Cutter, William Richard, editor. Genealogical and Personal Memoirs: Relating to the Families of Boston and Eastern Massachusetts, Vol. IV, (New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1908.)
Historic District Commission, City of Beverly, Massachusetts. "History and Evolution of the Fish Flake Hill Historic District".
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
McAllister, Jim. "North Shore Privateers Played Important Role in Revolutionary War", (Essex County Chronicles, July 4, 2011.)
n. a. ("Bob on Gallows Hill") "Find a Grave Memorial - Capt. Hugh Hill (1740-1829)", (www.findagravememorial.com, record added May 18, 2005.)
n. a. "Captain John Moulton", (onebigfamilytree.com, July 3, 2011.)
n. a. "The Privateer Trail: Beverly's Revolutionary Era Maritime History", entry for the Hugh Hill House ca. 1789, (www.beverlyhistory.org, no date.)
This post addresses the naval career and "life" of the patriot-controlled frigate South Carolina and her crew members and marines on either of the two cruises upon which she embarked. Many individuals have crossed the scene of action and made their contribution to the story of the patriot frigate and her efforts on behalf of the patriot Cause as cataloged in this overall blog. But, a few other vessels have, in their own manner, crossed that same stage and contributed their part to the story of the frigate South Carolina. One of those ships was the Cicero, out of Beverly, Massachusetts and her indomitable captain was Hugh Hill. The Cicero only crossed paths with the frigate South Carolina vicariously through some of the "passengers" of the frigate departing the ship-of-war while she was in port at Corunna, Spain on her way home. These few "passengers" sought out another means of getting to America and found that means in the Cicero and her impending homeward journey. This post will fill out the story of the Massachusetts "ship" Cicero and her famous captain, Hugh Hill.
A small recitation of the early portion of the maiden voyage of the frigate South Carolina is in order at this point. The frigate had departed The Texel, Holland on August 4, 1781. Under the overall command of Commodore Alexander Gillon, the frigate South Carolina had taken at least two prizes prior to docking in Corunna, Spain on September 24, 1781. The events of first of these two prize ships was described in post entitled "'A Vessel Unnamed in History' - The Story of the Frigate South Carolina's First Prize -" and was dated "05/04/2015". The second of these two prize vessels was described in the post entitled '''The Alexander or Prize to the South Carolina': The Story of the Frigate South Carolina's Second Prize, Her Fate, and the Fate of Her Prize Crew - Information Introduced and New Findings -" and was dated "11/24/2015". As previously described the first, unnamed prize was burned at sea while the second prize, a British privateer out of Liverpool, England, was recaptured along with her prize crew by the HMS Hearts of Oak as she was headed for a French port. No other prize vessels were encountered and taken by the frigate South Carolina prior to her docking in the Spanish port city of Corunna, Spain.
Once in Corunna, Spain, though, a curious event took place on board the frigate South Carolina - several of the "passengers" of the frigate chose to leave the patriot ship-of-war and seek their own way home to America. These "passengers" included Colonel John Trumbull, Major William Jackson, James Searle, and their young charge, Charles Adams - the young son of Continental Congressman John Adams. Evidently, a few men of military rank on board the frigate South Carolina, other than the first two named previously, also chose to leave the ship-of-war. These were Lieutenant Joshua Barney, who was cited as a "passenger", as well as First Lieutenant Nicholas Bartlett and Lieutenant of Marines Johnathan Bartlett. These seven individuals, at least, left the frigate South Carolina at Corunna, Spain and sought their own "speedier" manner to reach home.
These disgruntled "passengers" found their passage home on board the Massachusetts privateer, "ship"-of-war, Cicero, which lay in the harbor at Bilbao, Spain. The distance between Corunna and Bilbao, Spain is approximately three hundred miles. Corunna is located at the extreme northwestern corner of Spain where the Spanish coastline turns from being an east-west coastline to a north-south coastline. In relation to Corunna, Spain, Bilbao is located eastward on this same coast, much closer to the present border between France and Spain. How these angry "passengers" found out about the location of the Cicero is unrecorded but, they quickly traveled there and took passage on this privateer towards America.
