Claghorn, Charles E. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, (Metuchen, NJ & London, England: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1988.)
Kaminkow, Marion and Jack, compilers. Mariners of the American Revolution, (Magna Carta Company, 1967; transferred to: Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1993.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
Lincoln, Charles Henry, preparer. Naval Record of the American Revolution, 1775-1788, (Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1906.)
Middlebrook, Louis F. The Frigate "South Carolina": A Famous Revolutionary War Ship, (Salem, MA: The Essex Institute, 1929.)
Moss, Bobby Gilmer. Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc., 1983.)
No Last Name Given, Joe. "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", (continentalnavy.com, posted May 16, 2010.)
Nourse Family Bible: Entries. (www.noursefamily.net, no date given.)
Parsons, Mike. "Revolutionary War Soldiers, Mercer County, KY", (rootsweb.ancestry.com, posted - February 5, 1998.)
Revill, Janie, copier. Copy of the Original Index Book: Showing the Revolutionary Claims Filed in South Carolina Between August 20, 1783 and August 31, 1786, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing, Co., Inc., 1969.)
Robinson, Douglas H., MD. "The Continental Frigate Confederacy", (magazine source unknown; Volume 8, No. 2, March-April, 1956.)
Stiles, Joseph Mack, manager of website. "William Nourse (1763-1836) - Genealogy", (www.geni.com, last updated - January 11, 2015.)
Pension Application of William Nourse W6845
The men who composed the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina during her service to the patriot Cause during the American Revolution all have character qualities and personalities unique to each one of them. It is no different for William Nourse, a midshipman who served on board the frigate South Carolina for its second, brief cruise. He did experience combat in his first tour of duty which would ultimately result in his subsequent captivity in both British-held New York City harbor and in England. But, from the outset of his life, he had unique experiences that ultimately led him on a naval career with the patriot forces during the American Revolution. The first half of this career was characterized by combat and success with the second half being characterized by captivity and suffering. And, lastly and most importantly, he was barely twenty years old at the official conclusion of hostilities with Great Britain in 1783.
(Note: William Nourse has only been the sole topic of a single post in this overall blog and, as one can see from the date of that post, it was quite some time ago. This post is entered and dated as follows:
"William Nourse - Another Midshipman on board the South Carolina" and is dated "11/10/2014"
Yet, a considerable amount of information concerning William Nourse has also been recorded in two other posts in this blog. These are entered and dated as follows:
"Midshipmen on board the Frigate South Carolina" and is dated "01/16/2015"
"'A Tale of Two Brothers....and a Father': Midshipmen John and Peter Laboyteaux of the Frigate South Carolina and Captain of Marines John Laboyteaux of the Frigate Aurora" and is dated "12/24/2015".
Thus, this specific post will be the first sole addressing of the topic of Midshipman William Nourse and his services and imprisonments during the course of the American Revolution in over two and one-half years in this overall blog.)
According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 160, the following information is recorded regarding William Nourse:
William Nourse Midshipman
According to Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 734, a substantial amount of vital information is provided concerning William Nourse and his life:
William Nourse W6845 [Nourse's pension application number]
BLWt 34836-160-55 [Nourse's Bounty Land Warrant Number]
William Nourse died on August 30, 1836
He married Rebecca ------- in May 1815
While a resident of Berkeley County, Virginia, he became a crewman on the Confederacy under Capt. Seth (Scott) Harding on October 16, 1780 in Philadelphia. They sailed to the West Indies where they captured a British brig and an African slave ship. Sometime in March or April 1781, the ship [Confederacy] was captured and the crew became prisoners on the British ship Roebuck. He was transferred to the prison ship Jersey and carried to Portsmouth, England, and imprisoned until 1782. Upon his return, he became a sailor on the frigate South Carolina. During December, he was captured by the British and paroled at Long Island, N.Y. (Moved to Kentucky.) A.A.5581A; Y237.
(Note: The above cited information is indeed the full citation for William Nourse as found in Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, page 734. In the previous post, "Midshipmen on board the South Carolina", posted "01/16/2015", this information was given in a much abbreviated form, deleting all but the last two brief sentences which address William Nourse's service on board the frigate South Carolina. The writer of this blog felt that the post addressing the life of Midshipman William Nourse on board the frigate South Carolina should endeavor to present a fuller version of Nourse's overall experiences during the American Revolution instead of just his service on board that specific ship-of-war. After all, William Nourse's service on board the frigate South Carolina was his final military service during the American Revolution. Thus, he brought all of his prior experiences to the deck of the frigate South Carolina.)
The pension application of an individual filing for support from the government of the United States of America after the conclusion of the American Revolution, usually gives at least some details of the younger life of the person in question. The pension application of William Nourse, "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", gives very few of these details of his earlier life, starting at the age of seventeen years old when information is first provided. The best information concerning the early life of William Nourse, as far as the writer of this blog is aware, is taken from the website "'Continental Navy.com', entry for 'William Nourse, Midshipman'". According to this specific entry, page 1:
"William Nourse was born October 30, 1763 in London, [England]. He was named after an older brother who died in infancy. He was christened at Covent Gardens Church in the presence of godfathers William Symons and William Hughes and godmother Miss Nancy la Bas.".
(Note: During the 18th century, it was not unusual at all to name a younger child after an older child who died in infancy. The names bestowed upon children usually had significance to that specific family. That family would be interested in continuing the lineage of that name and would name a subsequent child that same name. An excellent and quite prominent example of this practice is Benedict Arnold, the future patriot General and subsequent defector to the British, being named after an older brother who died in infancy.)
