Showing posts with label War of 1812. Show all posts
Showing posts with label War of 1812. Show all posts

Monday, December 17, 2018

Joseph Asa Colby & Family

Mr Joseph Asa Colby Photo from Fins A Grave
Illustrated Album of Biography of the Famous Valley of the Red River of the North and the Park Regions of Minnesota and North Dakota: Containing Biographical Sketches of  Settlers and Representative Citizens
Mr. Colby’s parents were Jonathan and Hannah (Cooper) Colby. He was born 6 APR 1819 in Holland, Erie County, New York. He appeared in the census in 1850 in Holland, Erie County, New York. He appeared in the census in 1880 in Alexandria, Douglas County, Minnesota.
Census Place: Alexandria, Douglas, Minnesota Source: FHL Film 1254618 National Archives Film T9-0618 Page 491C
He died on 6 SEP 1892 at Portland, Multnomah County, Oregon. The Douglas County News, Alexandria, Minnesota Thursday, September 15 1892, page 4, col. 1. Last week just after going to press news came of the death of J. A. Colby at Portland, N.D. He was kicked and trampled by a stallion and lived only six hours after the injury was received. Mr. Colby was a well known resident of this county for about 24 years and removed to Portland a year ago last spring.
The Lake Review
Osakis, Douglas County, Minnesota
Thursday, September 15, 1892
Page 3, Col. 5.
Fatal Accident.
A sad and fatal accident happened to Mr. J. A. Colby, of this city, last Tuesday morning about 10 o’clock. It appears that Mr. Colby had just taken a horse belonging to J. J. Warley, from the stable with the intention of sending him around the track a few times as had been his usual practice, and when only a few rods from the barn the horse stopped, throwing the old gentleman between the shafts and against the horses feet and was so trampled upon and injured that he died in about three hours in spite of everything that could be done for him. Several of his ribs were broken and one leg was badly shattered besides which he was injured internally.
Mr. Colby, though only a resident of the town for about a year and a half, had come to be greatly respected by all our citizens. It is a very sad affliction for the family, following so closely, as it does, the death of the son, Frank H. Colby, last winter.—[Portland, N.D., Press].
This family has been noted for its loyalty to the country, indeed, every male member in every generation has served his country more or less in the wars which have been inflicted upon this land. Mr. Colby’s grandfather, Ezekial Colby, JR  was born in New Hampshire, and moved to Vermont, whence he came to the State of New York, settling in Erie county in 1808. He served as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. On coming to Erie county, New York, the country was wild, and they were among the very first pioneers who settled in and began the improvement of that county. Jonathan, the father of our subject, served in the War of 1812, and for honorable service attained the rank of lieutenant and finally received a colonel’s commission.

ADD INFO Centennial History of Erie County, NY  by Crisfield Johnson

From: Emigration began to roll into the future town of Holland.

Ezekiel Colby settled in the valley, and soon after came Jonathan Colby, who still survives, being well-known as “Old Colonel Colby." Nathan Colby located on the north part of Vermont Hill, and about the same time Jacob Farrington settled on the south part, east of the site of Holland village, where there was not as yet a single house—another instance of the curious readiness of many of the first comers to neglect the valleys for the hill-tops.
Hannah Cooper, the mother of the subject of this sketch, was the daughter of Joseph Cooper, who was born in New Hampshire, and came to Erie county where he settled in 1810.~ He was a soldier in the Revolutionary War, and was in the famous battle of Brandywine. He held a captain’s commission during the entire service. Jonathan Colby’s family numbered eight children, three of whom lived in Erie county, New York, and two in Douglas county, Minnesota.
Joseph A. Colby received his early training on a farm, remaining in that business until he was seventeen years of age. At that time he came west, spending a short period in Indiana, whence he went to Chicago. Here he remained three years, at the end of which time he returned to Aurora, Erie county, New York. Desiring to better prepare himself for life’s duties, be commenced a course at the Aurora academy, where he studied for two years. He then engaged in the study of law, entering the law office of his brother-in-law, P. M. Vosburgh. Then he engaged in the mercantile business, forming a partnership with C. J. Hamlin, running for a time what was known as the city store. His firm had three branch stores, also, and did a large business for a number of years. Mr. Colby continued in this line from 1844 to 1856, at which time he sold out and came west, settling in Hastings, Minnesota. Here he engaged in farming, and also in the wheat business. Still later he engaged in the grocery trade, until the breaking out of the war in 1861. At this time he turned his attention to raising volunteers to enter the union army. He helped to recruit a company of troops with Marshall, of St. Paul, and this company was finally consolidated and called Company K, Eighth Regiment Minnesota Volunteers. This company came west to Alexandria, Douglas county, and built a stockade, where they remained in the service until 1863.

