James Geagan. Relatively little is known about Chaplain James Geagan who first entered on board the frigate Alliance under the command of Captain John Barry on 1 December 1781. He followed Chaplain Benjamin Balch who served Barry and the Alliance between October 1780 and June 1781. Balch was immediately preceeded in that rate by John Watkins from May 1779 to June 1780. After initially serving as a Continental Army chaplain for Col. Ephraim Doolittle’s Regiment at the siege of Boston, Balch entered the Continental Navy under Captain Samuel Tucker on the frigate Boston on 28 October 1778. When the Boston was captured in South Carolina, Chaplain Balch joined the frigate Alliance with his sons Thomas and Benjamin. Known as the “Fighting Parson,” Benjamin Balch was the son of a Royal Navy chaplain and father to the first chaplain commission in the reconstituted U.S. Navy in 1798. About the same time Balch went on the Boston, James Geagan was attached to the frigate Raleigh under the well-respected Irish Catholic Captain John Barry as ship’s surgeon, perhaps also performing chaplain duties. It can be reasonably assumed that Geagan had some professional medical training or experience to be assigned the post. Barry’s executive officer on the Raleigh was 1st Lieutenant David Phipps of New Haven, transferred from the Trumbull with a “large detachment of seamen” including Master’s Mate Frederick Calkins. Officers returning to duty on the Raleigh under her new captain included New Hampshire natives Lieutenants Josiah Shackford, Hopley Yeaton and Captain of Marines George Jerry Osborne. Other officers included Lieutenant of Marines Jabez Smith and Midshipmen David Porter of Massachusetts, Jesse Jacocks and Matthew Clarkson of Philadephia who was previously acquainted with Barry from his service on the Delaware. With no list of Barry’s crew on the Raleigh known to exist, the pension record of Edmund Pratt identifies other commissioned and warrant officers on board including; Sailing Master Stephen Porter, purser John Carr, Boatswain Celio Parker, Surgeon Gagen and Surgeon’s Mates Dorsey and John Plumb. Filling out the Raleigh’s compliment of 235 men were “fifty of General Burgoyne’s soldiers” serving as marines. It is not yet known what preceded Geagan’s service on the frigate Raleigh but it is not likely he was returning to the vessel after Captain Thomas Thompson was relieved of command by Barry as former Surgeon John Jackson appears on the list of officers and men when she sailed from the Piscataqua River on 12 August 1777 and again while at L’Orient on 22 January 1778.
Named master of the Raleigh by the Marine Committee on 21 May 1778, Captain John Barry (1745–1803) arrived in Boston to assume command on 24 June only to find a ship largely without a crew, cannon or supplies writing, “I found the ship had been Robb’d of a great many things.” Upon his arrival, Navy Board member James Warren confided to his friend Samuel Adams that the Marine Committee had “appointed a Good one.” Barry enlisted less than half of the ship’s compliment by early August 1778, despite recruiting close to a hundred of the ship’s former crew. To staff the manpower shortage, the Navy Board turned to the idled crew of the Continental Ship Trumbull still stranded in the Connecticut River. On 10 September 1778, Captain Barry received orders to cruise off of North Carolina specifically to intercept and destroy “certain armed Vessels fitted out by the Goodriches.” The Raleigh departed for Portsmouth, VA at dawn on Friday 25 September 1778 in convoy with brig and sloop. Just six hours into the cruise, soon after the pilot was dismissed, “At noon two sail were sighted at a distance of fifteen miles to the southeast. The Raleigh hauled to the north, and the strange vessels, which were the British fifty-gun ship Experiment and the Unicorn of twenty-two guns, following in pursuit.” Upon sighting the Experiment, a large “two decker” warship, Barry ordered the merchant vessels back to port. The chase continued until dark on the 25th with Barry noting the British ships “to all appearance gained nothing of us the whole day.” The following day, on Saturday 26 September the pursuers were sighted at seven o’clock in the morning. About four in the afternoon the Raleigh having been shadowed astern all day, the captain “lost sight of the said Vessels…Thinking they had quitted Chasing of us as I could not perceive they gained anything the whole time.” The crew tensely stood at battle stations all day preparing for combat as Barry notes, “the Ship being ready for Action and Men at their Quarters from the first of their Chasing us.” “The chase continued nearly sixty hours before a shot was fired, off the coast of Maine. On the