(Note: The text cited above is drawn directly from the Nourse family Bible. The entry in the family Bible is in pdf print form and is made available to the writer of this blog. The passage cites the church where William Nourse was christened [baptized] as being "...Covent Gardens Church...". This is, in fact, a well-known church in London, England, also known as "The Actor's Church" due to the number of parishioners who were associated with the theater. The neighborhood in which the church is located is Covent Gardens. Thus, the proper full name of the church is "St. Paul's Church, Covent Gardens".)
(Note: This same source also cites that "... 30 Sept. 1753 - James Nourse married Sarah Fouace...".)
The same source cited above, page 1, continues the narrative of the early life of William Nourse with:
"...William [Nourse] grew up at the Bedford Street, Covent Gardens, London [England] home of his parents James Nourse, Esq. (1731-1784) and Sarah Fouace [Nourse]... The elder Nourse, with wife and nine children, left England on March 16, 1769 and emigrated to Virginia aboard the ship Liberty, arriving in Hampton on May 10, 1769. About 1770, James Nourse moved his family to a plantation at Piedmont near Charles Town in Berkeley, County, VA (now West Virginia). Nourse was an "ardent patriot" and represented Berkeley [County, VA] in the Virginia House of Delegates in 1778. In 1781, he was appointed commissioner to settle the claims of Maryland and moved to Annapolis.".
The older Nourse generation, father James and mother Sarah, were quite prolific in their family's physical increase. In the course of her natural life, Sarah Fouace Nourse would give birth to eighteen children, with William Nourse being the tenth child born. But, in the same manner, the Nourse family was no stranger to death coming for the youngest ones of their growing family. Of these first ten children born, four of them would die prior to their first birth day. After their settling in Berkeley County, Virginia, Sarah Nourse would give birth to another five children. But, sadly, only one of them would survive to adulthood. The birth immediately prior to that of William Nourse was a birth of twins to the Nourse family - the only recorded instance of twins being born to James and Sarah Nourse. The twins consisted of a boy and a girl, Robert and Sarah Nourse. But, of these twins, only Robert would survive to adulthood with Sarah dying right around her first birthday in September 1763. William Nourse was born approximately one month later on October 30, 1763.
When the Nourse family took ship for America, James and Sarah Nourse did indeed have nine children accompanying them. They were all between the ages of fourteen and one and one-half years old. When young William Nourse first set foot on the soil of his new American homeland, he was only about five and one-half years old.
The next passage in this account of the Nourse family makes an early reference to a place that would ultimately have a powerful draw on the life of William Nourse - the newly opened lands west in Kentucky. This passage is from the same source and pagination as cited above and states:
"When William was twelve years old, his father visited Kentucky for the purpose of acquiring land in 1775, keeping a journal which was published. Four years later, William's older brothers, James, Jr. (1758-1799), Robert and Charles followed in their father's footsteps, traveling to Jefferson County, KY during the Winter of 1779/1780 for the same purpose. Charles was killed by Indians, probably after February 1780.".
The account cited above continues with its focus on Kentucky and the powerful impact this new virginal land had on the Nourse family as a whole:
"Brother James apparently obtained a land grant on April 29, 1780 for 1000 acres along the waters of the Salt River on the 'Southeast Buffalo Road' about ten miles from the Elk Lick including 'William Board's improvement.' This land was on the north branches of the South fork of Herod's Creek in Jefferson County. He also acquired 1000 acres on the 'East Buffalo Road' from the Elk Lick. Almost ten years later, younger brother William would settle in this same area near Harrodsburg, KY.".
(Note: According to the website "www.noursefamily.net, entry for: 'Nourse Family Bible'", James was the older brother of William Nourse and was approximately four and one-half years older than William. Also, according to the entries in the family Bible, at the end of the entry for the birth of James Nourse is the brief citation: "...and died in July 1799 in Kentucky...". According to Joe No Last Name's work, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", page 1, William's older brother "...Charles was killed by Indians [in Kentucky], probably after February 1780...". The Nourse Family Bible source corroborates this information but, also states that Charles "...died about 1798 in Kentucky...". Accoridng to the information provided in the Nourse Family Bible by the month of February 1780 not only was Charles already dead but, James had died also. The cause of James's death is unspecified in the Nourse Family Bible as well as in Joe No Last Name's work, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman". He was only forty-one years old when he died but, no further information is provided concerning his mode of death. As an aside, the death information provided in the Nourse family Bible source is cited as "...[written in diff. hand]...". A visual inspection of the specific entries in the copy the births and deaths contained within the Nourse Family Bible proves this point out.)
But, before William Nourse could enjoy the wonders and wilds of late 18th century Kentucky, he first had to experience the thrills and vagaries of the American Revolution. According to Joe No Last Name's work, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", page 1:
"In 1780, William Nourse was sent to live under his oldest brother Joseph's care. In a 1827 affidavit, Joseph Nourse (1754-1841) wrote , 'my younger brother, William Nourse, was by his father James Nourse in 1780 placed under my Direction...' Joseph probably arranged for the appointment of his younger brother William as a seventeen year old midshipman on the frigate Confederacy due to his influence as Assistant Auditor General.".
The very next sentence gives the reader a more thorough picture of the important and powerful personage that William Nourse had in his older brother and guardian, Joseph:
"Prior to that posting in 1779, Joseph previously served as military secretary to General Charles Lee beginning in 1776, was appointed Deputy Secretary to the Board of War in 1777 and Secretary of Ordinance and Paymaster to the Board of War in 1778. Later in 1781, he was made Register of the Treasury where he served for forty-eight years until 1829.".
