True Blooded Yankee


Lloyd’s List Tuesday, March 16, 1813

The Margaret, Simpson from Newry to London, was taken 6 th inst. By the True Blooded Yankee American Privateer, of 18 18-pounders and 2 9-pounders, with 150 men, from Brest, (formerly the Challenger Gun-Brig*) and retaken on the 9 th by the Nimrod-Cutter – The King George, Taylor, from Kinsale to Newport, has been taken by the same Privateer, and retaken 9 th by Piercer Gun-brig and both arrived at Plymouth. She has taken other 6 vessels in St.George’s Channel, among them the Fame,Neil, from Belfast to Bristol; a Letter of Marque, of 14 guns, from Liverpool to Spain; and a schooner. Four of the Prizes, were sent North about to Norway.

* probably “Lloyd’s List March 19, 1812

The Challenger Sloop of War, was lately taken off the Isle of Bas, by a French 74 gun ship and a frigate."


There now follows the account of one of her crew John Wiltshire an Englishman whose fate is given in the documents below, with special thanks to David Gale.


HO/47/52 Part 3

Page no. 131

Stevenage 27 th July 1813
My Lord,
Your Lordships letter with enclosed petitions of John
Wiltshire the convict at the late Admiralty sessions arrived
here in the course of the night. I am very sorry that for
want of my notes I am unable to state the evidence given
5 upon the trial with particularity a certainty to be wished
for in a capital case & I am afraid of mingling in my
recollection what is alleged in the Depositions taken
before the magistrate & what the pris[oner] stated in his defence
with the facts proved by the witnesses when the Indictment
10 was tried.
The pris[oner] had been a long time (I think above three years)
confined as a prisoner of war in French prisons, first at-
Cambray & afterward at Arras – he had purchased from a
seaman an American Protection & to avail himself of it had
15 assumed the name of Riley & passed as an American – at
last he was dismissed from his confinement at Arras with
a great number of American seamen who were to
serve on board an American privateer called the True
Blooded Yankee. they were marched from Arras a cross
20 the country to Brest, I think, at the expense of the American
owners of the privateer. At Brest he was clothed by
them in the same manner that the others were clothed
& was received on board the ship. There was no
account of his having previously attempted to escape
25 nor do I recollect atwhat time he procured the protection
under which he had hoped to have been released as an
American. The privateer sailed soon after he joined
it & after attempting to capture a Falmouth packet
without success took five or six British vessels &
30 among other the Margaret or Maguerite on board of
which the Captain of the privateer placed the Lieutenant
or Mate with the prisoner & four or five others of the crew
to take charge of the prize & conduct her to the first French
port but which was prevented by her being recaptured
35 by a British vessel
The principal Wit[ness] ag[ainst] the prisoner was the Lieutenant
or Mate of the privateer who had been taken with the prisoner.

in the Margaret. The other evidence went chiefly to shew
that the pris[oner] was a British subject. The Lieutenant had no
knowledge of the pris[oner] acting otherwise than as the rest
did in performing the duty of his situation nor was there any
5. Particular evidence to show either his unwillingness to serve
or his zeal in the service. From his station he w[oul]d have been
entitled to one share in the prize. The Lieut. spoke of some
communications made by the Capt. to the crew but he c[ould]d not
say that the Pris[oner] was present or heard them he was ignorant
10 of any force or constraint being used but he said that when
the prisoner came on board two Gen D’armes came at
the same time & remained, I think half of an hour on
board but without appearing to use any force or
authority – he said that the Gens D’armes do sometimes
15 come & if I am not mistaken said that they sometimes
did so with Americans when they found them in the
country but of this part of the evidence I speak with great
uncertainty. There was no evidence of the Prisoner proposing to Bradley to rise upon those who were with
20 them in the Margaret & steer the vessel into Liverpool
or of any thing that passed between him & Raly
the Captain of the Privateer as stated in the petition or
that he made any declaration to the recaptors of his
being an Englishman or of his being forced into the
25 service in which he was found & I think the declarations
he made afterwards in the Prison ship Salvador Del Mundo
related only to his being an Englishman
It seem’d to me that he c[oul]d not be ignorant either of
the war existing bet[ween] Great Britain & America or of
30 the nature of the service he was engaged in tho' there
was no evidence of express Information given to him
on the subject – The company in which he had performed
the long journey from Arras to Brest – the whole
equipment of the Privateer & the number of the crew
35 which was very considerble & who with the exception of a very few Frenchmen
was American & seem’d to demonstrate that she was
American or at least that she was fitted out for-
hostile purposes against this country

