Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa Log Book, 1775-1777

Finding aid created by
Nicole Sobota, June 2015

Summary Information
Title: HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa log book
Creator: Anonymous
Inclusive dates: 1775-1777
Extent: 1 volume
The HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa log book contains daily records about the weather, navigation, and incidences that occurred during the commissions of both ships while sailing in the Mediterranean and the English Channel.
Language: The material is in English.
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

Donated by Peggy Harrington, from the collection of Kevin Harrington, 2014. M-5030.11.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open to research.


Copyright status is unknown.

Preferred Citation:

HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa Log Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


This collection is a single bound volume.


HMS Levant (1757-1780)

The HMS Levant was a sixth rate, 28-gun frigate of the Coventry class. The Levant was designed by Thomas Slade and built by shipwright Henry Adams, per the Admiralty's orders of May 6, 1757. Construction began at Buckler's Hard the following June and the ship's cost reached £5,423.9.0. The Levant launched on July 6, 1758, and was fitted at Portsmouth Dockyard between July 17, 1758, and June 16, 1759, at an additional cost of £4,906.39.

The measurements of the Levant were as follows: 118 feet, 5 inches in length (lower deck); 97 feet, 3 5/8 inches (keel); 33 feet, 11 inches (breadth); and 10 feet, 6 inches (hold depth). The vessel's cargo capacity measured 595 34/94 tons (burthen). The Levant was designed to carry 200 crewmen.

The Levant 's upper deck was armed with 24 British 9-pounder guns, half of which were 1/2-pound swivels. On its quarterdeck, the Levant bore four British 3-pounder guns. The Levant was the first of its class to have its spare broadside gun-port moved forward to a more advantageous chase position. Previously, these were positioned inside the ships' headrails (Gardiner 2002, 76).

On July 23, 1759, the Levant sailed for the Leeward Islands under the command of Captain William Tucker. Between 1759 and 1762, the ship took seven French privateers as prizes, including Le St. Pierre (April 19, 1760), Le Scipio (June 29, 1760), L'Union (December 18, 1760), La Catherine (February 15, 1761), La Dulcinée (July 13, 1761), L'Adventurier , and Le Fier (May 13, 1762).

Captain John Laforey sailed the Levant to the Leeward Islands in 1762, as part of Admiral George Brydges Rodney's squadron. In August 1766, the ship was recommissioned under Captain Basil Keith, and sailed for Jamaica. On January 13, 1772, the ship sailed for the Mediterranean under Captain Samuel Thompson.

Captain George Murray received command of the Levant in 1774 and, on June 22, 1775, the ship sailed from Portsmouth to the Mediterranean for blockade duty. According to the Biographical Memoir of Sir E. [Erasmus] Gower, etc. , who served as the ship's First Lieutenant from 1775-1779, "[t]he Levant was, after the commencement of the American war, extremely successful, having captured so considerable a number of prizes, that few vessels, perhaps, have ever quitted a station with more éclat respecting herself, and more regret from the officers and other persons concerned, who derived advantage from her good fortune and the activity of her people" (Gower, 1800, 8). The Levant captured the American Argo (November 18, 1776), the 14-gun US General Montgomery , and the French privateer La Revanche (July 17, 1779).

The HMS Levant was ordered to be broken up on August 16, 1780.

George Murray (1741-1797)

George Murray commanded the HMS Levant from 1774 until October 1779. He was born on August 22, 1741, in Tullibardine, Perthshire, Scotland. Murray was the fifth of seven children of Lord George and Amelia Murray. He attended the school of Dr. William Rose in Kew from 1755 until 1756, and then the Royal Naval Academy at Portsmouth until 1758. That year, he began his career as a midshipman on the Newark , a ship of the line.

Prior to his post as commander of the Levant , Murray served on multiple ships, including the Falmouth in India (1759). He returned to England on the Terpsichore in 1762. After passing his lieutenant's examination, he received an appointment on the sloop Swift (1762). He also served on the frigate Tartar (1763). While serving in Jamaica in 1765, Murray was promoted captain of the sloop Ferret . Around this time, Murray traveled to British West Florida where he collected Native American artifacts and specimens of flora and fauna for his elder brother John Murray, one of the "planting dukes" of Atholl.

George Murray continued his service aboard the frigates Renown and Adventure (1768). He later served as captain of the Levant from 1774-1779. In 1780, he was appointed to the frigate Cleopatra , which saw action in the Battle of Dogger Bank on August 5, 1781. George Murray commanded the ship-of-the-line Irresistible (beginning in December 1782), the Defense (during the Nootka crisis with Spain), the Vengence , the Medway (beginning in 1792), the Duke (in the West Indies, 1793), and the Glory . Murray became commander-in-chief of the North American Squadron in 1794 and served aboard the flagship Resolution . He obtained a promotion to Vice Admiral in 1795.

