Elisha Fuller, Seaman

Elisha Fuller. Elisha Fuller was born on 8 October 1761 in Lynn, MA to Elisha Fuller and Sarah Dispaw (aka Dispay). His parents intention to marry was published in Elisha’s hometown of Lynn on 25 December 1748 and their marriage occurred on 25 September 1750 in Sarah’s hometown of Chelsea. Their only son, Elisha had five sisters, Elizabeth, Abigail, Martha, Sarah and Lois, born between 1751 and 1768. According to an affidavit in his pension application #W-19303, Elisha Fuller enlisted during the Winter of 1777 and served on the Continental ship Hancock under Commodore John Manley until she was captured by the British warship Rainbow about three months after going on board. When he recorded this statement at age fifty-seven, Fuller’s memory was not precisely accurate concerning the dates and details of his service. He must have enlisted during the Spring of 1777 or the Winter of 1776 as the frigate Hancock sailed from Boston in late May 1777. She was surrendered to the HMS Rainbow on 8 July 1777, putting Fuller on the ship about April 1777. After his capture and detainment aboard the Rainbow for a “number of months”, Elisha Fuller indicates that he made “his escape” and returned to his native Lynn. The pension records of fellow Hancock marine Jacob Savage and future Confederacy crewmate Benjamin Rickard detail the confinement and escape. In pension application #W-24,902, Savage recalls he was “confined in prison about seven months. part of the time in irons. was then put on board the enemy’s ship Royal Bounty and ordered to Newport. after two attempts we succeeded in getting command of the ship and arrived at Marblehead in the month of February 1778. went to Boston. we were paid off for the twelve months”. The 360 ton Royal Bounty under the command of Thomas Compton and his crew of sixteen was a former Greenland trade vessel. She sailed from Halifax on 12 January 1778 with between 270 and 280 American prisoners bound for Rhode Island where they were to be exchanged for British prisoners. After her captain “Supres’d the Mutiny” first attempted by the prisoners on 13 January by threatening to have the accompanying British ship Cabot fire on the Royal Bounty and clear the decks, the imprisoned seamen and marines successfully mutinied when the Royal Bounty became isolated from her escort in a gale the following day. The American officer in command of the mutiny and prize-master appears to be 1st Lieutenant John Guliker originally of the American Tartar. According to www.awiatsea.com , “the passage was rough and smallpox was raging aboard the ship: fourteen of the prisoners died en route, including two who fell overboard.” The Royal Bounty arrived at Marblehead, MA on or about 24 January with the libeled ship sold at auction in March 1778. An account of the harsh treatment of the officers and crew of the frigate Hancock while detained can be found in the 5 February 1778 edition of Boston’s New England Chronicle. After his return, Fuller “immediately shipped again” on board the frigate Raleigh under Captain John Barry which was captured three days after sailing from Boston on 28 September 1778 by the Unicorn and Experiment. Evidently, Fuller was one of the 132 crewmen with 1st Lieutenant David Phipps and Marine Lieutenant Jabez Smith who were abandoned to the British on a desolate island in Penobscot Bay, ME after the ship was intentionally grounded. According to the pension application, he was carried to Halifax as a prisoner in the Autumn of 1778 and detained until the Spring of 1779, although it is not certain that the pension records are chronicling a second escape, parole or exchange or simply confusing the dates of the earlier escape. In any event, it is clear that Elisha Fuller entered on board the frigate Confederacy under Captain Seth Harding sometime prior to her 1 May 1779 departure from New London. According to Fuller’s testimony in Benjamin Rickard’s pension application #S-33563, he “served during her first cruize”. Presumably, Elisha Fuller left service on the Confederacy in Philadelphia prior to her late October 1779 second cruise with supercargo John Jay and his family. Fuller entered service on the frigate Trumbull early in 1780, based on his claim for service as Seaman on the Trumbull in the amount of $26.85 including interest to 15 November 1780 adjusted by the Treasury Department on 11 Feb 1794 and his pension application claim that he served on the ship about eight months. Nothing is known of his service after this time, however it is not out of the question that he may have been captured a third time on the Trumbull in August 1781. In the pension records, Elisha Fuller claims to have remained in the service of his country until after the cessation of hostilities in 1783, although this might well have been on a privateer. Interestingly, the pension file includes a 1914 letter from descendant Hattie D. Fuller which confuses naval veteran Elisha Fuller from Lynn and Charlestown with an army veteran from Needham who shares the same name. The mariner Elisha Fuller was married to Eleanor Tyler on 14 December 1788 by the Reverend James Freeman (1759-1835) in Lynn. His wife Eleanor, also known as Nelly, was born 7 August 1764 to Moses Tyler and Elinor Bridges. Just one year prior to performing the marriage, James Freeman was made “Rector, Minister, Priest, Pastor, and Ruling Elder” of Stone Chapel, or the King’s Chapel, in Boston where he ministered for forty-three years and became the first preacher in America to call himself Unitarian. Like Fuller, Freeman was active in service to the Revolutionary cause and for a time was confined on a prison ship. Subsequent to their marriage, the couple moved to Charlestown, MA where Fuller appears in the 1790 Boston Census records in a household of two males over sixteen years old living with three females. This suggests that Elisha Fuller, his bride of two years and their oldest daughter Hannah B. born 13 October 1790 were probably living with one set of their parents at this time. Hannah was followed by Abigail T. born 10 September 1791, Elisha D. born 25 October 1793, Freeman H. born 7 June 1799, William P. born 2 March 1802, Charles C. born 9 August 1805 and Isaac B. born 2 February 1808. The Direct Tax of 1798 records Elisha Fuller occupying a 420 square feet frame dwelling on a small lot owned by Benjamin Richardson on Cambridge Street East at Garden Street. Fuller first began collecting a Revolutionary War pension in the amount of $8 per month in April 1818. A mariner most of his life, at age fifty-nine in 1820, Elisha Fuller testified that he was a “day labourer unable to do much work.” At that time, in addition to his wife, one daughter, probably Abigail, and three sons William, Charles and Isaac were living at home although the 1820 Census data for Charlestown’s 3rd Parish does not correspond precisely with his testimony. It is likely that one of the couples’ sons was living with older brother Elisha Fuller Jr. and his wife Mary in Charlestown’s 1st Parish, as the census data suggests. Elisha Fuller died on Sunday 3 November 1822. The 1830 Census for Charlestown suggests that Eleanor Fuller is living with another old woman, her daughter and one of her three sons prior to establishing residency with son Charles the following year. Charles C. Fuller testified in a 1838 pension application to restore the widow’s half pension of $40 per year that his mother moved in with him in 1831. She was represented in her pension petition by Abraham Bigelow, a well known Cambridge attorney who represented Massachusetts at the convention which ratified the U.S. Constitution and whose son rose to the rank of Commodore in the Navy. Eleanor Fuller’s death on 20 May 1842 in Charlestown is noted in an obituary in the Boston Daily Courier. Charles, the son with whom she lived, a peddler, died in 1850.

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