Samuel Chandler, Chaplain

Samuel Chandler. A list of accounts prepared in 1810 by the Treasury Department under the act of 27 March 1792 regarding settlements with Army and Navy veterans of the Revolutionary War published by Gales and Seaton in “American State Papers: Documents, Legislative and Executive of the Congress of the United States from the First Session of the First to the Second Session of the Seventeenth Session of Congress, Inclusive” (1834), includes an amount of $1.84 settled on 7 February 1794 for Samuel Chandler- chaplain of the Continental Navy frigate Trumbull. Interest on the comparatively tiny sum was authorized to commence beginning 20 November 1780, suggesting that date as his last in service on the vessel. The monies may be related to several days of unpaid wages, however the sum is not divisible as the daily increment of a chaplain’s stipulated salary of twenty dollars per month. Others in the crew appear to have been paid off five days earlier on 15 November 1780. Under the command of Captain James Nicholson, the frigate Trumbull was stationed in the Delaware River at that time having sailed there after her bloody engagement with the 32-gun British letter-of-marque Watt and subsequent repairs at Nantasket, CT. It is not known if Chaplain Samuel Chandler served on the ship prior to her Philadelphia arrival, but it is certainly plausible he sailed with the ship as chaplain on her first cruise from New London in late May 1780, the year following the suspected Chandler’s graduation from Harvard. It is also not known if he stayed on with the Trumbull when she departed Philadelphia in August of 1781. Also anchoring in the Delaware River during 1780 was the Continental frigate Confederacy whose account book is located in the National Archives. A notation dated 30 November 1780, indicates the Navy Board forwarded a substantial sum of cash to the Confederacy’s Lieutenant Stephen Gregory “to pay off Ship Trumbull’s men” at Philadelphia.

Nothing is known concerning the identity of this chaplain except a suspicion that he may be the same Samuel Chandler who Clifford Merrill Drury identifies in “The History of the Chaplain Corps, United States Navy” (1949) as the fifth chaplain of the reconstituted Navy two decades later. Drury quotes a letter earlier published in “Commodore John Barry: the Father of the American Navy” by Martin Ignatius Joseph Griffin (1903) that one Samuel Chandler penned at Philadelphia on 21 April 1800 to Barry requesting a position as chaplain and school master. Chandler petitions the old Continental Navy hero that he was “brought up in the Church of England, I often visit the Catholic Church and am always pleased with the devout and becoming attention observed in them. I consider the different forms of religion only so many different roads to the same final happy home.” Not surprisingly, Chandler’s solicitations are directed toward the Catholicism of fellow Philadelphian Captain Barry while also leaving the door open to accepting a teaching position only to the young midshipmen. Where Griffen concludes this Samuel Chandler of Philadelphia is a layman rather than Episcopal priest, Drury simply acknowledges there is no evidence of his being ordained- noting only that he is reported to be a graduate of Cambridge, possibly referring to Harvard.

According to Drury, Chaplain Chandler first saw duty on the sloop Patapso launched in June 1799. He is listed on a muster roll as chaplain on 31 December 1800. Chandler was one of two chaplains retained in naval service in 1801 at the close of the Quasi-War with France, presumably because both he on the frigate Chesapeake and Robert Thompson on the frigate President also provided schooling to midshipmen. Drury notes Chaplain Samuel Chandler was attached to the frigate Chesapeake from 1 June 1801 to 9 April 1802 when the Secretary of the Navy notified him of his retirement. Based on a dated letter however, Chandler was attached to the frigate Chesapeake in late January 1801 when the ship was already in the West Indies. One of the six frigates authorized by the Naval Act of 1794, Chesapeake was the only one not constructed under the direct supervision of designer Joshua Humphrey. Her keel laid on 10 December 1798, the ship was launched from the Gosport Navy Yard at Portsmouth a year later on 2 December 1799. One report chronicles the event scheduled originally for the prior day but delayed by problems reportedly resulting in the death of a shipyard workman. “Every preparation was made for launching this Ship the preceding day, but the tallow on her ways being frozen and the weather extremely cold…the blocks being removed from under her, she started and went a only few feet but slowly.” As a result of her unorthodox design and botched launch, the Chesapeake earned monikers such as the “unlucky” or “accursed” ship.