In this year the company was disbanded, part of them going with General Sibley’s command and part with General Sully. During this time Mr. Colby was on duty at St. Paul, purchasing for the Government different supplies. He bought horses with saddles and bridles and necessary trappings He was in the service of the Government for four years. In 1856 Mr. Colby came to Alexandria, settling on a farm five miles south of the village on the shores of Lake Mary to organize the county in 1866, and for years engaged in farming until 1882. However, prior to this time, in 1875, he moved his family into Alexandria, where he engaged in the livery business, also running a stage line to Morris, Parker‘s Prairie and Pomme de Terre. During this time he worked up quite a. business, employing, continually, four or five men. The stage line business was kept up by him until he was virtually frozen out by the advent of the railroads. He has made considerable money in buying and selling horses. He bought the livery building,,which he now occupies, in 1880, keeps twenty horses, and supplies tourists with teams during the summer months. He owned a good residence on H street. 
Mr. Colby was married in the year 1843 to Miss Cyrena McKillips, of Erie county, New York. They had three children—Frank, Rosa Dwight, and Fred Frank Colby was married in 1865 to Lizzie Thomson, by whom he has had three daughters— Rosa, Lena and Abbie. Frank enlisted in the Third Minnesota Regiment of Volunteers in 1861 as a private, rising to the rank of corporal. He served in the war until its close, losing his health from exposure and hard service. He was a resident of Alexandria. Rosa, now Mrs. Truax, formerly Mrs. Stone, was first married to Mr. Stone, by whom she had one child—Archie. In 1876 she married Mr. Truax, by whom she has had two children—Joseph and Thura. Fred married Miss Anna Siples in 1867, by Whom he has had one child —Arthur. Fred Colby is a resident of Hastings, Minnesota, and is agent for the St. Paul and Milwaukee Railroad Company.

Joseph A. Colby has been identified with the interests of Douglas  county for many years, coming here in an early day, and becoming one of its first citizens. He helped in politics, and with his wife and family belonged to the Episcopal church of Alexandria. He took about 400 acres, and held the office of justice of the peace in Lake Mary township. He also held the office of town clerk for three years, and was connected with the board of school directors. Mr. Colby affiliates with the republican party .
BirthSep. 29, 1788
Corinth Corners
Orange County
Vermont, USA
Death: Apr. 1, 1880
Holland (Erie County)
Erie County
New York, USA

 Ezekiel Colby (1763 - 1848)
 Ruth Davis Colby (1767 - 1838)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Old Ironsides to be Rebuilt and Saved!

The Constitution, Famous Fighting Frigate of The War of 1812, cannot be Drydocked and Must be Repaired Afloat
Article From Thursday, July 30, 1925 Springfield Republican (Springfield, MA)

In just a few short months, the Stock Market would crash and the Great Depression would begin, plunging the U.S. and the world into financial chaos for years. Here, on Constitution’s spar deck, Lt. John A. Lord stands amidst a different "chaos" – that of a multi-year, near complete re-building of "Old Ironsides". By the time this restoration was completed, 85% of the ship had been "renewed" (the U.S. Navy’s term) From NHHC

The earliest known photograph of Constitution, undergoing repairs in 1858.
Constitution undergoing repairs at the Navy yard, Portsmouth, N.H. 1858.

