Frederick Calkins, Master’s Mate
by Joseph Ross
“Man that is born of a woman is of few days and full of trouble. He cometh forth like a flower, and is cut down: he fleeth also as a shadow, and continueth not.” 1 The ancient wisdom literature of the biblical Job captures the essence of the brevity and finality of mortality common to all men of every faith. Everyman must face the shared reality that the evidence of one’s life quickly evaporates with death. A man’s place in history is largely limited to three short generations. A generation of deeds and contemporaries, a generation of children who remember the man and some of his deeds well and finally, a generation of children’s children who remember little and only vaguely the man and his footprints in time and space. Rarely does the world take note of a man’s life beyond the scraps of paper that gather dust in dark attics and inaccessible vaults of public record rooms and research libraries. To such a fate most are destined; excepted only kings and generals, captains and commanders whose fits and feats fill the pages of our schoolbooks. History often written in words of self-promotion and inordinate attention to the few. Acta Non Verba, motto of the United States Merchant Marine Academy, summarizes another perspective of history. A story told through observation and critical examination of “deeds, not words.” A favorite high school English teacher was fond of suggesting only “kooks and queerish people write history, normal folk are too busy living life to write about it!”
So it is for Frederick Calkins. Born to an age full of trouble. Known to us only through the writings of both those who loved him and others who felt nothing especially toward him. In the documents of his life, particularly the Revolutionary War pension records authored decades after his death; we observe the details of Frederick Calkins’ life.I In the details of his life, the evidence of his presence, is a story worth telling. Worth remembering. A mariner’s story.
We met Frederick Calkins in the roster of the sloop Dolphin, one of twenty-six Connecticut Ships-of-War to serve in the American Revolution. Our acquaintance began with the acquisition of an invoice for four pounds eleven shillings dated 12 May 1778 in Norwich for nine days work on mast repairs to the Dolphin by one Isaac Palmer. The eighty-ton ten-gun sloop sailing out of British-occupied Newport was a prize of the fifty-ton four-gun schooner Spy commanded by the daring Captain Robert Niles. She was captured off Long Island on 10 September 1777. Purchased at auction by the State of Connecticut shortly thereafter on 29 November, Niles was appointed her master. Frederick Calkins, Mate is listed among nine others of “Master Nile’s Men,” serving on the Dolphin from 12 October 1777 to 25 February 1778.2 And so began our search for one man’s footprints in an age of colossal challenge and consequential change.
The oldest of son of Mary Prentiss (or Prentice) and William Calkins, Frederick Calkins was born on Saturday 14 January 1749 in New London, Connecticut.II His twenty-two year old mother was the daughter of Phebe Harris Crank and the late Stephen Prentiss, Jr. of New London. Mary was married to Frederick’s father less than three years before on 20 May 1746 in the “old style.” His twenty-four year old father William Calkins, also born in New London, was the son of Joseph Calkins and Lucretia Turner of Norwich.III
The announcement of their impending wedding is recorded in the diary of Joshua Hempstead 3 of New London, “Sund 4 (May 1746) Rainy Day. Mr Chauncey of Boston pr in ye foren & Mr Taylor of Melton aftern. I was at meeting all day. Wm Caulking & Mary Prentiss publisht.”IV The Calkins’ family history in the Norwich community went back generations beyond Frederick’s father and grandfather to great-grandfather David and to his great-great grandfather Hugh, one of the “Welsh Company” to settle this area in the late seventeenth century. Hugh Calkins, patriarch of the Calkins clan in America, emigrated from Chepstow in Wales with a large congregation following their minister the Reverend Richard Blinman. They first traveled to Mansfield, then to Gloucester in 1642 and finally to New London in 1650. Blinman’s pulpit would eventually pass in 1724 to Eliphalet Adams (1708-1753), called “the father of all the Indian Missionary work done in this area.”4 While founding the Indian schools at Lyme and Groton and serving as trustee of Yale from 1720-1740, Adams presided over “a happy revival” in the New London church.
Frederick Calkins’ father William, the second of ten children, was baptized at two months old on 28 June 1724 with four others by Eliphalet Adams in the same year of his calling to the First Church of New London. His baptism is also recorded in the Hempstead diary, “Sund 28 (June 1724) fair. Mr ad. pr al day. 5 Boys Babtized Ja Rogers Junrs, Lemuel, Jno Lamberts. Thos ; William Dixons William. Jo. Caulk- ings Wm. Will Minors Son Joseph one Daniel.”5 Frederick’s mother Mary Prentiss was also baptized by Eliphalet Adams just two years later on 10 July 1726.6 Eliphalet Adam’s long ministry at this church ending with his death in 1753, has been characterized as an “even-keeled” passage through the emotional storm of the Great Awakening which culminated with the 6 March 1743 “burning of the books” at the head of Hallam Street in New London. Four years after his death, great-grandson of Increase Mather, Mather Byles Jr. (1734-1814) succeeded Eliphalet Adams to the pulpit of the Calkins’ family church. Reverend Mather Byles Sr. of Boston delivered the sermon to the congregation of 160 at his son’s ordination and installation on 18 November 1757. Although the Harvard educated Byles is described as a talented and “eloquent preacher” like his father, the situation in the church at the time is painted as “very bleak.”7 In the interim between pastorates services were conducted by deacons, neighboring ministers and William Adams, eldest son of the late pastor. However, the pulpit is described as “oftener vacant”.8 Perhaps for this reason no records of infant baptisms can be found for the older Calkins siblings- Frederick, Phebe, John Prentiss or Hannah- in the lists of either Adams or Byles. Most certainly, it was during this time that young Frederick would develop his earliest memories in the church.
When Frederick was just thirteen years old, his thirty-eight year old father William Calkins died on Sunday 31 October 1762 leaving a pregnant mother of five months widowed and in the care of six young children. It is difficult to imagine the impact of this death on the large family, particularly on the oldest son Frederick. The circumstances of his untimely passing, as well as, the details of his life remain shrouded in historical darkness. Probate records dated 14 December 1762 value William’s estate at just over eighty-four pounds lawful money. An inventory itemizes the many of the Calkins’ household belongings including: “1 old felt hat, 1 large looking glass, 1 old trunk, 1 old Chest, 1 Gun, 1 Bible, 1 Chest of Drawers Partly finished.” Also included are “17 acres of Land with Buildings thereon” valued at fifty-one pounds. Both the inventory and probate records are signed by the thirty-six year old widow Mary Calkins’ younger brother Stephen Prentiss.9
“served his time before he was of age a number of years with one Capt Carew of Norwich Landing and was trained up to the sea faring business and that he followed the sea until he was 39 or 40 years old.” [Roger Huntington] V
Presumably with the advice of her thrice-married mother Phebe Harris Edgerton, Mary Calkins and her brother Stephen Prentiss of New LondonVI acting as guardian, arranged for the apprenticeship of Frederick Calkins as a mariner to Stephen’s brother-in-law, thirty-two year old Captain Simeon Carew of Norwich Landing.VII Frederick was indentured at age fourteen on Monday 25 April 1763 to serve until his twenty-first birthday.10 In executing the contract, young Frederick bound himself “of his own free Will and Accord… to learn the Art, Trade or Mystery of Navigation.” The Prentiss and Calkins families were well acquainted with the Carew family even beyond the relationship between Frederick’s Uncle Stephen and his master. Simeon’s younger brother Captain Joseph CarewVIII was to be married to Eunice Edgerton, daughter of Frederick’s maternal grandmother Phebe and Lieutenant John Edgerton II just two years after the youngster’s apprenticeship commenced. Frederick’s beloved grandmother would not live to celebrate the marriage however, as she died on 29 July 1763 and was buried in Old Norwich Town Cemetery just three months after young Frederick went to work at sea for Captain Carew. The loss of her husband and mother within ten months must have been almost too much for the grieving widow Mary Prentiss Calkins to bear. It would be another five years before the mariner’s mother was to remarry to Simon Gager on 6 August 1767 when Frederick Calkins was eighteen years old. It was the second marriage for both as Simon Gager had lost his former wife of twenty-five years Sarah Manwaring just four months earlier. Mary Calkins Gager would bear her eighth child Mary, Simon Gager’s first child, three years later on 16 June 1770.11
“my late husband Frederick Calkins commenced a seafaring life when he was 14 or 15 years old … and that when he was in the Sea Service he was always a cabin boy when he was young and afterwards Mate and Captains Mate.” [Annis Calkins]
Frederick’s seafaring life began like many mariners of the day- as cabin boy. The position of cabin boy had long been the starting point of a trajectory of military and merchant sea service. Too young and inexperienced for midshipman or seaman duties, the cabin boy worked long hours acting as a servant for the ship officers- passing messages, running errands, caring for clothes, serving meals and even serving the crew as “beer drawer”. He was expected to learn all duties of a sailor, often under strict discipline, as he was groomed for a position of eventual shipboard authority. In this regard, Frederick Calkins’ training conformed to the traditional model for English maritime training employed for centuries; like Sir Francis Drake who two hundred years earlier was taken onboard at fifteen, working his way up to captain’s mate at the age of twenty-five. It also paralleled that of notable contemporaries like Stephen Girard who started as cabin boy on his father’s French ships at age fourteen, making first mate nine years later at age twenty-three and John Paul Jones who also began as an apprentice mariner, indentured for seven years to English merchant John Younger. Jones became first mate at nineteen years old and was chief mate on a slaving ship when he completed his apprenticeship at age twenty-one in 1768. Leaving the “abominable trade”, Paul Jones as he was known at the time, was appointed master the following year. It is not likely the physical duties of cabin boy presented any special difficulties for Frederick Calkins as he and his brother John Prentiss Calkins, were both noted for their “muscular ability.”12 It is equally unlikely that the young Calkins experienced the kind of abuse that some apprentice mariners experienced at the hand of a cruel master. Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail recounts how Calkins’ contemporary Ashley Bowen “was whipped with the ‘cat’ by Boston Captain Peter Hall for dirtying his master’s towel while scouring down the aftercabin.”13
Frederick Calkins would have received an excellent mariner’s training under Captain Carew at Norwich Landing. Now known as Norwich and formerly as Chelsea, Norwich Landing is located at the convergence of the Shetucket and Yantic Rivers where they form the Thames River in Connecticut. A local center of commerce, sloops and freight boats were regularly sailing the Thames as early as 1753. “In 1731, Gov. Joseph Talcott reported that in the entire colony, there were 44 trading vessels that had a total capacity of 456 tons. By the eve of the Revolutionary War, the number of vessels had quadrupled and their total tonnage multiplied by twenty-fold.”14 Frederick Calkins’ earliest seafaring experience was gained on the sloop Eagle under Captain Carew as she traveled between Norwich and “Greene’s Wharff” in Boston.15 Two years into his apprenticeship, newspaper records indicate the ship was advertising “to take in Freight for Connecticut” just before she cleared out of Boston Custom House late in April 1765.16 Carew is again reported sailing in and out of Boston from Connecticut the following April.17 Later that year in September 1766, Carew and the sloop Eagle are entered in the New London Custom House from Halifax.18 The following year on 28 September 1767, Simeon Carew and the sloop Exchange were entered into New York from Halifax again.19 Both the Eagle and Exchange were characteristic of the many sloops operating out of Norwich and New London participating in the Coasting and West Indies trades. They were usually single-masted with a long bowsprit and fitted out with a large gaff-rigged mainsail, often a square topsail, and several jibs.20 Typically, the ships were locally built and thirty to seventy tons. “With livestock…transported under awnings above deck, the small vessels were notoriously unsteady.”21 The ships were typically less than seventy feet long, carried a cargo of less than five tons and were manned by a master, mate, two to four seamen and a cabin boy. The crews were not large relative to the size of the ship as merchants deliberately kept overhead costs low. During this time, “carrying the bare minimum of crewmen and stinting on food were standard practices in the merchant marine.”22
Frederick Calkins’ apprenticeship contract required his master to “Covenant and Promise to Teach and Instruct his said Apprentice… in the Art, Trade or Calling of a Mariner” while providing his charge with “Good and Sufficient Meat, Drink, Washing and Lodging.” In order to “Learn him the Art of Navigation,” Captain Carew would have insured that Frederick’s navigation workbook was filled with hand-copied lessons including: Geometrical Problems, Plain Trigonometry, Mariner’s Compass, Plain Sailing, Parallel Sailing, Middle Latitude Sailing, Mercator Sailing, Oblique Trigonometry, Oblique Sailing, Current Sailing, Variation of the Compass, Nautical and Geographical Definitions and Journal Keeping of a Voyage. In addition to mastering such texts as Euclide’s Elements: The Whole 15 Books, Compendiously Demonstrated with Archimedes Theorems of the Sphere and the Cylinder, Frederick Calkins would have been instructed at sea in “all the intricacies of seamanship and ship handling, the proper set and trim of the sails, (and) the uses of all the myriad ropes and spars” that secured and controlled the masts.23 Since it was common for New England sea captains involved in the West Indies trade to make two voyages each year, we can presume that Frederick Calkins made multiple cruises to the West Indies “before the mast” during this time of apprenticeship prior to his posting as mate.IX The fledgling pre-war West Indies trade exporting horses and other livestock, fish, flour, provisions and lumber and returning with imported cargoes of rum, molasses, cotton and sugar would prove to be the training ground for many of the Continental Navy’s young officers. It is also reasonable to assume that the young mariner spent ample time with his family when in port, attending church with other “West-enders” at the New Concord Society in Norwich. At the expiration of his apprenticeship on 25 January 1770 on the occasion of his twenty-first birthday, Captain Simeon Carew was obligated to give Frederick Calkins “Two Good Suits of Apparroll for all Parts of his Body, one for Holy Days, the other for Working Days.”
Certainly it was this good suit for Holy Days that the twenty-three year old Frederick wore to Bozrah Congregational Church on Sunday 3 May 1772, the day he received adult baptism and was administered communion.24 The day was special indeed as his twenty year old sister Phebe and sixteen year old sister Hannah were also baptized and received into the full communion of the church at the same time. As Frederick’s younger siblings Temperance, Elizabeth and William were baptized as young children in the Bozrah Church, only nineteen year brother John Prentiss Calkins had not offered a public profession of his faith in the church.X It is not precisely known when the Calkins family was dismissed from the First Church of New London and began worship at the New Concord Society, subsequently known as the Bozrah Congregational Church. One conjectures that it was probably 1767 when the widow Mary Calkins moved from New London to Norwich to marry West-ender Simon Gager. One year before, in what became known as the Rogerene disturbances, the Calkins’ family church in New London was thrown into great distress. After a decade of service, minister Mather Byles Jr. abruptly quit the call on 12 April 1768 and shortly thereafter boarded a packet boat to Newport. It is interesting to speculate if nineteen year old indentured mariner Frederick Calkins was working aboard the vessel of Byles’ exiting transit. The reverend would travel on to Boston where he eventually became an Episcopalian.
