Chipman Bangs, Midshipman, Purser, Steward, Steward’s Clerk

Chipman Bangs. It is most likely that the Chipman Bangs who served on the frigate Alliance is the same person described in “John Howland of the Mayflower: The five generations” (1990) by Elizabeth Pearson White, Edwin Wagner Coles and Roberta Gilbert Bratti as the youngest son of Seth Bangs and Deborah Chipman. Shortly after Chipman Bangs’ parents were married on 23 December 1726, their oldest son was given the same name at his birth on 20 June 1727. This Chipman Bangs would die at the age of twenty-two on 4 April 1750. Four months later, Seth and Deborah’s ninth and last child together was born on 8 August 1750 at Harwich, MA; taking the maiden name of his mother and becoming the namesake of his now dead oldest brother. The boy was baptized at Brewster on 12 August 1750. His mother apparently died sometime between his birth and 1756. Seth Bangs remarried to Thankful Stone and fathered a number of half-siblings to young Chipman. Prior to the Revolutionary War at age twenty-two himself; Chipman Bangs was married to Elizabeth Miller, daughter of John Miller of Milton, by the Reverend Samuel Stillman on 8 March 1772 in Boston. The couple settled in his wife’s hometown of Milton after their marriage. Milton is the place of residence offered by Chipman, or Cheapman, Bangs when he reported for five days of service as private in Captain John Bradley’s Company of Col. Benjamin Gill’s Regiment to march to Dorchester Heights to erect forts on 4 March 1776. The following month, Chipman Bangs also served on the seacoast for twelve days between 13-26 April 1776 in Captain Josiah Vose’s Company. Nothing is yet known of Bangs’ military service between April 1776 and May 1777; however his name appears in the List of Officers and Men of the Frigate Boston on pages 41-45 of Gardner Weld Allen’s publication “Captain Hector McNeill of the Continental Navy” (1922) that was drafted on the ship Boston in the Sheepscott River at Wichcasset, ME on 16 July 1777. This list was recorded immediately after the escape of the Boston from an engagement with the British frigates Rainbow and Flora and brig Victor during which the Continental Navy frigate Hancock and Captain Manley were captured. Seen as a coward, the Boston’s Captain McNeill would be court martialed and separated from service. The 24 gun 562 ton frigate Boston was built at Newburyport, MA and launched on 3 June 1776 “in view of a great number of spectators.” Completed on 5 May 1777, she sailed from Boston in company with the Hancock on a North Atlantic cruise on 21 May 1777 with twenty-seven year old Chipman Bangs aboard. While seeking out the British ship Milford, the two Continental Navy ships captured the 28 gun privateer Fox on 7 June 1777. A month later, ten days before the list of officers and men noted was written, during their return voyage to Boston on 6 July 1777; the American frigates were found out and chased by the Rainbow, Flora and Victor. No doubt Bangs was on the quarterdeck during the chase, his action station noted on the Boston’s list. Chipman Bangs stayed with the Boston during her layover at Boston through the later half of 1777 and is noted as ship’s Steward in a list of the officers and men on page 486 of “Naval Documents of the American Revolution: American theater: Oct. 1, 1777-Dec. 31, 1777”. Bangs did not likely sail with the ship now under the command of Samuel Tucker as she conveyed John Adams to France between 15 February and 12 March 1778. The Boston did not return to America until June 1779, making port in Philadelphia after the Alliance had already left America for France. Bangs whereabouts are not known between late 1777 and late 1778. However, Chipman Bangs was most likely on the frigate Alliance when she left Boston on 14 January 1779 to convey Lafayette to France, although his name is yet to be confirmed in the “List of Officers, Seamen and Marines belonging to the Continental ship of War the Alliance under the Command of Peter Landais Esqr” dated 17 March 1779 in the Benjamin Franklin Papers. Chipman Bangs, written as Shipman, appears next in the “Roll of the Officers and Crew of the Frigate Alliance” under the command of Captain Peter Landais dated 3 October 1779. This list was made just after John Paul Jones led the Bonhomme Richard and her crew to bloody victory over the British Serapis in the celebrated sea battle on 23 September 1779 during which Landais was accused of incompetence by Jones. In company with the Alliance, the Serapis with Jones aboard, limped into Texel Roads, the deepwater port of Amsterdam on the day the list was drafted. Bangs, noted as clerk, is recorded with a group of “Supernumeraries” at the end of the crew list. While anchored at Holland, John Paul Jones dismissed Landais and abandoning the Serapis to French Captain Cottineau; sailed in command of the Alliance in late December 1779. Captain Jones’ log of the Alliance from 21 November 1779 to 12 June 1780 is extant. The frigate returned to L’Orient on 19 February and while Jones was off the ship, Landais retook command of the Alliance; prodded by disaffected diplomat Arthur Lee. Captain Landais quickly and quietly sailed the American frigate out from under Jones nose to Port- Louis, Moriban by 20 June 1780. Only after Jones relented was the frigate Alliance allowed to leave from France on 8 July 1780 under Landais’ command. However, 1st Lieutenant James A. Degge relieved the captain of his duties at