Military Wiki
Battle off Cape Split
Part of the American Revolutionary War
Capt William Bishop's Sword, Kings County Museum, Nova Scotia.jpg
Captain William Bishop's Sword from Battle
Kings County Museum, Nova Scotia
Date21 May 1781
Locationoff Cape Split, Nova Scotia
Result British victory
United States United States of America  Kingdom of Great Britain
Commanders and leaders
Kingdom of Great Britain
Captain William Bishop (military officer)[1]
Captain Amos Sheffield
Benjamin Belcher
Captain Jonathan Crane
28 privateers 1 schooner (35 men)
Success (28 men)
Casualties and losses
1 killed no casualties

The Battle off Cape Spilt (also known as the Battle of Blomindon) took place on 21 May 1781 during the American Revolutionary War. The naval battle involved three armed American privateer vessels against three Nova Scotian vessels off Cape Split, Nova Scotia.[2] A Nova Scotia vessel was captured by the American Privateers. Then Capt Bishop tried a rescue operation but was also captured by the American Privateers. Finally, a third vessel under the command of Captain Belcher was able to capture the American Privateer and the first vessel they had taken. Captain Bishop and crew, who had made the failed rescue attempt, were able to take back their ship and imprison their captors.


During the American Revolution, Americans regularly attacked Nova Scotia by land and sea. American privateers devastated the maritime economy by raiding many of the coastal communities,[3] such as the numerous raids on Liverpool and on Annapolis Royal.[4] After the British destroyed the Penobscot Expedition, the American Privateers began their most fierce revenge by attacking Nova Scotia.[5]

The engagement between the American privateers and local militia was one of several in the region. On 2 May 1777, in the Minas Basin the Captain Collet ordered the capture the American privateer schooner Sea Duck, under the command of John Bohannan. He had the vessel taken to Windsor.[6] In June 1779, the British troops at Windsor captured 12 American privateers in the Bay of Fundy, where they cruised in a large boat, armed, plundering the vessels and the inhabitants.[7] On 10 July 1780, the British privateer brig Resolution (16 guns) under the command of Thomas Ross engaged the American privateer Viper (22 guns and 130 men) off Halifax at Sambro Light. In what one observer described as "one of the bloodiest battles in the history of privateering", the two privateers began a "severe engagement"[8] during which both pounded each other with cannon fire for about 90 minutes.[9] The engagement resulted in the surrender of the British ship and the death of up to 18 British and 33 American sailors.[10]


There were 30 American privateers in one armed shallop (one carriage gun and six swivels) and two whaleboats. They captured Captain Sheffield’s schooner.[11] Captain William Bishop (along with Capt. Crane), in a small schooner (35 men), pursued the three privateer vessels and their prize. Bishop was in a 25 min naval battle with the privateers but was captured by them.[12] Lieutenant Belcher in the armed sloop Success (28 crew) pursued the three American privateer vessels and their two prizes (Sheffield’s schooner and Bishop’s schooner). Belcher caught Sheffield’s vessel, killing one privateer in the process. Many of the privateers then escaped in their whaleboat to the shores of Cape Split.[13]

Belcher then began to pursue Captain Bishop’s vessel. During the pursuit Captain Bishop overthrew his captors and regained command of his schooner. He sent the remaining American privateer prisoners to Cornwallis.[14]


American privateers continued to attack vessels in the Bay of Fundy.[15] August 7 the British schooner Adventure captured the schooner Mary off Annapolis.[16] In the fall of 1781, under orders of Captain James Nevins (Nevens, Nivens, Nuyens, Nevers), Mr. Low of the American naval vessel Defence (18 men) went up the Bay of Fundy and was attacked by the Nova Scotia militia. The militia took two of his men and the rest of his crew escaped into the woods and were rescued by Acadians.[17]


  • The sword used by Captain William Bishop in the battle is in the King's County Museum, Nova Scotia
  • Poem entitled The Battle of Blomindon May 21, 1781 by Ms. Belle Belcher Robinson, Wolfville Historical Society[18]

