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Ihey were ready to sail, by contrary winds and want of water, on the Bar, for the Randolph. As soon as they got over the Bar, they stood to the eastward, in expectation of falling in with the British cruizers. The next day they retook a dismasted ship from New England; as she had no cargo on board, they took out her crew, six light guns, and some stores, and set her on fire. Finding that the British ships had left the coast, they proceeded to the West Indies, and cruised to the eastward, and nearly in the latitude of Barbadoes, for some days, during which time they boarded a number of French and Dutch ships, and took an English schooner from New York, bound to Grenada, which had mistaken the Randolph for a British frigate, and was taken possession of before the mistake was discovered.
On the night of the 7th March, 1778, the fatal accident occurred, which terminated the life of this excellent officer. For some days previously, he had expected an attack. Captain Blake, a brave officer, who commanded a detachment of the second South Carolina regiment, serving as marines on board the general Moultrie, and to whom we are indebted for several of the ensuing particulars, dined on board the Randolph two days before the engagement. At dinner captain Biddle said, "We have been cruizing here for some time, and have spoken a number of vessels, who will no doubt give information of us, and I should not be surprised if my old ship should he out after us. As to any thing that carries her guns upon one deck, I think myself a match for her." About three P. M. of the 7th of March, a signal was made from the Randolph for a sail to windward, in consequence of which the squadron hauled upon a wind, in order to speak her. It was four o'clock before she could be distinctly seen, when she was discovered to be a ship, though as she neared and I
came before the wind, she had the appearance of a large sloop with only a square sail set. About seven o'clock, the Randolph being to windward, hove to, the Moultrie being about one hundred and fifty yards astern, and rather to leeward, also hove to. About eight o'clock, the British ship fired a shot just ahead of the Moultrie, and hailed her, the answer was the Polly of New York, upon Avhich she immediately hauled her wind and hailed the Randolph. She was then, for the first time, discovered to be a two decker. After several questions asked and answered, as she was ranging up along side the Randolph, and had got on her weather quarter, lieutenant Barnes, of that ship, called out, "This is the Randolph," and she immediately hoisted her colours and gave the enemy a broadside. Shortly after the action commenced, captain Biddle received a wound in the thigh and fell. This occasioned some confusion, as it was at first thought that he was killed. He soon, however, ordered a chair to be brought, said that he was only slightly, wounded, and being carried forward encouraged the crew. The stern of the enemy's ship being clear of the Randolph, the captain of the Moultrie gave orders to fire, but the enemy having shot ahead, so as to bring the Randolph between them, the last broadside of the Moultrie went into the Randolph, and it was thought by one of the men saved, who was stationed on the quarter-deck near captain Biddle, that he was wounded by a shot from the Moultrie. The fire from the Randolph was constant and well directed. She fired nearly three broadsides to the enemy's one, and she appeared, while the battle lasted, to be in a continual blaze. In about twenty minutes after the action began, and while the surgeon was examining captain Biddle's wound on the quarter deck, the Randolph blew up.
The enemy's vessel was the British ship Yarmouth, of sixty-four guns, commanded by captain Vincent. So closely were they engaged, that captain Morgan, of the Fair American, and all his crew, thought that it was the enemy's ship that had blown up. He stood for the Yarmouth, and had a trumpet in his hand to hail and inquire how captain Biddle was, when he discovered his mistake. Owing to the disabled condition of the Yarmouth the other vessels escaped.
The cause*of the explosion was never ascertained, but it is remarkable that just before he sailed, after the clerk had copied the signals and orders for the armed vessels that accompanied him, he wrote at the foot of them, "In case of coming to action in the night be very careful of your magazines." The number of persons on board the Randolph was three hundred and fifteen, who all perished, except four men, who were tossed about for four days on a piece of the wreck before they were discovered and taken up. From the information of two of these men, who were afterwards in Philadelphia, and of some individuals in the other vessels of the squadron, we have been enabled to state some particulars of this unfortunate event in addition to the accounts given of it by Dr. Ramsay in his History of the American Revolution, and in his history of the revolution of South Carolina. In the former work, the historian thus concludes his account of the action: "Captain Biddle who perished on board the Randolph was universally lamented. He was in the prime of life, and had excited high expectations of future usefulness to his country, as'a bold and skilful naval officer."
Thus prematurely fell, at the age of twentyseven, as gallant an officer as any country ever boasted of. In the short career which Providence allowed to him, he displayed all those qualities which constitute a great soldier. Brave to excess, and consummatelv skilled in his profession.
no danger nor unexpected event could shake his firmness, or disturb his presence of mind. An exact and rigid disciplinarian, he tempered his authority with so much humanity and affability, that his orders were always executed with cheerfulness and alacrity. Perhaps no officer ever understood better the art of commanding the affections, as well as the respect of those who served under him; if that can be called an art, which was rather the natural effect of the benevolence and magnanimity of his character.
BRYAN, George, was a native of the city of Dublin, in Ireland, the eldest son of an ancient and respectable family. He received a classical and liberal education, and very early imbibed the principles of liberty. Even before he had closed his studies, he entered with an ardent zeal the ranks of opposition to the tyrannic acts ef Great Britain, against that much abused country. When arrived at the age of twenty-one, his father gave him his portion, being a sufficiency for a handsome establishment, in the wholesale mercantile business. He immediately embarked for Philadelphia, where he remained until his death.— Although by profession a merchant, Mr. Bryan's active, patriotic, and highly improved mind, led him to a close observation of, and inquiry into, every thing in his adopted country; its government, laws, resources for improvement, &c. &c.
After several years of extensive business, it pleased the wise disposer of events to defeat the plans of Mr. Bryan, and he was, by the occurrences of severe losses, reduced to comparative poverty. But he was rich in intellectual resources. In them he had a friend, valuable to himself and family, but much more so, as the history of his life shews, to his country. His education fitted him for any thing that extensive knowledge could accomplish.
Previous to the revolution, Mr. Bryan was introduced into various public employments. He was a delegate to the congress of 1775, for the purpose of petitioning and remonstrating against the arbitrary measures of Great Britain. After the declaration of independence, he was vice president of the state of Pennsylvania, and upon the death of president Wharton, in May, 1778, he was placed at the head of the government.
In 1777, Mr. Bryan was elected a member of the legislature, of which he was one of the most intelligent, active and efficient. Here, amidst the tumult of war and invasion; surrounded with the tory and disaffected, when every one was trembling for himself, his mind was occupied by the claims of humanity and charity. He, at this'time, planned and completed an act for the gradual abolition of slavery, and which will remain an imperishable monument to his memory. These were the days "tlmt tried men's smds;" and it was in those days that the patriotism, wisdom and firmness, of Mr. Bryan were conspicuously efficient •,ttid useful. He furnished evidence, that in opposing the exactions of foreign power, he was opposing tyranny, and was really attached to the cause of liberty. After this period, Mr. Bryan was a judge of the Supreme Court, in which station he continued until his death. In 1784, he was elected one of the council of censors, and was one of its most active members.
Besides the offices already mentioned, judge wvan filled a number of public, titulary, and charitable employments. Formed for a close application to study, animated with an ardent thirst •or knowledge, and blessed with a memory of wonderful tenacity, and a clear, penetrating, and decisive judgment, he availed himself of the labours an!i acquisitions of others, and brought honour to lie stations which he occupied. To his other at- . 12