Jesse Jacocks, Midshipman, Master’s Mate

Jesse Jacocks. Midshipman Jesse Jacocks (Jesse Jeacocks or Jacox) served under Captain Seth Harding on the Defence from March or 12 April 1776 to 15 November 1776 as second mate. The sons of his older sister Mabel and her husband Jabez Disbrow, 21 year old Russell and 18 year old Simon Disbrow also served on the Defence with their uncle from 12 March 1776. Prior to his service under Harding, it appears that Jesse Jeecocks participated in an expedition to Queens County, LI in January of 1776 in Wakeman Burr’s Company of Col. David Waterbury’s Regiment. Lieutenant of Marines Thomas Elwood of the Continental frigate Alliance also began his military service in Burr’s Company as a Private under Corporal Jeecocks. Jesse Jacocks continued to serve on the Defence under commander Samuel Smedley as mate from 15 November 1776 to 15 June 1777. From the Connecticut Navy vessel Defence, Jesse Jacocks was appointed Midshipman to the Continental Navy brig Resistance where he appears on a “List of Men belonging to the Brige Resistance” dated 31 August 1777 at New London, CT found on pages 855 and 856 in Volume 9 of Naval Documents of the American Revolution (1986). Midshipman Jacocks is described as a “Supernumerary” with accompanying note “having Served during the wintr [winter].” Early in her cruise, the brig Resistance took the 10-gun prize ship Mermaid under the command of Captain James Cockran bound from Scotland to Barbados on 16 November 1777. Midshipman Jesse Jacocks was placed in command of the nine man prize crew and sailed the vessel into Boston on 18 December 1777 where it was libeled one week later.

Ten months later we find Midshipman Jesse Jacocks sailing out of Boston at dawn on Friday 25 September 1778 attached to the 32-gun frigate Raleigh under the command of Captain John Barry. Just six hours into the cruise, two British warships were sighted including the large “two decker” HMS Experiment. Chased for nearly sixty hours to the coast of Maine, a seven hour long sea battle raged, “the engagement being very warm.” Hot action continued after midnight into the early morning hours of Monday 28 September, providing no opportunity for the Americans to escape. To Captain Barry’s “great Grief” the Raleigh grounded on a rocky island near Penobscot Bay. He 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.” Within two hours, all the 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 men including most of the midshipmen and warrant officers would stay on the island awaiting rescue. 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. 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 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.” At high tide on 28 September, the British refloated the Raleigh and after repairs took her into the Royal Navy. Midshipman Jesse Jeacocks was entered 28 September 1778 on the Muster Roll of HMS Experiment (ADM 36/7920, National Archives at Kew, England) and recorded as transfered to the “Prison Ship” on 13 October 1778. 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 demotion to 1st Master’s Mate when the Confederacy put to sea.

All of the Frigate Confederacy Riggers’ Returns from November 1778 to February 1779 in Folders 18 & 19 of The Frigate Confederacy Papers 1776-1786, The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Collection 222 were approved by Jesse Jacocks, confirming that Jacocks temporarily retained the rank of midshipman that he held on the Raleigh when he first began service on the Confederacy. However, Silas Cleveland’s pension file #S-12486 names Jacocks as first mate on the Confederacy and Frederick Calkins as second mate, suggesting that his appointment as midshipman was eventually revoked. Perhaps it was former Defence commander Seth Harding’s confidence in Jacock’s loyalties which permitted him to remain in a position of authority in the Continental Navy on the Confederacy after Captain Barry’s accusation of treachery in the loss of the Raleigh. According to British shipping records for the West Indies, in the Spring of 1775, Jacocks was master of the Barbadoes bound schooner Jane of 70 tons out of Halifax carrying a cargo of mackeral and oats for owners Thomas, James and William Cochran. The ship was no doubt named for Jane Allan Cochran, the wife of the Hon. Thomas Cochran. Thomas (1733-1801), James (1741-1819) and William Cochran (1751-1820) were the Irish-born sons of Joseph Cochran, wealthy merchants and leading Tory political figures in Nova Scotia. Perhaps it was this association which instigated Captain Barry’s violent accusations against Jacocks. Jesse Jacocks was born on 1 May 1741 and died in Westport, CT sometime prior to his widow’s second marriage to Sergeant-Major Joshua Disbrow on 2 February 1792. Jesse Jacocks was the son of Joshua Jacocks (1707-1753), who was born on Long Island and died in Westport, and his wife Deborah (died 6/27/1769) who were married in Stratford, CT. Presumably named after his uncle Jesse born in 1716, Jacocks married Deborah Hendrick in the Congregational Church in Old Fairfield on 3 August 1777, just after his service on the Defence and prior to his service on the Raleigh. Deborah was born in 1746 in Westport, the daughter of John Hendrick and Phebe Coe. After Jesse’s death, the widow Jacocks married the older brother of her sister-in-law Mabel’s husband. Deborah Hendrick Disbrow died on 28 February 1807. Her second husband Joshua Disbrow was a shoemaker and lived some time longer, according to his pension application #S-37882.

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