David Phipps, Lieutenant

David Phipps. David Phipps, son of shipwright Danforth Phipps and Elizabeth Skillings Deering, was born 2 August 1741 at Falmouth, Casco Bay, ME and settled in New Haven, CT sometime prior to 1770. It has not yet been determined by this writer whether the David Phipps who was in command of the snow HMS Mohawk which participated in the August 1760 Battle of the Thousand Islands at Fort Levis in the upper St. Lawrence River during the French and Indian War is the nineteen year old subject of this essay or the future British naval captain of the same name. The Mohawk was originally constructed by the French in 1758 but was captured by the British at the Battle of Fort Niagara. Lieutenant Phipps, under the fleet command of Boston native and loyalist Captain Joshua Loring, brought the Mohawk with her sixteen 6-pounders, compliment of 90 seamen and thirty marines to bear on Fort Levis on the evening of 19 August 1760. The following day, the Mohawk ran aground under the French guns and was badly damaged, the officers and men forced to swim to safety. After the battle, she was refloated and sailed the Great Lakes until lost in 1764. Later that same year newspaper accounts report that our Phipps, from Falmouth in New England, sailed out of New York in May 1764 as Master of the sloop Industry. Captain David Phipps was married to Mary English in the First Congregational Church at New Haven by the Rev. Mr. Whittelsey on 13 June 1771. The twenty-six year old daughter of Benjamin English and Mary Dayton, Mary was born in New Haven on 29 September 1744. According to British shipping records for the West Indies, Phipps was master of the 30 ton sloop Dearing built in New Haven in 1770 and likely named for his brother who died that year on 11 September 1770. The Dearing cleared out of New Haven in March 1773 bound for Barbados. The sloop carried horses, livestock , staves and hoops to St. Christopher’s for owner Edward Maloy, returning with a cargo of water casks for ballast. Upon his return from this voyage, in 1774 David administered the estate of his older brother Roger Dearing Phipps who died four years earlier at the age of 35. During the course of the American Revolution, David Phipps served on the Alfred under Commodore Hopkins and on the sloop Providence, brig Cabot and frigates Raleigh, Warren, Trumbull, Boston and Confederacy. He was taken prisoner and exchanged three times during the war. According to his own testimony in the pension applications of Nathan Gould, Joshua Newhall, John Peters and Nehemiah Storer; Phipps was commissioned in February 1776. One month prior to that time on 8 January 1776, Phipps signed a document as Master of the ship Alfred. According to the Jonathan Mix Genealogy, during that same month of January, Phipps and nephew-in-law Jonathan Mix recruited approximately one hundred men and sailed from New London “to the mouth of the Delaware where they were detained by ice until March 15th” when they joined “with the fleet commanded by Ezekiel Hopkins, consisting of the ship Alfred, the Admiral’s; the ship Columbus, Captain Preble each mounting 36 guns; the (unnamed) brig and brig Cabot, Captain Hopkins, the commander’s son and sloop Providence and one more sloop and two schooners.” After command of their ship Alfred was taken by Commodore Hopkins, Phipps and Mix were ordered aboard the Providence under Captain John Hazard until the fleet’s arrival at New Providence. The Mix recollection is both fleshed out and somewhat contradicted by the story told on www.awiatsea.com which is drawn from correspondence between Gurdon Saltonstall and Silas Deane and the “Narrative of Charles Bulkeley.” According to this source Sailing Master David Phipps, along with Charles Bulkeley and Peter Richards among the eighteen men recruited by him with a number of others, entered on board the sloop Lizard under the command of Joshua Hempstead, Jr. on 13 January 1776 to sail for Reedy Island, PA. Sailing from New London six days later on 19 January 1776, the Lizard’s passage was rough and she landed the naval recruits in New Jersey where they were picked up and delivered to the fleet about 13 February 1776. It was at this time Phipps was sent to the Cabot, explaining his testimony concerning the date of his commission. He was formally commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of the brig Cabot in the Continental Navy on 22 August 1776, where he served until late that year. At the conclusion of the successful expedition for which Hopkins was later criticized and eventually