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The Perils of Privateer Andrew Sherburne


Portsmouth NH in the Age of Sail /

Cruise to disaster 

Soon the Ranger was ready to sail again and Andrew rejoined Captain Simpson and the crew. This time they prowled the waters around Spanish Florida. Although the Ranger was drawn into battle at Charleston, SC, young Andrew, at first, led a charmed life. A 24-pound cannon ball narrowly missed him. Two bombs exploded nearby without harming him. While he was ashore at Charleston, the armory blew up and a number of men were "instantly hurried into eternity without a moment’s notice". The outline of the exploded men was still visible on the brick armory wall. 

In May 1780 the Ranger crew surrendered to the British at Charleston. Because so many enemy soldiers had contracted smallpox, Andrew decided to be inoculated, which meant being purposely infected by the ship’s doctor. Partially recovered and released from captivity, he and other members of the crew caught a small ship to Providence, RI. Before entering the city, the infected men and boys were "smoked" to guard against contagion. While washing up in the river, Andrew caught his leg in some eelgrass and nearly drowned.

Things now grew worse. At Boston, the officer whom Andrew attended suddenly died, leaving him alone. Still weak from the smallpox cure, he began walking toward Portsmouth, but was too weak and in pain to continue. In his memoir, Andrew wrote:

"I felt great difficulty in attempting to walk again, and feared I should never get home. A train of melancholy reflections overwhelmed my mind; I wept, I wept bitterly." 

Through the kindness of strangers, the young privateer finally arrived home to find his father dead, his brothers lost at sea, and his mother taking in sewing to make ends meet. Andrew then joined Capt. Simpson in a failed attempt to retake the Ranger (renamed Halifax) from the British, but without luck. After three totally fruitless months at sea, Andrew returned home again. 


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