a noted Beverly privateersman fifteen years later. During the summer of 1760, a twelve-year-old youth named Samuel Tucker was serving aboard the Province ship as the servant to the sailing master, his father. Samuel Tucker of Marblehead grew up to command two of the armed schooners of Washington’s Navy in 1776, then the Continental frigate Boston for two and a half years, and finally turned to privateering during the last years of the War.1 Other names, such as John Ayres, crop up too but may be coincidental so will not be treated here.

In the course of the season of 1758 King George made six cruises. It was her most successful year for prizes.

First Cruise (3–24 April): Sent to sea to convoy the trade bound for Halifax, Hallowell’s orders from Governor Pownall were simply “to clear the Communication betwixt that Port and this, of those Vermin from Louisbourg; and to proceed thence on a Cruize for the Protection of the Trade and Fishery of this Province.” No known ships were taken during this cruise.

Second Cruise (circa 3–24 May): on 13 May, to the eastward of Sable Island, Hallowell captured without resistance the French letter-of-marque ship St. Michael, Captain Herrison, of 280 tons, sixteen carriage guns, and fifty men. She had sailed from Brest on 3 April in company with five other sail of vessels bound for Louisbourg with beef, pork, flour, butter, and wine. As Hallowell secured his prize, one of the others hove in sight, but by virtue of fog and darkness coming on she escaped. St. Michael reached Boston under a prize crew on 23 May.

On 17 May, King George took the French letter-of-marque snow Glorie, Captain Laurence, of 300 tons, six guns, and thirty-four men, carrying provisions, wine, brandy, and arms. Glorie was sent in to Halifax, and the Province ship returned to Boston.

Third Cruise (end of May–11 July): while cruising at Bank Vert, King George on 22 June captured the letter-of-marque ship Astree, Captain Jussan, 320 tons, eight guns, and fifty men which had sailed with a fleet from Bordeaux for Quebec with flour, wine, brandy, and a large quantity of bale goods. Jussan offered Hallowell a bribe of £16,000 sterling to be released, but Astree was put under a prize crew and dispatched for Boston.

The ship Frippone, Bartho. Corlier, 184 tons, twelve guns, and fifty men, from Rochelle for Quebec with wine, oil, brandy, flour, soldiers’ clothing, and other stores was captured after sharp fighting on the twenty-sixth of June. With the prize in company, King George was off Gabarous Bay in early July but then returned to Boston bringing the latest news from Louisbourg, then under combined British and Provincial siege.

King George seems to have been fortunate during these engagements not to have lost any men by enemy fire; in fact, it is a rare occurrence to note in her Muster Lists the designation “DD” (Discharged Dead) at any time during her career. Ten such, however, the most for any yearly establishment, occurred in 1758, yet all but one date from intervals when the ship lay to an anchor within Nantasket Roads. This suggests mortality not from any lingering effects of cannon or musketry fire but from disease. Indeed, it had been necessary to land a number of men from Frippone at the Rainsford Island isolation hospital in mid-July.

Fourth Cruise (13–27 August): less a cruise than an expedition to the coast of Massachusetts’ eastern Province of Maine under the direct supervision of the Governor himself, King George sailed from Boston harbor in company with the Province sloop Massachusetts, Captain Thomas Saunders.2 The several forts and garrisons on the coast having been threatened by French and Indian attack, Pownall concluded to make a personal inspection tour and had exercised his prerogatives to requisition the Province ship for that purpose.

After leaving reenforcements and stores for the garrisons, the vessels continued on the outside of Penobscot Bay to Mount Desert where Massachusetts was detached to reconnoiter the Bay. There, Saunders discovered two large parties of the enemy, Indians and French both, with canoes and batteaux. He put over a boat, manned and armed, to chase the nearest canoe, but, imprudently, his men strayed beyond the cover of the sloop’s guns and were captured. Unable to effect a rescue, Saunders rendezvoused with Hallowell, and the two together vainly attempted to reenter Penobscot Bay for several days, prevented by contrary winds. Pownall decided to return to Boston, leaving Massachusetts behind to protect the settlements.

Fifth Cruise (28 August–7 September): within twenty-four hours of King George’s return, upon receipt of intelligence that 300 French and Indians had attacked St. George’s Fort on the twenty-fifth, Pownall sent Hallowell back to the Maine coast, but he returned with Massachusetts in company to report that the enemy’s numbers had been grossly exaggerated, that the fort had withstood the attack, and that no sign of the enemy could be found in the region.