lost his command, the fleet sailed for Rhode Island but was chased into New London by the waiting British fleet. Remaining at New London until the brig was refitted, Lieutenant Phipps and the Cabot under Captain Elisha Hinman then cruised to intercept a fleet homeward bound from Jamaica. According to the Jonathan Mix Genealogy, “Off the western islands they fell in with the fleet of five ships loaded with sugar, rum and coffee, two days later returned to safety with more prisoners on board then crewmen. Three weeks later a three month cruise began. Took seven British ships and brigs – burning two, manning four, of which two got in and two were retaken.” On 28 September 1776, the Cabot took as a prize the three-decker Westmoreland outward bound from Jamaica with a cargo of rum and sugar under Captain Moore with Lieutenant Phipps placed on board as prizemaster. David Phipps received a commission as 2nd Lieutenant on the Trumbull under Captain Dudley Saltonstall on 10 October 1776 serving through 1777. On 9 January 1778, he left the Trumbull with about forty men to serve as 1st Lieutenant on the Warren under Captain John B. Hopkins lying at Providence. Later in 1778, he was 1st Lieutenant on the Raleigh under Captain John Barry on her ill-fated cruise out of Boston. He was taken prisoner with most of the ship’s crew to New York until exchanged. An interesting letter from David Phipps to Commissioner of Prisoners Thomas Shaw dated 6 January 1779 at New Haven on behalf of Midshipman William Ward now belonging to the seventy-four gun British frigate Culloden is found in the American Revolution Collection of the Connecticut Historical Society. Ward presumably served under and was captured with Phipps on the Raleigh as the Portsmouth native is noted as Coxswain on her original crew list dated August 1777. Phipps’ naval service on the frigate Boston is supposed to have occurred between his release from captivity and his service on the Confederacy between January 1779 and August 1780. According to his testimony in Lewis Evan’s pension application #S-34820, Phipps was commissioned as 2nd Lieutenant of the Confederacy at Philadelphia on 22 August 1780. The Account Book and Roll of the Continental Ship Confederacy 1780-1781 at the National Archives outlines Phipp’s recruiting activities on behalf of the ship during late September 1780. He was serving as Lieutenant on the Confederacy when captured again according to “Seth Harding: Mariner” by James L. Howard. A deposition in the pension file W-2503 of Cornelius Wells names Gross as 1st Lieutenant, Phipps as 2nd Lieutenant and Gregory as 3rd Lieutenant on the Confederacy’s final cruise to Cape Francois. After his parole, at a meeting of the Council of Safety at Hartford, CT on 28 May 1781, “Lt. David Phipps requested to have the liberty of a Flag to New York” in order to obtain the freedom of the balance of his crew. “He was permitted to go under flag from New Haven by water to New York under the direction of Samuel Bishop, Esquire in compliance with his parole.” Phipps was allowed only L 15 by the state toward the costs of this endeavor, the balance to be paid at his own expense. Even this sum remained outstanding until paid by the Committee of Pay Table War Losses years after the war. According to a letter in the Robert Morris Papers, yet another request for payment to one Mr. Edwards solicited by David Phipps for an unknown reason was denied by Paymaster of the Navy Joseph Pennell on 29 May 1782. Phipps’ logbook reputedly survived the Revolution; however, its present whereabouts has not been determined by this author. After completion of his service in the Continental Navy, on 17 September 1782 David Phipps was commissioned to command the Connecticut privateer brigantine Hetty. The Hetty, with eight guns and a crew of thirty-five men, was owned by Elias Shipman & Company of New Haven. In addition to Phipps and Shipman, the ship’s bonders were Jonas Prentice and Michael Todd of New Haven. “The Reminiscences of Thomas Painter” note Captain Phipps was in command of the armed brig Hetty fitting out at the New Haven wharf and “calculating to keep company down the Sound.” According to “The Bulkeley Genealogy” by Donald Lines Jacobus, David Phipps also commanded the privateer sloop Rebach with six guns and 36 men. The subject of this short biography is not to be confused with either David or Daniel Goffe Phipps from New Haven who served on the Connecticut state ship Defence, privateer brigantine Nancy and armed schooner Betsey; or with the British loyalist David