Thomas Vaughan, Master’s Mate, Lieutenant

Thomas Vaughan. Sometime between 1752 and 1760, Thomas Vaughan was born to Edward Vaughan and Ann Wiley who were married on 18 April 1752 at Philadelphia’s Christ Church. Thomas’ natural father is probably Captain Edward Vaughan, master of the ship Swanzey in 1755, ship Ann in 1758 and sloop Harlequin in 1759. Captain Vaughan sailed as master of the sloop Friendship for Jamaica in November 1759, only to be reported captured by the British warships Lively and Cerberus in early 1760 and taken into Jamaica where his ship was condemned. Nothing more is known about Captain Vaughan after he is reported by the 20 October 1760 edition of the Pennsylvania Gazette to be at Jamaica. It is presumed Edward Vaughan died in connection with his confinement as his widow Ann was remarried to Captain Charles Lyon of Philadelphia on 19 February 1763. Lyon was a contemporary of Captain Vaughan and served as master of the 70-ton snow Bonette Packet in 1747, brig Dolphin in 1748, snow White Oak in 1750 through 1754 and 130-ton ship Pennsylvania between 1755 and 1757. During the summer of 1757, Lyon and the Pennsylvania were taken by a French privateer, then retaken by the New York privateer King of Prussia and carried to Plymouth, England. Provided with another ship by the Pennsylvania’s London owners, Captain Charles Lyon was captured yet again by the French and sent to St. Malo, from whence he returned to Philadelphia in the spring of 1758. Afterward, he captained the 150-ton letter-of-marque Unicorn in 1758. Early in July 1760, part-owner and shipmaster Lyon was taken on the brig Spence and carried into Jamaica where he possibly spent time with Thomas Vaughan’s father Edward. After his return to Philadelphia, Captain Lyon became half-owner and master of the 20-ton brigantine Polly in 1760, sailing her until the death of his first wife Mary Fisher in September 1762. Charles Lyon married the widow Ann Vaughan less than five months later at the First Baptist Church in Philadelphia, adding the two Vaughan children- Thomas and Catherine- to his own household of five children. It is possible that prior to the marriage, the Vaughan family was living in the small house on the north side of Cherry Street between Third and Fourth Streets which Lyon purchased at sheriff’s sale, later rented to German Reformed pastor Caspar Weyberg and eventually willed to his surviving wife Ann. The groom sailed one month after their wedding in command of his own 70-ton brig Betsey. Lyon sailed Betsey until 1765 when he acquired a smaller brigantine which he named Nancy after his wife Ann. By 1769, Charles Lyon does not appear in shipping registers or newspaper advertisements, likely signaling his having quit the sea. Thomas Vaughan likely learned the sea from his stepfather’s “esteemed Friend” and neighbor Captain Nathaniel Falconer. Falconer is named as executor of both Lyon’s will and that of Thomas’ sister Catherine Vaughan’s husband- mariner James Dillon. This suggests that both Thomas Vaughan and his brother-in-law Dillon may have sailed together from a young age on Falconer’s vessels, including the Hanover Packet between 1763-1764, 110-ton Pennsylvania Packet between 1767-1769, 280-ton ship Britannia in 1770 and ship Mary & Elizabeth between 1773-1774. It was Falconer who transported newly appointed commissioner Benjamin Franklin to France in order to open negotiations for allied support of the American cause. As the War for Independence erupted, Nathaniel Falconer was appointed Commissioner of Naval Stores in January 1776. As agent for the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress, Falconer was directed to provide assistance for the construction of the frigate Raleigh, then ordered to Providence, RI to survey construction progress of naval frigates Warren and Providence in October 1776 and finally to Marblehead, MA with orders to acquire two vessels with cargoes of coal to be sent back to Philadelphia.