The cannon were seven that spoke from their sloop;
And hands that were greedy clutched gladly upon
A ship Amos Sheffield had filled for Saint John.
Their sally was smashed in ten minutes or sooner;
Yanks captured Will Bishop and Jonathan Crane
And all of their party who struggled in vain.
Thus loaded with loot and captives galore,
Three vessels set out from Cornwallis shore,

Then Benjamin Belcher, once born at Gibraltar,
Was fit to be tied in an over-sized halter;
He learned where a vessel with guns might be got,
And rode like a madman to Horton Town Plot.
We were twenty-eight strong in the schooner SUCCESS,
Militiamen bold who with Belcher did press
By horse out to Horton and clambered on board,
And sailed on the track of our foe-men abhorred.

The season was May and the orchards were white;
It seemed a grand day for a wonderful fight.
With the tide running in, they were caught at the Cape;
We hammered their sloop, and in haste to escape
Some took to their dories and scrambled to land
While others lay dead in the ship they had manned.
Still slowed by the tide was the schooner they'd taken
And this by its captors was quickly forsaken,

And promptly Will Bishop and Jonathan Crane
Discomfit their guards and a victory gain.
Thus over the Basin by noon we withdrew
With three captured ships and our jubilant crew.
"The blow that we struck at the Cape was a squelcher!"
Remarked our stout commodore, Benjamin Belcher.


American privateers remained a threat to Nova Scotian ports for the rest of the war. The following year, after a failed attempt to raid Chester, Nova Scotia, American privateers struck again in the Raid on Lunenburg in 1782.

See also


  1. Member of the 3rd Connecticut Regiment during French and Indian War .
  2. Beamish Murdoch. History of Nova Scotia, Vol. 2, p.614 History of Kings County, Nova Scotia. p. 433
  3. Benjamin Franklin also engaged France in the war, which meant that many of the privateers were also from France.
  4. Roger Marsters (2004). Bold Privateers: Terror, Plunder and Profit on Canada's Atlantic Coast" , p. 87-89
  5. p. 174
  6. p. 75
  7. p.600
  8. Simeon Perkins Diary. Thursday 13 July 1780
  9. Bandits and Privateers: Canada in the Age of Gunpowder; Beamish Murdoch A history of Nova-Scotia, or Acadie, Vol. 2, p.608.
  10. There are varying reports on the number of casualties. Another source indicates that the Americans reported between 3 died (British reporting 30 American died), while British reported 8 killed and 10 wounded.
  11. History of Nova Scotia, p. 506
  12. Nathan Davison from Horton reported to the House of Assembly in June 1782 that in the spring of 1781 he was wounded while fighting American Privateers. (Council in General Assembly, June 28, 1782: PRO, CO. 220/14, 484
  13. History of Nova Scotia, p. 506
  14. History of Nova Scotia, p. 506
  15. Documentary History of the State of Maine, Vol. 19, p.356
  16. p.54
  17. (See Documentary history of the state of Maine, Vol.19, p. 356) The only ships of the Massachusetts Navy that were operational in 1781 were the frigate Protector (captured 5 May 1781), ship Mars, galley Lincoln, and the sloop Defence (built summer 1781) (See Navy of the American Revolution, p. 342)
  18. poem Note that Joan Dawson indicates the poem was written by former president of Acadian University Watson Kirkconnell.


Secondary Sources

  • Joan Dawson. Captain William Bishop's sword. A History of Nova Scotia in Objects. pp 51-53
  • Dr. Pitt Brechin "The Western Chronicle" of Kentville, NS, 4 Mar 1890
  • Gardner W. Allen, A NAVAL HISTORY OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION (Boston, 1913), Chapter 17.
  • Gwyn, Julian, Ashore and afloat
  • Gwyn, Julian (2004), Frigates and Foremasts: The North American Squadron in Nova Scotia. Waters, 1745–1815, UBC Press.
  • The history of Kings County, Nova Scotia, heart of the Acadian land.

Primary Sources

  • Nova Scotia Gazette of June 4, 1782

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