To be sure, Joseph Nourse probably experienced little difficulty at all securing a position for his younger brother as a midshipman on board the frigate Confederacy due to the powerful position he held in the government of the nascent United States of America.
As mentioned several paragraphs above, a pension application frequently begins with a statement of the date and locale of the applicant's birth. But, according to the pension application of William Nourse, none of these facts are presented. He launches straight into a recitation of his service during the American Revolution. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", William Nourse's introductory comments are as follows:
"The Petition of William Nourse formerly of the Navy of the United States on board the Frigate Confederacy during the A revolutionary War humbly sheweth. That your Petitioner entered into the service of his country at the age of 17 as a Midshipman October 16, 1780 on board the United States Frigate aforesaid, Seth Hardin [Harding] Esquire Commander, then lying in the Court of Philadelphia...".
(Note: William Nourse states clearly that he "...entered into the service of his country at the age of 17 as a Midshipman October 16, 1780...". According to the source "Nourse Family Bible", page 2, his actual birth date was October 30, 1763. So, at the time of his entry into the service of the frigate Confederacy as a midshipman, he was short of his seventeenth birthday by two weeks exactly. Thus, he was truly sixteen years of age at the time of his signing on board the frigate Confederacy.)
The citation continues with an account of William Nourse's actual services on board the frigate Confederacy during a cruise to the West Indies (Caribbean Sea):
"... -- that in December following, he sailed in said frigate for the West Indies, and captured on the passage a British Brig bound from New York to Turks Island for salt, and carried her into Cape Francois (now called Cape Henry) in the Island of Hispaniola --
(Note: Frequently, with a bit of thorough research, one can locate the name of an enemy vessel captured by a patriot ship-of-war, especially a ship like the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy. After all, she was a ship-of-war operating with the Continental Navy, under the direct orders of the Continental Congress, and her captain, Seth Harding, holding his commission from the same Congress. Yet, the writer of this blog had begun to despair that this captured enemy "ship" mentioned in the account above was likely to be one of those "prize vessels" whose records had been lost to the passage of time. But, according to Lincoln's work, Naval Records, page 184, the following fascinating and definitive information is recorded concerning the "...British Brig..." captured by the frigate Confederacy:
"August 21, 1781 - Continental Congress, Committee. Report on the memorial of George Crowninshield and others [Nathaniel Silsbee and John Collins, of Salem, Massachusetts] as to the capture of their vessel [the Elizabeth and Nancy] by Capt. Seth Harding of the Confederacy and the condemnation thereof at Cape Francois. Memorialists dismissed September 25, 1781."
So much information is contained within this brief citation. This is indeed the same vessel as referred to above in the pension application of William Nourse. In his pension application, William Nourse states that the captured "...British Brig..." being "...carried into..." Cape Francois. The passage from Lincoln's work, Naval Records, also refers to Cape Francois as being the port where the captured vessel was condemned. This brief passage also contains the three names of George Crowninshield, Nathaniel Silsbee and John Collins as petitioning the Continental Congress as to the disposition of their captured ship. The cited passage clearly states that these men are all "...of Salem, Massachusetts...". These three mentioned men are most probably the owners or bonders of the "ship", Elizabeth and Nancy, rather than the captain or other officers of the "...British Brig...". These men were all residents of Salem, Massachusetts which means that they are most probably Americans by birth and Crown supporters by conviction. Thus, it is more than likely that, the "...British Brig..." was technically a Loyalist "ship" operating under her owners/bonders in support of the Crown Forces here in North America. These men were petitioning the Continental Congress for the return of their vessel or some type of recompense for the loss of their "brig" and any cargo she was carrying. Sadly, according to the final terse sentence of the passage, the "memorialists" were disappointed in their efforts before the rebel Congress. The pension application of William Nourse states clearly a few sentences later that "...the Brig aforesaid, [was] condemned and sold for the benefit of the United States and the captors...". As evidenced in the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", the seventeen-year-old Midshipman William Nourse was present at the capture of the "...British Brig..." Elizabeth and Nancy.)
The pension application of William Nourse continues with the young midshipman's further adventures on board the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 1:
"...That your Petitioner in the month of February following sailed said Frigate on a cruise in the West India Seas in company [of] the United States Frigate Dean, ___ Nicholson Esquire Commander, and captured in that cruise an African Slave Ship called the Diamond bound for Jamaica, and returned with her to the then Cape Francois aforesaid, where the said ship with her cargo of slaves, and the Brig aforesaid, were condemned and sold for the benefit of the United States and the captors.".
This cruise, in conjunction with the Continental Navy frigate Deane, yielded this single capture of "...an African Slave Ship called the Diamond, bound for Jamaica...". This capture too was taken into Cape Francois where both the earlier "brig" Elizabeth and Nancy and the "slave ship" Diamond were both condemned and sold. William Nourse's account directly above states that the prize vessels and their cargoes were sold "...for the benefit of the United States and the captors...". But, according to Joe No Last Name's article, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", page 1, the following account is given of the action and its results:
"In company with the Continental frigate Deane, they [the Confederacy] later captured the African slave ship Diamond bound for Jamaica, which they also carried into Cape Francois. Her cargo of slaves was condemned and sold with the profits distributed to the officers and crew. The payroll records of the frigate Confederacy located in the National Archives indicates that he [Midshipman William Nourse] was paid three pounds in specie on February 26, 1781.".