Bozrah, part of both the original “nine miles square” Norwich and the Parish of West Farms, was incorporated in 1786. Bozrah is the name of the Syrian town referred to Micah 2:12 “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold: they shall make great noise by reason of the multitude of men.” The congregational church at Bozrah or Norwich Plains was first organized in 1733 and called West Society. By the 1760’s it was known as the New Concord Society or the Fourth Society of Norwich. Frederick Calkins’ minister at Bozrah was the Reverend Benjamin Throop (1712-1785). Ordained and installed at the New Concord Society in 1738, Throop also served as Chaplain to the Crown Point Expedition of 3,500 British and colonials against the French at Fort St. Frederic in 1755. Throop was pastor when Calkins experienced the spiritual awakening that would define his Christian faith for the balance of his life. Sometime between when he “owned the covenant” earlier at New Concord and his baptism and acceptance into full communion in May 1772, Frederick Calkins came to experience a personal faith in Jesus Christ.25 While it is impossible to know precisely when and how he met the carpenter who could walk on water and command the winds and waves, one can imagine that it may have been on the deck of Carew’s sloop in the midst of a West Indies hurricane or North Atlantic gale. Merchant mariners like Frederick Calkins are whom the psalmist writes of, “They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep. For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! Let them exalt him also in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.” 26
The statement of faith Calkins earlier “owned” was the controversial Halfway Covenant, “I do heartily take and avouch this one God who is made known to us in the Scripture by the name of God the Father, and God the Son even Jesus Christ, and God the Holy Ghost to be my God, according to the tenor of the Covenant of Grace; Wherein he hath promised to be a God to the Faithful and their seed after them in their Generations, and taketh them to be his People, and therefore unfeighnedly repenting of all my sins, I do give up myself wholly unto this God to believe in, love, serve and Obey Him sincerely and faithfully according to this written word, against all the temptations of the Devil, the World, and my own flesh and this unto death. I do also consent to be a Member of this particular Church, promising to continue steadfastly in fellowship with it, in the public Worship of God, to submit to the Order, Discipline and Government of Christ in it, and to the Ministerial teaching, guidance and oversight of the Elders of it, and to the brotherly watch of Fellow Members: and all this according to God’s Word, and by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ enabling me thereunto. Amen.”XI To the twenty-first century ear, the Halfway Covenant reads as a perfectly acceptable even conservative statement of faith. However, to the generation of Frederick Calkins it represented an intellectual adherence to traditional religious doctrine that lacked expression or evidence of personal experiential faith. Full membership and the administration of the sacraments including adult baptism and the Lord’s Supper were reserved only for those free of scandal, orthodox in belief and who willingly offered public testimony of spiritual regeneration. No doubt, the entire Calkins and Gager families were present for Frederick Calkins’ profession of faith two weeks after Easter Sunday 1772. It is likely his betrothed Annis Huntington who grew up in the “Great Plains” of Bozrah also witnessed this solemn service as they would be married just seven months later. Annis too would “own the covenant” the following year on Thanksgiving Thursday 25 November 1773 at the First Congregational Church of Norwich, just two months after the birth of their first child.XII
“that a short time before we were married he studied navigation one winter at Norwich Landing” [Annis Calkins]
Between the completion of his apprenticeship in January of 1770 and his marriage to Annis Huntington almost three years later in December 1772, it is fair to assume that Frederick Calkins made several additional West Indies voyages as mate or even master. He would have served on many shorter cruises if he was working one of the coastal trade ships or packet boats. Liverpool and Halifax, Nova Scotia were other common destinations for the Norwich and New London sea captains where some, like Seth Harding, maintained second homes. His wife indicates that just before their marriage in 1772, Calkins received some advanced training in navigation. This time of concentrated study was common to the process of advancing towards command of a ship. While we are not privy to the precise date of Frederick Calkins’ promotion and posting to position of mate, it is certain that he would have been tested by examination and granted the rate by either Captain Carew at sea by a local board of experienced peers ashore. No doubt during this time, the young bachelor was aspiring to his own command and accumulating the means to prepare for marriage and the setting up his own household. A tantalizing newspaper article suggests that during the seven months between his communion ceremony in May and his marriage ceremony in December 1772, Frederick Calkins shipped out on an ill-fated cruise to the West Indies as master of an unnamed schooner. Upon his arrival in New York on 26 September 1772, Captain Jeremiah Harris reported the effects of “a most violent Hurricane…which drove several Vessels from their Anchors, three of whom were lost” at St. Martins one month earlier in late August. The three ships included “a Schooner, Caulkins, Master of Norwich, in Connecticut.”27
The extent of devastation generated by this storm was recorded in a published letter from seventeen year old Alexander Hamilton to his father, “I take up my pen just to give you an imperfect account of one of the most dreadful Hurricanes that memory or any records whatever can trace, which happened here on the 31st ultimo at night. It began about dusk, at North, and raged very violently till ten o’clock. Then ensued a sudden and unexpected interval, which lasted about an hour. Meanwhile the wind was shifted round to the South West point, from whence it returned with redoubled fury and continued so ’till near three o’clock in the morning. Good God! what horror and destruction. Its impossible for me to describe or you to form any idea of it. It seemed as if a total dissolution of nature was taking place. The roaring of the sea and wind, fiery meteors flying about it in the air, the prodigious glare of almost perpetual lighting, the crash of falling houses, and the ear-piercing shrieks of the distressed, were sufficient to strike astonishment into Angels. A great part of the buildings throughout the Island are levelled to the ground, almost all the rest very much shattered; several persons killed and numbers utterly ruined; whole families running about the streets, unknowing where to find a place of shelter; the sick exposed to the keeness of water and air without a bed to lie upon, or a dry covering to their bodies; and our harbors entirely bare. In a word, misery, in all its most hideous shapes, spread over the whole face of the country.”28
One can’t help but wonder if Frederick Calkins returned to Norwich to find himself one of the many Norwich ship officers shifting in the pews of the First Congregational Church, the Huntington family church, on Sunday 27 September 1772 as the Reverend Benjamin Lord delivered his sermon from the Gospel of Matthew on ‘The parable of the merchant-man seeking goodly pearls.’XIII ”Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto treasure hid in a field; the which when a man hath found, he hideth, and for joy thereof goeth and selleth all that he hath, and buyeth that field. Again, the kingdom of heaven is like unto a merchant man, seeking goodly pearls: Who, when he had found one pearl of great price, went and sold all that he had, and bought it.”29 For a young mariner in the merchant service, this gospel message hits particularly home. It’s easy to project that the metaphor of the one-of-a-kind pearl applied as much to the beautiful young woman Annis Huntington sitting closely by as much as it applied to the Kingdom of Heaven. It seems probable that Frederick was introduced to the prospect of marriage to Annis during long watch conversations on the quarterdeck with his master Captain Simeon Carew, whose cousin Captain Eliphalet Carew had married Annis’ older sister Mary Huntington ten years before in 1762.XIV It was well understood by both shipowners and captains that mates who were married proved to be the most reliable and productive officers, a valuable commodity with so great an investment in the ship, cargo and provisioning of each merchant cruise.30
Just two months after the memorable sermon, twenty-three year old Frederick Calkins was married to seventeen year old Annis Huntington by the venerable Reverend Lord on Wednesday 2 December 1772 in the same Norwich church.31 Her dear younger brother Roger attended the wedding, presumably with all of Annis’ seven older siblings and her parents, James Huntington and his wife Elizabeth Darby. Because of Annis’ age, the marriage would have required her parents explicit consent. Also attending the wedding would have been Annis’ favorite eight year old niece Susannah Huntington, daughter of the brides’ oldest brother William Huntington and Annie Pride. No doubt the wedding celebration included the traditional games, singing, dancing and plenty of food like beef, venison and pork. Perhaps at the celebration, one of Frederick’s sisters Phebe or Hannah selected the special piece of cake with nutmeg inside which signaled who was next to marry.32 The “earnest evangelical preacher” Benjamin Lord must have enjoyed particular satisfaction in marrying the young Calkins, whose relative Hugh Calkins with his wife Phebe had promoted a Separatist schism in Dr. Lord’s congregation twenty-seven years earlier. By the time of Frederick and Annis’ wedding, the Reverend Benjamin Lord had celebrated the jubilee year of his Norwich ministry, establishing a reputation as a “conservative in the wave of the New Light excitement” known as the Great Awakening.33 The inscription on Dr. Lord’s gravestone still sermonizes across the generations in favor of religious rationality and intellect over emotional fervor with the epitaph “Think Christians, Think.” Frederick and his new bride however, were thinking more about things of the heart. Within a month, Annis was pregnant with their first child Phebe named for Frederick’s mother and sister, born Thursday 2 September 1773.34 The age in which the young newlyweds started their family was bearing other children, the Sons of Liberty. Since the Stamp Act of 1765 was enacted when Frederick was sixteen years old, the community of Norwich “seemed to be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of freedom…”35
Frederick Calkins came of age in a historic time of revolutionary change. “Until the close of the war for independence, almost every patriotic measure adopted was an act of the town, not of impromptu assemblages of the friends of liberty or of committees. Like those of Boston, the people of Norwich had their Liberty Tree, under which public meetings were held in opposition to the Stamp Act. The repeal of the Stamp Act was celebrated, on the first anniversary of the event, on the 18th of March, 1767, with great festivity, under Liberty Tree, which was decked with standards and appropriate devices, and crowned with a Phrygian cap. A tent, or booth, was erected under it, called a pavilion. Here, almost daily, people assembled to hear news and encourage each other in the determination to resist every kind of oppression…”36 It seems likely that the twenty-five year old Frederick Calkins, if not at sea on a trading voyage to the West Indies or Halifax at the time, would have attended the 6 June 1774 Norwich town meeting to consider “the melancholy state of affairs” and to appoint a standing Committee of Correspondence. Just three months later on Sunday 3 September, in response to an erroneous report of a British massacre of Bostonians, 464 local men were organized at the Liberty Tree under Major John Durkee to come to their aid. The following year, the Norwich community responded to the Lexington Alarm in a similar manner with Frederick’s twenty-two year old younger brother John Prentiss Calkins among them. It was during this time almost two years after the birth of Frederick Calkins’ first child, as the winds of war whipped all around the young family, a second daughter Elizabeth, named in honor of his wife Annis’ mother and older sister, was born on Saturday 13 May 1775.37
“I have no knowledge or belief that he served as a common sailor but he and others who were out in the Sea Service with him always called him Mate … and that he had the command when the Captain was sick or disabled which was several times and that he always stated that he was second in command and that this officer was called the Mate of the vessel or Captains Mate. “ [Annis Calkins]
For almost seven and a half years after the completion of his apprenticeship, we know little of Frederick Calkins’ career in the maritimes except that he served as mate aboard ship. The position of mate was the bridge an ordinary seaman had to cross if he aspired ever to be shipmaster. Daniel Vickers in Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail reminds us that upward mobility through this position was not only possible, but common. Using a study of Salem mariners sailing out of the South River between 1745 and 1759, Vickers reveals that almost half of all mariners reached mate and over a quarter became master. Adjusting for those who died during mid-career, illustrative of the danger associated with a life at sea, 70% of Salem seamen surviving to longevity advanced to mate and almost 40% became shipmasters.38 Research in British West Indies shipping records to date has shed no light on Calkins’ pre-Revolutionary sea service.XV The loss of New London customs records predating the war demands an exhaustive search of all shipping documents associated with potential ports of call.XVI Pre-war destinations commonly “touched” by New England sea captains include: Antigua, Barbuda, Barbadoes, St. Kitts or St. Christopher’s, Dominico or Domenica, Grenada, Demeria, Nevis, St. Vincent, Montserrat, St. Croix, Saba, St. Eustatius, Martinique, Guadeloupe or Guadalupe and Surinam. One tantalizing clue as to Frederick Calkins merchant career may be found in the Norwich Packet newspaper of 9 March 1775. The published shipping list for the ships entering New London for the previous day includes the brig Norwich Packet sailing under Caulkins from Jamaica. The shipping records for Jamaica have not yet been scrutinized, however, the two other Calkins sailing out of this port in the era seem less likely candidates.XVII
Whenever the crew of a merchant ship exceeded four or five men, a mate would be employed to relieve the master or captain, as several seamen would be on duty at any given time twenty-four hours a day. The master and mate would supervise alternating watches. Larger ships required a sailing master and additional second and third mates to assist in the management of the crew and work. Typically on those larger ships, the captain and sailing master would not be assigned specific watches but rather assumed the freedom and responsibility of executive management over all watches. Successively, each mate accepted responsibility for the operation of the vessel during his four-hour long tenure as “duty officer” or “mate of the watch.”39 Eighteenth Century shipboard life was regulated by six watches each day. Each four-hour watch was further divided into eight increments measured by the “turning of the glass,” a thirty minute hourglass, and marked by the ringing of the ship’s bell. Hence, eight bells signaled the officer and crew shift change that came with the completion of every watch and the commencement of another. To ensure that the same sailors weren’t always on duty at the same time on successive days, the 4 pm to 8 pm watch was further subdivided into a pair of two-hour watches known as the first and second “dogwatch.” Sailors associate this watch with the short and restless sleep called “dog sleep.” Typically, a ship’s crew was divided into three watch groups, thereby insuring that one third of the crew was standing watch at all times. Another third of the crew would be ‘on duty’ performing shipboard work as directed by the standing orders of the day with the final third at rest. The two daily work watches for each third of the crew would be scheduled so that most of the crew was performing shipboard duties during daylight hours. Of course during battle, emergencies and while loading or unloading in port, “all hands on deck” would be the order of the day.
Just before the “afternoon watch” from noon until four, the master and mate would meet together on the ship’s quarterdeck with quadrant or octant in hand to take successive “shots” of the sun until it reached it’s zenith. At that precise moment, the master would call “mark” and the ship’s half-hour glass would be turned, resetting and correcting the ship’s time to local noon, or meridian. The master and mate would then retire to the captain’s cabin to compare readings of the sun’s altitude, make necessary mathematical corrections and plot the latitude on the chart in use as a horizontal line. Charts are simply maps of the sea and shoreline overlaid with the latitude and longitude grid developed by Dutch cartographer Gerardus Mercator in the 16th Century. Often they also note prominent land features, water depths, currents and underwater dangers like shoals and wrecks. Once the daily latitude was “charted,” the ship’s approximate location would be estimated by determining the longitude through “deduced reckoning,” not a precise science in Calkins’ time.XVIII The master would plot the various courses of the previous day using the speed, the course or compass bearing and time of course changes recorded in the ship’s log from the previous day. The plotting of these vectors would ideally intersect with the line of latitude at the location of the vessel at noon, the beginning of every day at sea. A typical log entry would read like that taken for Thursday 20 April 1780 from the journal of Captain of Marines Joseph Hardy of the Continental Ship Confederacy, “Lattitude by Observation at Meridian 36 38” N.- Longt. 72 22” W.- Cape Hatteras S. 69 15” W. distance 206 Miles. Cape Henlopen N. 40 58 Wt. Distance 175 Miles.”40 The importance of precise timekeeping and the limitations imposed by cloudy or stormy weather accentuated the importance of experience accumulated during previous voyages. Like his contemporaries Stephen Girard and John Paul Jones, Frederick Calkins’ distinction from the common sailor was his training in navigation and proficiency with the quadrant, octant or sextant. Most likely, Calkins’ own instrument would have been the “Hadley quadrant,” eighteen to twenty inches long and made of African mahogany or ebony with engraved ivory scale and nameplate with a brass index arm, horizon mirror and backsight mirror enabling him to sight on a celestial object using the opposite horizon should the first be obscured. Technically an octant because its arc was one eighth of a circle, the name was often applied to both large instruments produced prior to 1780.
Master’s mate observing with a Hadley quadrant.
On the ground, left to right, lead and line, log reel with line leading to log ship, and azimuth compass. The log board has the standard headings: H[our]; K[nots]; F[athoms]; Course; Wind; Remark. From the manuscript “A book of Drafts and Remarks . . by Archibald Hamilton, late master’s mate, of his majesty’s ship St Ann. 1763” [Navigation and Astronomy in the Voyages by Derek Howse]
“The position of master or first or second mate aboard a merchantman may not have been nearly so grand as that of a naval officer, but it was better than ordinary seaman, in part because the first or second mate was rarely required to work aloft or heave on a rope.”41 In addition to providing an avenue of upward mobility for a mariner like Frederick Calkins, the professional distinction earned by achieving the rank or “posting the rate” of first mate afforded the officer privileges not shared by other lesser mates. The nautical saying, “a man doesn’t get his hands out of the tar by becoming second-mate” refers to an age of sail when the second mate was still expected to work with the tarpot and “Jack Tar,” slang for the common sailor who wore overalls made of tar-impregnated fabric called tarpaulin. The first mate was exempt from such “dirty work.” The mate was also often accorded ‘privilege’ in addition to his wages. Privilege is the right of portage or the shipowners’ practice of allowing the master and select crew members available cargo space for a specified type and quantity of merchandise free of freight charges. Freight being the “mother of wages” on the high seas, this practice permitted officers an opportunity to share in the success of a merchant voyage by creating a vested interest in the safety of the ship and cargo.42 In addition, it encouraged loyalty among valued crew who used privilege to boost family income while at sea. “On the waterfront, as everywhere in New England, marriage signaled the beginning of an economic partnership, and a prudent wife who was able to manage affairs on her own could take upon herself the business of processing and marketing the goods that her seafaring husband brought home.”43
“Frederick Calkins … was also on board the Trumbull. This declarent believes that if there is in the department records or rolls of the ships above named that the name of her said husband Frederick Calkins will be found as Mate in all three of said vessels and probably others as he was often transferred from one ship to another.” [John W. Smith, Judge of Probate]
In 1776, the Continental Congress ordered two frigates of 36 and 28 guns each built in Connecticut for the fledgling Continental Navy. Captain Dudley Saltonstall (1738-1796) was appointed to command one of the ships authorized by Connecticut Governor Trumbull and the Committee of Council, subsequently known as the Council of Safety, in mid February 1777. It was to be constructed on the Connecticut River at Chatham under the supervision of Captain John Cotton of Middletown. It is likely that the twenty-eight year old Frederick Calkins answered the call to man the Continental Ship Trumbull advertised in the Connecticut Journal on 12 March 1777, enlisting with Captain of Marines and brother to the ship’s captain Gilbert Saltonstall in New London. Perhaps his enlistment was inked at Nathan Douglass’ Public Tavern at the sign of the Golden Ball opposite the Post Office, a favorite recruitment site for mariners. Frederick Calkins likely served on the Trumbull between early April 1777 when many other enlistments on the ship commenced until shortly before his service on the sloop Dolphin beginning 12 October 1777. While it is not entirely clear why Calkins might have chosen this particular time to enlist in the new national Navy, it is certain that mercantile trade with the British West Indies had come to a complete halt by this time. Trade with the French, Dutch, Danes and Spanish was increasingly dangerous with British warships and privateers keeping American merchant shipping in check. In January 1775, the British Navy included 270 ships with only 24 stationed in North America. By the end of the war in 1783, the number of ships in the British Navy had almost doubled to 478.44 Interesting fact:civilwarthosesurnames.blogspot.com In 1776 our Navy consisted of 90 officers and 3,000 enlisted personnel with only a few jobs above the ordinary seaman level. The Navy is smaller than a single Carrier in 2004. “This deponent declares he has not, nor ever had in his possession a Commission or warrant as Midshipman, it being as he believes the uniform custom in the American Revolutionary service, not to grant such warrants or Commissions to Midshipman, but to enter them on the books and papers of the ship only.” Samuel Buffum S. 12352
“I well recollect he was on board the ship Trumbull rigging and fitting her for sea. I should think in 1777” [Roger Huntington]
Interestingly, Calkins’ name does not appear on the only published roll of the Trumbull from the period.XIX On that crew list, the rate of master’s first mate is the only position with no name listed, a question mark in its place.45 That Frederick was often transferred by orders from ship to ship, suggests Calkins may have been ordered to fill this vacant position rather than enlisting to serve on this particular vessel. As an experienced mate, Calkins possessed the necessary expertise for properly “rigging and fitting her for sea” during this later stage of construction. Work was substantially completed on the ship only after Calkins’ likely departure in late September or early October 1778 just before he reported for duty on the sloop Dolphin. We know that Frederick Calkins visited his wife and family at least briefly during this time between postings as demonstrated by the birth of his third child nine months later. The finished Frigate Trumbull remained in the Connecticut River for yet an additional year, unable to depart due to the ‘Saybrooke Barr’ at the mouth of the river. It wasn’t until 11 August 1779 that she “went over the bar” with the help of floated casks. The Trumbull was then taken to New London for further preparations where Captain James Nicholson of Pennsylvania took command on 20 September 1780, Captain Dudley Saltonstall having been transferred to the Warren. Not until 17 April 1780 were cruising orders issued to Nicholson and the Trumbull actually saw service.