It was probably Captain Nathaniel Falconer’s influence with Robert Morris and the Marine Committee which placed Thomas Vaughan on the Continental Navy ship Alfred under the command of Captain Dudley Saltonstall with a warrant as Second Mate. Falconer was responsible for supplying Alfred’s ordinance and stores. Vaughan appears to have served in that capacity five days before the Alfred was placed in commission beginning on 29 November 1775 and is included on the 18 February 1776 list of officers for the ship, serving under the direct supervision of Sailing Master John Earle and First Mate George May. May was associated with the Alfred until 27 May 1776. However, the Rhode Island Historical Society’s Hopkins Papers suggest that Thomas Vaughan may have temporarily replaced May as First Mate during the New Providence Expedition which culminated on the assault and capture of Nassau on 3 March 1776. Third Mate Philip Alexander apparently was not promoted into Vaughan’s vacant position to which he returned prior to receiving a commission as Lieutenant in the Continental Navy on 17 August 1776. A 14 August letter written by John Hancock to the Alfred’s captain Dudley Saltonstall discharging Second Mate Vaughan so that he can take up a commission as Third Lieutenant of the frigate Washington was sold at auction in 2007 for $30,000. While it has been postulated that Vaughan was removed from Saltonstall’s command owing to unsubstantiated complaints by junior officers earlier in the summer concerning the captain’s actions in the New Providence Expedition, it appears much more likely that Vaughan left the Alfred on account of his assistance to John Paul Jones. Writing from the sloop Providence on 20 June 1776, newly appointed Captain Jones spars over the disposition of a copy of the Alfred’s logbook covering the period of his tenure as First Lieutenant which Saltonstall confiscated when Jones left the vessel. The letter reveals that Mate Vaughan “made out the copy in question for me before I went to New York,” continuing with the accusation that the copy was “unjustly withheld from me when I took command of the sloop, by the ill-mannered and narrow-minded Captain Saltonstall.”

In any event, Thomas Vaughan was detached from the Alfred on 26 August 1776 and promoted to Third Lieutenant of the 32-gun frigate Washington then building above Philadelphia. The Washington, authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775, was launched just one week before President Hancock’s letter to Saltonstall on 7 August 1776. Built at the Kensington shipyard of Eyre brothers- Jehu, Benjamin and Emmanuel- the frigate Washington was placed under the command of Thomas Read, former captain of the Pennsylvania State Navy flagship Montgomery. Still unfinished thirteen months after launching, the frigate Washington was moved up the Delaware River when British forces occupied Philadelphia on 26 September 1777 and scuttled near Bordentown, NJ on 2 November 1777. By that time, Thomas Vaughan was already serving as First Lieutenant of the brig Andrew Doria. It is not known precisely when Vaughan was transferred to the Doria, however it is possible that he sailed 17 October 1776 with Captain Isaiah Robinson on a celebrated cruise to the Dutch island of Saint Eustatius where the Andrew Doria received the “first salute” by a foreign nation to an American flagged warship. Interestingly, this vessel had been refitted for Continental Navy use by persons well known to Thomas Vaughan. Joshua Humphreys made structural improvements to the hull, John Barry supervised the re-rigging and Nathaniel & John Falconer’s chandlery supplied ordinance and provisions. After her return from the West Indies, the Andrew Doria anchored in the Delaware River through the spring and summer of 1777. At that time, Captain John Barry was in command of all naval forces in the Delaware River. After previously commanding the brig Lexington in 1776, Barry was appointed commander of the 36-gun Continental frigate Effingham, then under construction. When the ship was scuttled to prevent capture by the British, Captain Barry was charged with the responsibility of providing a naval defense for the fledgling nation’s capital at Philadelphia with available vessels and gunboats. When Barry called for officers to form a Court-Martial to address the situation of naval doctors on strike for increased wages, a number of sympathetic Continental Navy lieutenants refused to serve. Thomas Vaughan’s signature was included on a document dated 21 July 1777 refusing to follow orders and demanding of Barry wage increases, “Sir- as we the Subscribers are determined not to act upon any Court Martial or otherwise on Board any Vessel of War until our Grievances are redressed.” Two days later, the Marine Committee of Congress immediately agreed with Barry’s decision to dismiss the offending officers. Thomas Vaughan’s participation in the affair is outlined in his memorial to the Marine Committee dated 24 July 1777 in which he regrets his previous bad conduct on the Andrew Doria and asks “pardon & restoration” to the rank of First Lieutenant on the vessel. Claiming illness and ignorance as to how his signature appeared on the incriminating document, Vaughan writes “that as soon as he recovered of his Illness, he attended to do his Duty and to his great Surprize found a discontent among the Officers, in Respect to their Wages…nor did he ever Subscribe his Name to any of their Proceedings.” Presumably to protect against any question concerning the veracity of his declaration of innocence, Vaughan also assumed an appropriate amount of guilt, “thus far he thinks he did wrong to join with others in a Matter not Regular. But if he had not, the Officers would have held him in Contempt and perhaps would have treated him roughly.” Following Vaughan’s lead, the striking lieutenants promptly recanted, begging the public’s pardon and were restored to rank on 28 July 1777. The British fleet under Vice Admiral Lord Howe entered the Delaware in September 1777 and the Andrew Doria was stationed off Fort Mercer at Red Bank, NJ with other ships of the Continental and Pennsylvania State Navies. When Fort Mercer was abandoned on 20 November 1777, the brig was burned to avoid capture.