In February 1781, the island of Jamaica was held by the British Crown and, as a result, the "...African Slave Ship called the Diamond..." was most likely either a Loyalist ship carrying slaves to the British-held colony of Jamaica or was an actual British "ship" bound for the same island. Lincoln's work, Naval Records, does not contain any citations of a petition or memorial being received and duly recorded by the Continental Congress regarding the return or recompense for the prize vessel Diamond. Since no motion of protest was brought before the Continental Congress concerning the Diamond and her rich "cargo" of slaves, it may well be that the "ship" was actually a British vessel and was thus considered to be "contraband of war" and thus a fair target in the cat-and-mouse game of naval warfare on the high seas. But, as the final sentence of the quotation above indicates, Midshipman William Nourse was a member of the crew of the frigate Confederacy and thus deserving of a rightful portion of the prize money due him as a result of the condemnation and sale of the slave "ship" and her enslaved human cargo.
Two of the cruises of the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy, the first beginning in December 1780 and the second in February 1781, had ended well and profitably for Midshipman William Nourse. Life was probably looking good and promising for the young, seventeen-year-old midshipman, recently from Virginia. Thus, he began his third cruise on board the frigate Confederacy, a cruise intended to reach Philadelphia, PA and home. He almost made it home but, Fate had other plans. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 1, the account goes as such:
"That your Petitioner afterwards sailed from the West Indies, bound for Philadelphia, but was unhappily captured on Board the said Frigate Confederacy near the Capes of the Delaware by the British Ship of war the Roebuck Capt. Hammond of 44 guns, and two Frigates on the 16th day of April 1781:".
(Note: In William Nourse's concise and succinct style of reporting an event, he sums up the capture of the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy on April 16, 1781. But, according to Robinson's article, page 39, the following, more detailed account of the capture of the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy is given:
"The next cruise was to be a prosaic errand - to Cape Francois in Haiti to pick up stores for the Continental Army, in effect using a man-of-war as a transport. Confederacy left the Delaware Capes on December 21, 1780, and five days later sprung her mainmast badly. This was fished, and she arrived at Cape Francois on January 8, 1781. After loading a large cargo of military stores and taking on board 6 passengers, she sailed for Philadelphia on March 15, 1781. She did not arrive, for off the Delaware Capes on April 14 she was intercepted by HMS Roebuck, 44 [guns], and HMS Orpheus 32 [guns]. Claiming that resistance was useless because of the superiority of forces against him, [Captain Seth] Harding surrendered at once without firing a shot. Confederacy in fact had never fought an action against an enemy warship though she was mroe powerful than the average frigate of her rate in the Royal Navy.".
The account continues as follows:
"Taken into New York on April 19 , she aroused much interest and satisfaction, which shows in the letter written by Vice Admiral Arbuthnot, commanding in the port, to the Secretary of the Admiralty:
...She was bound from Cape Francois to Philadelphia, Commanded by a Mr. Harding, and had on board Three Hundred Men at the time she was taken. The Rebels have suffered a great loss in this ship, as she had a very considerable quantity of Cloathing for the Rebel Army, and West India produce. Her length is equal to that of our old Seventy Gun Ships, and will mount Twenty Eight Eighteen Pounders on her Main Deck, is well constructed and proportioned, and only two years old...".
A detailed and thorough survey was made immediately and dated "May 3, 1781". This survey states, page 40, in part, that:
"...She is about three years old Built at Norwich in Connecticut and had on board when taken 28 No. 12 pounders and 8 No. sixes. The main mast sprung four feet above the Quarter Deck but fish'd on each side with two oak fishes. The ship has been two voyages and the mast not complain'd of. The lower edge of the wale touch'd with ye worm. Suppose the bottom to be like it & purchas'd accordingly. The ship not being clear in the hold the scantling cou'd not be ascertained below the lower deck.".
The next pronouncement concerning the former Continental Navy frigate Confederacy, page 43, was that:
"...on May 14, 1781, the prize was commissioned as HMS Confederate upon the establishment of a Forty-Gun Ship, and in the middle of June she sailed for England. He arrival at Falmouth July 19  is noted, together with the comment by the London Public Advertiser that:
"The Confederacy Frigate, lately arrived from New York, may be easily converted into a Ship-of-the-Line, for which she was first intended, her Keel and lower Timbers being equal to our Sixty-fours; so that she only wants raising.".
But, it was not to be. A thorough survey and inspection of the warship by "...Samuel Elliott, Carpenter..." found the ship-of-war to be "...entirely unfit for their proper service...". According to Robinson's article, page 44:
"A final note from the London Public Advertiser states on December 26, 1781 the Confederacy Frigate, taken from the Americana 'by the Cruziers under Vice Admiral Arbuthnot, and brought to England by Capt. Cummings, has been surveyed in the [Thames] River and found unfit for service.'. Presumably she was broken up soon afterwards.".)