Sixth Cruise (9 September–19 October): this cruise should perhaps be considered two, rather than one, inasmuch as the Muster lists show a series of desertions and discharges between the twelfth and twenty-fifth of September. There was, nevertheless, no significant activity, and the ship was laid up for the winter at the end of the month.


Governor Pownall’s excursion to the Maine coast in 1758 laid the groundwork for the Province ship’s most essential service of the coming season—to assist in the construction of the fort ultimately to be known as Fort Pownall, on Penobscot Bay.

When the yearly establishment began on 15 March 1759, preparations already were well under way to gather up the men and supplies destined for service to the eastward and to put Quebec under siege, as Louisbourg had been the previous year. Recruiting for King George suffered in consequence. Six men had enrolled by 15 March; during the remainder of the month, another 105; through April, 27; early May, only three. Of these, eight had been discharged for a total on board of 133, well below strength. The drain of men to man the supply ships and troop transports destined for Canada had obliged Hallowell to seek authorization for use of a press gang to take from incoming vessels sufficient men to make up his complement, but even so he would sail short. An increase in monthly pay would have stimulated interest and helped to compete with the market for sailors; nevertheless, it remained at the 1758, which is to say, at the 1757, level.

At the end of April, Governor Pownall set off by land for Kittery, Maine, to consult and pay his respects to the aged and near-to-death Sir William Pepperrell, hero of the first siege of Louisbourg fourteen years before. On 4 May, the Governor embarked on board the Province sloop Massachusetts at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and sailed for Falmouth where the timbers of the Penobscot fort were being prefabricated. King George, meanwhile, was preparing to join forces with him.

First Cruise (circa 4–28 May): Under convoy were transports carrying Provincial troops to garrison Forts Pisiquid and Cumberland. Hallowell reached Falmouth (now Portland, Maine) during the morning of the sixth and immediately was put in charge of embarking the troops which had gathered there for Penobscot. Three hundred and thirty-three had embarked by the eighth, the remainder to follow in the sloops bearing the fort’s constructor and timbers. The same day, with Pownall now on board King George, she, Massachusetts, and the transports sailed for St. George’s Fort. There, four days were consumed, largely in conversation with a party of Penobscot and Passamaquoddy Indians, the substance of which need not concern us for the purposes of this summary. On 13 May, Pownall was ferried aboard King George, and Massachusetts was ordered to return to Falmouth to convoy the sloops to the east. Hallowell set sail for Penobscot. The troops, under Brigadier Jedediah Preble, would march overland to the mouth of the Pausegasawackeag River in Penobscot Bay, a distance of some thirty miles.

On 17 May, the ship came to anchor in Colville harbor, when a landing was effected under the direction of the Governor and under cover of King George. “I advanced with the whole in a Line abreast,” Pownall later wrote, “Preble commanding the left Division, Myself in the Barge the Right, as soon as we came near the Shore, upon a Signal which I had before given Preble, he with his Division push’d up to the Left, and Landed on the Cove so as to form a Right Angle with the Shore where I landed—so that had any Indians from behind the Trees opposed either his or my Landing, the other must have flank’d them. There was no enemy—nor did I expect any.…”3

Further investigations upriver during the next week only confirmed in Pownall’s mind the advantages of a site close to the original landing place. Within ten days of arrival, the troops had built a road from the landing to the fort site, they had built a breastwork around their encampment, felled trees for many acres in all directions around them, and had raised several storehouses and a hospital. Fort Pownall itself—the cellar, foundations, and first floor of which were done within two days—was expected to be completed within a month, or less.

With work progressing smoothly, Pownall sailed on 26 May for Boston in King George, and arrived at Castle William to avail himself of an overnight accommodation on the twenty-eighth before returning to town the next day.

Second Cruise (circa 6 June–13 July): With each passing year of service, the Province ship made fewer and fewer annual cruises. Where there had been eight in 1757 and six in 1758, there were but four, including the expedition to Penobscot, during 1759.

There seems to have been no significant activity during this cruise, but by 19 June Hallowell was in Lat. 37.10N., Long. 71W., some 300 miles due east of Chesapeake Bay, and wrote that day to Pownall:

I have frequent Accounts of three Privateers, a Brigantine, Schooner and Sloop cruizing here, of which I have been informed by almost every Vessel I have spoke with; on the 17 th Instant a Vessel from Antegoa was chased by them for some Time, when, they had three Sloops in Company, but Night coming on left off Chace after firing seven Shot at him, which went over him, but being to Windward got clear, since and before that I met with several others who has been fired upon and Chaced; from this Intelligence I shall be detained longer on this Station than I expected without I am lucky enough to meet with them soon. I am now amongst the thickest of the Whalemen, seven of them are near us, (two of which have great Luck to Day) every Person who has informed me of these Privateers has agreed in their Account, the Brig a black Top and white Bottom full of Sails, and a Tier of Guns, not very large, the Schooner two topsails, Stay-sails, Ring-tail, Sprit-sails, &c. the Sloop with a Top-sail, Ringtail, and full of small Sails.4

King George returned to Boston without having made contact.