Phipps of Cambridge who was commissioned Lieutenant in the Royal Navy in 1779 and was subsequently named Master and Commander of the sloop Allegiance. Captain David Phipps and his wife Mary English had six children. Oldest daughter Mary was born 21 August 1772. She was married to Samuel Bird on 20 October 1805 in New Haven and died in 1821. A number of letters written by David Phipps to his daughter Mary Phipps Bird then residing at Birdville, GA in 1795, the year after his wife’s death, apparently survive. Second daughter Sarah, known as Sally, was born on 26 November 1774. She was married to the Reverend Joseph Mix on 11 March 1797 in New Haven and died of smallpox in 1819. Third daughter Elizabeth was born at the dawn of the American Revolution on 8 April 1776. She was married to Jared Mansfield on 2 March 1800 at New Haven. Yale-educated, Colonel Jared Mansfield was the author of ”Essays in Mathematics and Physics” and was appointed by Jefferson to be the first professor of mathematics at West Point. Afterward, Mansfield was surveyor-general of the Northwest Territory before retiring to Cincinnati. Elizabeth, “a woman of superior character, refinement and culture”, died 12 April 1850 at Fishkill, NY. Thanks to the graciousness of one descendant, a tender letter from David Phipps to his daughter Elizabeth dated 18 February 1805 can be found online at: freepages.genealogy.rootsweb.ancestry.com/…/davidphipps1741.htm . Other documents associated with Captain Phipps are extant and can be found in the Jared Mansfield Papers at the Ohio Historical Society. Fourth child and oldest son David Phipps, Junior was born 16 January 1778. The unmarried forty-four year old was drowned near Fort Diamond in New York Harbor near the present day Verrazano Narrows Bridge on 6 August 1822. He is buried either at Trinity Churchyard in Lower Manhattan near the site of his death or at Trinity Church cemetery in New Haven, his father’s church. Second son Roger Dearing Phipps was born 28 July 1782 and died on 25 September 1794 of yellow fever. A sixth child died within a hour of its birth on 15 March 1785. The 1790 Census includes David Phipps, four females- his wife and three daughters and both sons under the age of sixteen. The 1800 Census includes just David Phipps and one female between the ages of 26-44, presumably his daughter Mary aged twenty-eight and yet unmarried. According to newspaper advertisements, Phipps commanded a number of merchant vessels after the war. Just prior to his induction into the Society of Cincinnati in Connecticut on 11 September 1787, David Phipps is noted as arriving in New Haven in May 1787 on an unnamed ship from the West Indies. When the Revenue Cutter Service, precursor of the Coast Guard, was founded in August 1790 as part of the Department of Treasury; Phipps was among a number of Continental Navy veteran officers seeking a commission. A letter from Tobias Lear to Alexander Hamilton dated 11 December 1790 reveals his intent, “I have the honor to enclose for your inspection a letter from & recommendation of Mr. David Phipps of Connecticut…for the command of one of the revenue cutters.” No captaincy was forthcoming, Phipps attributing the reason to his political affiliation with the Jeffersonian Republicans who opposed Hamilton’s Federalist policies. Soon after, another merchant command was the new ship Connecticut which sailed from New Haven in February 1792 to Ireland, returning that same Spring via Philadelphia. Phipps also served as Inspector of the Port of New Haven in 1793. He is noted as Master of the new 80 ton sloop Caroline Packet sailing out of New York in July 1794 to St. Mark’s in Hispaniola. It is not certain if Captain Phipps had returned from this voyage before the death of his wife Mary in her fifty-first year on 27 October 1794. She was one of the last victims of the yellow fever which swept through New Haven that Summer and Fall, only after the fever first claimed their twelve year old son Roger Dearing Phipps one month earlier. An obituary published two days after her death reveals that Mary English Phipps “was at first seized with the putrid Fever which degenerated with autumnal bilious Fever, of which she died on the eighteenth day.” A scholarly letter “on the Origin, Symptoms, Progress and Disappearance of the Yellow Fever in New Haven” written and published by her physician Dr. Monson described Mary’s death dispassionately with medical preciseness, “Capt. David Phipps’s wife, on the ninth day of her illness, was affected with the hiccoughs, and died on the eighteenth. On the seventeenth, she expectorated matter of an orange green colour, and extremely fetid.