Nathaniel Richards, Lieutenant of Marines, Purser

Nathaniel Richards. According to his pension application #S-35624, Nathaniel Richards was born in New London in 1756. His parents were Elizabeth Harris (1727-1793) and Guy Richards (1722-1782), a merchant of New London, although one source indicates Nathaniel was a native of Norwich. In late January or early February of 1777, Nathaniel Richards was commissioned Second Lieutenant of Marines on the Alfred commanded by Elisha Hinman replacing Alexander Neilson. His brother Peter Richards also served on the Alfred as First Lieutenant. Peter would be killed later in the war at Fort Griswold in 1781. Lifelong friend Charles Bulkeley who was the Alfred’s Master may have recommended Nathaniel. Both would later worship together at the First Church of Christ and serve together as directors of the Union Bank of New London. Nathaniel Richards went onboard in Boston for a number of months before sailing on a cruise to Europe with the frigate Raleigh under the command of Captain Thomas Thompson, capturing several prizes on the voyage. Making port in L’Orient, France in October 1777, they spent most of the Winter in port before sailing on 29 December 1777. They cruised off the Island of Madera, thence off the coast of Africa. The Alfred then cruised to the West Indies where just a little windward of Barbados, they were captured by the British frigate Ariadne and sloop Ceres under Captains Pringle and Daven on the 26 (or 9) March 1778, at least partly as a result of Captain Thompson and the Raleigh avoiding engagement. The prisoners were taken to Barbadoes. Here Nathaniel Richards was recognized by Captain Nicholas Vincent of the 74 gun Yarmouth, as he knew the Richards’ boys as children through his intimacy with their father’s family. Through the influence of Ariadne’s Captain Pringle and the intercession of Elisha Hinman, Richards was permitted to return home on parole. He recounted Captain Elisha Hinman’s “desire for me to return that I might give an account as early as possible to the Navy Board of the manner of our capture and of the defection of our consort the frigate Raleigh”. To that effect, Nathaniel Richards was charged with the duty of Purser. He declares that the Navy Board did not know of his appointment as Purser when the Alfred sailed from Boston, that he was involved in Hinman’s purchase of clothing for some of the crew in France and that he could not be listed on the ship’s returns in both capacities. Sent on a cartel to Martinique, he took passage for home from there in the brig Charming Sally under Master E. Hammond. He was captured again by Captain McCartney commanding His Brittanic Magisty’s Ship Ambuscade and taken prisoner to Halifax. He obtained his release on 7 July 1778 and sailed on a cartel to New London, arriving on 28 July. About the first of October 1778, Richards was exchanged and appointed Purser of the Confederacy, then outfitting at New London. Interestingly, William Richards was Purser for the Confederacy during construction in the shipyard. The Confederacy sailed 1 May 1779 in company with Continental Navy ship Boston and captured the British Privateer ship Pole on 6 June 1779. Richards served as Purser aboard the Confederacy until her capture by the British on 14 April 1781, and was probably paroled in New York with the remainder of the crew. Richards was residing in New London on 6 May 1782, when he acted as a bonder for the Connecticut Privateer ship Cato, under the command of Daniel Tappan. Nathaniel Richards was married to Elizabeth Coit of New London, daughter of Abigail and Thomas Coit, on 22 January 1784. After the war he engaged in the commercial mercantile business, although reputedly was not successful. Nathaniel Richards was a declarent in Richard Pearse’s pension application #W-4308. Richards pension was allowed on 24 March 1818. His file indicates that many of his papers were lost. In 1820, he was living in Waterford, CT with his wife Ann born 1768, his wife’s sister Jane Thompson born 1764 and Jane’s husband James Thompson born 1760. A relative George H. Richards is also mentioned in the file. Nathaniel Richards died on 1 June 1832.

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