Under the command of Captain Samuel Barron, the 38-gun frigate sailed down the Elizabeth River on her maiden voyage 22 May 1800, leaving Hampton Roads two days later on her first wartime cruise. Chesapeake’s orders were to patrol the American coast south to Georgia seeking French privateers, then deliver specie from Charleston to Delaware and finally to cruise off Puerto Rico until December 1800. It appears likely Chaplain Samuel Chandler was aboard the vessel on this voyage to the West Indies, where the ship called at St. Kitts for provisioning. The vessel was ordered by Commodore Thomas Truxtun on 23 October to remain at that station until June 1801, well beyond Chesapeake’s original orders to return home in time for expiring enlistments among the crew. Captain Barron was further ordered to put sailors who rebelled against the extended service ashore at St. Thomas only after flogging them first. Chesapeake returned to Hampton Roads in early March 1801, presumably with her chaplain aboard, having completed the convoy and patrol mission of her first cruise and taking one French privateer as prize. Within two months of Chesapeake’s return, the Barbary State of Tripoli declared war on the United States. On 27 April 1801, the frigate Chesapeake weighed anchor again at Hampton Roads bound for the Mediterranean and the Turks as Chaplain Samuel Chandler had anticipated in a letter written three months earlier. Chesapeake sailed as the flagship of Commodore Richard V. Morris. Her mainmast sprung shortly into the crossing, the ship continued to Gibraltar jury-rigged. Morris echoed the sentiment of others concerning the Chesapeake, “I never was at Sea in so uneasy a Ship.” Presumably, Chaplain Chandler spent most of the next year prior to his retirement in April 1802 at Gibraltar, Leghorn and Malta with the Chesapeake avoiding conflict at Tripoli, her presence felt at that place for only five days in ten months. Chandler was relieved by Episcopalian cleric Alexander McFarlan from Virginia as chaplain of the Chesapeake, likely somewhere in the Med, as McFarlan is known to be on the vessel at Algiers by 21 February 1803. The vessel departed Gibraltar in April 1803, arriving home on 1 June 1803. It is speculated that upon his return to the States, Chaplain Samuel Chandler completed requirements to earn a Master’s degree from Harvard after his naval stint, graduating “out of course” in September 1802.

Much of the mystery surrounding U.S. Navy Chaplain Samuel Chandler, including his history and genealogy is unveiled in a letter posted from aboard the “Chesapeake Frigate” dated 31 January 1801. Although nothing is mentioned concerning the location of the ship at that time, the Chesapeake was on station in the West Indies, the letter written shortly after word of a treaty ending the Quasi-War with France reached the Caribbean. “Honored Mother: I have been favored with a letter from Col. Reed, inclosing yours to him making inquiry for your son- meaning myself. Of Col. Reed’s politeness and your tender regards I entertain the most grateful sense. I was informed some years past, when residing in the West Indies, that a lingering consumption had deprived me of that tender mother, who through the goodness of Divine Providence still lives and inquires for those to whom she has given birth. Many are the changing scenes, honored mother, I have experienced since I heard from you. Most of my time has been spent in New York and Philadelphia. I have, however, visited all the United States, the West Indies and Floridas, and have been in different occupations, but mostly tutor in different colleges. You may recollect when we were at our family habitation in Andover, how sensibly affected I was by the religious discourses delivered by the Rev. Parson French. Whatever has been my life since that time, I have now resumed the profession of a minister; and as the morning of my life was spent in religious (services), so shall its evening be, if God spares it, and hope its meridian faults will be pardoned by him whom they have offended. The greatest consolations in this life I find are derived from a virtuous life. I am now bound to the Mediterranean against the Turks; shall visit Egypt, the place where the Israelites were once prisoners, then proceed to Jerusalem, the land of Canaan, and, if possible, go to the River Euphrates, where was situated the Garden of Eden; then return to visit my mother, if God spares my life. Yours with filial esteem, Samuel Chandler.”

This letter is quoted by George Chandler in “The Chandler Family: The Descendants of William and Annis Chandler” (1883) who also reveals that Chaplain Samuel Chandler is the son of Captain David Chandler (1724-1776) and Mary Ballard (1732-1803), both of Andover, who married on 30 August 1750. His father David served as an officer in Captain Benjamin Ames’ Company of Militia at Lexington and Bunker Hill. According to son Josiah, who served as his waiter, David Chandler was attached to Captain Kimball’s Company of Col. Paul Dudley Sergeant’s Regiment when he died of smallpox in camp at Cambridge on 21 February 1776. The diary entries of David How record the events leading up to the elder Chandler’s death. “Jan 22 (1776). I Listed with David Chandler in Col. Sargent’s regiment. Feb 5. William Parker Listed Hear with Lieut. Chandler. Feb 6. I Let David Chandler Have my Breaches that I drawed out of the Stores. I have been a Running Ball all Day. Feb 17. Lieut. Chandler broke out with the Small Pox and was sent to the pest house this after Noon. Feb 18. Mrs. Chandler here this morning. Feb 21. Lieut. Chandler Died with Small Pox At the pest house About on a Clock in the Day. Feb 27. Daniel Chandler paid me 13s. Lawful Money that Lieut. Chandler owed me.” After her husband’s death, Chaplain Samuel Chandler’s mother was remarried to Daniel (or David) Parker on 10 November 1779 and relocated to Reading, MA. Born on 4 November 1757 and baptized two days later, Samuel was the fifth of ten children; David, David 2nd, Daniel, Hannah, Samuel, Sarah, Josiah, Ballard, John and Mary. Brothers Josiah and Ballard were Revolutionary War pensioners. The Rev. Parson French who Samuel Chandler refers to in the letter as influencing his early religious intellect is Jonathan French (1740-1809). Called to ministry at the Chandler family church in South Andover in 1772 when Samuel was about fifteen, Rev. French was a veteran of the French and Indian War who received preparatory training in the classics from chaplains at Castle William where he was stationed as sergeant. Graduating from Harvard in 1771, French was settled at Andover where he labored for thirty-seven years until his death.

