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CAPTAIN MUGFORD’S CAPTURE OF THE BRITISH SHIP “HOPE”
A hero of the Revolutionary War of whom we rarely hear is Captain James Mugford of Marblehead. He had been impressed on a British frigate, and while on board he heard the crew talking about a powder-ship soon to arrive from England. His wife obtained his release by giving as an excuse that they had been only recently married and that she needed him for support. Without waiting for a commission he boarded a fishing-smack called the “Franklin,” shown as a frontispiece, and cruised up and down the bay waiting for his prey. Soon the “Hope” appeared, whereupon the innocent-looking fisherman sailed up alongside. Suddenly the daring Captain Mugford grappled the English store-ship, called to his crew below decks, and, boarding the “Hope,” sailed off to Boston with her as a prize within sight of His Majesty’s fleet then anchored in Nantasket Roads. The prize-ship contained powder ‘and arms worth over a million dollars to the Yankees, the powder being especially valuable owing to the fact that Washington’s army was very short of it at that time. Without any doubt this incident of May 17, 1776 was one of the most important events of the war. Two days later Captain Mugford while sailing the “Franklin” through Shirley Gut was attacked by some British ships and a furious battle ensued, during which he was killed. As he fell back into the boat one of the crew inquired if he were wounded, whereupon he replied, “Yes, but don’t let the enemy know the situation, and if I die act as if I were alive and am still commanding.” He then expired. His men beat off the enemy and sailed back into Marblehead Harbour where the captain was buried with military honors.
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