Lieutenant Thomas Vaughan’s activities for the next year are not presently known but it is suspected he followed Captain John Barry to Boston in the Summer of 1778 and entered on board the Continental frigate Raleigh as Master’s Mate. Although no complete list of officers and men is known to have survived from the ill-fated cruise of the ship under Barry’s command, it is believed the First Lieutenant was David Phipps, the 2nd Lieutenant Josiah Shackford and 3rd Lieutenant Hopley Yeaton. 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 697-ton 32-gun frigate sailed for Portsmouth, VA at dawn on Friday 25 September 1778 in convoy with brig and sloop. Barry’s own account describes best what happened soon after the pilot was dismissed just six hours into the cruise, “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. To Barry’s “great Grief” the Raleigh had been grounded on a rocky island near Penobscot Bay. Although named as Fox Island in the pension records of seaman James Cassel and marine Edmund Pratt, called Seal Island by the British, but surmised to be Wooden Ball Island- its identity is still not known with certainty as not one of the ship’s experienced mariners recognized the location. 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. Leaving the wounded in the care of the ship’s surgeon, 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 George Jerry Osborne and another officer identified only by the initials T.V. and suspected to be Thomas Vaughan, 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.

According to hard documentary evidence; Thomas Vaughan’s next, longest and final posting of the war was as Second Lieutenant of the newly-built frigate Confederacy. His name appears among the “List of Officers and Men” of that ship which appears on pages 601-602 of the publication “Record of Service of Connecticut Men, Part I, Naval Record of Connecticut, 1775-1783″ edited by Henry P. Johnston (1889). This list was probably associated with the Confederacy’s maiden cruise out of New London, CT and included most of her crew that would remain with the ship until her return to Philadelphia from Martinico on Thursday 27 April 1780 at the completion of her second major cruise. According to the published crew list, Simon Gross served Captain Seth Harding and the Confederacy as 1st Lieutenant and Stephen Gregory as 3rd Lieutenant. Begun in February 1777, the ship’s keel was laid that Spring and she was launched on Saturday 7 November 1778. The vessel was towed to New London to be fitted for sea, where Lieutenant of Marines Gurdon Bill wrote on 22 February 1779 that he was “ready to go onboard the ship.” Prior to entering on board in late April, Lieutenant Vaughan lodged at Samuel Belding’s with other officers Stephen Gregory, Joseph Hardy, Nathan Dorsey, John Gardiner, Phineas Hyde and Captain Harding. Captain Seth Harding sailed the 959-ton Continental frigate Confederacy with her compliment of 260 men out of New London on Saturday 1 May 1779 with instructions to open his orders “when you are clear of Montough point.” The commander then was instructed to “proceed with all expedition to the Capes of Delaware” whereupon on the agreed signal, a Pilot would meet the ship and guide it to near Lewis Town to await additional orders. Those orders took the vessel up the Delaware Bay and River towards Vaughan’s hometown port. No doubt Thomas Vaughan missed the marriage ceremony of his sister Catherine to mariner James Dillon in Bordentown, NJ held on Saturday 5 June 1779, one day prior to the capture of three prizes by the frigates Boston and Confederacy while accompanying a convoy of merchantmen safely into Philadelphia. The prizes included the 6 gun schooner Patsey, the sloop William and most notably the 24 gun British privateer frigate Pole.

Less than two months after his sister’s wedding, Thomas Vaughan was married to twenty-two year old Hannah Humphreys on 30 July 1779 at the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia. There can be little doubt that the couple was well acquainted or even betrothed prior to Vaughan’s entry onboard the Confederacy earlier that Spring. That the marriage was performed in a Presbyterian church is a bit of a mystery as the bride was identified with the Religious Society of Friends later in life and the groom is reputed in “Catholicism in Protestant Pennsylvania: 1730-1790” (2007) to be Roman Catholic like John Barry. Although one source incorrectly indicates that Hannah is the daughter of Pennsylvania shipbuilder and naval architect Joshua Humphreys Jr. (1751-1838), her marriage date proves this an impossibility. It is also not likely that she is the sibling of the celebrated shipbuilder, as the death of Joshua Humphreys Sr. (1707-1793) and the elder Humphrey’s daughter Hannah were both reported to have occurred in the “malignant fever” which swept through Philadelphia in late 1793. According to genealogical sources and will abstracts, the wife of Thomas Vaughan, Hannah Humphreys is the daughter of Philadelphia storekeeper Richard Humphreys and his wife Mary. Ironically, Hannah’s father Richard died in that same 1793 plague. Just before the wedding, the frigate had completed an apparently successful expedition off the Capes of two or three weeks as is reported in an 8 August 1779 letter from Richard Henry Lee to his successor as chairman of the Marine Committee William Whipple, “We are much obliged…I see the frigates have taken and sent in two prizes, vessels of war.” It is suspected these prize vessels are the 8 gun British privateer schooner Jane and Elizabeth and the 8 gun English sloop Confederacy. No doubt Vaughan’s new bride celebrated her husband’s big payday on 17 August when government agents paid the Confederacy’s officers and men their shares of prize money earned for the Pole and Patsey. The Confederacy continued to operate out of Chester until 24 August 1779 when she was ordered on a short cruise off the Capes to await the 10 gun privateer brigantine Eagle of Philadelphia returning from St. Eustatius with an important cargo of public stores. The rendezvous unsuccessful, the Confederacy was ordered to return to Chester on 3 September 1779. No doubt it was during the staccato rhythm of this short three months of married life together before Lieutenant Vaughan sailed again for good with the Confederacy that their daughter Catherine was conceived. Tragically, father and daughter would never cast eyes on each other.

Vaughan and the Confederacy sailed from the Delaware Capes on Tuesday 26 October 1779 with Captain Seth Harding in command and ten days of relatively unremarkable sailing followed before all on board were stunned by the events which followed. Sarah Jay’s letters to her mother Susannah French Livingston, beginning with one dated 12 December 1779, document the events well. “My dear mama,…About 4 o’Clock in the morning of the 7th of November, we were alarmed by an unusual noise upon deck, and what particularly surprised me, was the lamentations of persons in distress: I called upon the Captain to inform me the cause of this confusion that I imagined to prevail; but my brother desired me to remain perfectly composed, for that he had been upon deck but an half an hour before and left every thing in perfect security. Perfect security! Vain words! don’t you think so mamma? And so indeed they proved. For in that small space of time we had been deprived of nothing less than our bow-sprit, fore-mast, main-mast, and missenmast; so that we were in an awkward situation rendered still more so by a pretty high southeast wind and a very rough sea that prevailed then; however our misfortunes were only began, the injury received by our rudder, the next morning, served to compleat them. … let my benevolent mamma imagine the dangerous situation of more than 300 souls tossed about in the midst of the ocean, in a vessel dismasted and under no command (rudderless) at a season too that threatned approaching inclemency of weather.” Almost midway between the safety of America and the Azores, stranded in the North Atlantic off the Newfoundland Banks, the Confederacy had inexplicably lost all of her masts in an approaching gale within just minutes. After injured sailors were carried below, including gunner’s mate David Mackentosh Jr. who died of his severe injuries several days later; as Captain Harding relates “Six hours were spent cutting away the wreck of spars, sails, and rigging, after which all hands were imployed in clearing the Ship and preparing to get up Jury Masts, which would have been done with the Assistance of my Officers, who behaved themselves exceedingly well on the Occasion.” With all hands on deck, by dark the debris on deck had been cleared and the small jury-rigged mast and sail permitted the ship to be powered and therefore steered. Although the Sailing Master and Second Lieutenant Thomas Vaughn were on deck at the time of the incident and both noticed slack in the rigging just prior to the disaster, no definitive conclusion regarding the cause of the loss was reached by the ships’ officers at a meeting later that night. After extensive repairs at sea and owing to the skillful seamanship of the captain and his officers, the dismasted Confederacy was brought into Martinique on Saturday 18 December 1779. By the time they reached port, six feet of water sloshed in the hold and a number of the crewman were sick. After additional repairs at the French port, the Confederacy sailed for home at noon on Thursday 30 March 1780 with a cargo of salt, brandy, dry goods and Continental agent William Bingham as passenger. A thirteen gun salute hailed fairwell as Captain Harding and his ship, bound for Philadelphia, left Martinique in convoy with five merchantmen.