It is the feeling of the writer of this blog that any story of the Massachusetts privateer "ship" Cicero must be also a story of her intrepid commanding officer - Captain Hugh Hill. According to the n. a. ("Bob on Gallows Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill, "...he was among the most audacious privateers based in the North Shore communities of Massachusetts.". From a very early age, he seems to have heard the "siren call" of the sea. According to Cutter's work, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, page 1849, Hugh Hill "...was born in 1741, in Carrickfergus, County Antrim, Ireland...". This same source goes on the say that "...he ran away from home when a boy and became a cabin boy in the English Navy. He had had no schooling, but knowing the value of knowledge gave his allowance of grog (watered-down rum) to a sailor who in return taught him the rudiments of a common education.". Again, the same source states that "...he left the English service and settled in Marblehead, continuing, to follow the sea. He married, at Marblehead, March 13, 1766, Hannah Goudey...".
(Note: The n. a. ("Bob on Gallows Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill states that his birth date was August 1, 1740 rather than in 1741 as in Cutter's work, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, page 1849. This same entry also states that "...he rests next to his wife Jane Gardner Brown Hill, 1772-1866.". It is completely possible that his first wife, Hannah Goudey, died after being married to Hugh Hill for a rather short time and that Hugh Hill remarried in 1772 to Jane Gardner Brown. This same piece of information indicates that Hugh Hill would have been between twenty-five and twenty-six years old at the time of his marriage to Hannah Goudey.)
Later, ostensibly, prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution, Hugh Hill became a master mariner. Soon after the outbreak of hostilities between the rebellious colonies and Great Britain, Hugh Hill was commissioned as a captain of a Massachusetts privateer of 16 guns named the Pilgrim. This patriot ship-of-war had an illustrious career under first Captain Hugh Hill and later under Captain John Robinson. But, for the purposes of this post, Hugh Hill was also commissioned as captain of the Massachusetts privateer "ship" Cicero. According to n. a. ("Bob on Gallow's Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill, both the Pilgrim and the Cicero had sixteen guns and he"...routinely prowled English waters taking numerous prizes.". Later in the war, and according to Cutter's work, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, page 1849, Hugh Hill "...was commissioned captain...on January 15, 1781, in command of the privateer Cicero on petition of Andrew Cabot, of Salem, and others...".
(Note: According to n. a. "The Privateer Trail: Beverly's Revolutionary Era Maritime History", page 1, Andrew Cabot of Salem, MA was brother to John and George Cabot and brother-in-law to Joseph Lee, all of whom made their fortune's from privateers during the American Revolution. They owned a wharf in Beverly, MA known as Cabot's Wharf which dispatched at least forty privateer ships-of-war to sea during the course of the conflict with Great Britain. In 1781, John Cabot built the first brick residence in Beverly, MA . According to this same article, "The Privateer Trail", page 2, "...the Cabot family became the second wealthiest family in Massachusetts as a result of their privateering efforts.". According to the Historic District Commission's work, "History and Evolution of Fish Flake Hill Historic District", "...none of these early wharves remain today, the last having been demolished in the 1920s...".)
According to McAllister's article, "North Shore Privateers Played an Important Role in the Revolutionary War", in the "Essex County Chronicles" and dated July 4, 2011, while Hugh Hill was in command of the Massachusetts privateer Pilgrim the following events took place:
"Hill, a 37-year-old native of Ireland known for his steel nerves and crafty ways, became a legend in privateering circles. One story found in 'Old Naumkeag' (Webber and Nevins, 1877) recounts the time that Hill's vessel, flying the British colors, was boarded by the captain of a British man-of-war who said that he was in search of that 'notorious' privateer Hugh Hill.
'So am I,' replied Hill, and after a brief conversation the British captain returned to his vessel and sailed away.
Later, the two met again. This time Hill raised the American colors and commenced firing. After a brief engagement, the British vessel surrendered. A smiling Hill then introduced himself to the stunned British captain.".