Third Cruise (26 July–5 September): Arriving at Halifax with provision vessels under convoy, King George sailed on her month-long cruise and captured a single enemy shallop off Louisbourg during that time.

Fourth Cruise (27 September–13 November): no significant activity other than to convoy the trade to Louisbourg and to chase a privateer up a creek near Canso.

The Province ship was laid up for the winter upon her return to Boston in mid-November.


By now it is no news to the reader that there was nothing glamorous about King George or her activities nor anything especially dashing about her captain, yet both were essential elements in the continuing confidence of the merchants in their government’s ability to protect the trade. When, as during the early months of the year 1760, they had reason to believe she would be diverted to other uses they lost no time voicing their complaints.

In February 1760, the news reached Boston that Thomas Pownall was to leave the Province to assume the Governorship of South Carolina but with permission first to return to England. “As I intend to give a Recess to the Court,” he already had informed it on 12 February, “and as the Time for fitting out the Ship King George for the Protection of the Trade and Fishery of the Province will arrive before the Time that it may be necessary for me to call the Court together again,” he recommended provision for her seasonal establishment be made at once.

On 25 March, however, the House of Representatives suggested to Pownall a radical departure from previous routine. Send her to Great Britain, the House asked, to receive on board the Parliamentary grants and other monies due the Province and then return with them to Boston. Perhaps also his Excellency would care to avail himself of the opportunity for a passage to England?

Such suggestions immediately raised anguished cries from the merchants of the Province, especially those from Boston, Charlestown, and Marblehead who, with justification, argued that the mission was incompatible with the purposes for which the ship had been built and maintained; that if she were to cross the Atlantic other provision should be made for armed vessels to protect the trade, and the duties supporting her should be taken off.

The subject was bandied back and forth for some weeks, as was the petition of the aggrieved merchants. Although in early April Pownall declined taking his passage in her inasmuch as the time of departure was not expected to suit his plans, it still seemed assured the Province ship would be sent to Britain. Suddenly, the situation resolved itself, in part, perhaps, by the remonstrances of the merchants but largely as a consequence of changing circumstances, for it was learned that the Parliamentary grant could be expected to arrive in a vessel of the Royal Navy. King George was thus released to function in her normal capacity.

Recruiting activities proceeded dismally (there had been no pay increase this season, either): so much so that both April and May slipped away without her once leaving harbor or ever attaining more than half her complement. On the third of June, when Pownall attended a farewell dinner on board just before embarking for England aboard the ship Benjamin & Samuel, only seventy-seven officers and men were in service. Throughout June, too, she lay to moorings in Nantasket Roads, mouldering with inactivity. At the end of the month, she was hastily manned by a general impress to replace H.M. sloop Racehorse which was supposed to have escorted a number of troop transports to Louisbourg but at the last minute was unable to do so. The Province ship made but three cruises this year; all of them were ineffectual.

First Cruise (29 June–25 July): King George arrived at Louisbourg with the garrison soldiers on 5 July, landed them on the sixth, and sailed on an uneventful cruise two days later. On 5 August, some ten days after her return to Boston, another dinner was hosted on board, this time in honor of the newly arrived replacement for Pownall, Francis Bernard.

Second Cruise (10–23 August): The ship took under convoy a storeship bound for New York and returned.

Third Cruise (25 September–11 November): The purpose of this, the last seasonal foray, was to rid the coast of two French privateers reportedly cruising south of Cape Cod. No contact was made with them. Excerpts from King George’s logbook during this cruise were later published in the Boston press; as one of the few extant day-to-day descriptions of her routine they are worth repeating.5

