Henry Skinner, Sailing Master, Lieutenant, Captain

Henry Skinner. Son of William Skinner (1708-1760) and Lydia Watts, Henry Skinner was born in Boston on 29 September 1750 and according to his pension application #S-38,374, was “brought up to the sea”. Parents William and Lydia were married nine years earlier on 19 February 1741. Henry’s mother Lydia was the daughter of Col. John Watts and an heir to extensive land holdings in Brunswick and Topsham in Maine. According to civic records, Henry Skinner was married to Elizabeth Langdon, daughter of Boston merchant John Langdon and his wife Mary, by the Rev. John Eliot on 13 March 1780 just four months prior to her eighteenth birthday. Church records indicate the marriage date was 13 April 1779. The Harvard-educated Eliot (1754-1813) had succeeded his father as pastor of the congregationalist New North Church at Boston during the preceding November. According to a nineteenth-century transcription compiled by Thomas Bellows Wyman of an earlier lost manuscript in the Boston City Hall entitled “New North Church Boston, A Genealogical Register containing records of Baptisms, Marriages and Deaths, 1714-1799”, Henry’s pregnant newlywed bride Elizabeth ‘owned the covenant’ in that congregation on 10 December 1780 as the birth of their first child approached. Oldest daughter Elisabeth was baptized on 28 January 1781, followed by second daughter Hannah on 28 July 1782 and namesake son Henry on 18 July 1784.

Following the outbreak of hostilities at Lexington in the Spring of 1775, later that year General George Washington commissioned two schooners named Lynch and Franklin to harass British shipping supplying occupied Boston. Adding four additional armed vessels, Washington assembled and maintained the small fleet at his own expense without authorization from the Continental Congress in order to avoid the ire of many in Congress who felt the action might further antagonize England. Initially under Captain Samuel Tucker, command of the schooner Franklin was turned over to Captain James Mugford of Marblehead when Tucker was transferred to the armed vessel Hancock. In concert with several other rebel schooners, on 17 May 1776 the Franklin captured the 300-ton prize ship Hope which was successfully brought in the following day with fifteen hundred barrels of powder and a thousand rifles despite grounding overnight on the ebb tide. The schooner Franklin sailed with Captain James Mugford and his crew of twenty-one two days later in company with the privateer schooner Lady Washington under the command of Joseph Cunningham. The Franklin ran aground near Point Shirley and both vessels were attacked during the night by a couple hundred men in over a dozen small boats disguising their approach by claiming to be friendly. Mugford was killed while repelling the British boarders, the official report of his death claiming, “the intrepid Captain Mugford fell a little before the enemy left his schooner; he was ran through with a lance while he was cutting off the hands of the pirates as they attempted to board him, and it was said that with his own hands he cut off five pairs of theirs.” Mugford was followed in command of the schooner Franklin by a Captain Skinner. Skinner and the Franklin, in concert with Captain Tucker on the Hancock, captured the 8-gun prize ship Peggy in late July 1776, taking her into Marblehead. Under the command of James Kennedy, the Peggy with her cargo of wine and provisions along with her Tory passengers, was taken while sailing with a fleet of troop transports from Halifax to New York. The following month, Tucker and Skinner took the 305-ton six-gun frigate Nellie bound from Honduras to London as prize. The two captains sent a prize brig with a cargo of fish into Boston on 9 November 1776 and four days later, yet another brigantine bound from Scotland to New York with a cargo of clothing which made its way to American troops. Captain Skinner later appears to have succeeded Captain Waters in the command of the Continental armed schooner Lee, the last ship of Washington’s little “secret Navy.” The 58-ton prize sloop Betsey, formerly under the command of Nathaniel Homek, was libeled on Skinner’s behalf in Boston on 24 June 1777. Out on another cruise beginning in late July, the Lee captured the brig Industrious Bee on 29 August 1777, sending her into Boston. The following day, the snow Lively was taken but was retaken in September by the British frigate Diamond. Skinner and his men on the schooner Lee captured the prize brig Dolphin and returned to Marblehead on 26 October 1777. The last of Washington’s vessels was returned to her owner a few days later.

