University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department


Great Britain. Board of Ordnance.
Record Book of the Plymouth
Office of Ordnance

1756 - 1757

Manuscript Collection Number: 393
Accessioned: Purchase, 1957
Extent: 1 vol. (202 pp.)
Content: Record book
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: October 1999 by Andrew Ronemus

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Table of Contents


Historical Note

During the mid-eighteenth century the British government was alarmed by French incursions into western settlements of the American colonies in New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia. In 1754, the French and Indian War broke out in America. This led to the Seven Years War in Europe (1756-1763). The British prepared for war, and started to replace depleted military stores, particularly because it was decided to try to regain land from the French in the American colonies. English ports such as Plymouth, Portsmouth, and Chatham were vital to British forces because they supplied, refitted, and inventoried military arms which were conveyed by ship to the West Indies, the American colonies, and the Mediterranean Sea.

Located at the prominent port on the west coast of England, the Plymouth Office of Ordnance managed military arms. The Citadel of Plymouth, with a magazine for gunpowder and an arsenal, was repaired along with other outer line defenses at the outset of the Seven Years War. When ships came to port at Plymouth, the Office of Ordnance issued orders for the artillery and small arms to be removed to the arsenal for inventory. Further orders conveyed that any necessary painting was to be done to maintain ships. Gunpowder was to be accounted for and then removed to the magazine while the ships were to be refitted.

During the couse of the Seven Years War, the supply of gunpowder was greatly limited due to the amount of time it took to be manufactured. In addition, unconventional war tactics were used for combat in colonial America, and a great deal of powder was expended against the French and Native Americans during the course of the war. The Royal Navy was ordered not to fire salutes in response to growing gunpowder shortages as early as the beginning of the war. Captured enemy were brought to England at various times during the war. In April of 1757, sixty French officers were brought to Petersfield. The captured French garrison from Fortress Louisbourg was brought to the port at Plymouth the very next year.

Sources

: West, Jenny. Gunpowder, Government and War in the Mid-Eighteenth Century. London: The Boydell Press, 1991. pp. 33, 83.

Stewart, Richard W. The English Ordnance Office. London: The Boydell Press, 1996.

Walling, R.A.J. The Story of Plymouth. London: Westaway Books, 1950. p.159.

Stapleton, Barry. The Portsmouth Region. Gloucester, UK: Allan Sutter Publishing, 1989. p. 63.

Hargreaves, Reginald. The Narrow Seas. London: Sidjwick and Jackson Limited, 1959. p. 368.


Scope and Content Note

This record book of the Plymouth Office of Ordnance documents military preparedness at a key British port during the early years of the Seven Years War. Dating from October 25, 1756 - December 5, 1757, the record book was used to copy orders given primarily by a chief officer, William Bogdani, for refitting ships, issuance of supplies, and inventory of small arms and artillery.

William Bogdani was the issuing officer for just over 150 orders in the Office of Ordnance record book. Names of other officers signing orders include Antony Forman, Hugh Brown, John Smith, John Cockburn, John Harrison, Henry Harrison, Richard Pearce, J. Foley, Patrick Baird, Matthew Whitwell, Shilling F. Durnford, Thomas Hanway, Nicholas Vincent, Robert Hartwell, Richard Bryant, William Waterer, Alexander Durourc, John Jager, Robert Hartwell, John Boddington, and John Clark.

The Office of Ordnance in Plymouth managed the military supplies for the Citadel of Plymouth, St. Nicholas Island, and outer line defenses near those fortifications. The first entry in the record book, dated October 25, 1756, listed necessary furniture needed for two thousand men stationed at the Citadel of Plymouth: tables, cupboards, tongs, pokers, beds, bedsteads, coverlets, and sheets. The following supply order was issued for "thirty rheams of fine paper for small arms." A typical entry, dated November 11, 1756 states, "His Majesty's Ships, the Yarmouth and Newcastle, being ordered to be refitted at Plymouth for foreign Service, if they arrive there, You are by the Board's direction to cause their Guns and Gunner's Stores to be taken ashore for that Purpose, & put on board again when they are ready to receive them." The entry records supplies for the gunners, and all supplies accounted for in the process. Written on December 21, 1756, a similar entry by Bogdani stated "The Board directs You to Survey the Gun Carriages of His Majesty's Ships Newcastle, Terrible and Mermaid and Report when they were last painted, and if you find them to be in want, you are to cause them to be Refreshed, as desired by their respective Commanders."

The record book also includes a complaint about musket flints, and lists of ships in commission at Plymouth. On January 31, 1757, Shilling Durnford reported that Lord Colvill of the Northumberland complained that three or four muskets out of six regularly misfired, "occasioned by the badness of the flints." A question arose as to whether the flints last issued were English or French. Second rate ships in commission at Plymouth on February 12, 1757 included the Duke, Terrible, Northumberland, Oxford, and Vanguard. Commissioned third rate ships included the Fougueaux, Monmouth, Nassau, Captain, and Trident. In addition, fourth rate ships consisted of the St. Albans, Weymouth, Sunderland, Kingston, Defiance, Centurian, Rochester, Antelope; and fifth rates included the Gosport, Ludlow-Castle, and Prince Edward. The sixth rate ships were the Lonestaff, Unicorn, Scarborough, Greyhound, Seaford, Amazon; and sloops included the Swan, Otter, Alderney, Firedrake, Firebrand, and Lightning Fireship. Hospital ships listed were the Rupert and Thetis, the Prison Ship was the Royal Oak.

Shilling Durnford's entry in mid-May 1757 accounted for "ammunition for the undermentioned guns & mortars at Plymouth Citadel, St. Nicholas and the new lines at Plymouth Dock." Described in the eighteenth century by the weight of the ball that was used for a particular gun, the Citadel of Plymouth "iron ordnance" included 42, 32, 18, 9, 6, and 4 pounders. Durnford's entry shows that thirty-seven 32-pound guns were in the Citadel of Plymouth, along with 6,845 paper cartrides, and 6,475 "round shot" in the Citadel of Plymouth. Another thirty 32-pounders were used in the St. Nicholas Island fortification with 5,550 paper cartridges, and 5,250 "round shot."

The Record Book of the Plymouth Office of Ordnance is bound in one volume of 202 pages. A library binding is titled "Bogdani Letterbook" and tape "repairs" were made to reinforce worn edges of pages. One half of a page, with entry date September 24, 1757 on the front, and September 30 on the back, is torn in half and missing. Though it covers only a thirteen-month period, the record book provides important details of preparedness at an English port during the Seven Years War. Footer


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