MASTER NILES’ MEN. 46
Sloop Dolphin to Robert Niles Dr for Sundry Persons Wages by him Paid Viz
Robert Niles Master from Sep. 27 to Mar. 6, 1778
Frederick Calkins Mate from Oct. 12 to Feb. 25
Peter Jeffers Capt from Nov. 14 to Mar 2
John Leseur from Oct. 3 to “ 5
John Paterson from Nov. 15 to Feb. 24
Cornelius Savage from Oct 6 to Mar 6
Zefeniah Hatch from Nov. 14 to “ 2
Abner Bebee from “ 13 to “ 2
Joseph Webb from “ 26 to “ 2
James Treet from Dec. 26 to Feb 24
Lawdin Higgins from “ 29 to “ 18
The eighty-ton ten-gun Sloop Dolphin with her cargo of lumber was a prize of the fifty-ton four-gun Schooner Spy, captured off Long Island by Captain Robert Niles on 10 September 1777 and formally purchased at public auction by the State of Connecticut two months later on 29 November 1777. In late September before the state even closed on ownership of the ship through the libel court process for prize ships, the daring Niles was appointed master of the newly acquired Dolphin and charged with supervision of the refitting of the sloop in Norwich which included the replacement of the mast in late 1777.XX Owing to Niles prewar experience in the West Indies trade, the Connecticut government ordered him to sail to the neutral Dutch island of St. Eustatius for the purpose of obtaining much needed wartime supplies on loan.47 It is likely that Frederick Calkins was selected as mate on this cruise by Captain Niles for precisely the same reason as Niles himself, his prewar West Indies experience. Calkins possibly may have even served under his hometown friend Niles before the war either on the brig Norwich Packet or more likely the schooner Minerva owned by Joseph Howland of New London.XXI His availability for service was due to the Trumbull’s inability to put to sea and resultant idling of her crew. Calkins served with the Trumbull from about April of 1777 until orders brought him to the Dolphin in October. Frederick Calkins wages on the Dolphin commenced on Sunday 12 October 1777. Excepting Captain Niles, only John Leseur and Cornelius Savage entered service on the Connecticut Navy ship prior to Frederick Calkins. Receipts for board, meals and work in the Mystic Seaport sloop Dolphin collection suggest that Leseur and Savage along with fellow crew members Abner Bebee, Zefeniah Hatch and carpenter Peter Jeffers were hand-picked by Niles for service on the Dolphin as early as September. Leseur previously shipped under Captain Niles on the Spy for over a year, first as cook and then as seaman, until his discharge on 26 September 1777- one week before his wages began on the Dolphin. Carpenter Peter Jeffers also served under Niles on the Spy from May to 26 September, just before his employment “overhalling said Sloop” sometime in October. Even young Joseph Webb came from the Spy where he served as cabin boy under Niles. Frederick Calkins’ selection as mate for this cruise would also have been a well-considered decision for the ship’s master. Captain Niles’ experienced and trusted former mate on the Spy, Lieutenant Zebediah Smith was unavailable for duty on the Dolphin, having been appointed master of the Spy with Niles new command. While it initially appears odd that Calkins would have been released temporarily from Continental Navy duty for a stint on this Connecticut state vessel, the practice was not uncommon due to the lack of available ships to accommodate experienced officers. Besides, the Dolphin had been designated for special duties of a national interest illustrated by Niles temporary reassignment from his beloved Spy. Supporting the significance of this cruise was the assembly of the Dolphin’s crew and her refitting well before the ship was legally owned by the state. Characteristically, Captain Robert Niles would be called on again later to perform special naval duty by secret Congressional request.
Receipts in the Mystic collection including an invoice for “Victualing Frederick Calkins” for 34 days at two shillings per day submitted by his uncle John KelleyXXII, suggest that the crew took their accommodations on board the Dolphin beginning 18 November 1777. The sloop was loaded with provisions between 12 and 19 November with ballast loaded on the fourteenth. Wharfage fees appear to end on 22 November with the last dated invoice related to her refitting, for the mending of one compass and supplying a new one dated 25 November 1777. Waiting until the close of the hurricane season at the end of November, Captain Robert Niles and his crew of eight on the Dolphin probably sailed with the early tide on Wednesday 26 November 1777, the date of commencement of wages for the ship’s boy Webb. Arriving in St. Eustatius about one month later on or about Christmas Day 1777, the ship and crew docked in Statia as St. Eustastius was known. The men were advanced one month’s wages to purchase necessaries during their short time in port while enjoying the warmer temperatures of the tropical winter. Based on the date of commencement of their wages, as well as the reduced rate, seaman James Treet and the boy Lawdin Higgins likely joined the crew of the Dolphin in Statia for unloading and loading the sloop and the return voyage home. Ironically, while in St. Eustatius on 30 December 1777, Frederick Calkins’ name was recorded in Norwich on the list of men certified to have taken the Oath of Fidelity to the young United States of America.48 Upon arrival in port, presumably Captain Niles made immediate contact with Continental agents Samuel Curson and Isaac Gouvereur, Jr. in order to procure the return cargo.XXIII This small free port island at the northerly end of the Dutch Lesser Antilles of the Leeward Island chain was the richest trading center of the Caribbean, earning its nickname “The Golden Rock.” St. Eustatius is also known as the first foreign territory to officially recognize the flag of the United States flying atop the Andrew Doria commanded by Captain Isaiah Robinson on 16 November 1776, almost two years prior to the Dolphin’s arrival. The island was to be seized and sacked three years later on 3 February 1781 by a brutal invasion force led by British Admiral Sir George Rodney and Major General Sir John Vaughan for precisely the reason that Calkins’ sloop was docked, supplying arms and munitions to the Rebellious colonies.49 Rodney wrote to Rear Admiral Sir Peter Parker that “had it not been for that nest of vipers… this infamous island, the American rebellion could not possibly have subsisted.” Also to his wife he wrote, “This rock had done England more harm than all the arms of her most potent enemies.”50 In a twist of fate, British resources dedicated to Rodney’s preoccupation with confiscating the spoils of Statia’s predominantly Jewish merchants permitted French Admiral de Grasse’s fleet to bottle up Lord Cornwallis’ British Army for General Washington’s coup de grace at Yorktown in October 1781.
Embarking for home in mid January 1778 carrying a cargo of sulfur, a key ingredient in the manufacture of gunpowder, the Dolphin likely put first into New London on 18 February 1778, riding the incoming tide of the Thames River between Forts Griswold and Trumbull. The precise arrival and completion of the cruise probably reflected in the last date of wages of the most junior crew member Lawdin Higgins.XXIV Within days of his arrival, Captain Niles was ordered by the state on 26 February to distribute his cargo of five hogshead of sulphur to four waiting parties including; members of the Connecticut Council of Safety William Pitkin and Nathaniel Wales Jr, Inspector of Firearms Isaac Doolittle and Militia Colonel Jedidiah Elderkin, commander of the powder magazine at Windham.51 Niles appeared in Lebanon approximately one month later on 16 March 1778 to formally report on the voyage to Governor Jonathan Trumbull and the Council of Safety. Twenty-nine year old Frederick Calkins left service on the Dolphin promptly upon his return from his cruise on Wednesday 25 February 1778 and likely joined his pregnant wife of about five months. Calkins’ whereabouts are not clear between the end of his tour on the Dolphin in late February and his reporting to the Frigate Raleigh in mid July and it is speculated that he either returned to duty on the Trumbull or participated in a short cruise with Captain John B. Hopkins on the Warren from early March to 23 March 1778. Several other officers of the Trumbull were among the forty or so men transferred to the Warren earlier in January 1778 for this cruise including Marine Captain Gilbert Saltonstall, Surgeon John Crocker and Lieutenant David Phipps, who would reunite later with Calkins on the Raleigh.
Frederick Calkins’ wages for the four month and thirteen day stint on the Dolphin totaled just over forty-four pounds. His pay as mate was ten pounds per month, the same as the ship’s carpenter Peter Jeffers and half of Niles’ twenty. The balance of the crew were paid nine pounds per month except ship’s boy Joseph Webb and the two latecomers Treet and Higgins.52 According to the Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies promulgated by Congress, Frederick Calkins’ pay rate on the Trumbull would have been fifteen dollars per month. Like his Connecticut Navy compensation, the ship’s carpenter would have been paid the same as the mate. The sailing master and lieutenants would have been paid twenty dollars per month while the captain earned thirty-two dollars.53 In one respect it did not matter if Calkins and his shipmates were paid in pounds or dollars as long as the payroll was made in coin specie as the increasing devaluation of paper currency issued by the government resulted in ongoing erosion of purchasing power and naval morale. By 1778, inflation was so bad that one Spanish milled dollar, which at the onset of the war roughly equaled one dollar of currency, was worth seven Continental dollars. By the end of the war one silver dollar was officially valued at forty paper bills and even up to a hundred on the black market, making the mariners’ wages almost worthless.
Annis and Frederick Calkins’ firstborn son and third child, Frederick Junior, was born on Tuesday 30 June 1778 in Norwich.54 At the precise time of the infant’s birth, the elder Calkins’ former commander Captain Robert Niles was traveling from Brest to Paris after a transatlantic crossing in the Spy of just twenty-two days. Upon secret orders of the Continental Congress, Niles was to penetrate the British blockade of France and hand-deliver the first copy of the ratified Treaty of Military and Political Alliance to Benjamin Franklin bringing the French into the war, eventually sealing Cornwallis’ fate at Yorktown.XXV Despite Charles E. Claghorn’s claim on page 47 of Naval Officers of the American Revolution (1988) that Frederick Calkins participated in this historic voyage, there is no evidence that Calkins and the Dolphin’s new commander Zebediah Smith sailed in convoy with Niles and the Spy from Stonington to Brest. The Spy was captured off France on 29 August 1778 during the return voyage and her twice imprisoned captain Robert Niles would not return to Connecticut until July 1779.
”and afterwards was Mate on board the ship Raleigh- and was out on a cruise. Capt Barry, Commander who was afterwards a Commodore- According to my best recollection he entered the service in the Raleigh about the middle of July 1778 and was out in a serious engagement with two British ships- he returned from his service in the Raleigh as near as I can recollect late in the fall of 1778” [Roger Huntington]
The Raleigh was the first of thirteen frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775. She was designed by James K. Hackett and built by Portsmouth merchant Colonel John Langdon at Rising Castle on Badger’s Island at Kittery, Maine on the twelve mile long tidal Piscataqua River. Formed by the confluence of the Salmon Falls and Cochecho Rivers, the Piscataqua is reputed to be the third fastest flowing navigable river in the world. The Raleigh was laid down on 21 March 1776 and launched just two months later to the day on 21 May, six weeks prior to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Although completed by midsummer, it took an additional year for Langdon “to outfit her with a hodgepodge of cannon.”55 She put to sea on 12 August 1777 under Captain Thomas Thompson who was relieved of command the following April, accused of cowardice and dereliction of duty for abandoning the Continental ship Alfred during an engagement with the British. Appointed master of the Raleigh by the Marine Committee on 21 May 1778, Captain John Barry (1745–1803) arrived in Boston to assume command on 24 June to find a court martial underway in the great cabin.XXVI He also found the ship without a crew, cannon or supplies. Most of the ship’s cannon had been thrown overboard in the North Atlantic as former Captain Thompson fled from the British. As the Raleigh lay in port under Thompson, the officers and crew were permitted to leave the ship, looting it’s stores as they departed. Barry writes, “I found the ship had been Robb’d of a great many things.”56 Barry had enlisted less than half of the ship’s compliment by early August 1778, despite recruiting close to a hundred of the ship’s former crew. To staff the manpower shortage, the Navy Board again turned to the idled crew of the Continental Ship Trumbull still stranded in the Connecticut River. Lieutenant David Phipps of New Haven was transferred from the Trumbull, where he had been 2nd Lieutenant.XXVII Phipps came with a “large detachment of seamen” including mate Frederick Calkins within just weeks of the birth of his namesake. Phipps had been promoted to First Lieutenant with his temporary assignment with forty other Trumbull crewmen to the Warren at Providence in January of 1778. Former officers of the Raleigh returning to duty included New Hampshire natives Lieutenants Josiah Shackford and Hopley Yeaton and Captain of Marines George Jerry Osborne.XXVIII Other officers included Lieutenant of Marines Jabez Smith and Midshipmen David Porter of Massachusetts, Jesse Jacocks and Matthew Clarkson of Philadephia, Clarkson having been previously acquainted with Barry during his service on the Delaware.XXIX The pension record of Edmund Pratt identifies other commissioned and warrant officers on board the Raleigh including; Sailing Master Stephen Porter, Captain of Marines Hosmer, purser John Carr, Boatswain Celio Parker, Surgeon Gagen and Surgeon’s Mates Dorsey and John Plumb.57 Filling out the Raleigh’s compliment of 235 men were “fifty of General Burgoyne’s soldiers” serving as marines.58 Although the list of officers and crew on board the frigate Raleigh when she sailed from the Piscataqua River on 12 August 1777 and also those on board at L’Orient, France on 22 January 1778 is widely circulated, a crew list for this final and fatal cruise of the Raleigh is not known to be extant.
Captain John Barry was arguably the best commander of the fledgling Continental Navy and his many successes led to future claim on the title “Father of the American Navy.” Upon his arrival, Navy Board member James Warren confided to his friend Samuel Adams that the Marine Committee had “appointed a Good one.”59 In command of the brig Lexington in early 1776, Captain John Barry had captured the very first English prize taken in to the port of Philadelphia, HBMS Edward. Prior to commanding the Raleigh, Barry was appointed to command the 36-gun Continental frigate Effingham. With the ship still under construction, Captain Barry temporarily volunteered his services to the Army. The Effingham was scuttled when the British took Philadelphia, leaving Barry without his command and directing a flotilla of small craft and gunboats operating on the Delaware River. On 10 September 1778, Captain Barry received orders to cruise off of North Carolina specifically to intercept and destroy “certain armed Vessels fitted out by the Goodriches.” The Raleigh represented John Barry’s return to sea and Frederick Calkins was certainly at ease sailing out of Boston with the successful captain as the full length whiskered figure of Sir Walter Raleigh on the bow of this “fast sailer” turned for Portsmouth, VA at dawn on Friday 25 September 1778 in convoy with brig and sloop. With a tonnage of 697, gun deck length of 131 feet 5 inches, beam of 34 feet 5 inches, depth of eleven feet 3 inches and 32 guns, twenty-six 12-pounders and six 6-pounders; the Raleigh was the largest ship on which Calkins had yet served during the war.
Just six hours into the cruise, the reality of war would change Frederick Calkins’ life forever. Although surely acquainted with the regularity of death and crisis acquired through sixteen years of experience at sea and perhaps even familiar with the excesses of man’s violent inhumanity to man- Calkins could not have been entirely prepared for what was to happen next. Barry’s own account describes best what happened soon after the pilot was dismissed just six hours into the cruise, “At noon two sail were sighted at a distance of fifteen miles to the southeast. The Raleigh hauled to the north, and the strange vessels, which were the British fifty-gun ship Experiment and the Unicorn of twenty-two guns, following in pursuit.”Upon sighting the Experiment, a large “two decker” warship, Barry ordered the merchant vessels back to port. The chase continued until dark on the 25th with Barry noting the British ships “to all appearance gained nothing of us the whole day.” The following day, on Saturday 26 September the pursuers were sighted at seven o’clock in the morning. About four in the afternoon the Raleigh having been shadowed astern all day, the captain “lost sight of the said Vessels…Thinking they had quitted Chasing of us as I could not perceive they gained anything the whole time.” Calkins and the crew tensely stood at battle stations all day preparing for combat as Barry notes, “the Ship being ready for Action and Men at their Quarters from the first of their Chasing us.”60
“The chase continued nearly sixty hours before a shot was fired, off the coast of Maine. On the morning of (Sunday) September 27 the ships were not in sight, but reappeared about half-past nine in the forenoon. The wind blew fresh from the west, and the Raleigh, running off at a speed of eleven knots, drew away from her pursuers, but in the afternoon, the wind having diminished again, the Unicorn gained on her.” Barry decided to engage the smaller frigate Unicorn as “I found we were a Match for her.” “Give him a gun” Barry commanded as the ships drew within a quarter mile of each other as the sun began to set. 61 In classic understatement, Captain Barry describes the intensity of the seven hour long sea battle as “the engagement being very warm.”
