List of prisoners who died in Halifax Hospital (1777) believed to belong to the frigate Hancock

The following list of forty-eight prisoners who died in Halifax Hospital between late July and the end of September 1777 and believed to belong to the Continental Navy frigate Hancock taken with the prize ship Fox by the British 44-gun Rainbow and 32-gun Flora after a thirty-nine hour chase was likely composed by Dr. Samuel Curtis, Hancock’s surgeon. The list was transcribed by Joseph Ross from a photograph of the original document appearing online at: http://www.eldreds.com/auctions/detail/item/189306/sale/777/dept/43. One of several historically important hand-written documents sold at Eldred’s Marine Art & Antiques Auction in July 2013 associated with the Naval surgeon which also included another list of fifty-four persons Dr. Curtis apparently inoculated in the Halifax Prison in July 1777.

The resolution of the photograph is less than ideal so that names and dates of death are transcribed only with difficulty and certain knowledge that some mistakes have been made. The writer invites corrections and it is our hope that the successful auction bidder will at some point make a clear copy available for a more accurate transcription. Nevertheless, it is our desire to capture as much of the data as may be available based on the material accessible.

The title of the list reads, ” A List of the American Prisoners Who Died in Halifax Hospital 1777″. A second notation adds “Ship Hancock on this Page” leading this writer to deduce that other associated manuscript lists originally existed which documented frigate Hancock deaths between early October 1777 and early January 1778 when the majority of the crew was released from confinement and returned by cartel. It also suggests that the doctor may have kept a separate list of deaths at Halifax Prison not associated with the crew of the Hancock during his time there.

This list has been edited to note those men(with parenthesis) who also appear on the accompanying list of fifty-four persons Dr. Curtis apparently inoculated in the Halifax Prison in July 1777. Their quality or rate on the ship is noted [in brackets] where known. A second alphabetical organization of the list is included with a complete spelling of the abbreviated Christian name in order to assist with internet browsing.

William Smith, July 29th
Peter Guliburd, 30th
James Boss Gray, 30th
Joseph Feddimann, 31st
Roland Batten, Aug 2nd (Inoculated)
William Lovejoy, 2nd (Inoculated)
Isaac Dickman, 9th
James Milton, 9th
William Putnum, 10th
Joseph Dudley, 14th (Inoculated)
Elias Robinson, 14th
Nathan ?????,14th
Isaac Osgood, 14th
Sam’l Lawrence, 16th
Nath’nl Arnold, 18th (Inoculated)
William Jacobson, 18th
George West, 19th [AB Seaman]
Caleb Brimhull, 20th
Stephen Horn, 20th
James Clark, 23rd
Nath’nl Niles, 24th (Inoculated)
Charles Jones, 24th
Philip Bass, 25th
Thomas Luden, 26th
Sam’l Cochran, 28th
Sam’l Goodwin, 29th
Jacob Winter, 29th (Inoculated)
Benjamin Barnard, 30th
Joseph Saunders, 30th (Inoculated)
James Mellon, Jun’r, Sept 2nd
Sam’l Denning, 3rd
Isaac Niles, 4th [Boy] (Inoculated)
Joseph Grafton, 5th
Francis Galley (French man), 4th
James Goodwin, 5th
Wm Arnold, 5th
Levi Woodman, 5th
Zephaniah Briggs, 12th
John Huff???, 12th
Thomas Shepard, 12th
John Hodge, 13th
Caleb Farr, 17th (Inoculated)
Daniel Silloway, 19th
John Davity (French), 22nd
Thos Winter, 27th [Boy] (Inoculated)
Francis Day, 29th (Inoculated)
James Sawyer, 30th [Carpenter’s Mate]
Thos Berry, 30th [2nd Lt. of Marines Servant]

Nathan ?
Nathaniel Arnold
William Arnold
Benjamin Barnard
Philip Bass
Roland Batten
Thomas Berry
Zephaniah Briggs
Caleb Brimhull
James Clark
Samuel Cochran
John Davity
Francis Day
Samuel Denning
Isaac Dickman
Joseph Dudley
Caleb Farr
Joseph Feddimann
Francis Galley
James Goodwin
Samuel Goodwin
Joseph Grafton
James Boss Gray
Peter Guliburd
John Hodge
Stephen Horn
John Huff
William Jacobson
Charles Jones
Samuel Lawrence
William Lovejoy
Thomas Luden
James Mellon, Jr.
James Milton
Isaac Niles
Nathaniel Niles
Isaac Osgood
William Putnum
Elias Robinson
Joseph Saunders
James Sawyer
Thomas Shepard
Daniel Silloway
William Smith
George West
Jacob Winter
Thomas Winter
Levi Woodman

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Dr. Samuel Curtis, Surgeon

Born on 1 September 1747 in what became known as Sharon, Samuel Curtis was the eldest surviving child of Rev. Philip Curtis (1717-1797) and his wife Elizabeth (1721- ). An older son also named Samuel had been born to the couple in May of the previous year but had died on 22 January 1747. A 1738 graduate of Harvard, Reverend Curtis preached his first sermon at the 2nd Church in Stoughton in May 1741 and was ordained there the following January. His ministry at Sharon, known as Stoughton prior to 1783, spanned fifty-five years and included baptizing 926 individuals, solemnizing 313 marriages and presiding over 403 burials. Rev. Philip Curtis was married first to Samuel’s mother Elizabeth Bass of Newburyport on 6 September 1744 and later to Elizabeth Randall (1731-1823) of Sharon on 31 October 1754. Samuel Curtis’ siblings included sisters Hannah, Elizabeth and twins Mary and Susanna. Younger half brothers included Philip, Oliver, Edward, Calvin and Francis.

After graduating eighteenth in his class of forty at Harvard College in 1766, Samuel Curtis resided briefly in Roxbury before moving into the Marlborough home of Lydia Dexter, widow of Dr. Ebenezer Dexter who died on 4 May 1769. Curtis appears to have been invited into her home to continue the practice established by her deceased husband in the face of Dr. Amos Cotting who had relocated to Marlborough from Waltham upon news of his death. Dr. Dexter had been married to the former Lydia Woods, daughter of Benjamin Woods and Elizabeth Morse, for over fifteen years and they had shared four children. The thirty-four year old widow Dexter subsequently married the twenty-three year old Dr. Samuel Curtis on 30 June 1771. The couple had two children, Anna born just over three months after their marriage on 5 October 1771 and Christian born on 30 March 1774. Both children died at a young age in 1774 with their thirty-eight year old mother following in death in December of that same year, leaving Dr. Samuel Curtis a grieving twenty-seven year old widower. Although some sources record Lydia Curtis’ death as 24 December, her mortuary notice appears in the 19 December 1774 edition of the Boston Post-Boy.

While Samuel Curtis’ pension application makes no mention of Continental Army service, one biographical source suggests the 1766 graduate of Harvard participated in the Lexington Alarm in April 1775 and served as a Captain in the 3rd Continental Infantry until December 1776. This is plausible considering that Curtis’ brother-in-law Dr. Samuel Cony, who was studying medicine with the Marlborough physician at the outbreak of hostilities, also responded with the Lexington Minutemen and continued in Army service afterward as Adjutant of a regiment of infantry under General Horatio Gates.

One earlier writer suggests that after the tragic loss of his children and wife, Dr. Samuel Curtis was “induced to embark” as surgeon on the Continental Navy frigate Hancock of 32 guns commanded by Captain John Manley. Over two years had passed since the death of his wife when, by his pension application testimony, Dr. Curtis entered onboard the Hancock on 20 March 1777. An interesting document, one of four which appear to be hand-written by Curtis and were sold at Eldred’s Marine Art & Antiques Auction in July 2013, is an invoice dated February 1778 detailing his naval service on behalf of the United States of America. This document itemizes the surgeon’s time from his entry on the Hancock noted as 24 March 1777 until 16 July 1777, presumably the day he left the vessel at Halifax. The period between 17 July 1777 and 25 January 1778 is identified separately, suggesting this is the precise time of his incarceration onshore at Halifax until his return to American soil.

In the two months between his entry on the frigate prior to her departure, Dr. Curtis was responsible for preparing the Hancock’s medical stores for sailing and action as evidenced by the inventory of medical articles on board for Dr. Curtis’ “Use of the Sick on Board said Ship” dated Boston 24 April 1777, also one of the auctioned documents. Continental Navy Surgeon Samuel Curtis sailed with the fleet on the Hancock’s first cruise from Boston on Wednesday 21 May 1777 on a voyage to St. George’s Bank in search of British fishing vessels. Also with the ship was fellow Harvard alum Rev. Edward Brooks sailing as Chaplain. In concert with the Continental frigate Boston under the command of Hector McNeill, the Hancock captured the 28 gun British privateer Fox on 7 June 1777 in a bloody engagement. No doubt both Curtis and Brooks had ample opportunity to exercise their healing gifts with the surgeon dressing the stump of John Brick, “a Negro man on Board Thee ship hancock”, who lost his left leg in the action.

