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CAPTAIN WILLIAM DAY OF MASSACHUSETTS
EPISODE 5

Part 4 of this resource told the story of Captain William Day's privateering mission against the British, in their own home waters, in 1777, and his eventful journey home to Massachusetts via France, causing economic and diplomatic chaos (much to the delight of Benjamin Franklin and others). His life would become much less eventful from then on; so much so that despite a gout-inducing lifestyle, he lived to be over 80. Consequently, there isn't much to tell in this final instalment, but as a bonus, we begin with a few snippets of information (and misinformation) about what happened to Day's gallant ship, the "General Mifflin" after his return to Boston. (Or you can hop straight over it if you prefer)

Colour keyFamilyHousehold / CommunitySea tradeWarBackgroundPossibly our WilliamProbably not
18 Mar 1778
Gardner Weld Allen, "Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution" (1927) p148-9:
McNeill's privateer bond for the Mifflin was dated 18 Mar 1778
Babcock had a privateer bond for the Mifflin dated 7 Aug 1780
15 Feb 1779
A history of American privateers : Maclay, Edgar Stanton (1899):
Mentions only (p133) P. Day, commander of the Pennsylvania armed sloop Active, 1779. HOWEVER:
p74 [in section "Pennsylvania Gunboats"]: "The 12-gun brig General Mifflin, Captain J. Hamilton, in 1776 made directly for British waters, where she took several valuable vessels, one of them being a ship with a cargo of wine. On her return passage the General Mifflin fell in with a British privateer carrying eighteen guns and eighty men. An action was immediately begun, and the Englishmen, after having sustained a loss of twenty-two killed or wounded, including their commander, surrendered. The American casualties were thirteen."
p88: "Daniel McNeil, noted alike for his eccentricities of character and bravery as an officer, had the honour, in 1778, while in command of the 20-gun privateer General Mifflin, to receive a salute from the French admiral at Brest. This so offended the British ambassador that he threatened to leave the country. The General Mifflin then made several captures near the British coast, one of her prizes being a ship laden with wine. On her homeward passage from France, the General Mifflin had a severe action with a British privateer of eighteen guns and eighty men. The Englishmen finally surrendered, having had their commander and twenty-two men killed or injured."
[I'll leave you to match those stories to the right commanders, once you've read the rest of this section]
15 Feb 1779
[POSSIBLY THAT REFERS TO THE FOLLOWING:]
Boston-Gazette, AND COUNTRY JOURNAL, 15 Feb 1779, p2:
The Mifflin has taken thirteen Prizes since she left America; one of which was a Privateer Snow, from Bristol, of 16 Guns and 70 Men; out of which Capt. McNeil took London Prints to the 28th of November ...
22 Feb 1779
Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser [Boston], 22 Feb 1779, p3:
The armed Snow, of 16 Carriage guns, lately captured by Capt. McNeil, in the Mifflin Privateer, is safe arrived at an Eastern Port.
spring 1779 Note the long gap between that entry and the next.
8 Jun 1779
Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser, 8 Jun 1779, p2:
A Prize Ship, laden with Wine, we hear arrived at Boston on Thursday, captured by the Mifflin Privateer.
9 Jun 1779
New Jersey Gazette [Trenton], 9 Jun 1779, p2:
BOSTON, May 27.
...
Thursday last arrived safe in port a prize brig, taken by the Mifflin privateer of this port. Her cargo consists of wine, from Fayal. The Mifflin was left in chase of a large ship, when the prize left her.