The published narrative of two of Raleigh’s officers including Captain of Marines George Jerry Osborne details the action, “Our ship being cleared for action and men at their quarters, about five P.M. coursed the headmost ship, to windward athwart her fore foot, on which we hoisted our colours, hauled up the mizzen sail and took in the stay sails; and immediately the enemy hoisted St. George’s ensign. She appearing to be pierced for twenty-eight guns, we gave her a broadside, which she returned; the enemy then tacked and came up under our lee quarter and the second broadside she gave us, to our unspeakable grief, carried away our fore top-mast and mizzen top-gallant-mast. He renewed the action with fresh vigor and we, notwithstanding our misfortune, having in a great measure lost command of our ship, were determined for victory.” With no defenses and while the crew feverishly worked to clear the deck of wreckage while under fire, the Unicorn’s unrelenting broadsides inflicted most of Raleigh’s twenty-five casualties. The Raleigh’s officers’ account continues, “He then shot ahead of us and bore away to leeward. By this time we had our ship cleared of the wreck. The enemy plied his broadsides briskly, which we returned as brisk; we perceiving that his intentions were to thwart us, we bore away to prevent his raking us, and if possible, to lay him aboard, which he doubtless perceived and having the full command of his ship, prevented us by sheering off and dropping astern, keeping his station on our weather quarter. Night coming on we perceived the sternmost ship (the Experiment) gaining on us very fast, and being much disabled in our sails, masts and rigging and having no possible view of escaping, Capt. Barry thought it most prudent, with the advice of his officers, to wear ship and stand for the shore, if possible to prevent the ship’s falling into the enemy’s hands by running her on shore. The engagement continuing very warm, about twelve midnight saw the land bearing N.N.E. two points under our bow. The enemy, after an engagement of seven hours, thought proper to sheer off and wait for his consort, they showing and answering false fires to each other.”62 The Experiment soon came up and joined in the fire, and the British tried to cut off the Raleigh from the shore. “Encouraged by our brave commander, we were determined not to strike. After receiving three broadsides from the large ship and the fire of the frigate on our lee quarter, our ship struck the shore, which the large ship perceiving poured in two broadsides, which was returned by us; she then hove in stays, our guns being loaded gave us a good opportunity of raking her, which we did with our whole broadside and after that she bore away and raked us likewise, and both kept up a heavy fire on each quarter, in order to make us strike to them, which we never did. After continuing their fire some time they ceased and came to anchor about a mile distant.”63
What Captain Barry did not know was the Experiment was under the command of Sir James Wallace, the same enemy who had engaged him in the Delaware six months prior. Wallace and the Unicorn’s Captain John Ford were apprised of the identity of the Raleigh’s commander and were determined for victory. The British perspective of the engagement is detailed in the Experiment’s log. At quarter before six P.M. on the 27th, the “Unicorn came to close Action with the Chace, the first Broadside carried away the Enemys foretopmast and Main top-gallant Mast, at 7 a violent fireing on board both Ships, 1/2 past 9 the fireing ceased 1/2 an Hour, on which we fired several Signal Guns & was answered by the Unicorn with Lights & false Fires bearing N 1/2 E 3 miles, at 10 the Unicorn still in Action, at 11 spoke her & found the chace close by her, soon after got alongside the Chace, she gave us a Broadside & we riturned it, she then run upon the Shore, we being close to the Rocks, tacked & Anchored about 1/2 a Gun Shott from her, as did the Unicorn in 20 fathoms Water.”64
Responding to the dire circumstances enveloping the Raleigh, Captain Barry advised First Lieutenant Phipps of his plans, “Damn,em they’ll not get this Frigate…I’ll run her ashore and burn her.”65 The naval battle continued to rage after midnight into the early morning hours of Monday 28 September, providing no opportunity for the Americans to escape. Finally, as the first hand accounts describe, the Raleigh’s pierced main topsail drove the ship aground as the four stern guns continued a defensive cannonade. To Barry’s “great Grief” the Raleigh had been grounded on a rocky island near Penobscot Bay. Although named as Fox Island in the pension records of seaman James Cassel66 and marine Edmund Pratt,67 called Seal Island by the British, but surmised to be Wooden Ball Island- its identity is still not known with certainty as not one of the ship’s experienced mariners recognized the location. Immediately Barry proceeded to land his crew, intending to destroy his ship. Barry writes, “As soon as the firing was over I thought it most prudent to get the Boats out in order to save what Men I could, it then being between one and two O’Clock Monday A.M. And not a Man on Board knew what Island we were on or how far it was from the Main.”68 Within two hours, all 220 surviving crew were silently evacuated from the ship to the island, leaving fifteen presumed dead behind. When it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to retrieve the Raleigh’s cannon to defend the island, Barry divided his men into four groups. Twenty-three of the crew would return to the ship under the command of the Sailing Master with Midshipman Jesse Jacocks and scuttle her by lighting fires before escaping in one of the three longboats. Twenty-four men including the ten wounded would attempt escape to the mainland in each of the other two remaining boats. Captain Barry and Captain of Marines Osborne would command one with Lieutenants Shackford and Yeaton commanding the other. First Lieutenant David Phipps with Marine Lieutenant Jabez Smith and the remaining 132 men including most of the midshipmen and warrant officers would stay on the island awaiting rescue.69 Either through negligence or treachery the combustibles prepared for firing the ship were not ignited. Barry was convinced that Midshipman Jacocks, who did not return with the Sailing Master’s escape boat, foiled Barry’s plan to scuttle the ship. Others suggest an impressed English seaman was responsible and struck the Continental colors when the British fired on the ship in the morning. The accusation that Jacocks was a traitor is not consistent with his posting immediately thereafter on the Confederacy supervising the rigging of the ship as ranking midshipman. Negligence perhaps better describes his role as well as his posting as first master’s mate when the Confederacy put to sea.XXX
The Experiment’s log records, “at 5 A.M. the Enemy still on shore on a small barren Island called Seal Island, the Rebel Colours still hoisted, at 7 weighed and Anchored near her, fired several Guns & hoisted out all our Boats, Manned & Armed, sent a Boat ahead with a Flag of Truce to offer them Quarters, on discovering which she hawled down her Colours, her first Lieutenant and One Hundred & thirty-three Men were got ashore on the Island, but surrendered on a Summons by Truce.”70 Thirteen of the crew of the Raleigh escaped detection on the island to be reunited with Barry, resulting in a total of eighty-five who evaded British capture. The British soon took possession of the frigate and made prisoners of those of her crew who remained behind. The Raleigh lost twenty-five killed and wounded while the Unicorn saw ten killed and many wounded with severe damage to her hull and rigging. The pension record of Edmund Pratt recounts that early in the morning of his capture, Barry and the boats rowed in sight of those stranded on the island with the intent to take them off, however at that moment, a British party came up and took them prisoner. Pratt recalls, “Captain Barry seeing this and knowing that he could render us no service, waved his hat to us, as we supposed, in token that he wished us a better fate and retired.” Leaving the wounded in the care of the ship’s surgeon, Captain Barry with the balance of his crew who escaped, rowed their way back to Boston where they arrived two weeks later on Wednesday 7 October 1778. Captain of Marines Osborne and another officer suspected to be Lieutenant Thomas Vaughn would recount the naval battle in the Boston paper for news hungry readers. Captain Barry finishes his accounting of the engagement, “about 11 O’Clock A.M. About 140 of our Men were taken Prisoners and about 3 P.M. They got the Ship off… The reason I could not tell how many of our Men were made Prisoners was because there was no return of the kill’d on Board.”71 At high tide on 28 September, the British refloated the Raleigh and after repairs took her into the Royal Navy as the HBMS Raleigh. As a British vessel, she participated in the capture of Charleston, SC in May 1780. She was decommissioned at Portsmouth, England on 10 June 1781 and was sold in July 1783. Despite the loss of the Raleigh, Captain John Barry’s reputation was not impugned as he was “Honestly acquitted” by a court of inquiry.
Frederick Calkins most likely escaped with Barry as his pension records make no mention of being captured, a detail highly likely to appear in the affidavits. Calkins was at work on the Confederacy’s rigging within a month of the Raleigh debacle. According to Lieutenant Phipp’s testimony in the pension file of Joshua Newhall, the Raleigh prisoners were taken to New York to be exchanged. Once there, the prisoners were distributed amongst the several nearby prison ships. Newhall was detained for three months before he was liberated with “no discharge and no pay.”72 The pension record of Edmund Pratt further recounts that after the engagement, Experiment, Unicorn & Raleigh kept a “good distance” off the coast in order to avoid American vessels. He also states that they experienced a storm which contributed to a delay in their passage which took three or four weeks. When he arrived in New York, Pratt remained confined on the Experiment for “about a fortnight” before being conveyed on board the “well known prison ship Prince of Wales then lying near Pawles Hook.” Pratt suffered there with “about 500 other prisoners” until exchanged and returned to Saybrook, CT in late December 1778 in a feeble state of health.73 Seaman Giles Chester was confined on the prison ship Jersey for about five months after his capture on the Raleigh74 and marine Aaron Fish was put on board the Good Hope prison ship where he remained confined prior to his exchange in late December 1778.75 The only suggestion that Calkins may have been left behind with most of the other warrant officers to surrender and received a prompt parole is the fact that Midshipman Jacocks was already serving with the Confederacy when Calkins’ name first appears on the Riggers returns. One assumes from Barry’s protestations that as a conspirator, Jacocks would have been welcomed on board the British warships. It has not been established if Jacocks escaped with the distrustful Barry, was left behind with the other captives or was one of the few to escape detection by the British and remained on the island.
“I well recollect that the said Frederick Calkins enlisted as a Mate on board the U.S. ship Confederacy in April 1779… Capt Harding then commanded said ship.” [Roger Huntington]
The Continental frigate Confederacy was built under the direction of Major Joshua Huntington and master builder Jedidiah Willett at Huntington’s small shipyard at Brewster’s Neck on the Thames River just a few miles below Frederick Calkins’ hometown of Norwich. Her construction was authorized by Congress on 23 January 1777 “provided the season will admit of the timber being properly cut so as to effect the building next summer.” The ship was built with green timber harvested by “William Miller’s Gang” from lands confiscated from royalist sympathizers with some assistance of Mohegan Indian labor.76 Begun in February, her keel was laid in the spring of 1777. As the ship languished on the stocks, Captain Seth Harding was awarded command on 25 September 1778, the frigate having been named Confederacy on the same day. The name of the ship appropriately symbolized the union of the thirteen states in league against the crown. She was finally launched on Saturday 7 November 1778 and towed to New London to be fitted for sea, where Captain Harding’s veteran First Lieutenant Simon Gross made yet additional changes to her rigging.77 Having been in constant danger of attack and potential destruction for almost two years, the ship was entering service at an opportune time, essentially replacing the loss of the Raleigh just six weeks previous.
Only one month had passed since the tragic engagement of the Raleigh, when the idled but battle-tested Frederick Calkins first reported for duty on the Confederacy. His name first appears on the Riggers Return signed by Raleigh midshipman Jesse Jacocks for the two weeks from 26 October to 6 November 1778 immediately prior to the launching of the ship. Calkins presence at Huntington’s shipyard preceded a November 1778 newspaper advertisement for the hiring of seaman to man the 36-gun ship under the command of Captain Seth Harding, to be ready around the first of the year 1779. The returns indicate that Frederick Calkins did not work with the riggers between 14 November and early December, however, his name reappears on the Riggers Returns for the period between 6 December and 20 December 1778. There is no record in the returns of his service again until his name appears for the period of 16 January through 6 February 1779.78 Soon after, an announcement in the Connecticut Gazette of New London dated 17 March would call on “All Officers and Seamen, who have entered for said Cruize (against the Enemies of the United States), are hereby directed to repair immediately on Board.”79 Although Lieutenant of Marines Gurdon Bill wrote on 22 February that he was “ready to go onboard the ship,” a request for settling his account for lodging at Samuel Belding’s, where Timothy Vaughn, Stephen Gregory, Joseph Hardy, Nathan Dorsey, John Gardiner, Phineas Hyde and Captain Harding also lodged, was not dated until 26 April.80 It was about this time, that Frederick Calkins boarded the Confederacy for his third and last year at sea in the service of the Continental Navy. Calkins was no doubt well-acquainted with Seth Harding who was a local Norwich merchant captain who had engaged in coasting trade to Nova Scotia and the West Indies trade for over fifteen years prior to the war. He had previously commanded the Connecticut Ship Oliver Cromwell on a successful 1777 cruise, capturing three prizes prior to surrendering that command to his able and proven First Lieutenant Timothy Parker due to “want of health.” Harding was returning to action after his recovery with a commission as Captain of the Confederacy issued by the Navy Board. The timely appointment came within weeks of a Congressional Marine Committee (Eastern Department) recommendation of Frederick Calkins’ former skipper on the Raleigh, John Barry as captain of the Confederacy. Even larger than the ill-fated frigate Raleigh, the Confederacy was 959 tons with a length of 153 feet, 125 feet keel, beam of 35’6” and compliment of 260 men.
“A few days before the Confederacy sailed … I saw the said Frederick Calkins have listing orders and he was then enlisting men to make up the crew” [Roger Huntington]
The ship had been detained in New London much too long “for preparations and for the want of men.” Captain Harding was facing difficulties enlisting enough men for his crew. This was a common and increasing problem for the Continental Navy as sailors were attracted to the higher wages, shorter commitments and greater shares of prize monies that privateers offered. Enlistments on privateers were generally for the duration of the cruise while naval enlistments were typically for one to three years service. Even state navies, like their militia forces, usually only required three to nine month commitments. Navy crewmen were also subject to stricter discipline and well defined cruising orders which limited their ability to seek prizes while at the same time exposing them to the greater danger of engaging enemy warships. “Gentlemen volunteers” no longer answered the call of the recruiting officer. As a result Captain Harding was forced to fill the crew by means of impressment as reported in Green’s Gazette of 29 April 1779, “Monday night last, about fifty seamen and landsmen were pressed by a gang from the ship Confederacy now lying in the harbor, and carried on board; a part of them have been since released.”81
Mariners took to the sea during the war years for many motives; personal ambition, the sea service being the only trade they knew, provision for their families, the opportunity for quick fortune taking prizes, as well as, the civil and moral obligation to contribute to the cause of freedom and consequentially the protection of their families and fellow man oppressed and threatened by British agents of the despot George III. Amongst the mixed motivations common to all those who voluntarily enlisted, it is reasonable to assume that Frederick Calkins served on government vessels for three years largely as John Paul Jones expressed, “in defense of the violated rights of mankind.”82 As captain of the Ranger, Jones detested those officers and sailors under his command who resisted and defied orders regularly, enlisting only to seek prizes. “Their object, they said, was gain not honor” he recalled later.83 While the limitations of a volunteer militia were quickly recognized and efforts to raise and train a professional army under General George Washington proceeded rapidly, the institution of a national navy developed much more slowly as the war progressed. A small pool of qualified sea captains with the will to fight was matched by even fewer ships in the Continental fleet available to harass British merchant shipping or engage the unrivaled British Navy. In 1775, the British Navy numbered some 270 ships, 131 of them ships of the line carrying more than fifty guns.84 The Colonies had none. The early war at sea was fought almost entirely by fledgling state navies and privateers raiding enemy shipping under “letters of marque” issued by the colonies and Congress. About 2,000 privateers were licensed to practice piracy on behalf of the war effort during the American Revolution. The prospect of capturing “easy” and lucrative prizes with a privateer made recruitment for the naval service particularly difficult. Shortages of recruits, desertions, lack of re-enlistments and mutinous crews presented ongoing manpower and discipline difficulties throughout the war.85 However even those with noblest intentions, like Frederick Calkins, appear to have harbored expectations of prize money awarded for the capture of enemy ships or unauthorized merchantmen.