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I told the jury that if he was actually forced into the
service he was to be considered as innocent of the charge
made against him but that he was not intitled to enter into
an enemy’s service merely to get rid of his imprisonment
5 or defend himself on that ground & with very little hesitation
they found him guilty.
The Pris[oner] had not the assistance either of counsel or
witnesses. Most probably the evidence has been taken
down as usual at the Old Bailey & if so, I c[oul]d wish your
10 Lordship to see it. I am the less accurate in my own
recollection of what passed having at the time entertained
no doubt of the propriety of the conviction & therefore
being under no inducement to reconsider the
circumstances of the case.
15 I am My Lord
Y[ou]r Lordships faithful & very obdi[ent]t ser[van]t
A Chambre

The prisoner was proved to be in
some degree disabled in one of his hands of which he had
lost one finger & perhaps rec[ieve]d some further hurt. He had
20 also suff[ere]d a pretty long & it seems a close imprisonment.


To His Royal Highness the Prince Regent

We the underwritten, being the Jury
who tried John Wiltshire (Seaman) now under
Sentence of Death in Newgate, do hereby certify

That if the circumstances stated in his two Petitions
5 to your Royal Highness, had been made on
the Trials, they would have had great influence
on our minds in the consideration of our Verdict
And under all the other circumstances
stated to us on the Trials, together with the
10 extreme Ignorance of the Prisoner Wiltshire, We
did most humbly presume to hope, he would
have been found an object of Royal Clemency

Jn Leech (foreman) Robt. W. Herring

Sam Haly Jos. Turner

John Davenport Thos. ?

Wm Kerl Sam Wilkinson (out of town)

John Fletcher

Wm ?

David Phillip


Mr. Poynden presents to his compliments to
W. Beckett, and begs leave to transmit the
petition of the Admiralty Prisoner, mentioned
by him this morning, together with the Petition from the Jury.

Bridwell Hospital

? ? ?
26 th July 1813


The humble Petition of Catherine Wiltshire
Humbly Sheweth
That your Petioner by the unhappy
situation of her son John Wiltshire, who is a prisoner at Newgate
under sentence of death, is thrown into the greatest distress, but
5 would with the greatest humility, while she allows the justness
of the sentence, entreat your Honor to compassionate the poignans sorrow of your Petitioner an unhappy Mother a Widow, by
graciously laying before His Royal Highness the Prince of
Wales, Regent, this her most humble solicitude for the precious
10 life of her unfortunate child, and while she thus humbly
entreats His Royal Highness, it is with the greatest hopes
that the life spared, will ever evince that he is a true penitent,
and an abhorrer of his past crime, and manifest lasting
gratitude for that, undeserved mercy, which your Petitioner
15 his most distressed Mother begs leave thus humbly to
implore of His Royal Highness
And the Petitioner, will ever play,
Catherine Wiltshire

July 22 nd 1813
No. 55 Pembroke Street
Plymouth Dock

NB Petitioners husband was in the service in the Navy
from the age of twelve, and died in the same as a Warrant Officer
and she has two sons in the Naval service abroad at present.


We undersigned beg leave humbly to entreat His
Royal Highness for the extension of His Royal Mercy
to the unfortunate son, for the sake of his most distressed
Mother, humbly hoping that such undeserved Mercy, will
5 be the means of constant gratitude, ever manifested by the
future conduct of him, for the sparing of whose life we thus
humbly carve

[several names some unclear]


To his Royal Highness the Prince Regent
Most gracious Prince

The humble petition of John
Wiltshire of the age 24 years now a convict
under sentence of Death in his Majesty’s Goal of
5 Newgate convicted at the last Admiralty Session
held at Hick’s Hall in the Old Bailey the 5 th day
of July instant and order’d by your Royal Highness
to be executed at Execution Dock the 30 th instant

