PHILADELPHIA, April 28, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Gustavus Conyngham, a U.S. naval hero who raided British shipping in the English Channel for two years in the late 1770s, was considered the most terrifying Continental Navy captain of them all by King George III.
No wonder. Captain Conyngham and his crew captured or sank 60 vessels, more than Commodore John Barry and Captain John Paul Jones combined.
But despite his amazing war record, Conyngham did not come home to great tributes. Instead, Congress refused to pay him for his services, saying his commission was "intended for temporary expeditions only." The result: few people today know anything about this fearless hero.
Jim Murphy, a certified tour guide who writes "Exploring the City" for Philadelphia's Society Hill Reporter, hopes to change that. He wants today's tourists to understand how this leader took the war right to England's front door.
Murphy first heard about Conyngham from Tim McGrath, the local author of "Give Me a Fast Ship," and was amazed at the Donegal-born man's feats.
McGrath calls Conyngham a "daring, Errol-Flynn-type character" who "finally met an obstacle he could not defeat: the Congress of the United States."
But consider Conyngham's exploits:
- In part because of him, British shipping insurance rates jumped an average of 28% during the Revolutionary War.
- Britain placed five warships in the English Channel to stop Conyngham. Even then, many English ship owners, afraid to put to sea, placed their wares in French and Dutch vessels.
- When the English finally caught and threatened to hang Conyngham, General Washington's response was clear: If they did, he would hang six British officers in his custody. Before any hangings took place, Conyngham escaped and went back to harassing British shipping.
Even though Conyngham received commission papers from Benjamin Franklin in Paris on March 1, 1777, French officials at Dunkirk seized them at Britain's request. The papers did not resurface until 1902 – in Paris.
But while Congress disregarded Conyngham, the U.S. Navy honored him. Since Conyngham's death in 1819, it has named three destroyers after him.
Note: Conyngham's table-tomb grave is at St. Peter's Churchyard, 313 Pine Street, Philadelphia – south wall, center – near a stairway to St. Peter's School.
Contact: Jim Murphy
SOURCE Jim Murphy