Tag Archives: United States Navy

On April 26, 1814, Secretary of the Navy William Jones promoted Acting Master Commandant Joshua Barney to the rank of Captain, writing:

“…Herewith you will receive a commission from the president as Captain in the Flotilla Service of the United States. You will be entitled to seventy five dollars per month and six rations per day, being the pay and subsistence of a Captain in the Navy commanding a ship of 20 and under 32 guns, and governed by the rules and regulations provided for the government of the Navy…”

Cross-posted from the Blog of 1812 courtesy the Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum.

Commodore Joshua Barney: “Forty came on board the evening of the 13th. All drunk. & caused the greatest confusion”

On April 15, 1814, Commodore Joshua Barney again wrote to Secretary of the Navy William Jones describing Captain Robert T. Spence’s resistance to transferring his men to the Chesapeake Flotilla. Barney was even more upset when the men finally arrived but were so drunk he had to “[put] the most of them in Irons” and send seventeen others to the hospital.

Detail of a grog cup, U.S. Navy
Detail of a grog cup with the incised letters “CW” which archaeologists believe may be the initials of USS Scorpion’s cook Caesar Wentworth. Courtesy of NHHC UAB, Department of the Navy

Writing for the U.S.S. Constitution Museum in Feeding a Frigate, Commander Tyrone G. Martin describes how the United States Navy inherited the tradition of a twice daily “spirit ration” from the British Navy. Since the 1740s, British sailors had enjoyed a serving of rum mixed with an equal share of water. By mixing alcohol and water, Rear Admiral Edward “Old Grog” Vernon (credited with inventing the unusual cocktail) hoped to discourage binge drinking since the water made the rum unpalatable in a short time so sailors could not save up rations for later.

Around 1801, Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith experimented with substituting American sour mash bourbon for the traditional West Indies rum. Around the War of 1812, a Navy sailor would typically receive half their ration at noon and the remainder in the late afternoon after a meal. Sailors who passed on their ration for the day were credited with four cents on their account. Evidently, the sailors recruited by Captain Spence in Fell’s Point the exercised no such restraint.

Continue reading Commodore Joshua Barney: “Forty came on board the evening of the 13th. All drunk. & caused the greatest confusion”

Joshua Barney: “the Cupidity of our Merchants is such, that they care not, how much the City is threatened so that they can get a vessel to sea”

On April 4, 1814, Commodore Joshua Barney wrote from Baltimore to Secretary of the Navy William Jones with a sense of satisfaction. After numerous requests for additional sailors for the Chesapeake Flotilla, Barney was “extremely happy” to hear from Jones that the Flotilla would soon receive most of the crew from the USS Ontario which had been trapped in the Baltimore harbor by the British blockade (and the lackluster recruitment efforts of Captain Robert T. Spence). Barney’s letter reads as follows:

Commodore Joshua Barney, Oil on canvas by Rembrandt Peale, ca. 1817. Maryland Historical Society, CA682.

Baltimore April 4th 1814


I had the honor of receiving your letter of the 29th and shall be extremely happy in having the number of my men increased. The two Barges from Washington arrived this day, I had sent the Look-out boat to meet them with 30 additional hands for their assistance, four of the new barges from the Eastern-shore are here, and Col. Spencer the builder, will be here, (if the Weather permits,) with four more this week. The Armament for them is nearly ready, but I have been most cruelly disappointed in the delivery of the Guns (light 18 pounders) by Mr. Dorsey. He has trifled with us from the first, with promises from day to day, and it was but four days ago I was able to get from him the Guns; in fact, no dependence can be put, on his word. I believe Mr. Beatty has much reason to complain. I have heard that Capt. Spence has received orders to transfer some men to the flotilla, (say 18) but I have not seen him.

I have just heard from Mr. Frazier. He complains that men cannot be procured on the Eastern-shore for that both parties discourage enlistments, each wishing to keep the men, for the next Elections, as they are so equally divided, that the loss of a few Votes would throw the balance into the hands of the other party, I have given Assurances that all the Demos. shall be there on the 1st of October next to Vote, which I hope will have some effect.

It would appear we have about 30 men to come over, which I shall order here next week; We were doing very well in procuring men, until the news of raising the Embargo arrived, but I fear that will put a total stop to it, everything that can sail fast, will now be fitted out, and the Cupidity of our Merchants is such, that they care not, how much the City is threatened so that they can get a vessel to sea—

I am Sir with respect your Obt. Servt
Joshua Barney

Source: The Blog of 1812, April 4, 2014.

USS Scorpion arrives in Baltimore to join the Chesapeake Flotilla

Photograph by Dave Harp, Bay Journal, September 2011.
Photograph by Dave Harp, Bay Journal, September 2011.

On February 18, 1814, the USS Scorpion arrived in Baltimore to join Commodore Joshua Barney’s Chesapeake Flotilla. Built at a Norfolk, Virginia shipyard in 1812, the Scorpion measured around 48 feet long and could hold a crew of 25 sailors.

Learn more about the history of the USS Scorpion and the Chesapeake Flotilla from the Search for the USS Scorpion project blog published by the Maryland State Highway Administration, the US Navy, and Maryland Historical Trust during a 2010-2011 archaeological survey of a War of 1812 shipwreck on the Patuxent River.

Secretary William Jones: “The reiteration of your request to recruit in New York is superfluous”

On February 7, 1814, Secretary of the Navy William Jones sent a reply to Master Commandant Spence in Fell’s Point, firmly rejecting his request to recruit in New York to find sailors for the USS Ontario:
Robert T. Spence Esquire
Navy Department
U.S. Navy Baltimore.
February 7th. 1814
I have received your letter of yesterday. The reiteration of your request to recruit in New York is superfluous, you were explicitly informed, that it was inadmissible. The recruiting for the Lake service at New York will require all that can be obtained there. A surgeon will be ordered to the Ontario in a few days.—
I am respectfully your Obedt. Servant
William Jones

On January 31, 1814, Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the celebrated “Hero of Lake Erie,” arrived in Baltimore from Washington, DC on his way to Newport, Rhode Island. Planning for a celebratory public dinner had been underway for weeks but on the first evening of Perry’s visit to the city, he decided to visit the circus. John Thomas Scharf paints the scene for the evening:

“That spacious building was incompetent to receive the mighty crowd that rushed to greet him. The house was crammed long before the entertainment began; and when the hero of Lake Erie entered, he was received with deep, loud and continued cheering.”

Source: Scharf, John Thomas. The Chronicles of Baltimore. Turnbull Bros., 1874. p.346.