Samuel Newbury (b. - 1781)

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Death: Died
Cause of death: killed at sea by British navy during the America's Revolutionary War
Managed by: Michael Reid Delahunt, art teacher & lexicographer
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Samuel Newbury

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[Michael Reid Delahunt (2010):]

Captain Samuel Newbury was a ship builder in New London, Connecticut, and owner of frigates. (Louis Manierre operated a business selling ships' supplies in New London during the same period.) At the height of the American Revolution, in 1781, Captain Samuel Newbury was in command of one of his frigates, when British naval forces overtook his ship, and killed him. Newbury was buried at sea. His son Samuel was born after his father had sailed.


Great Britain's thirteen American colonies finally obtained their independence from the mother country in 1783, seven years after they'd declared their independence, and two years after Captain Samuel Newbury's death.

(This description of the circumstances of his death was related by Katharine Newbury Manierre. It would be great to locate a source for more information which would confirm and elaborate upon these events. — Michael Delahunt. 2009)

We don't know if Capt. Samuel Newbury was involved in the events in New London in early September of 1781:

New London's bulging warehouses brought great wealth to adventurous ship owners and merchants, but they were potential targets for enemy reprisals. In the summer of 1781, the town of New London figured into the plans of the British generals, because they were eager to distract Washington, who was then marching south from [where?]. They decided to create a diversion by attacking an important northern supply center, and New London was the most attractive one, because at the same stroke, they would destroy the colonial privateer fleet, which the British called the "Rebel pirate ships." The command of the expedition fell to Benedict Arnold who had deserted the American cause the year before, and who, being a native of nearby Norwich, knew the harbor area well. At sunrise on September 6 th, 1781, the people of the town were awakened with the news that a large force of British Regulars had landed on both sides of the river's mouth and were coming upon them fast. They could do nothing but flee. A number of rigged ships in the harbor caught a favorable breeze and escaped upstream, but the rest were trapped. The 800 men led by Arnold into New London met only scattered resistance as they set upon the task of destroying the "immense" stockpile of goods and naval stores kept there. Buildings, wharfs and ships were soon in flames. One hundred and forty-three buildings, nearly all in town, were consumed.

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A frigate [frĭg'-ĭt] is a warship. The term has been used for warships of many sizes and roles over the past few centuries.

In the 18th century, the term referred to ships which were as long as a ship-of-the-line and were square-rigged on all three masts (full rigged), but were faster and with lighter armament, used for patrolling and escort.


The term "frigate" originated in the Mediterranean in the late 15th century, referring to a lighter Galley type ship with oars, sails and a light armament, built for speed and maneuverability.

In 1583, during the Eighty Years' War, Habsburg Spain recovered the Southern Netherlands from the rebellious Dutch. This soon led to the occupied ports being used as bases for privateers, notably the Dunkirkers, to attack the shipping of the Dutch and their allies. To achieve this they developed small, maneuverable, sail-only vessels that came to be referred to as frigates. Because most regular navies required ships of greater endurance than the Dunkirker frigates could provide, the useful term 'frigate' was soon applied less exclusively to any relatively fast and elegant sail-only ship, such that much later even the mighty English Sovereign of the Seas was described as 'a delicate frigate' after modifications in 1651.

The navy of the Dutch Republic was the first regular navy to build the larger ocean-going frigates. The Dutch navy had three principal tasks in the struggle against Spain: to protect Dutch merchant ships at sea, to blockade the ports of Spanish-held Flanders to damage trade and halt enemy privateering, and to fight the Spanish fleet and prevent troop landings. The first two tasks required speed, shallowness of draft for the shallow waters around the Netherlands, and the ability to carry sufficient supplies to maintain a blockade. The third task required heavy armament, sufficient to fight against the Spanish fleet. The first of these larger battle-capable frigates were built around 1600 at Hoorn in Holland. By the later stages of the Eighty Years War the Dutch had switched entirely from the heavier ships still used by the English and Spanish to the lighter frigates, carrying around 40 guns and weighing around 300 tons.

The effectiveness of the Dutch frigates became most visible in the Battle of the Downs in 1639, triggering most other navies, especially the English, to adopt similar innovations.

The fleets built by the Commonwealth of England in the 1650s generally consisted of ships described as 'frigates', the largest of which were two-decker 'great frigates' of the third rate. Carrying 60 guns, these vessels were as big and capable as 'great ships' of the time; however, most other frigates at the time were used as 'cruisers': independent fast ships. The term 'frigate' implied a long hull design, which relates directly to speed (see hull speed) and also, in turn, helped the development of the broadside tactic in naval warfare.

In French, the term 'frigate' became a verb, meaning 'to build long and low', and an adjective, adding further confusion.

According to the rating system of the Royal Navy, laid down in the 1660s, frigates were usually of the fifth rate, though small 28-gun frigates were classed as sixth rate.