Captain Isaac Hull, USN (1773-1843)

USS CONSTITUTION vs. HMS JAVA December 29, 1812

Old Ironsides Earns Her Nickname: The USS Constitution versus HMS Guerriere War of 1812

Queen Elizabeth and General Douglas MacArthur
Fortune Favors the Brave – a look at the Marines aboard the USS Constitution

Constitution battles Cyane and Levant
Custom House Maritime Museum Newbryport
Download for John A Lord Collection
    Old Ironsides And Our Family Connection
First women sailor

Friday, July 4, 2014

Colby Smith Marker

Colby Smith, son of Thomas Smith and Anita Colby

Inscription on Marker Front and Back: Colby Smith, a Revolutionary War soldier who was prominent in America’s War of Independence settled in the 89th District in 1798 and was granted property by the Governor of Georgia in Honor of his service to America. He, his children, and his grandchildren owned property reaching from Harrison to Irwins Crossroads and were among the founders and leaders of the early churches of this area, throughout Georgia and other adjoining states. He died in 1840 at the age of 85. The marker on his grave was erected July 1920 by the General Samuel Elbert Chapter of the D.A.R. He was the son of Thomas Smith and Anita Colby. He and his wife Anna Henry had 9 children, 73 grandchildren and over 200 great-grandchildren. 37 of his great grandson’s served in the Confederate Armies of Georgia. He served as constable in Chatham County, North Carolina in 1790 prior to settling in Washington County, Georgia with other sturdy yeoman families of BRANTLEY, PEACOCK, WOOD, YOUNG, AND IRWIN. He is the forbearer of thousands of American’s, many of whom were prominent in the fields of Government, Medicine, and the Ministry. Among them are: Jane New Dorsey, wife of American Band Leader Tommy Dorsey. Janet Reno, Attorney General of the United States, descended from Colby Smith's grandson, Rev. James R. Wood, 1809-1882, prominent pioneer minister and founder of numerous churches. Jeff Brantley, National League All-Star Pitcher. Dr. James Ezra New, 1878-1942, early prominent physician and founder of Dexter Banking Company. Rev. Isaac Smith, 1796-1860, beloved minister, farmer, landowner and faithful founder of the Mt. Vernon Baptist Association in 1859, who was ordained in the pioneer O'Hoopee Baptist Church under Rev. Joseph Brantley, 1826. Dr. Benjamin Darius Smith, 1831-1905, physician and minister. Honorable George L. Smith II, 1912-1973, Speaker of the House of Representatives and one of Georgia's most beloved and influential Statesman;the World Congress Center in Atlanta is named in his honor. State Rep. Isaac Albany Smith, 1854-1924. State Rep. Ben D. Joiner, 1850-1925. Dr. W.F. Peacock, 1905-1987, prominent surgeon and hospital leader. Dr. Addison Micajah Smith, 1856-1885. Dr. Charles V. Smith, 1862-1926, Johns-Hopkins University. Dr. Hamilton O. Smith, 1978 recipient of the Nobel Prize, Johns-Hopkins Medical Center
Notes for Colby Smith: Applied for a land grant in 1779, received 200 acres in Chatham Co NC, sold it 1785. In the 1790 census there, son Isaac born there 1796, moved to Burke Co GA in 1798, moved to Washington Co GA by 1800, lived in southern Washington Co till he died in 1835. This is from a book called "Colby Smith and his Descendants," compiled by Gene Doyle Brantley, Robert A Smith, and Carlene Sumner Veal. CENSUS: 1820 U.S. Census, Washington Co, GA; 1820; page 137B; FHC, San Diego, CA, film #175,768; NOTE: First name was spelled Colesby, age
marked 45 years and older, 020001-00101-01.
Colby Smith and His Descendants by Gene Doyle Brantley, ‎Robert Aaron Smith

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Pension of Russell Andrus

Share by Jim and Kathy Palm War of 1812 blog

Major Index Pension List
War of 1812

ANDRUS, Russell and Zerviah  W.O. 20853
W.C. 11359
BLW 40713
40 acres 1850; 39704, 120 acres 1855
Captain [Jarvis] Crittenden
Enlisted 29 August 1814
Discharged: 29 September 1814
Residence of Widow:  1851, 1855, Sterling, Macomb Co., Michigan
"                    "    1878, Wahoo, Saunders Co., Nebraska
Maiden Name: Zerviah Pelton
Married: 7 April 1825, Middlebury, NY
Death Soldier: 10 September 1850, Sterling, Michigan
"  Widow: 3 August 1879  Cereso, Saunders Co., Nebraska

Went to Fort Erie as part of his service.  Russell Andrus's father was identified as Isaac Andrus here.