Other stories speak to Captain Hugh Hill's propensity for detail and understanding of the workings of a ship at sea, even though this may have worked itself out in a rather harsh manner, possibly reflecting the "nautical schooling" that Hugh Hill himself received as a young, aspiring mariner. According to n. a. article "Capt. John Moulton, 1762-1824", as it appears in onebigfamilytree.com:
"After leaving [earlier army service of] the Revolutionary War, John worked with the noted privateer, Capatin Hugh Hill, as a cabin boy. On the first day out [of port], the captain explained to him the names and uses of some of the parts of the rigging. On the second day, the Captain found that the boy had forgotten some things he had been told, and he gave him a flogging that ended with the remark, 'there d___ ye, see if you forget what the halyards are again.' John did not forget.".
If these stories are true, or any portion of them are factual, then Captain Hugh Hill lived up to his reputation as a "rough and tumble" sea captain of New England of the American Revolution or had that reputation accrued to his personality by others.
It is completely understandable that following the cessation of hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain, Captain Hugh Hill would continue to follow the sea. According to Cutter's work, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, page 1849, "...after the war, Captain Hill went to Ireland with his vessel and advertised for passengers to America. He brought father, brothers and sisters to America.". Again, according to the n. a. ("Bob on Gallow's Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill, "...later in life he was personally thanked by President George Washington for his contribution to the cause of American Independence.". According to Cutter's work, page 1849, he died at Beverly, Massachusetts, February 17, 1829, aged eighty-eight years. According to the n. a. ("Bob on Gallow's Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry fro Capt. Hugh Hill the death date is the same and includes that "...he rests with his wife Jane Gardner Brown Hill, 1772-1866.". According to Cutter's work, Genealogical and Personal Memoirs, page 1849, his children are as follows:
"Hugh - settled in Beverly, MA, and had a family there.
Peter - lived in Beverly, MA.
James - born in 1757.
and two daughters (unnamed)."
(Note: According to n. a. ("Bob on Gallow's Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill, an inscription on the one side of the Hill Family tomb seems to corroborate the previous statement that after the war had concluded, Captain Hugh Hill went to Ireland to bring the rest of the members of his family to America. The inscription reads:
"Scotch in ancestry
Cities of Carrick and Fergus, Ireland
they (Hugh's parents) and their progeny
Elizabeth - Nancy
James - Peter
Jane - Thomas
circa 1784 was brought to Beverly
by their loving son and brother
to share with him
the fruits of his provident affluence
and the freedoms he had served
so gallantly to win
Repose in Peace"
It is obvious, from this inscription and the others which follow this entry, that Captain Hugh Hill is a valued and honored part of the history of Beverly, Massachusetts and whose memory is treasured as a former citizen of this seaside settlement.)
This is all that the writer of this blog knows of the family of Captain Hugh Hill of Beverly, Massachusetts. There is some degree of uncertainty concerning who exactly he married and, ostensibly, the dates of the life of his first wife, Hannah Goudey. According to n. a. ("Bob of Gallow's Hill") source, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill referenced immediately above, Captain Hugh Hill is buried next to his wife, Jane Gardner Brown Hill (1772-1866) in the Hill Family Tomb in Central Cemetery, located in Beverly, Massachusetts. According to n. a. ("Bob on Gallow's Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill, "...the Hill Family tomb is marked by a granite table-top...". The tomb is marked with a seal from the Amity Lodge of the Masonic Order, which may indicate that Hugh Hill was a member of that lodge. The inscription on one side of the tomb addresses the life of Hugh Hill directly:
Patrician - Patriot - Privateersman
1st Cousin Andrew Jackson, 7th President USA
Commissioned Captain, the American Service 1775
Commanded with Great Credit to the American Cause
The Cicero 16 Guns 300 tons - The Pilgrim 16 Guns 200 tons
Which on the high seas and in English waters
gave consternation and confusion
to the Royal English Navy 1775-1783
Mighty in Stature - Mighty in Battle"
But, even with all this information being shared here concerning an individual New England sea captain who seems to have no relationship to the frigate South Carolina, there indeed exists a connection between Captain Hugh Hill of Beverly, Massachusetts and the Dutch-built, French-leased frigate of the State Navy of South Carolina. Those few, highly disgruntled "passengers" who took leave of the frigate South Carolina at Corunna, Spain sought out the Massachusetts privateer ship-of-war Cicero, which lay in Bilbao, Spain, for their passage home to America. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 43, "...Jackson, Adams, Trumbull, and Barney booked passage on the Cicero, a Massachusetts privateer.". By all indications, the Cicero departed Spanish waters and ultimately European waters shortly after these few passengers boarded her for the journey home to America. Yet, Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 185 note 6, notes that "...the Cicero had her own difficulties in returning home, and the South Carolina actually reached the New World before her [the Cicero].". According to Allen's work, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution, page 99, entry for the Cicero, an announcement appeared in the "Boston Gazette" dated January 28, 1782 and stated that:
"Capt. Hill, in the letter of marque ship Cicero, arrived in Beverly Monday last [January 21, 1782], in six weeks from Bilbao... In Captain Hill came Passengers, Col. John Trumbull, Son of his Excellency the Governor of Connecticut, Master John [Quincy] Adams, Son of his Excellency John Adams, Esq., both of which Gentlemen arrived in this Town Yesterday.".