One month later on 8 July 1777, after being abandoned by McNeill and the Boston, the frigate Hancock along with the prize ship Fox were captured by the British 44-gun Rainbow and 32-gun Flora after a thirty-nine hour chase. Dr. Curtis was carried to Halifax as a prisoner of war with 228 other officers and men of the frigate Hancock. An account of the treatment of the captured Continental Navy officers on the Hancock and Fox is recorded in The Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser of Thursday 5 February 1778 published in Volume 11 of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution, “those taken by the Flora frigate, were well treated, the little time they were on board said Flora; from which they and their men were sent on board a prison ship, where numbers of their unhappy fellow-prisoners had been for a long time confined, and had the yellow-fever, the small-pox, and almost all disorders, to a shocking degree, without any physician allowed them, or any medicine, those that were taken in the Hancock, were put on board the Rainbow, and no distinction was made between the officers and men, but some took shelter in the hold, and under the half deck; were for some time without any provision, and scarce any thing to support nature, while confined on board said ship; upon our officers and people leaving the Hancock, their chests were searched, and all mathematical instruments such as quadrants, scales, dividers, together with all books, journals, etc. useful to navigation, were taken from them with a number of other articles, of value.”

Dr. Samuel Curtis would have been among the the other Navy officers who recounted, “After being in Halifax harbour 8 or 10 days, all the prisoners in the prison-ship, and in the Rainbow, were, on the Sabbath, in grand marine order, removed to the shore, and committed to the custody of the town-major, and all the British officers and soldiers in the place. The American officers were huddled in among the common men, and told, by the British officers, that they knew no distinction; and in this undistinguished manner, all the prisoners, 300 in number, were conducted, in the roughest manner, with unpardonable insults, into a large brick building, barracaded in by a very high fence, and under the care of the provost-guard. Thus the sick of the small-pox, yellow-fever, and other disorders, were drove into said building, indiscriminately with the well; and the American officers, though a few minutes before, they were told that there was no distinction known between them and the men, yet, that American officers should be answerable, and suffer for all disorderly conduct that the prisoners should be guilty of: added to this, the surgeons were, the day after the prisoners were under said provost-guard forbid innoculating any person, on penalty of being confined in irons, etc. though much the greater part of the prisoners had never had the small-pox, and several among them were almost rotten with the disorder.”

The ghastly plight of the officers and men of the Hancock and Dr. Curtis’ early inability to adequately treat the men under his care is further documented in the newspaper account, “The small-pox, fevers, &c. being brought from the prison-ship, and being all turned in together, indiscriminately, and no possibility of keeping themselves clean, numbers soon became very sickly, and a hospital was prepared for them, built in the roughest manner, inclosed with poor boards slightly feather edged, and nailed on to unhewn timber, no fire place, store or glass. ‘Till a considerable time after the cold weather came on, to this dismal place the poor miserable sick were conveyed, where they were poorly sheltered with miserable bedding, and more miserable attendance, together with a most miserable diet…and no fire to warm even the least thing. Thus the poor miserable suffered and died, oftentimes 3 or 4 or half a dozen per day, of fevers and the small-pox, mostly through want of proper attendance, and immediately on their dying, were carried out of the hospital, and laid in a cradle in the open air, and here kept 3 or 4 days, and when they were buried, their brother prisoners were obliged to dig their graves and burry them.”

At some point during his confinement in July, Dr. Samuel Curtis was apparently permitted to inoculate Hancock’s officers and men with the smallpox virus in hopes of stemming the disease’s epidemic race through the prison population. Two historically important documents sold at Eldred’s Marine Art & Antiques Auction in July 2013, apparently hand-written by the Naval surgeon, include a list of fifty-four persons Curtis inoculated in the Halifax Prison in July 1777 accompanied by a list of forty-eight American prisoners attached to the ship Hancock who died in Halifax Hospital between July and the end of September 1777. The documents reveal that at least 54 men were inoculated, presumably 45 from the Hancock and nine others listed separately. Included in those receiving the treatment are Curtis’ friend and fellow Harvard alum Rev. Edward Brooks and Captain of Marines Seth Baxter. Despite the preventative inoculation, Rev. Brooks contracted smallpox as evidenced in his pension testimony and at least eleven of the forty-five men noted to have been inoculated also appear on the accompanying list of the dead.

According to their own published account, by the end of July the conditions of confinement for Dr. Curtis and the other Naval officers improved incrementally, “In about 8 or 10 days after the prisoners were put under the provost-guard aforesaid, the Continental officers were removed to an apartment in the soldiers barrack, where they, from 13 to 18 in number, were closely confined to one room… in the hottest season of the year, with the door locked, and only two small windows, where they had their cabins and chests, were obliged to have almost constantly a fire to dress their provisions, which they were obliged to cook themselves, not being allowed even one of their own men to cook for them, ’till after frequent petitioning.” In a 8 November 1777 letter from Rev. Edward Brooks to James Boudin, the Hancock’s chaplain names thirteen roommates sharing confinement at the Apartment: shipmates 1st Lt. Stephen Hills, 2nd Lt. Joseph Adams, Sailing Master John Diamond, Captain of Marines Seth Baxter and Surgeon Samuel Curtis; frigate Boston’s 1st Lt. Robert McNeill, 2nd Lt. Simon Gross and 2nd Lt. of Marines John Harris; sloop Providence’s 1st Lt. Adam Thaxter and 2nd Lt. Esek Hopkins; Tartar’s 1st Lt. John Galekar and 3rd Lt. Oliver Reed; and brig Freedom’s 2nd Lt. John Hooper.

The newspaper account of the treatment of the Continental Navy officers taken on the Hancock and imprisoned at Halifax continues, “For about a month they were thus closely confined, permitted to go to the necessary, under guard, and that only from sunrise to sunset; at no other time were they permitted to go out of the room, let the calls of nature be ever so urgent…add to this, that they had no person to wait on them, they were obliged, by turns, to carry out their wash, etc. quite out into the open street, draw the water they wanted, etc. after frequent petitioning, as aforesaid, they were allowed one of the prisoners from the provost guard, to wait upon them, and the General, with much importunity, permitted them to walk 2 hours in the 24, in the barrack-yard, which was picketed in, and guarded at all parts with armed soldiers. During this, and for a long time after, they were almost suffocated with the heat of the room, which was so hot, that even the centries, who had only two hours to guard, before they were relieved, often fainted away. This, together with the scantness of provision allowed, the pork often tainted, and so bad as not to be eaten, the pease mouldy, and unfit for food, and any friends in town forbid speaking to them, or supplying them, and almost always turned away when they were bringing provisions.” It is this last prohibition which may explain why when on his landing at Halifax, Dr. Curtis spied his Aunt Hannah Loring Winslow – a Boston Tory- who lived there, “but she took no notice of him, and when he wrote to her for assistance, she did not reply to his letter.”

It can be deduced from the officers’ account that while conditions were still severe, a slight relaxation of the most intolerable rules commenced about the end of August or beginning of September. The newspaper report continues, “Thus closely and cruelly confined, and so miserably supplied, they were obliged, as they were poorly furnished with specie, to sell some of their cloathing, and many other articles, at little more than half their value, in order to purchase necessaries; as they had no persons but soldiers to buy things for them, they were often imposed upon by them, in giving them more than the articles cost, and paying them dearly for their service. Many wearisome weeks were they in this deplorable situation, and no mortal to make application to, for the least supply, ’till Capt. Salter arrived from Boston, about the last of October, who, with great difficulty and risque, got to their window, and offered to supply them with what money they wanted for necessaries, they drawing bills on their friends, and was so friendly as to tell them, that he should ask neither commission or interest.” Despite these promises, circumstances prevented any significant relief to the American prisoners.

After over six months of confinement at Halifax, sometime during the first week of January 1778, Dr. Samuel Curtis was put on the cartel Royal Bounty to be sent to Newport, RI to be exchanged. According to the British Commissary of Prisoners at Halifax Captain Sir George Collier, “upwards of 260 American Prisoners” were embarked on the vessel and waiting “only for a Wind to Sail” when the cartel Favorite arrived from Boston on 10 January. The American officers reported in the 5 February 1778 edition of Boston’s Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser, “At length, on a very stormy day, in the midst of severe snow, rain and cold, they were ordered on board the said transport Royal Bounty, where they arrived with all their cloaths and bedding, extremely wet, in which condition the hold of the ship was the most convenient place allowed them, and accordingly they took their station, forward of the cable tier, in the cole hold, amidst wood, lumber and cordage, without either fire or light, where they continued four days, in a cold, wet and gloomy condition, with extreme scanty allowance, ’till they had the happiness of being removed to the cartel brig Favourite, from Boston.”

Although Rev. Brooks was among those placed on the Favourite, Dr. Curtis would remain on the Royal Bounty. The Master’s Journal of the British brig Cabot published in Volume 11 of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution, indicates that at noon on Monday 12 January 1778 in weather described as “Light Airs & Clear, the Cabot pulled anchor at Halifax Harbour and came “to Sail with a Convoy of 10 Merchf Vessels & the Royal bounty Cartell”. While largely silent on the circumstances of his confinement in Halifax, Dr. Samuel Curtis’ own 1818 testimony in pension application # S-4,276 states that after three or four days at sea, his cartel was separated from the convoy by a gale and “we tho[ugh]t a convenient opportunity had presented. We took command from the cap’t and after running many risques, We got into Marblehead harbour.” This event is also recorded in the pension application #S-33563 of Benjamin Rickard, a sailor taken fourteen months earlier on the brig Independence under Captain Simeon Sampson in a “severe and bloody” conflict on 25 November 1776.