Up to this point in his pension application, William Nourse has reported facts and details that could be ostensibly checked in the record and validated or not as to their veracity. But, the tone and temper of his statements change at this point after dealing with the capture of the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy. His descriptions become almost prosaic and take on a personal immediacy of the moment. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 1, it continues as follows:
"...a day to be remembered by your petitioner having lost by his capture nearly everything but the clothes on his back, was carried into New York at which place he suffered many weeks the most cruel and vigorous treatment on board the Jersey Prison Ship then lying in the Walabough [sic, Wallabout Bay] near the harbor of New York. That your Petitioner when scarcely recovered from a Putrid Fever which raged with great mortality on board said prison ship, was sent with about 40 others from on board said prison ship, a prisoner to a fleet then lying near the Hook bound for England and put on board a British Ship of War and confined down to the hole or cable tier of said Ship (for the enemy in those trying times made no distinction between officers and men) and on the arrival at Portsmouth England, he was put on board the Admirals Ship in that Harbor, and afterwards with others his fellow prisoners taken before a civil magistrate, and after examination was committed to Forton Prison near Portsmouth on suspicion of high treason, agreeable to an Act of Parliament passed about the beginning of the Revolutionary War where your Petitioner was confined for 7 months, and during the long and tedious winter of 1781 and the beginning of 1782 without fire or other comforts of life much to the injury of his health and very detrimental to his constitution which he sadly experiences to this day. Your Petitioner would further beg leave to state -- that after the capture of Cornwallis at York in Virginia (at which time your petitioner was in Forton Prison above mentioned) and the change of the British Ministry, he was sent back in a Cartel to Philadelphia with about 300 American prisoners and arrived in the City in August 1782...".
(Note: The writer of this blog has always wondered at the rather descriptive names given to sicknesses as they were identified and diagnosed by 18th century physicians. As an example of these rather prosaic names we have the name used here by Midshipman William Nourse to describe his affliction he experienced while on board the British prison ship Jersey. William Nourse identifies himself as having suffered from the "...Putrid Fever...". This condition is identified as being typhus or typhoid fever.)
(Note: The British prison ships or "hulks" that were moored in Wallabout Bay, NY during the course of the American Revolution have been covered in a set of posts contained in this overall blog and, collectively, entitled "Descent into Hell: ...". These six posts are dated between "05/19/2015" and "06/09/2015". There are six of these, each numbered according to the specific topic it covers regarding the prison "hulks" and their usage during the American Revolution. The references to the prison ship/"hulk" Jersey, or Old Jersey as she was sometimes referred to, abound in these various posts. Midshipman William Nourse should be covered in the post entitled "Descent into Hell: ..., Pt. III" and dated "05/22/2015" which addresses the commissioned personnel and "gentlemen" captured on board the frigate South Carolina. But, strangely enough, his name does not appear on any of the prisoner rosters for the three Royal Navy men-of-war that brought the captive crew members and marines of the frigate South Carolina into New York harbor and subsequent imprisonment. Yet, the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845" explicitly and specifically refers to this particular incarceration in New York City. This unusual occurrence will be addressed later in the course of this specific post.)
The conditions on board any of the various prison ships or "hulks" moored in Wallabout Bay, NY can be seen in the different posts posted between the above mentioned dates. There is absolutely no doubt that the situation was as accurate and as deadly as described on board the Jersey prison ship in the description by Midshipman William Nourse. The various different prison ships moored in Wallabout Bay, NY, but especially the Jersey or Old Jersey, accounted for more deaths of American prisoners-of-war than battlefield deaths among patriot troops. The remainder of the account as described by Midshipman William Nourse is typical of the accounts given by other captured patriot Americans - his transportation to England on board a returning British man-of-war under extremely crapped and disagreeable conditions, his arraignment before a civil magistrate witha charge of high treason for his "crimes" against the lordship of King George III, his incarceration in Forton Prison, the cold, dreary, uncomfortable winter of 1781-1782 spent there in prison in Portsmouth, England to which William Nourse attributes permanent damage to his health, and, finally, his happy return to Philadelphia In August 1782 as a part of one of the many prisoner cartels at the end of the war. All of these same situations, circumstances and conditions turn up in many, many other pension applications, journal entries, and written accounts by other former American prisoners-of-war of the Crown Forces who were taken to England for incarceration. Though, with that stated, the account of Midshipman William Nourse, given in February 1, 1827 when William Nourse was sixty-three years old, is quite possibly one of the most prosaic and literate of the accounts given that the writer of this blog has read.
But, there is an unverified piece of interesting information associated with Midshipman William Nourse that has intrigued the writer of this blog. The work entitled Mariners of the American Revolution, written by Jack and Marion Kaminkow, and cited in the bibliography at the beginning of this post, concerns American naval prisoners-of-war who were transported to one of the numerous English prisons but, especially to either Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England or Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. Each mariner named in this work has all the information collected by the Kaminkow's concerning him recorded in his separate individual entry. According to Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, page 142, the following account of the English capture and imprisonment of Midshipman William Nourse is given:
William Nourse - He was a midshipman. He served and was captured on board the Confederacy. He was committed to Forton Prison on August 9, 1781. He was pardoned for service in the Royal Navy on March 20, 1782. The State Papers indicate that he was still in Forton Prison in January 1782.
Also, there is the work by Charles E. Claghorn entitled Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary. This work,as the title indicates, focuses on the officers of the Continental, different State Navies, as well as any privateering commanding officers about whom there exists information. According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 223, the following entry for William Nourse is given:
William Nourse - He was a midshipman on the Confederacy. He was captured by the British and on August 9, 1781 committed to Forton Prison at Gosport near Portsmouth, England. On March 20, 1782 he was pardoned to serve in the Royal Navy.