The classic frigate

The classic sailing frigate, well-known today for its role in the Napoleonic wars, can be traced back to French developments in the second quarter of the 18th century. The French-built Médée of 1740 is often regarded as the first example of this type. These ships were square-rigged and carried all their main guns on a single gun deck which replaced the upper gun deck on earlier similarly-sized two-decked ships. The lower deck, known as the "gun deck", now carried no armament, and functioned as a "berth deck" where the crew lived, and was in fact placed below the waterline of the new frigates. The new sailing frigates were able to fight with all their guns when the seas were so rough that comparable two-deckers had to close the gun-ports on their lower decks. Like the larger 74 which was developed at the same time, the new frigates sailed very well and were good fighting vessels due to a combination of long hulls and low upperworks compared to vessels of comparable size and firepower.

The Royal Navy captured a handful of the new French frigates during the early stages of the Seven Years' War (1756–1763) and were impressed by them, particularly for their inshore handling capabilities. They soon built copies and started to adapt the type to their own needs, setting the standard for other frigates as a superpower.

Royal Navy frigates of the late 18th century were based on the 1780-vintage Perseverance class, which displaced around 900 tons and carried 36 guns; this successful class was followed by the Tribune class batch of fifteen ships starting in 1801 that displaced over 1,000 tons and carried 38 guns.

In 1797, the US Navy's first major ships were 44-gun frigates (or "super-frigates"), which actually carried fifty-six to sixty 24-pounder long guns and 36-pounder or 48-pounder carronades on two decks, and were exceptionally powerful and tough. These ships were so well-respected that they were often seen as equal to 4th-rate ships of the line and, after a series of losses at the outbreak of the War of 1812, British Royal Navy fighting instructions ordered British frigates (usually of 38-guns or less) to never engage American frigates at any less than a 2:1 advantage. The USS Constitution, better known as "Old Ironsides", the oldest commissioned ship afloat, is the last remaining example of an American 44.

The role of the frigates

Frigates were perhaps the hardest-worked of warship types during the age of sail. While smaller than a ship-of-the-line, they were formidable opponents for the large numbers of sloops and gunboats, not to mention privateers or merchantmen. Able to carry six months' stores, they had very long range; and vessels larger than frigates were considered too valuable to operate independently.

Frigates scouted for the fleet, went on commerce-raiding missions and patrols, conveyed messages and dignitaries. Usually frigates would fight in small numbers or singly against other frigates. They would avoid contact with ships-of-the-line; even in the midst of a fleet engagement it was bad etiquette for a ship of the line to fire on an enemy frigate which had not fired first.

For officers in the Royal Navy a frigate was a desirable posting. Frigates often saw action, which meant a greater chance of glory, promotion, and prize money.

Unlike larger ships that were placed in ordinary, frigates were kept in service in peacetime as a cost-saving measure and to provide experience to frigate captains and officers which would be useful in wartime. Frigates could also carry marines for boarding enemy ships or for operations on shore.

Frigate armament ranged from 22 guns on one deck to up to even 60 guns on two decks. Common armament was 32 to 44 long guns, from 8 to 24 pounders (3.6 to 11 kg), plus a few carronades (large bore short range guns).


[In his article, "HOW TO KNOW SAILING SHIPS," B. Kennedy describes frigates as a class of sailing vessel at ]

The name frigate came from the Italian word fregata which may have come from the latin word fabricata, meaning something built. The Venetians called a frigate a small oared boat around 35 feet in length and around 7 feet wide. The English adopted the word for a larger ship which may have carried oars. Around 1700, the English limited the word to mean a class of warship which was only second in size to the Ship-of-the-Line (battleship). Frigates were three-masted with a raised forecastle and quarterdeck. They had anywhere from 24 to 38 guns on her deck. They were faster than the ship-of-the-lines and were used for escort purposes.


definition of "frigate" :


  1. a fast, medium-sized sailing warship of the 18th and early 19th cent., which carried from 24 to 60 guns
  2. a Brit. warship between a corvette and a destroyer
        1. until 1975, a U.S. warship larger than a destroyer and smaller than a light cruiser
        2. since 1975, a U.S. warship smaller than a destroyer, used chiefly for escort duty

[from Webster's New World Dictionary, 2010]


definition of "frigate" :


  1. A warship, usually of 4,000 to 9,000 displacement tons, that is smaller than a destroyer and used primarily for escort duty.
  2. A high-speed, medium-sized sailing war vessel of the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
  3. Archaic A fast, light vessel, such as a sailboat.

[from The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, 4th edition Copyright © 2010]


definition of "frigate" : a medium size square-rigged warship of the 18th and 19th centuries.

[from ]


definition of "frigate" :

1. n. Originally, a vessel of the Mediterranean propelled by sails and by oars. The French, about 1650, transferred the name to larger vessels, and by 1750 it had been appropriated for a class of war vessels intermediate between corvettes and ships of the line. Frigates, from about 1750 to 1850, had one full battery deck and, often, a spar deck with a lighter battery. They carried sometimes as many as fifty guns. After the application of steam to navigation steam frigates of largely increased size and power were built, and formed the main part of the navies of the world till about 1870, when the introduction of ironclads superseded them.