The Royal Bounty was seized from her master Thomas Compton on 14 January and the vessel was carried into Marblehead ten days later. This escape of 280 Continental prisoners on the “Saturday last” is reported in the 6 February 1778 edition of the Connecticut Gazette, with a Boston byline dated 29 January. The prisoners “rose on the crew” of fifteen hands and brought the prize into Marblehead, but not before they had lost twelve men on the passage, not including two others who had fell overboard. Dr. Samuel Curtis testifies in his pension application that after the ordeal he “returned home to Marlborough, Mass, ready to be called on board some other ship.” Despite one report that Curtis “also served on other vessels in the same capacity during the Revolution”, no evidence has been located to support that statement. Speaking further about the pay due him as a Continental Navy Surgeon, Curtis recounts in the pension record that after a lapse of two or three years, the Congressman from Massachusetts Nathan Gorham “took my Commission & procured me a final Settlement certificate for $963 doll[ars] which I was compelled to sell for about 1/3 of its nominal value.” It is possible that the hand-written invoice for 299 pounds 18 shillings detailing Dr. Curtis’ naval service on behalf of the United States of America dated February 1778 that was sold at Eldred’s Marine Art & Antiques Auction in July 2013 was the basis for this settlement.

It was 9 May 1777 when Intentions of Marriage were published between “Samuel Curtis of Marlborough Esqr and Miss Abigail Whitney of Weston”, daughter of William Whitney and Martha Pierce. After a ten month engagement, the thirty year old doctor and his twenty-four year old fiance were married by Rev. Samuel Woodward on 5 March 1778. Woodward was only the second pastor of the First Parish of Weston and served there as “Minister of the Gospel” from 1751 until his death in 1782. With the surgeon’s war service completed, the couple had a number of children in quick succession. The family is recorded in “Records of Some of the Descendants of William Curtis, Roxbury, 1632” by Samuel Clarke Clarke (1869). The Curtis children included: Samuel, Jr. born 14 February 1779, Nancy born 26 March 1780 and died 1784, Fanny born 19 March 1781, Clarissa born 3 November 1782 and died in 1783, William Whitney born 7 January 1784 and died 1785, Robert born 10 May 1785 and died 1804, Hector McNeal born 28 December 1787 and died 1788 and lastly Abigail- or Nabby- born 15 November 1789 and died 1796.

While living at Marlborough, Dr. Samuel Curtis served as a member of the Committee of Correspondence in 1778 and was described as “a man of influence in the town, clerk, selectman and a justice of the peace.” About twelve years after his marriage to Abigail and six years after the peace, while in his young forties Dr. Curtis moved his family to Amherst, NH in 1789. After practicing medicine there for a few years, the doctor gave up his profession to become an inn-keeper, however still maintaining an apothecary in his tavern. Interestingly, a 16 June 1795 newspaper article heralds, “Dr. Samuel Curtis of Amherst, New Hampshire…advertises in the late Boston Papers, that he has discovered a safe and easy remedy for the dropsy; being an American production.” Perhaps clues to the secret ingredients of his medicinal remedy can be found in another newspaper advertisement placed the following year in the 8 November 1796 edition of the Amherst Village Messenger, “WANTED IMMEDIATELY, ABOUT fifty bushes of CHESTNUTS and WALNUTS”. Responders to the ad are directed to Dr. Samuel Curtis at the Post Office.

As one can guess from the preceding advertisement, Curtis was serving as Amherst’s second postmaster by late 1796, succeeding William Gordon who was first appointed by President Washington on 16 February 1791. Dr. Samuel Curtis’ tenure as postmaster and his ownership of stage company operating the mail lines are comprehensively and engagingly detailed in an article by Katrina Holman entitled “Earliest Stage Coach Lines The Feud between Stage Driver and Tavern Owner” appearing in the 23 June 2015 edition of The Amherst Citizen repeated almost in entirety: “The first scheduled stage coach to and from Amherst began in 1792. To give you an idea of how late this was, service between Portsmouth and Boston had commenced in 1761 “for the encouragement of trade” with “a large stage chair with two good horses” that could carry four passengers… by the spring of 1763, the “Portsmouth Flying Stage Coach” carried six persons inside and ran with four or six horses. So Amherst, despite being the site of the Hillsborough County court sessions since 1771, was still hinterland for two decades. It was the new tavernkeeper in the Village who remedied the situation. “[A] Stage has commenced running from the Town of Amherst in New Hampshire to Boston. [It] will set off from Dr. Curtis’ in Amherst, on Tuesday morning, and arrive at Boston on Tuesday evening; and will set off from Boston, on the return on Friday morning, from the House of Mr. Nathan Peabody, and arrive at Amherst on Friday evening, running once a week. The rate of passengers from Amherst to Boston, for the first Quarter, will be seven shillings and six pence only; two pence per mile will be the rate for any intermediate distance. Amherst, August 24, 1792.” (Independent Chronicle, Boston, Mass., 6 Sep. 1792.)”

Ms. Holman’s article continues, “This stage line was intended as public transportation for passengers and their baggage, and for newspaper distribution. A contract to carry mail would be obtained few years later. Here’s what the one-day journey of about 15 hours over 52 miles was like for passengers: Leave Amherst at 4 a.m., breakfast in Dunstable, dine [mid-day] in Billerica, and arrive in Boston by sunset. In the other direction, leave Boston at 4 a.m., breakfast in Woburn, dine in Tyngsborough and change horses, and arrive in Amherst the same evening (Columbian Centinel, Boston, July 1794). In the winter, the trip required an overnight stay; the stage would arrive around noon the following day. Passengers were expected to pay half of the fare in advance, when they reserved their seats. They were allowed 14 lbs. of baggage each gratis. A lengthy notice in Boston newspapers (Federal Orrery and Columbian Centinel, Dec. 1794) gave details of the “Amherst Stage, N.H.”, but not exactly in a customer-friendly way. Although the fare had nearly doubled in two years: “It is presumed, no rational person will object to the small rise in the fare, considering the present advanced prices upon the necessaries, for the support of the driver and his horses.” Subscribers to Boston newspapers, who obtained them from this stage at towns en route, were warned: “Every delinquent, who does not pay up by the 10th of January, will be sued, without further notice.” Although unsigned, Samuel Curtis was the likely author. In an advert of Sep. 1797 Curtis said: “It has become absolutely necessary, that all persons who are indebted for Newspapers, delivered by the stage, should (of their own free will and accord, without any further evasion, equivocation, or mental reservation whatever) made a full and compete settlement for the same, least they be called before some gentleman of the green bag; for the press cannot go long without oiling, and at that day, there is none to be borrowed.””

Ms. Holman adds personal details regarding Continental Navy veteran Dr. Samuel Curtis, “who had arrived in Amherst with his family in May 1789, purchased the house lot next to Robert Means on the south side of the Common in March 1790 and opened his home as a tavern and apothecary. By Jan. 1795, he had erected a new building on the same lot (now empty green space) as his tavern-inn – next to the Means store. Curtis was appointed postmaster in 1797, likely because his stage line had obtained the government contract to carry the mail – and a tavern made a convenient post office. Initially the Amherst stage carried mail once a week to Boston, and to post offices along the way in Chelmsford, Billerica, and Medford, Massachusetts. The earliest known stage driver was Joseph Wheat, a native of Hollis. In July 1799, Wheat announced that the “Amherst and Billerica Stage” to Boston would leave from “Mr. J. Watson’s in Amherst.” John Watson was a direct competitor of Curtis, having opened his tavern-inn at 1 Carriage Road. It turns out that stage driver Wheat and innholder Curtis had formerly been partners and were now competitors. Because they took to the newspapers for a war of words, we learn the early history of Amherst’s stage line.”

Curtis’ perspective of the feud with his former stage driver is captured by Ms. Holman, “Samuel Curtis wrote: “One WHEAT complains bitterly of late, in the Public Papers, that the Amherst Mail Stage, which has been handed regularly down from its original owner to the present proprietors is an eye sore to him, and is taking from him his right, &c. – That this Wheat has no right or just claim to this business, and of course no right to deceive the Public, is my intention to shew and to prove. When I formerly run the Amherst Stage, and being the sole owner, I employed said Wheat as a driver, and paid him his wages; on the 1st day of January 1798, I sold and conveyed said line of business to D. EMERSON, and to him only. EMERSON, by WHEAT’S importuning, took him into partnership for one year; at the end of the year, the 1st of January last, Emerson & Wheat both signed and published a dissolution of the Partnership, … and on the 1st of July last, EMERSON removed said line of business to me, the fee then being solely in him; and by myself and co. it is now run. … it is evident there is not business enough for two stages on that road, and without the assistance of the Mail, they must both be losing money. … N.B. The Mail Stage will in future run twice a week.” (Columbian Centinel, 11 Sep. 1799.)