From "History of Macomb County, Michigan, containing ... biographical sketches, portraits of prominent men and early settlers: the whole preceded by a history of Michigan ..":
When I was a lad, between nine and ten years of age, my father, Abijah Owen, then living in the State of New York, Genesee Co., conceived the idea of emigrating to the West. Some of his townsmen, among whom were Calvin Davis, Elon and Russel Andrus, Joseph and Daniel Miller, Elder Abel Warren, and some others, had gone a year or two previous.  In the latter part of the month of June, 1825, he started with his family of five children and their mother for the far-famed territory of Michigan. War of 1812 Claim of Widow for Service Pension (on Fold3):

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Reappraising The Wright Mode of Kicking Up

by James Akin A Share from Mathew Crowther, aka "Shortshanks" from his blog
The two-part biography of the Anglo-American caricaturist William Charles that appeared on The Print Shop Window a couple of weeks ago focused upon the subject of American political caricature during the War of 1812. In this post we’ll look at a print by another American caricaturist that touches upon the subject of that war but it is an image which is far less well-known and one whose history is somewhat incomplete.
A Bug-a-boo to Frighten John Bull, or the Wright Mode for Kicking Up was produced by James Akin, an American printmaker whose talent as a satirist arguably exceeded those of the more famous Charles but who has remained something of an obscurity because of a sympathy with the Federalist cause that perhaps put him at odds with subsequent generations of patriotic American historians. This is a shame because Akin was clearly both a clever and creative satirist and a technically skilled draughtsman, with a style that is reminiscent of the prolific British caricaturist Charles Williams. Indeed, Akin's talents were such that it is possible that he was the only American caricaturist who was capable of selling prints and designs in England during the early Nineteenth Century [1].

Apparently an American print. In the foreground is an American merchantman, the poop towards the spectator and crowded with men of un-nautical appearance; she is inscribed 'Wright of Maryland'. A few yards off is a naval ship's boat inscribed 'Revenge' in which a British officer, wearing a large cocked hat, stands, cutlass in hand, holding the tiller. There are six oarsmen. A man on the American vessel tipsily fires a pistol at the boat; the officer shouts: "I'll have you tuck'd up at the yard Arm, you rascal for daring to fire upon His Majestys barge." The man answers: "Damn you Majesty & your furbillo'd hat." One of the sailors, apparently hit, hangs lifeless over the edge of the boat. One American seaman swims towards the British boat, saying, "60$ a month is worth a wet Jacket any time"; a sailor prepares to help him in, saying, "Give us your fist my brave fellow you were rather too nimble for us". Two of the other British sailors say: "Dont be firing here & be D------d to you" and "I wish we had a Congress to Hansel us ye Dollars". An American seaman is about to drop overboard; he says to the British sailors: "Bear a hand shipmates or I'll be swamp'd too." Behind him are a Negro and an Irishman; the former says: "Ki massa I grad fo go long you my nooung massa been read say inney paper massa Wright gwine gie me 200 Dollah." The Irishman says: "Bie my sowl I'll go wid ye for 60 dollarhs a munt." One seaman seizes another, saying, "you shant go Nat sister Nabby will cry dreadfully if you be not to home." The man pushes him off, saying, "Leave me be Ned our marchents wunt give me 60$ wages." A third (with deformed hands) brandishes a saucepan, saying, "Rascals", while a fourth says to him: "I say Old crooked knuckles why heave the skillet overboard?" On the extreme right the master of the vessel looks towards the British boat, saying, "You'd best make no difficulty with my people, for there's a bill before Congress, to shoot every Englishman at 200$ pr head." The sails form a background to the men. In the middle distance is a British man-of-war to which the barge belongs. Behind is a harbour with vessels at anchor, backed by the houses of a small port; behind are cliffs surmounted by a castle flying a British flag. c.1806
In addition the following note has been added to the online catalogue;
The date being uncertain the situation is obscure. 'Wright' is probably Robert Wright (1752-1826), senator, and Governor of Maryland, a strong Jeffersonian, who introduced a Bill in 1806 for the protection and indemnification of American seamen, and supported measures for the protection of American commerce and the prosecution of the War of 1812 with Great Britain. Desertion for higher pay was in general from British to American ships. The tension between the two countries was great and increased until the outbreak of war.
This description is partially correct but it’s possible, with a little research, to come up with a much more comprehensive explanation of the meaning of this print.
The print refers to the dispute which arose between Britain and the United States over the British practice of press-ganging sailors from aboard American vessels during the Napoleonic Wars. Although the British claimed that they were only ever seeking to recover British sailors who were lawfully obliged to serve in the Royal Navy during wartime, in practice the policy of impressment inevitably led to many hundreds of American sailors being wrongfully seized and forcibly conscripted into the British fleet. The whole issue was made even more complex by the fact that the American merchant fleet had become a haven for those who had deserted the Royal Navy and that American consular officials and merchant captains often connived to provide British runaways with papers of American citizenship. Eventually the issue was to become one of the main casus belli underpinning the United States deceleration of war against Great Britain in June 1812.

