The clearing weather on the Grand Banks of Newfoundland on 6 June 1776 yielded the sight of several sails, indicating prey. The 32-gun frigate Hancock and 28-gun frigate Boston, fashioned by the shipwrights of Newburyport, Massachusetts, bore down on a pair of helpless fishing vessels before singling out the brig Patty. After her capture, a boarding party from the larger American ship brought her crew aboard the Hancock, where they were welcomed by 43-year-old Captain John Manley.
“I have been out a Fortnight and had met with no success until I saw you,” Manley declared to the Patty’s master, Thomas Hardy. “Your vessel is of no value to me, but I mean to Destroy the Fishery by sinking, burning, taking or destroying all I find, which business I am ordered by the Congress to do.” After Manley informed his reluctant guest that he hailed from St. Marychurch, Torquay, England, Hardy reflected that he knew many of his captor’s family—a truly small world indeed. Yankee tars meanwhile took sails, hawsers, rigging “and every other Store which could be of value” from the Patty before putting her to the torch.