David Rice, Acting Midshipman

David Rice. According to his pension application # S-37340, David Rice of Portland, ME was born about 1760. No details of his parentage or place of birth are known. According to the pension documents, David Rice entered on board the frigate Alliance under Captain John Barry on or about the last day of May 1780. His testimony indicates Rice served as acting midshipman for two years and made two voyages to L’Orient, France. Sailmaker Nathaniel Service testified in the application regarding Rice’s service on the Alliance. According to the Payroll of the Alliance in the Barry-Hayes Collection at Independence Seaport Museum Library, two men by the name of David Rice entered service on the frigate Alliance on 1 November 1781. One was an ordinary seaman who remained with the ship for seventeen months until the close of the war and the second, this acting midshipman who served on this tour just six months twenty-one days until his discharge on 21 May 1782. It is not known if the two were related. The acting middie was paid only $8 per month, the rate of a seaman, rather than the $12 per month rate normally paid appointed midshipmen. Clearly the pension files suggest that Rice also served aboard the Alliance during her previous cruise to L’Orient. However, his initial enlistment must have occurred no earlier than the ship’s arrival at Boston in August 1780 rather than the May commencement Rice claimed and likely not until after Captain John Barry took command of the ship in September. David Rice likely departed from Boston aboard Barry’s first cruise with the Alliance on 11 February 1781. After suffering “considerable damage” crossing ice fields in the North Atlantic and capturing two vessels, the Alliance anchored off L’Orient on 9 March 1781 and delivered her supercargo John Laurens, Thomas Paine and two others. After departing France on 29 March, the frigate captured two privateer brigs, the Mars and the Minerva on 2 April 1781. Exactly one month later, the Alliance took a Jamaicaman off the Newfoundland Banks. Badly damaged in a storm on 17 May 1781, the Alliance engaged the British sloops Atalanta and Trepassey ten days later and captured both in a vicious sea battle. Captain Barry was seriously wounded in the fight and would recover in Boston after the arrival of his frigate on 6 June 1781. It is not known if Rice initially sailed with the Alliance as a junior officer or if he enlisted as a seaman and was promoted during the voyage. Acting midshipman David Rice sailed from Boston under Captain Barry for their second cruise with the Alliance just over six months later on 23 December 1781. According to the ship’s Ledger in the Barry-Hayes Collection, Mr. Rice was issued two pairs of shoes, soap, cap and knife in December 1781. After arriving at L’Orient, France with supercargo Marquis de Lafayette aboard on 18 January 1782, the ship made a short cruise to the Bay of Biscay from L’Orient in February 1782 before sailing for home on 16 March 1782. The Alliance took no prizes on the homeward voyage with eight men dying at sea within six weeks before arriving at New London on 13 May 1782. According to the Payroll records, David Rice was discharged just eight days after returning home. His testimony in the pension application reveals that Rice was “then left sick at New London.” Apparently, sickness must have ravaged the crew as the large number of men who died at sea were followed by an additional ten deaths in port during the two months following. Two interesting letters are included in Rice’s pension application including one penned by John Cooper of Machias, younger brother of the Alliance Purser Samuel Cooper and Master’s Mate Richard Cooper, apologizing “that it is not in my power to be of service to him” in the pension process. An even more intriguing affidavit by William Jones of Portland indicates that during the Summer of 1781 or 1782, Jones was on the sloop Washington of Portland, with Rice’s son-in-law Benjamin Carter at Cape Francois while the frigate Alliance was “standing off in the harbor on her return from L’Orient.” Jones continues, “I understood from the cockswain of the barge belonging to said frigate” that David Rice was aboard and that Jones assisted Carter in writing a short letter “to inform Mr. Rice of the situation of his family,”sending it to him by the barge. There is no evidence that the ship was at Cape Francois during the Summer of 1781 or 1782. However, it is possible the letter was sent when the Alliance was at Cape Francois in January 1783 after this Rice had already left the ship. It can also be deduced that even if Carter was a very young man, it is not likely he was courting or married to the daughter of twenty-two or so year old Rice at the time. Nothing is known concerning the personal life of David Rice after the war except what is recorded in the pension application. An 1820 accounting of his personal estate and affairs reveals Rice owns only “a few necessary utensils to keep house” and that he has “often been assisted by the Town Overseers of the Poor” because he has “no income.” David Rice died on 11 August 1821 at age sixty, his obituary appearing in the Independent Statesman seven days later.

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