morning of (Sunday) September 27 the ships were not in sight, but reappeared about half-past nine in the forenoon. The wind blew fresh from the west, and the Raleigh, running off at a speed of eleven knots, drew away from her pursuers, but in the afternoon, the wind having diminished again, the Unicorn gained on her.” Barry decided to engage the smaller frigate Unicorn as “I found we were a Match for her.” “Give him a gun” Barry commanded as the ships drew within a quarter mile of each other as the sun began to set. In classic understatement, Captain Barry describes the intensity of the seven hour long sea battle as “the engagement being very warm.” Responding to the dire circumstances enveloping the Raleigh, Captain Barry advised First Lieutenant Phipps of his plans, “Damn,em they’ll not get this Frigate…I’ll run her ashore and burn her.” The naval battle continued to rage after midnight into the early morning hours of Monday 28 September, providing no opportunity for the Americans to escape. Finally, as the first hand accounts describe, the Raleigh’s pierced main topsail drove the ship aground as the four stern guns continued a defensive cannonade. To Barry’s “great Grief” the Raleigh had been grounded on a rocky island near Penobscot Bay. Although named as Fox Island in some pension records and called Seal Island by the British, the site is genereally surmised to be Wooden Ball Island. Immediately Barry proceeded to land his crew, intending to destroy his ship. Barry writes, “As soon as the firing was over I thought it most prudent to get the Boats out in order to save what Men I could, it then being between one and two O’Clock Monday A.M. And not a Man on Board knew what Island we were on or how far it was from the Main.” Within two hours, all 220 surviving crew were silently evacuated from the ship to the island, leaving fifteen presumed dead behind. When it became clear that he wouldn’t be able to retrieve the Raleigh’s cannon to defend the island, Barry divided his men into four groups. Twenty-three of the crew would return to the ship under the command of the Sailing Master with Midshipman Jesse Jacocks and scuttle her by lighting fires before escaping in one of the three longboats. Twenty-four men including the ten wounded would attempt escape to the mainland in each of the other two remaining boats. Captain Barry and Captain of Marines Osborne would command one with Lieutenants Shackford and Yeaton commanding the other. First Lieutenant David Phipps with Marine Lieutenant Jabez Smith and the remaining 132 men including most of the midshipmen and warrant officers would stay on the island awaiting rescue. Either through negligence or treachery the combustibles prepared for firing the ship were not ignited. Barry was convinced that Midshipman Jacocks, who did not return with the Sailing Master’s escape boat, foiled Barry’s plan to scuttle the ship. The Experiment’s log records, “at 5 A.M. the Enemy still on shore on a small barren Island called Seal Island, the Rebel Colours still hoisted, at 7 weighed and Anchored near her, fired several Guns & hoisted out all our Boats, Manned & Armed, sent a Boat ahead with a Flag of Truce to offer them Quarters, on discovering which she hawled down her Colours, her first Lieutenant and One Hundred & thirty-three Men were got ashore on the Island, but surrendered on a Summons by Truce.” Thirteen of the crew of the Raleigh escaped detection on the island to be reunited with Barry, resulting in a total of eighty-five who evaded British capture. The British soon took possession of the frigate and made prisoners of those of her crew who remained behind. The Raleigh lost twenty-five killed and wounded while the Unicorn saw ten killed and many wounded with severe damage to her hull and rigging. Leaving the wounded in the care of the ship’s surgeon James Geagan in the Penobscot area, Captain Barry with the balance of his crew who escaped, rowed their way back to Boston where they arrived two weeks later on Wednesday 7 October 1778. Captain of Marines Osborne and another officer suspected to be Lieutenant Thomas Vaughn would recount the naval battle in the Boston paper for news hungry readers. Captain Barry finishes his accounting of the engagement, “about 11 O’Clock A.M. About 140 of our Men were taken Prisoners and about 3 P.M. They got the Ship off… The reason I could not tell how many of our Men were made Prisoners was because there was no return of the kill’d on Board.” At high tide on 28 September, the British refloated the Raleigh and after repairs took her into the Royal Navy as the HBMS Raleigh. Despite the loss of the Raleigh, Captain John Barry’s reputation was not impugned as he was “Honestly acquitted” by a court of inquiry.