[from ]


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The most famous American captain of frigates during the Revolutionary War was John Paul Jones (1747 – 1792). His actions earned him an international reputation which persists to this day.

Sailing east of Yorkshire in 1779, Capt. Jones was commanding the American frigate Bonhomme Richard in a confrontation with HMS Serapis. According to the later recollection of Jones's First Lieutenant, when the Serapis's captain offered to accept the Bonhomme Richard's surrender, Jones uttered the legendary reply: "I have not yet begun to fight!"


[If Capt. Samuel Newbury's pithy utterances were known, they may well surpass Jones's in pith and vinegar!]

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Reference works in which there might be data concerning Capt. Samuel Newbury:

Willis J. Abbot. Blue Jackets of 1876: A History of the Naval Battles of the American Revolution.... (2006). ISBN 1428616098. Kessinger Pub Co.

Gardner W. Allen. Naval History of the American Revolution: Two Volumes. (1913 and 1972). Russell & Russell, New York. Other publishers too.

American Naval Personnel of the American Revolution: George Robert Twelves Hewes, William Day, George Muter, Dudley Saltonstall, David Hawley. ISBN 1156390516.

Amos Blanchard. American Military and Naval Biography; Containing the Lives and Characters of the Officers of the Revolution; Together with Some of the Most.... (2010). ISBN 1150994533. General Books.

E. Gordon Bowen-Hassell. Sea Raiders of the American Revolution: The Continental Navy in European Waters. (2003). ISBN 0160514002.

Naval Historical Center.

William Bell Clark. Naval Documents of the American Revolution [in 1775]. Volumes 1-4. (1966). Washington D. C.: U. S. Government Printing Office.

Harold Hahn. Ships of the American Revolution and their Models. (1988). ISBN 0870216538. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press. 286 p., 200 illus. Photographs by Barbara Nenonen. "Seven ships are described in detail from the 16-gun sloop Druid to the 74 gun H.M.S. Alfred, 1777-1781. Includes history and step-by-step detail of plank-on-frame modeling."

Chester G. Hearn. George Washington's Schooners: The First American Navy. (1995). ISBN 1557503583. US Naval Institute Press.

Chester G. Hearn. Navy: An Illustrated History: The U.S. Navy from 1775 to the 21st Century. (2007). ISBN 0760329729. Motorbooks International.

Walter R. Herrick, Jr. The American Naval Revolution. (1966). Baton Rouge: LSU Press.

Mark Lardas. Ships of the American Revolutionary Navy. (2009). ISBN 1846034450. Osprey.

Library Of Congress Division. Naval Records of the American Revolution; 1775-1788. (2009). ISBN 1151091928 or 1151751863.

Charles Henry Lincoln. Naval Records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788. (1906 and 2007) ISBN 0548643970, Kessinger Pub Co.

Nathan Miller. Sea of Glory: A Naval History of the American Revolution. (1974 and 2000). ISBN 1877853593, Nautical & Aviation Publishing Co.

Nathan Miller. Broadsides: The Age of Fighting Sail 1775-1815. (2000). ISBN 0471185175. John Wiley & Sons Inc. "An adventured-packed ride into a mesmerizing period of naval history. No era in naval history has captured the imagination of readers so completely as the forty-year period from 1775 to 1815. And there are few historians as well qualified to bring that era to life as Nathan Miller. The first full-scale popular history of that epoch-making time, Broadsides covers the major naval operations of the European powers and the United States, as well as the tumultuous political and social forces that...."

James L. Nelson. The Maddest Idea (Revolution at Sea Trilogy [historical fiction]). (1997). ISBN 0671519255. Atria Books.

Robert H. Patton. Patriot Pirates: The Privateer War for Freedom and Fortune in the American Revolution. (2008). ISBN 0375422846. Pantheon.

Myron J. Smith. Navies in the American Revolution: A Bibliography American naval bibliography. (1973-06). ISBN 0810805693. Scarecrow Press.

Neil R. Stout. Royal Navy in America, 1760-75: Study of Enforcement of British Colonial Policy in the Era of the American Revolution. (1973). ISBN 0870215531. Naval Institute Press.

Barbara W. Tuchman. First Salute. (1989). ISBN 0345336674. Ballantine Books. "A fresh look at the American Revolution, emphasizing its naval aspects and viewing it within the context of the traditional rivalry between England, on the one hand, and France and the Netherlands, on the other."

Samuel Putnam Waldo. Biographical Sketches of Distinguished American Naval Heroes in the War of the Revolution, Between T.... (2009). ISBN 1117130312. Publisher: BiblioLife, or BiblioBazaar.

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Capt. Samuel Newbury's Timeline

New London, Connecticut, United States