February 1778

In the period prior to the Revolution, James Willing, scion of a prominent Philadelphia family, had engaged in trade at Natchez. In the fall of 1777, he received, through the influence of his brother Thomas and a close friend, Robert Morris, a commission from Congress that authorized him to organize a volunteer company of Marines to be drawn from the hardened soldiers then stationed at Fort Pitt; secure and arm a large boat; proceed down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, winning the assistance or forcing the neutrality of all the inhabitants along the river’s east bank; and then return to Fort Pitt, conveying five boats loaded with dry goods and arms for the cause. With matters of supply and organization quickly settled, Willing and his 34-man company departed the fort in the armed boat Rattletrap on the night of 10 January 1778. Recruiting more men as he went, Willing succeeded in slipping by British outposts along the Ohio and upper Mississippi Rivers. By mid-February, his flotilla had reached the plantation of Colonel Anthony Hutchins, a short distance above Natchez. Under the cover of darkness a party was sent out of seize the prominent loyalist, his property, and slaves which were loaded on board the armed galley Rattletrap . Several days later the expedition arrived at Natchez where several more prominent pro-British residents were seized. As soon as Willing passed the southern boundary of the Natchez district, his progress became an orgy of plunder. Plate, slaves, and provisions were seized, and much other property was burned. A period of inactivity followed the expedition’s arrival at New Orleans then more forays were made into the countryside against British sympathizers. After several more unsuccessful attempts to enforce neutrality, the Marines started up the west side of the Mississippi under Lieutenant Robert George in order to join General George Rogers Clark in the Illinois territory, while Willing himself departed by sea for the east.

Published by Michael Carver

My goal is to bring history alive through interactive portrayal of ordinary American life in the late 18th Century (1750—1799) My persona are: Journeyman Brewer; Cordwainer (leather tradesman but not cobbler), Statesman and Orator; Chandler (candle and soap maker); Gentleman Scientist; and, Soldier in either the British Regular Army, the Centennial Army, or one of the various Militia. Let me help you experience history 1st hand!

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