Sir Richard Burton, British explorer (1821-1890)
The information presented in this post is taken from the following sources:
Ancestry.com. "Stacy Potts 1731-1816", (www.ancestry.com, 1997-2016.)
Balyer, Scott. "Find a Grave Memorial - Stacy Potts", (www.findagravememorial.com, record added: 07/20/2013.)
Frazza, Albert. "Revolutionary War Sites in Trenton, New Jersey", (www.revolutionarywarnewjersey.com, 2009-2016.)
Heitman, Francis B. Historical Register of the Officers of the Continental Line: During the War of Independence - April, 1775 to December 1783, (Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1982.)
Jones, Sheila. "The Other Side of the American Revolution: A Look at the Treatment of Philadelphia Quakers during the Revolutionary War", (www.ohioacademyofhistory.org, 2004.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina During the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
Moran, Donald N. "Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall: Guilty of Tactical Negligence or Guiltless Circumstances", (www.revolutionarywararchives.org, 2007-2015.)
No Author's Name Given. "An Unusual 18th Century Working Manuscript Chart", (Cohen & Taliaferro Galleries, New York City, 2012.)
Podmore, Harry J., revised and edited by Mary J. Messler. "Trenton: Old and New", (Trenton Tercentenary Commission, printed by MacCrellish & Quigley Company, 1964.)
Rosetta, Robert. "1784 - Trenton: The Nation's Capital - On This Site in 1784", (www.trenton1784.org, 1999-2013.)
Trussell, John B.B., Jr. The Pennsylvania Line: Regimental Organization and Operations, 1776-1783, (Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1977.)
Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. "Quakers", (wikipedia.org, last modified: March 17, 2016.)
Bond - "Stacy Potts to John Henderson, February 22, 1777", (The Trenton Historical Society, Trenton, NJ.)
Letter - "John Henderson to Stacy Potts, December 19, 1782", (The Robert Charles Lawrence Fergusson Collection, The Society of the Cincinnati, Washington, D.C.)
In the much earlier post entitled "...On Board of One of the Finest and Best Found Ships in the World...": Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson and the Second Cruise of the Frigate South Carolina, December 19-20, 1782 -" and dated "02/07/2016", the readership of this blog was introduced in greater detail to Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson, who served on board the frigate South Carolina for the second, brief cruise of the patriot ship-of-war. The genesis of this specific post was the introduction of the writer of this blog to a letter that had been written by Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson to a "Mr. Stacy Potts" while he was on board the frigate South Carolina and dated December 19, 1782 - the day prior to the capture of the patriot frigate as she emerged from the Capes of the Delaware. As the writer of this blog was preparing to draft the earlier post, he was made aware of a second letter written by Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson to "Mr. Stacy Potts" and dated three weeks after the first letter was written. This second letter was written by John Henderson to "Mr. Stacy Potts" from John Henderson's place of parole, which was Long Island, NY. This letter is contained in the Archives of Harvard University which, at the moment, is having all of its holdings transferred to digital form and thus the letter is currently inaccessible. But, when the digital form does come available to the general public, the readership of this blog can rest assured that the writer of this blog will form yet a third post with this second letter of Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson to "Mr. Stacy Potts" as the focal point of that future post.
In doing the research on Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson and his prior military experience, the writer of this blog has encountered yet another written communication concerning the relationship between John Henderson and "Mr. Stacy Potts". This communication appears in the form of a "bond" from "Mr. Stacy Potts" to Lieutenant John Henderson, then a lieutenant of the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot. The "bond" is dated February 22, 1777, payable on April 22, 1777. It was this "bond" that led to information being collected on the man who has only been known in this blog so far as "Mr. Stacy Potts". He, in and of himself, is a very curious individual and merits attention in this post. This examination of "Mr. Stacy Potts" and his place in society reflects on his relationship to John Henderson, both as a younger officer in the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot and later as the Lieutenant of Marines on board the frigate South Carolina.
