On Friday, the 28th of June, 1776, the brigantine Nancy, under the command of Captain Hugh Montgomery, arrived at Cape May from the Virgin Islands. He brought a cargo of munitions for the Continental Army. An urgent message was sent to Captain John Barry of the Continental brigantine Lexington, anchored near the mouth of the Delaware Bay. Two large British warships were pursuing Nancy.
The dunes above, near Cape May, are very similar to what Turtle Gut Inlet looked like two hundred and fifty years ago.
Lexington, accompanied by Wasp, set out to aid the Nancy. They anchored close to Cape May to wait out the night. In the early light of dawn, realizing the necessity for quick action, Captain Barry ordered the boats from the Lexington and Wasp, taking personal command of the rescue. The Nancy was hard aground in Turtle Gut Inlet and under heavy fire from the British warships. Barry and his men boarded the Nancy. They manned Nancy’s guns to ward off the attack of the warships. At the same time unloading the valuable cargo of munitions and storing it safely ashore.
Nancy was taking a terrific bombardment from British cannons. Somehow she returned enough fire to discourage a boarding party of enemy sailors from the large frigate, Kingfisher. After only about two-thirds of the gunpowder had been unloaded, Captain Barry ordered the men to abandon the ship. He also planned other surprises you can read about in USS Lexington and the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet.
The last man to leave the ship was reportedly a seaman who stayed behind to retrieve the ship’s flag. The boats made the few hundred yards to shore safely, stopping only to pull the seaman and his precious flag into the boat. This same story is also told from the viewpoint of a young teenage boy in Edward and the Canvas Python.
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