13 Jul 1779
https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Franklin/01-30-02-0064
Franklin Papers:
Letter from Jonathan Williams, Jr at Nantes to Benjamin Franklin, 13 Jul 1779:
The privateer Genl Mifflin arrived here the 10th Inst. from a Cruise in which she has taken three Prizes, The Elephant a Kings Store ship, the Brig Betsey a merchant man in Ballast, and the Tartar an english Privateer of 26 Guns & 160 men. The Mifflin mounts but 20 Guns (6 pounders) finding therefor her Enemy Superior, the Commander Capt Babcock made a Desperate attack to board, in which the English Captain was killed and the ship directly surrendered. Captain Babcock having now about two hundred Prisoners and his Provisions being short he was under the necessity of sending one hundred & ninety of them in the Brig which he gave for the Purpose, and they have since arrived in England as appears by the english Prints. In order to secure an Exchange of an equal Number of americans Capt Babcock took a Receipt for these Prisoners from the master of the Elephant the master of the Brig & the 1st Lieutenant of the Tartar (the Captain of the latter being killed) promising a Release of american Prisoners accordingly. I have had this Instrument authenticated by the admiralty of the Place and inclose the Copy in due form to serve as you may think necessary.
Capt Babcock was obliged to quit the Tartar at Sea the 23d of June and if she is not taken we expect her hourly to arrive. I shall deliver the prisoners who remain on board the Mifflin into the prisons here and shall desire Mr. Schweighauser to engage for their maintenance or I shall do it myself untill I receive your Orders: The mifflin and her Prizes if they arrive are to my address.
5 Aug 1779
Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser, 5 Aug 1779, p2:
Extract of a letter from Boston, dated July 21.
A prize to the privateer Mifflin, of 20 guns, being retaken, the people were landed by the enemy to the eastward- They bring an account that the week before they left the Mifflin, she had taken a brig of ten guns, loaded with provisions, and soon after took a Liverpool privateer ship of 26 guns and 220 men, after an obstinate engagement, in which the Liverpool Captain and 20 of his men were killed and wounded- The Mifflin had 13 killed and wounded- She soon after took a schooner, which was given to 200 of the prisoners.
16 Aug 1779
Pennsylvania Evening Post, 16 Aug 1779:
BOSTON, August 2.
...
Saturday last the ship Irish Tartar arrived here, mounting twenty six carriage guns, six pounders, twenty swivels, and about one hundred and sixty men taken by the privateer ship Mifflin of twenty guns and one hundred and thirty men, capt. Babcock commander, after a smart engagement of four glasses, most of the time yard arm and yard arm, when they received a shot from the Mifflin, which put an end to their capt. upon which they quitted their quarters, and immediately fell a victim to the American flag. They were from Ireland bound on a cruize. Their loss in this engagement, eighteen killed, and about seventeen wounded. Our loss, two killed and six or seven wounded. This happened on the thirteenth of May last, when a proper number of Americans were put on board, and cruized in company until the nineteenth of June, at which time they parted, the Tartar being ordered into port. However, she soon after fell in with and captured a brig bound from Newfoundland to Lisbon, having 2500 quintals of fish, which is hourly expected.
25 Oct 1779
Independent Ledger, and the American Advertiser [Boston], 25 Oct 1779, p3:
Last Saturday Morning arrived here the privateer ship, Gen. Mifflin, Capt. Babcock, in 10 weeks from France, and has taken 3 prizes since she left that port. The Mifflin, on the 7th of last Month engaged a sloop of war for the space of 3 glasses, and had 3 men killed and 7 wounded- One of the above mentioned prizes is a snow, she belonged to Count D'Estaing's fleet, was separated by a gale of wind, and taken by a privateer from New-York, and retaken by the Mifflin, about 10 days ago off Sandy-Hook.
13 Jan 1781
American Journal And General Advertiser [Providence, RI], 13 Jan 1781, p3:
The Mifflin Privateer, Capt. Babcock, is taken by the Raleigh Frigate, and carried into South Carolina. The Mifflin had two valuable Prizes in Company with her (taken out of a Cork Fleet) which were re-captured by the Raleigh.
late 1779[NB: By late 1779 there was a Captain Day commanding the privateer sloop Active, of Philadelphia (possibly the same Philadelphia Captain Day whose brig was wrecked on the coast of Cuba in 1782, with several fatalities).]