Surgeon Geagan’s activities between October 1778 and December 1781 have not yet been identified. It is possible that he followed Barry to Philadelphia and into privateering on the brig Delaware in 1779 or brig America in 1780. However, Chaplain Geagan entered on board the Alliance at Boston with Lieutenant of Marines William Morris at Boston on 1 December 1781. Other Alliance officers included Captain of Marines Matthew Parke, 1st Lieutenant Hezekiah Welch, 2nd Lieutenant Patrick Fletcher, 3rd Lieutenant Nicholas Gardner and Dr. John Linn of Boston as Surgeon replacing Dr. Kendall who quit the ship. Geagan, having previously served under Captain Barry on the Raleigh, was no doubt considered due to his earlier experience as a naval surgeon but possibly also because of a shared heritage. It is likely Geagan, like Barry, was of Irish Catholic ethnicity. Geagan being a derivation of the predominantly Irish Geoghagan of Gaelic origin, was alternatively spelled Gegan, Gagen and Gaughan. Chaplain James Geagan accompanied Lafayette, the Count de Noailles and their entourage to France on Barry’s second cruise in the Alliance departing Nantasket Road on Christmas Eve 1781 with thirty-seven “Sick and About Naked” sailors recruited from French ships in Boston. On 17 January 1782, the Alliance arrived at L’Orient, bringing to a close Lafayette’s “happy voyage” whereupon Captain Barry immediately released the French sailors to the port commissary. It was Barry’s desire to replace the Frenchmen with experienced American seamen recently exchanged or escaped from British prisons. To that end the captain dispatched Chaplain Geagan, apparently familiar with the French language and countryside, on a mission to recruit Americans from French privateers in the channel ports of St. Malo and Morlaix. Geagan returned to the Alliance by 27 January 1782 with only nine sailors. Departing for home in mid-March 1782, Barry’s frigate made port at New London on 12 May 1782. It is suspected that a widely published list of officers of the Alliance when at New London dated 17 May 1782 mistakenly transcribes the chaplain’s name as Timothy Geagan, an error oft repeated. Geagan’s tenure as chaplain on the Alliance lasted for seven months and twenty-four days until 22 July 1782 when his rate changed to Surgeon as John Linn left the ship at New London. When Dr. Linn resigned with feigned “regret”, Captain Barry jumped on the opportunity to rid himself of Linn and name Geagan his replacement remarking, “I thought it best to get Clear of him as my Desire is to keep a quiet Ship.”
Geagan and the other officers and men of the Alliance comprising a “good healthy ships Company” sailed from New London early in August 1782 on Barry’s third cruise with the vessel anticipating a successful venture taking prizes. After capturing a lone ship and making port in Bermuda, the Alliance fell in with the scattered Jamaica fleet crippled by a severe gale off the Newfoundland Banks in mid-September. O18 September 1782, the Alliance captured a damaged brigantine from Jamaica and sent into Boston. With intelligence gleaned from this prize, Barry and the Alliance pursued the fleet, taking two stray ships, Britannia and Anna, on 24 September 1782. Two more ships, the snow Commerce and the dismasted Kingston, were also captured on 27 and 28 September 1782 before all five made sail to France.