One of the focal points of this specific post will be to "fill out" the historical person of Stacy Potts and "make him a bit more real" to readers of the modern day. If the writer of this blog does his work well, one item of interest that should be very evident at the conclusion of this post is that Stacy Potts was a very influential and wealthy member of New Jersey colonial society. He was so influential that even though his home was razed in 1857, the building currently occupying the site, St. Mary's (Catholic) Cathedral, has an historical marker on it indicating that this was the site of Stacy Potts's home.
(Note: According to Rosetta's article, "1784 - Trenton: The Nation's Capital..." the house was situated on the "...Southwest corner of Warren & Bank, opposite St. Michael's...". But, Frazza's article, "Revolutionary War Sites in Trenton, New Jersey", page 5, states that the site is now under St. Mary's Catholic Cathedral located at 151 North Warren St. in Trenton, NJ. One of these articles may have misquoted the name of the cathedral but, it would seem that the research in the Frazza article is more exhaustive than the Rosetta article. Therefore, the Frazza article is more likely correct than the Rosetta article.)
Stacy Potts was definitely an influential individual in the 18th century colonial society of New Jersey and, particularly, the society of Trenton, NJ. According to Balyer's article in "Find a Grave Memorial - Stacy Potts", Stacy Potts was born in Mansfield, Burlington, County, New Jersey on September 30, 1731. His father was Thomas Potts and his mother was Sarah Beakes. According to the article associated with Cohen & Taliaferro Galleries, he came from a very important and prominent Pennsylvania Quaker family with its Quaker roots going back at least as far as his grandfather, Mahlon Stacy, who arrived in the colonies in 1678 and is cited as one of the founders and settlers of Trenton, NJ. In contrast to the above cited Bayler article, this later article states that he was born in 1731 in Trenton, NJ rather than Mansfield, NJ. This may well be the truth being that Stacy Potts's name is most closely associated with Trenton, NJ. Stacy Potts's family going well back into the 17th century were professed Quakers and Stacy Potts seems to have held to this system of beliefs and personal practices for his entire life.
Stacy Potts was married three times in his life. His first wife was Esther Pancoast whose life dates were 1738-1769. Stacy Potts fathered five children by her. After her death in 1769, Stacy Potts married Margaretta Yardley whose life dates were 1752-1783. Stacy Potts fathered six additional children by her. Stacy Potts's third and final wife was Mary Williams whom he married after the death of Margaretta Yardley in 1783. They evidently had no children together and she did not die until 1844, almost thirty years after her husband's death on April 28, 1816.
By the outbreak of the American Revolution in April 1775, Stacy Potts had become not only prominent in the community of Trenton, NJ but, also very wealthy. Again, the article associated with the Cohen & Taliaferro Galleries states that "...in 1776, besides owning a tannery, Stacy Potts built the steel-works in Trenton, and after the close of the Revolution was largely interested in the erection of a paper-mill in the same locality...". According to Rosetta's article, the steel-mill was "...near the Old Barracks..." and the tannery was "...located just behind his [Stacy Potts] house...".
By any centuries standards, the house owned by Stacy Potts was impressive. According to Frazza's article, "Revolutionary War Sites in Trenton, New Jersey", page 5, "the following description of the house was written in 1785 and makes it clear that the house was a quite impressive one for the time:
'the house is two stories high, spacious and elegant, having three rooms with fireplaces, besides a large dining room with two fireplaces on the lower floor, five rooms on the second floor, a large and convenient kitchen, a cellar under the whole, a pump at the door, a convenient lot with a stream of water running through it and an excellent garden - a stable sufficient to contain eight horses, with room for hay to keep them, may be had with it....'".
According to Rosetta's article, "1784 - Trenton: The Nation's Capital..." the Stacy Potts's house "...sat on a 2 acre lot with a stream running through the property, surrounded by a cedar post-and-board fence...". The house, as indicated above, was demolished in 1857 to help make way for the construction of the Catholic cathedral that now occupies the original site of the Stacy Potts's house.
