Claghorn, Charles E. Naval Officers of the American Revolution: A Concise Biographical Dictionary, (Metuchen, NJ & London: The Scarecrow Press, 1988.)
Hannings, Bud. "Captain John Trevett, USMC", (usmilitaryhistory.com/seniram, posted on July 10, 2011.)
JT, Brenna. "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823), (www.findagrave.com, record added - October 13, 2009.)
Kellow, Ken. entry for "John Trevitt", section entitled "Officer - T: American War of Independence at Sea", (www.awiatsea.com, revised - August 6, 2014.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
Smith, Charles R. Marines in the Revolution: Continental Marines in the American Revolution, 1775 -1783, (Washington, D.C.: History and Museums Division, Headquarters, U.S.Marine Corps, 1975.)
Captain of Marines John Trevett led a very interesting life that leaves several questions still to be answered concerning it. Practically nothing is known of his earlier life other than his birth year and his parents' names. He is variously cited as being from Pennsylvania and in other citations from Rhode Island. His name does not appear in several of the reference sources in which other individuals cited in this overall blog do appear. His last name is disputed in its actual spelling. Oddly enough, his "position" while he was on board the frigate South Carolina is even in dispute. He, like so many of his contemporary naval officers, spent time as a prisoner-of-war in the hands of the British and then reached France upon his release but, not through the "typical channels" by which the other released American prisoners-of-war reached France. He was a well-traveled, experienced and brave officer without a doubt but, pursued carpentry as his profession after the American Revolution, an occupation unusual for an officer to apply himself. Hopefully, the writer of this blog will help to clear up some of these "discrepancies" at least through this specific post.
The first issue to be addressed by the writer of this blog is that of the correct spelling of the last name of this Captain of Marines and his occupation while on board the frigate South Carolina. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 168, contains the following information:
John Trevotl (Frevott, Trivett, Trevett, Trevitt) carpenter?
In the course of this overall blog, there have been several instances of last names being spelled in various different manners. But, to the knowledge of the writer of this blog there has never been a case of so many variant spellings of a last name as there are here. A few of these can be discounted almost immediately. As far as the writer of this blog knows, the given last name (the single name outside the parenthesis) of this Captain of Marines, given as "Trevotl", never appears anywhere in print or in association to this specific first name. Nor does the second last name, being the first listed name inside the parenthesis, that of "Frevott". Neither does the third last name cited (the second name within the parenthesis) - that of "Trivett". Only the two last names cited within the parenthesis - that of "Trevett" and "Trevitt" - are associated with the first name of John. In fact, the latter of these last names, "Trevitt", only appears in a more modern citation. According to Kellow's entry for "Officers - T", contained within his overall website, "American War of Independence at Sea", the spelling of this specific officer's last name is "Trevitt". The entry for this officer is very brief, simply stating that he was a "Captain, Continental Marines". The entry also identifies him as being from Pennsylvania instead of from "Rhode Island".
But, the most convincing evidence must surely come form the very pen of John Trevett himself. According to Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, section entitled "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, the following entry appears and seems to have been written by John Trevett himself:
"This is to Whom it May Concern that I, John Trevett, sailed from Providence in a Sloop called the Catea [Katy]...".
The entirety of this rather short work seems to be written in the first-person narrative of a personal diary and is attributed to John Trevett, initially a midshipman and later an officer of marines on board of various Navy ships-of-war. Since it was John Trevett himself who wrote this dairy, we can safely assume that he would have spelled his last name correctly or, at least, how he preferred to spell it.Also, JT's entry for "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823)" spells the last name as "Trevett". Finally, the photo of the inscription on the headstone also records in stone that the last name is spelled in the same manner. Thus, it is safe to assume that the correct spelling of this individual's last name is "Trevett".