A letter in the Collection of Mr. Charles Roberts addressed to Capt. Jno Barry dated 2 October 1782 on board the Alliance and inscribed “From Doctr. Jas. Geagan”, suggests the surgeon was willing to butt heads with the authoritarian captain when he felt in the right. The letter reads, “Sir: – As a Surgeon in the Navy & appointed through your means to this Ship I shall punctually perform whatever orders may come to me from you, or by your directions. But as I totally disaprouve of administering medicines to any set of men deprivd of the most essential means of their taken effect, I beg you would take into your consideration if it would be advisable in me, or to your credit as (appointing me) to send you in a list, or even to inquire about a sett of distressed men whose only remedy can be, by numbering them on a sick List. Your orders shall be obey’d with as much punctuallity as is possible.” It is not known if Captain Barry relieved some of the sick crew from their shipboard duties as requested, however his response to Geagan was likely favorable as within the week, the surgeon was granted furlough for a visit to Bordeaux. Martin Ignatius Joseph Griffin in “Commodore John Barry- the Father of the American Navy” (1903) and others conclude from the good doctor’s letter of 9 October 1782 posted from Bordeaux requesting his liberty be extended, that the South Carolinian with the Irish name of James Geagan had relatives in France. The letter reads “Dr Sir- Notwithstanding ev’ry endeavour to gain this place in due Season, I only arrived here yesterday. You will not be Surprised at the Occasion of the Delay when I assure you that neither pay nor prayers could procure horses between this and Rochelle on acct of the Count de Artois return to Paris, they having been all (except a few decrepate ones) been ordered to meet him. The pleasure and satisfaction I’ve reed since my arrival in this place, can only be Conceiv’d by those that have been a long time absent from their Dearest friends You that have got such, and whose absence from them is longer than mine can easily conceive how difficult it is to part in a few Hours. I beg I may be indulged a few Days from the Limited time if possible. I do not expect to exceed it by more than four. My sisters and Brothers join me in wishing you ev’ry prosperity. I remain Capt. Barry Your very sincere friend (Signed) Jas. Geagan.” It is plausible that an extended Geagan family may have left South Carolina prior to the fall of Charleston in May 1780 and were living as expatriates until the threat of British occupation was passed or that the naval surgeon was a French native who relocated to South Carolina as an adult. However, it seems equally likely that the “sisters and Brothers” in France referenced were members of Geagan’s “Christian family.” This particular letter offers a convincing argument that the chaplain and surgeon James Geagan may have belonged to a religious order with ties to Bordeaux. One strong contender is the Carmelites, or Brothers of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Carmel who maintained a friary there, although Franciscan and Dominican orders also had a monastic presence. Tracing its roots to a community of hermits living on Mount Carmel in Palestine in the late twelfth century, the Carmelite Order is composed of mendicant friars, nuns and lay persons who commit to spending time in contemplative prayer, preaching the gospel, serving the poor and living wholly dependent on the charity of others for sustenance. The Carmelite monastery at Bordeaux has old bonds with Irish Catholics as St. Simon Stock (c.1165-1265), sixth head of the order and responsible for its widespread growth across Europe and particularly Great Britain, died there in 1265. His tomb in a chapel of the Cathedral of St. Andre remains a pilgrimage site to this day. This might explain James Geagan’s emergence out of historical nowhere in 1778 and his return into that same obscurity in 1783, quite unusual for a trained surgeon of the era.
If the Alliance chaplain turned surgeon was affiliated with the monastic Order of the Brothers of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, he would not be the first Carmelite associated with the Continental Navy. John Paul Jones shared an intimate friendship with Carmelite friar Abbe- “Father” in French- John Mehegan, pronounced Mayhagen. At Brest since at least 1773, Mehegan was professor of English, chaplain and secretary to Comte d’Orvilliers- the admiral commanding the French fleet stationed there. According to Richard Francis Hayes in “Old Irish Links with France” (1940), Father John Mehegan was a native of the Roman Catholic diocese of Cloyne in County Cork, Ireland. Jones first writes of the “Rev. Father John” in a letter from L’Orient to the American Commissioners in France dated 9 December 1778 concerning the release of English prisoners in his care, requesting a response through the trusted Mehegan. On 19 December 1778 Abbe Mehegan inquires of his friend “Monsieur Jean Paul Jones” still at L’Orient, “Sixteen days are passed since your departure, and I am deprived of the news of a man I so much valued and esteemed. Your present occupations, I suppose, are so pressing and require your sole attention that you cannot spare a moment to give a friend some token of life. “Should I hear that things succeed to your satisfaction I would deem myself happy on such an intelligence. Pray do not deprive me of a consolation you can so easily give, in expatiating a little on the encouragement you so much merit and which you, your works, I know will enhance your dessert as will your merit your labours.” In response, Captain Jones answers “Rev. Father John” on 23 December 1778, “I never yet found my occupation so pressing as to engross my whole time. Even Almighty Love itself can spare some moments to the claims and duties of Friendship. Present my compliments to the Bishop.” When John Paul Jones sought practical help in addressing the spiritual needs of his crew, he turned to his dear friend as evidenced by a letter in the Jones’ Papers at the Library of Congress. On 30 April 1779, a sick Jones writes from his bed at L’Orient to Mehegan in Brest, “Having a number of French under my command, I am in want of a Chaplain. You know who I prefer if they are disengaged.” It has never been determined which individual the Continental Navy captain was referring to as his choice for chaplain of the Bonhomme Richard.