But, Stacy Potts did more than build and maintain a beautiful, impressive home in Trenton, NJ to secure his place as a pillar of that society. Indeed, the Trenton Historical Society has in its holdings many, many documents of a very official nature that provide a different vista into the life and work of Stacy Potts. The Trenton Historical Society actually has over twenty-five official documents where Stacy Potts is one of the parties involved in some type of legal action. These legal actions range from simple bonds or titles to indentures, land deeds, petitioning for a business to be legally owned and operated within town limits, leases, mortgages, and monetary loans to others. There are a few letters included among these transactions and there are also a list of clothing made for him, a lease of machinery, and a bill for medical treatments covering the 1770s and 1780s. Many of these transactions are addressed to individuals but, a few of them are addressed to "the Legislative Council and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey". He was obviously a man of means who was involved in many and diverse business transactions.
In and among these various different documents appears one that seems to strike a discordant note, though. The document is dated "August 8, 1769" and reads as follows:
"To be sold a likely Strong young Negro Man fit for any Sort of Bussioness [business] Born in this Country [and very hardy] and is a very healthy able handy fellow and fit for any sort of Bussioness [business] though has been kept at the Taning Bussioness [Tanning business] and for those two or three years past Chiefly at Beam at which he can work excellently well
To be sold a likely Strong Young Negro Man Born in this Country about 19 Years of age and is a very healthy handy fellow fit for any Sort of Bussioness [business] -
Enquire [Inquire] of Stacy Potts"
Stacy Potts was not only a "man of business" in Trenton, NJ as well as a prominent "man of means" but, he was also a slave owner. The discordant note is that Stacy Potts was a Quaker, as stated earlier in this post. The Quakers were well known conscientious objectors but, should have also been openly opposed to the institution of slavery. But, according to Wikipedia's entry for "Quakers", page 9:
"...some Quakers in North America and Great Britain became well known for their involvement in the abolition of slavery. However, prior to the American Revolution, it was fairly common for Friends [Quakers] in British America to own slaves. During the early to mid-1700s a disquiet about this practice arose among Friends, best exemplified by the testimonies of Anthony Benezet and John Woolman; and this resulted in an abolition movement among Friends. By the time of the American Revolution few Friends owned slaves. In 1790, the Society of Friends petitioned the United States Congress to abolish slavery, becoming the first organization to take a collective stand against slavery and the slave trade."
In all fairness to Stacy Potts, this situation may well deserve more careful examination. As far as the writer of this blog knows, this is the sole instance of the sale of a human in bondage contained in the papers concerning Stacy Potts. There are numerous documents addressing the sale or exchange of land, property other than humans, or actual money, either from Stacy Potts to another party but, much more frequently from another party to the person of Stacy Potts. These two African-American men might represent the settlement of a debt owed by another party to Stacy Potts, who, in turn, chose to sell them as soon as he had received them instead of keeping them as bonded humans. But, there is the reference in the description of the first individual to having "...been kept at the Taning Bussioness [Tanning Business] and for those two or three years past Chiefly at Beam at which he can work excellently well...". Stacy Potts owned and operated a tannery business directly behind his stately home in Trenton, NJ. By 1769, the year the sales transaction was issued, this business had already been in operation for several years. At least the first individual appears to have belonged to Stacy Potts for a number of years prior to the issuing of the sales transaction. As noted in the Wikipedia article, entry for "Quakers", page 9, by the beginning of the American Revolution, few Quakers owned any slaves at all. Since the transaction referred to above took place in August 1769, and since Stacy Potts was a dedicated Quaker, one can only assume that he followed the precepts and dictations of the "Society of Friends" and either sold the slaves he owned or had manumitted them by the beginning of the American Revolution in 1775. His correspondence retained in the Trenton Historical Society's collection gives no indication as to how many slaves he may have owned.
(Note: both of these men appear to be African-Americans as opposed to forcibly transplanted Africans. In both of the descriptions of the men and their talents, one finds the phrase "...Born in this Country...". This clearly indicates that these are native-born individuals of African ethnicity. Thus, it is safe to assume that these two men are "African-Americans" as opposed to "Africans".)
This brings the readership of this blog to a most interesting episode in the life of Stacy Potts, soon-to-be-patron of "Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson". In short, during the fall and winter of 1776, George Washington and the Congressional forces under his command were driven across and out of the western edge of New Jersey into Pennsylvania. The British commander-in-chief, General Howe, established outposts along the Delaware River to keep an eye on the patriot forces in the course of the winter of 1776-1777. One of these outposts was set up in Trenton, NJ and was manned by German auxiliary troops of the Crown Forces, among them the regiment commanded by Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall. Due to his extensive combat experience and seniority, Colonel Rall was given overall command of the outpost at Trenton, NJ and the troops stationed there.