(Note: The entries of Kaminkow's and Claghorn's works are almost identical as the readership of this blog can easily observe. There is a simple explanation for this similarity. Claghorn's entry for William Nourse actually ends with notation of "(KM)". A reference to the section of the work entitled "Sources", page xviii, indicates that this information was gathered from Jack and Marion Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution. Since Claghorn's entry for William Nourse contains no substantially new information, one can assume that he had found no new information and was simply recording the information as he found it in an earlier work. In short, Claghorn used Kaminkow's work as his source for information on Midshipman William Nourse and his situation in Forton Prison and contributed no additional, original information on the subject of Midshipman William Nourse.)
Nothing of this situation is even mentioned or hinted at in the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845" nor is it referred to in the Joe No Last Name's article, "The Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman". But, it must be remembered that William Nourse was born in London, England on October 30, 1763 and did not immigrate to America until he was a child of five and one-half years of age. The English view of naturalization differed from the American view at the time. The Americans allowed for naturalization in America but, the English never saw a reason for doing so, especially during the course of the conflict between the Mother Country and the rebellious colonies. The official English view of naturalization was, "Once an Englishman, always an Englishman." The writer of this blog has read several documented accounts from personal journals and diaries of a single British recruiting officer or a party of recruiting British soldiers coming among captive Americans and asking whether or not there were any "Old Countrymen" among them. This was the term they used to refer to a native-born Englishman. If any volunteers were forthcoming, the prisoner would be offered lenient conditions to return to their former allegiance and pledge their fealty to the King once again. Usually, no punishment was incurred by the miscreant Englishman/American and all they had to do to rectify the situation was enlist in the British Army or the Royal Navy, depending on the branch of service was represented by the recruiting officer or recruiting party of British soldiers.
If the writer of this blog might be suffered to present a possible explanation in this scenario. At the conclusion of William Nourse's pension application statement addressing this particular English imprisonment a rather curious phrase is employed by the incarcerated midshipman. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 1, he states that:
"Your Petitioner would further beg leave to state -- that after the capture of Lord Cornwallis at York in Virginia (at which time your petitioner was in Forton Prison above mentioned) and the change of the British Ministry, he was sent back in a Cartel to Philadelphia with about 300 American prisoners and arrived in that City in August 1782 --...".
The key phrase the writer of this blog is focusing on here is "...and the change of the British Ministry...". The then-sitting British Prime Minister, Sir Frederick North, resigned in March 1782 after the news of the surrender of Lord Cornwallis reached England and the chambers of Parliament. He had opposed the war at its outset and counciled peace overtures to the Crown. The King had pleaded with North to not leave him at the mercy of the Whigs in Parliament and thus, he supported his King and his policies in an ever-increasingly unpopular war in England from 1779 until 1782. When the hostile Whigs took over the helm of the ship of state from a disgraced North in March 1782, they would have sought to undo these policies so that they would not appear to be in support of any of North's actions. Both Kaminkow's and Claghorn's works sates that William Nourse was pardoned for service in the Royal Navy on March 20, 1782. The possibility does exist that William Nourse was pardoned for service in the Royal Navy on the grounds that he was a native-born Englishman. But, a reversal of the "...British Ministry..." might well have abnegated this decision, with the Whigs insisting on all prisoners being sent back to America at the earliest possible point in time. So, the date of William Nourse's pardon for service in the Royal Navy could have occurred on March 20, 1782 with the new ministry insisting on his return to America in a prisoner cartel happening soon afterwards. Having escaped service in the navy of the enemy, William Nourse may well have chosen to simply not mention this "unpatriotic turning of his coat" circumstance in the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845". If this is the course of events that effected this action on William Nourse's part, it only serves to show how the great machinations of state can impact the life of a lowly midshipman-prisoner and set him on a new course of action.
To sum up, again, nothing of this "situation" is referred to in the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845" or even in any of the other sources that are concerned with the life of Midshipman William Nourse. Only Kaminkow's and Claghorn's works mentioned immediately above reference this situation at all. These two sources seem to be related and thus there may be repetition in the information. Unless more information is located in a yet-undiscovered source addressing this possible service in the Royal Navy by Midshipman William Nourse, this part of the life of William Nourse will have to remain undisclosed and unverified.
This opens the final episode of the life of Midshipman William Nourse during the American Revolution - his return to the United States of America in a prisoner cartel in August 1782 and his subsequent services on board the frigate South Carolina. This account picks up right where the earlier account concluded - with the arrival of the prisoner cartel bringing "...about 300 American prisoners...", among whom was Midshipman William Nourse, to Philadelphia, PA in August 1782. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 2, the following account is given:
"...but being then out of employment and the Navy of the United States nearly destroyed by the enemy, he [William Nourse] entered as a Midshipman on board a large Frigate South Carolina John Joiner Esquire Commander then lying in the port of Philadelphia of very heavy metal belonging to, and shortly before built in Holland for that State but your petitioner was in December following again captured on board said Frigate by a Fleet of British Ships of War and again carried into New York, paroled on Long Island and afterwards to Philadelphia from which situation he was only relieved by the return of Peace and the United States obtaining her glorious Independence.".
Midshipman William Nourse's service on board the frigate South Carolina constitutes his most brief period of military service during the American Revolution. There is no indication as to exactly how soon after reaching Philadelphia, PA as a member of the prisoner cartel in August 1782 that William Nourse signed on board the frigate South Carolina. But, the historical record verifies that the frigate was captured just off the Capes of the Delaware by three British frigates on December 21, 1782. So, at longest, William Nourse's term of sea service on board the South Carolina state frigate was about five months.