Apparently after first making port at Paimboeuf or Rochelle in early October and discharging Geagan for his overland journey south to Bordeaux, the American frigate sailed north to L’Orient arriving at Groix Roads on 17 October 1782 in the company of all four prizes. Hopes for quick condemnation of the British merchantman and the prize shares owed his men, a prompt return to sea evaporated as Barry himself grew deathly ill with “a billious fever” commencing 31 October 1782. Despite Chaplain Geagan’s valiant efforts, now returned from the companionship of his ‘family,’ Barry’s fever didn’t break until 5 November leaving the captain in a weak state and unable to leave his quarters for ten days. James Geagan served in the post of surgeon for four months and eight days until removed by Captain Barry under difficult circumstances. The Alliance was still in L’Orient when Nathan Dorsey was recruited to replace Geagan under whom he had previously served as Surgeon’s Mate on the frigate Raleigh, also under Barry’s command. Dorsey would serve on the Alliance under Captain John Barry from 28 November 1782 to 30 March 1783. Surgeon Geagan had been arrested by Captain John Barry on 26 November 1782 with five other commissioned and warrant officers.
The circumstances surrounding the insubordination and arrest of these formerly trusted officers is perhaps best summarized in a letter written several days into the affair from Captain Barry to his old friend, former Continental Navy Captain Henry Johnson who was in Bordeaux waiting for passage home to America. “L’orient Novt. 29. 1782 Dr Friend… Dear Harry, the Undermentioned Officers of the Alliance have behaved in the Drolest Manner you ever heard of. when they found the Ship was near Ready for Sea they Came on Shore and wrote a Letter to me Demand’g two thirds of their Wages due to them since I commanded the Ship. I wrote them for answer that I was not envested with any power to Pay Wages, and I thought their Demands very Unreasonable, as they had as much prize Money as they knew what to do with. The Matter rep.ed four or five Days at last the Capt of Marines was sent to me to lett me know they were evry one Determined not to go in the Ship if their Wages were not paid The Consequence was, the Ship was many Days without a Lieut on board in this time I talked to them, letting them know the Consequences, but all to no purpose. Necessity at last oblidge me to put evry one of them under an Arest, and as they have Refused to go on board to do their Duty, they have no more to do with the Ship till Try’d by a Court Martial in America. Now my Dr Sir, if you can Stoop so low as to go next in Command to me & live as I do you will not only serve your country… Should you and Mr Roberts Conclude to Come, you will lett me know by the Express, and I wish you to Ride Post yourselves- as I shall keep the Ship seven or Eight Days for you. I shall wait with Impatience to have your Answer, In the mean time I remain, Your Obedient humble Servt.” Presumably anxious to avoid the drama, Johnson secured passage on a merchant ship and declined Barry’s offer to join the Alliance as 1st Lieutenant.
A series of letters between Barry on the Alliance and Geagan at L’Orient published in “Commodore John Barry- the father of the American navy” reveal the mutual respect and genuine fondness both men shared for each other while seeking to achieve a mutually acceptable resolution in a situation where compromise on principles was not possible. Geagan writes on 25 November 1782, “Sir- The Situation of a few Persons on board the Alliance obliges me from motives of Duty and Humanity to my fellow creatures to pay them Regular Attention as a Surgeon. I request Sir You’d look on my punctuality of Attendance in that Light as no Consideration in Life lett the Consequences be as they may, or my feelings on such an Occasion be ever so disagreeable induce me to follow any other fate than that of my Brother Officers & Messmates, I am with Respect & Esteem, Your well-wisher (Signed) James Geagan.” Barry responds, “Sir- I last night Receid yours of the 25th Inst. wherein you say the Situation of a few Persons on board the Alliance obliges you from Motives of Duty and humanity to your fellow Creatures to Pay them Regular Attendance as a Surgeon. I never had any Reason to Suppose that Doctr Geagan was wanting in his Duty as Surgeon of the Alliance. As to humanity I leave that in your own breast, & you must be the best Judge whether you have Done Justice to your patients or not. But with Respect to your Sharing the fate of your Brother Officers I do not understand what you mean. If you are entered into a Combination against the Ship Alliance, or me, or that of doing your Duty as officers bearing Commissions and Warrants in the Service of America, I understand you. However I expect you will continue doing your Duty as Surgeon of the Alliance, and that you will tomorrow get what Stores may be wanting for the Cruize in your Department. If you have any difficulty in procuring them you will acquaint me. In Short I can hardly believe myself whither the Words in your Letter was Dictated by you or not but to Convince me they were, I Expect an answer to this. Doctr Jas Geagan I am Sir Your Huml Servt (Signed) J. Barry.”
