John Robertson, Steward

John Robertson. According to his pension application #S-17063, John Robertson was born in 1758 and was living in New London at the start of the war. In the Spring of 1777 he enlisted as steward, presumably on the frigate Warren, under Captain Hopkins for the term of the cruise. At the conclusion of the voyage, the crew were “all paid off and discharged in Boston.” He immediately proceeded to New London and went on board the Confederacy in the “same capacity of steward” for the term of the cruise. Robertson served on the Confederacy “from the time she was first fitted out until she was captured” returning from St. Domingo where they had been ordered to receive a large quantity of clothing sent there from France for the Continental Army. He was taken prisoner for six months on the Jersey prison ship. Six men with this name appear on the prisoner list of the Jersey prison ship. Robertson recounted that “very many of the crew perished during their confinement” and that “he lost every one of his mess mates by sickness.” He was “himself thought to be the the very point of death” and suffered a total and permanent loss of hearing. The testimony of his nephew Charles Holt in pension application #W-3141 indicates Samuel Holt and John Robertson were acquaintances while living in New London after the war. It is likely that Charles Holt (1772-1852) is the son of William Holt, Samuel’s brother with whom he lived with for a short time immediately after the war. An obituary for John Robertson which appears in the Samuel Holt pension file sketches his Revolutionary War exploits stating, “He was a native of New London, Conn., and entered the Navy at the age of 17, as a midshipman.” It is possible that Robertson served earlier than his pension record indicates and perhaps even as midshipman as one of his deponents Richard Law served as midshipman on board the frigate Trumbull under Captain Nicholson in 1775. The obituary continues, “After five years hard and gallant service, he was captured in the Confederacy ship of war, off the Capes of the Delaware, and sent with his companions in arms on board the Jersey prison ship at the Wallabout; where he was confined nearly two years… He was appointed to a responsible station in the prison ship, and in that station he was instrumental in procuring the liberation of some hundreds of his countrymen.” The obituary indicates that “after the war Mr. Robertson was a ship master out of this port (New York), and subsequently became a merchant, and made a competent fortune, which was left to his children.” John Robertson’s deposition in the pension application indicates he was living in New York in 1838 just before his death and served on the Confederacy with Samuel Holt when she was captured. The deposition for the widow Holt was taken “while on his dying bed, and though too weak to sit up, he recollected perfectly the services of the deceased officer and made the affidavit which will secure the widow’s pension, and the large arrears to which she is entitled. Robertson himself was placed on the pension rolls on 21 March 1834 with an annual allowance of $120, the commencement of his pension dated 4 March 1831. Captain John Robertson was first married to Maria Sperry who died on 18 February 1804. They had at least one son. His second marriage was to Catherine Mulford Prentis (1780-1837), daughter of John Prentis & Esther Richards, on 25 October 1806. Catherine and John had three sons who died single, William, Arthur and Albert, and two daughters; Catherine M.T. who married Stiles Curtis and Mary H. who married Gardner Spring. John Robertson died on 6 January 1838.

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