—I have mentioned this circumstance as a rare occurrence; very few being affected with hiccoughing, or subsultus tendinum.” Mother and son were interred side by side in the rear corner of the family plot at Lot 44 on Cypress Avenue in the Grove Street Cemetery at New Haven. The boy’s epitaph reads “How Blessed are they who in their tender youth, With Native goodness and unfulfilled truth, Selected are from this low world of Strife, To sing their great creator’s praise in an immortal Life.” His mother’s finishes with a quote from Proverbs 31:28, “Distinguished for piety and Benevolence in a Christian Life, her children Rise up and call her Blessed, her Husband also and praiseth her.” The following year, Phipps is again noted as Master of the sloop Dolphin out of New York in August 1795. In September 1797, David Phipps was Master of the schooner Lucy bound for New York out of Jamaica when the ship was captured by the French privateer Barcelona and ordered to Guadeloupe. She had sailed to Jamaica from Mole St. Nicholas thirty days before. On 20 September, the Lucy was retaken by the British frigate Ceres and sent to Halifax. Captain Phipps prevailed upon the crew to make port in New York. A “Chart of Signals” issued to Captain David Phipps, Master of the Schooner Lucy of New York dated 25 August 1797 and purportedly found in his house on Fair Street is in the collection of the New Haven Colony Historical Society, donated by Mrs. Jennette (Howard) Bradley in 1902. This donation was accompanied by a volume of “Maps of Various Portions of the World of Early Dates” supposed to have been collected and bound by Phipps. David Phipps was commissioned Lieutenant in the newly re-organized United States Navy on 2 July 1798, the same rank he had attained in the Continental Navy twenty-two years before. Phipps’ obituary in the 5 April 1825 edition of the Connecticut Herald suggests that he would have been offered a higher commission by President Adams when the Department of the Navy was formed had he not been sailing on a foreign cruise when the ranks were filled. Christopher McKee in “Edward Preble: a naval biography 1761-1807” reveals that during “the 1790’s Phipps persistently sought a captain’s appointment, either in a revenue cutter or a ship of the Quasi-War Navy”. McKee somewhat unfairly and ungraciously concludes that Phipps was only “an able second or third in command…(who) lacked the inner drive to assume successfully the lonely ultimate responsibility” of a captain. His merchant career suggests otherwise and perhaps the political intrigue he claimed conspired against his promotion, in concert with poor timing, was more responsible for naval command passing him by. Receiving orders at New Haven to report to the frigate Essex under the command of Captain Edward Preble at Salem, CT on 15 November 1799; David Phipps joined the ship on 28 November and the fifty-eight year old was named her 2nd Lieutenant on 2 December 1799. Four days later, Captain Preble wrote that “Lt. Phipps has been confined to his berth since his arrival in consequence of indisposition”. Having regained a measure of health, Phipps joined several other officers in condemning the intoxicated behavior of 1st Lieutenant of Marines Simon W. Geddes of the Essex on 29 December 1799. As Captain Preble prepared for his yearlong cruise to Java, his concern for Phipps’ health increased, “Lieutenant Phipps is very infirm and so far advanced in life, with a broken constitution, that, although he is a worthy man, I do not expect it will be in his power to render any essential service on board, but am inclined to think, from present appearances, that he never will return.” The Essex sailed from Newport on 6 January 1800, returning to New York Harbor on 28 November 1800 with the old Lieutenant at his assigned station. A couple of months later, a Mercantile Advertiser request for the return of deserters indicates that Phipps was the Commanding Officer of the Essex in New York on 20 February 1801. David Phipps was discharged a second time on 15 April 1801 when the Navy was downsized under the Peace Establishment Act. However, Phipps was promptly reactivated by the sympathetic incoming administration of Thomas Jefferson on 1 June 1801; although his pay rate was downgraded to warrant officer as Sailing Master. After his return to duty, Phipps first served with the frigate Constellation while under repair in Philadelphia and then on the thirty-six gun frigate