Two letters dated 27 November 1782 contrast Captain Barry’s dealing with Geagan relative to the other officers absent without leave. A letter to Lieutenant Hezekiah Welch shows Barry’s hardened position towards the others, “Sir- I do hereby order you on board the Alliance & prepair the Ship for Sea. You are to lett no one on Shore unless on Ship’s Duty. I wish you to Quarter the Men, & lett me know how many are on board. For disobedience of orders I arrested Capt [of Marines] Parke Mr [2nd Lt] Fletcher and Mr [3rd Lt] Gardner, therefore they have nothing to do with the Ship, and as I have had hints from [Sailing Master] Mr Buckley that Somebody got Plunder to the Amot of Three Hundred Pounds I order you not to lett anything be taken out of the Ship but what Properly Belongs to them, take care you pay strict attention to these orders―& oblige yours &c. (Signed) John Barry Of The Alliance.” Despite not receiving his expected answer, a second letter to Geagan is more conciliatory, “Sir Not Receiving an answer to mine of Yesterday, requires me to insist on an Explanation to a Paragraph in yours of the 25 Inst. “I request Sir you’d look on my punctuality of attendance in that Light as no Consideration in life lett the Consequences be as they may, or my feelings on such an Occasion be ever so disagreeable induce me to follow any other fate than that of my Brother Officers and Messmates” Those words must Certainly slipped from you without your thinking of the Consequences attending them. Doctr Geagan has certainly too much Sense to follow bad Examples, that is, if your Brother Officers & Messmates Refuse to do their duty, or in Short to Kill themselves, is that a Reason you should do so? I now tell you I have, and will, put evry officer who Refuses to do his Duty (belonging to the Alliance) under an arrest, and put it out of their or my Power to be the Judge who is right or Wrong. However I think I am only doing my Duty in so doing. I remain Sir yours &c (Signed) John Barry.”
Surgeon Geagan finally responds to his dear friend and captain late on 27 November, “Sir- At the Instant your Clerk arrived I was preparing to send an answer to your last but one. I assure you Sir I did not mean to be deficient. You allowed me to give you an answer in the course of the day, and you are sensible it is not even now too late. I shall explain in few words the Meaning of that Paragraph that appears so very ambiguous. I cannot with Justice to myself, lett my inclination be ever so great to serve the Country remain in a service that I cannot be supported by, and as there is a Continental Surgeon in the town ready to take my place, I request you’ll look on this as my resignation. With Respect to my- joining in any Combination against you or the Ship Alliance, I know of none. whatever person asserts it; or supposes it is a Villian by God. I find no Difficulty in procuring Stores for the Ship except what you are already acquainted, with namely, the Brown Sugar and Wine. I Despise as much as Capt Barry can possibly do the Idea of Suffering any person to dictate my Letters, and assure him that this as well as my last is and was Dictated by me. Capt Barry may criticise as he pleases on them, perhaps they may one day or other appear before men who can judge between sophistry and sincerity. As to me having too much Sense to follow bad examples, I beg leave to differ from you, for to my Discredit I acknowledge it, I have been doing so all my life. However I hope that some kind providence that has heretofore protected me, will still, particularly in this critical period lend me a hand. I shall Return the Gentleman who takes my place such an audit of the State of my Department as I flatter myself will give satisfaction & secure me Justice. I am Sir with Respect, Your huml Sevrt (Signed) Jas. Geagan.” Having ordered Sailing Master John Buckley’s arrest the same day, Barry offers Geagan one last chance to recant and return to the Alliance on 28 November 1782, “Sir- Yours of Yesterdays date I receiv’d late last Night with Respect to your Resignation. It is not in my power to except of it was I ever so willing. To the contrary I expect you will go on board the Alliance this Day and do your Duty there till you have leave from me to come on Shore, as for a Continantal Surgeon’s taking your place, you must leave that to me. I do not wish to part with Dr Geagan nor any officer belonging to the Ship, but should you Refuse to do your Duty as many of them has done, I shall not ask you who I shall get in your place. I remain Yours &c (Signed) J. Barry Of The Alliance.”
