Loss Of His Majesty's Ship Litchfield

The Litchfield, Captain Barton, left Ireland on the 11th of November,

1758, in company with several other men of war and transports, under

the command of Commodore Keppel, intended for the reduction of Goree.

The voyage was prosperous till the 28th, when at eight in the evening

I took charge of the watch, and the weather turned out very squally

with rain. At nine it was extremely dark, with much lightning, the

wind varying from S. W. to W. N. W. At half past nine, had a very hard

squall. Captain Barton came upon deck and staid till ten; then left

orders to keep sight of the commodore, and to make what sail the

weather would permit. At eleven, saw the commodore bearing south, but

the squalls coming on so heavy, were obliged to hand the

main-top-sail, and at twelve o'clock, were under our courses.

November the 29, at one in the morning, I left the deck in charge of

the first lieutenant; the light, which we took to be the commodore's

right ahead, bearing S. wind W. S. W. blowing very hard; at six in the

morning I was awakened by a great shock, and a confused noise of the

men on deck. I ran up, thinking some ship had run foul of us, for, by

my own reckoning, and that of every other person in the ship, we were

at least 35 leagues distant from land; but, before I could reach the

quarter-deck, the ship gave a great stroke upon the ground, and the

sea broke all over her. Just after this, I could perceive the land,

rocky, rugged and uneven, about two cables' length from us. The ship

lying with her broadside to windward, the masts soon went overboard,

carrying some men with them. It is impossible for any one but a

sufferer to feel our distress at this time; the masts, yards, and

sails hanging alongside in a confused heap; the ship beating violently

upon the rocks; the waves curling up to an incredible height, then

dashing down with such force as if they would immediately have split

the ship to pieces, which we, indeed, every moment expected. Having a

little recovered from our confusion, saw it necessary to get every

thing we could over to the larboard side, to prevent the ship from

heeling off, and exposing the deck to the sea. Some of the people were

very earnest to get the boats out contrary to advice; and, after much

intreaty, notwithstanding a most terrible sea, one of the boats was

launched, and eight of the best men jumped into her, but she had

scarcely got to the ship's stern, when she was whirled to the bottom,

and every soul in her perished. The rest of the boats were soon washed

to pieces on the deck.--We then made a raft of the davit, capstan-bars

and some boards, and waited with resignation, for divine Providence to

assist us.

The ship soon filled with water, so that we had no time to get any

provision up; the quarter-deck and poop were now the only place we

could stand on with security, the waves being mostly spent by the time

they reached us, owing to the fore part of the ship breaking them.

At four in the afternoon, perceiving the sea to be much abated, one

of our people attempted to swim, and got safe on shore. There were

numbers of Moors upon the rocks ready to take hold of any one, and

beckoned much for us to come ashore, which, at first we took for

kindness, but they soon undeceived us, for they had not the humanity

to assist any that was entirely naked, but would fly to those who had

any thing about them, and strip them before they were quite out of the

water, wrangling among themselves about the plunder; in the mean time

the poor wretches were left to crawl up the rocks if they were able,

if not, they perished unregarded. The second lieutenant and myself,

with about sixty-five others, got ashore before dark, but were left

exposed to the weather on the cold sand. To preserve ourselves from

perishing of cold, were obliged to go down to the shore, and to bring

up pieces of the wreck to make a fire. While thus employed, if we

happened to pick up a shirt or handkerchief, and did not give it to

the Moors at the first demand, the next thing was a dagger presented

to our breast.

They allowed us a piece of an old sail, which they did not think worth

carrying off; with this we made two tents, and crowded ourselves into

them, sitting between one another's legs to preserve warmth, and make

room. In this uneasy situation, continually bewailing our misery, and

that of our poor shipmates on the wreck, we passed a most tedious

night, without so much as a drop of water to refresh ourselves,

excepting what we caught through our sail-cloth covering.

November the 30th, at six in the morning, went down with a number of

our men upon the rocks, to assist our shipmates in coming ashore, and

found the ship had been greatly shattered in the night. It being now

low water, many attempted to swim ashore; some got safe, but others

perished. The people on board got the raft into the water, and about

fifteen men placed themselves upon it. They had no sooner put off from

the wreck, than it overturned; most of the men recovered it again,

but, scarcely were they on, before it was a second time overturned.

Only three or four got hold of it again, and all the rest perished. In

the mean time, a good swimmer brought with much difficulty a rope

ashore, which I had the good fortune to catch hold of just when he was

quite spent, and had thoughts of quitting it.