October 3, 1760. Lat. 37.N. Long. 73.03W. spoke with a Ship, John Turner, master, from Anguilla for Philadelphia, lost her mizen-mast.—From the 6th to 10th, from lat. 39.10 to 34.20. and from long. 72.21 to 70.20. In a very heavy gale of wind from E.N.E. to N. great part of the time laying too under a reef mainsail, but that gave way, when the Ship lay a hull for 10 hours, but it becoming more dangerous, as the sea grew greater now than ever, was obliged to put before the wind, when the sea pooped her as she was going at the rate of 10 and 12 knots.—11th, lat. 34.2 long. 69.28. the wind abated, and came to the N.W. spoke with a Brig, James Wolfe, master, from Madeira for Philadelphia, blown off the coast, lost his boats, foresail, sprung his bowsprit, and shifted his cargo in the hold.—12th, lat. 33.41. long 68.28. the wind moderate, but a great swell, sent the boat aboard, secured his bowsprit, new stowed his hold, and supply’d him with necessaries.—14th, lat. 35.10. long. 69.44. spoke with the Snow William and Mary, James Watson, master, from Glasgow to Virginia, blown off the coast, damaged her cargo, and lost part of her head,—16th, lat. 36.9. long. 70.14. spoke with a Sloop from New Providence for New York, who two days before met with a large lower mast and rigging.—17th. lat. 36.49. long. 72.14. spoke with the Ship King of Prussia, Thomas James, master, under jury-masts, from Bristol for Virginia, who the day before took out the crew of a Schooner from Virginia for Montserrat, which sank before they could get on board the Ship—Spoke with the Mary, James Maitland, master, from Virginia, in company with 11 sail of other vessels from the same place for Europe, they had also seen several masts & yards, &c.—20th, lat. 38.6. long 72.27. spoke with a Schooner, James Hopkins, master, from Jamaica for Rh. Island, who had suffered greatly in the late gale of wind.—Spoke with a Snow from Liverpool for Maryland, who in lat. 38.30, long. 69. saw a large Ship with only her bowsprit standing, and only her bows and quarters above water.—21st, lat. 38.27. long. 73.45. spoke with a Ship George Leake, master, from Jamaica for Philadelphia, who had his foremast blown away, with the bowsprit, the Ship thrown on her beam ends, and much other damage done in the gale of wind between the 6th and 10th. Capt. Leak met with the following vessels [here omitted]…Novem. 1st, towed in a Sloop from Carolina which had lost her Bowsprit the 6th of October.

King George, herself, returned to port “having receiv’d considerable Damage in the late terrible Storm at Sea.”


As an essential consequence of three successful Anglo-American campaigns between 1758 and 1760 against Louisbourg, Quebec, and Montreal, the naval aspect of the war in New England and Canada seemed to be winding down. During the early spring of 1761, a dialogue between the Governor and the House debated at length whether or not the Province ship should be fitted out at full strength for the forthcoming season at all. The feeling of less imminent danger from the French at sea and. the complacency that ensued was exemplified by the decision to employ the sloop Massachusetts as a transport to Newfoundland where Professor John Winthrop of Harvard College could observe a transit of Venus on the sixth of June.

When at last it was agreed to maintain King George at full strength for at least another year, it was nearly the end of April. By the end of May, despite the added inducement of a ten-dollar bounty, only eighty-three men had been enlisted. The bounty money had been borrowed from a committee of private merchants, but even this did not have the desired effect. Governor Bernard opined that the problem lay with the establishment for wages which had remained virtually unchanged since the beginning of the war. In that time, wages in the merchant service had risen by twenty-eight percent. “You cannot expect,” he admonished the House, “but that, when Seamen’s Wages rise every where else, they must rise in your Ship also.”

On 15 June 1761, the House established a new scale of wages, increasing the pay in most cases by twenty-five percent, including Hallowell’s which went from £8 to £10 a month. Those most significantly affected were the surgeon whose pay was doubled, his mate who got a fifty-percent raise, and the seamen who were better off by one-third.

During the first three weeks of June, her complement was filled, and she sailed on the first of the two cruises completed during the summer. Neither amounted to anything and were more noteworthy for their longevity (just under two months each) than for their success.

First Cruise (19 June–21 August): no significant activity.

Second Cruise (1 September–20 October): no significant activity.

The year ended with a petition from the merchants of Salem, praying employment of King George as an escort to the local trade bound for the West Indies; that she remain there on patrol throughout the winter and return in the spring with homeward-bound merchantmen. Denied, the ship was yet again laid up for the winter at Boston.


After years of dogged but unspectacular service, it is a pleasure to report that in 1762, her last season as a Province vessel, King George had the opportunity to participate in a full-scale naval campaign, thereby following in the wake of such predecessors as Edward Tyng’s Massachusetts-Frigate which had taken part in the 1745 siege of Louisbourg.

First Cruise (29 April–2 July): the cruise encompassed the waters between the thirty-sixth parallel and the Newfoundland Banks. It resulted in the capture of a loaded sloop from Hispaniola.