late 1779
http://www.awiatsea.com/Officers/Officers%20D.html
DAY, PETER
PA
Commander, Pennsylvania Privateers
Peter Day was commissioned to the Pennsylvania Privateer Brig Active on 20 September 1779. Active was at sea in about October 1779 when she fell in with the British Privateer Schooner Mercury (George Campbell), armed with eight guns and sailing out of New York. A short action followed in which Mercury had four men wounded, including Campbell, before surrendering. On the same cruise, Active captured the brigantine Providence (John Munro). Somewhat later, perhaps on another cruise, Active captured the ship Needham (McMeakin), bound from Jamaica, British West Indies to New York, New York. [see Active]
1779/80ish[In the 1770s there was a merchant in New York named William Day. In the 1780s there was a William Day at Southington, Connecticut, and another in South Carolina]
1780
Bostonian Society publications: "Assessors' Taking Books, Boston Town, 1780" (1912)
William Day, Ward 9, 1 poll, rent 40 [probably Pounds], occupation: ship Boston
[Ward 9 was in the town centre, stretching east and west from the Old Meeting House; William was the only householder in the list with the surname Day, so he is likely to be William jnr.]
1780
A Pocket almanack for the year of our Lord 1780. Being bissextile or leap year, and the fourth of American independence. Calculated for the use of the state of Massachusetts Bay in New-England.

Civil Officers for the County of Berkshire.
...
Coroners.
William Day | Caleb Wright | William Ashley
William Goodridge | James Harris
7 Jun 1780
https://www.flickr.com/photos/rusty_clark/3650035771
Photo of grave inscription for James Day in Springfield Cemetery [on end of William Day tomb]:
IN MEMORY OF CAPTAIN JAMES DAY, BORN IN SHEFFIELD JUNE 7TH. 1780, MARRIED IN NEW LONDON MAY 10TH 1811. DIED IN LOWNDES Co. ALABAMA DEC 17TH 1832 AGED 72 YEARS.
His remains were removed from Alabama to this Ground.
7 Jun 1780
George Edward Day, A genealogical register of the descendants in the male line of Robert Day, of Hartford, Conn., who died in the year 1648 (2nd edition, 1848, reprinted 1913)
[Children of William Day:] 196. James, b. June 7, 1780
28 Jul 1780
Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War (vol. 4):
William Day, age 16, of West Springfield, engaged for Capt. Rowley's company at Springfield, 28 Jul 1780
[This would be the 1764-born son of William and Lucretia]
1781There was another Captain Day active at this time- commanding the British Navy sloop "Surprize".
28 Jan 1782
Records relating to the early history of Boston, v25:
p167 (Selectmen's minutes, 1782):
January 28, 1782 ...
William Day approved as a Retailer of Spirituous Liquors at his Shop in Quakers Lane.
[Possibly, but by no means certainly, William jnr., breadwinner for a growing family. It may or may not be significant that Quakers Lane was in Ward 9.]
28 Mar 1782
www.findmypast.com Boston deaths 1630-1825
(from book "Deaths in Boston, 1700-1799: A to L" by Robert J Dunkle and Ann S Lainhart, 1999):
William Day died in Boston, 28 March 1782, age 31 years, bur.
[Although there was a major fire in Boston that day, the newspapers report no fatalities]
[I have assumed that this William is the son of our William, but his stated age at death is not quite consistent with the claimed year of his birth: see 1748-49 for further thoughts on this.]
9 Mar 1786
West Springfield registers:
William Day & Lucretia McIntier both of West Springfield were joined in Marriage March 9th 1786
[This is William son of William and Lucretia, born 1864]
8 Mar 1787
George Edward Day, A genealogical register of the descendants in the male line of Robert Day, of Hartford, Conn., who died in the year 1648 (2nd edition, 1848, reprinted 1913)
[Children of William Day:] 197. *William, b. March 8, 1787. [The manuscript digest of Sheffield registers has March 7]
1790
1790 census listing for Sheffield:
Summary: William Day's household includes 3 "Free white Males of 16 years old, and upwards"; 2 "Free white Males, under 16 years"; 3 "Free white Females"; nobody in the category "All other free Persons" (of whom there were just over 30 in the township, including 3 members of Col. John Ashley's household, and 4 living with his son John jnr.) and no Slaves (there being none at all in Massachusetts). There were no other Day households in the township.