Towns provide convenient places for quartering troops during the months of severe weather. The men can be sheltered in sturdy buildings that provide respite from the natural elements or homes that are heated. The town can act as a supply point for supply convoys moving along the roads with additional goods to provide for the troops. And, finally, the commanding officer can establish his headquarters there and have a central spot to which messages can come and from which they can be disseminated. Many commanders of the past would choose the finest home of one of the wealthiest residents as his military headquarters and place of residence while he was there with his troops performing garrison duty. Colonel Johann Rall was no different. He selected his headquarters from among the best houses within the town limits of Trenton and subsequently chose the spacious and elegant home of Stacy Potts.
Referring back to the description of the home of Stacy Potts, one can see why Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall would have chosen this residence as his military headquarters and personal residence during the winter of 1776-1777. Many of the rooms had fireplaces in them. There was a fine garden and the property had a stream running through it where he and his men could conduct military business, take walks, or while away their time when off duty. There were excellent stabling facilities immediately available for several horses. But, and possibly the most significantly, Stacy Potts had a family in his home and that family contained several young ladies. According to the Ancestry.com article, "Stacy Potts 1731-1816", Stacy Potts's second wife, Margaretta Yardley Potts, would have been a youthful twenty-four years old. All of his daughters living in the house in the winter of 1776-1777 were most probably children of Stacy Potts's first wife, Esther Pancoast who died in 1769. His oldest daughter, Mary Potts, would have been seventeen years old. The next oldest, Sarah Potts, would have been fourteen years old. The youngest daughter, Elizabeth Potts, would have been eleven years old. Stacy Potts and his entire family would have had to make room for the new "guests" but, would have remained living in the same house as the newly established, German-speaking headquarters. The presence of so many female voices, opinions, and mystique would have made an otherwise dull, military garrison much more agreeable to the staff of Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall's headquarters. The sources are silent on this matter but, it is completely conceivable that this was at least a minor factor in Colonel Rall choosing the Stacy Potts's house as his headquarters for the harsh New Jersey winter of 1766-1777.
As being the recipient of Colonel Ralls' selection of headquarter's site, there was not much Stacy Potts could do. After all, he was a civilian in a war zone and, as such, was subject the the "rules of war" which were laid down by whomever was currently in control of the area. In this case, it was the German auxiliaries, better known during the American Revolution, as "Hessians". All he could really do was make room for the Germans and hope for the best and a quick end to this affair. Also, as a committed Quaker, Stacy Potts would have been subject to another set of rules - those divinely inspired. Quakers, by nature, always tried to ease the way for any fellow man who needed their assistance. Stacy Potts may well have readily opened his home to the demands of the Germans because it was what his faith called on him the do in this instance. Again, it may have been a bit disagreeable and cramped but, it would have served a higher purpose in the Quaker world view.
The incidents of Christmas morning, 1776 have become the stuff of military legend in American history. The Battle of Trenton was pivotal in the history of our country, mainly due to the boost in morale the patriot Cause received as a result of the victory won there by George Washington and his rag-tag band of soldiers. It is quite evident that the fighting swirled around the Stacy Potts's house in the course of the morning. According to Frazza's article, "Revolutionary War Sites in Trenton, New Jersey", page 5, "...the house retained bullet marks from the fighting for as long as it existed. When the house was demolished in 1857, a window pane with a bullet hole from the battle was preserved; it is now displayed at the Old Barracks Museum...". Colonel Rall did not survive the battle that led to the capture of the entire German garrison of Trenton, NJ. According to Moran's article, "Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall...", page 5, "..during the hour long battle, Colonel Rall was struck twice in the side by musket balls, and was taken into a nearby church. Later he was transferred to Stacy Potts house where he died later that night...". Colonel Rall supposedly died in one of the upper rooms on the street-side of the house to the upper left of the front door.