George Murray married Wilhelmina King on May 13, 1784. The two had no children. In May 1796, Murray suffered a stroke. He died on October 17, 1797. He was buried at Ockham in Surrey.

HMS Arethusa (1757-1779)

Built in 1757 at La Havre, and designed by Jean-Joseph Ginoux, the HMS Arethusa was a fifth rate frigate of the Royal Navy. Previously known as the French privateer Pelerine , it was sold on the stocks by the French navy and renamed L'Aréthuse in 1758. On May 19, 1759, it was captured by British vessels Chatham , Venus , and Thames , and repurposed for the Royal Navy. The Arethusa possessed 32 British guns: 26 12-pounders on the upper gun deck, four 6-pounders on the quarter deck, and two 6-pounders on the forecastle.

The measurements of the Arethusa were as follows: 132 feet, 2 inches (lower deck); 110 feet, 10 3/8 inches (keel); 34 feet 5 1/2 inches (breadth); and 10 feet 8 inches (hold depth). Its carrying capacity was 700 31/94 tons (burthen). The ship was designed to support a crew of 220.

According to the ship's original survey, she "laboured exceedingly in bad weather" (Gardiner 2002 115). The ship lost multiple masts as a result of storms and strong winds. "One captain believed this was encouraged by the lack of support from the characteristically French shallow hull and an extreme tumblehome that did not allow sufficient spread to the shrouds" (Gardiner 2002, 91).

Captain Raby Vane commanded the Arethusa from 1759-1763. During this time, the ship captured several privateers, including Le Revanche of Dunkirk (July 25, 1760), L'Elisabeth (February 14, 1761), Le Quimper of Boyonne (May 6, 1761), Perfecta of San Sebastian (October 5, 1762) and L'Amitie of Bayonne (October 8, 1762).

In January 1771, the Arethusa was commissioned under Captain Andrew Snape Hamond and, on October 24, 1771, the ship sailed to North America. In June 1775, the ship was recommissioned under Captain Digby Dent for service in the English Channel.

Samuel Marshall commanded the HMS Arethusa from 1777 until 1779. He was stationed in the Irish Sea in 1777. In 1778, he served with Rear Admiral Augustus Keppel's Channel Fleet, whose orders were to blockade Brest, a city on the western tip of France's Breton peninsula. On June 17, 1778, the Arethusa participated in action against the 36-gun La Belle Poule near the island of Ushant. Although the Arethusa was a fast vessel, La Belle Poule managed to flee and return to Brest with forty dead and sixty-one wounded.

On July 27, 1778, the Arethusa was involved in the Battle of Ushant, an inconclusive action between British and French fleets under Keppel and Comte d'Orvilliers, respectively. After 1779, the Arethusa was commissioned under Captain Charles Everitt. On March 19, 1779, the Arethusa was wrecked on Moline Island near Ushant following an engagement with L'Aigrette , a 32-gun frigate.

William Browell

William Browell's name appears on the flyleaf of the volume; he appears to have been the log-keeper of both ships. A captain by the same name lived from 1759-1831 and commanded the Sans Pareil from 1795-1798. This William Browell may or may not be the same man represented in the Levant and the Arethusa log book.

Collection Scope and Content Note

This vellum-bound log book (15cm x 19cm) contains 259 pages of tabular data respecting voyages of the HMS Levant (1775-1776, 223 pages) and, beginning in the back of the volume, the HMS Arethusa (1777, 36 pages). Additional pages in the volume are either blank, or contain empty tables. The flyleaf is inscribed with the name of William Browell and with the names of the two ships and their commanders. The flyleaf also includes a pen-and-ink drawing of a man wearing a formal headdress or hairstyle, with curls above the ear and a single ponytail at the nape of the neck.

The HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa log book contains a daily record of locations, movements, sails, surroundings, weather, discipline, and out-of-the-ordinary occurrences. The log keeper recorded data in tables with columns marked "H" (the hour of the day), "K" (speed in knots), "F" (depth of the water in fathoms), "Courses," "Winds," and the date. Details about the positioning of sails, winds, and directional courses are included. Crew discipline is mentioned throughout the text, which involved floggings for reasons of insolence, drunkenness, going ashore without leave, fighting, and neglect of duty.

HMS Levant

The HMS Levant log book spans approximately the first year and a half of the American War of Independence, beginning on Friday, June 23, 1775, and ending on Sunday November 24, 1776. In addition to regular data, the book documents navigational coordinates and landmarks from the ship's travels in the English Channel, North Atlantic Ocean, and Mediterranean Sea, and along the coasts and surrounding islands of England, Portugal, Spain, France, Algeria, and Italy. Noteworthy locations sighted or visited by the Levant include Lizard Point, the Scilly Islands, Lisbon, Cádiz, Gibraltar Bay, Majorca, Marseilles, Sardinia, the Bay of Naples, and Algiers.