Some people coming to my assistance, we pulled a large rope ashore

with that, and made it fast round a rock. We found this gave great

spirits to the poor souls upon the wreck, it being hauled taught from

the upper part of the stern, made an easy descent to any who had art

enough to walk or slide upon a rope, with a smaller rope fixed above

to hold by. This was a means of saving a number of lives, though many

were washed off by the impetuous surf, and perished. The flood coming

on, raised the surf, and prevented any more from coming at that time,

so that the ropes could be of no further use. We then retired from the

rocks; and hunger prevailing, set about boiling some of the drowned

turkeys, &c. which with some flour mixed into a paste, and baked upon

the coals, constituted our first meal upon this barbarous coast. We

found a well of fresh water about a half a mile off, which very much

refreshed us. But we had scarcely finished this coarse repast, when

the Moors, who were now grown numerous, drove us all down to the rocks

to bring up empty iron bound casks, pieces of the wreck which had the

most iron about them, and other articles.

About three o'clock in the afternoon we made another meal on the

drowned poultry, and finding this was the best provision we were

likely to have; some were ordered to save all they could find, others

to raise a larger tent, and the rest sent down to the rocks to look

for people coming ashore. The surf greatly increasing with the flood,

and breaking upon the fore-part of the ship, she was divided into

three parts; the fore-part turned keel up, the middle part soon dashed

into a thousand pieces; the fore-part of the poop likewise fell at

this time, and about thirty men with it, eight of whom got ashore with

our help, but so bruised, that we despaired of their recovery. Nothing

but the after-part of the poop now remained above water, and a very

small part of the other decks, on which our captain, and about 130

more remained, expecting every wave to be their last. Every shock

threw some off; few or none of whom came on shore alive. During this

distress the Moors laughed uncommonly, and seemed much diverted, when

a wave larger than usual, threatened the destruction of the poor

wretches on the wreck. Between four and five o'clock the sea was

decreased with the ebb; the rope being still secure, the people began

to venture upon it; some tumbled off and perished, but others reached

the shore in safety.

About five, we beckoned as much as possible for the captain to come

upon the rope, as this seemed to be as good an opportunity as any we

had seen; and many arrived in safety with our assistance. Some told us

that the captain was determined to stay till all the men had quitted

the wreck however, we still continued to beckon for him, and before it

was dark, saw him come upon the rope. He was closely followed by a

good able seaman, who did all he could to keep up his spirits and

assist him in warping. As he could not swim, and had been so many

hours without refreshment, with the surf hurling him violently along,

he was unable to resist the force of the waves, had lost his hold of

the great rope, and must inevitably have perished had not a wave

thrown him within the reach of our ropes, which he had barely

sufficient sense to catch hold of. We pulled him up, and after resting

a short time on the rocks, he came to himself, and walked up to the

tent, desiring us to continue to assist the rest of the people in

coming on shore.

The villains, (the Moors), would have stripped him, though, he had

nothing on but a plain waistcoat and breeches, if we had not plucked

up a little spirit and opposed them; upon which they thought proper to

desist. The people continued to come ashore, though many perished in

the attempt. The Moors, at length, growing tired with waiting for so

little plunder, would not suffer us to remain on the rocks, but drove

us all away. I then, with the captain's approbation, went, and by

signs made humble supplication to the bashaw, who was in the tent,

dividing the valuable plunder. He understood us at last, and gave us

permission to go down, at the same time sending some Moors with us. We

carried fire-brands down to let the poor souls on the wreck see that

we were still there in readiness to assist them. About nine at night

finding that no more men would venture upon the rope, as the surf was

again greatly increased, we retired to the tent, leaving by the

account of the last man arrived, between thirty and forty souls still

upon the wreck. We now thought of stowing every body in the tent, and

began by fixing the captain in the middle. Then made every man lie

down on his side, as we could not afford them each a breadth; but,

after all, many took easier lodging in empty casks.

The next morning the weather was moderate and fair.--We found the

wreck all in pieces on the rocks, and the shore covered with lumber.

The people upon the wreck all perished about one in morning. In the

afternoon we called a muster, and found the number of the survivors to

be 220; so that 130 perished on this melancholy occasion.

On the 2d of December, the weather still continued moderate. We

subsisted entirely on the drowned stock, and a little pork to relish

it, and the flour made into cakes; all of which we issued regularly

and sparingly, being ignorant whether the Moors would furnish us with

any thing, they being still very troublesome, and even wanting to rob

us of the canvass which covered our tent.