For many, many years, a legend has circulated that the German troops, as well as Colonel Rall, were all drunk at the time of the battle due to their heavy Christmas celebrations that took place the night before the actual battle. Several more modern articles and publications have refuted this legend and set the record straight. But, a story persists that Colonel Rall was distracted on Christmas Eve night due to his being engaged in either a game of whist or drafts (checkers) with Stacy Potts. Evidently, a local Loyalist came to the door of the Stacy Potts's house on the night of December 24, 1776 with a message for Colonel Rall warning him of the impending attack. The message was delivered to Colonel Rall but, remained unread due to his attention being focused on the game in which he was involved at the moment. The message was found the next day in his waistcoat pocket as his body was being prepared for burial in a cemetery located there in Trenton, NJ.
All of this historical information seems quite removed from the frigate South Carolina. In fact, at this point in time, the frigate was still known as L'Indien and was technically not even under construction in the Staats shipyard in Amsterdam, Holland. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 8, the shipyard of Staats had been selected by late February 1777 for construction of the frigate with the keel being laid there in August 1777. But, very quickly after the incidents cited above, Stacy Potts would be involved with an American officer who, in time, would be an officer of marines on board the frigate South Carolina for her second, brief voyage.
According to the archival holdings of the Trenton Historical Society, the correspondence of Stacy Potts's goes back into the 1750s and ends at some point in the 1780s. Stacy Potts would not die until 1816 but, the correspondence of Stacy Potts only reflected his writings and activities until around the time of the ratification of the Constitution and the late 1780s. The holdings of the Trenton Historical Society mostly contain correspondence from the 1780s as related to Stacy Potts. But, there are examples of his earlier correspondence in the holdings as well. It is one of these pieces of Stacy Potts's earlier correspondence that concerns us now. This is a very curious document and the writer of this blog thought it best to quote it in its full length. The following is the full text of "Bond - Stacy Potts to John Henderson, February 22, 1777", (Trenton Historical Society, Trenton, NJ.):
Stacy Potts} 16 ----- (British pounds symbol)
Jno. [John] Henderson}
Payable Ap'l [April] 22d [22nd] 1777
Know all men by these Presents that I Stacy Potts of Trenton in West New Jersey am held and firmly bound unto John Henderson Lieutenant in the Twelfth Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot, In the Sum Thirty Pounds lawful Money of Pennsylvania To be Paid to the said John Henderson on or to his Certain Attorney Executors Administrators or Assigns To which payment well & Truly to be made I hereby bind myself my Heirs Executors & Administrators & every of them for & in the Whole firmly by these Presents Sealed with my Seal Dated the Twenty second Day of February Anno Domini One Thousand seven hundred & Seventy Seven
The Condition of the above Obligation is such that of the above bounden Stacy Potts or his Heirs Executors Administrators or any of them shall and do well and truly pay or cause to be Paid unto the above named John Henderson or to his certain Attorney Executors Administrators or Assigns The Just and full Sum of Sum of Sixteen Pounds lawful Money aforesaid on or before the Twenty second Day of April next ensuing the Date hereof without any Fraud or farther Delay then the above Obligation to Void or else to be and Remain in full Force & Virtue.
Sealed & Delivered}
In the Presence of
James Harle Stacy Potts (seal missing)
(pencil writing;) Trenton in the Revolutionary War
February 22, 1777
(Verso: reverse side of the document)
Trenton May 14th 1777 Received of Mr. Stacy Potts the Sum of sixteen Pounds in full of the within Bond
16.0. -- (British Pounds symbol)
Jno. [John] Henderson 12. P. R."
Even a brief examination of the other holdings of the Trenton Historical Society related to Stacy Potts demonstrate this same type of written composition - very precise wording, utilization of formalized legal terminology, and a very focused treatment of the subject matter. So many of the documents contained among the archival documents and related to Stacy Potts are indentures. These are legal documents where an individual, most frequently a young man, but, occasionally a married couple, pledged to work off a debt previously owed to Stacy Potts. Stacy Potts's position in Trenton's society as one of the wealthier, more prominent citizens of that town was probably based upon a thorough understanding of the legal matters and its power and influence.