Second Cruise (6 August–16 October): In July, the French had invaded Newfoundland and at present were in possession of St. John’s. Plans were being formulated to dislodge them; at Halifax with his squadron was Admiral Lord Colville, flying his Flag from Northumberland6 “In my last of the 6th Instant,” Colville reported to the Admiralty on 9 August, “I mentioned my Expectations of carrying with me the Troops from this Province and Louisbourg to endeavour to remove the Enemy from Newfoundland, but having received a Letter last Night from Sir Jeffery Amherst of the 29th past, and finding he had not given any Directions on this head, I shall sail tomorrow with the Northumberland and Gosfort, and am in hopes of being joined by the Antelope and Syren on the Coast of Newfoundland.”

Bearer of Amherst’s dispatches had been King George. “I intend,” the Admiral continued, “to carry her with me, and to send her back to New England as soon as she can be spared from the present service.”

Northumberland, seventy-four guns, Gosport, forty, and the “armed ship” King George, twenty, sailed from Halifax on the tenth of August 1762. Four days later, they rendezvoused with H.M. ships Antelope and Syren at Placentia; then sailed again to cruise off the Bay of Bulls and, finally, before St. John’s itself, all the while collecting up as many shallops as could be found in the area in order to be ready for landing the troops expected from Halifax and Louisbourg.

At the end of the second week of September, 900 Regulars and 500 Massachusetts Provincials, who had joined the squadron with their transports and support vessels, were landed at Torbay, north of St. John’s. An overland march to Kitty Vitty began, where a French outpost was taken, and the shallops and ships’ boats began ferrying ashore the artillery, stores, and provisions sent around from Torbay.

Under cover of fog on the night of the fifteenth, the French fleet within St. John’s harbor slipped out through its narrow entrance, undetected by the British. Colville ordered King George southward around Cape Race as far as Trepassy to discover whether or not the enemy was seen to be steering for Placentia. Ashore, in the meantime, the Regular and Provincial troops fought their way across the ridge between Kitty Vitty and St. John’s, threw up an entrenchment for a bomb battery, and began shelling the town. On 18 September, the French garrison surrendered, and Colville entered the harbor to be joined almost immediately by three ships of the line and a frigate from England.

King George returned to St. John’s, where she and a transport took on board a detachment of the Forty-Fifth Regiment. They sailed for Louisbourg on 26 September, arriving one week later, landed the troops and embarked 100 Provincials to be shifted from the Louisbourg garrison to Halifax.

The Province ship, after two and a half months on detached duty with the Royal Navy, brought the news to Boston of the recapture of St. John’s and never again would go to sea in her former capacity.


News of the signing of the preliminary articles of peace reached Boston at the beginning of January 1763; a month later, a proclamation of cessation of arms followed. Almost at once, the House began looking into the best means of disposing of King George. By the end of February, the committee appointed to consider the matter reported, whereupon it was resolved “That the said Ship be Sold at Public Vendue in Boston, to the highest Bidder, on Thursday the 28th Day of April next, at Three o’Clock in the Afternoon; and that she be immediately advertised in the Public News-Papers for that Purpose: That an Inventory of her Stores and Appurtenances belonging to her (except her Guns and other Warlike Accoutrements) be posted up in some Public Place.…”

On 28 April 1763, the Province ship King George was struck off at the British Coffee House, sold to Boston merchant Andrew Hall. Six months later, as a merchant trader under Captain Philip Bass, she sailed from Boston for Lisbon with a cargo of oak and pine timber, boards, and barrel staves.


Journal of the Excell’y Thos. Pownall…to Penobscot…[1759], photostatic copy at the Massachusetts Historical Society.

Thomas Hutchinson Correspondence, microfilm 144, Massachusetts Historical Society.

Muster Lists of the Province Ship King George, 1758–1763, Massachusetts State Archives.

Captains’ logs of H.M. ships Northumberland, Gosport, and Syren, Public Record Office, London.

Admirals’ Correspondence (Colville), Public Record Office, London.

Naval Office Shipping Lists, 1753–1765, Port of Salem, Peabody Museum of Salem.

M. V. Brewington, Ship carvers of North America (Barre, Massachusetts: Barre Publishing Co., 1962).

James Duncan Phillips, Salem in the Eighteenth Century (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1937).

Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay (Boston: Albert J. Wright, 1878, 1881), iii. iv.

Essex Institute Historical Collections, ii. (1861), lxiv. (1928).

Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts (Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 1959–1973), xxxiii–xliii.

Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston, Containing the Selectmen’s Minutes from 1754 through 1763 (Boston: Rockwell and Churchill, 1887).

The Boston Weekly News-Letter (1757–1762).

The Boston News-Letter and New England Chronicle (1762–1763).

The Massachusetts Gazette and Boston News-Letter (1763).

The Boston Gazette, and Country Journal (1757–1762).