At two in the afternoon a black servant arrived, sent by Mr. Butler, a

Dane, factor to the African Company at Saffy at the distance of about

thirty miles, to inquire into our condition and to offer us

assistance. The man having brought pens, ink and paper, the captain

sent back a letter by him.--Finding there was one who offered us help,

it greatly refreshed our afflicted hearts.

In the afternoon of the following day, we received a letter from Mr.

Butler, with some bread and a few other necessaries. On the 4th, the

people were employed in picking up pieces of sails, and whatever else

the Moors would permit them. We divided the crew into messes, and

served the necessaries we received the preceding day. They had bread

and the flesh of the drowned stock. In the afternoon we received

another letter from Mr. Butler, and one at the same time from Mr.

Andrews, an Irish gentleman, a merchant at Saffy. The Moors were not

so troublesome now as before, most of them going off with what they

had got.

On the 5th the drowned stock was entirely consumed, and at low water

the people were employed in collecting muscles. At ten in the morning,

Mr. Andrews arrived, bringing a French surgeon with medicines and

plaisters, of which, some of the men who had been dreadfully bruised,

stood in great need.--The following day, we served out one of the

blankets of the country to every two men, and pampooses, a kind of

slippers, to those who were in most want of them. These supplies were

likewise brought us by Mr. Andrews. The people were now obliged to

live upon muscles and bread, the Moors, who promised us a supply of

cattle, having deceived us, and never returned.

The people on the 7th were still employed in collecting muscles and

limpets. The Moors began to be a little civil to us, for fear the

emperor should punish them for their cruel treatment to us. In the

afternoon, a messenger arrived from the emperor at Sallee, with

general orders to the people to supply us with provisions. They

accordingly brought us some lean bullocks and sheep which Mr. Andrews

purchased for us; but at this time we had no pots to make broth in,

and the cattle were scarcely fit for any thing else.

In the morning of the 10th, we made preparations for marching to

Morocco, the emperor having sent orders for that purpose, and camels

to carry the lame and necessaries. At nine, set off with about thirty

camels, having got all our liquor with us, divided into hogsheads, for

the convenience of carriage on the camels. At noon, joined the crews

of one of the transports and a bomb-tender, that had been wrecked

about three leagues to the northward of us. We were then all mounted

upon camels, excepting the captain, who was furnished with a horse. We

never stopped till seven in the evening, when they procured two tents

only, which would not contain one third of the men, so that most of

them lay exposed to the dew, which was very heavy, and extremely cold.

We found our whole number to be 388, including officers, men, boys,

three women and a child, which one of the women brought ashore in her


On the 11th, continued our journey, attended by a number of Moors on

horseback. At six in the evening we came to our resting place for that

night, and were furnished with tents sufficient to cover all our men.

At five in the morning of the 12th, we set out as before, and, at two

in the afternoon, saw the emperor's cavalcade at a distance. At three,

a relation of the emperor's, named Muli Adriz, came to us, and told

the captain it was the emperor's orders, he should that instant write

a letter to our governor at Gibraltar, to send to his Britanic Majesty

to inquire whether he would settle a peace with him or not. Captain

Barton immediately sat down upon the grass and wrote a letter, which,

being given to Muli Adriz, he went and joined the emperor again. At

six in the evening came to our resting place for the night, and were

well furnished with tents, but very little provisions.

We were, the following day, desired to continue on the same spot, till

the men were refreshed, and this repose they greatly needed, and we

received a better supply of provisions. That morning, Lieutenant

Harrison commanding the soldiers belonging to Lord Forbes's regiment

died suddenly in the tent. In the evening, while employed with his

interment, the inhuman Moors disturbed us by throwing stones and

mocking us. The next day we found that they had opened the grave and

stripped the body.

On the 16th, we continued our journey, came to our resting place at

four in the afternoon, pitched the tents, and served out the

provision. Here our people were ill-treated by the country Moors. As

they were taking water from a brook, the Moors would always spit into

the vessel before they would suffer them to take it away. Upon this

some of us went down to inquire into the affair, but were immediately

saluted with a shower of stones. We ran in upon them, beat some of

them pretty soundly, put them to flight, and brought away one who

thought to defend himself with a long knife. This fellow was severely

punished by the officer who had the charge of conducting us.

