During the winter of 1777-1778, the legislature of South Carolina passed an official act to raise a naval force to defend the coast of South Carolina from British and Loyalist raiders. This act also appointed Alexander Gillon as Commodore and three port captains - William Robertson, John Joyner and John McQueen - as junior commanding officers for this intended fleet. These men were directed to travel to France and once there, build or purchase three frigates, man and equip them, and return to the coast of South Carolina, there to defend those coasts from the enemy. Gillon was to command the whole with the rank of Commodore of South Carolina and was invested with the power to appoint officers to this fleet of the state. John Mayrant, still residing in Charleston, SC at this time and aged 16 years, presented himself to Commodore Gillon and, through the offices of a few friends - Thomas Lynch, Elias Horry, and William Bull, Jr. - received an appointment as a midshipman in May 1778, entering the naval services of his home state.
(Note: In the listings of "The SC Navy Captains" section of "The American Revolution in South Carolina" only two of the above-mentioned "port captains" are listed and in rather unusual form at that. William Robertson is listed as William Robeson. The note concerning him is that he was "Under Commodore Alexander Gillon". John McQueen is possibly the captain listed as "Unknown" McQueen. His note simply states that he was "A Captain in the Navy". Interestingly, John Joyner, possibly the most famous and best documented of the three is not listed at all.)
(Note: Another source dates Mayrant's commission as a midshipman as May 23, 1778.)
(Note: William Bull, Jr. was the nephew of the Lieutenant Governor of South Carolina, William Bull, who remained a loyal supporter of the King during the course of the American Revolution.)
The following August (1778), John Mayrant sailed from Charleston, SC with Commodore Gillon in the sloop Tartar (14 guns) which had been purchase by Gillon for the service of the state. They were destined for Havana, Cuba. Once in Havana, Cuba, they separated, probably at Gillon's orders, because John Mayrant was sent to France with Capt. Robertson aboard the French "letter of marque" (privateer), Gustavus. They landed in France at Nantes. Commodore Gillon, once he had finished his negotiations with the Spanish officials in Havana, sailed for Spain aboard a Spanish packet ship. After his arrival in Spain, he traveled overland to Nantes, France.
It is at this point in time that the delays to Commodore Gillon's plan began. He had brought several shipments of commodities, primarily indigo, with him to use as remittance for the desired frigates. These cargoes were, for the most part, captured by British naval vessels or privateers in crossing the Atlantic. Gillon now entered into negotiations with France for a loan to the state of South Carolina for these ships. This, of course, caused delays in fitting out his force and, as cited earlier in this blog, some of the accompanying individuals became disillusioned and left France and returned to the colonies. John Mayrant was not one of these.
As the delays lengthened, Mayrant heard that Commodore (John) Paul Jones (note: this is exactly the manner in which he is referred to in Mayrant's pension application of 1832 - as "Commodore Paul Jones") was in L'Orient, France and "preparing an armament for sea". John Mayrant, a young, enthusiastic midshipman and eager for action, petitioned Commodore Gillon for permission to join Jone's squadron. Mayrant received Gillon's permission to join Jone's squadron. Mayrant set out for L'Orient with a letter of introduction from Dr. Benjamin Franklin that Gillon had procured for him. These measures all proved worthy and Jone's very kindly received him and appointed him midshipman and aide aboard the most famous ship of Revolutionary War fame, the Bonhomme Richard. This all took place in June 1779. Mayrant remembers in his pension application that Jone's and his squadron sailed at some time around August 1, 1779 and crusied off the coast of southern and western England, eastern Ireland/western Scotland and around the northern coast of Scotland into the German (North) Sea. On September 23, 1779, the squadron of Jones fell in with a British convoy of merchant vessels under the escort protection of the HMS Serapis and the smaller HMS Countess of Scarborough. What followed was the most famous naval engagement of the Revolutionary War. At the end of the battle, after Capt. Pearson of the HMS Serapis had struck his colors (surrendered to Jones), Mayrant led one of the victorious boarding parties onto the waist of the enemy ship. A small party of brave, British sailors, who had not heard of the surrender of their vessel to Jones, surprised Mayrant and his boarding party. Mayrant was seriously wounded by a pike thrust through his leg. According to Mayrant's pension application, the wound "...gave him great pain, and he was unable to put his foot to the ground for three months".
The HMS Serapis and the HMS Countess of Scarborough were both taken into Texel, Holland as prizes. Shortly after arriving in Texel, Mayrant received orders from Gillon to travel to Amsterdam where he (Gillon) was outfitting the newly-acquired frigate, South Carolina. John Mayrant joined Gillon in either October or November 1779. When reports of Mayrant's service aboard the Bonhomme Richard reached Gillon, Mayrant was promoted from midshipman to Lieutenant.
LT John Mayrant served aboard the South Carolina under the command of Gillon for the duration of her maiden voyage from Texel, Holland to her docking in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on May 29, 1782. This voyage included the participation of the South Carolina and other smaller American vessels in the Spanish assault on and seizure of the Bahamas on May 8, 1782. This was the only time during the American Revolution that American forces participated in the capture and holding of foreign territory.
After the South Carolina docked in Philadelphia, John Mayrant and Michael Kalteisen were issued orders by Commodore Gillon to travel to Charleston, SC and there "...to open a rendezvous for marines and seamen of whom he wanted about 100" (the Pension Application of John Mayrant S32390). While they were engaged thus in Charleston, SC, they received news of the capture of the South Carolina. John Mayrant's pension application states "...that his commission and papers and all that he owned were taken in her, and lost to him forever".
Mayrant and Kalteisen remained in Charleston, SC, as ordered by Commodore Gillon and under the direction of Governor Benjamin Guerard, to receive prisoners and make exchanges of those on parole due to capture during the war. Mayrant continued in this capacity until the peace in 1783 and his subsequent discharge from the naval forces of the state of South Carolina. At his discharge, he and all the officers of the South Carolina were to receive twelve months pay. Mayrant received this in the form of an "indent" (a type of promissory note) which he was forced to sell for hard cash - 10GBP on every 100. When he was discharged, Mayrant was "commissioned" 3rd LT aboard the frigate South Carolina and would thus receive regular pay of 12GBP sterling a month, excluding rations. There is evidence that John Mayrant filed a claim against the state of South Carolina and did receive a certificate for 471GBP, 4s, 4d on June 6, 1783. This evidence appears in the book entitled, Copy of the Original Index Book Showing the Revolutionary Claims Filed in South Carolina Between August 20, 1883 and August 31, 1786. This index was kept by the Auditor General, James McCall, and copied by Janie Revell.
Mayrant married later that same fall and moved the the High Hills of the Santee in South Carolina. The file containing the pension application of John Mayrant also contains a power of attorney that is dated October 17, 1845 and filed by J. Mayrant of Hinds County, MS. He was attempting to secure the pension due his deceased father, John Mayrant, who died in August 1836 in Tennessee. John Mayrant is recorded as dying in Greene County, TN where he was buried but, the exact location of his grave is unknown. There are other documents included in the file which indicate that his wife predeceased him, dying between July 1832 and April 1833. It is not clear from this pension application filed through a power of attorney by his son, J. Mayrant, whether or not the children of John Mayrant, 3rd LT of the state frigate,South Carolina, ever received the pension due him.