The specific document cited above is simple and straight-forward - a loan from Stacy Potts to another individual. But, the wording of this specific document reveals several issues concerning Stacy Potts and his place and influence within Trenton society as well as colonial society at large. First, it reveals that Stacy Potts as a Quaker had chosen a path of nascent support of the American Revolution. In the first paragraph of the bond, the exact phrasing utilized to express the amount of money to change hands as "...In the Sum Thirty Pounds of lawful Money of Pennsylvania to be Paid to...". This phrasing indicates the use of money issued by the state of Pennsylvania during the American Revolution as legal tender for transactions conducted during that period of time. According to Jones's article, "The Other Side of the American Revolution...", page 35, it states that:
"...one way Quakers expressed dissatisfaction was by refusing to use the new continental currency. According to historian Elaine J. Crauderueff, they had the following three reasons for opposing this money, as interpreted from the Minutes of a Yearly Meeting:
1. Paper money led to inflation and therefore depreciated in value.
2. ....using the currency was a political statement endorsing an 'authority whose legitimacy the Society did not acknowledge.'
3. The money was raised to fund the war effort: it 'was considered - not altogether unjustifiably - to be a covert means of taxation to finance the prosecution of war'.
While the first reason is an economic concern, the other two are consistent with Quaker religious principles that prohibit contributions of any kind to a war effort."
Thus, the decision to not accept the new paper continental money was a Society-wide decision rather than a decision of more economically-minded individuals who happened to be Quakers. Yet, Stacy Potts charted his own course, so it would seem. Possibly, he was a man who, in some way, shape or form, foresaw the future of this land after the end of the American Revolution and who would end up as the "new possessors of power" and decided to "side" with them and thus secure a place of acceptance for him here. Possibly, he did dissent with orthodox Quaker decisions and make his own way. Either way, Stacy Potts took the step of going against a decision of the overall Quaker community, at least according to the Minute of the Yearly Meeting. But, was it the decision of a supporter of the Revolution and its goals or was it the decision of a shrewd businessman? The only indication of the impact of his decision to use continental money in the loan is a rather tenuous one. The writer of this blog has not been able to locate the final burial place of Stacy Potts. This may possibly be due to the actual burial plot not being properly recorded in a cemetery ledger. It is entirely possible that he was buried in a private plot and these records have been lost to time. But, there exists the possibility that his decisions were not only frowned upon by the Friends at large but, led to his being "read out" of his congregation altogether - exiled from the Society of Friends. In that case, Stacy Potts would have been buried in some other burial place than one associated with the Society of Friends.
The second issue is more one of timing. On December 26, 1776, Colonel Johann Gottlieb Rall died in the home of Stacy Potts due to wounds he received during the Battle of Trenton. Some older depictions of Rall's death scene seem to indicate that when he received a visit from George Washington, Stacy Potts and his wife were present in the room. Yet, if one examines the date of the above bond to John Henderson, it is dated less than two months after the above mentioned incident. It seems unusual that Colonel Rall would take as his headquarters and residence while in Trenton, NJ the house of a man who would less than two months after Rall's death be loaning money to an officer of the Continental army. This may well be a factor of the Quaker belief in offering assistance and aid to anyone in need. Thus, Stacy Potts could easily have opened his home to the German Colonel and his headquarter's staff and two months later be found loaning money to an officer of the Pennsylvania Line. The sources are unclear on Stacy Potts's feelings concerning his home being appropriated by the German commander and his troops. Still, it seems rather unusual for the second incident to follow so closely after the first.