“to demand, recover and receive…whatever prize money may be coming to me in a cruise which I am now going in the Continental ship Confederacy, Seth Harding Esq. Commander.” [Frederick Calkins in granting power of attorney to his wife Annis on 16 April 1779, witnessed by John Lawrence & Jonathan Roath] XXXI
Just four days before the Confederacy sailed from New London on 1 May 1779, the crew appointed Captain Andrew Perkins, of Norwich Landing, their “true and lawful Attorney and Agent for us and in our names and to our use, to ask, demand, recover or receive all and every part of all Prizes, with all prize goods, or Bountys, that may become due to us during the run of the aforesaid cruize against the enemies of America”.86 Interestingly, Frederick Calkins did not join the balance of the crew in granting power of attorney to Captain Perkins, having assigned that right to his wife eleven days before. This act speaks volumes concerning the trust Calkins maintained in the ability of his wife Annis to manage his affairs while at sea. Dorothy Mays in Women in Early America: Struggle, Survival and Freedom in a New World reminds us, “according to the laws of coverture that existed in the American Colonies, once a woman entered into marriage, she and her husband were one person in the eyes of the law…and that one person was the husband.”87 Unless the seafaring husband specifically granted his wife such powers in writing or she registered with authorities as a feme sole trader, the married woman had no rights under the law to conduct legal transactions on behalf of the household. This difficulty was just one of the many hardships confronting the wife of an eighteenth century mariner. As the primary provider for the family during his absence, the mariner’s wife faced constant uncertainty concerning the safety of her spouse and the date of his return. Although usually advanced a generous portion of her husband’s wages before leaving port, she often “turned to some form of employment to supplement their income.” Even so, “sometimes women fell into times of extreme economic need. They could turn to the church for funds to tide them over, although they were more likely to turn to the ship’s owner, pleading an advance on their husbands’ wages… The emotional toll taken on women at home was high.” However, “diaries of mariner’s wives complain more of loneliness than economic need.”88 If born to a higher station, Annis Calkins would have prayed and gazed longingly over a handsome miniature portrait of her husband on ivory with a cachet of his hair hanging on a gold pendant around her neck. It is much more likely Frederick Calkins’ trusted spouse, mother to his three young children, stared at her thin unadorned wedding band hoping it would never be enameled black to be worn as a mourning ring for her mate lost at sea. Prize money would prove little consolation if her beloved were to be captured, injured or killed in the line of duty. In fact, prize money was often elusive with respect to federal service, the underlying cause attributed by Evan Thomas in John Paul Jones to “Congress’ indifference to promoting a professional navy.” Thomas illustrates this injustice with the example of Jones’ famous cruise on the Bonhomme Richard in 1779. By the time Congress finally voted to compensate her crew its overdue prize earnings in 1848, all the men and officers were dead.89
Frederick Calkins appears in one of two extant crew lists for the Confederacy.XXXII One of 161 men named in the Record of Service of Connecticut Men in the Military and Naval Service During the War of the Revolution 1775-1783, Frederick Calkins is listed sixth on the long roster of petty officers and crew of the ship after the Captain, three Lieutenants, Master, Carpenter and Boatswain.90 Some publications have reprinted this 1779 crew list from page 62 of the Records and Papers of the New London County Historical Society, simplifying it by alphabetizing names but thereby losing the significance of the order in which Calkins and others appear. The roster transcribed by Johnston, while accurately describing the relative position of posting or rank these men held aboard ship, contains many inaccuracies in spelling. Frederick Calkins follows Samuel Holt, Gurdon Bill, James Storer, Jesse Jacocks and John Gardiner. Holt and Bill were both Lieutenants of Marines. Storer was the Carpenter’s Mate having been active with the ship’s construction since the cutting of the timber. Jesse Icaisky or Isaacs is an inaccurate transcription of Jesse Jacocks, Master’s First Mate and former midshipman of the ill-fated Raleigh. Based on authorizing signatures for the payroll returns of the Confederacy dated between October 1778 and February 1779, Midshipman Jacocks appears to be Captain Harding’s officer in charge of the Riggers, including Frederick Calkins.91 John Gardiner was the Surgeon’s Mate and one of only three crewmen to appear on both crew lists.XXXIII Despite the claim of William Wirt Calkins on page 30 of The Calkins Memorial Military Roster (1903), Frederick Calkins was not a marine on the Confederacy. According to the pension records of Silas Cleveland, Calkins was posted as the Master’s Second Mate.92 He is followed on the list by Nathan Hinman, Amos Latham, W. Powers and William Beckwith. Hinman served as Midshipman and it is suggested that he is a relative of the celebrated Captain Elisha Hinman, commander of the Alfred after John Paul Jones. Latham served as Sergeant of Marines and later as Midshipman. W. Powers is likely William Powers, former sailing master of the Connecticut privateer sloop American Revenue commanded by Stephen Tinker, William Packwood and finally Samuel Champlin. Like Calkins, Powers was an experienced sailor, also listed in the Riggers Return records of the ship’s construction, and likely the Master’s Third Mate. Beckwith served on the Confederacy as Midshipman.XXXIV
“he always told us uniformly the same story … that he always acted as Masters Mate or Sailing Masters Mate as I understood him. And that he was commissioned by the Captain. I once saw one of his commissionings.” [David Whitney]XXXV
The masters mate, or captains mate, of the late eighteen century was a mate certified to be master and considered to be an apprentice for that posting. He was qualified by both experience and examination in mathematics and navigation to assist the master or captain and was responsible for commanding all sailors for steering or operational maneuvering. It is important to remember that the pre-Revolutionary American Colonies had no navy and also that the British Royal Navy of Frederick Calkins’ time had a long history of promotion of either military men or gentry to command fighting ships. In some cases, the captain of a vessel was not an experienced sailor and the navigating officer of the ship known as the master or sailing master was the skilled professional responsible for navigation and seamanship. Often his experience was gained in the merchant service and he was rated or ranked as the senior warrant or wardroom officer. While the all of the captains of the fledgling Continental Navy appear to have some merchant sea service experience, a substantial proportion of those appointments were politically motivated. The mate, master’s mate and sailing master all held their authority by virtue of a warrant based on their experience and technical sailing skills rather than by military commission awarded by the Navy. The warrant system was originally instituted in the British Navy to set experienced sea officers apart from ordinary seaman, yet not violate the class distinction entrenched in the traditions associated with awarding commissions. Despite a lower grade rate, warrant officers were granted the same privileges as commissioned officers. “On board ship a person’s status has always depended more on the practical importance of the job he did rather than the formalities of commission or warrant.”93 In fact, the master outranked all enlisted non-commissioned officers and was usually paid more than all commissioned officers except the captain. In the British Navy, due to midshipmen being denied promotion as commissioned officers and seeking better pay through appointment as master’s mate during the Revolutionary War, the position of master’s mate eventually became a standard step in the training of a commissioned officer. It was not until 1808, that the master was declared equal in rank to a lieutenant by the Royal Navy, the rate being recognized for some time as the “navigating lieutenant,” only later evolving into the commissioned rank of navigating officer.
“When I was a child about 13 years old I recollect that the said Frederick Calkins went to sea in a vessel called as I believe the Confederacy in the River near New London. I was present when the vessel sailed and have a distinct recollection of the event. Capt Harding was the Commander of the vessel and the said Calkins was Captains Mate or Mate of the Vessel” [Susannah Whitney]
Captain Seth Harding sailed the Continental frigate Confederacy out of New London on Saturday 1 May 1779 with instructions to open his orders “when you are clear of Montough point.”94 The commander then was instructed to “proceed with all expedition to the Capes of Delaware” whereupon on the agreed signal, a Pilot would meet the ship and guide it to near Lewis Town to await additional orders. These explicit instructions were concluded with the open-ended invitation to pursue “Opportunities of taking some of the enemies Privateers which may appear in that time about the Capes.”95 Nothing is known of this maiden voyage and it is suggested that it was used as a ‘shakedown’ cruise to train the newly assembled crew for battle readiness.96 By the end of May, Continental ships Deane, Boston and Confederacy were all operating in the Delaware Bay. The Pennsylvania ship General Greene under the command of Captain Montgomery was also ordered to join the small fleet. On 2 June 1779, the Marine Committee issued the following orders to the squadron’s commander Captain Samuel Tucker, “The Ship Boston which you command and the Frigate Confederacy, Captain Harding, being now ready for Sea, they are directed to Sail in company with each other on a Cruize upon this Coast from the Latitude of Forty to thirty-five degrees and to take, burn, sink or destroy as many of the enemys Ships or Vessels of every Kind as may be in their power. The Prizes you will Order into the nearest and safest Ports, addressed to the Continental Agents in those Ports. And as this Committee have received authentic intelligence that a number of the enemys Privateers are Cruizing near the Latitude of 36, in expectation of falling in with a fleet of Merchant Vessels bound from the West Indies . . . it is their first Object to frustrate the designs of the enemy by Capturing or destroying their Vessels and to afford every aid and assistance in their power to the inward bound Merchantmen.”97
Another object of their mission were two British frigates operating in the area. “We need not remind you how greatly it would redound to your reputation and the honor of the American flag to capture or destroy these ships. You are to continue cruizing for the space of three weeks from your Departure from the Capes of Delaware … As the Object of this Cruise is to take or destroy the enemys Privateers or small ships of war and give every aid and assistance to the Merchant men, the Committee direct you to confine yourself strictly to the Latitudes above mentioned and to such Longitudes as are best calculated to answer that purpose. But if from circumstances it should happen that the Public Service necessarily requires you to exceed those Limits, then you are at liberty to do it… Captain Harding will be furnished with a Copy of these Instructions and will be directed to Obey your Orders as Senior Officer. It is expected that before you put to Sea you will fix with him a proper System of Signals for the Ships under your command. The Confidence we repose in your Courage and good Conduct gives us every reason to hope for a Successful Cruize.”98
“… all the engagements they had and in particular the taking of a 16 gun brig from the British by the Confederacy soon after they departed from New London without firing a gun…” [Roger Huntington]
On Sunday 6 June 1779, while accompanying a convoy of merchantmen safely into Philadelphia, the Boston and Confederacy captured three prizes and engaged two British frigates. The prizes included the 6 gun schooner Patsey, the sloop William and most notably the 24 gun British privateer frigate Pole. The schooner Patsey, under the command of Philadelphia loyalist John Papley, was bound for New York with 99 hogsheads of rum from St. Kitts. Owing to the British Captain’s commission found with Papley when the Patsey was captured, he was tried for treason and imprisoned in Philadelphia where his wife Susannah lived on 2nd Street. The sloop William under Captain Simeon Ashbourne, was taken while enroute from Tortola to New York, also carrying a cargo of St. Kitt’s rum. The 200 ton privateer Pole from Liverpool was sailing under the command of master John Maddock conveying a cargo of salted provisions and coal from New York to Jamaica when she commenced chasing Captain Samuel Tucker’s Continental frigate Boston. Lured by a ruse, the Pole was drawn into an inferior battle position by the Boston acting in concert with the Confederacy and compelled to surrender. Captain Harding would later write “In company of the Boston captor’d a priviter of 24 guns, upward of 100 men on board” Despite the erroneous count of cannon, clearly Roger Huntington is referring to his brother-in-law Frederick Calkins’ account of the Pole’s capture as one letter to John Adams confirms, “Tucker has sent in a twenty-four gun ship this afternoon, which did not fire a shot at him before striking.”99 The capture of the Pole would remain a particularly sweet memory for all who participated in the bloodless affair as her reputation as a successful fighter was cemented two years prior in a vicious engagement at close quarters on 12 July 1777 with the American Tartar under the command of John Grimes. While the Tartar escaped, Maddock claimed “that near one-half of the people belonging to (Grimes’) privateer must be killed or wounded, he having cleared their forecastle of men three different times.” The Confederacy accompanied the three prize vessels into port, the larger two ships into Philadelphia and the sloop William into Chestnut Neck, NJ where she was auctioned with her cargo on Tuesday 16 November 1779. As second mate, it is possible Frederick Calkins was appointed master of one of the three prize crews. On 12 June, Captain Nicholson received orders for the frigate Deane to join the Boston and Confederacy, then return to the Delaware Capes by 1 July 1779. “When joined to those Ships, you, being the Senior Officer, will have under your direction three fine frigates, which we doubt not will be judiciously managed and we recommend to you to cultivate strict harmony with the Commanders of those Ships as being essentially necessary for the Public good.”100 Sometime in July the Confederacy was ordered on an apparently successful expedition off the Capes as is reported in a 8 August 1779 letter from Richard Henry Lee to his successor as chairman of the Marine Committee William Whipple, “We are much obliged…I see the frigates have taken and sent in two prizes, vessels of war.”101 It is suspected these prize vessels are the 8 gun British privateer schooner Jane and Elizabeth and the 8 gun English sloop Confederacy which Master-at-Arms Seth Kennedy testified of being captured on a short two or three week cruise in his pension application.XXXVI While at anchor in the Delaware lying off of Chester, the officers and men of the Confederacy including Frederick Calkins certainly celebrated the arrival of government agents on Tuesday 17 August to pay off shares of prize money earned for the Pole and Patsey, both condemned and sold during the previous month under orders from the Court of Admiralty, the Pole bringing one hundred three thousand pounds. Crew already discharged from the ship were told to report to the Navy Office on Front Street the Friday after to collect their due. The Confederacy continued to operate out of Chester and cruise the Atlantic coast until 24 August 1779 when she was ordered on a short cruise off the Capes to await the 10 gun privateer brigantine Eagle of Philadelphia returning from St. Eustatius with an important cargo of public stores. The rendezvous unsuccessful, the Confederacy was ordered to return to Chester on 3 September 1779.102
“…and the perils they encountered in a gale on their way from Philadelphia to France to carry home the Prime Minister Gerard & lady. They were dismasted and driven into the West Indies to Martinique to refit and there Wintered & thence returned in the Spring to Philadelphia.” [Roger Huntington]
On 17 September, Captain Harding was issued orders for a voyage to France carrying the retiring French ambassador Conrad Alexandre Gerard and Mme. Gerard as passengers. Harding was instructed to make “way to any Port which the Minister may think proper to direct and on your passage you are carefully to avoid coming to action with any vessel of equal or superior force. Your Ship being entirely designed for the Accomodation of the Minister, yon are in all things, as far as may be, to comply with his wishes and to treat him with the respect due to his character.”103 On arrival in France, Harding was to report to “his Excellency Benjamin Franklin, Esqr., Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States at the Court of Versailles.” After refitting, he was to load “such Stores for the use of these States as may be offered by the Agents in France, so as not to incommode your vessel as a Ship of war, and when you have received the Orders of our Minister, you are immediately to make the best of your way back to this port or into Chesapeake Bay . . . If you can procure A Set of good 18 Pounders when in France and you are of Opinion that the Confederacy can bear them, you are at liberty to mount them and put those you have now on Deck into your hold. We desire you will be careful of the Confederacy, her Materials and Stores and that you will not delay any time unnecessarily in France, but be diligent for dispatch.”104 On 17 October 1779, Captain Seth Harding received additional orders to “receive on Board the Confederacy His Excellency John Jay Esquire, his Secretary, and family” for transport to Europe. Jay had just recently resigned as President of the Continental Congress to embark on his new mission as Minister to Spain.
