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This Month in Naval History


The ship in Greek legend that was commanded by Jason and manned by the argonauts on their expedition seeking to recover the Golden Fleece.


(Slp: a. 12 6-pdrs.)

At Providence, R.I., on 24 March 1779, Major General John Sullivan of the Continental Army hired the sloop Sally from in Clarke and Nightingale, merchants of Providence who were acting as agents for her owner, Nicolas Law of New York city. Sullivan-who acquired the ship to clear Rhode Island Sound of British armed vessels that had been preying on local American shipping and harassing Rhode Island's coastal communities-placed her under the command of Lt. Col. Silas Talbot.

No known records of her operations are extant. However, it seems reasonable to assume that Argo spent the next few months plying the salt waters of Rhode Island in an attempt to make them safe from British aggression.

On 9 August 1779, Law petitioned Congress for the restitution of his sloop." The next day, Congress ordered that Argo be restored to him via Brigadier General George Clinton, the Governor of New York. However, the next milestone in her history apparently did not occur until 1 December 1779 when Clinton ordered Talbot to deliver Argo to Clarke and Ningtingale in Providence.

Making Argo's story somewhat more complicated is the fact that when he received Clinton's order, Talbot had been an officer in the Continental Navy for over two months, having become a captain on 17 September 1779. Moreover, sometime in December, the sloop received orders to sail to the West Indies and to cruise off Antigua; but these orders were never carried out.

No documents shed light on Argo's status in the ensuing weeks. On 2 February 1780, the Rhode Island Council of War-whose relationship to the sloop is vague at best-ordered that she be valued, surveyed, and stripped of her warlike stores. Three days later, Clarke and Nightingale accepted the ship under the stipulation that her owner pay the United States 11, 000 pounds over the next two months.

Dunn this period, the Rhode Island Council of War again accepted custody of Argo ". . . for the use of the United States." Then, on 14 April 1980, Argo was commissioned as a Rhode Island privateer under the command of Capt. Silas Talbot. No documents giving details of her subsequent career have emerged,


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