Kaminkow, Marion and Jack. Mariners of the American Revolution, (Magna Carta Book Company, 1967).
Lewis, James A. The Final Campaign of the American Revolution: Rise and Fall of the Spanish Bahamas, (University of South Carolina Press, 1991).
Lewis, James A. Neptune;s Militia: The Frigate South Carolina During the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999).
Moss, Bobby Gilmer. Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, (Genealogical Publishing Company, Inc., 1983).
Revill, Janie. Copy of the Original Index Book: Showing the Revolutionary Claims Filed in South Carolina Between August 20, 1783 and August 31, 1786, (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1969).
Wates, Wylma Anne, editor. Stub Entries to Indents Issued in Payment of Claims Against South Carolina Growing Out of the Revolution, Books C-F, (South Carolina Archives Department, 1957).
Pension Application of Alexander Coffin W8617
Pension Application of George Fisher S46036
(Note: Chronologically, this post would almost immediately follow the much earlier post dated "05/04/2015" since the events this post covers and are concerned with occurred several days after the events of that earlier post took place.)
One month after the frigate South Carolina had left the port of Amsterdam, Holland and, having rounded the northern coasts of both Scotland and Ireland, turned southward down the western coast of Ireland; on September 6, 1781, a sail was spotted and chase was given. It turned out to be a brig and, according to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, after a chase that lasted two days "...the fleeing ship was run down. She turned out to be the Alexander, a large privateer from Liverpool with sixty men and sixteen cannons aboard. After stripping her over a week's time of weapons, powder, sails, and eight of her crew, Gillon placed twenty-six marines on her deck and sent her to France under the supervision of a prize master, Midshipman James Pile. While the Alexander never made it to her destination, being recaptured by the British warship Hearts of Oak within hours of leaving the South Carolina, the Commodore had followed the terms of the Luxembourg contract, which required that all prizes be sent to French ports."
This is certainly a straight forward and simple narrative of the capture of the frigate South Carolina's second prize off the western coast of Ireland. This prize's name, unlike the first prize of the South Carolina, is known and recorded for history's sake. But, there are several issues with the subsequent disposition of this prize and her British crew, the makeup of her prize crew and their subsequent fate, as well as the identity of two of her prize crew members. All of these points will be hopefully addressed in this post.
The first issue is that there seems to be some discrepancy as to the number of British privateer crewmen taken off of the brig Alexander by Commodore Gillon to supplement the crew of the frigate South Carolina. The reference cited above indicates that "..eight of her [the Alexander's] crew..." wee taken by Commodore Gillon and added to the crew of the frigate South Carolina. Later, in his end notes of this work, Lewis states that "...some seamen were taken for the captive crew to replace those lost...: but, concludes with "...these were probably few." Yet, in his earlier work, The Final Campaign, page 114, note 22, Lewis clearly states that "the prize was sent to France...and its crew was added to Gillon's." This last statement seems to indicate that the entire crew of the Alexander was added to the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina. This last statement seems illogical in the extreme. To replace twenty-six marines and a single midshipman with sixty to eighty British sailors who would be looking for an opportunity to possibly seize the frigate South Carolina and take her into a nearby British port seems impossible to imagine. Also, taking this number of captured British sailors into one's crew would have meant that the new seamen would have made up almost ten percent of Gillon's overall crew on board the frigate South Carolina. In all likelihood, Commodore Gillon would have only added a many crewmen as he needed to better handle the frigate at sea and thus only replaced those that he needed to replace - eight men.
(Note: There exists a discrepancy as to the crewmen on board the Alexander when she was captured off the coast of Ireland. In Lewis's earlier work, The Final Campaign, page 114 n. 22, he states that the total crew of the Alexander was seventy to eighty men. In his later work, Neptune's Militia, page 39, he states that the total crew "sixty men". In his pension application, Alexander Coffin states that the crew of the Alexander was "...70 or 80 men..." So, it would seem that the total crew of the British privateer brig Alexander was somewhere between sixty and eighty men. The true total crew starength may never be known unless a roster of the Alexander's crew is found dating to this period of time.)
(Note: It is also interesting to note that the pension application of George Fisher specifically cites the capture and burning at sea of the first, unnamed prize of the frigate South Carolina as well as the capture of the "...fine Brig Venus loaded with fish...", which was the third prize of the frigate South Carolina. But, the pension application completely fails to mention the capture of the British privateer brig Alexander, for which he must have surely been on board the frigate South Carolina since it was the second prize of the frigate.)