Historians appear almost equally divided on whether this Captain Skinner is Henry Skinner or John Skinner, also of Boston. Captain John Skinner, who was later killed in action August 1778 while under command of the brig General Gates is favored by Deloraine Pendre Corey in “The History of Malden, Massachusetts, 1633-1785” (1898) and by James L. Mooney in “Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Volume 4” (1969). Nelsen in “George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea” (2010) most recently chronicled the exploits of the six-ship flotilla of the Commander-in-Chief flying his green pine tree banner inscribed ‘An Appeal to Heaven,’ also weighs in with John Skinner. However, Isaac John Greenwood favors Captain Henry Skinner in “Captain John Manley: second in rank in the United States navy, 1776-1783 (1915). Charles Henry Lincoln in “Naval records of the American Revolution: 1775-1788” (1906) also sides in favor of the latter in his edit of a 22 November 1777 letter from the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress to the Commissioners of the Navy Board at Boston which instructs the board to return the Lee to her owner and suggests a naval position to be found for Capt. [Henry] Skinner if possible. The pension application of Massachusetts seaman John Day Howard, who later served under the authority of Henry Skinner on the Queen of France, unequivocally names John Skinner as master of the schooner Lee. Howard initially entered onboard the Lee in June 1777 and followed Captain John Skinner to the General Gates in February 1778. It is yet to be confirmed that the masters of both Lee and Franklin are the same Skinner. The possible ancestral connection between Captains Henry and John Skinner, as well as Massachusetts seaman Richard Skinner whose widow claimed also served on the Tyrannicide and died in the capture of Charleston on 16 May 1780 has not yet been established.

“Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the War of the Revolution” provides the first undisputed record of Henry Skinner’s Revolutionary War naval service as Sailing Master of the Massachusetts brigantine Tyrannicide commanded by Captain John Allen Hallet between 9 July and 18 December 1778. According to his testimony in pension application S-38374, after his service in the Massachusetts State Navy on the Tyrannicide, Henry Skinner received a commission as Sailing Master in December 1778 and entered on board the 28-gun Continental frigate Queen of France then under the command of Captain Joseph Olney. Named in honor of Marie Antoinette, the Queen of France was on old French ship purchased by Silas Deane in 1777. Queen of France departed Boston on her first cruise on 13 March 1779 in company with the Continental ships Warren and Ranger, all under the command of Captain John B. Hopkins. Cruising down the Atlantic seaboard, the squadron took their first prize, the 10-gun privateer schooner Hibernia on 6 April 1779. The following day, the Continental Navy ships fell into an enemy fleet and captured seven more prizes: the 20-gun ship Jason; 16-gun ship Melish (aka Maria); brigs Patriot, Prince Ferdinand, John, Batchelor and the schooner Chance. The Queen of France returned to Boston with Maria, Hibernia and three of the brigs on 20 April 1779. Henry Skinner continued on board the Queen of France as Sailing Master for a second cruise in company with the Providence and Ranger under Olney’s successor Captain John Peck Rathbun. Sailing again from Boston on 18 June 1779, the American squadron under the command of Abraham Whipple encountered the Jamaican merchant fleet near the Grand Banks in mid-July. Sailing in dense fog amongst British warships protecting the fleet, the Americans took eleven prizes in secret before escaping at nightfall, eight making Boston with the three Continental ships in late August. The prize ships and cargoes sold for more than a million dollars. Skinner’s share in the prize money is recorded in an account annexed to the pension application prepared by Samuel Brown, agent for Captain Rathbun and the officers. Brown writes from Boston on 2 November 1819 that he remains in possession of the payroll ledger of the Queen of France penned by Captain’s Clerk John Hunter forty years earlier. Skinner’s sole share appears to have amounted to 17,285 livres for the rum and cotton that was captured and sold. Interestingly, although Samuel Brown attests to Skinner’s rate as Sailing Master, the pension testimony of fellow Boston master mariner George Pillsbury indicates that Henry Skinner was soon promoted to Lieutenant under Rathbun “and continued in that station on board for one year”. Pillsbury himself served as Lieutenant under Captain John Cathcart. Under Henry