The Continental Navy 18 gun sloop-of-war Saratoga under the command of Captain John Young, along with Continental frigates Confederacy (Seth Harding) and Deane (John Nicholson) and the Philadelphia privateer Fair American (Joseph Jakways) sailed from Cape Francois, Haiti on 15 March 1781 escorting a convoy of fifty-six merchant vessels bound for France and another thirty-two bound for America. By 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. By early afternoon, with the American fleet out of sight, Saratoga approached within gunshot of a lightly armed snow bound from South Carolina to London. By mid-afternoon on 18 March 1781, the snow had struck her colors and 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.
No muster is known to have survived the tragic loss and the only serious attempt at identifying her officers and men was made by William Bell Clark in Appendix B of “The First Saratoga” (1953). An attempt to expand Clark’s list by reviewing power of attorney records for her crew in Exemplification Book 11 of the early deed books of the City of Philadelphia where a number of crew lists of Revolutionary War private armed ships proved that Clark had developed his list well primarily from these and Philadelphia will records; as well as, Livingston family correspondence. Only about twenty-five percent of her compliment of 86 men recorded on 10 April 1780 have been identified. It is hoped that this alphabetical list of Officers and Men known or believed to be lost on the sloop Saratoga on 18 March 1781 can be expanded from Clark’s original work with future research and contributions from readers. This site will periodically be updated with very short bios on those known or believed to have been lost on the Saratoga.
Blaney Allison, 2nd Lieutenant
Joseph Bailey, Master’s Mate
William Brown, Surgeon
John Cockshott, Landsman
Martin Condern (Will Book U, Page 75)
Prince Gilbert, [“Free Negro”] Cook (Will Book U, Page 77)
Patrick Green, Able Seaman. Able-bodied seaman Patrick Green who served on the Continental ship Saratoga from July 1780 until his death on 18 March 1781 is noted in his will as a resident of the City of Philadelphia. Found in Will Book S.58, this document was executed shortly after entering onboard the sloop on 1 August 1780 and proved on 12 January 1782. Although all else is speculation, clues to his identity may be found in those named in Green’s will. In addition to Saratoga’s Captain John Young, William Denney and James McCutchon are identified as witnesses while Robert Carson is named as a friend and designated executor of Green’s will. The common denominator for all except Young appears to go back to the French and Indian War, suggesting Seaman Patrick Green was in his forties at the time of his death. Although there was a private William Denney in Captain Charles Syng’s 1st Company of Philadelphia’s 2nd Regiment of Foot during 1777, Green’s association with that Denney cannot be ascertained. However, in 1759 one Patrick Green served as a Sergeant in a company commanded by Colonel James Burd (1726-1793) attached to a regiment under the command of Colonel-in-Chief William Denney. At the time, Denney was also serving as Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. A number of receipts between Green and Burd and the company’s lieutenant from 1759 and 1760 are in the Burd-Shippen Papers. Both James McCutchon and Robert Carson were butchers who supplied the military with meats. The Oath of Allegiance taken on 18 December 1793 by McCutcheon’s son outlines essentials concerning this witness, “James McCutcheon, Mariner, born in the district of Southwark, in the County of Philadelphia, Son of James McCutcheon, late of the same place, victualler, dece’d, and Elizabeth, his wife, who hath always resided in and near the City of Philadelphia”. McCutcheon was a supplier of the Continental Navy having provided beef for two of the brig Lexington’s cruises under both John Barry in March 1776 and William Hallock in September of that same year. After the peace, he charitably supplied beef to the first Chinese and Indian Asian native sailors to arrive to the shores of the fledgling United States on the ship Pallas at Baltimore in late 1785. The diary of Jacob Hiltzheimer of Philadelphia suggests James McCutcheon also operated a Tavern in Southwark in 1786. Hiltzheimer’s diary refers to several cows sold the butcher in 1774 and 1776. This same diary also appears to put James McCutcheon and Patrick Green’s friend and executor Robert Carson together in a 26 February 1780 entry, “McCutcheon and Carson took away my big cow, seven years old (weighed dressed 1763 lbs), for which they paid me sixty-five guineas.” Robert Carson also was a butcher who supplied the military since at least 1762 when first issued a trader’s license. Beginning in 1774, Carson lived in the Moyamensing district at what is today the Northwest corner of Fitzwater Street and East Passyunk Avenue directly across Passyunk from the Southwark district. Dr. Benjamin Rush’s ledger in 1769 identifies Mr. Robert Carson as the “Butcher on the Hill” and tax records suggest McCutcheon and Carson lived in close proximity.
William Hamiliton (Will Book S, Page 79)
Samuel Jones (Will Book U, Page 76)
Charles King, Sergeant of Marines (POA)
Hugh Kirkpatrick, Lieutenant of Marines (POA)
John L. Livingston, Midshipman
James McCord, Cooper (Will Book S, Page 82)
Thomas Pilkinton, Able Seaman (Will Book U, Page 79)
James Pyne, 3rd Lieutenant
Joseph Robinett, Able Seaman. The only thing we know for sure about able-bodied seaman Joseph Robinett who served on the sloop Saratoga from 27 June 1780 until he was lost with the vessel on 18 March 1781 is that he hailed from Philadelphia and that he named his friend Catherine Holeskamp as his power-of-attorney in a document executed on 5 November 1780. It is speculated by this writer that Robinett was the son of Sergeant Joseph Robinett who served under Captain Jehu Eyre guarding the State House and Powder House from August through December 1775. It is possible the private who served in Captain Eyre’s Militia Company of Artillery, known as the Kensington Artillery, from early December 1776 through June 1777 may be the younger Joseph Robinett as the company’s Sergeant is named as William McMichael. Jehu Eyre (1738-1831) served under George Washington at Valley Forge during the Winter of 1776-1777 and with his two brothers was commissioned by the General to build vessels at their Kensington shipyard. Among the ships built under the supervision of the Eyre family was the Continental Navy frigate Alliance. Jehu Eyre “had charge of the boats” which shuttled Washington and his troops across the Delaware on that memorable night of 25 December 1776 and with a single word could have guaranteed the seaman Joseph Robinett a berth on John Young’s Saratoga. On the other hand, the senior Robinett continued to rise in military rank first as ensign and then as Lieutenant of a Philadelphia artillery unit in 1779 under Captain Peter Brown. He later served as Lieutenant of the 2nd Company, 4th Philadelphia Battalion under Captain John Hewson in 1780 when the seaman Joseph Robinett went to sea. Eventually after the peace, Lieutenant Robinett was made Captain of the 2nd Company, 5th Battalion under the command of Jehu’s brother Lt. Colonel Benjamin Eyre in 1786. The elder Robinett apparently resided in the East part of the Northern Liberties in 1782. Nothing is known for certain concerning Catharine Holeskamp, however it is also speculated that she was the daughter of Delaware River pilot Garret Holescamp and his wife Elizabeth who resided in Philadelphia’s East Southwark district at 43 Penn Street, a dockside neighborhood. Mrs. Elizabeth Holscamp’s mortuary notice of September 1807 indicates she was born about 1734, suggesting a logical birthdate of about 1755-1760 for a child- contemporary to the young seaman entering service onboard the sloop Saratoga in 1780. The pilot Holescamp’s 308 South Front Street household in the 1810 Census indicates that in addition to Garrett, his house is shared by two young men between ten and twelve and one female between 26 and 44 years old.
Barent Sebring, Midshipman
Stephen Thompson, Able Seaman (Will Book U, Page 80)
John Young, Captain