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About Captain John Linzee (RN)
Captain John Linzee was born on March 25, 1743 at Kingston, Portsea, Hants, England. He joined the Royal Navy and rose to the rank of captain at the age of 27. In 1769, he sailed to America as part of the British effort to maintain order in the increasingly demonstrative town of Boston. He became friends with a number of local Bostonians, including the merchant John Rowe, for whom Rowe’s Wharf is named. Captain Linzee dined often at Mr. Rowe’s home, and it was there he met Susannah Inman, daughter of Ralph and Susannah (Speakman) Inman (Mr. Inman was a loyalist whose home in Cambridge was seized by colonials in 1776 and used as the headquarters of General Israel Putnam). Captain Linzee and Susannah were married on September 1, 1772.
Captain Linzee commanded the sloop-of-war HMS Falcon at the Battle of Gloucester early in the American Revolution (8 or 9 August 1775) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Gloucester_(1775)
During his initial tour of duty in America, Captain Linzee was responsible for patrolling the waters off the New England coast to detect, and in certain cases punish, those colonists who attempted to evade the customs and tariff laws passed by Parliament. These “taxes” were passed in order to repay part of the cost for the recently ended French and Indian War. The British felt justified in exacting some recompense for, in their view, protecting and defending the colonies against French and Indian attacks. The colonials, on the other hand, generally took the view that Britain cared little for the lives of Americans and had fought the last war only to defend her own territorial and economic interests.
In March, 1772, while commanding the British sloop of war Beaver, Linzee’s tender, the Gaspee, pursued an alleged “illicit trader.” During the chase, however, she became stuck on a sandbar seven miles south of Providence off Namquit Point, now called Gaspee Point in memoriam to the unfortunate ship. That evening a number of Providence’s colonials sailed out to the Gaspee and attacked it, wounding a number of her crew and burning the schooner until it sank. Captain Linzee managed to capture one of the culprits, who proceeded to “name names” of some of the other participants. The local colonial authorities demanded possession of the captive to rehabilitate his confession. When Captain Linzee refused their request, he was temporarily arrested by the civil authorities in Boston. The “Gaspee Incident” took its place as one of the ever-increasing number of violent conflicts between colonialists and British forces in and around Boston that led to the inevitable boiling point at Lexington.
Several months after the Gaspee Incident, Captain Linzee returned to England where he and his wife remained until his return to Boston on April 16, 1775. In his diary entry of April 16th, the merchant John Rowe records their arrival: “After dinner I went down to Clark’s Wharf to meet Captain Linzee and Sucky, who arrived from Spit Head and Falmouth in the Falcon sloop. I brought them home and their little son Samuel Linzee.”
The very next entry in the diary is dated April 19th and records the first battle of the American Revolution: “Last night the Grenadiers and light companies belonging to the several regiments in this town were ferry’d over Charles River and landed on Phipps farm in Cambridge, from whence they proceeded on their way to Concord, but they arrived early this day. On their march they had a skirmish with some country people at Lexington. The First Brigade commanded by Lord Percy with two pieces of artillery, set off from this town this morning about 10 o’clock as a reinforcement, which with the Grenadiers and light infantry made about 1800 men. The people in the country had notice of this movement early in the night. Alarm guns were fired thro’ the country and expresses sent off to the different towns so that very early this morning large numbers from all parts of the country were assembled. A general battle ensued, which from what I can learn, was supported with great spirit on both sides and continued until the King’s troops got back to Charles Town, which was near sunset. Numbers are killed and wounded on both sides. Captain Linzee and Captain Collins and two small armed vessels were ordered up Charles River to bring off the troops to Boston, but Lord Percy and General Smith thought proper to encamp on Bunker’s Hill this night. This unhappy affair is a shocking introduction to all the miseries of a civil war.”
The very next night the diary records that Captain Linzee had his own armed engagement. “This night some people, about 200, attacked Captain Linzee in the armed schooner a little below Cambridge Bridge. He gave them a warm reception so that they thought proper to retreat with a loss of some men. ‘Tis said many thousands of country people are at Roxbury and in the neighborhood. The people in town are alarmed and the entrenchments on Boston Neck double guarded. Mrs. Linzee dined at the Admiral’s.”
The Battle of Bunker (Breed's) Hill
With the beginning of hostilities, troop deployment became critical. Dorchester Heights commanded a view of Boston on the south, and Bunker Hill in Charleston controlled Boston on the north with a clear view of Boston Harbor. General Gage appeared determined to occupy both, and by mid June Generals Howe, Burgoyne and Clinton had already reached Boston with reinforcements. As such, the colonialists held a “secret call to arms” meeting on Cambridge Common on June 16th, and the Committee of Safety decided to occupy Bunker Hill before General Gage. Thus, during the late evening of June 16th and the early morning of the 17th, approximately 1500 men under the leadership of Colonel William Prescott began to construct the “redoubt.” With the assistance of Samuel Gridley, an engineer, the fort was constructed on the smaller (and nearer to the British troops) Breed’s Hill so that it could not be used as a natural barrier to protect oncoming British infantry. Five British ships stood guard in the harbor that night, one of which was the Falcon commanded by Captain John Linzee. The redoubt was relatively close to the water’s edge, and three times that night Colonel Prescott silently walked to that edge to hear the “all’s well” of the night watchman on the war ships in the harbor.
Not until 4:00 a.m., with the first light of day, was the presence of the American force discovered by crewmen on the Falcon and another British sloop, the Lively. They immediately fired, and the battle had begun. It took the British three separate attacks by infantry before they overcame the much smaller American force and then only because the Americans had literally run out of ammunition (Prescott’s order not to shoot “until you see the whites of their eyes” was said in stark recognition of his limited supply). Just before the battle, Major General Joseph Warren had joined the American force as an example that colonial leaders were willing to share the dangers of battle. Colonel Prescott offered his command, but General Warren refused. At the end of the third and final British assault, and just before the Americans began their retreat, General Warren was killed.
As a result of the American stand at Breed’s Hill and the colonials’ ability to hold their own in a pitched battle against the world’s foremost fighting force, Benjamin Franklin could write to a friend of his in London, “Americans will fight; England has lost her colonies forever.”
General Gage required provisions for his troops. For the next few years Captain Linzee and the Falcon were assigned the duty of foraging and seizing food and materials from the locals along the New England coast from Maine to New York to help feed and supply the British troops. After the French joined the war, Captain Linzee participated in a number of naval engagements against the French Admirals D’Estaing and DeGrasse. During one such naval engagement on the Delaware River in 1777, his wife Susannah was on board during the action.
Captain Linzee returned to England in 1779 and continued his service in the Royal Navy as commander of the Pearl and then the Penelope. On September 9, 1790, he sailed into Boston Harbor and fired, in all probability, the first salute to the flag of the United States of America by a British commander in New England waters. When Susannah died in October of 1792 at age 38, he resigned from the British Navy and returned to America to settle permanently.
Captain John Linzee died on October 8, 1798, at his home in Milton, Massachusetts, at age 56. Per his request, he was buried with his wife in the old Trinity Church, Boston.