The two succeeding days continued our journey, and, at three in the

afternoon of the 18th, arrived at the City of Morocco, without having

seen a single habitation during the whole journey. Here we were

insulted by the rabble, and, at five, were carried before the emperor,

surrounded by five or six hundred of his guards. He was on horseback

before the gate of his palace, that being the place where he

distributes justice to his people. He told Captain Barton, by an

interpreter, that he was neither at peace nor war with England, and he

would detain us till an ambassador arrived from that country to

conclude a permanent treaty. The captain then desired that we might

not be treated as slaves. He answered hastily, that we should be taken

care of. We were then immediately hurried out of his presence,

conveyed to two old ruinous houses, shut up amidst dirt and

innumerable vermin of every description. Mr. Butler being at Morocco

on business, came and supplied us with victuals and drink, and

procured liberty for the captain to go home with him to his lodgings.

He likewise sent some blankets for the officers, and we made shift to

pass the night with tolerable comfort, being very much fatigued.

At nine in the morning of the 21st, the emperor sent orders for the

captain and every officer to appear before him. We immediately

repaired to his palace; we remained waiting in an outer yard two

hours; in the mean time he diverted himself with seeing a clumsy Dutch

boat rowed about in a pond by four of our petty officers. About noon

we were called before him, and placed in a line about thirty yards

from him. He was sitting in a chair by the side of the pond,

accompanied only by two of his chief alcaides. Having viewed us some

time, he ordered the captain to come forward, and after asking him a

good many questions concerning our navy, and the destination of the

squadron to which we had belonged, we were also called forward by two

and three at a time as we stood according to our rank. He then asked

most of us some very insignificant questions, and took some to be

Portuguese because they had black hair, and others to be Swedes

because their hair was light. He judged none of us to be English

excepting the captain, the second lieutenant, the ensign of the

soldiers, and myself. But assuring him we were all English, he cried

Bonno, and gave a nod for our departure, to which we returned a very

low bow, and were glad to return to our old ruined houses again. Our

total number amounted to thirty.

On the 25th, being Christmas-day, prayers were read to the people as

usual in the church of England. The captain this day received a

present of tea and loaves of sugar from one of the queens, whose

grandfather had been an English renegado.

In the afternoon of the 26th, we received the disagreeable

intelligence, that the emperor would oblige all the English to work,

like all the other Christian slaves, excepting the officers who were

before him on the 21st. The next day this account was confirmed; for,

at seven in the morning, an alcaide came and ordered all our people

out to work, excepting the sick. Upon our application eight were

allowed to stay at home every day to cook for the rest, and this

office was performed by turns throughout the whole number. At four in

the afternoon the people returned, some having been employed in

carrying wood, some in turning up the ground with hoes, and others in

picking weeds in the emperor's garden. Their victuals were prepared

for them against their return.

On the 28th all the people went to work as soon as they could see, and

returned at four in the afternoon. Two of the soldiers received one

hundred bastinadoes each, for behaving in a disrespectful manner while

the emperor was looking at their work.

On the 30th, Captain Barton received a kind message from the emperor,

with permission to ride out or take a walk in his garden with his


From this time the men continued in the same state of slavery till the

arrival, in April, of Captain Milbank, sent as an ambassador to the

emperor. He concluded a treaty for the ransom of the crew of the

Litchfield, together with the other English subjects in the emperor's

power, and the sum stipulated to be paid for their release, was

170,000 dollars. Our people accordingly set out for Sallee, attended

by a bashaw and two soldiers on horseback. On the fourth day of their

march, they had a skirmish with some of the country Moors. The dispute

began in consequence of some of our men in the rear stopping at a

village to buy some milk, for which, after they had drank it, the

Moors demanded an exorbitant price. This our men refused to give, on

which the Moors had recourse to blows, which our people returned; and

others coming to their assistance, they maintained a smart battle,

till the enemy became too numerous. In the meantime some rode off to

call the guard, who instantly came up with their drawn scimetars, and

dealt round them pretty briskly. During this interval we were not

idle, and had the pleasure to see the blood trickling down a good many

of their faces. The guards seized the chief man of the village, and

carried him before the bashaw, who was our conductor, and who having

heard the cause dismissed him without further punishment, in

consideration of his having been well drubbed by us.

On the 22d of April, we arrived at Sallee, and pitched our tents in an

old castle, whence we soon afterwards embarked on board the Gibraltar,

which landed us at Gibraltar on the 27th of June. From that place the

captain and crew were put on board the Marlborough store ship,

prepared expressly for their reception, and arrived in England in the

month of August, 1760.

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