In 1806 a hawkish Republican senator named Robert Wright came up with his own radical solution to the problem of impressment. Wright brought a bill ‘for the protection and indemnification of American seamen' before Congress in January of that year which aimed at encouraging American sailors to use force in order to repel British boarding parties who were attempting to stop and search US ships. The bill contained clauses which would have granted legal immunity and a $200 bounty to captain's who repelled British boarding parties attempting to search American vessels and promised that any American sailor who was wrongfully pressed into British service would receive $60 a month in compensation from the US government.
Akin's print reflects the view of Federalist opponents of the bill, who argued that large compensation payments and bounties would simply reverse the flow of deserters moving between the British and American fleets and encourage American captain's to engage in provocative behaviour that would end in all-out war with Great Britain. That is why the print depicts a rather preposterous scene in which the ragtag crew of the Wright of Maryland seem torn between the suicidal desire to engage a heavily armed British frigate in combat and to leap overboard be pressed into the Royal Navy and claim their $60 a month compensation.
The presence of the skillet-wielding figure on the poop-deck of the American vessel can also be used to date the publication of this print to 1806 as this character appears in a number of prints Akin produced in that year.

James Akin, Infuriated Despondency!, c.1805
It's possible that A Bug-a-boo to Frighten John Bull... was one of the last caricature prints Akin produced before he left Newburyport in October 1807 and returned to his native Philadelphia. He certainly is not known to have produced any more caricatures featuring Blunt after this period and by 1808 he appears to have begun another equally caustic feud with a Philadelphia bookseller called Richard Folwell, who replaced Blunt at the chief target of Akin's satirical invective. This therefore gives us a further indication that the print was almost certainly produced in 1806.  
James Akin appears to have abandoned caricature and printmaking altogether between 1811 and 1819 and he disappears entirely from the Philadelphia trade directory during this period. This is a shame because one can imagine that the combination of his acidic wit and ardent Federalism could have resulted in him producing some fascinatingly unconventional satires during the War of 1812. 
[1]. A Bug-a-boo to Frighten John Bull... was one of the few American prints from this period to be found amongst the collection Edward Hawkins (1780 - 1868) in London and it is also claimed that Akin's Infuriated Despondency! was transfer printed onto Liverpool creamware in England. See F.B. Sanborn, 'Thomas Leavitt and his Artist Friend, James Akin' Granite Monthly 25, No. 10, pp. 226 - 227. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Fearless Hero: Captain William Nichols War of 1812

By Melissa Berry Newburyport News

 A fearless hero during the War of 1812

---- — Our ships all in motion once whitened the ocean.
They sailed and returned with cargo
Now doomed to decay, they are fallen a prey
To Jefferson — worms — and Embargo
 — Newburyport Herald 1808

On a recent visit to the Custom House, Michael Mroz and Kevin MacDonald shared riveting tales of the War of 1812 and the Port’s valiant fight for maritime rights against the Brits. Newburyport was particularly distinguished for the bravery and success of its privateers who were “helping to thin out the enemy’s merchant ships.”
Much like the Revolution, this conflict depended on the voluntary service of brave locals. Despite the popularity of privateering during the war for independence, Federalists thought the practice was “unprincipled.” Governor Strong ordered a public fast to protest the war, and the atmosphere was one of angst. MacDonald stressed the impact of the economic crisis caused by the Embargo Act; it crippled the local merchants and the whole Merrimack Valley market hit ground zero. The effect was devastating, and for the first time, soup kitchens rose up to feed the once-prosperous citizens.