This is the point at which another "unusual" situation occurs in the military service of Midshipman William Nourse. The first of these "unusual" situations was addressed immediately above - the issue of William Nourse being pardoned for service in the Royal Navy while he was incarcerated in Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England. This second "unusual" situation is that of his subsequent imprisonment at the hands of the British after the capture of the frigate South Carolina on December 21, 1782. According to the "Pension Application of William Nourse W6845", page 2, he was indeed captured along with the entire ship's crew and marines:
"...and again carried into New York, paroled on Long Island and afterwards to Philadelphia from which situation he was only relieved by the return of Peace and the United States obtaining her glorious independence.".
Numerous other supporting sources also cite his second imprisonment with the British. Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 734, states that:
"...during December , he was captured by the British and was paroled at Long Island, N.Y.".
Joe No Last Name's work, "Continental Navy: Midshipman William Nourse", page 2, states:
"...in December 1782, Nourse was again captured by the British, carried into New York and according to his survivor's pension application #S-6845 dated 1832, he received 'severe treatment beyond description.' He was paroled to Long Island, then Philadelphia and 'not released until the end of the war.'.".
(Note: Joe No Last Name incorrectly cites the pension application number of William Nourse as being "#S6845" instead of "W6845" which is indeed the correct pension application number. The application appears to have been initially begun by William Nourse, former naval midshipman, but was successfully pursued by and awarded to his widow, Rebecca P. Nourse. Thus, it is registered as "W6845" to indicate that the widow of William Nourse received the pension application.)
But, Middlebrook's work, The Frigate "South Carolina", pages 18-25, contains the three prisoner-of-war rosters of the three British men-of-war - HMS Diomede, HMS Quebec, and the HMS Astraea - that carried the captured American crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina into New York City harbor between December 23-24, 1782. On none of these lists does the name "William Nourse" appear as a midshipman on board the captured frigate South Carolina or as any other rank or rating on board the patriot frigate.
(Note: the individual lists of captive Americans mariners and marines on board the three British men-of-war are not alphabetized in any manner. Evidently, the individual Americans prisoners have their names listed as they provided them to possibly a clerk or steward as their presence on board that specific British man-of-war was being documented. The writer of this blog has taken the effort to alphabetize the lists for convenience of reference and posted them all as follows:
"Bound for New York, City, Pt. I - Roster of Captive Americans on board the HMS Diomede - December 20, 1782" and posted "03/24/2015".
"Bound for New York City, Pt. II - Roster of Captive Americans on board the HMS Quebec - December 20, 1782" and posted "03/25/2015".
"Bound for New York City, Pt. III - Roster of captive Americans on board the HMS Astraea - December 20, 1782" and posted "03/26/2015".
As stated before, William Nourse's name does not appear on any of these lists of captured American officers, NCOs, enlisted sailors or marines.)
It is noted through out these three lists of captured crewmen and marines of the frigate South Carolina that the officers, both naval and marine, were indeed paroled on Long Island, NY. Also, according to Revill's work, Stub Indents to Entries, page 259, that William Nourse's claims against the state of South Carolina were sent in as one of sixty-five claims contained in Return 82, which was sent out of the offices of the legislative committee on October 29, 1785. This claim was paid to William Nourse at an unspecified date for 39p/12s/1d. This represented his pay for about five months of sea service to the state of South Carolina during the American Revolution. Thus, it is completely feasible to suspect that William Nourse did serve on board the frigate South Carolina, was captured along with the rest of the ship's compliment of crew, and was paroled on Long Island until he could be paroled in Philadelphia, PA for the brief remainder of the war.
But, the issue remains as to the exact reason for his name not being included in any of the rosters of captive Americans. The reason of "mis-transposing" the name can be excluded because there are no names that do appear on the rosters that are "close" to the spelling of Nourse. There is one "Norris" but, his first name is "Thomas" and not "William". Secondly, William Nourse may have chosen to not give his "real" name for reasons that we do not and can not discern. This is a very real possibility except that William Nourse was an officer and would have operated by the code of honesty that applied to all officers of whatever nationality during the American Revolution. Still, the possibility does exist. Finally, the taking and recording of his name might have been overlooked. Over three hundred American prisoners were documented on those two to three days before the British men-of-war began their homeward journey to New York City. It is possible that he was overlooked, again for whatever reason. So, this "unusual" situation will, like the first "unusual" situation, probably go unresolved until further information surfaces to properly address this issue.
With the cessation of hostilities between Great Britain and the United States of America, life for Americans began to return to normal. According to Joe No Last Name's article, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", page 2, the following account of the post-war life and activities of William Nourse is given:
"After the war...William Nourse was working as a clerk in his father's office in Annapolis [MD] by 1784. That same year, just six months after his oldest brother Joseph was married to Colonel John Bull's daughter Maria Louisa Bull of Philadelphia on April 22, 1784 James Nourse, Esq. died at Annapolis on October 10, 1784. William's name was addended to his brothers Joseph and James as executors for the estate of their father in his will dated March 25, 1784, suggesting that William had returned shortly before. Signed in the presence of General Horatio Gates, family friend and godfather of two of William's siblings, James' will bequeathed one hundred sterling to son William Nourse, as well as, an equal share in the remainder of his estate. A newspaper advertisement of November 30, 1785 reveals the three executors marketing the sale of their father's thousand acre parcel on the 'Head of Worthington's Run' in Berkeley County [VA]. Three years after the death,...William Nourse was sent to England in 1787 to settle some family matters of estate. A footnote in the Papers of Robert Morris states that after assisting his father in Maryland, William Nourse later served as clerk in various Treasury Department offices, one of many in the family brood working under the auspices of oldest brother Joseph Nourse.".
