Amos Latham, Sergeant of Marines, Midshipman

Amos Latham. Amos Latham’s story is sketched in his pension application #S-36683 and summarized in an article by Sallie McNeil published in the Nassau Genealogist, Vol. IX, #3, Summer 2002. “Amos Latham was born on 18 July 1759 in Groton, New London County, CT. He was the son of Jasper and Deborah Avery Latham. In May 1777, Latham enlisted for three years as a corporal in the Continental Army at Groton under Lt. Thomas Avery, Capt. Shumway’s Company of Col. [Jedidiah] Huntington’s 1st Connecticut regiment. By December 1777, Latham’s regiment was at Valley Forge where he spent the winter of 1777-1778. On 28 June 1778, he was wounded at the Battle of Monmouth with a “wound in the leg which rendered him unfit for duties of the field.” [In his pension application, he recalled the names of officers from the time he was stationed at Trenton as Col. McKean, Col. Will, Capt. Bowers and Capt. Ingles. He also appears to have served in Colonel Samuel Prentis’ Regiment.] At this time, Latham was transferred to the Marines. From 5 October 1778 until August 1781, Latham served aboard the Continental frigate Confederacy as a sergeant of marines. Most of the officers were paroled and the crew was confined to the prison ship Jersey until exchanged or released. According to family stories, Amos Latham was released in Charleston, SC. By 1808, Latham had moved to Camden County, Georgia, where he received a land grant of 200 acres on the south side of the Satilla River. In 1800, he married Jane Parsons, the daughter of Hillary Parsons. Jane was born on 1 June 1775 in Craven County, NC. Mary Ann Latham was born on 8 May 1810 in Glynn County, GA. Jane Maria Latham was born on 30 December 1812, also in Glynn Co. George Washington Avery Latham was born on 8 June 1815. A Revolutionary War pension application was filed in Camden County, Georgia, on 9 March 1819 [and granted on 9 September of that year retroactive to the date of application in the amount of $96 per annum]. On 6 May 1840, Amos had his pension transferred from Georgia to Nassau County, Territory of Florida. At that time, he gave an oath before the mayor of Fernandina that the government had moved the lighthouse in Cumberland Island, Georgia, to Amelia Island, Florida, and “as keeper of the same he was bound to remove”. Amos died on 18 April 1842 and was buried at the Amelia Island Lighthouse near Fernandina. His birth date on his new tombstone gives the date he used in his pension application which is two years later than the birth date found in Connecticut vital records. Perhaps his memory had become ‘fuzzy’ when the application was made. Jane died on 24 November 1840 and was buried beside him at the lighthouse. Both were later re-interred in the Morse plot in Bosque Bello Cemetery.” Amos Latham’s service on the Confederacy commenced in October 1778 while she was still under construction in Connecticut. His name appears in the frigate Confederacy Riggers’ Returns from November 1778 to February 1779 in Folders 18 & 19 of The Frigate Confederacy Papers 1776-1786, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Collection 222. Listed as Sergeant on the Confederacy and noted to be from Groton, Latham is mentioned in Silas Cleveland’s pension file #S-12486. A 21 January 1794 Treasury Department payment for claims of crew members of the Confederacy indicates that Amos Latham also served as Midshipman on the ship in addition to Sergeant of Marines prior to 23 July 1780, the date of settlement. This date is shortly after the Confederacy’s return from Martinique and before the sailing of her final ill-fated cruise. While his pension application states he served on the Confederacy until its capture on 14 April 1781, his name is not recorded in the Account Book and Roll of the Continental Ship Confederacy, June 1780-March 1781, item 629 located in Record Group 45 at the National Archives. One David Latham is the only individual with this surname mentioned. Despite family claims to have been released in Charleston, Amos Latham’s pension application indicates his discharge almost one year after the expiration of his three year enlistment in Philadelphia during August 1781. This is consistent with his claim to have been imprisoned on the Jersey prison ship and details of other crew members’ release from captivity while explaining his initial residency in Southwark after the war. The Connecticut Gazette of 14 April 1786, the fifth anniversary of the loss of the Confederacy, includes a report from Rio Essequibo dated 16 February that Amos Latham of New London, in command of a schooner, “lost all his stock & one man.” The same paper includes his name on a list of letters waiting to be picked up at the post office on 20 October of the same year. A Rhode Island newspaper, the United States Chronicle of 2 November 1786 indicates that all monies owed by yeoman Jesper Latham and Amos Latham, mariner of Groton, New London to mariner Lewis Morey have been repaid in full and placed on deposit with shipwright Robert Morey of North Kingston as of 30 September 1786. Of course, Lewis Mory entered on board the Confederacy as a midshipman about the same time as Amos Latham while Mory’s brother Robert was working on the ship. Jesper Latham was Amo’s older brother. One genealogical source suggests Amos Latham was first married to Mary Perkins, daughter of James Perkins, in Groton about 1785. Although both individuals appear in the Groton tax records of 1784, no confirmation of this marriage has yet been made. According to his pension application, after the war Amos Latham resided first in Southwark, Philadelphia, then Dumfries, VA before removing to Glynn County, GA. Dumfries is located on the Chesapeake Bay near Quantico, VA. His marriage to the daughter of Hillary Parsons, a prominent citizen of Glynn County, indicates Amos Latham relocated to that area by the 1800 marriage. His wife Jane and her mother were residents of the Neuse River area of Craven County, NC at the time of the 1790 Census. According a manuscript dated 8 May 1829 in The Papers of Andrew Jackson, Amos Latham was recommended as the lighthouse keeper at Cumberland Island, Camden County, GA- succeeding original keeper Robert Church- by Stephen Pleasonton and subsequently was appointed by the president. Latham had been living in Camden County since at least 1819, the year of his pension application. He served as keeper of the Cumberland Island Lighthouse from 1829 until 1838 when the eighty foot tall lighthouse was dismantled brick by brick, ferried across the St. Mary’s River and re-erected on the opposing shore upon the highest point of Amelia Island, FL. Amos Latham continued as keeper of the Amelia Island Lighthouse beginning in 1839, tending it’s fourteen lamps and reflectors until his death on 18 April 1842. Government records indicate his salary remained fixed at $400 per year from 1831 through 1835. As noted in Sallie McNeil’s sketch biography of Latham, Amos and his wife Jane were re-buried under the live oak trees shading the Morse family plot in the beautiful woods, or Bosque Bello Cemetery on North 14th Street in Fernandina when some lighthouse land was sold by the Coast Guard. The Morse plot was used as Amos Latham’s daughter Mary Ann (1810-1848) was first married to Joab Morse in 1814. After Morse’s death, Mary Ann remarried to Captain Samuel Cribb in 1837, the same year that Cribb and Mary Ann’s brother Captain George Washington Avery Latham (1815-1876) organized the first Association of Branch Pilots for Fernandina. George W. Latham’s daughter Jane Rebecca Latham married harbor pilot James Madison Morse and their son , Captain Edward Francis Morse was also a harbor pilot. Captain George W. A. Latham’s son George became a pilot as well. Amos Latham’s third named child Jane Maria Donnelly, following in her father footsteps, served between 1869-1871 as assistant to Amelia Lighthouse keeper Joseph H. Donnelly. Interestingly, the second-to-last civilian keeper of the lighthouse, Thomas J. O’Hagan was married to a direct descendant of Amos Latham. During a recent restoration project, a broken but original soap stone collar was discovered buried near the lighthouse. One piece was found to be carved with the initials “A L”.

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