George Chandler’s family history recounts several traditions concerning Samuel Chandler. “It is said of him that when a boy he manifested a strong desire to fit for college, and urged his parents to furnish him the means. He succeeded in his ardent wish, and was graduated in 1779 at H.U. (Harvard University) He then traveled in Syria, visited Jerusalem and the Holy Sepulcher, for all of which the small property of the family was largely drawn upon. One tradition is that he married a lady of the West Indies, and was a long time from his Andover relatives, and there was among them much anxiety about him. At length a man appeared to his Andover and Reading friends calling himself the long-lost Samuel Chandler. He turned out to be an impostor. But when at length the real Samuel appeared to his sister, who was nearly twenty years his junior, and had but little recollection of him, as he had left home while she was quite young, she treated him coldly, as she said, but told him to go to South Reading to see his mother, who had married 10 Nov. 1779, Daniel Parker. But she soon repented of her coldness to him, and immediately sent after him, but he could not be found. He did not then go to see his mother. (The text refers to Samuel’s youngest sister Mary, actually sixteen years his junior, who married Daniel Foster of Reading in 1791) Another tradition is, that soon after leaving college he went to Philadelphia, and was a clerk or cashier of a bank there, and married a lady of so much style and fashion, that when he came on north with her he found his family so low in the world that they stopped only long enough to take a cup of tea and went off.” It is likely that there is some truth to all four of the family traditions. It appears that Chaplain Samuel Chandler’s letter to his mother gives support concerning a voyage to the Middle East, only later in life and under different circumstances. George Chandler’s history suggests that thirty-something Samuel had a wife named Lucy and a son named Joshua born on 17 March 1789 registered in the Andover Town records. This birth may have been recorded at the time of his brief visitation, over ten years after his mother’s second marriage. Support for the tradition concerning a second wife who was a Philadelphia socialite can be found in a marriage announcement published in the Philadelphia Repository of 15 January 1803 and the NY Gazette two days later.

Forty-five year old Samuel Chandler, “late Chaplain in the service of the United States”, was married to Miss Mary Benezet of Philadelphia at Perkioman in Montgomery County, PA on 5 January 1803. Born on 28 September 1771, the thirty-one year old bride was the daughter of the late Captain Philip Benezet (1722-1791), a London-born Philadelphia merchant of French descent who had lost his business as a result of the Revolutionary War, and his wife Sarah Ayries. Late in life, Captain Benezet served as a warden of the Port of Philadelphia. The couple was married at St. James’ Episcopal Church in Evansburg, halfway between Pottstown and Norristown, by the Rev. Slator Clay. The choice of this venue for the wedding is an interesting one as the Benezet family appears to have associations with Christ Church in Philadelphia. It is possible that Clay was a colleague or personal friend of Chaplain Chandler, the thought suggested by a storyline common to both. Born in Newcastle, DE; Clay first studied law and was admitted to the bar about 1779. One biography records, “In his 25th year, seeking adventure, or gain, or health, he set sail with a friend for the West Indies. A British cruiser (privateer) captured their vessel and put him ashore at Antigua (with only one piece of money in his possession according to another account). At a favorable opportunity he took passage for New York. But new difficulties were encountered. The sailors mutinied, the vessel itself was seized by an American privateer, and after a severe storm was wrecked on the island of Bermuda. Here the young voyager found occupation as a teacher for six years: His thoughts having been turned towards the sacred ministry he determined to return to America and continue the study of theology.” Upon his return to the new United States in 1786, Slator Clay was ordained deacon by Bishop White at Christ Church in Philadelphia the following year and ordained to the priesthood on 17 February 1788 at St. Peter’s Church in the same city. Rev. Clay labored as rector of the parishes of St. James at Perkiomen; St. Peter’s at Great Valley and St. David’s at Radnor over a thirty-four year ministry.

No additional information concerning U.S. Navy Chaplain Samuel Chandler has been confirmed, however, it is known that one fifty year old Samuel Chandler died in Philadelphia on 30 December 1807. The chaplain’s wife Mary Benezet Chandler died at the age of seventy-one, never having born children, at the Indigent Widows and Singlewomen’s Asylum on Cherry Street in Philadelphia on 4 March 1842. Her mortuary notices appear in the North American and Philadelphia Inquirer on the following day, both making mention of her father while omitting any reference to her husband Chaplain Samuel Chandler.

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