The sentiment was universal: “In every seaport there was much distress. Labor was impeded; the most industrious were enforced to idleness; poverty took the place of plenty. Many a noble man became a mere wreck of humanity.” The destitution spread with the “Great Fire” of 1811 that left many homeless as “nearly two hundred and fifty buildings were totally and suddenly consumed.”

Although this privation capped the harbor like a thick fog, a gallant hero “with flashing eyes and lion heart courage” eventually emerged to lift people’s spirits. A vibrant, daredevil seaman born and bred in the Port, Capt. William Nichols sent many of his enemies to Davy Jones’ Locker, while spinning tales of aquatic omnipotence that would put Ulysses to shame.
To the locals, he was “fearless” and, to the Brits, the “Holy Terror.” For his “daring and bravery, he had but few equals,” and he “was suited to become among privateersmen what John Paul Jones is upon naval records.” Mroz calls him the “Indiana Jones” of the briny deep, and he commanded the most advantageous privateer on the Eastern seaboard, the Decatur.
Before the war, the temerarious Nichols enjoyed several adventures on the high seas, and this is, no doubt, why Benjamin Pierce placed him in command of the Decatur. Pierce himself witnessed Nichols’ first stunt on the brig Alert. The Brits captured Nichols, but a crafty plan would turn fates. Nichols had “loaded and concealed a brace of pistols” in preparation for this very moment, and at the magic midnight hour, “he and his companions rose on the British seamen and regained possession of the vessel, securing the hatches over four men in the hold, and sending the rest adrift in a jolly-boat.”
The Vestal again captured the crew and brought them to England. Only confined for a brief interlude, Nichols narrowly escaped by “traversing gardens and leaping hedges,” and then he hopped a coach to London and bumped into the very sergeant he had just busted away from. Nichols responded to his opponent: “Here are three guineas you can have, but never me!” Luckily, the sergeant favored coin and Nichols went free.
Leaving port on Aug. 4, 1812, the Decatur sailed out to make history. Nichols’ first encounter was not with the enemy, but rather a two-hour pursuit with the Constitution, during which he threw off 12 of his 14 guns to out-run her. When this famous quick-fire frigate finally approached, Nichols suspected he would become a prize; however, he was pleased to find Captain Hull wearing an American naval uniform. Nichols tipped Hull off that the Brit frigate Guerriere had indeed given him chase the day before — the very vessel Hull was in hot pursuit of. The next day the Constitution fell in with the Guerriere, and the legend of “Old Ironsides” was born.