According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 38, map entitled "Voyages of the South Carolina, 1781-1784", the frigate South Carolina arrived in Corunna, Spain on September 24, 1781. Shortly after this mooring in that Spanish port city, the disgruntled "passengers" left the patriot ship-of-war and proceeded to Bilbao, Spain where they took passage on board the Massachusetts privateer ship-of-war Cicero, commanded by Captain Hugh Hill of Beverly, Massachusetts. No sources known to the writer of this blog indicate the exact departure date of the Cicero for the New World. But, there are indications, as stated in the text above, that the intended port in America was indeed Beverly, Massachusetts. The first sentence of the text cited immediately above seems to indicate that "....the letter of marque ship Cicero..." departed Bilbao, Spain at some point around November 21, 1781. The frigate South Carolina departed Corunna, Spain and Spanish waters on November 24, 1781. Commodore Alexander Gillon took the oldest of sea lane routes in crossing the Atlantic Ocean. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 45, "...the Commodore now took the oldest route from Europe, dropping south to reach the westerlies off the Canaries, then following the winds and currents to the Caribbean. This was the route that Columbus had taken three centuries earlier.". Ultimately, the frigate South Carolina entered Charleston, SC harbor, its intended American destination, on December 31, 1781 but, quickly withdrew when it became quite clear to the ship's officers and crew that the city was held by the British. The Massachusetts privateer ship Cicero did not reach America until almost exactly three weeks later, on January 21, 1782, having spent six weeks sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, bound for her home port of Beverly, Massachusetts. Commodore Alexander Gillon and the frigate South Carolina had beaten the former disgruntled and dissatisfied "passengers" to the New World, despite their intentions of finding a faster ship. So, in a sense, the genteel, aristocratic South Carolinian Alexander Gillon had bested the daring, crusty, Irish-born New Englander Hugh Hill in their mutually chosen game of chance - crossing the wide blue sea in the Cause of freedom and liberty.
Captain Hugh Hill of Beverly, Massachusetts had followed the sea ever since he had run away from home as a boy and become a cabin boy in the Royal Navy. He followed the sea until his dying day, by all accounts. He was commissioned early in the war with Great Britain and served courageously and gallantly through out the duration of the hostilities. He garnered the recognition and accolades of a grateful president, George Washington. He was a valued member of the Beverly community and was honored through out his life. He died on February 17, 1829 in his adopted home-town of Beverly, Massachusetts and, according to n. a. ("Bob on Gallows Hill") Find a Grave Memorial, entry for Capt. Hugh Hill (1740-1829), was interred in the Hill family tomb, which Hugh Hill had built in 1791. He had built the tomb to hold the mortal remains of his father and mother, John and Elizabeth Hill, who had died, respectively, on December 31, 1794 and June 14, 1790. When his wife died, she, too, would be laid to rest beside her husband in that same tomb. By all indications, there are no others of the family interred there. The epitaph on one side of the tomb sums it all up for that gallant, Irish-born New England sea captain as far as the writer of this blog is concerned - Hugh Hill: Repose in Peace.