From the commencement of the ship's voyage in June until late September, the ship traveled as part of the Mediterranean fleet under the command of Rear Admiral Robert Mann. The Levant log book contains references to Mann's flagship, the Medway , the Royal Oak (under Captain Peter Parker), the Enterprise , the Exeter , the Worcester , the Alarm , and the Zephyr . Early entries of the log book contain some description of pursuing and halting ships from England and America (one from Pennsylvania and one from Maryland). Other ships encountered by the Levant hailed from Amsterdam, Genoa, Martinique, Cádiz, Jamaica, and Antigua. The author also described exercising the ship's guns and practicing tactical fleet formations (forming a line of battle abreast, a line of battle ahead, and the bow and quarter).

On July 13, 1775, the ship's foremast was damaged near the Scilly lighthouse, but was repaired in Gibraltar Bay the following month.

Interactions with other ships, both friend and foe, occur regularly throughout the log. On March 7, 1776, while sailing in Algiers Bay, the sighting of a Dutch Man-of-War was reported: "Sail'd hence the Dutch man of war the garison saluted Capt. Murray with 5 guns at is going on shore, we return'd an equal number. Sent the slaves on shore." The crew of the Levant also encountered the Dey of Algiers who "sent onboard as a Present 3 live Bullocks of sheep with bread & Vegetables to the ship comp'y." (March 7, 1776).

From October 27, 1776 until November 15, 1776 the Levant traveled as part of a convoy with at least three vessels, including the sloop Neptune , the Charles , and the Hope . The writer recorded the seizure of an American ship, the Argo , on November 18, 1776. After indicating that a sail was spotted to the southwest, the HMS Levant "spoke the chase and found her to be American ship from Charles Town bound to Bordeaux. Loaded with rices and indigo. Hoisted the boat out and sent it on board of her with the 2nd Lieut who immediately took command of her as a prize."

HMS Arethusa

The HMS Arethusa log book was kept between March 23, 1777 and June 3, 1777. Beginning its journey near Belém Tower in Lisbon, the Arethusa sailed through Cape Roxant and past the Isle of Portland. The volume covers the ship's travels along southern England with a convoy to Spithead Harbour, where the ship remained anchored between April 15, 1777 and May 19, 1777. During its time in harbor, the Arethusa underwent repairs, and its decks were washed in hot vinegar and smoked with charcoal, tobacco, and tar almost daily.

The Arethusa encountered other ships during this time, most of them British. They included the Romney , a ship of the line under Vice Admiral John Montagu, the privateer Terrible , the sloop Hawke , the Centaur, the Invincible, the Brilliant , the Resolution, and the Cameleon . On, April 7, the Arethusa encountered a Dutch ship, and on March 24, a Spanish battle ship.

Subject Terms

    • Arethusa (Ship : 1759-1779)
    • English Channel.
    • Frigates.
    • Great Britain. Royal Navy. Fleet, Mediterranean.
    • Harbors.
    • Mediterranean Sea--Description and travel.
    • Naval discipline.
    • Navigation.
    • Pen drawing.
    • Privateering.
    • Spithead Channel (England)
    • Browell, William.
    Genre Terms:
    • Ships' logs.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    HMS Levant and HMS Arethusa Log Book,  1775-1777 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data

    United States, Naval History Division. European Theatre: October 6-December 31, 1776. Vol. 7, pt. 5, Naval Documents of the American Revolution , Edited by William Bell Clark, William James Morgan, and Michael J. Crawford. Washington: United States Government Printing Office, 1976.

    Gardiner, Robert. The First Frigates: Nine-Pounder & Twelve-Pounder Frigates 1748-1815. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1992.

    Gower, Erasmus. Biographical Memoir of Sir E. Gower, Knt: Admiral of the White Squadron of His Majesty's Fleet. W. Woodward, 1815.

    Laurens, Henry. The Papers of Henry Laurens. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1988.

    Lester, Malcolm. "Murray, George (1741--1797)." Malcolm Lester In Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, edited by H. C. G. Matthew and Brian Harrison. Oxford: OUP, 2004. Online ed., edited by Lawrence Goldman, January 2008. (accessed July 2, 2015).

    Lyon, David. The Sailing Navy List: All the Ships of the Royal Navy -- Built, Purchased and Captured 1688-1860. London: Conway Maritime Press, 1993.

    Marshall, John. Royal Naval Biography: or, Memoirs of the services of all the flag-officers, superannuated rear-admirals, retired-captains, post-captains, and commanders, whose names appeared on the Admiralty list of sea officers at the commencement of the present year, or who have since been promoted, illustrated by a series of historical and explanatory notes…with copious addenda, supplement pt. 2. London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, and Green, 1828.

    Paine, Lincoln P. Warships of the World to 1900. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2000.

    Winfield, Rif. British Warships in the Age of Sail, 1714-1792. London: Seaforth Publishing, 2007.