The second issue is one concerning the marines who were placed on the captured privateer brig Alexander by Commodore Gillon. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 39-40, the British vessel was initially sighted on September 6, 1781, chased for two days, which would have made its surrender to the frigate South Carolina on September 8, 1781, and then stripped of its useful armaments, equipment and supplies by the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina which would have made the date sometime around September 15, 1781. The departure of the former British privateer, now prize vessel of the frigate South Carolina, Alexander from the immediate presence of her captor, the South Carolina, must have been around this date. Prior to this departure, Commodore Gillon, according to the Lewis passage cited above, "...placed twenty-six marines on her [the Alexander's] deck and sent her to France under the supervision of a prize master, Midshipman James Pile." At issue in this particular section of this post is the actual identity of these marines. Earlier posts have examined the question of the unit of marines who were on board the frigate South Carolina. The most important unit of soldiers employed as marines on board the frigate is the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg". There were about 350 of these French army troops who, from an examination of their last names, probably spoke either German or Dutch as their native language rather than French. There were also their officers, cooks, musicians, medical personnel and support staff on board the frigate. This unit of the French army, and somewhat of a private army of the Chevalier de Luxembourg, provided not only the marine support needed by Commodore Gillon and the frigate but, also represented a clear majority of personnel on board the frigate South Carolina.
There was another contingent of marines on board the frigate South Carolina. This contingent was also there for the frigate setting out on its maiden voyage, as was the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg". But, unlike the French troops who formed the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg", these non-French-speaking marines are unknown as to their actual numerical strength, their specific purpose on board the frigate South Carolina, their command structure, or even how they came to be on board the frigate. It is known that their immediate commanding officers were Captains Michael Kalteissen and John Spencer, both of Charleston, SC, and, probably, former pre-war social acquaintances of Commodore Alexander Gillon. It can be assumed that these men were mostly Americans who had accompanied Commodore Gillon across the Atlantic Ocean when he came in search of a warship for the revolutionary cause of the state of South Carolina. It is also possible that they had recently been released from a British prison in England and reached France by way of a prisoner exchange cartel and were now looking for a passage home to America. Or, lastly, they may have been seamen or mariners who had been stranded in Europe for any number of reasons and were looking for the same passage back home. There is not much information concerning these marines but, it is recorded that they were indeed on board the frigate South Carolina when she set sail for America from the Texel, Holland on August 4, 1781.
(Note: In this overall blog, with the possible exception of the six-post series addressing the British prison "hulks" of New York City harbor, the subject of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg" and other associated posts contain the largest volume of information on any specific topic. The subject was first introduced in a post dated "11/26/2014" and was continued in a series of posts dated from "02/02/2015" to 02/20/2015". Likewise, the subject of the other, non-French marines directly under American command is recorded in a post dated "12/27/2014".)
Specifically at issue here is the unit of origin of these twenty-six marines placed on the deck of the prize ship Alexander on or around September 15, 1781. Were these members of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg" or members of this smaller, Anglo-American unit of marines? According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, there is no distinction made concerning who exactly made up this marine contingent meant to accompany the prize ship Alexander into the nearest French port. But, as Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, the British warship Hearts of Oak recaptured the prize ship Alexander within hours of her parting from the frigate South Carolina. It is the fact of this capture that provides the answer to the ethnicity of the twenty-six marines who were part of the prize crew of the Alexander.
As noted, Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, provide no information as to the unit from which these marines were taken. But, there is a mention of this same unit of marines further into Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia. In the "End Notes" section of Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 206 note 20, the following information appears:
"Two detachments of South Carolina legionnaires returned to France earlier than the rest. The first group involved those whom Gillon had assigned to guard the prize Alexander taken off the coast of Ireland in September 1781; they were captured by a British man-of-war and taken into Liverpool, [England]."
Earlier references indicate that the British man-of-war that recaptured the prize ship Alexander was the ship Hearts of Oak. We also know that the privateer brig Alexander was out of Liverpool, England. But, this bit of information clearly indicates that these marines were "legionnaires". This would indicate that they were members of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg". Lewis's next statement indicates that they had earlier been assigned as marines to escort the prize ship Alexander into a French port. As stated earlier with the Anglo-American contingent of marines, these same "legionnaires" must have surely returned to France by way of a prisoner exchange cartel at the end of the war. Thus, the writer of this blog feels certain that these twenty-six marines were indeed "legionnaires" of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg" who had initially come on board the frigate South Carolina for just such a purpose as they were engaged in when they were themselves captured by the British man-of-war, HMS Hearts of Oak "...and taken into Liverpool".
This brings our narrative to the third and final issue of this particular post - the individual identities of two of the prize crew members. Earlier in this post, