Isaac Hanson, Marine and Seaman

Isaac Hanson. Born at Dover, NH on 3 June 1758, Isaac Hanson was the youngest son of a number of children born to Isaac Hanson, Sr. (1713-1758) and Susannah Canney (1715-1760). Despite grandson Isaac Walter Hanson’s assertion in his 1895 application to the Sons of the American Revolution noting Isaac’s birthday as 3 July 1758, it is presumed the veteran’s own pension testimony is the accurate date. The infant’s father died intestate “in an apperplect fit” on 15 January 1758, six months before the future Continental Navy marine and seaman was born. Isaac’s mother would follow her husband of seventeen years to the grave on 9 August 1760 when he was just two years old. Although it is suspected to be his mother’s brother Ichabod Canney, it is not known for certain in whose Dover household the orphaned boy was raised. At the age of twenty-one on the fourth or fifth day of June 1779, Isaac Hanson enlisted as a marine for six months on board the sloop-of-war Ranger, then at Portsmouth. Hanson’s first cruise, during which several prizes were taken, went to the Fall of 1779 when the Ranger under the command of Thomas Simpson returned to Portsmouth. That is where and when Joseph Roberts, then of Rochester, first met Hanson when Roberts enlisted on the vessel as a marine that Autumn. According to Roberts deposition in Hanson’s pension record #W-2626, the two soon became well acquainted. After a short time at Portsmouth, the sloop of war Ranger sailed on to Boston where a number of the crew left service, their enlistment being expired. Isaac Hanson stayed on board the Ranger there when it joined the squadron under Commodore Abraham Whipple, including the Continental Navy vessels Providence, Queen of France and Boston, assembled for the relief of Charleston, SC. When the fleet left Boston, Hanson was sailing as an ordinary seaman rather than as a marine.

Isaac Hanson, along with the balance of the Ranger’s crew and indeed the officers and men of the entire Continental Navy fleet, were surrendered at the fall of Charleston on 12 May 1780. Like his compatriots, Hanson was imprisoned at Charleston for about a month and then sent in June 1780 to Philadelphia on a cartel to await exchange. While at Philadelphia, Isaac Hanson was hospitalized due to sickness and it was in that place and condition that Joseph Roberts last saw him before the close of the war. According to his pension record, Hanson recovered his health about September 1780 and the bachelor immediately enlisted on the sloop-of-war Saratoga, launched just five months earlier under the command of Captain John Young. Hanson’s testimony concerning his time on the Saratoga is that they soon went to sea, took a ship and soon after a brig- that he was put on board the brig as one of the prize crew and sailed the vessel back to Philadelphia, arriving in February 1781. Prior to Hanson’s enlistment, the Saratoga had departed Philadelphia on 13 August 1780 escorting the packet Mercury with the former President of the Continental Congress Henry Laurens aboard bound for Europe. After being released from escort duty and training the ship’s crew for engagement, Young and the sloop-of war Saratoga fell in with the British Navy brig Keppel and fought a long indecisive battle in gale force seas on 9 September 1780. Several days later, the Saratoga returned home where she took the British merchant ship Sarah off the Delaware Capes without resistance, anchoring off Chester in the Delaware River. By 18 September, the Saratoga was again cruising at sea where one week later she retook the brig Elizabeth captured several weeks earlier by the British privateer Restoration. In early October 1780, the 22-gun letter-of-marque Charming Molly and small schooner Two Brothers fell prey to Captain Young’s aggressive tactics. The two prizes proved to be part of a small merchant fleet which the Saratoga pursued. On 10 October 1780, the sloop-of-war Saratoga captured both the ship Elizabeth and brig Nancy prizes as well. Before eluding the 74-gun British ship-of-the-line Alcide and returning to anchorage at Chester on 14 October 1780, Young’s Saratoga retook one more enemy prize the brig Providence. It is during this time between mid-October and mid-December while being refitted at Philadelphia when it is presumed seaman Isaac Hanson enlisted on the vessel, a replacement for one of many who left the sloop-of-war to man her prizes. On 15 December 1780, the sloop-of-war Saratoga sailed again from Philadelphia bound for Hispaniola to escort merchantmen and obtain military goods shipped from France. Five days later, the Saratoga was confronted by the British privateer Resolution which struck her colors after receiving a single devastating broadside. After returning to Lewes, DE just long enough to disembark Resolution’s prisoners on New Year’s Day 1781, the Continental Navy vessel sailed again for Hispaniola. On 9 January 1781, the sloop-of-war Saratoga fought a “smart engagement with the 20-gun British letter-of-marque Tonyn sailing out of St. Augustine, inflicting fourteen casualties on the 52 man crew. After taking a day at sea to repair both vessels, the pair resumed course for Captain Young’s destination.

The Saratoga met the armed brig Douglas of Glasgow, under the command of Captain Archibald Greg, conveying a cargo of wine from Madiera to Charleston, SC on 16 January 1781. It is this prize, taken without resistance, which is presumed to be the brig that Isaac Hanson joined as a member of the prize crew. The Pennsylvania Packet of Saturday 24 February 1781 reports that the prize Douglas arrived the day before. The newspaper account adds that Saratoga “also took a schooner from St. Augustine and sent her to Cape Francois.” The Pennsylvania Packet of 6 March 1781 advertises the sale of her cargo of Poland starch and three hundred “pipes” of fine Madiera wine to be held at Willing & Morris’ Wharf, presumably the berth of the prize brig, on the following Monday 12 March 1781. The sale of the vessel was to follow at 6 o’clock that same evening at the “Coffee House” where talk no doubt surrounded the success of the sale of her cargo which was hammered down at over $300 per pipe. Seaman Isaac Hanson would only later appreciate the circumstances which would return him to Philadelphia without his shipmates. Just days after the auction on 15 March 1781, the Continental Navy 18-gun sloop-of-war Saratoga under the command of Captain John Young, in company with Continental frigates Confederacy and Deane and the Philadelphia privateer Fair American, sailed from Cape Francois, Haiti escorting a convoy of fifty-six merchant vessels bound for France and another thirty-two bound for America. On the morning of 18 March, the French and American vessels had separated with the American-bound merchantmen in convoy with the Confederacy, Deane and Fair American. By that time the sloop Saratoga had veered off to the West of the fleet in pursuit of two enemy sail attempting to escape to the safety of the British-held Bahamas. In the early afternoon, with the American fleet out of sight, Saratoga approached within gunshot of a lightly armed snow bound from South Carolina to London. Shortly thereafter on 18 March 1781, the snow struck her colors and Captain Young had her manned by a prize crew under the command of Midshipman Nathaniel Penfield. It was nearly four o’clock in the afternoon by the time Penfield evacuated the prize’s men back to the Saratoga and the two vessels resumed the chase for a second target. In an instant, the already choppy seas were met by an intense squall and severe wind. By the time Midshipman Penfield and his small crew brought the newly won prize under control after heeling precariously before the gusting wind, the sloop-of-war Saratoga had vanished from sight with all hands lost.

Isaac Hanson’s pension testimony states that upon his arrival in Philadelphia on Saratoga’s prize brig, the seaman was ordered on board the Continental frigate Trumbull while he remained in port awaiting the return of the sloop-of-war Saratoga. Captain John Young and all those officers and men, other than those like Hanson, Penfield and Lieutenant Joshua Barney who were providentially placed on prize crews, would never return home. Isaac Hanson’s concluded his Continental Navy service in the War for Independence by “staying with” the Trumbull until June 1781. Hanson relates in his pension testimony that “after waiting there and hearing nothing from said ship [Saratoga], he left the public service and went to sea on board a merchantman.” This would account for his grandson’s assertion in his 1895 application to the Sons of the American Revolution that “There is a tradition that he also served on a privateer. Fortuitously for Hanson he did not remain on the Trumbull, the last surviving frigate of the thirteen originally authorized by the Continental Congress in 1775, which sailed on 8 August 1781. Twenty days later, Captain James Nicholson would surrender the frigate Trumbull after a severe engagement in which eleven Americans were wounded and five killed. Later Nicholson wrote “Seeing no prospect of escaping in this unequal contest, I struck.”

After the peace, Isaac Hanson resided at Dover, NH perhaps on the land bequeathed to him by his father in the year of his birth but not administered until 6 April 1771 when Isaac was just thirteen years old. Although orphaned as a toddler, a division of his parents’ estate was not made until Isaac’s only and older brother Tobias requested it. As eldest son, Tobias was granted a double share in their father’s land including “the Dwelling House and Part of the homestead…beginning by the main Road that Leeds through Cochecho” containing approximately nineteen acres. While the youngster’s four sisters Lydia Watson, Hannah, Susannah and Rose Hanson also received lands formerly belonging to their father’s estate; Isaac Hanson was bequeathed “Part of the homestead Land Containing nine acres more or less.” By the time Isaac returned to Dover after the war he would have been in his mid-twenties. According to Hanson’s pension testimony he remained at Dover until his late thirties, moving about twenty miles up the Cochecho River valley from Dover in 1796 to the farm at Farmington where he remained the balance of his life. Two years later on 6 September 1798, Isaac Hanson was married to thirty year old Mary Jones of Rochester, located about halfway between Dover and Farmington. The couple appears in the 1800 Census record at Farmington with one young female in their household between the ages of ten and fifteen. As the couple was married only two years at the time and she does not appear in the census record ten years later, this young woman appears to have been a kinsman or the daughter of an earlier marriage. The 1810 Census records two females under the age of ten, suggesting Mary and Isaac Hanson’s two oldest children together were daughters. By the time of the 1830 Census, the Hanson household totaled nine and was obviously multi-generational. In addition to the aging veteran now in his early seventies and a wife ten years his junior, the family group consisted of two males and two females in their twenties with two female children between the ages of five and nineteen, along with another adult female between 30-19 presumed to be one of the dependent daughters appearing in the census records of twenty years earlier. The 1840 Census records reveal that in the intervening ten years eighty-two year old Isaac Hanson became the sole male remaining in the household despite the fact that three other women between the ages of twenty and thity-nine in addition to his wife, still lived under his roof. It is supposed his only identified son Joseph Jones Hanson had by then taken up residence with his wife Hannah Hayes Twombly elsewhere. It is their son; Auburn, ME attorney Isaac Walter Hanson born on 13 May 1846, who made application to the Maine Society of the Sons of the American Revolution naming the wartime naval service of his grandfather.

Continental Navy veteran Isaac Hanson died on 8 January 1847 at the age of eighty-eight. Hanson’s pension documents include the testimony of his neighbor John Walker who was present when he died and superintended his funeral. Hannah Walker stated that she knew Isaac’s wife Mary Jones from the time of her birth and that “the Hanson family and theirs lived within one fourth of a mile of each other for over forty years.” Son Joseph J. Hanson also attested to the fact that he was present at his father’s death and funeral. Based on a notation in “Abstract of Graves of Revolutionary Patriots” by Patrica Law Hatcher (1983) it is supposed that Isaac Hanson is buried in the Jones Cemetery at Farmington, NH. This cemetery is quite small, boasts just a few headstones and is located about equal distance from both Farmington and Rochester on Perry Road. Isaac’s wife Mary Jones Hanson applied for a widow’s pension a year after his death in the amount of one hundred dollars per annum and was also granted a Bounty Land Warrant for his wartime service in 1855. Mary Hanson died on 10 February 1868 in Farmington at the advanced age of 100 years and twenty-six days.

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