Skinner’s direct supervision as Sailing Master on the Queen of France were Master’s Mates Henry Johnson and Samuel Makins, both of whose wartime exploits are recorded in their respective pension applications which include Skinner’s testimony. In his 1829 affidavit for the pension application of Samuel Makins’ widow Sarah, Henry Skinner testified that he served as Lieutenant on the Queen of France with Sailing Master Samuel Makins, presumably his immediate successor in that post. Pension roll records appear to support both his and Pillsbury’s claim as Skinner was enrolled in May of 1820 as a former Lieutenant. When Chief Mate Samuel Johnson was honorably discharged and left service on the Queen of France about the middle of September 1779, he was advised by Captain Rathbun to take command of a privateer. On 18 October 1779, Henry Skinner along with Boston merchant and principal ship-owner George Stewart Johonnot successfully petitioned the Massachusetts Council requesting the twenty-six year old Johnson be commissioned to command the 6-gun schooner Hazard and her compliment of thirty men. While in port at Boston, Henry Skinner was transferred to the frigate Boston under the command of Captain Samuel Tucker where he served about two months. It was about this time when Henry Skinner’s name was added to the Supplementary List of of Continental Navy Captains on 17 September 1779. Skinner did not sail on 23 November 1779 with the sloop Ranger and three frigates- Boston, Queen of France and Providence on their final cruise together east of Bermuda which ended with their destruction during the defense of Charleston, SC- which was also lost on 11 May 1780. Having been “taken sick”, Sailing Master Henry Skinner was instead “left in the Sick Quarters in Boston.” Presumably, it was during this time Skinner was admitted into the Boston Marine Society as evidenced by his certificate of membership dated 4 December 1781. This certificate with the handwritten inscription on its back, “Presented by Henry Skinner to his son Charles William Skinner of United States Navy, Norfolk Virginia 1st Jany 1834, aged 84 years, Henry Skinner of the revolutionary navy” was recently sold at Cowan’s Auctions on 12 June 2015. Skinner’s pension testimony continues, “After the deponent recovered from Sickness, he obtained leave of absence, and he took command of a letter of Marque called the Apollo, and after his return from a Cruise in her, he reported himself to the Navy board and he continued in readiness to enter on active Service until the year 1783 when the peace took place.” In another pension document, Henry Skinner elaborated that he took command of the Letter of Marque Apollo “by permission of the navy board” and afterward was “not called into the public service”.

The Massachusetts Council ordered a commission be issued to Henry Skinner to command the 10-gun ship Apollo on 2 October 1780. The vessel was owned by Thomas Dennie and others, presumably including fellow Boston resident Mungo Mackay who together with Skinner and Dennie bonded the vessel for $20,000. Witnesses to the petition for the letter of marque were David and Thomas Porter. In command of the privateer and her twenty man crew, Henry Skinner sailed the Apollo from Boston to Amsterdam. Departing the Netherlands about 26 July 1781, the Apollo returned to her home port on 20 October 1781. According to sources noted in www.awiatsea.com, “Apollo sailed for The Netherlands with owner Thomas Dennie aboard as a passenger. On 4 July 1781 she was in the harbor at Amsterdam, when a memorable celebration was staged to honor Independence Day. Since there was no other American warship in the harbor, Apollo filled in. At sunrise she hoisted the “continental colours and saluted the day with thirteen cannon, and at two o’clock fired thirteen more, when the flags of the Thirteen United States of America, and the Seven United Provinces, were displayed from the top of the” Stadts Harburg hotel, rented by the Americans for the event. Numerous attendees, American, Dutch, and French were present and many toasts were drunk. After each toast the Apollo fired a salute, joined in by the Dutch cutter Dolphin. Finally the company retired to dinner, where more toasts were drunk and more salutes fired.” An advertisement in the 8 November 1781 edition of Boston’s “Independent Chronicle and the Universal Advertiser” indicates part of the Apollo’s trans-Atlantic cargo included drugs and medicines. Skinner left service on the vessel after this cruise and was replaced by the owners with Bradbury Sanders of Cape Ann. Finally the Apollo went under the command of Alexander Mackay for a cruise to the French West Indies and back to New York between December 1782 and February 1783.