While at anchor at Chester awaiting arrival of the dignitaries, many of the ship’s crew obtained leave or deserted, unhappy about the change of orders from the terms of their enlistment and unwilling to perform the passenger service required. These desertions left the ship dangerously undermanned. Unlike the disciplined British Navy and consistent with the American merchant fleet tradition, Captain Harding does not appear to have dealt harshly with violators. Captain of Marines Joseph Hardy records in his private journal that it wasn’t until four months later in Martinique on 27 February 1780 that “at Meridian the Man who last Night attempted to runaway and being the Ringleader of this Scheme was publickly Whiped at the Gangway by order of the Capa. This first regular Punishment that has been inflicted on any this Ships Crew for this common crime which will have a good effect provided there is a continuance of it.”105 No doubt seasoned officers like Frederick Calkins were ordered to assist the ship’s lieutenants in carrying out Captain Harding’s efforts “to divert the men from withdrawing from … service.”106 In one recorded incident, Calkins’ former commander on the Raleigh, Captain John Barry was traveling up the Delaware near Chester when the Confederacy’s Third Lieutenant Stephen Gregory attempted to impress his crew. When Barry’s sailors resisted the boarding with his consent, the Confederacy fired on the passing ship. The aggression was ended only when the previously unidentified Barry called to Gregory, “I advise you to desist from firing, this is the brig Delaware belonging to Philadelphia, and my name is John Barry.”107 Press gangs employed to fill out the crew at Chester may account for a number of men known to have served on the Confederacy but not listed on the 1779 roll.XXXVII
It must have turned the sailors’ heads when Mr. Jay’s beautiful younger wife Sarah Van Brugh Livingston stepped aboard the Confederacy three days later on 20 October 1779. The daughter of New Jersey governor William Livingston, “Salley” as Jay called her, was a leading patriot intellectual. Joining the couple were twelve year old nephew Peter Jay Mintro, Sarah’s twenty-two year old brother Colonel Henry Brockholst Livingston acting as Jay’s personal secretary and Congressionally appointed secretary of the mission William Carmichael of Maryland.XXXVIII The Confederacy sailed from the Delaware Capes six days later on Tuesday 26 October 1779 with Captain Seth Harding in command and sailing master John Tanner directing the crew through the ‘mate of the watch’, perhaps the master’s second mate Frederick Calkins. Ten days of relatively unremarkable sailing followed before Calkins and all on board were stunned by the events encountered. Sarah Jay’s letters to her mother Susannah French Livingston, beginning with one dated 12 December 1779, document the early voyage well. “My dear mama,… We embarked at Chester on the 25th of October, but did not lose sight of land ’till the 26th, when we launched out to sea with a brisk gale. The very first evening we were all seized with that most disagreeable sickness peculiar to our situation; my brother, Peter, and myself soon recovered, but my dear Mr. Jay suffered exceedingly at least five weeks and was surprisingly reduced; I imagine his health would have been much sooner restored had not our passage been so very unpleasant. About 4 o’Clock in the morning of the 7th of November, we were alarmed by an unusual noise upon deck, and what particularly surprised me, was the lamentations of persons in distress: I called upon the Captain to inform me the cause of this confusion that I imagined to prevail; but my brother desired me to remain perfectly composed, for that he had been upon deck but an half an hour before and left every thing in perfect security. Perfect security! Vain words! don’t you think so mamma? And so indeed they proved. For in that small space of time we had been deprived of nothing less than our bow-sprit, fore-mast, main-mast, and missenmast; so that we were in an awkward situation rendered still more so by a pretty high southeast wind and a very rough sea that prevailed then; however our misfortunes were only began, the injury received by our rudder, the next morning, served to compleat them. … let my benevolent mamma imagine the dangerous situation of more than 300 souls tossed about in the midst of the ocean, in a vessel dismasted and under no command (rudderless) at a season too that threatned approaching inclemency of weather.”108 Almost midway between the safety of America and the Azores, stranded in the North Atlantic off the Newfoundland Banks, the Confederacy had inexplicably lost all of her masts in an approaching gale within just minutes. The injured sailors were carried below, including gunner’s mate David Mackentosh, Jr., who would die of his severe injuries several days later. Captain Harding relates that “Six hours were spent cutting away the wreck of spars, sails, and rigging, after which all hands were imployed in clearing the Ship and preparing to get up Jury Masts, which would have been done with the Assistance of my Officers, who behaved themselves exceedingly well on the Occasion.”109 With “all hands on deck”, Frederick Calkins was certainly among the officers directing the clearing and salvage operation. By dark, a small jury-rigged mast and sail permitted the ship to be powered and therefore steered. Although the Sailing Master and Second Lieutenant Thomas Vaughn were on deck at the time of the incident and both noticing slack in the rigging just prior to the disaster, no definitive conclusion regarding the cause of the loss was reached by the ships’ officers at a meeting later that night.XXXIX The crisis of the seventh was followed by yet another early the following morning. Captain Harding’s account continues, “but the next day about 7 Oclock A.M. in addition to our misfortune found the Rudder to be gone, at least the head of it Wrung in such a manner that rendered it entirely useless, in which situation we lay Tossing and Drifting with the Wind and Current, making use of every Opportunity to secure the Rudder and Refit the Ship in order to proceed on her intended Passage till the 23d November.”110 As the gale increased, a sea anchor was used to stabilize the ship while one seaman risked his life by being lowered over the stern to make temporary repairs to the rudder. The weather was so harsh, the ship floundered for two weeks before jury-rigged masts and sails were reliable for sailing.111
The young Mrs. Jay writes of the decision to divert the course of the Confederacy on 23 November, “After our misfortunes… a council of the officers was held to consider where it was most expedient to bend our course and it was unanimously concluded by them that it would be impossible to reach Europe at this season, with a ship in the condition that ours was. They were likewise united in opinion that the southern direction was the only one that offered a prospect of safety, and of the Islands, Martinico was the most eligible, for it’s commodious harbour and the probability of being supplied with materials to refit: accordingly the first fair wind that offered… was embraced in pursuance of the advice given by the officers: and after having passed through very blustering, squally latitudes, we are now in smooth seas, having the advantage of trade-winds which blow directly for the Island; nor are we, if the calculations made are just, more than 220 miles distant from the destined port.”112 Despite Minister Gerard’s desire to continue directly to Europe, the officers of the Confederacy unanimously voted to change course towards Martinique, a familiar port of haven for those like Harding, Tanner, Calkins and the other mariners experienced in the West Indies trade. Captain Harding later elaborated on the reasons all agreed, “that it would be very imprudent to approach the Coast of Europe in the situation she was then in; that it would be impossible for the Rudder to survive a hard Gale of wind without increasing the Leake very much, which was Occationed by the Rudder’s Striking against her Stern post; that if we should be Necessitated to part with it, should undoubtedly be thrown into Various Difficultys, in Consequence of which the Ship might Founder; that if we should be attacked by a Gale of Wind inshore, we must inevetably be Cast on Shore, and perhaps the greater part of us if not the whole fall sacrifice to our own folly; and that if we should loose any of Sparrs or Rigging we had none to Replace them; that in the situation the ship was then in, thought it most prudent to proceed to the West Indias.”113
The voyage was not however, absent its lighter moments as Sarah Von Brugh Livingston Jay describes in her letters. In particular Tuesday 7 December 1779 “happened to be a merry (day) to the sailors … for crossing the tropick they insisted upon an antient custom of shaving and ducking every person that had not crossed it before excepting only those who paid their fine. I could not forbear smiling at Peter’s fate, who had been diverting himself with observing the operation performed on many of them, ‘till they exclaimed at the injustice of exempting him, and insisted upon his being tarred at least. … Peter, sobbing, declared that had not his new coat been spoilt, he would not have regretted so much the difficulty of getting rid of the tar.”114 No doubt, thirty-year old Frederick Calkins would have enjoyed the festivities surrounding his ump-teenth crossing of the Tropic of Cancer and the antics of Mrs. Jay’s nephew Peter. However, it is also certain the sea-worn mate’s musing would have included the near catastrophic events of the past month and his own three children so many miles away in Norwich. Despite being accustomed to the loneliness that characterizes the seafaring life, Frederick no doubt sensed the melancholy that accompanied his absence from Annis on their seventh wedding anniversary, just five days previous on 2 December. It would be more than two months before she would even hear of the tragedy that befell the Confederacy and yet many more to know for certain that her beloved was unharmed.XL
After the extensive repairs at sea and owing to the skillful seamanship of the captain and his officers, the dismasted Confederacy was brought into Martinique on Saturday 18 December 1779. According to the pension application of Seth Kennedy, she was conveyed to St. Pierre by a French frigate. By the time they reached port, six feet of water sloshed in the hold and a number of the crewman were sick.115 Another of Sarah Jay’s letters to her mother describes their arrival from a different perspective, “on the 18th inst. early in the morning I was agreeably surprised to find that we were sailing (close) along the (most) verdant, romantic country I ever beheld. In that instant every disagreeable sensation arising from unpleasing circumstances during our voyage, gave place to the more mild and delightful emotions of gratitude. At breakfast we were visited by some of the planters who live near the shore, and from them we learnt that Mr. Bingham was still at St. Pierre; when we arrived opposite to that City Mr. Jay wrote him a letter, and my brother waited upon him; upon which Mr. Bingham very politely returned with the Colonel and insisted upon our resideing with him during our stay at Martinique; and never was I more charmed with any thing of the kind than with the polite friendly reception we met with from that gentleman. The two families most dear to me would be delighted with this Island. The neatness that prevails here cannot be exceeded and frankly I confess I never saw it equalled.”116
The Confederacy’s European-bound cargo, emissaries Gerard and Jay and their entourage, continued their voyage aboard a 66 feet long French frigate under the command of Captain Desflottes. In a letter to Robert Livingston written from Cadiz in Spain dated 19 February 1780, John Jay relates his final passage, “We left Martinico the 28th December in the Aurora a French Frigate commanded by a very genteel agreeable Man. He went by the Way of St. Thomas to avoid Danger; and arrived here the 22d of last Month.”117 While the planned destination was Toulon in France, the ship was chased into Cadiz by the British.
Captain Seth Harding faced a number of difficulties while waiting for the Confederacy to be refitted with replacement spars and masts including; lack of available suitable wood, the depletion of his crew by French authorities and sickness, threat of mutiny by unruly seamen instigated by forced impressment and unpaid wages, in addition to the lack of money and Congressional credit to pay for labor or supplies. Captain Hardy journals one of several such incidents on 12 January 1780. “Several of the Seamen having Liberty to go ashore in the afternoon returned on board much intoxicated with Liquor and in consequence of it like all Sailors began to grumble at their wage and insisted on being sent to St. Lucee to be exchanged these were joined by several who was taken out of English Privateers and in a few minutes the whole Ship appeared in a flame of Mutiny. The Ringleaders were immediately confined in Irons hands and feet and some of the most obstropolous were Gagged, which soon cooled them down. However they were kept in confinement all Night.”118
Frederick Calkins would spend his thirty-first birthday in the “careenage” off the French naval base at Fort Royal sharing the weather and work journaled by Captain of Marines Joseph Hardy. “Tuesday 25th January, Heavy Rains with smart Squalls of Wind. Employed four French Carpenters at work on the lower Yards.- procured a spar this afternoon to Splice the Foremast. The Barge returned in the Evening from St. Pierr’s with two large Spars, having left our Purser there, very Sick with a fever. We are informed a Philadelphia Brig arrived at St. P. yesterday in distress, having met with severe Weather on the Coast of America from where she was drove off and lost her Topmasts she was last from Cailais.- two of our People taken with severe fitts this Evening the fifer tumbled over Board and had near been Drowned A Man tumbled into the Mainhold without receiving much injury, and one of the Centrys tumbled off the Gangway in upon the Deck. I believe the D____l got aboard to Night the whole Ship seemed to be in a Tumult all the Evening.”119
“I was well acquainted with Jonathan Smith, Elijah Davish, a Mr. Bingham and a Mr. Edward Cleaveland and a Samuel Dennis who were all of them a part of the crew of the Confederacy and also James Elderkin gunners Mate” XLI [Roger Huntington]
The Confederacy sailed on 13 March 1780 saluting French Admiral La Mott Piquet and the garrison at Fort Royal with thirteen guns, touching at St. Pierre that same afternoon. After flirting with the possibility of joining a large French fleet seeking to engage the British fleet, on Thursday 30 March at noon, the Confederacy sailed for home with a cargo of salt, brandy, dry goods and Continental agent William Bingham as passenger. Another thirteen gun salute hailed fairwell as Captain Harding and his ship, bound for Philadelphia, left Martinique in convoy with five merchantmen. At sunset under moderate weather, the north end of Martinique retreated to the easterly horizon. As he had so many times in the past and would yet many more again, Frederick Calkins’ experienced mariner’s eye followed the trade islands in procession as the frigate Confederacy passed on its north and northwesterly courses; Dominica, Nevis, St. Croix, St. Thomas and finally the ‘Sail Rock’. From there, only sea and sails were visible for another thirteen hundred miles until Cape Henlopen. The Confederacy arrived at the cape on 25 April but was not escorted by a pilot up the Delaware until two days later. The ship anchored off Lewis Town in stormy weather and signals for a pilot went unanswered. Tragedy struck one last blow to the crew of the ill-fated cruise on the twenty-sixth when Second Lieutenant Thomas Vaughn and six men took the yawl intending to go ashore.120 The pension records of Master-at-Arms Cornelius Wells and seaman John McClain offer sketchy details of the fatal accident.121 The boat was dispatched to town for the purpose of obtaining either a river pilot or cable or anchor. In the attempt to lower the ship’s boat or after it was launched, the boat “capsized with all hands drowned but two.” According to McClain, one of the lost was “Robinson, a pilot.”122 The captain and crew of the Confederacy finally arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday 27 April 1780. The gale of the previous day had subsided leaving “the Weather very thick cold and Cloudy.”
“…He was absent in the service at this time 13 or 14 months. I saw him soon after he returned. I understood he was discharged at Philadelphia …” [Roger Huntington]
Frederick Calkins was discharged from the Confederacy at Philadelphia in May 1780, his Revolutionary War service completed. Perhaps his discharge papers were signed by ship’s clerk John Lawrence on 19 May 1780 at the same time as his old friend from Norwich Samuel Dennis.123 There would be no re-enlistment for Frederick Calkins on the Confederacy , which was “from the start … plagued by the need for repairs, shortages of everything from arms to clothing for the crew, a smallpox epidemic and frequent desertions.” Three years of naval service were enough to retire Calkins from the war; no doubt anxious for home, family and peace. No wartime glory would accompany Frederick Calkins on his journey from Philadelphia home nor would it bring any special accolade during “the Peace.” As a warrant officer, Calkins was not eligible to join the Society of Cincinnati after the war as the fraternity was open only to veterans who were commissioned officers.XLII Other than a small pension granted his widow fifty-seven years after Calkins’ return to Norwich, his wartime contribution received no particular recognition until 135 years later, when in 1915 his great-great grandaughter Rachel Ann NixonXLIII began inquiries into his war service in preparation for admission into the Daughters of the American Revolution.124 Clearly Calkins was back in Norwich around September 1780 as Frederick and Annis’ fourth child, named after her mother, was born 15 June 1781 when Frederick was thirty-three years old. Almost two years later, a second son Martin was born on 16 April 1783, suggesting that Calkins again was home about May 1782. Daughter Sophia, their sixth child, was conceived about January 1785 and born on 16 October 1786 in Norwich as were all of the previous Calkins children.125
After Calkins’ departure, the Confederacy languished all summer in Philadelphia waiting for authorization of funds to pay for additional necessary repairs and the wages of the crew. The Confederacy would sail again under Captain Harding on 5 December 1780. While returning from Cape Francois in the West Indies with a military cargo on 14 April 1781, she was surrendered without a fight off the Delaware Capes to two large British warships, the 44 gun Roebuck and 32 gun Orpheus. She was towed triumphantly into New York harbor where she eventually entered service in the Royal Navy as HBMS Confederate. Captain Harding and most of the officers were paroled to New London, while most of the crew was confined like Lieutenant of Marines Samuel Holt on the prison ship Jersey until exchanged or released.
“Frederick Calkins was always reputed to be a skillful seaman … he was Captain of a merchant vessel for many years after the war.” [Susannah Whitney] “his voyages as Captain of a merchant vessel to the West Indies fifteen times after the war.” [John W. Smith] “after the war he continued to follow the sea in the merchant service as captain of a vessel till he was about 40 years old” [Annis Calkins]
After the war, Frederick Calkins went back to the merchant seafaring life he had known since childhood. Norwich and New London ship masters embraced a return to the lucrative West Indies trade that boomed after the cessation of hostilities. “In 1784, almost 100 vessels were launched from shipyards in New London, New Haven, Norwich, Middleton and Hartford.”126 A list of forty-two vessels anchoring at the Port of Norwich in 1788 includes seven ships, nine brigs, nine schooners and seventeen sloops totaling 4,310 tons- 4,102 of which is owned by merchants from Chelsea (Norwich).127 Connecticut exported livestock, particularly horses, wheat, corn, potatoes, butter, cheese and lumber while homeward bound holds were loaded with rum, molasses, sugar and even slaves. In time, the plantation economies expanded to include coffee and tropical fruit. This boom in post-war trade is well described by Horse Jockeys in the West Indies Trade citation of Gaspare John Saladino’s 1964 dissertation, “Connecticut exported twice as much cattle, horses and mules as all other states combined in 1792 and one-half of all U.S. poultry shipments. It was a leader in cheese and pork exports that year as well.”128 The spice and sugar plantation system operating in the West Indies meant prosperity for Norwich and her enterprising citizens. Captain Calkins exemplified the successful ship master, making two voyages per year. The qualities characteristic of the man Calkins must have been are sketched in Thomas Randall’s The Rover, “In those days the captain of a merchant ship, especially a Nova Scotia ship, had to be Jack-of-all-trades and an expert at each. Had to know how to build a ship and how to rig it with masts, yards and sails. He had to know how to sail a ship to any part of the world and how to handle every sort of crew. When his ship reached foreign port he had to make a good bargain in selling cargo, and he had to hunt about for a return cargo and make a good bargain for that also. In these affairs, he had to deal with foreign merchants, ship-chandlers, and officials of many kinds, and this required him to have at least a good working knowledge of the French and Spanish languages.”129 One fundamental difference between the post-war Canadian and New England sea captain was the languages they worked with. Since the beginning of the American Revolution in the Spring of 1775, British West Indies ports were closed to colonial shipping. Betrayed by their American ally in the negotiations leading to “the Peace” with Great Britain, Spain and France also closed West Indies ports to American shipping by the end of 1783 for protectionist reasons.