Even without guns, Nichols was determined to venture on, but the crew did not share his buoyancy. He mustered around the mutinous lot, “appearing to multiply himself on the eyes of his despondent crew,” while asserting, “You shall be masters of this brig, or I will.” He then flattened the insurgent ringleader with a billet of wood to restore order.
Out of this conflict “rallied some of the bravest spirits of war about him.” That very same day, the Decatur captured two prizes, thus replenishing arms and the crew’s spunk. The Duke of Savoy and the Elizabeth were sent sailing up the Merrimack, conjuring the Port with the vigor of heavy guns and a blazing exposé of 50 flags. No doubt, this Brit vanquisher was a sight for sore eyes!
The story of Capt. William Nichols will be continued tomorrow.
A man 'not born to be shot'
The adventures of Port privateer Captain Nichols continued, and the Decatur’s reputation soared: “Ranging over the ocean, she was known and feared wherever an English flag spread to the breeze.” Nichols was on a spree. After capturing the Duke of Savoy on Aug. 22, he would total nine prizes by Sept. 1, all of great value and well-stocked with guns.
With cargo valued at $400,000, one of Nichols’ biggest scores was the Diana, a ship armed and ordered to Newburyport. Although this stint at sea was a success, the Neptunian exploits had to be suspended — out of 160 original crew members, he had but 27 remaining. He had several prisoners on board as well, including a few British officers.
Nichols set a course for home, but the primordial powers were not yet finished with him. Before long, he was “called upon to meet one of the severest tests of his courage and skill.” This fateful encounter with the Commerce would be a fiery one.
When Nichols asked the few crew remaining if they would fight despite the ominous odds, the “three cheers” response must have given him a potent surge of panache.
Although his “illy armed and feebly manned brig” was up against “an enemy twice her size, double the number of heavy guns and full of men well equipped with small guns,” Nichols rose to the occasion, boldly asserting his “iron will.” While simultaneously manning his vessel and working the guns, Nichols dodged repetitive gunfire from British Captain Watts. Watts directed 14 shots his way, but missed each time, eventually throwing down his musket and swearing: “This man was not born to be shot!”
Ready to take the ship, though Nichols surged forward with just 10 men, the command to “Fire!” shot from his lips “as though he had a hundred men for the work.” In spite of the raging sea and wild wind, the gutsy crew took the lead and seized control of the enemy ship. Remarkably, the Decatur suffered no losses, and Dr. Bricket of Newburyport went on board to tend the wounded. Watts, hit by a cannon ball, met his maker during the night, along with three other British officers. No doubt impressed by his tactical prowess, the remaining crew signed up with Nichols on the spot, and he agreed to share the prize.
On her second cruise out, the Decatur captured prize after prize, but was eventually taken by the Surprise and brought to Barbados. Because of his reputation, Nichols was looked upon with high regard and respect. He was a parolee, rather than a prisoner, until the Vestal showed up. The captain, no doubt remembering the humiliation he suffered during the stunt on the Alert, decided to “get even” and took Nichols prisoner.
As an “uncaged lion would have been safer freight,” a special 5-by-7 wooden crate hosted the “Holy Terror.” They kept Nichols for 34 days, and then held him in a Brit prison. His release finally came after negotiations for an exchange.
Nichols returned home and quickly hit the seas once again in the brig Harpy, with which he “successfully preyed on enemy ships and brought in rich cargos.”

Although a lion heart roared in Nichols, according to his contemporaries, he possessed a warm, watery disposition and “was of tender sensibilities, always exhibiting the greatest affection for his mother and his family.” Even at sea, both foes and comrades noted his “great civility, indulgent lenity, and humane usage.” After Nichols captured his ship, Capt. William Drysdale, grateful for the hospitality while imprisoned, extended an invitation to his home, Stepney Green in London, should Nichols ever be in the area.
Benjamin Pierce, in a letter to Col. Thomas Barclay, the commissioner of prisoners, called him “modest and unassuming, yet brave and decided.” Pierce also noted that Nichols “was strictly moral and sincere; as a husband, parent, and neighbor, tender, indulgent, and affable.”
Later appointed as the Port’s Collector of Customs, Nichols purportedly regretted that “his advanced years did not permit him to engage in the service of the country upon the sea.”
Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” the War of 1812 is still alive and thriving at the Custom House Maritime Museum in Newburyport.
Take a tour, visit Nichols’ portrait and collections, and learn how America won her nationalism and freedom.
Special thanks to USS Constitution Museum historian Matthew Brenckle for his contribution. He notes, “The War of 1812 established America among world nations as major players and not the poor Colonial cousins!”

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

As Port gets ready to celebrate 250 years

Skip Motes' Letter to the Newburyport News
(Pictures inserted by Melissa Berry)

To the editor: Next year is the 250th anniversary of the approval by the General Court of the petition to separate the “Waterside” community from Newbury, forming the town of Newburyport in 1764. Several weeks ago, several of us were taking a break from a day’s research in the Newburyport Public Library Archival Center and the conversation turned to the 2014 anniversary.

At the 1764 founding, tensions were rising over British policies in the Colonies, but the Revolutionary War was still years away. But now consider each of the next 50-year interval anniversaries.

1814 ─ 50th: The War of 1812 was raging.
That year, after the defeat of Napoleon, the British turned their full attention to the conflict here. The battle of Baltimore Harbor and defense of Fort McHenry brought us the words to “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The British made an unexpected move to Washington, D.C., where they burned the Capitol, the White House and other government buildings.