According to Henry Skinner’s pension application, “after the peace he entered the Merchant Service”. His first command after the war appears to be the schooner Two Brothers which is mentioned in connection with Captain Skinner in an April 1785 letter published in Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society (1915) and carried from Burgwin, Jewkes and London at Wilmington, NC by Skinner to Christopher Champlin of Newport regarding an invoice and bill of lading shipped on the brigantine Nancy. Skinner was still in command later that summer when a 7 July 1785 notice was published at Boston in the “Independent Chronicle” alerting, “Any person that will discover the villan that stole the FLYING JIBB from the schooner Two Brothers, Henry Skinner, master, two nights since, which laid opposite to store no. 25, long wharf, so that he may be brought to justice, shall have Fifteen Dollars reward on his being convicted”. In November of the following year, he is mentioned as master of the brig Alfred in an excerpt of a 29 September letter from Captain Jonathan Sabin to the owners of the disabled sloop Sally, published in newspapers in New Haven and Philadelphia late in November 1786. Skinner is referred to in the letter as hailing from “Sheep’s Gut”. Sometimes referred to as the Sheep’s Gut or Ship’s Cot, the sixty-six mile long Sheepscot River empties into the Atlantic through a complex island estuary which also connects to the Kennebec River via the short Sasanoa River. At the intersection of the Sasanoa and Kennebec Rivers just nine miles to the southwest of Wiscasset in Lincoln County, ME lies the village of Woolwich, where the household of Henry Skinner is residing at the time of the 1790 Census. The birth of youngest son Charles W. Skinner in 1790 at Maine confirms that Skinner maintained at least a part-time residence there during this period. In all probability, Henry Skinner is also the Captain Skinner who carried a 18 July 1788 letter written by naval hero Thomas Truxtun from Batavia to Philadelphia merchant John Pringle which was recently auctioned. It is presumed that Skinner did not make port at Philadelphia until early May of 1789 when the letter was received and docketed. It is not known if the Batavia noted is located in the Netherlands or Indonesia, formerly the Dutch East Indies. Skinner’s next engagement appears to have taken him to Liverpool as the “Pennsylvania Packet” of 23 September 1789 notes Henry Skinner of Boston, master of the brig Polly and Nancy, as homeward bound from Liverpool to New York. A couple weeks later, the “New York Daily Gazette” of 6 October 1789 advertises another Liverpool voyage for Henry Skinner as master of the snow “Harmony”. It reads “The Harmony is an American Bottom, has good accommodations for Passengers, and will sail about the 25th inst. Part of her cargo being already engaged. For Freight or Passage apply to the Master on board, or to Thomas Pearsall & Son”. Skinner is mentioned by another sea captain in a “General Advertiser” article published at Philadelphia on 24 September 1793, “spoke ship Thomas, Henry Skinner master, from Philadelphia out 20 days bound for Cadiz”. The ship Thomas under Captain Skinner sailed shortly thereafter from Cadiz between the third and sixth of October, homeward bound first for Teneriffe in the Canary Islands and then on to Philadelphia.