At some point after his return to America from his trip to England to settle family matters, William Nourse moved to Kentucky. The only Kentucky locale that has ever been referenced in connection with the life of former naval midshipman William Nourse has been Mercer County, KY. According to Joe No Last Name's article, "Continental Navy: Willaim Nourse, Midshipman", page 2:
"In Mercer County, KY on Thursday July 9, 1789, William Nourse married Elizabeth Jameson, daughter of Andrew Jameson and Martha Stevenson Jameson. Nourse's older brother Robert also was married to Elizabeth's sister Rebecca Jameson.".
William Nourse would have been twenty-five years old at the time of his marriage to Elizabeth Jameson of Mercer County, KY.
This same source, page 2, also cites the children of this union between William Nourse and Elizabeth Jameson were as follows:
Joseph Nourse - born December 24, 1789; died January 4, 1790.
Gabriel Nourse - born February 1, 1792; died December 1812.
William Nourse - born April 20, 1794; died March 10, 1795.
Andrew Nourse - born February 11, 1796; died June 1798.
Martha Nourse - born February 12, 1798; married John McClay Irwin April 2, 1822; died August 28, 1829.
Robert Nourse - born May 15, 1800; died June 10, 1827.
Elizabeth Nourse - born August 10, 1802; married William Chambers January 4, 1830; died September 9, 1832.
William Nourse - born September 21, 1804; died March 5, 1809.
Maria Josepha Nourse - born October 19, 1806; married Thomas McLanahan December 17, 1829; died May 4, 1836.
Eldar Charles Force Nourse - born December 5, 1809; married Elizabeth Ward Gaines date unknown; died April 20, 1836.
(Note: Just an observation at this point in the post but, if a reader compares the marriage date of William Nourse and Elizabeth Jameson Nourse to the birth date of their first child, Joseph Nourse, one can readily see that Elizabeth was already approximately two and one-half months pregnant at the time of their marriage. There is no more information as to whether or not the child was William Nourse's or possibly of another earlier suitor of Elizabeth Jameson. Tragically, one can also see that the infant died when he was about eleven days old. But, there does exist the possibility that the infant boy was born premature and only lived for eleven days after his birth. Yet, the levels of health care at this point in American history almost exclude this possibility due to the child being able to sustain himself for eleven days after being born one and one-half months prematurely. Again, there is no further information on this early tragedy for the Nourse family.)
According to this same source, page 3, Elizabeth Jameson Nourse died April 24, 1811 about one and one-half years after the birth of her tenth child by William Nourse. She had lived long enough to bury four of her children, all of them boys. Her oldest child at the time of her death was Martha Nourse who had just turned thirteen years old.
According to Joe No Last Name's article, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", pages 2-3, exactly fourteen months prior to the death of Elizabeth Nourse:
"... on February 23, 1810, [a] Mr. Johnson presented a petition before Congress on behalf of William Nourse 'praying for a grant of land in consideration of services rendered as a midshipman in the navy of the United States during the Revolutionary War, or that such other relief may be afforded him as may appear just and proper.' Congress ordered the petition referred to the Committee of Claims which appears to have acted in Nourse's favor on March 2, 1810."
(Note: According to Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 734, William Nourse's Bounty Land Warrant number was BLWt 34836-160-55. If the writer of this blog is not mistaken the second grouping of numerals, offset on both sides by hyphens, represents the amount of land in acres that William Nourse received - one hundred and sixty acres. But, it is of interest to note that although Moss's work cites this as the amount of land received by former midshipman William Nourse, Bockstruck's work, Revolutionary War Bounty Land Grants, does not cite a "William Nourse" as receiving a land grant at all.)
At the time of the death of Elizabeth Jameson Nourse on April 24, 1811, widower William Nourse was left in the custody of six orphaned children, aged thirteen to one and one-half years old. It was very common in the 18th century for a widower to remarry, often times quickly, in order to have a partner to ease the burden of raising the children who had been orphaned by the death of their mother. William Nourse was no different in this regard. According to Joe No Last Name's article, "Continental Navy: William Nourse, Midshipman", page 3, a little over two years later:
"William Nourse was married a second time on May 2, 1813 to twenty-one year old Rebecca P. Kyle in a ceremony officiated by her father Reverend Thomas Kyle in Mercer County, KY. Rebecca, born in 1792, was the daughter of Mary and Thomas Kyle, known as "Dominie" in his position of pastor of the Lower Dutch Reformed Church known originally as the Salt River Congregation and later as Old Mud Meeting House in Harrodsburg [KY].".
(Note: The actual birth date of Rebecca P. Kyle is not recorded in any of the sources available to the writer of this blog. But, if it were true that she was twenty-one at the time of her marriage to William Nourse, then William Nourse was forty-nine years old when he married her in Mercer County, KY. Thus, William Nourse was approximately twenty-eight years older than his young bride at the time of their marriage.)
At this point in the personal narrative of William Nourse, former midshipman of the Continental Navy frigate Confederacy and the South Carolina State Navy frigate South Carolina, concludes his pension application with the following statement:
"Your Petitioner in conclusion would beg leave to state that he is now and has been for many years a citizen in Mercer County Kentucky -- is now in the 64th year of his age, 3 years of the bloom of which he spent in the service of his Country suffering on that account the rage of a cruel enemy, in bonds and vigorous imprisonment -- which is probably the cause that he has been laboring for many years with a broken constitution and for months together such heavy infirmities as to render him entirely unable to attend to any kind of business.".