Almost a month later, the frigate Confederacy arrived at Cape Henlopen on 25 April. The ship anchored off Lewis Town in stormy weather and signals for a pilot went unanswered. Tragedy struck one last blow to the crew of the ill-fated cruise on the following day when Second Lieutenant Thomas Vaughan and six men took the yawl intending to go ashore. The pension records of Master-at-Arms Cornelius Wells and seaman John McClain offer sketchy details of the fatal accident. The boat was dispatched to town for the purpose of obtaining either a river pilot, cable or anchor. In the attempt to lower the ship’s boat or after it was launched, the boat “capsized with all hands drowned but two,” including Lieutenant Thomas Vaughan. According to McClain, one of the others lost was “Robinson, a pilot.” The captain and crew of the Confederacy finally arrived in Philadelphia on Thursday 27 April 1780, the gale of the previous day having subsided leaving “the Weather very thick cold and Cloudy.” Less than nine months after her marriage to Thomas Vaughan, while approaching the end of her pregnancy, his wife Hannah Humphreys Vaughan was left widowed by her husband’s drowning on 26 April 1780. His will, executed as the Confederacy prepared to go to sea and dated 18 September 1779, was probated just two months after Vaughan’s death on 27 June 1780. Thomas Vaughan’s executors were his wife Hannah and Richard Humphreys, presumably his father-in-law. Thomas’ drowning precipitated a spiraling sequence of tragedies in the family beginning one month later with the death of his twenty-four year old sister Catherine Dillon on 25 July 1780 while giving birth to his namesake Thomas Augustan Vaughan Dillon. Less than six weeks later, Catherine would be followed into death by her twenty-seven year old husband James Dillon on 4 September 1780. Their orphaned baby Thomas Vaughan Dillon is named in his father’s will dated three days before his death and proved on 9 September 1780. Also remembered in the will is his niece Kitty Vaughan, “daughter of my wife’s brother Thomas Vaughan.” Executors of Dillon’s estate included his wife’s mother Ann Lyon, his sister-in-law Mrs. Hannah Vaughan- “relict of my wife’s brother” and Nathaniel Falconer. Sadly, the couple’s infant son Thomas Augustan Dillon died at the age of four months and seventeen days on 9 December 1780. The entire family is buried in St. Andrew’s Graveyard at Mt. Holly, NJ. Nothing is known for certain about Thomas Vaughan’s child Kitty except that Catherine Vaughan, “daughter of my late step son Thomas Vaughan”, is remembered again in the 6 June 1781 will of Charles Lyon, “late of Philadelphia now of Mt. Holly- Mariner.” Named executors of this will, proved four years later on 26 September 1785, were Charles’ wife Ann Lyon and intimate friend Nathaniel Falconer.

According to genealogical sources, Hannah Humphreys Vaughan was remarried on Christmas Day 1783 to John Little (aka Lytle, Litle). Another source indicates the marriage occurred in 1786. By 1793, Little was serving as clerk in the Office of the Register of the Treasury. The couple reportedly moved with their six children to the new center of government at Washington, DC about 1800. The two oldest children are presumed to be Thomas and James Little, sons of John Little’s previous marriage revealed in the 1792 will of his sister Jane. The four children of the Little marriage union are identified in genealogical sources including: Hannah (born 1787) who married Jesse Talbott (1783-1864), John, Richard Humphreys (1789-1825) who married Jesse’s sister Elizabeth Talbott and Charles (1796-1839) Little. A tantalizing letter from Dolley Madison to Hannah Humphreys Vaughn Little just before the 1 June 1808 marriage of Hannah’s daughter to Jesse Talbot “at Meeting” in Washington suggests she may have been active in the DC scene. Apparently Hannah was instrumental in founding the Sandy Springs Monthly Meeting- successor to the West River Monthly Meeting- near Ashton, Maryland halfway between Washington and Baltimore. Additional research into Hannah Little’s religious activities should be rewarded by the Baltimore Yearly Meeting Records Deposited at the Friends Historical Library of Swarthmore College and the Haverford College Quaker Collection. According to various genealogical sources, Hannah’s husband John Little died in either 1805 or November 1810, leaving her widowed a second time. While some genealogical sources suggest she died at Indian Springs, MD in May of 1817, a 7 November mortuary notice in the Baltimore Patriot indicates “member of the society of Friends” Hannah Little died Thursday morning 6 November 1817 in the sixtieth year of her age. Little’s funeral was held at three o’clock in the afternoon of the seventh at the Fayette Street home of her daughter Hannah and husband Jesse Talbot.

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