The remaining issues concern John Henderson and the information provided by Stacy Potts's bond issued to him. The third issue is one of almost definitive identification of John Henderson. According to Heitman's work, Officers of the Continental Army, page 284, there are not one but, two possible identifications for John Henderson of Pennsylvania. There is indeed a third John Henderson cited in Heitman's work but, he is from South Carolina according to the text of the citation and thus, not one of the John Hendersons from Pennsylvania under consideration here. The first John Henderson was an officer in the 4th Continental Dragoons and seems to have left Continental service around September 1778. The second John Henderson was an officer in the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot and did not leave Continental service until December 1781. The question has always remained as to which John Henderson is the true or correct John Henderson being referred to in this post and overall blog. The text of Stacy Potts's bond to John Henderson, issued on February 22, 1777 and payable on April 22, 1777, contains almost definitive proof as to the true and correct identity of John Henderson. Being that Stacy Potts's bond was an official, legally binding document, John Henderson signed it. The signature of this bond reads as - "John Henderson 12. P. R.". This final, rather cryptic collection of numbers and letters appearing immediately after John Henderson's name is most likely his regimental affiliation and almost certainly stands for the "12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot". Thus, almost beyond a shadow of a doubt, the true and correct John Henderson being referred to here belonged to the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot as an officer from October 1, 1776 until his resignation on December 11, 1781. This then is the same man who would sign on the frigate South Carolina as a "Lieutenant of Marines" at some point after the ship-of-war moored in Philadelphia harbor on May 29, 1782.
The fourth issue, and second one related to John Henderson, is one of proper rank at the time of the signing of the bond. In the second line of the text of the actual bond itself, John Henderson is referred to as "...John Henderson Lieutenant in the Twelfth Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot...". This might well indicate that John Henderson had received a promotion within the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot since being commissioned earlier in the year. According to Heitman's work, Officers of the Continental Army, page 284, John Henderson was commissioned as an ensign on October 1, 1776. The next entry concerning John Henderson contained in this work cites him as being transferred to the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot on July 1, 1778, well after the date of the bond between Stacy Potts and John Henderson. On the same date of July 1, 1778, John Henderson was promoted to Captain Lieutenant which indicates that he was ready to move to a full Captain in the 3rd Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot, which he did on May 12, 1779. But, between these two dates - his commissioning as an ensign on October 1, 1776 and his promotion to Captain Lieutenant on July 1, 1778 - John Henderson was promoted to Lieutenant. The entry in Heitman's work, Officers of the Continental Army, is silent on this issue. But, Stacy Potts in the second line of the bond between hiself and John Henderson clearly refers to John Henderson as a "...Lieutenant in the Twelfth Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot...". The wealth of documentation held by the Trenton Historical Society concerning Stacy Potts indicates that he was an exacting man, accurate to a minutest detail. He again clearly indicates in his text of the bond that John Henderson was a lieutenant and no longer an ensign. Therefore, this promotion from ensign to lieutenant must have taken place prior to the drafting and signing of the bond between the two men on February 22, 1777. It is of course completely possible that Stacy Potts misstated John Henderson's rank or that, possibly, John Henderson misrepresented himself to Stacy Potts and declared himself to be a lieutenant when in fact he was just an ensign. Only further research can possibly illuminate this matter.
(Note: In fact, in Heitman's work, Officers of the Continental Army, John Henderson is referred to as a "...2nd Lieutenant in the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment of Foot...". The writer of this blog is unfamiliar with the term "2nd Lieutenant" being used to describe an officer immediately inferior to a Lieutenant. The writer of this blog has only encountered the terms "Ensign" and "Lieutenant", never "2nd Lieutenant" and "1st Lieutenant". The writer of this blog felt it necessary to change the references to reduce possible confusion on the parts of some of the readership of this blog.)
That John Henderson did indeed receive the money from Stacy Potts is indicated on the reverse side of the bond in a short statement to that effect. This statement is dated May 14, 1777. But, this brief statement does not include the phrase "...the Sum Thirty two Pounds lawful Money of Pennsylvania..." as does the original phrasing of the bond. rather, it states that John Henderson received "... the Sum of sixteen Pounds in full...". Below this written-out statement is found "16.0" preceded by a British pound symbol. The original text of the bond clearly stated that the transaction was to be conducted for "...lawful Money of Pennsylvania..." as the denominator. Yet, on the reverse of the bond and dated almost three months later, British pounds are the medium of exchange and not "...lawful Money of Pennsylvania...". The writer of this blog is not familiar with business transactions of the 18th century. This could possibly just be one of the finer points of finance in that time period. But, it also seems possible that one Continental denomination of currency was used to insure the "patriotism" of Stacy Potts while another more stable currency was used to finalize the transaction. British pounds were not likely to depreciate while the values of Continental or state currency wildly fluctuated during the American Revolution.