1864 ─ 100th: The Civil War raged on with the battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor; the siege of Petersburg; and Sherman’s march through Georgia. Lincoln was re-elected.

1914 ─ 150th: World War I had started in Europe and the United States debated its own involvement in the war.

1964 — 200th: The violence of the Civil Rights movement continued, and escalating involvement in Vietnam had started.

Perhaps 2014 will bring us a peaceful year for our celebration.

Skip Motes

Monday, July 1, 2013

Londonderry woman's quilt in War of 1812 bicentennial show

February 29, 2012By Jo-Anne MacKenzie (From the Derry News)

LONDONDERRY — A 30-by-70-inch quilt sewn by Martha McCarthy is on its way to Sackets Harbor, N.Y.

McCarthy's 1812-style quilt, "For Thomas," will be part of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail War of 1812 Bicentennial Quilt Show later this month.

The journey started when the Londonderry resident saw a notice for a quilters' challenge in a trade magazine. Quilters were encouraged to craft reproduction "cot-to-coffin" quilts for the bicentennial of the War of 1812.

"It interested me because I grew up in western New York," McCarthy said. "The War of 1812 was stressed in our education. Being a transplanted New Yorker, although I've been here more than 30 years, it just interested me."

McCarthy also has a particular interest in antique quilts. A quilter for some 40 years, she is part of an informal group of quilters in Massachusetts who are studying antique quilts.

This particular challenge had some guidelines. Size matters. Cot-to-coffin quilts were sewn for soldiers heading off to war. The quilts covered them in their cots and also served as covers for their coffins should they die in battle.

"They were made specifically for a soldier," said Kara Lynn Dunn of the Great Lakes Seaway Trail. "The size is about the height of the average man at the time. They could serve as either a bedroll or a shroud."

The quilts had to be true to the period — in size, pattern, color and fabric.

"These quilts were made to keep a soldier warm or honor a deceased combatant," Dunn said. "Cot to coffin is a historical term we know dates to the Civil War; we moved it up a bit."

It was a bit of a challenge for McCarthy.

"It's a very odd size, unusual, but manageable," she said, "the idea being it would keep a soldier warm while he was alive and, should he be killed, used for his burial."

The exhibit will not be a traditional quilt show, Dunn said, but more of a storytelling event. Each of the nearly 150 quilts to be displayed carries a story. Some entrants researched their ancestors and told the story of a relative who was engaged in the War of 1812.

McCarthy chose instead to write a letter a woman might have sent to go with the quilt she sewed for her husband as he headed off to war.

My dearest Thomas,

It is painful to know that you are fighting another was against Britain so soon after your beloved father fought valiantly in the War for Independence. I am concerned for your safety in this cold winter weather and have gathered fabric from friends to make this quilt. The center piece is from the bed curtains that your parents used. The back is fabric that I had planned to use for a dress and the others are pieces from many scrap baskets. I pray it will keep you warm despite the snow and cold. I await the day when we shall be reunited and can live in peace.

Your devoted wife, Abigail

Her piece is a medallion quilt with a central design, then the design is built out from that center. The pattern is typical of the period.

"That is one of the things that came in handy being in the quilt study group because I had seen many antique quilts through the group," McCarthy said. "I have been able to learn a lot about antique quilts, fabrics, including mill information in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. That helped me a great deal in trying to decide what type of quilt to make and reproduction fabric."

The colors are muted, she said, mostly brown, red and blue.

"I went through what I currently owned and, unfortunately, had to do a little shopping," she joked.
Her coverlet is a scrap quilt. As she explained in her letter to Thomas, the fabric had been begged and borrowed. During that time period, there was an embargo on imported fabric, most of which came from Britain and France, she said, so cloth was tough to come by.

The exhibit will reflect that, Dunn said.

"We're finding our exhibitors include everyone," she said, "from a 12-year-old girl making her first quilt to experienced quilters — 1812 quilts would have been made by people of all ages."

The quilts will be displayed March 17 and 18, then 25 will be chosen for a traveling exhibit for the next two years, mirroring the war's duration from 1812 to 1814.

McCarthy hopes to follow her quilt west to see the show.

"I hope (to go)," she said, "but it will depend on the weather."

To read more about the exhibit and the bicentennial, visit