In the journalistic tradition of fair-mindedness, the author of the The Amherst Citizens’ article also offers Joseph Wheat’s view of Curtis, “Mr. Wheat responded: “Mr. Printer, By Publishing the following Truths, in your useful Paper, you will oblige a Friend, as well as to give a check to some Falsehoods lately published in the public Newspapers. One SAMUEL CURTIS, who stays at Amherst, has thought fit to make me a public Example, by crying my Stage down, in order to recommend his four-wheel carriage for public use … I will … undertake to inform the Public, the truth of matters, as respects Curtis and myself: As early as 1794, the first of May, Curtis and myself bought a Stage in Boston, to run from Amherst to Boston. We then set up the business together and I drove the Stage, but Curtis’s Horses being poor, I thought best to take mine away. I then out of goodwill to him, left him the line; but received nothing for a Reward. Curtis carried on the business three years, the last 15 months I drove for him. I then thought best to set up a Baggage-Stage on said route – bought Horses and Carriage for the same. Then in December 1797, one Dearborn Emerson agreed with me to buy Curtis’s Stage and four Horses, and go into Co-partnership in running said Stage to Boston. Accordingly he was to buy the same of Curtis, and I was to put my Horses and Sleigh, &c. against it – which I like any man who is led into difficulty, agreed to. We carried on the Stage business one year, but caught nothing. We then dissolved Co-partnership – and I lent my right to Emerson, to run the Stage – which right I paid $50 for, and Emerson $50 more to Curtis. Emerson carried on the business badly, from January 1st, 1799, to the 3d of May last – when I was besought to come on to the line again – which I did, and took possession of the lent property, and have run a regular Stage ever since the Mail was agreed to be carried by Emerson and Wheat, for two years yet to come. Which right I never parted with to any[one] – and having been at great expense – hope still to have the good will of every true-hearted Citizen. … Sep. 24, 1799.” (Independent Chronicle, Boston.)

Ms. Holman seemingly concludes Dr. Curtis’ stage history, “The feud got resolved in that Wheat in March 1800 purchased the Mail Line of Dr. Samuel Curtis. Wheat’s next move, in Dec. 1800, was to open a new N.H. line, between Concord and Dunstable, through Merrimack, Bedford, Goffstown, Dunbarten, and Bow, so people from those towns could get to Boston by catching the Amherst Mail Stage in Dunstable. In 1802, Wheat expanded his Mail Stage by utilizing the newly opened Second N.H. Turnpike between Claremont and Amherst to run all the way from Boston to Windsor, Vermont…” Apparently, the story was not quite finished as Holman writes, “Somehow, Curtis was compelled back into the fray, back into a business connection with Wheat. With new partner Benjamin French, the recent proprietor of an inn on Back-Street in Boston, Curtis “took” the “Amherst, N.H. REAL MAIL STAGE, Old Line, driven by Joseph Wheat” and promised “every attention paid to render the flight agreeable to passengers, any spurious Stage to the contrary notwithstanding.” (Farmer’s Cabinet, May 1803.) At the same time, “Joseph Wheat & Co.” offered an explanation in a Boston paper (New-England Palladium, 31 May 1803), assuring the public that the Amherst (N.H.) Mail Stage still ran despite the fact that: “The subscriber is under the disagreeable necessity of being obliged to be now confined in Boston Gaol to answer a demand of his contending brethering on the [Amherst-Boston] line. Not only did the new line survive – having the clout of six new proprietors who were the tavern-inn owners along the route (including Chelmsford, Francestown, and Windsor) – but they also acquired the mail contract, and switched to French’s tavern for their Boston stop. [I wonder if Curtis & French engineered the deal. The Amherst post office in 1803 moved to a store on Courthouse Road.]”

While much of the mail that passed through Amherst was carried by the stage lines, additional mail was carried by post riders on routes not served by passenger coaches. One such route ran from Portsmouth to Keene through Amherst. Mail was delivered to Amherst, the Hillsborough County seat, in this manner once every two weeks. The post riders were entitled to the postage- six pence for every forty miles and four pence for less than that distance. Postmasters like Dr. Curtis were permitted to charge two pence on each letter or package forwarded through their post office. Captain Daniel Prior, a native of Nantucket, succeeded Dr. Samuel Curtis as Amherst’s postmaster in 1803. Like Curtis, Prior had spent time in British prisons during the War for Independence, having been taken captive twice while serving on privateers during the conflict. In January 1799, Prior purchased the Amherst house that Dr. Samuel Curtis had erected at 11 Court House Road almost a decade earlier and kept a grocery and dry good store. The Amherst post office operated out of this location from 1803 until Prior’s death in 1808. Pictures of the structure can be found in “Colonial Amherst: The Early History, Customs and Homes” by Warren Upham (1916) and viewed at: http://www.hsanh.org/vewebsite/exhibit1/e10387b.htm . Curtis’ home, one of the first built in Amherst, was burned in 1920 and is no longer extant.

In February 1791, Dr. Samuel Curtis was among thirty-one interested parties to form the Aurean Academy at Amherst, “the end and purpose of which was declared to “encourage and promote virtue and piety, and a knowledge of the English, Greek, and Latin languages, mathematicks, writing, geography, logic, oratory, rhetoric, and other useful and ornamental branches of literature.” On 30 May 1792, presumably celebrating a first full year of classes, the trustees of the Aurean Academy met at the home of Dr. Samuel Curtis and then marched in procession to nearby “Rev. Mr. Barnard’s Meeting House” for the commencement ceremony. Initially opened under the charge of Charles Walker, after an early success, the school was closed in 1801 due to lack of funds. Dr. Curtis was also one of the founding incorporaters of the Amherst Library Society which operated between 1797 and 1832, when its books were sold at auction. In addition, he compiled and published the “Curtis’ Pocket Almanac and New Hampshire Register” annually from 1800 to 1809. The four first of these were printed at Exeter and Walpole, however the final six were printed by Joseph Cushing at Amherst. Perhaps in explanation of his passion for the almanac, it was said of the doctor, “In his old age he loved to hear and tell the news, and relate rare instances which had come under his personal observation or which he had heard.”

Dr. Samuel Curtis served as Justice of the Peace at Amherst in 1802. While in his sixties, Dr. Curtis is recorded in the Diary of Dr. Daniel Cony of Augusta, Maine as a visitor at his brother-in-law’s home on 19 June 1808. Cony was married to Samuel’s younger sister Susannah and had trained in the medical profession under Curtis before the War for Independence. Two years later, Samuel Curtis is identified as a representative of the Amherst Congregational Church to a church council held in Charlestown, MA on 16 October 1810 along with his pastor Rev. Jeremiah Barnard and Robert Means. It appears to be soon after that meeting that Col. Means and Dr. Curtis were appointed to the local committee for the support of schools at Amherst already headed by Reverend Barnard. One biographical source indicates Curtis was for a time, bell-ringer of Barnard’s Meeting House, at a salary of twenty-four dollars per year.

On 11 April 1818, the eighty year old Samuel Curtis offered his pension testimony and gave evidence concerning his personal physical and financial situation. The doctor observes about himself a “lameness of late years”. Including his sixty-six year old wife Abigail in his thoughts, Curtis notes the couple is “but so feeble and infirm that we are oblig[ed to] keep a servant maid & boy on wages”. Regarding his dire finances Curtis testifies “I owe $1500 dollars, which I never can pay”. The most interesting fact about the aging physician’s schedule of real and personal property inventoried as required by the application for government assistance is his personal Library valued at eight dollars, over 11% of his total $72.00 estate. The Revolutionary War veteran was granted a pension certificate on 2 December 1818 for twenty dollars per month with arrears paid back to 4 September.

Not listed as a real estate asset in his pension application, Curtis’ tavern obviously had been sold by the aging physician prior to 1818. An interesting advertisement endorsing new management appears six weeks after the sworn pension testimony was given in the 30 May 1818 edition of the Farmer’s Cabinet under the heading of “Curtis’ Ancient Tavern Stand” stating, Mr. Robert Holmes has taken said stand situated on Amherst plain, N.H. Opposite to the meeting-house and court-house. The former customers of said stand; and others, are respectfully invited to continue their calls at the sign of the Golden Ball, where the subscriber vouches for their kind treatment. (signed) Samuel Curtis”. While appearing to have a financial stake in the success of Holmes’ tenure, the ownership of the tavern appears to have passed out of Dr. Curtis’ hands by the time of an earlier Farmer’s Cabinet account of 7 October 1815 where Theophilus Page advertises the Amherst Coffee-house as “the old established Hotel, at the sign of the golden ball, so many years kept and served by Dr. Samuel Curtis”.

Several ancient writers suggest a melancholy connection between Dr. Samuel Curtis’ choice of inn-keeping over medicine as a source of tragic circumstances which envelope his family. It is noted that the doctor’s oldest son Samuel, Jr.- a house-painter in Amherst- died “in the prime of life, a victim of intemperance” at the age of forty-one on 29 June 1820. His widow Nancy Shepard Curtis was later married to Luther Roby of Concord. The children of Samuel, Jr. who survived childhood and their grandfather were Boston merchant Samuel Curtis and Ann Augusta who died in Concord at the age of sixteen. Dr. Curtis’ daughter Fanny Curtis Thorton was the mother of the other two grandchildren noted in the Continental Navy veteran’s 1822 mortuary notice. Fanny had been married to Matthew Thornton, Jr., a Dartmouth graduate and lawyer, son of a signer of the Declaration of Independence, who also died of intemperance at the age of thirty-four. His widow followed him in death three years later at the age of twenty-six, leaving two young orphaned daughters.