The fifth and final issue, and the third issue related to John Henderson, is one of continuance of this financial relationship between Stacy Potts and John Henderson. The letter drafted by John Henderson to Stacy Potts from on board the frigate South Carolina and dated December 19, 1782, indicates that this relationship continued, at least through an inference as to wording. The second paragraph of the letter from John Henderson to Stacy Potts is as follows:
"I have the very great pleasure to inform you, that Your generosity has enabled me to settle my Affairs in the most Honorable manner, and permit me to now express my gratitude for your Singular Friendship in this Affair and most assured that no exertions or Services of mine shall ever be wanting where I may have it in my Power in the least to compensate for the many Obligations I am under to Your Friendship."
This sounds as though that John Henderson has once again accepted another loan or a monetary gift from Stacy Potts to pay off some type of unspecified debt to a third party that remains unnamed in this letter. This letter was written over five and one-half years after the signing of the initial bond between Stacy Potts and John Henderson. John Henderson had probably used the initial loan of sixteen pounds and incurred another debt that needed to be paid. His original benefactor would have been a likely source of ready cash to which to turn. This point is supported by the fact that the next two paragraphs of the letter, and the bulk of the overall letter, are taken up with suggestions of lucrative business interactions that Stacy Potts might look into as well as references to a surveying scheme for "...a Company of Gentlemen in Pennsylvania...". These sound like suggestions made by a man who owes another man money and wants to lender to prosper in some other financial endevour with the possibility that the lender might prosper so much as to forgive the debt owed him out of gratitude for the suggestion by the one who owes him the money. The paragraph immediately following these two paragraphs ends with a direct statement to the effect that "...if we get back in Time (which I expect we shall) I shall then make a push for Cain-tuck (Kentucky) and pursue my former occupation till a Land Office is opened in Pennsylvania when I hope to finish and Compleat all Your Surveys in the most advantageous manner." Evidently, John Henderson had promised to survey land on behalf of Stacy Potts at some previous time and seems to be assuring Stacy Potts that he has not forgotten the earlier arrangements. One begins to wonder if Stacy Potts, already well established as one of the wealthiest men in Trenton, NJ had been to consider the idea of land speculation and the profits to be gained there. John Henderson very graciously, and strategically, close the letter with salutations to Stacy Potts's family, especially the women of the family. This concern for the ladies of the family could have only served to endear him more to Stacy Potts, his Quaker friend and financial benefactor through out the years.
(Note: John Henderson in his letter to Stacy Potts from on board the frigate South Carolina sends salutations to a "...Miss Sally..." included in with the rest of Stacy Potts's family. Stacy Potts had no daughter named "Sally". The name "Sally" was most frequently used as an endearing nickname for a young lady during the colonial period of American history. This must be a reference to Sarah Potts who would have been about twenty years old at the time. Unfortunately, and possibly tragically, she would be dead within two years of the date of the letter to her father, Stacy Potts, dying at some point in 1784.)
There were so many relationships involved in the two cruises of the frigate South Carolina. Many of these have been illuminated in several of the previous posts. But, the relationship between Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson and the wealthy Quaker resident of Trenton, NJ, Stacy Potts, is a most unusual one. On the one hand, there was the wealthy, well-established, respectable Quaker head-of-household. On the other hand, there was the seemingly financially-strapped, possibly dashing, rising young officer who had a promising future in a promising land. Yet, this relationship was slightly different from all the other ones. All of them were between military men, both on and off the frigate South Carolina. Yet, the one relationship examined in this post was between a civilian, who by his faith was a conscientious objector, and a first Continental Army officer and later state naval officer who wanted to make a profit both during the American Revolution through combat and capture of prize ships and later through appropriation of native lands to the west.. Quakers, if true to their faith, would have disavowed both of these acts - participation in and profit through warfare and profit through dispossession of native peoples. Yet, the few writings that have survived up to this time prove out this relationship between Stacy Potts, scion of Trenton, NJ and Lieutenant of Marines John Henderson, combat officer on board the frigate South Carolina. Possibly, the war and the promise of the new nation that beckoned made them other men.