Congress. A list of warrant officers on board ships in ordinary in the Eastern Branch at the Washington Navy Yard on 20 November 1802 identifies David Phipps as Sailing Master of the Congress, although he is noted on liberty. Soon after the Congress was returned to active duty for a cruise to the Mediterranean under Captain John Rodgers, Phipps was furloughed on 28 June 1804 and did not see service again for a number of years. In a letter to his daughter Elizabeth dated 18 February 1805, David Phipps writes that he enjoys “the Liberty of being at home on half pay, subject to an immediate call for duty.” It is not known precisely when Phipps was called back to duty, however his recall is likely associated with newspaper advertisements appearing in March 1809 and again in March 1813, “to let” half of a two-story dwelling house on Fair Street in New Haven “convenient for a person doing business on the wharf”. The timing of these ads parallels the Navy’s recommissioning of vessels in preparation for service during the War of 1812. We know that Captain Phipps was advertising to rent his half of the double house he had built due to the identification of his neighbor William Brintnall who appears in the 1790, 1810 and 1820 Census records. One might speculate that the A. Mack, who appears to occupy Phipps’ residence during the 1810 Census, was the successful respondent to the naval officer’s 1809 ad. Later after his death, the double house was occupied by one John Beach and the “two maiden ladies” Grace and Betsey Brintnall, presumably the daughters of William Brintnall. At age seventy-five and still a revolutionary, this time in response to the oppression of Congregationalist doctrine and discipline; Captain David Phipps was one of 107 communicants to be confirmed at the consecration ceremony of Trinity Church at New Haven on Wednesday 21 February 1816. Christopher McKee sums up the twilight of Phipps’ naval career with the observation that the old mariner was “increasingly compromised by age and poor health, continued to serve one low-challenge assignment or another until his death.” In 1817, Phipps is recorded as Sailing Master of the steam frigate Fulton in New York which had been launched at that place several years earlier on 29 October 1814. It is not known if he was a “plank-owner”, one of the officers and crew with the ship from her commissioning. The following year in 1818, seventy-seven year old Phipps signed a deposition for a pension application of a fellow Continental Navy veteran as Sailing Master, US Navy. He is recorded as serving in New York that year; however, no specific assignment is identified. Between the years 1819 and 1824 when he turned eighty-three years old, Captain David Phipps continued in his assignment as Sailing Master of the steam frigate Fulton. It is written that it was the captain’s “annual custom, in the later years of his life, to show his loyalty and love of country by donning his uniform upon the Fourth of July and sitting out on the porch of (his) house.” A publication entitled, “The Reunion of the Descendants of Daniel Shelton at Birmingham, CT” suggests that Captain David Phipps was remarried sometime after the death of his first wife Mary to Abigail Hurd Birdsall, the widow of William Birdsall of Peekskill, NY. Born on 26 November 1758, Abigail was the daughter of Andrew Hurd and Mary Shelton of Old Mill, Stratford, CT. If true, the marriage likely occurred between 1800 and 1817. No other genealogical evidence has been found to support this claim; however, a list of letters waiting to be picked up at the post office at New Haven published in the Columbian Register on 15 February 1817 includes the sequential names of Capt. David Phipps and Abigail Phipps. The 1820 Census indicates the old seafarer is living with a woman over the age of forty-five along with a young female born between 1804 and 1810. Perhaps it is this girl who precipitated Captain Phipps interest in the fledgling boarding “School for Young Misses” operated by Mrs. Mix and Mrs. Tripp in Hamden; his association suggested by a newspaper advertisement of 12 April 1820. Captain David Phipps died on 26 March 1825 and is buried between daughters Elizabeth and Mary along Cypress Avenue in the Grove Street Cemetery at New Haven. Abigail Phipps has no marker in the family plot and may be buried with his son in Trinity Churchyard. An octant believed to be Captain Phipps’ has been passed down through the family is in the possession of a living descendant.

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