Dr. Samuel Curtis’ wife Abigail died 17 December 1821 at the age of sixty eight. Her mortuary notice in the Boston Post-Boy of 19 December 1774 pays homage, “deeply lamented by numerous friends and acquaintances, Mrs. Abigail, consort of Dr. Samuel Curtis, aged 68 years. By her natural vivacity [quality of being attractively lively and animated] and good sense, under the restraints of the Christian religion, of which she was early a professor; her society became the resort of every age and class of the respectable, among her acquaintances.” Her husband died at Amherst just fifteen weeks later on 31 March 1822. His obituary published in the 6 April 1822 edition of Amherst’s The Farmer’s Cabinet reads, “In this town, on Sunday last, Dr. Samuel Curtis, in the 75th year of his age. His death was occasioned by a paralytic shock, under which he survived, through speechless, and apparently senseless, eight days. He had been the husband of two wives, and the father of eight children, and had buried them all. He has left as descendants only four grand children. He sustained the office and character of a magistrate many years with fidelity and uprightness.” The Hillsboro Telegraph of the same date simply notes, “In this town on Sunday last, of the palsey, Doctor Samuel Curtis, a revolutionary pensioner, aged 74.”

The Continental Navy surgeon and veteran was subsequently interred in Plot 133 of the Amherst Town Hall Burying Ground and his grave marker can be viewed at: http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=31096499 . Dr. Curtis’ financial condition late in life is confirmed by the 6 September 1823 edition of the local Farmer’s Cabinet advertisement for “Creditors of the estate of SAMUEL CURTIS Esquire, late of Amherst, deceased, represented insolvent” to present their claims to appointed commissioners Edmund Parker and Robert Means between 2-5 in the afternoon at Ray’s Hotel in Amherst on the first Mondays of November and December. Located on the south side of the Amherst Village Common, Ray’s Hotel was formerly Curtis’ tavern, by then operated by James Ray and his son Henry. In later years, Curtis’ inn at the sign of the Golden Ball was also known as the Fredonia Coffee House, Union Hotel and the Hardy Tavern kept by Elbridge Hardy from 1832 to just before it was destroyed by fire on 3 December 1863.

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Peter Richards, Lieutenant

Peter Richards. Born on 11 February 1754 to Elizabeth Harris (1727-1793) and New London merchant Guy Richards (1722-1782), Peter Richards was recruited for the Continental Navy there. His father was a member of the Committees of Correspondence and Safety for that port town. Along with friend Charles Bulkeley, Richards entered on board the sloop Lizard under the command of Joshua Hempstead, Jr. on 13 January 1776 to sail six days later for Reedy Island, PA. Although the Lizard’s passage was rough, she successfully landed the naval recruits in New Jersey where they were picked up and delivered to Commodore Esek Hopkin’s Continental Navy fleet about 13 February 1776. Richards was appointed midshipman on board the brig Cabot under the command of Captain John Burroughs Hopkins. Serving as Cabot’s 1st Lieutenant was fellow New Londoner Elisha Hinman. In recognition of his service during the New Providence Expedition and subsequent sea battle off Block Island, Commodore Hopkins recommended in June 1776 that Midshipman Peter Richards be promoted to 2nd Lieutenant or Sailing Master. As 2nd Lieutenant, Richards served on the Cabot under his promoted friend Captain Elisha Hinman for both a summer and fall cruise that year. He apparently served as prize-master for the Clarendon brought into New London at the close of September 1776. In late January 1777, Peter Richards was commissioned 1st Lieutenant of the Continental Navy ship Alfred now under Elisha Hinman who succeeded John Paul Jones in that command. About that same time, Nathaniel Richards was commissioned Second Lieutenant of Marines on the Alfred joining his two year older brother and lifelong friend Charles Bulkeley who was the vessel’s Sailing Master.

A merchantman named Black Prince under the command of John Barry before the war, the 30-gun Alfred was acquired by the Continental Congress in November 1775 and placed in commission a month later on 3 December. The vessel had served as Commodore Esek Hopkin’s flagship during the New Providence Expedition and is documented to have been the first Continental Navy ship to fly the Grand Union flag. After superintending a major refit, Captain Hinman brought the work on Alfred to completion by mid-May. This autograph receipt is dated twelve days before the Continental Navy ship Alfred sailed from Portsmouth bound to France in company with the newly-constructed 32-gun frigate Raleigh on Friday 22 August 1777. Two weeks later on September 4, the two vessels encountered HMS Druid and despite Raleigh’s punishing attack, the severely damaged enemy warship escaped. Resuming their course, Alfred and Raleigh reached France on 6 October 1777. Several months later on December 29, the two again departed port in company homeward bound with military stores. After cruising the coast of Africa, the pair made a trans-Atlantic crossing to the West Indies where the ship Alfred was taken by British frigate Ariadne and sloop Ceres a little windward of Barbados on 9 March 1778, at least partly as a result of Captain Thompson and the Raleigh avoiding engagement.

Alfred’s officers and men were taken to Barbadoes as prisoners. Here Peter Richards and his brother Nathaniel , were recognized by British Captain Nicholas Vincent of the 74-gun Yarmouth, as he knew the Richards’ boys as children through his intimacy with their father’s family. Through the influence of Ariadne’s Captain Pringle and the intercession of Elisha Hinman, Nathaniel Richards was permitted to return home on parole. Captain Vincent of the Yarmouth took Hinman and five other officers including Lieutenant Peter Richards on board his vessel, transporting his captives to England where they were confined at Forton Prison on 18 July 1778. Confined at Forton but a short time, Captain Hinman escaped by digging under the wall of the prison on a dark, rainy night and walking ten wet miles before finding sanctuary with an American sympathizer who arranged for a Londoner to spirit the Continental Navy Captain off to safety in France. Soon afterwards Richards and Alfred’s other officers also escaped by digging under the prison walls, escaping to London and from there to France. The pension testimony of Alfred’s Third Lieutenant Charles Bulkeley reveals that himself and Peter Richards “took passage from Bordeaux to Baltimore and off the Cape of Virginia was again taken. A few days after which he & Lieut. Peter Richards were put on shore, about ten leagues to the southward of Cape Henry & traveled on to Boston, where they arrived in 1779 when they settled with the Navy board.” Within a few days of his return to Now London in the spring of 1779, Lieutenant Peter Richards was married at Groton on 19 April 1779 to twenty-four year old Catharine Mumford (1754-1805), oldest daughter of prosperous New London merchant Thomas Mumford. According to the autobiographical account of friend Christopher Prince published in 2002, Richards and his new bride had become engaged before he went to sea the previous summer.

His Continental Navy service completed, in June 1779 Peter Richards followed his former skipper Elisha Hinman in command of the 10-gun Connecticut privateer sloop Hancock, owned by his father-in-law. That same month Richards and the Hancock in a cruise off Sandy Hook, NJ took five prizes- the British privateer sloop Ariel, British prize sloop Eagle, the armed schooner Hawke and two other unnamed sloops. Richards took a one year hiatus before returning to command the sloop Hancock again between late May and November 1780. It was during this time that Catharine and Peter Richards first child was born in January 1780. During the happy time of Thomas’ infancy, Captain Richards and the sloop Hancock took at least five prizes including the brigs Friendship and Cornelius, schooner Comet and sloops Hibernia and Venus. Fascinating details of two cruises made by Christopher Prince on the Hancock under Richards during the summer and autumn of 1780, along with another cruise on the Marquis de La Fayette in April 1781, are to be found in the “Autobiography of a Yankee Mariner” by Michael J. Crawford (2002). A number of primary sources for Peter Richards time as master of the sloop Hancock can be found in Collection 11 at the G. W. Blunt White Library at Mystic Seaport. The financial success of Richards’ cruises during this time can be inferred by both Prince’s $10,000 settlement with shipowner Thomas Mumford at the completion of his service and the contents of a letter sent from Mumford to George Washington on 8 September 1780. “Sir, Tho’ I have not the Honor of a personal acquaintance with your Exelency, your ardour in Support of the Independance of these United States demand my warmest gratitude…I am happy at this time to have it in my power to Regale you with some five Years old Madiera Wine, intended for our Enemies officers in New York, and beg your acceptance of the best Pipe from a Cargo of Three Hundred Captured by Capt. Peter Richards in my Privateer Sloop Hancock… I wish you may Receive it in the purity it goes from Hartford.”

Sadly for the newly-wed couple, ten month old Thomas Mumford Richards died 25 October 1780, his mother already two months pregnant with their second child.. With the passing of his first-born son and his tenure on the sloop Hancock completed, Peter Richards took command of the 16-gun Connecticut privateer brig Marquis de La Fayette owned by Andrew Perkins & Co. on 7 February, soon afterwards taking two British prizes in the spring of 1781. On 18 July 1781 Richards was commissioned to an 18-gun Connecticut privateer brigantine also named Hancock, owned by his father-in-law Thomas Mumford along with Joseph Packwood and the Norwich firm of Howland & Coit. This vessel was previously known as the British prize brig “The Whim”. Cruising off of Fire Island Inlet in late July in company with Connecticut privateers Deane and Active, Captain Peter Richards and the brig Hancock took an unnamed prize sloop. Three weeks later, now in company with Connecticut privateers Young Cromwell, Randolph and Sampson; Richards captured the British sloop Swallow and brig Venus. No doubt 11 April 1781 brought another happy occasion with the Richards’ household celebrating the birth of Catharine Havens Richards.