Thus, the writer of this blog feels certain that the issue of the correct spelling of the last name of this Captain of Marines has been settled. But, this leads to the next issue - that of the proper "position" or occupation of John Trevett on board the frigate South Carolina. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 168, seems to indicate that he was possibly a "carpenter" on board the patriot frigate. Yet, this is an unusual occupation for an officer to hold. Prior to the commencement of the American Revolution, individuals who became officers and leaders of men usually were occupied with some type of pursuit or skill fitting to their status within colonial society. These pursuits included surveying, larger scale farming or landowning, gold-smithing, silver-smithing, mercantile business and trade or some other similar type occupation. The occupation of "carpenter" seems to be an illogical or unlikely one for a former officer to choose as a career after the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain. This is certainly a skilled profession but, seems to better suited as an aspiration for a common man seeking to better himself in his post-war life. Only a single source addresses this "career move" by John Trevett after the American Revolution had concluded. This is found in Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, Appendix C, page 325, in the introductory comments prior to the actual text of the diary itself. This introductory text simply states that "...in the years following the Revolution, Trevett worked as a joiner (carpenter) 'until infirmities disease & blindness' rendered him incapable of any further labor...". But, it is interesting to the writer of this blog that this occupation would be cited in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 168, if he pursued this profession after the war instead of while he was on board the frigate South Carolina. He may well have had some background or aptitude for working with his hands prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. But, all of the references to his services during the American Revolution, the information is of the achievements of an officer of marines and not a carpenter. The writer of this blog is at a loss to discern the reason for the citation of "carpenter" as the "position" occupied by John Trevett on board the frigate South Carolina as opposed to "Captain of Marines" which is the position he seems to have occupied while on board the patriot frigate in the final years of the American Revolution.
The little bit of information we have concerning the early life of John Trevett deals with his parentage and date and place of birth. According to Hannigs's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 1, "...John Trevett, the son of Eleazar and Mary Church Trevett, was born during 1747 in Newport, Rhode Island.". This same information is confirmed by Brenna JT's entry for "Find a Grave Memorial: Capt. John Trevett (1747-1823), page 1. This same source also indicates that John Trevett was the third of four children born to Eleazar and Mary Trevett. As a matter of fact, according to the same source, all four Trevett children were born within a four year period from 1745-1748. Literally, all the remaining information we have related to the early, pre-Revolutionary war life of John Trevett are two passages of a single sentence each. The first passage comes from Hannings's article cited above, page 1, and states that "...details of his [John Trevett's] early life are unavailable, but it is thought that John spent time at sea on merchant ships.". The second passage comes from Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, "Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, and states that "...in early life he [John Trevett] was in the merchant service, and made a number of voyages from Newport to such places as Lisbon.". These tiny pieces of disjointed and scattered information constitute all that has come down to those of us who live in the modern period concerning the early, pre-Revolutionary War life of John Trevett, Captain of Marines.
A copious amount of information addressing John Trevett's services in the Continental Navy follows this brief synopsis of his of pre-war life. Smith's work, Marines in the Revolution, Appendix C: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines, pages 325-342, contains John Trevett's first hand accounts of his services and actions fought on board the various different ships-of-war that he served of which he served. According to this work, page 325, this account of his life "...spans almost eight years of service from November 1775 to June 1783, [and] is now in the Newport Historical Society, Newport, Rhode Island.". For the sake of clarity and brevity, the writer of this blog will attempt to only cite those passages that best illustrate the services and dangers that Captain of Marines John Trevett experienced while he was in the service of the United States of America.
Captain of Marines John Trevett experienced quite a varied set of situations and circumstances in the course of the American Revolution. According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, the following information on John Trevett appears:
"John Trevett [Rhode Island] - Continental Navy. He was commissioned on February 13, 1776 as a Lieutenant on Marines on the ship Columbus. In 1777 he served on the sloop Providence commanded by Jonathan Pitcher. In February 1777 they captured, off Cape Breton, a transport brig with a small group of British soldiers. In 1778 he served on the Providence commanded by John P. Rathburn and they attacked Abaco on New Providence (Bahamas) and took Fort Nassau by surprise on January 30th and sailed away with 30 Americans released from prison and 1,600 pounds of gunpowder. Later he served as Captain of Marines.".
(Note: The following citations of Captain of Marines John Trevett's services during the American Revolution leave gaps in his service according to the source cited immediately above. This is due to this above source only citing naval officers of the American Revolution who served in the Continental Navy. Some of John Trevett's services, such as the service initially cited below, were on board privateers or privately owned ships-of-war. These types of services are not cited due to their not being on board of Continental Navy ships-of-war.)