His patience exhausted, on 30 November 1782 Captain John Barry finally orders the arrest of Surgeon James Geagan, the last of the absent officers to be confined. The commander’s last correspondence to his friend reads, “Sir- I wrote you the 28 Inst ordering you on board the Alliance to do your Duty. I find you have not Comply’d with my orders. In Consequence of which I do hereby order you under an Arest, and as you have refused to go on board the Alliance you have no more to do with that Ship till you are try’d by a Court Martial in America. (Signed) J. Barry.” One week after Geagan’s arrest, Barry writes from L’Orient to John Brown at Philadelphia on 7 December 1782, “Dear Brown- I have to Inform you that I sail on a Cruize tomorrow. I believe I shall run down the Coast of Guinea, when my Provision & Water is out I shall Return to America via Martinico, however I hope by that time there shall be peace, for I have great Reason to think it is almost Concluded. The Crew of the Alliance having made me their Agent for the Prizes brought in here, I have advanc’d each of them a Sum of Money here on Acct of it with the Names of the Officers and Men who are Intitl’d to said prize Money you have here Inclos’d and in case if anything should happen me more than Common you will take Care the Said Officers and Men are paid their just dues. Mr Thomas Barclay my attorney here has orders from me to Ship the Amount of said prizes to you after you have Charged your Commission for Sale of said Goods the Remainder you will pay the said Officers and Men according to their Shares, but you will take care to keep the Money in your hands till you are certain I am not in the Land of the Living. This will be handed to you by Capt Barney who I hope will carry over a Confirmation of peace. I have sent a Trunk of Goods by him to Mrs Barry, you will please to assist her in selling them. I have left here Lt Fletcher Lieut Gardner, Mr Parke Capt of Ma, J. Buckley Master, S. Cooper purser & J. Geagan Surgn. all under an Arest for refusing to go on board and do their Duty, their Demands was they must be paid their Wages however Capt Barney can tell you the whole particulars. I think they will forfeit their Wages and prize Money. In my absence you are to act for me as for yourself/ if Mr Barclay does not Ship the Goods you are to draw the Money out of his hands to the best advantage. I remain Dr Brown Your most obt Huml Sert, (Signed) J. Barry.”
James Geagan may have returned to Philadelphia on the ship General Washington, formerly the General Monk, under the command of Captain Joshua Barney. Barney left L’Orient about five weeks after Captain John Barry on 17 January 1783 and arrived in Philadelphia on 12 March 1783, nine days before the frigate Duc de Lauzun which sailed in company with the Alliance. Details concerning Geagan’s court martial are taken from The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781-1784 edited by Elmer James Ferguson (1973). Records indicate that Morris received a letter of 22 July 1783 from the Agent of Marine transmitting a letter from former surgeon of the Alliance requesting that his case be resolved by accepting the same sentence received by Captain of Marines Matthew Parke and his brother-in-law Purser Samuel Cooper. Their trial was held on 15 & 16 May 1783 “on Board the Continental Ship General Washington in the Harbor of Philadelphia” with Jasper Moylan acting as Judge Advocate. Continental Navy Captains James Nicholson, Hoysted Hacker, John Green and Silas Talbot along with Lieutenants Luke Matthewman and Joshua Barney and Captain of Marines Joseph Hardy adjudicated the court-martial. The charges Barry lodged against Parke and Cooper were “Disobedience of Orders the Consequence was the Detaining of the Ship in port for sundry Days and causing an additional expense.” Both pleaded guilty to the first count but denied any actions that caused the ship to be detained. Found guilty of only the admitted first count, both Cooper and Parke were exonerated of the charge of delaying the departure of the Alliance from L’Orient. The purser was “sentenced to forfeit his Warrant with Provisoe that such Sentence should not Affect any Wages or Monies due to the said Samuel Cooper on or before the 7th day of December on which the Disobedience of Orders happened.” Subsequently, both men traveled to Providence where the ship’s crew was paid off and received their wages and prize monies due. Arguing the charges filed against him were identical to those against Cooper and Parke and that a delay in the proceedings unnecessarily prevented him from returning to home to South Carolina, Geagan’s request to forgo a formal court-martial and receive the same lax sentence as the others apparently was denied. According to Morris’ records, James Geagan was found guilty and sentenced on 24 December 1783, presumably surrendering his warrant as a Continental Navy surgeon. Efforts to discover Geagan’s activities after the war have not yet proved fruitful.