It was the brig Hancock on which former Continental Navy Lieutenant Peter Richards arrived at New London on 31 August 1781 and volunteered his services for the defense of Fort Griswold upon encouragement by commanding officer Colonel William Ledyard who had earlier assisted Richards with the manning of his vessel. One week later on September 6, British General Benedict Arnold raided and burned the town, attacking the fort whose layout he was familiar. Earlier that morning, Richards had gone on board the Hancock seeking volunteers to accompany him in aiding the garrison at Fort Griswold. It is said his entire crew followed their captain into battle where Peter Richards was killed in action, one of the 88 of about 165 defenders massacred by British forces. When the enemy finally breached the fort’s defenses and Colonel Ledyard surrendered his sword, he was run through with it and killed. The “Mumford Memoirs” (1900) records Richards’ father-in-law Thomas Mumford’s account of the tragic details, “About 1000 picked British and foreign Troops who attacked that fort Sword in hand & were Repulsed halfe an Hour, during which time the Enemy Suffered About one quarter of their Number in Killed & wounded, but being overpowered in numbers Colo Ledyard finding the Enemy had gained Possession of Some part of the Fort and Entering at the Gate, having three men Killed, tho’t proper to Surrender himself with the Garison prisoners, & presented his Sword to an Officer who Recd the Same & immediately Lunged it thro the Brave Commandant, when the Ruffians (no doubt by order) pierced him in many places with Bayonets. “Lieuts. Chapman & Stanton of the Garison with upwards of 70 others were inhumanly Murdered with the Colonel…My Son, Captain Peter Richards makes one of this number.” It is also reported that as Colonel Ledyard was stricken, “Captain Peter Richards and a few others, standing near, rushed upon the enemy and were killed, fighting to the last.” Richards’ former lieutenant, Christopher Prince writes that his friend suffered “32 bayonet holes in his murdered body”. Killed on his wife’s twenty-seventh birthday, former Continental Navy Lieutenant Peter Richards was buried at Norwich City Cemetery leaving his widow in the care of their five month old infant daughter Catharine.

The following month on 11 October Captain Lodowick Champlin of New London was named to succeed Richards in command of the brig Hancock. Catharine Mumford Richards would survive her husband by twenty-four years and one day, passing at the age of fifty-one on 7 September 1805. The couple’s daughter Catharine had been married just three years earlier on 23 October 1802 to Levi Huntington, Jr. After Catharine Richards Huntington died at the age of thirty-seven on 6 August 1818, she was buried with her parents and only sibling in the family plot at Norwich City Cemetery.

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Isaac Hanson, Marine and Seaman

Isaac Hanson. Born at Dover, NH on 3 June 1758, Isaac Hanson was the youngest son of a number of children born to Isaac Hanson, Sr. (1713-1758) and Susannah Canney (1715-1760). Despite grandson Isaac Walter Hanson’s assertion in his 1895 application to the Sons of the American Revolution noting Isaac’s birthday as 3 July 1758, it is presumed the veteran’s own pension testimony is the accurate date. The infant’s father died intestate “in an apperplect fit” on 15 January 1758, six months before the future Continental Navy marine and seaman was born. Isaac’s mother would follow her husband of seventeen years to the grave on 9 August 1760 when he was just two years old. Although it is suspected to be his mother’s brother Ichabod Canney, it is not known for certain in whose Dover household the orphaned boy was raised. At the age of twenty-one on the fourth or fifth day of June 1779, Isaac Hanson enlisted as a marine for six months on board the sloop-of-war Ranger, then at Portsmouth. Hanson’s first cruise, during which several prizes were taken, went to the Fall of 1779 when the Ranger under the command of Thomas Simpson returned to Portsmouth. That is where and when Joseph Roberts, then of Rochester, first met Hanson when Roberts enlisted on the vessel as a marine that Autumn. According to Roberts deposition in Hanson’s pension record #W-2626, the two soon became well acquainted. After a short time at Portsmouth, the sloop of war Ranger sailed on to Boston where a number of the crew left service, their enlistment being expired. Isaac Hanson stayed on board the Ranger there when it joined the squadron under Commodore Abraham Whipple, including the Continental Navy vessels Providence, Queen of France and Boston, assembled for the relief of Charleston, SC. When the fleet left Boston, Hanson was sailing as an ordinary seaman rather than as a marine.

Isaac Hanson, along with the balance of the Ranger’s crew and indeed the officers and men of the entire Continental Navy fleet, were surrendered at the fall of Charleston on 12 May 1780. Like his compatriots, Hanson was imprisoned at Charleston for about a month and then sent in June 1780 to Philadelphia on a cartel to await exchange. While at Philadelphia, Isaac Hanson was hospitalized due to sickness and it was in that place and condition that Joseph Roberts last saw him before the close of the war. According to his pension record, Hanson recovered his health about September 1780 and the bachelor immediately enlisted on the sloop-of-war Saratoga, launched just five months earlier under the command of Captain John Young. Hanson’s testimony concerning his time on the Saratoga is that they soon went to sea, took a ship and soon after a brig- that he was put on board the brig as one of the prize crew and sailed the vessel back to Philadelphia, arriving in February 1781. Prior to Hanson’s enlistment, the Saratoga had departed Philadelphia on 13 August 1780 escorting the packet Mercury with the former President of the Continental Congress Henry Laurens aboard bound for Europe. After being released from escort duty and training the ship’s crew for engagement, Young and the sloop-of war Saratoga fell in with the British Navy brig Keppel and fought a long indecisive battle in gale force seas on 9 September 1780. Several days later, the Saratoga returned home where she took the British merchant ship Sarah off the Delaware Capes without resistance, anchoring off Chester in the Delaware River. By 18 September, the Saratoga was again cruising at sea where one week later she retook the brig Elizabeth captured several weeks earlier by the British privateer Restoration. In early October 1780, the 22-gun letter-of-marque Charming Molly and small schooner Two Brothers fell prey to Captain Young’s aggressive tactics. The two prizes proved to be part of a small merchant fleet which the Saratoga pursued. On 10 October 1780, the sloop-of-war Saratoga captured both the ship Elizabeth and brig Nancy prizes as well. Before eluding the 74-gun British ship-of-the-line Alcide and returning to anchorage at Chester on 14 October 1780, Young’s Saratoga retook one more enemy prize the brig Providence. It is during this time between mid-October and mid-December while being refitted at Philadelphia when it is presumed seaman Isaac Hanson enlisted on the vessel, a replacement for one of many who left the sloop-of-war to man her prizes. On 15 December 1780, the sloop-of-war Saratoga sailed again from Philadelphia bound for Hispaniola to escort merchantmen and obtain military goods shipped from France. Five days later, the Saratoga was confronted by the British privateer Resolution which struck her colors after receiving a single devastating broadside. After returning to Lewes, DE just long enough to disembark Resolution’s prisoners on New Year’s Day 1781, the Continental Navy vessel sailed again for Hispaniola. On 9 January 1781, the sloop-of-war Saratoga fought a “smart engagement with the 20-gun British letter-of-marque Tonyn sailing out of St. Augustine, inflicting fourteen casualties on the 52 man crew. After taking a day at sea to repair both vessels, the pair resumed course for Captain Young’s destination.

The Saratoga met the armed brig Douglas of Glasgow, under the command of Captain Archibald Greg, conveying a cargo of wine from Madiera to Charleston, SC on 16 January 1781. It is this prize, taken without resistance, which is presumed to be the brig that Isaac Hanson joined as a member of the prize crew. The Pennsylvania Packet of Saturday 24 February 1781 reports that the prize Douglas arrived the day before. The newspaper account adds that Saratoga “also took a schooner from St. Augustine and sent her to Cape Francois.” The Pennsylvania Packet of 6 March 1781 advertises the sale of her cargo of Poland starch and three hundred “pipes” of fine Madiera wine to be held at Willing & Morris’ Wharf, presumably the berth of the prize brig, on the following Monday 12 March 1781. The sale of the vessel was to follow at 6 o’clock that same evening at the “Coffee House” where talk no doubt surrounded the success of the sale of her cargo which was hammered down at over $300 per pipe. Seaman Isaac Hanson would only later appreciate the circumstances which would return him to Philadelphia without his shipmates. Just days after the auction on 15 March 1781, the Continental Navy 18-gun sloop-of-war Saratoga under the command of Captain John Young, in company with Continental frigates Confederacy and Deane and the Philadelphia privateer Fair American, sailed from Cape Francois, Haiti escorting a convoy of fifty-six merchant vessels bound for France and another thirty-two bound for America. On the morning of 18 March, the French and American vessels had separated with the American-bound merchantmen in convoy with the Confederacy, Deane and Fair American. By that time the sloop Saratoga had veered off to the West of the fleet in pursuit of two enemy sail attempting to escape to the safety of the British-held Bahamas. In the early afternoon, with the American fleet out of sight, Saratoga approached within gunshot of a lightly armed snow bound from South Carolina to London. Shortly thereafter on 18 March 1781, the snow struck her colors and Captain Young had her manned by a prize crew under the command of Midshipman Nathaniel Penfield. It was nearly four o’clock in the afternoon by the time Penfield evacuated the prize’s men back to the Saratoga and the two vessels resumed the chase for a second target. In an instant, the already choppy seas were met by an intense squall and severe wind. By the time Midshipman Penfield and his small crew brought the newly won prize under control after heeling precariously before the gusting wind, the sloop-of-war Saratoga had vanished from sight with all hands lost.