Soon after the completion of this voyage in August or September 1794, Henry Skinner was offered command of the ship “Good Friends”, a 20-gun vessel owned by Philadelphia merchant Stephen Girard (1750-1831). Nancy Goyne Evans in “Windsor-Chair Making in America: From Craft Shop to Consumer” (2006) notes that Henry Skinner purchased a branding iron from Benjamin Price for $5.58 presumably to mark shipping crates and barrels for the “Good Friends”, which 10 October 1794 receipt is located in the Stephen Girard Papers. The newly built eighty-three feet long vessel had been launched from the Kensington shipyard of Morris Goff in April of 1793 and made just one trans-Atlantic cruise prior to Skinner’s tenure. Captain Skinner and his crew of about fifty officers and men departed from Philadelphia in October of 1794 bound for Norfolk, VA on route to France. Sailing from Norfolk in December carrying a cargo of wheat and tobacco, “Good Friends” made port in Girard’s native Bordeaux where her hold was loaded with brandy for the return leg. Departing France in July of 1795, the “Good Friends” ran into a severe storm just off Hampton Roads on 18 August. Suffering from the drowning of three of her crew and in need of repairs, Skinner bought the damaged ship into Norfolk in apparent violation of his shipping orders. On behalf of Girard, trusted friend and confidante John Henry Roberjet was dispatched to the scene to claim the master’s actions forfeited insurance coverage. By the time “Good Friends” was fit to sail again, Henry Skinner was dismissed from the vessel by Girard and replaced by Captain John Smith. Additional details of Skinner’s related business dealings should be revealed by research in the Stephen Girard Papers at Girard College and the James Vanuxem Papers, a subseries of the Wurts Family Papers at the Hagley Museum and Library in Wilmington, DE. During this time, Philadelphia shipping merchant James Vanuxem (1745-1824) owned sailing vessels which were insured with brokers Wharton & Lewis and underwritten by Stephen Girard, as well as, promissory notes for many ship captains including Henry Skinner. The “Philadelphia Directory” records the 1795 address of “Henry Skinner, Sea Captain” as 18 North Third Street, located on the west side of the street.

Skinner’s shipping career appears to have taken a turn for the worst after his termination by the wealthiest man in America as evidenced by the scarcity of ship commands over the next five years. Sharon Hartman Strom footnotes in “Political Woman: Florence Luscomb and the Legacy of Radical Reform” (2001) that Laura E. Beardsley of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania concludes Skinner was “A free-lance sea captain available for hire” and suggests that the hold of the brig Sophia on a voyage to Sierra Leone in 1801 under his command may have included “human cargo.” A 14 May 1803 report in Philadelphia’s “Poulson’s Daily Advertiser” reveals Captain Henry Skinner is master of the ship Hancock then bound from Boston to Antwerp. A 11 November newspaper account in New York indicates that the ship Hancock with “Henry Skinner of and for Boston” will sail the next day. Almost two years later, The Connecticut Herald of 3 September 1805 carries the report of another captain at sea who “spoke with the ship Jane, Capt. Henry Skinner from Antwerp, bound to Philadelphia”. A story is told of about this time by Henry G. Wheeler in “History of Congress: Biographical and Political; Comprising Memoirs of Members of the Congress of the United States, Vol 2” (1848) concerning the near death experience of Timothy Pilsbury on the U.S. sloop of war “Aurora” under Captain Jonathan Titcomb. Pilsbury recalls that after being cast overboard in a winter gale on the homeward bound leg of a voyage to Hamburg, Alicante and Lamatee; he was saved by the “united and powerful exertions” of his crewmates before the “Aurora” made port in Boston with her cargo of salt. The survivor then recounts that as the ship was loaded for a voyage to Copenhagen and on to Russia, his vessel “lay alongside of a ship from Philadelphia, commanded by Captain Skinner, the father of Captain Skinner now of the United States Navy, who was then her second mate.” The last record yet found concerning Henry Skinner’s merchant marine career is found among the “Memoirs of John Quincy Adams: comprising portions of his diary from 1795 to 1848, Vol 2” published in 1874. A passenger on a voyage from Boston to St. Petersburg on board the ship Horace commanded by Benjamin Beckford, Adams writes on 21 September 1809, “This is the day on which the sun crosses the line, and we had a heavy gale of wind, with plentiful rain, which began in the night and continued through the greater part of this day. It confined us entirely to the ship. Captain Skinner and Mr. Myers Fisher, Jun., of Philadelphia, came down from Christiansand to visit us, and spent a couple of hours with us in the forenoon.” The meeting occurred just eight days prior to Skinner’s fifty-ninth birthday. We are confident that the visiting captain was fellow Boston native Henry Skinner as he is one signatory of a “Memorial from Sundry Americans at Christiansand [Norway]” dated two months earlier on 19 July included in an online article authored by Tom Holmberg and titled “Danish Privateering: 1807-11”. The memorial of a number of sea captains to President James Madison complaining of being “forcibly intercepted in the prosecution of our voyages, and by the privateers of Norway, acting under commissions from His Majesty the King of Denmark, and brought into the several ports of this kingdom, to the great injury of the citizens of the United States, whose property we represent, and violation of those rights, due to neutrals in general, but more especially to us, whose Government uniformly has respected with the most sacred fidelity the rights of others.”

According to his testimony in the pension application, at the conclusion of his ‘Merchant Service’, Henry Skinner “went to New Orleans and Served there in the Revenue Department until 1819. The pension testimony adds that during his public service at New Orleans “his conduct had the Approbation of Beverly Chew, Esq., the collector of the customs”. Both merchant and government official, Beverly Chew’s (1773-1851) tenure as collector of customs at New Orleans began in 1817 and continued on to be the second longest of any presidential appointment. He also served as postmaster, vice-consul to Russia, partner in the business firm of Chew and Relf and president of the New-Orleans Canal and Banking Company. Chew’s background and business interests raised doubts in his own time and later concerning the aggressiveness of his efforts to enforce federal abolition laws and curb the profitable local smuggling trade.

On 19 March 1819, at the age of 68 and “now in very infirm health”, Henry Skinner applied for a pension for his Continental Naval service as Sailing Master on the Queen of France during the Revolutionary War. He was placed on the pension roll on 18 May 1820 with an annual allowance of $240. Skinner worked in New Orleans for the Revenue Department until 1819, just before submitting his application, “when worn out with fatigue and exposure and unable to do his duty from age and infirmity he resigned his Station and returned to Philadelphia.” On 16 June 1820, Henry Skinner testified that his family included, “a wife to whom he has been married forty years- and of three Sons and three daughters- his eldest Son is a Lunatic and in the hospital, his Second Son is a Sail Maker at New Orleans and his third Son is in the Navy of the United States. One of his daughters has been recently married, one resides with her brother at New Orleans- and the other with the deponent”. Thirty-seven year old middle daughter Hannah Skinner (1782-1857) is probably the one referred to as recently married. She was the wife of wholesale merchant Matthew Kerr, first directoress of the only orphanage in St. Louis and bore three daughters Hannah, Mary and Elizabeth. Additional details concerning the life of Hannah Skinner Kerr’s family are well documented by Sharon Hartman Strom in “Political Woman: Florence Luscomb and the Legacy of Radical Reform” (2001). It is suspected that Skinner’s thirty-nine year old eldest daughter is the one residing in his household and is the Miss Elizabeth Skinner reported to have died at Philadelphia in the 13 March 1824 edition of the New York Evening Post. Henry Skinner’s unnamed youngest daughter is suspected to be living with her brother at New Orleans. Little is also known of thirty-six year old eldest son Henry, Jr. except