Free trade for ships flying the flag of the United States was limited only to the West Indies islands of Denmark and the Netherlands including: Danish St. Thomas, St. Johns and English-speaking St. Croix, as well as, Dutch St. Maarten, Tobago, Curacao and Surinam. Limited trade continued with formerly Dutch, now French St. Eustatius, and French Martinique, St. Domingue and Guadeloupe. Ultimately, these trade restrictions led to the development of an American China trade as merchants and shipmasters sought new opportunities in the changing geo-political landscape. Previously, trade with the Orient was the exclusive monopoly of European East India companies. It was not until 1794 that some British West Indies ports were again opened to New England sea captains as a result of the Jay Treaty. Specific details of Captain Frederick Calkins’ merchant marine career after the war are not known.XLIV All that is known to date is that his name appears in the “List of Letters remaining in the Post Office, Norwich, August 14, 1782” published in the Norwich Packet which suggests Calkins is out to sea at the time.130 On 27 August 1782, Annis Calkins’ father James Huntington deeded to her one half of a duplex “Dwelling House” lying on the “Northwesterly side of the Great Plain.” One year later Eliphalet Carew, husband of Annis’ oldest sister Mary, sold Frederick Calkins the other Southerly half of the duplex on 23 April 1783. Presumably the Calkins family lived at this address until they sold both parcels back to Carew in 1788. During the period of his ownership, Frederick Calkins was admitted to take the Freemans Oath in the open Freemans Meeting on 12 September 1786 giving him the right and responsibility to vote and hold public office.131 A Connecticut Gazette advertisement dated New London on 18 October 1787 for a Dancing School that one Mr. Griffiths, dancing master “opened in the house of the widow Billings, at Norwich” curiously concludes with the postscript “Subscription papers at Mr. Calkins’ for those who wish to subscribe.”132 Two houses are noted as belonging to widow Mary Billings on the map drawn by F. P. Gulliver in 1895 of houses which stood in Norwich one hundred years earlier. In 1796, she was living in the “Greenleaf House” also known as the widow Billings red house. This house was occupied by the family of John Huntington, Jr. when it was sold in 1806 by Mary Billings heirs one year after her death. Calkins’ association with the house or Griffiths has not been determined. Nothing definitively is known of Frederick Calkins’ decision to quit the sea and the only clue we have is hidden in a biographical sketch of his grandson Martin C. Garfield, “Capt. Calkins was a sailor until his health failed and traversed many seas and visited every important port known to the commercial world at that time. During the Revolution he had given his services to his country and had the same rank that he held in the merchant service. Upon leaving the sea he settled in Chelsea… where he breathed his last.”133 One thing is certain, the personal and familiar toll a seafarer pays is great and a “clear mark of success in life was the speed with which a shipmaster could set himself up as a merchant.”134 For a captain without a command, accustomed to a world which accepts only orders, life on land can be a painful adjustment.“Even masters, though generally well rewarded, were professionally and socially insecure…With luck , a master might become a successful merchant, but he was not likely to be reckoned a gentleman.”135
“Calkins and his wife removed from Norwich to Lebanon, N.H. & I was in company with (them) there. They resided there about three years & from there removed to Chelsea” [Roger Huntington]
Shortly after the sale of their Norwich properties to brother-in-law Eliphalet Carew on 5 April1788, Frederick Calkins and his wife moved north up the Connecticut River Valley to Lebanon, New Hampshire where, according to deeds, Annis’ brother William Huntington and her sister Abigail Huntington Hough were already living. The 1790 Census records place the Calkins family; Frederick & Annis, boys Frederick Junior & Martin, and their four daughters Phebe, Elizabeth, Annis and Sophia in Lebanon in proximity to Huntington relatives.XLV In addition to William and Abigail and their families, Annis’ unmarried brother Roger and older brother James are also in residence in Lebanon at the same time.136 The extended Huntington family lived together in Lebanon for this short time on their way to final destinations elsewhere in Vermont including Chelsea, Hartford, Royalton, Middlebury and Tunbridge. Only Abigail and her husband planted roots in Lebanon where David Hough (1753-1831)served as a representative to Congress from the district between 1803 and 1807. David Hough was a ship carpenter in Norwich and during the war was employed working on Benedict Arnold’s Lake Champlain fleet, as well as, on the frigate Confederacy. It was during this temporary domicile that forty-three year old Frederick and thirty-six year old Annis celebrated the birth of their seventh child Eunice Huntington Calkins born 14 September 1791, named for Annis’ younger sister who died the year before.137 Soon after the birth of their fifth daughter Eunice, the Calkins family moved again to Turnersburgh, Vermont as it was then known. Elisha Tracy from Norwich was promoting real estate and persuaded several Norwich families to move into the area. A charter was granted for Turnersburgh in 1781. First settled in 1784, the town was named for Bela Turner of Lebanon, a New Hampshire legislator. At a Town Meeting in 1788 closely following the first one on 14 March, residents met to discuss renaming the town Brookline. By the time the legislature acted, the name was changed to Chelsea after the area of Norwich where many settlers had previously resided. Within two years of his arrival in Chelsea, we read of Capt. Fred. Calkins election as one of five “Surveyors of Highways for the year ensuing.” While this may not be the first evidence of Calkins’ presence there, nothing is recorded in the town minutes between the 21 September 1791 meeting and the March 1793 meeting of his election. The following year on 3 September 1793, it is recorded that Calkins took the Freemans Oath with ten others including fellow Revolutionary War veteran and friend Joshua Booth Elderkin. Calkins had already lived here several years when in 1795 the town acquired “a piece of land for a public parade” for five pounds, naming it the North Common. That same year Chelsea was designated the county, or shire, seat. At the Monday 6 October 1795 town meeting which authorized the purchase of the “Parade,” Capt. Fred. Calkins was elected to a committee of five including Capt. Samuel Huntington and Revolutionary War veterans Capt. Nathaniel Oak, Abraham Brigham and Ensign Hiram Huntington to evaluate a proposed land purchase associated with the parade common. Later that month on 20 October the committee was able to make an acceptable recommendation on the Parade layout and was charged with the task of examining a second proposal offered by Capt. Stephen Buhanon for “the Pease of ground on the East Side (of) the Parade In order (to) see if it will answer for a Meetinghouse spot.”138 Presumably, this is the site of the Congregational Church of Chelsea built fifteen years later. In 1802, seven years after development of the North Common, a prominent citizen gave land for a “new common” for the site of a proposed courthouse and jail, referred to subsequently as the South Common. The two commons distinctively characterize the village of Chelsea even today. When viewed from Main Street at the foot of the dual sloping greens which terminate at the competing spires of the United Church of Chelsea and the Orange County Courthouse or ever more poignantly from the opposing hillside of Riverside Cemetery across the White River; the balance of power and influence between church and state on the citizenry and the fundamental importance of both institutions in the lives of citizens like Frederick Calkins is palpably sensed. At a town meeting in late 1796, Frederick Calkins was chosen as a Petit Juror along with eleven others. His name next appears with many of the Freemen of the Town of Chelsea at a meeting on the second Monday of December 1802, called “for the purpose of electing a person to represent this State in the Congress of the United States.” Again “at 11 O’clock in the forenoon” on 11 September 1804, the townsmen including Calkins met and voted in favor of the Honourable William Chamberlain “to represent the Northeastern District of this State in the Congress of the United States.” Frederick Calkins appears on the 11 March 1805 “list of Electors voting in the said Freemans Meeting” and for the last time in the early town meeting minutes on a 6 September 1808 list of voters for a congressional representative from Vermont.139 Careful scrutiny of all four lists reveal another fascinating Chelsea contemporary and acquaintance of Frederick Calkins, Captain David Perry. Unlike his neighbor Calkins, who was “too busy living life” less than two miles up the road to the north until it was too late to write about it, Perry penned a memoir at age seventy-eight which eloquently captures the “spirit of the age” of Calkins’ revolutionary generation as it passed through time and reflectively sailed towards a historical sunset.
Perry writes for the ages, “In 1783, peace was declared between Great Britain and the United States, and the army was disbanded and returned home to their friends, without any thing for their toils and sacrifices, but the consciousness of having “fought a good fight,” and having won an invaluable inheritance for their posterity. The states laid heavy taxes, in order to defray their individual expenses in carrying on the war. which were burthensome to the people. But they finally paid into the state treasuries enough to redeem the paper they had issued, to pay the soldiers their bounty, which is more than could be said of the National Government, until after the poor soldiers had disposed of their hard-earnings for a tenth or twentieth part of its norminal value…In 1797, I moved to Chelsea, Vt. and have lived here twenty one years last March, and helped pay the premium to New-York, in order to become a state — and for a portion of the time we have been a state much opposition has been manifested by a part of our citizens, towards the general government, and in a very bad time, too in a time of war, when we ought to have united as a band of brothers in the common cause of our country. But we were not alone in this evil. It has pervaded most of the New England states. I have lived to see four wars in our country…” With the urgency of one acknowledging the silent passing of his generation, as well as facing his own mortality, Perry implores,”I desire it may never be forgotten by my posterity, for whom I have written these memoirs, that there was once a time, when party spirit raged to an extent that threatened the destruction of those liberties. which I had some small share in establishing. I hope they will never forget, that when war was declared to maintain those liberties, there were men claiming all the wealth, talents and religion of the country, who, from party, or worse motives, held back their resources from Government, and did all in their power to keep those who were disposed to lend an assisting hand, from entering into their country’s service. In the time of the Revolution we had a few such men among us, who set much by the British Government, and we drove them out of the country, or confined them at home, so that they could not meet in Convention, in the heart of the land, to plot against the government, and divide the Union. And I desire it may be remembered, that notwithstanding they boasted of their talents and religion, the Lord stood by us and put our enemies to flight in a marvellous manner, and wrought wonders for us as a nation: and we have the greatest reason to bless and praise his holy name, of any people on the earth…Had not the Lord been on our side, and fought our battles, we must have failed to maintain our liberties against so potent a foe from abroad, aided by so many of our misguided people at home — and it becomes us as a people, (as I have before said,) to bless and praise his Holy name forever, that He caused us to overcome our powerful enemies in two wars for our independence, and that there seems now to be so happy a union taking place among ourselves — that those of our fellow-citizens who have been thus deluded and deceived, are sensible of their errors, and appear ready to unite with all real friends of their country’s honor and prosperity. — And I pray God that this bond of union may continue to grow firmer and stronger, till every American citizen will be of one heart and one mind, in a determination to support our Republican form of Government to the latest posterity. May we all remember the maxim of our illustrious WASHINGTON: “UNITED WE STAND; DIVIDED WE FALL.” — When we reflect back to our Revolutionary war, and see how much blood and treasure were spent to gain our independence, shall we, after so long an experience of the advantages arising from so good a government, be any more deceived by internal or foreign enemies? Shall we contrast the mildness of our government, and the civil and religious liberty that we enjoy under it, with the bigotry and tyranny which prevails under the monarchies of Europe, and say we are willing to exchange the former for the latter? I dare say not. Then let me conjure my posterity to stand by this government of our choice, and never be deceived by political or ecclesiastical demagogues. Let the people keep the right and power of ELECTION always in their own hands, and at their annual freeman’s meetings be sure to choose men into office, who are true friends of a Republican Government. Let them encourage all the arts and sciences that are necessary in a Republic, and none others, — and in this way they may perpetuate their liberties. — But if they are ambitious to ape the follies, extravagence, and luxury of European countries, their freedom can have but a short duration. But, above all, let us as a nation dedicate ourselves to God, and pray that he would have us in his holy keeping, and so direct the councils of our nation, as may tend to preserve its free institutions, to the latest period of time; which is the ardent prayer of DAVID PERRY Chelsea, Vt. 1819.”140 In 1826, Captain David Perry would join Frederick Calkins on the knob of the “Old Cemetery” at what is today known as Riverside Cemetery.
“During his residence in Chelsea and up to the time of his demise he lived on a small farm adjoining my fathers and I was intimately acquainted with him and his family… Calkins was a man of intelligence and activity and an accurate and skillful surveyor” [John W. Smith]
Frederick Calkins purchased a homestead in Chelsea from an old Norwich acquaintance, Capt. William Coit on 27 February 1793, “being forty acres of land lying and being in said Chelsea being part of Lot number fifty three in the first Division of Lots which was drawn & laid out to the original right Ezra Stiles, said forty acres of land to be taken from the East end of said Lot & to be forty rods wide from the South to the North end of said Lot.“141 Interestingly, William Coit earlier shared his pew at the Church of Christ at Chelsey in Norwich with Captain Simeon Carew who had trained Frederick Calkins in the maritime industry.142 Simeon Carew and his brother Joseph Carew both also owned property in Chesea as late as 1807, Lots 12 and 8 of the First Division respectively. Frederick Calkins’ residence is listed on the deed as Chelsea. This 660’ x 2,640’ parcel is located at the end of the improved section of Hall Road as reached from Jenkins Road just south of Chelsea. Hall Road reverts to an unimproved wood lane that assumes the appearance of the road as it must have looked in earlier times. When one superimposes the Proprietors Plan for Chelsea traced by Fred E. Dwinell in 1945 over the Beers & Soule Map of 1877, the extent of the Calkins Homestead is clearly defined.
No dwelling now stands on the north side of the road at this location where the 1877 map indicates a residence known as the E.West Farm once stood. Presumably it was at this site on Friday 7 March 1794, in the long since vanished farmhouse on what is today called Hall Road, that an eighth child Mary Prentice Calkins named for Frederick’s mother was born less than three years after the family’s move to Chelsea. A seventh daughter Sybil Calkins, named after a younger sister of her mother Annis, was born just two years later on Wednesday 1 June 1796. Frederick was fifty-two years old and Annis forty-five when their tenth and last child Chloe Calkins was born on Tuesday 3 June 1800 in Chelsea.143
Go you who bear one of those honored names
And in whose heart their memory still remains,
Go stand once more upon the homestead site
When fading evening sheds its pensive light.
The farmhouse of your sires is changed or gone,
The earth and sky remain the same alone,
Where once were fertile fields, behold, waste places,
And vanished are the old familiar faces.
A Hundred Years by Rev. E.E.Herrick144
On 11 December 1801, Frederick Calkins deeded the property he purchased from Coit to his twenty-three year old son Frederick Junior with the following stipulation, “the condition of the above deed is such that if the said Frederick Calkins Junior shall support the said Frederick Calkins and his present Wife during their natural lives with all good and necessary food, drink, apparel, Lodging and Physician nursing, and shall also support with all good and necessary food, drink, apparel, Physician, lodging, nursing for Sophia Calkins, Eunice Huntington Calkins, Mary Prentice Calkins, Sybil Calkins, Chloe Calkins & Martin Calkins, Children of the said Frederick Calkins & his Present Wife until they shall respectively arrive to lawful age. The said Martin until he shall arrive to the age of twenty one years & my said Daughters until they shall arrive to the age of Eighteen years and shall also pay all taxes which I may at any time become liable to pay and shall pay and provide to be discharged all debts & demands whatsoever which I now owe any and every person & shall also pay to Martin Calkins, my son sixty dollars … the said Martin arriving at the age of twenty five years and shall pay to Phebe Cole my Daughter and to Annis Garfield ten dollars each in …four years from this date and shall pay to Elizabeth Calkins forty dollars for her … here to fore done & ten dollars being her portion out of the estate of the said Frederick Calkins … in the three years from this estate and shall pay to Sophia Calkins, Eunice Huntington Calkins, Mary Prentice Calkins, Sybil Calkins and Chloe Calkins each the sum of ten dollars in four years from the time they shall respectively arrive at the age of eighteen years…”145 The following year on 8 June 1802, Frederick Junior relinquished his rights in the property by quit claim deed to his father.146
On 30 November 1804, Frederick Calkins acquired for the sum of forty dollars another property from David Fuller, a fellow parishioner at the Congregational Church of Chelsea, adjoining his earlier purchase along the southwest corner.147 This four and a half acre parcel was also part of original Lot No. 53 located along its southerly line creating a combined property in shape of a backwards “L.” Again on 15 June 1808, Frederick Calkins deeded the Coit parcel in addition to the Fuller parcel to his son, Frederick Junior for the sum of seven hundred dollars taking back the full amount by mortgage on the same date.148 The transaction was “Conditioned that the said Frederick Calkins Junior shall well and truly provide for and cause to be provided for the said Frederick Calkins and for his wife Annis Calkins during their natural lives both in sickness and in Health all necessary food, clothing … nursing and the Comforts of life, then this deed to be null and void. Otherwise carried over to remain in full force and Virtue in Law and furthermore that Mary P. Calkins, Sybil Calkins and Cloe Calkins shall each of them have the privilege of making it their home and living with the said Frederick and Annis till they shall each arrive at the age of Eighteen years.” Within two months on 30 August 1808, Frederick Calkins Junior, now living in Norwich, used the parcel to secure two notes totaling one hundred ninety-three dollars from his uncle Eliphalet Carew Sr. of Norwich.149 Eliphalet Carew was the cousin of Captain Simeon Carew and the husband of his mother’s older sister. At Frederick Juniors’ death just four months later on 15 December 1808, the property reverted to the ownership of Frederick Calkins who survived his son and namesake by seven years. Little is known surrounding the life and death of Frederick’s namesake save the back and forth transactions between father and son over this seven year period prior to an untimely death at age thirty. He is the first of the Calkins in Chelsea to be buried in the family plot on the knob at the “river’s side.”
“Frederick Calkins was a sea Captain for many years after the close of the war and after he left the Sea Service he was a land surveyor till near the time of his death.” [Daniel Perkins] “after he quit the sea he always attended to the business of surveying until near the close of his life.” [Annis Calkins]
Within nine years of his move to Chelsea, Frederick Calkins’ second career in land surveying was in full swing. Surveying was a natural choice for Calkins having been trained in determining his location anywhere in the world. Only three road survey bills recorded for the Town of Chelsea between April 1800 and July 1815 do not list Frederick Calkins as surveyor. Two roads dated 4 June 1804 note Samuel Bennett as surveyor.150 Stuart Brown is listed as surveyor for one road bill dated 26 June 1813.151 During that fifteen year stretch, Calkins surveyed at least 27 roads in the Town of Chelsea. Frederick Calkins’ last road survey is dated 5 July 1815, just four months prior to his death.152 Two years later, Elias Woodward is listed as surveyor for the two road bills most closely following Frederick Calkins’ death in November 1815.153 Woodward may have been employed Calkins for some time prior to 1815 or assisted his widow in completing surveying contracts left unfinished by the circumstances surrounding his death. Roads known to have been surveyed by Calkins between 1800 and 1815 include the following:
1. 30 April 1800 [Book 2, Page 130] 2.4 mile (775 rods) long West Hill Road from Benjamin Griswold’s house northerly to Capt. J. Ladd’s Blacksmith’s Shop.
2. 25 November 1803 [Book 3, Page 211] 3.3 mile (1,057 rods) road running westerly from between Dodges and Whitney’s Store to the West Hill Road that runs from Tunbridge to Williamstown.
3. 25 November 1803 [Book 3, Page 211] 1.2 mile (379 rods) road running northeasterly from the southwest corner of Chelsea to Joshua Lathrop’s ending at the road which runs by Israel Bliss to Joshua Lathrop.
4. 8 June 1804 [Book 3, Page 295] 2.3 mile (737 rods) long road leading northwesterly from the west line of Lot No. 10 (first division) on the road leading from the Courthouse to David Wiggin to the Williamstown Road on the north line Lot No. 44 (second division) east of Joseph Farrow Saw Mill in Chelsea.
5. 12 June 1804 [Book 3, Page 294] 1.2 mile (387 rods) road running southeasterly from the southeast corner of Lot No. 44 (second division) and ending at the Williamstown Road on the School Lot
6. 12 June 1804 [Book 3, Page 294] 1.4 mile (449 rods) road from the Washington Corinth line on Lot No. 4 (second division) southwesterly ending at the road from Asa Church’s to John Merrill’s.
7. 12 June 1804 [Book 3, Page 295].The survey of modern day Brocklebank Road, the 1.7 mile (534 rods) road running from the Tunbridge line on south line of Lot No. 63 (first division) northwesterly and ending at the road from Chelsea to Strafford by Caleb Douglass’ also on the west line of Lot No. 65.
8. 6 October 1804 [Book 3, Page 367] 0.9 mile road beginning near Coverse’s on Lot No 29 (first division) southeast of Nathan Hoods house running northerly to the road east of Joseph Slikney near to the bridge.