Most submissively Sheweth
10 That it is true that your unfortunate Petitioner
was found on board an American Privateer in the capacity
of a sailor but it is not true that he was there for the
purpose for fighting against his King and Country.
Your Petitioner begs leave to state to your
15 Royal Highness that it is also true that he is a
natural born subject of this Realm having been
born at Plymouth in the County of Devon, his
Father (now no more) was Boatswain of the
”Camilla” Frigate who at a very early period
20 sent your Petitioner to sea.
That your Petitioner has been fighting
for his Country ever since he was ten years of

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Age and about four years ago he was taken prisoner by the
”Victore” French lugger and was carried into “Dieppe”
your Petitioner remained there about four months when
he was sent to Cambray where he was confined with several
5 hundred Prisoners of different Nations for two years and
eight months from thence he was sent Prisoner to “Arras”
and from there to “Brest” a distance of 500 miles -
while a prisoner at Brest your Petitioner suffered
every privation and was deprived of every means of
10 information relative to this Country, - having described
himself an American while at Brest he and several
other Prisoners of different Nations were permitted to
enter on board American ships and your petitioner was
sent to an American Privateer called the “true blooded
15 Yankee”, - not knowing that the United States were at
War with this Country nor was he informed of that
fact until the American had been at sea three
days and made chase for a merchantman sailing
under British Colours called the “Margaret of Newry”
20 bound to London, which was captured and your
Petitioner and five other seamen were put on board the
prize – after having been on board three days the
”Margaret” was recaptured by the “Nimrod” Cutter -
at the time your Petitioner went on board the
25 American Privateer he was taken there in custody of
two Gen D’Armes and was not permitted to return
again to the shore, and when sent with the other
five men to take charge of the prize he was
totally unarmed.
30 Your Petitioner had no opportunity
whatever of knowing that this Country was at

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War with America, the greater part of the crew being
Natives of Foreign Countries whose Language he did not
understand, and he being unable to either read or write
his own.

5 Your Petitioner therefore humbly implores
and supplicates your Royal Highness that
you in your great mercy will be graciously
pleased to avert a Judgement so dreadful in
its consequences as that which now awaits
10 him, and that you will order him to be
exiled to any part of your vast and expanded Dominions
never more to return
And your Petitioner will ever
the mark of X John Wiltshire

To His Royal Highness the Prince Regent of the
United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.

The Petition of John Wiltshire now under
sentence of death in His Majesty’s goal of
5 Newgate, and ordered for execution on Friday
next the 30 th Instant.

Most Humbly sheweth.
That your Petitioner in addition to the facts
and circumstances mentioned in his Petition which
10 was laid at the feet of your Royal Highness, on the
24 th Instant, most humbly begs leave to state -
That when he was on board the Prize ship, he
was anxious to run the vessel into the port of Liverpool,
and on the evening of the 6 th of March last, the
15 very day on which the Prize was captured by the
Americans, that he might reach his native
Country, he formed a particular plan in his own
mind, which he expressly intimated to William
Bradley one of the crew, now a Prisoner on board the
20 Salvador del Mundo, and requests his assistance
in the attempt, but Bradley laughed at the idea.
That when your Petitioner was before Mr.
Williams the Magistrate at Plymouth, he
stated the above mentioned facts to his clerk,
25 who called up the said William Bradley, and
asked him if your Petitioner did express such a
desire to him, when the said William Bradley
admitted the fact -
That your Petitioner had a strong desire to get
30 from France to this Country, not only from his
natural attachment to it, but also from the -
circumstance of his having previously promised
to marry a young woman named Elizabeth
Collins residing in Pembroke Street, Plymouth
35 and to whom your Petitioner had been long attached

Your Petitioner most humbly prays that
your Royal Highness will be graciously pleased
to take these additional circumstances
into your merciful consideration – And be
5 pleased to mitigate the awful sentence of death
for such other sentence of whatever nature
as your Royal Highness in your wisdom
shall think fit.
And your Petitioner as in duty bound
10 should ever pray.
John X (own mark) Wiltshire

The Hampshire Chronicle of Monday 2nd August 1813 reports:-
This morning, J. Wiltshire, alias Bowyer, alias Riley, convicted at the last Admiralty Session, of being found on board an American privateer, in arms against this country, suffered according to his sentence at Execution Dock.