Isaac Hanson’s pension testimony states that upon his arrival in Philadelphia on Saratoga’s prize brig, the seaman was ordered on board the Continental frigate Trumbull while he remained in port awaiting the return of the sloop-of-war Saratoga. Captain John Young and all those officers and men, other than those like Hanson, Penfield and Lieutenant Joshua Barney who were providentially placed on prize crews, would never return home. Isaac Hanson’s concluded his Continental Navy service in the War for Independence by “staying with” the Trumbull until June 1781. Hanson relates in his pension testimony that “after waiting there and hearing nothing from said ship [Saratoga], he left the public service and went to sea on board a merchantman.” This would account for his grandson’s assertion in his 1895 application to the Sons of the American Revolution that “There is a tradition that he also served on a privateer. Fortuitously for Hanson he did not remain on the Trumbull, the last surviving frigate of the thirteen originally authorized by the Continental Congress in 1775, which sailed on 8 August 1781. Twenty days later, Captain James Nicholson would surrender the frigate Trumbull after a severe engagement in which eleven Americans were wounded and five killed. Later Nicholson wrote “Seeing no prospect of escaping in this unequal contest, I struck.”

After the peace, Isaac Hanson resided at Dover, NH perhaps on the land bequeathed to him by his father in the year of his birth but not administered until 6 April 1771 when Isaac was just thirteen years old. Although orphaned as a toddler, a division of his parents’ estate was not made until Isaac’s only and older brother Tobias requested it. As eldest son, Tobias was granted a double share in their father’s land including “the Dwelling House and Part of the homestead…beginning by the main Road that Leeds through Cochecho” containing approximately nineteen acres. While the youngster’s four sisters Lydia Watson, Hannah, Susannah and Rose Hanson also received lands formerly belonging to their father’s estate; Isaac Hanson was bequeathed “Part of the homestead Land Containing nine acres more or less.” By the time Isaac returned to Dover after the war he would have been in his mid-twenties. According to Hanson’s pension testimony he remained at Dover until his late thirties, moving about twenty miles up the Cochecho River valley from Dover in 1796 to the farm at Farmington where he remained the balance of his life. Two years later on 6 September 1798, Isaac Hanson was married to thirty year old Mary Jones of Rochester, located about halfway between Dover and Farmington. The couple appears in the 1800 Census record at Farmington with one young female in their household between the ages of ten and fifteen. As the couple was married only two years at the time and she does not appear in the census record ten years later, this young woman appears to have been a kinsman or the daughter of an earlier marriage. The 1810 Census records two females under the age of ten, suggesting Mary and Isaac Hanson’s two oldest children together were daughters. By the time of the 1830 Census, the Hanson household totaled nine and was obviously multi-generational. In addition to the aging veteran now in his early seventies and a wife ten years his junior, the family group consisted of two males and two females in their twenties with two female children between the ages of five and nineteen, along with another adult female between 30-19 presumed to be one of the dependent daughters appearing in the census records of twenty years earlier. The 1840 Census records reveal that in the intervening ten years eighty-two year old Isaac Hanson became the sole male remaining in the household despite the fact that three other women between the ages of twenty and thity-nine in addition to his wife, still lived under his roof. It is supposed his only identified son Joseph Jones Hanson had by then taken up residence with his wife Hannah Hayes Twombly elsewhere. It is their son; Auburn, ME attorney Isaac Walter Hanson born on 13 May 1846, who made application to the Maine Society of the Sons of the American Revolution naming the wartime naval service of his grandfather.

Continental Navy veteran Isaac Hanson died on 8 January 1847 at the age of eighty-eight. Hanson’s pension documents include the testimony of his neighbor John Walker who was present when he died and superintended his funeral. Hannah Walker stated that she knew Isaac’s wife Mary Jones from the time of her birth and that “the Hanson family and theirs lived within one fourth of a mile of each other for over forty years.” Son Joseph J. Hanson also attested to the fact that he was present at his father’s death and funeral. Based on a notation in “Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots” by Patrica Law Hatcher (1983) it is supposed that Isaac Hanson is buried in the Jones Cemetery at Farmington, NH. This cemetery is quite small, boasts just a few headstones and is located about equal distance from both Farmington and Rochester on Perry Road. Isaac’s wife Mary Jones Hanson applied for a widow’s pension a year after his death in the amount of one hundred dollars per annum and was also granted a Bounty Land Warrant for his wartime service in 1855. Mary Hanson died on 10 February 1868 in Farmington at the advanced age of 100 years and twenty-six days.

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John McDougall, Lieutenant

Nephew of General Alexander McDougall of New York, John McDougall was appointed Lieutenant of the 16-gun Continental Navy brig Andrew Doria with a compliment of 130 men under the command of Captain Nicholas Biddle on 22 December 1775. McDougall was third in rank behind 1st Lieutenant James Josiah and 2nd Lieutenant Elisha Warner. Lieutenant McDougall appears on the list of people on board the Andrew Doria dated 10 May 1776 and also in an account book and muster roll of her officers and men dated 13 September 1777 at Providence to be found among the Nicholas Biddle Papers. Also on the Andrew Doria’s muster are Arthur McDougall, Quartermaster and Roger McDougall, Seaman; although no familiar connection has been identified.

While on a cruise about 600 miles southeast of Boston, on Wednesday 29 May 1776, two unprotected and unarmed British transport vessels bound for Halifax were sighted and taken after a short pursuit. The transport Oxford under Master John Stewart carried a 100-man company of the 42d Foot Royal Highland Regiment and the accompanying Crawford, a similar sized company of the 71st Regiment. The two vessels had been separated from thirty others in their convoy by a storm. In order to safely convey the captives, which outnumbered his brig’s crew, Captain Biddle ordered all the naval and land officers separated from their men with the officers placed on board the Crawford. The leaderless troops were put onto the Oxford while all seamen, arms and ammunition were transferred to the Andrew Doria. 1st Lieutenant James Josiah was appointed prize-master of the Crawford while 3rd Lieutenant John McDougall was placed in command of the Oxford, Lieutenant of Marines John Trevett named as his mate. The vessels kept company for over two weeks until they fell in with Lord Howe’s fleet near Nantucket in a fog. The American vessels diverged and before the Oxford even sailed out of sight of the Andrew Doria on 11 June 1776, the three hundred prisoners rose up against the eleven man prize crew and took the transport back into British hands. In his journal Trevett remarked, “I could not blame them, for I would have done the same.” Expecting to join British Lord Dunmore, the mutinous captives reached the Virginia Capes about two weeks after retaking the Oxford. Following mis-information deliberately offered by two pilot boats at Hampton Roads, the British transport Oxford sailed up the James River where it was recaptured by armed boats Liberty and Patriot of the Virginia Navy which conveyed her to Jamestown. McDougall and Trevett along with the other nine of Oxford’s prize crew were escorted to Williamsburg, treated “very politely” and extended money to cover the expense of their return trip home. Lieutenant of Marines Trevett in his journal records, “We tarried one day longer than we needed on account of seeing INDEPENDENCE DECLARED, which was on the 4th day of July, 1776.”

The following day the party set out for Rhode Island by way of New York. While the two were in transit, the Andrew Doria made a short cruise out of New London at the end of June through mid-July taking the Jamaica merchantman Nathaniel and Elizabeth as a prize on 11 July 1776. After being chased by a British warship, her prize crew from the Andrew Doria drove the vessel onto a reef, losing a cargo of sugar but saving her rum, sails and stores. Although not present for the taking of this prize, Trevett records that Continental agent Nathaniel Shaw of New London paid him his share of the prize money as directed by Captain Biddle. Soon after Biddle sailed the Andrew Doria into Newport, he received an appointment to command the frigate Randolph at Philadelphia. Lieutenants McDougall and Trevett arrived just in time to rejoin the Andrew Doria for her cruise conveying Biddle to Pennsylvania. On the passage, the Andrew Doria first encountered and captured the prize Molly. The Lawrence was her next victim and within a couple more days two additional merchantmen were made prizes. Lieutenant of Marines Trevett was placed on a brig from Lord Dunmore’s fleet originally bound from Barbadoes to Newfoundland as prize-master and Lieutenant John McDougall on another prize brig named Elizabeth, both with instructions to put in at Providence. According to a letter from Commodore Esek Hopkins to the Marine Committee dated at Providence on 10 September 1776, both vessels made port safely. Interestingly, a letter from the Marine Committee to Daniel Tillinghast dated 30 October 1776 directs that the Continental prize agent for Rhode Island deduct the forty-five pounds advanced to Lieutenant McDougall to convey himself and the seven other men of his prize crew from Providence to rejoin Captain Biddle at Philadelphia from prize monies earned from the sale of the vessel and cargo.