9. 31 May 1806 [Book 4, Page 7] Four rod wide road beginning at the Tunbridge line on lot 33 running 0.3 miles (86 rods) northwesterly ending at the now traveled road leading to the Courthouse at Chelsea
10. 31 May 1806 [Book 4, Page 7] 0.9 mile (295 rods) road beginning on the northwest corner of Samuel Linkon’s land and on Lot No. 72 (second division) on the Brookfield line running southeasterly to Brookfield Road thence continuing southeasterly to the Randolph Road near Joshua Lathrop’s dwelling house.
11. 7 June 1806 [Book 4, Page 534] 0.4 mile (139 rods) road beginning at the now traveled road a few rods south of Rufus Lathrop’s saw mill on Lot No. (second division running southwesterly to the road leading from the Court House to Elisha Bennett’s on the College Lot (first division).
12. 8 June 1807 [Book 4, Page 6] 0.8 mile (266 rods) road from near the southwest corner Nathaniel and Ashbel Wisted lot beginning at the road leading from Solomon Amos’ to Caleb Chase’s running easterly and ending on the north line of the Grammer School Lot (second division) about a hundred yards from the northeast corner at the road to Samuel Estabrooks’.
13. 26 May 1808 [Book 4, Page 535] Four rod wide road beginning at the road leading from Tunbridge to Chelsea on Lot No. 32 (first division) near the dwelling house where Richard Goodwin now lives running northeasterly 0.5 miles (160 rods) to the road near the School House belonging to the first School District in Chelsea.
14. 1 June 1808 [Book 4, Page 254] 1.5 mile (467.5 rods) road heading southeasterly until its terminal intersection with the road leading from Chelsea Courthouse to Tunbridge on the South side of the line between the widow Chandler and Elias Curtis.
15. 24 September 1808 [Book 4, Page 535] Four rod wide road beginning at the south end of Chelsea Turnpike at Washington south line on Lot 29 (second division) first southwesterly then southeasterly 1.8 miles (586 rods) to the road leading from the Court House to Washington by Elisha Bennett’s on Lot 24 (second division).
16. 28 September 1808 [Book 4, Page 182] 0.4 mile (128 rods) road beginning at the road leading by Joseph Bennett’s about a hundred feet easterly of Bennett’s barn running southwesterly to the Brookfield line Northeast of Samuel Allen’s dwelling house.
17. 25 November 1808 [Book 4, Page 182] 1.3 mile (406 rods) road beginning on the Corinth line of Lot No. 74 (second division) running northerly and ending at the road leading from Laban Hall’s to Brookfield near said Laban’s dwelling house.
18. 15 September 1809 [Book 4, Page 230] One mile (316 rods) long road beginning at the Brookfield to Williamstown Road on Lot No. 52 (second division) running generally southeasterly to the north end of the A. Hurlbuth House.
19. 3 September 1810 [Book 4, Page 415] 0.9 mile (292 rods) road starting on the bank of the brook about a hundred feet southeast of Amos Hood 2nd’s dwelling house on the road from Hood’s running generally southwesterly to the Randolph line to Enos Hood’s ending where it intersects the road from Benjamin Griswold’s to the West Hill in Tunbridge just south of the road leading to Randolph.
20. 28 March 1811 [Book 4, Page 415] 0.1 mile (43 rods) road beginning on the road from Chelsea Courthouse to Vershire on Lot No. 1 (second division) running generally southeasterly until it intersects with the same old road.
21. 22 June 1811 [Book 4, Page 501] 0.4 mile (120 rods) road beginning at the road from Chelsea Courthouse to meet the Barre Turnpike on Lot No. 27 (second division) running northeasterly ending about two hundred feet west of Chauncey Hunt’s dwelling House on Lot No. 26 (second division).
22. 11 December 1811 [Book 4, Page 534] 0.8 mile (269 rods) road beginning at the road leading from Rufus Lathrop’s saw mill to Richard H. Little’s near Joseph Brown’s blacksmith shop running northeasterly to the south line of Washington on Lot No. 16 (second division).
23. 2 May 1812 [Book 4, Pages 534&5] Four rod wide road beginning about 33 feet east of a bridge on the road leading from Chelsea Court House to the Turnpike on Lot 24 (second division) running northeasterly 0.3 miles (86 rods) to an intersection with the county road leading to Washington.
24. 3 July 1812 [Book 4, Page 537] 1.3 mile (416 rods) road leading southwesterly from the Strafford Turnpike in Chelsea on Lot No. 65 (first division) to the north line of Tunbridge.
25. 3 July 1812 [Book 4, Page 537] 0.4 mile (120 rods) road beginning at the north line of Lot No. 64 near Capt. Richard Andrew’s house leading northerly to the Strafford Turnpike in Chelsea near Caleb Douglas’ dwelling house.
26. 3 July 1812 [Book 4, Page 538] 0.7 mile (224 rods) road leading from the south line of Lot No. 33 (first division) on the Tunbridge line near Samuel Hayword’s house northwesterly to the (so called) branch road on Lot No. 32 (first division) near Capt. Henry Chamberlain’s.
27. 5 July 1815 [Book 6, Page 244] 0.1 mile (39 rods) road beginning about a hundred feet west of Joseph Kennison’s? dwelling house running northwesterly to the road leading from Rufus Lathrop’s saw mill to Zerb Gilman’s, this day laid out and surveyed from Zerb Gilman’s to Joseph Brown’s.
“Calkins was a bright, intelligent, skilled man and a good surveyor- and a man of strict integrity & truth” [David Whitney]
At age fifty-six, Frederick Calkins and his wife Annis joined the Congregational Church of Chelsea on Friday 16 March 1804.154 Their application for membership was probably considered during the regular meeting of church leadership on the same date that chose Deacon Ivory Douglass to represent the church at the upcoming Council at Hartland. They would likely have been received into communion the following Sunday. Frederick is noted in the church records as Capt. Calkins, the title of respect that he presumably was known to fellow parishioners. Two of Frederick and Annis’ daughters would also join the church by “profession of faith,” Sybil in 1819 and Chloe with her husband Ebenezer Merrill in 1831.155 The church was organized on 10 April 1789 by the Reverends Asa Burton of Thetford, Stephen Fuller and Isaiah Potter of Lebanon just three years before the Calkins family moved to Chelsea. “At first, meeting was held in a barn on or near Heath Farm, south of the village. The first ten years, services were held by laity.”156 An ecclesiastical society was formed in 1795 and beginning in 1796, “regular meeting of the Congregationalists began to be held in the “upper arched room” of a public building where the Mascoma Bank now stands. Reverend Lathrop Thompson was installed as the first resident pastor on 20 November 1799 at $334 per annum “payable in wheat, rye or Indian corn at cash price.”157 In 1802, meetings were moved to the new courthouse owned by the town.”158 The church was small for about twenty years despite the increasing local population. After much friction, the pastoral relationship with the Reverend Thompson was dissolved by mutual agreement in 1805, soon after the Calkins joined the church. It was during this interim between pastorates when the wedding of daughter Chloe to Ebenener Merrill was officiated by Revolutionary War veteran Theophilus Huntington, Justice of the Peace on 6 August 1806.159 Recently graduated seminarian from Middlebury College, Calvin Noble began preaching in March 1807 and was ordained in the church the following year. His pastorate experienced periods of increased membership, particularly in the years 1809, 1819 and 1831, and he served the church until his death in 1834.
One great concern for Frederick Calkins in his later years at Chelsea appears to be the care of his son Martin. It is not certain what Martin’s affliction was or when it manifested, however it is clear that the Calkins family needed public assistance for his care by sometime during Martin’s twenty-eighth year. Records dated 17 March 1812 indicate that the Overseers of the Poor for the Town of Chelsea accounted for payment of “about $8.50” to “Frederick Calkins for taking care of Martin Calkins.” On 8 March 1813, an accounting was reported for payment of $26.00 to “Capt. Calkins for support of his son on year commencing March 17th, 1812.” On 21 March 1815, the Overseers of the Poor recorded payment for the year 1814 of $53.57 to “F. Calkins for taking care of son 53 w(eeks) 4 d(ays).” On 19 March 1816 the overseers posthumously accounted for final payments totaling $45.34 to “Frederick Calkins for Boarding Martin Calkins from March 21st 1815 to Nov. 30th 181(5)” and $3.00 for “Funeral expenses of M. Calkins.”160 Frederick’s thirty-two year old disabled son Martin would pass away just nine days after his father on 30 November 1815 and join the two Frederick Calkins already at rest on the other side of the river.
“Chelsea Vermont where the said Calkins died in 1815 and the said Annis Calkins now resides… she is now far advanced in life and gone infirm” [Roger Huntington]
Frederick Calkins died at age sixty-six on Tuesday 21 November 1815 in Chelsea. His twenty-year old daughter Eunice Huntington Rhodes was present at his death. No doubt his pastor Reverend Calvin Noble officiated at the funeral service. The surviving children would well remember joyful days shared with a loving father; daughter Annis’ wedding to Asa Garfield in 1799, Sophia’s wedding to Justus Rhodes on 6 August 1806 and Mary Prentice’s marriage to John Smith in 1812. After the funeral service, the grieving congregation of family, friends, parishioners and townsfolk would empty the sanctuary “but one room, open from the floor to the ceiling, with galleries on three sides.”161 The picturesque church with its quintessential New England spire had just been completed by Nathan and Harry Hale little more than two years earlier, replacing the county courthouse built in 1810 as the location of worship services. Construction was originally begun under Amos Rice in October 1811 on the parcel Frederick Calkins and the others on the “Committee of Five” had evaluated for that purpose some years before.162 The somber procession would have followed the carriage with casket from the foot of the steps of the sanctuary down the hill along the North Common and to the north up Main Street. At this same location on “the Parade” which Calkins helped lay out, ten days short of the 192nd anniversary of Calkins’ death on Veterans’ Day 2007, a United States Marine Gunnery Sergeant remembered Chelsea veterans of all wars. The battle-tested warrior paid particular homage to enlisted men and non-commissioned officers like Master’s Mate Frederick Calkins with a recitation of Rudyard Kiplings’ Tommy.
Yes, makin’ mock o’ uniforms that guard you while you sleep
Is cheaper than them uniforms, an’ they’re starvation cheap;
An’ hustlin’ drunken soldiers when they’re goin’ large a bit
Is five times better business than paradin’ in full kit.
Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.
A distance up the road, the pallbearers were required to lift the coffin of Frederick Calkins from the hearse and cart his mortal remains across the footbridge over the White River by hand. Today one can still traverse the river on a modern footbridge at the same location. The experience evokes an image of the old sea captain Calkins being carried from the land of the living across the River Styx to the place of the dead by the Athenian seaman Charon, a ferryman’s pole in his right arm. Amongst the tears of his loved ones, he was buried next to his son, who made the same voyage seven years earlier, on the knob of the “Old Cemetery” in what is today called Riverside Cemetery.
Frederick Calkins’ mate Annis, who so often bid “Godspeed” to her beloved mariner, bade fairwell for the final time. Not since his wartime service on the Raleigh and Confederacy had she faced such certain uncertainty. There would be far less “fair winds and following seas” for the captain’s consort. She would be both blessed and cursed with a long life without her mate, sharing both joyful and tragic days with her children; Sybil’s joining the Congregational Church of Chelsea on 5 September 1819 and her marriage to Robert R. Smith on Thursday 30 March 1825,163 the birth of Frederick’s namesake Frederick Calkins Merrill on Tuesday 2 September 1828,164 Chloe and Ebenezer’s membership into the Congregational Church of Chelsea on 4 September 1831 and finally Sybil and Robert’s departure to Waterbury, VT in 1833, a way station on their 1835 move to homestead a claim near Hickory Creek, Indian Territory near present day Plainfield, IL.165 The westward emigration of the Calkins/Smith families characterized an era in Chelsea of “population loss and economic stagnation” at a time when most of the country was experiencing geographical expansion and economic growth.166 When Frederick Calkins moved his family to Chelsea in 1791, the population was 239. By the time of his death, Chelsea boasted a population of about 1400 residents which continued to grow to 1,958 in 1830. After 1830, the population gradually decreased for decades, returning to 1,466 by 1880.167
It is likely that within a decade of Frederick’s death on 21 November 1815, Ebenezer Merrill and his new bride Chloe, youngest daughter of Frederick and Annis, moved in to the Calkins homestead with the charge of caring for her aging mother and spinster sister. By the time of the 1830 Census, Frederick’s widow Annis and their second oldest daughter Elizabeth were living in the household of youngest daughter Chloe and son-in-law Ebenezer Merrill, where they continued to live as recorded in the 1840 Census.168 Destitute, Annis was granted a Revolutionary War pension in the amount of $180 per annum commencing on 4 March 1831 with arrears of $1,260 issued 31 October 1837.169 Annis Huntington Calkins died at the age of 92 on 6 September 1847 in Chelsea. The newly installed pastor, Reverend Thomas S. Hubbard likely officiated her funeral. Annis’ will witnessed by John W. Smith, Esq., Edwin Fuller and Fernandez Fuller and probated on 20 October 1847 reads as follows; “In the name of God Amen, I Annis Caulkins of Chelsea in the County of Orange and State of Vermont being advanced in life and sensible that my dissolution is near, and at the same time being of sound and disposing mind and memory do judge it best to make and accordingly hereby make this my last will and testament, that is to say, I give and bequeath unto my son in law Ebenezer Merrill and my daughter Chloe Merrill his wife, and to their heirs and assigns forever, all my property of every name and nature which I now possess or which I may hereafter possess or be entitled to by means of my pension from the United States up to the time of my decease to have and to hold the same hereby relinquishing all which I have or might have on them for my pension money. The above bequest is made to the said Ebenezer Merrill and Chloe Merrill on the following conditions to wit, that the said Ebenezer Merrill shall pay or cause to be paid to my daughter Eunice H. Rhodes the sum of sixty dollars within one year after my decease, in addition to what she has already received and shall also erect suitable gravestones for me, after my decease, and shall also pay or cause to be paid to my daughter Sibyl Smith, five dollars in one year after my decease. And I hereby nominate constitute and appoint Ebenezer Merrill above named to be executor of my last will and testament. In testimony whereof I hereunto set my hand and seal and publish and declare this to be my last will and testament this 20th day of February A.D. 1843. Annis Caulkins”170 The burial and gravestone that Ebenezer Merrill arranged for his dear mother-in-law stands just to the north of her husband Frederick who had died thirty-two years earlier. The plot flanking Frederick’s grave on the opposite side having been occupied by the Merrill’s daughter Phebe E. who died in February 1838. Annis and Frederick’s two sons, Frederick Junior and Martin, also share the family place in the cemetery. The inventory of Annis’ estate171 appraised by the same John W. Smith and David Sleeper dated 3 November 1847 values her earthly goods as follows;
Pension money for the last six months ending September 4, 1847 $88.50
1 Old Chest with drawers .50 1 Trunk .34 1 Bed, bedding, bedstand & Cord 3 $ 3.84
1 Cloak 3.00 1 Old Merino Dress & Skirt 1.50 1 Shawl 1.00 2 pr Cot Hose .20 $ 5.70
Shortly after Annis’ death, caregivers Chloe and husband Ebenezer Merrill moved to Hanover, NH, probably after the certification of their children in the Chelsea Town Records on 10 September 1849.172 Ebenezer Merrill and his wife Chloe sold both the forty acre and four and a half acre parcels that came down to them through the Calkins family to William H. Smith of Dover, Stafford County, NH on 17 October 1849. Chloe’s sister Annis Garfield, now living in Marshall, Calhoun County, MI had previously granted a quit claim deed on the family homestead to Ebenezer on 23 September 1846 for consideration in the amount of one hundred fifty dollars.173 The transaction was handed by her son Seavy S. Garfield who had been granted power of attorney the year before on 13 February 1845.174 Ebenezer Merrill also sold to William H. Smith on the same date 17 October 1847, several other properties he had acquired over the years including parcels deeded from Erastus Allen on 5 March 1831, David Fuller on 2 January 1835 and Salmon J. Moore and others dated 18 April 1838.175 The parcel of land purchased from Fuller “being south of the Road leading from Thomas Fish to David Fuller’s bounded on the North by said Road & South by a piece of Land on said lot (No. 53) which I have heretofore deeded to Frederick Calkins being about four rods wide (66’) at the East End and running to a point at the N.W. Corner of the piece sold to F. Calkins.” Ebenezer Merrill is listed as a farmer and landowner in Grafton County in the 1850 Census record dated 9 September 1850.176 The Merrill’s finally transferred membership from the Congregational Church of Chelsea to Dartmouth College, NH on 4 March 1858 breaking the last of the ties that bound the family of Frederick Calkins to the Town of Chelsea, eleven years after the death of his widow Annis Calkins.177
O, Chelsea, rich in memory
That ripens as the days go by;
Full freighted with thy hundred years,
Fair to the sons thy fame appears!
Home of green hills and waters free
And landscapes for a painter’s view.
Here in all time that is to be,
May all thy sons be brave and true,
And like thine own pure mountain air
The thoughts thy daughters’ hearts shall share.
When from thy second century
Historians pluck its ripened fruit;
Then may that fruit of deeds appear
As rich as that now gathered here;
Then may thy fame untarnished be,
Thy name still bear its fair repute,
And in all virtues and desires
Thy sons be worthy of their sires.
A Hundred Years by Rev. E.E.Herrick178