About

Dear Friends,

Welcome to my website honoring the sacrificial service of the brave men who served in the Continental Navy and Marine Corps, as well as, their spouses and families. Much has been written on the various ships and their captains of the American Revolution, but little of the junior officers and enlisted men of our early naval forces. I believe the main reason for this lack of national interest is simply due to the lack of compiled knowledge of those who even served in the Continental Navy and Marine Corps. While the list of commissioned officers is widely published, the data concerning the officers and men pretty much stops there with the exception of occasional genealogical references and pension records. It has been estimated by one source that the entire Continental Navy was smaller than the compliment of men on a single modern aircraft carrier. There are several reasons for this dearth of data. Firstly, as has been well-documented, the formation of a blue-water national Navy was a political hot potato which resulted in a Congressionally-administered decentralized bureaucracy which was immediately disbanded after the Revolutionary War. Secondly, while all naval captains were required to maintain crew enlistment and payroll records, these records were not collected after each cruise and maintained in a central national repository. Thirdly, many records were lost with the ships as they were thrown overboard or otherwise destroyed or confiscated when the ships were scuttled, sunk or captured- as was the fate of most ships of the Continental Navy fleet. Most of the crew lists that are extant are in various museum or private collections as they remained in the personal possession of individual captains and their heirs after the war. Because the Navy was disbanded, it does not appear that any serious effort was made to collect the surviving records by the young post-war government. Finally, because the Navy operated autonomously from the Army and was a political step-child, naval veterans did not automatically receive the same pension treatment as soldiers. Not that many veterans at all received kind treatment. The lack of crew list documentation contributed to the inability to prove wartime service. I suspect also that maritime service on privateers before or after service in the Continental Navy was a source of bias against seamen like unto that experienced by World War II Merchant Mariners who sustained catastrophic casualties during the war, only to be denied veterans benefits afterward. The intent of this website is to compile the extant published crew lists of Continental Navy ships in an alphabetical format that makes it relatively easy for someone to search online for historical or genealogical purposes. Also, short biographies of individual officers and men will be published from time to time, linked to the crew lists. At some point, I intend to merge the crew lists into a single list of officers and men who are known to have served in the Continental Navy and Marine Corps.

Also included in this website is a monograph I worked on for a number years. It is my hope that you will enjoy reading and sharing with others the life and times of Frederick Calkins, Master’s Mate. The document remains a “work in progress”, largely the result of original research on Frederick Calkins’ activities and is still ongoing. I continue to remain open to changes in the direction of my research as serendipitous circumstances might present. It is also my hope that this monograph will elicit comments and questions from readers that will direct my attention and produce a more refined result.

One might ask, “Why”? The primary reason for pursuing the monograph is to honor the life of Frederick Calkins. People seem genuinely surprised to discover the subject of my research is not genealogically related. I’m not entirely sure of the capillaries of the roots of my interest in this particular individual, however suffice it to say that he represents a sort of “unsung hero” of a fascinating age that speaks an urgent message to the generation in which we find ourselves. I’m certain that my interest is also motivated by the career path two of my children have chosen- the merchant sea service. Both SUNY Maritime College grad Joe (Third Mate, Unlimited Tonnage, Any Ocean) and his younger brother Ben who graduated from the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point (Second Mate, Unlimited Tonnage, Any Ocean) hold USCG licenses certifying them to take the helm of any sized ship anywhere in the world. In an effort to accurately appreciate both the joys and sorrows associated with a seafaring career; especially the inherent difficulties associated with maintaining a family, I have been attentive to the details of Calkins’ life. Finally, something about Frederick Calkins speaks to me about his passion for Godly things while living in the “real world” and fulfilling his duties as both a citizen of the nation and planet earth; as a devoted husband, loving father, eager apprentice, valued employee, trusted comrade, respected shipmaster, competent professional, active churchman and willing public servant. While one cannot “know the man”, the evidence of his life- Acta Non Verba- suggests something to aspire to. I now entrust you with my passion of these past years and the future decade, which until now has been solely held in the hands of my lovely wife Patricia who has gifted me the hours and encouragement to “follow the sea.”