His first shipboard assignment came very early in the conflict with Great Britain. This service was on board the sloop Catea or Katy out of Providence, Rhode Island. According to the Wikipedia article, "USS Providence (1775)", page 1:
"From early 1775, British men-of-war searched Rhode Island shipping, especially the frigate [HMS] Rose, annoying the colony's merchants who had become wealthy through smuggling. On June 13 , Deputy Governor Nicholas Cooke wrote the frigate's Captain James Wallace demanding restoration of several ships which [the] Rose had captured. Two days later, the Rhode Island General Assembly ordered the committee of safety to fit out two ships to defend the colony's shipping, and appointed a committee of three to obtain the vessels. That day, the committee chartered the sloop Katy from John Browne of Providence and the sloop Washington at the same time. The General Assembly appointed Abraham Whipple as commander of [the] Katy, the larger ship, and made him commodore of the tiny fleet. (Whipple had won fame in the burning of [the] British armed schooner Gaspee in 1772.) Before sunset that day, Whipple captured a tender to HMS Rose. Katy cruised in Narragansett Bay through the summer protecting coastal shipping.".
The next patriot ship-of-war that John Trevett served on board of was the Providence but, this patriot ship was one and the same as the Katy as illustrated by John Trevett's diary entries. According to Smith's work, Marines of the Revolution, "Appendix: Diary of John Trevett, Captain of Marines", page 325, the following entry appears:
"...I, John Trevett, sailed from Providence [Rhode Island] in a Sloop called the Catea [Katy], Commanded by Abraham Whipple, Esq., of Providence, with a number of passengers, to sail with a fleet of armed vessels fixing at Philadelphia, in the month of Nov. 1775. Arrived there the same month [actually December 5] and found ship called the Alfred 1 ship called the Columbus 1 brig called the Calbot [Cabot] 1 brig called the Andrew Doria [Andrea Doria] and then our Sloops name was altered and she called the Providence.".
This re-christening of the sloop-of-war Catea [or Katy] is confirmed by the Wikipedia article, "USS Providence (1775)", page 2, in the following passage:
"Katy was purchased by Rhode Island October 31 , soon after she returned to Providence. Late in November, she sailed for Philadelphia carrying seamen enlisted by Commodore Esek Hopkins in New England for Continental service. She arrived on December 3  and was immediately taken into Continental service and renamed Providence.".
According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, cited above, John Trevett was first commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines on board "...the ship Columbus...". According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 1, "... the Columbus was one of the first five warships commissioned in the Continental Navy.". It was this ship-of-war upon which John Trevett was commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines and initially served as a part of the Continental Navy. One of the first cruises of the Columbus as a ship-of-war of the Continental Navy involved a fleet-sized assault on the British-held Bahamas Islands. The fleet contained eight ships-of-war and a combined force of 914 sailors and marines. According to Smith's work, Marines of the Revolution, page 45, the following information is known concerning this Continental Navy ship-of-war in involved in this assault:
Captain Abraham Whipple
Captain Joseph Shoemaker
1st Lieutenant John Trevett
Only one other ship in the entire fleet was as large as the Columbus. This was the ship Alfred which had two more 9-pounders on board her. This is the patriot ship-of-war upon which sailed the Commander of the Fleet Esek Hopkins, who was in charge of the overall invasion attempt. This data compilation for this specific Continental Navy ship-of-war is found in a list of vessels entitled "The First Continental Fleet, February 17, 1776". According to Claghorn's work, Naval Officers of the American Revolution, page 315, John Trevett was commissioned as a Lieutenant of Marines on board this ship-of-war on February 13, 1776. The date of the list of the assaulting vessels is "February 17, 1776". According to Hannings's article, "Captain John Trevett, USMC", page 2, "...on the way to the Bahamas, Midshipman Trevett was commissioned as a first lieutenant in the Marines.". This corroborating information should indicate that John Trevett received his promotion to Lieutenant of Marines in mid-February 1776 as the fleet of which he was a member was voyaging to capture the British-held Bahamas.