John McDougall was promoted to 2nd Lieutenant and transferred to the frigate Randolph at Captain Nicholas Biddle’s request. Partially manned with captured British sailors, the Randolph sailed from Philadelphia on 3 February 1777 performing escort duty to a large convoy of American merchantmen. On 15 February, the convoy broke up and Randolph sailed northward. Shortly thereafter, the frigate’s foremast was sprung and while repairs were being made her mainmast broke also. Jury rigged and anxious to avoid engagement with the enemy, Biddle sailed for South Carolina but not arriving before squashing an unsuccessful mutiny attempt by the impressed British seamen. Lieutenant McDougall reached Charleston with the frigate Randolph on 11 March 1777 where she put in for extensive repairs. Twice the vessel was turned back from planned cruises for repairs necessitated by lightning strikes to her mainmast. Now protected by lightning rods on her masts, the Randolph sailed from Charleston on 16 August and anchored at Rebellion Road waiting for favorable winds. While in the roadstead, a boarding party from the Continental Navy frigate retrieved and impressed two seaman who had left the Randolph and joined the crew of the merchant vessel Fair American. With a change in wind, the Randolph sailed from Charleston’s anchorage on 1 September. After an overnight chase, the frigate Randolph captured four vessels on the morning of 4 September 1777 including the 20-gun privateer True Briton and three of her accompanying prizes- the North Carolina privateer Severn, French privateer brig Charming Peggy and brig L’Assumption. Two days later, the little fleet returned to Charleston intact. Shortly thereafter, Captain Biddle wrote to Robert Morris on 12 September 1777 praising his subordinates, “I cannot omit telling You that My Officers have on every Occasion given Me the greatest satisfaction. Two better Officers are not in the Service than Barnes and Mc dougal My first and second Lieuts.” In contrast, just eleven days earlier Lieutenant of Marines Panatiere de la Falconniere had been accused by six commissioned and warrant officers including Lieutenant John McDougall of a number of serious charges. They wrote to Captain Nicholas Biddle on 1 September 1777 from the Randolph off Charleston, “For these and a Thousand more instances we could mention (if Necessary) of the same Nature we think him not only unworthy of holding a Commission in the Randolph, but a Nuissance to the ship, and therefore beg you to Rid us of him”.

Between September and early December 1777, the Randolph was again refitted while McDougall and 3rd Lieutenant Joshua Fanning were charged with manning the vessel for another cruise. Despite their successful recruitment of sailors, the frigate’s crew suffered from an inadequate number of marines and marine officers. With de la Falconniere now gone, only Captain of Marines Samuel Shaw remained. The Journal of John Trevett reveals Captain Biddle’s overtures to his former Lieutenant of Marines to leave Captain John Peck Rathbun’s sloop Providence and sail with the frigate Randolph in December 1777, “If Capt. Rathbun would Consent I would go with him and All this Time telling Me that itt Was Presumiton to Make Such an Atemt And A Luded to the Scot[c]h Ship” that was taken from Lieut. Macdugel & My Self but finerly I told him tha ware all well Landed Att Virginea he Pled Likewise with Capt. Rathbun but Anserd no Perperse for Sase Capt. Rothbun I have Made the Agrement with Capt Trevett I will not Give itt up So this Ended All this Conversation we Shuk Hands and the Comadore Says I am Very Sorre for I never Shall See You More.”

In late 1777, while the frigate Randolph was idled for her hull to be scraped, it was suggested by the president of South Carolina’s General Assembly John Rutledge that Biddle take command of a task force consisting of the Randolph and four South Carolina State Navy vessels in order to break the British blockade of Charleston Harbor. The five American ships- the 36-gun Randolph, 20-gun General Moutrie, 18-gun Notre Dame, 16-gun Polly and 14-gun Fair American- sailed on 14 February 1778 only to be surprised by the absence of enemy warships. The fleet then proceeded to the West Indies in search of prizes where they fell upon a dismasted New England vessel abandoned by her British captor. After burning the hulk, their luck turned sour until Polly took a New York to Grenada bound schooner on 4 March which was converted into a tender for the frigate Randolph. It was from this tender that Prizemaster Simeon Fanning, one of the frigate Randolph’s midshipmen, witnessed the death of his brother 3rd Lieutenant Joshua Fanning in the calamitous explosion that followed three days later between nine and ten o’clock during an engagement with HMS Yarmouth on the night of Saturday 7 March 1778. In an unhappy twist of fate, young Simeon would follow his older brother in death the following month. Randolph’s 2nd Lieutenant John McDougall’s will dated 14 January 1778 and proved on 9 May 1778 names Joshua Fanning as one of the three witnesses to McDougall’s last wishes.

That document found on Page 367 (383 online) in Book 19 of Charleston Wills begins, “I John McDougall, Lieutenant on board the Randolph Frigate now of the State of South Carolina… give and bequeath [to my] Uncle General Alexander McDougall all that Messuage or tenement situate lying and being in Charles Town, South Carolina in Tradd Street known and distinguished in the plan or modle (sic) of said Town by the Number Thirty-nine”. Lieutenant John McDougall also left his uncle 3,600 pounds “in the hands of Abraham Livingston, Esq.” along with “All the Prize money due me from the Continental agents in New England together with all such sum or sums of Money that is or may be due me at my death.” His instructions accompanying the bequeath directs that the Charleston property and money be “divided as my said Uncle shall think proper between my Brother Alexander McDougall, Junior and cousins Ranald J. McDougall, Elizabeth Ann Lawrence, Elizabeth Hamilton and John McDougall Lawrence”.

John McDougall and his brother, the General’s namesake, apparently experienced a close relationship with their uncle who was a leading activist New York patriot who achieved the rank of major general by the date of his nephew’s will. Long involved in maritime affairs, General Alexander McDougall (1732-1786) would briefly serve as Secretary of Marine for seven months in 1781. Born on the island of Islay in the Inner Hebrides off Scotland, Alexander was one of five children of Ronald and Elizabeth McDougall who emigrated to New York in 1738. As a young man, Alexander worked as a delivery boy for his father who was a milk dealer on Manhattan Island. At fourteen, Alexander McDougall went to sea and eventually accumulated a modest fortune as captain of two privateers, the 8-gun sloop Tyger and 12-gun sloop Barrington, during the French and Indian War between 1756 and 1763. It is possible the John McDougall first went to sea on his uncle’s privateer. A 1757 ship’s roster suspected to exist for the sloop Tyger has not yet been scrutinized to determine his presence. With the death of his first wife Ann in the same year that hostilities ceased and facing the reality of caring for his widowed mother and his own three children, Captain Alexander McDougall quit the sea to pursue mercantile interests. It is likely that John and his brother Alexander, Jr. also lived under the care of their uncle as their own father John McDougall, born about 1724, had died near the same time. The will of Ronald McDougall dated 1 March 1763 and proved on 26 March 1764 refers to the brothers as sons of John, deceased.

In addition to his brother, Lieutenant John McDougall names cousins Ranald J. McDougall, Elizabeth Ann Lawrence, Elizabeth Hamilton and John McDougall Lawrence as beneficiaries of his estate. Ranald (1754-1786) and Elizabeth (1756-1790), wife of John Lawrence, were two of Uncle Alexander’s three children. Eldest cousin John Alexander McDougall (1752-1775), a budding lawyer freshly graduated from Princeton, had already died three years prior to the making of his will. According to “American Revolutionary, A Biography of General Alexander McDougall” by William Macdougall (1977); the then Colonel Alexander McDougal received the following communication from Colonel Ritzema at Montreal, “Your son, poor Jack, is no more. John McDougall Lawrence was the Lieutenant’s second cousin, son of Elizabeth and John Lawrence. Elizabeth Hamilton, another first cousin, was daughter to the Lieutenant’s Aunt Mary McDougall who was married to Archibald Hamilton. Lieutenant John McDougall’s estate was not fully settled eight years after his death on the Randolph in 1778 as evidenced by his Uncle Alexander McDougall’s will dated 16 December 1780, revised on 12 May 1786 and proved six weeks later on 27 June 1786. With regards to his late nephew’s estate, the General writes, “And whereas my nephew, Lieutenant John McDougal, lately deceased, bequeathed all his estate to me for the purpose of dividing the same as I should think proper between his brother, Alexander McDougal, Jr.. and his cousins, Ronald S. McDougal, Elizabeth Ann Laurance, Elizabeth Hamilton, and John McDougal Laurance, I will that one half of the money which shall arise from the said estate be divided into seven equal parts: two seventh parts to be given to Ronald S. McDougal; two seventh parts to Elizabeth Ann Laurance, and one seventh part to John McDougal Laurance; two seventh parts to Elizabeth Hamilton—this division to be made as soon as the money can be collected with advantage to the estate; John Laurance, Esq., to receive those parts given to his wife and son; Also that Alexander McDougal, Jr., have the one half of the money which shall arise from the said estate of his brother. Lieutenant John McDougal; but as the said Alexander McDougal is now absent, I will that the said half part be put into the Continental Loan Office in New York State for his benefit, to remain there for seven years after the termination of the present War unless he arrives sooner, in which case my executors will deliver over to him the certificate, bonds, or other papers taken for the same, or dispose of them and pay him the money as they shall judge most advantageous of his interest. If the said Alexander McDougal, Jr., does not arrive at the end of the said seven years, or they receive intelligence of his death- in either of these events which shall first happen, I will his half part to be divided among the other legatees of his brother in the same proportion as is above mentioned.”

By his will dated 14 January 1778, frigate Randolph’s 2nd Lieutenant John McDougall “Also give[s] and bequeath[s] unto my friend Lieutenant William Barnes the sum of fourteen hundred pounds.” This gift was probably the result of a mutual pact devised between the two friends as 1st Lieutenant Barnes had named McDougall the beneficiary of precisely the same sum in his will executed three days earlier. Like the earlier assets, these monies were also left in the hands of Charleston shipowner Abraham Livingston, who the commercial and Continental Navy prize agent for South Carolina. Unfortunately, neither man would enjoy the bequest as both would enter eternity at the same instant. Named executors of John McDougall’s estate included his Uncle General Alexander McDougall, his cousin’s husband John Laurence and Abraham Livingston. Witnesses to the will were Captain of Marines Samuel Shaw, 3rd Lieutenant Joshua Fanning and Andrew Stockholm. Shaw and Fanning would perish on the Randolph and it is thought that Stockholm was an assistant to John Jay.

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