Finally, I would be remiss not to acknowledge with utmost gratitude the assistance of my oldest son Joshua Ross, who made the development and publication of this website possible. In pursuit of the knowledge of whether Master’s Mate Frederick Calkins was captured with most of the frigate Raleigh’s petty officers and men or whether he escaped to help row the ship’s boats to Boston with Captain John Barry and the escaped fortunate, Joshua and I embarked on a trip to Kew, England in February 2014 to reconstruct the crew lists of Continental Navy vessels captured by the British and not yet documented in the “Naval Documents of the American Revolution.” Calkins was indeed one of the lucky ones. As it has taken the United States government over fifty years to compile the first thirty-seven months of the naval history of the War for Independence, we thought it beneficial to the American public to get a jump on the last fifty-nine months. For too long, over 230 years, the unheralded merchant mariners like Frederick Calkins who manned the handful of Continental Navy vessels which took on the bluewater superpower of their age have remained in the shadows of history waiting to be revealed. Both the Raleigh and Confederacy lists have now been published on this site with others to come. Joshua’s photographic record of the Jersey Prison Ship musters will also provide research data for years to come. Unfortunately, my precious thirty-one year old son and research partner died on 16 July 2014 of complications from an uncommon immune disorder contracted shortly before our trip. Our week together in the National Archives at Kew was followed by a most extraordinary week of travel to the National Maritime Museum at Greenwich, Tower of London, Windsor Castle, Stonehenge, worship at his maternal ancestral church in Pontypridd Wales, Royal Navy Yard at Portsmouth, HMS Victory and a final overnight at Hever Castle. Whatever positive legacy that may arise from this website has his handprints all over it. Fair Winds and Following Seas.

Joseph Ross

3 Responses to About

  1. Ken Kellow says:

    Mr. Ross:

    I keep running into your website when I do my online research. I am extremely impressed with your research, as well as your writing.

    I’m going to place a link on my links page to your creation and wish to encourage you in your work.

    Perhaps we can be of mutual assistance at some occasion.

    Ken

  2. Renee M Boudreau says:

    I have been doing some research into my ancestor, Nathan Higgins, who was a Continental Seaman during the Revolution.
    He married Jerusha Mayo 17 Feb 1763 in Eastham, MA and had several children with her.
    I come from their son Eleazer Higgins.
    He served on the Sloop REPUBLIC and the brigantine ACTIVE.
    1776-1779

    Seaman in Continental Navy: reported enlisted into the naval service June 21, 1776

    Served aboard the Brigantine “Active” as Seaman; Excerpt: “also, Seaman, brigantine “Active,” commanded by Capt. Allen Hallet; engaged June 4, 1779; discharged Aug. 31, 1779; service, 2 mos. 28 days.
    ——
    Excerpt from Wikipedia
    “The first ships constructed were the sloop Tyrannicide and the brigantines Rising Empire and Independence, which were ready to sail in June 1776. These were followed by the sloops Republic, Freedom, and Massachusetts in September. While they were being built, additional legislation was enacted, establishing pay scales and rules for prize distribution, and in October a Board of War was created to oversee naval activities (military as well as economic) of the state.[5]
    Over the course of the war, several additional ships were either purchased or constructed by the state. In 1777, the brigantine Hazard was built, and in 1778 a plan to construct two larger ships was entertained and eventually abandoned due to the cost. The brigantine Active, a prize taken by Hazard, was purchased in 1779.[6] In April 1778, construction was authorized on the largest ship in the state navy. The Protector, a 28-gun frigate and a crew complement of 200, was launched in the fall of 1779. Unfortunately, due to the disaster of the Penobscot Expedition, it was then the only ship in the state navy.”
    I would love to know more but haven’t found much else.
    Also have found he may have been in the Army for a small bit before becoming a Seaman?? (Or it could be a different Nathan Higgins…)

  3. Jennifer Pines says:

    Just a note- I’ve been researching Capt. John Peck Rathbone (a distant cousin) and it appears that he was cousin to Robert Peck, midshipman, and his son, John Peck ship’s boy, who sailed under him on the Queen of France. John’s mother, Ann Peck, married Nathaniel Rathbone. Nathaniel died young, when John was 4, and his mother move back from Exeter, RI to Boston, where her older brother, Thomas Handasyde Peck, lived. Ann died three years latter and it is likely John Peck Rathbone was raised by his uncle as he remained in Boston, and was a ship’s boy in his teens on his uncles transports.

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