1790
Records relating to the early history of Boston, v22:
No Days in 1790 census for Boston
25 Jul 1795
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=day&GSiman=1&GScid=640827&GRid=69036191&
Find A Grave: Barnard Cemetery, Sheffield, Massachusetts
"Sacred to the memory of Mrs Rhoda Day, Wife of Captain William Day, who died July 25th 1795 in the 47th year of her age"
9 Jan 1797
Probate records for Berkshire, Massachusetts:
In the Name of God, Amen-
I William Day of Sheffield in the County of Berkshire and Commonwealth of Massachusetts Gentleman, Being advanced in years, but of perfect mind and memory thanks be given to God ... Do make and Order this my last Will and Testament ... Principally and first of all I Give and recommend my Soul into the hands of Almighty God that gave it, and my body I recommend to the earth to be buried in a decent Christian burial at the discretion of my Executor ...
And as touching such worldly estate wherewith it hath pleased God to bless me with in this life ... all those Debts which I owe ... shall be paid in a convenient time by my Executors hereafter named.
I give to my son John Day the whole of my estate both Real and personal, he the said John paying out the following Legacies ...
... to my daughter Mary Day, One Hundred Pounds, or Three Hundred and thirty three Dollars and thirty three cents, to be paid in Land, Stock, or money by the above said John at my decease if not paid before by the said John.
... to my son Ithamar Hubbel Day, Two Hundred Pounds or Six Hundred Sixty six Dollars and Sixty six cents [payable as above]
... to my son James Day [same as to Ithamar]
... to my son William Day One Hundred and Eighty Pounds or Six Hundred Dollars [payable as above]
... to my Grandson William Day, Son to William Day Deceased, the sum of Fifty Dollars, to be paid in stock or produce by the said John at my Decease.
... to my Granddaughter Susannah Day Daughter to my Son William Day Deceased [same as to William]
Now therefore if at my decease, I should not have Interest enough that my son John Day after paying out the foregoing Legacies he should not have the Sum of Eight Hundred Dollars left for his Share or Legacy in that case the foregoing Legacies are to be reduced in proportion to the foregoing bequests, but if there should be a sufficiency of Estate to pay off the foregoing Legacies without the household furniture in that case my household furniture is to be equally divided at my decease betwixt my five Children (viz.) John, Mary, Ithamar, James and William.
I Constitute and appoint my well beloved Son John Day my Executor ...
[dated 9 January 1797; witnessed by Jonathan Burrell, David Burrell, Ebenezer Smith
Proved at a Court of Probate held in Lenox, Berkshire, 3 Oct 1797, before the Hon. William Walker Esq., judge]
At the same Court, John Day of Sheffield in the County of Berkshire is assigned and appointed to be Guardian of the person and Estate of William Day, a Minor, under the age of fourteen years, Son of William Day, late of said Sheffield, Deceased ...
22 Mar 1797
https://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GSln=day&GSiman=1&GScid=640827&GRid=69036191&
Find A Grave: Barnard Cemetery, Sheffield, Massachusetts
"Sacred to the memory of Capt. William Day, who died March 22d 1797 in the 83d year of his age" [In reality he had not reached his 82nd birthday; somebody may have mistakenly attempted to correct for the change of New Year date from March to January in 1752]
[The elegant, simple, double headstone here celebrates both William and his last wife Rhoda, buried side-by-side. It has a verse which is repeated on the grandiose tomb to which they were later moved, at Springfield.]
8 Apr 1804William's granddaughter Susannah may be the Susanna Day who married John H. Jennings at Boston, 8 Apr 1804

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