the New North Church of Boston birth records noted earlier. The residence of Skinner’s second son, sail maker Francis J. Skinner born between 1785 and 1789, is noted in the 1822 New Orleans City Directory as No. 5 Levee below Canal. The 13 October 1823 edition of New Orleans’ newspaper Courrier de la Louisiane reports the death of this son just a short time later, the curatorship of his estate sought by sea captain and Mobile cotton trader Joseph Swiler (1788-1851). Swiler was sailing in the New Orleans area as early as 1817 and was master successively of the schooners General Pike, James Lawrence, Little Sally, Surprise, Thorn, Orleans Packet and Harriet. In 1830, Swiler was Captain of the Revenue Cutter Pulaski operating out of the Key West Station and from 1842 until 1850 served as Harbor Master for the Port of New Orleans. It is possible Henry Skinner’s unnamed daughter was one of Joseph Swiler’s several wives or simply a young friend of the aging Revenue Service retiree who was asked to handle the affairs of his dead son’s estate. Thirty-year old youngest son Charles William Skinner, born on 17 April 1790 in Maine, was by then Lieutenant in the US Navy. Eighty-two year old Revolutionary War pensioner Henry Skinner testified on 25 January 1833 that “he left Philadelphia to take up residence at Norfolk, VA with his son C.W. Skinner, US Navy.” Additional pension data indicates the pension was transferred from Pennsylvania less than five months earlier on 4 September 1832. Owing to the lack of reference to his wife Elizabeth Langdon Skinner, it is assumed that she died sometime during the preceding thirteen years. While no record has been yet located determining the precise date of Henry Skinner’s death, he is known to be living in January 1834 and one pension notation suggests that his passing may have occurred during the third quarter of 1834. He clearly is not listed in the Norfolk household of youngest son C.W. Skinner in the 1840 Census.

Twenty year old Charles William Skinner was appointed Midshipman in the United States Navy on 16 June 1809. A recently auctioned letter penned by Stephen Decatur dated 21 December 1811 reveals the Midshipman’s advancement to warrant officer- “Sir, You will join the Nautilus and report yourself to her commander, you will act on to assist that vessil as sailing master”. This rate was followed quickly with a commission as Lieutenant on 24 July 1813. Promotions to Master Commandant followed on 3 March 1827 and Captain on 9 February 1837. C.W. Skinner’s first command as Captain was the steam ship Fulton which he was relieved from in 1838 on account of ill health. His next command was ship-of-the-line Delaware at Norfolk in 1839. On 20 December 1844, Captain C.W. Skinner succeeded Matthew Perry as Commodore in command of U.S. Naval forces operating off the west coast of Africa with orders to suppress the slave trade. Ironically, the 1840 Census records indicate Captain Skinner’s Virginia household included four slaves. On 25 June 1845, the 80-gun sloop Jamestown departed Hampton Roads, VA as Commodore Charles W. Skinner’s flagship for the deployment, returning to his father’s native Boston on 6 August 1847. Even before making port, on 1 June 1847 President James K. Polk appointed C.W. Skinner to head the Navy’s Bureau of Construction, Equipment, and Repair in which capacity he served until 28 February 1852. Commodore Charles William Skinner died at Staunton, presumably at the home of his only son attorney James H. Skinner on 11 October 1860 “after more than half a century spent in the Naval Services of the United States.” He is buried with his wife Clara W. Skinner (1804-1877) at Cedar Grove Cemetery in Norfolk where both were long-time members of Christ Episcopal Church. The Commodore’s King James Bible dated 1828 with his personal bookplate and handwritten notes was recently offered for sale online for $5,500. Commodore Charles W. Skinner’s son- Continental Navy veteran Henry Skinner’s grandson- James H. Skinner followed in the military tradition of his fathers and served as Captain of Company A of the 52nd Virginia Infantry Regiment. Promoted to Major in 1862, he suffered wounds at the Second Battle of Manassas, Gettysburg and “severely” at Spotsylvania Courthouse.

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