sea on 11 August 1780 and taking command himself, brought the frigate into Boston on 19 August 1780. Both faced court martials for their actions. Just months earlier in the Spring, Lieutenant Degge and Chipman Bangs with others had signed a memorial addressed to Benjamin Franklin in support of Landais and his actions on the Alliance after John Paul Jones stripped him of command. The two would again testify in depositions concerning Captain Landais on 31 January 1781 now located in the Harvard University Library, this time with different results. Both Landais and Lieutenant Degge were dismissed from service on account of the affair. It is most probable yet unconfirmed that Chipman Bangs sailed again with the Alliance on her first cruise under Barry’s command on 11 February 1781. An examination of the “List of officers and men on board the Continental frigate Alliance, John Barry, Esquire, commander when we left the harbour of L’Orient, March 29, 1781, including those who have entered since, also of those who have been put on board of prizes” at the Library of Congress will confirm that supposition. Captain Barry’s second cruise on the Alliance sailed from Boston on 23 December 1781, arriving at L’Orient with supercargo Marquis de Lafayette aboard on 18 January 1782. Lafayette was returning home after the surrender of the British army at Yorktown the previous October. According to the Payroll of the Alliance in the Barry-Hayes Collection at Independence Seaport Museum Library, just days after the ship’s arrival in France, Chipman Bangs entered service on her as a midshipman for fourteen months, eight days beginning 23 January 1782 and ending at Providence on 1 April 1783. It is highly probable Bangs was with the ship when she sailed from Boston the previous month but served in a different position. According to the ship’s Ledger in the Barry Collection, the midshipman was issued a jacket, trousers, shirt, shoes and hose in March 1782, about when the Alliance sailed for home. Several months later in June 1782, while the frigate was at anchor at New London; Mr. Bangs received soap, breeches, shoes and a number of shirts from the ship’s stores. The Alliance remained at New London until she departed on her third long cruise under Captain Barry on 4 August 1782. The Alliance captured a number of prizes before reaching France on 17 October 1782. While in L’Orient, several officers who had not received their pay refused obedience to the captain and Barry ordered them arrested. The Benjamin Franklin Papers suggest that Chipman Bangs handled the pay situation differently, receiving a sum of money for which he signed a promissory note to the famous diplomat on the day before the Alliance departed L’Orient hurriedly on 8 December 1782. A Journal in the Barry-Hayes Collection records the activities of the Alliance between 1 January 1783 and the sighting of three enemy sails, the British frigates Alarm and Sybil in company with the sloop Tobago, on 10 March 1783. In a diversionary attempt to allow the Duc de Lauzun to escape with her precious cargo of gold specie for Congressional use, the Alliance engaged the Sybil, killing and wounding six. The Alliance suffered ten wounded in the forty minute action off Cape Canaveral, including one who died the following day. Separated from her companion off Cape Hatteras, the Alliance sailed to Newport arriving on 20 March 1783 and shuttled to Providence several days later, anchoring just below the city where Chipman Bangs was discharged from naval service. Three months after his discharge from the Alliance, we find Chipman Bangs’ name in a list of letters waiting to be claimed at the post office published in the Newport Mercury on 19 July 1783. Three years later on 31 July 1786, an advertisement appears for freight or passage on the sloop Sally under master Chipman Bangs from the South Street wharf in Philadelphia “for Tappahannock, Port Royal and Fredericksburg.” He may have been the Captain Bangs at the helm of the schooner Experiment which was traveling between New York and Virginia in early 1786, arriving in Philadelphia on 14 February 1786. Tragically, the Pennsylvania Packet reported on 7 April 1787 that on the previous Thursday “a boat in which were two boys was accidentally run down by a shallop, near this city. One of the boys was saved, but the other, a son of Captain Chipman Bangs unfortunately perished.” Another published list of unclaimed letters at the Philadelphia Post Office on 5 October 1787, along with the newspaper article and the fact Bangs was master of ships transiting from Philadelphia to southern ports suggest his residence after the war was in the Philadelphia area; however, census and other records have not yet confirmed this. It is strongly suspected that Chipman Bangs is the Captain Bangs who is in command of the schooner Fredericksburg Packet which arrived from Virginia in late September and sailed again from McCoullough & Peterson’s Wharf in Philadelphia three months later in late December 1787. However, it is important to note that sea captains Christopher, Elijah and Joshua Bangs also operated out of the Philadelphia area between 1788 and 1810. No other information is presently known for Chipman Bangs other than a 1861 United States Government act granting $847.43 to the heirs of Shipman Bangs as his share of the prize money earned while Purser on the Alliance under the command of John Paul Jones.

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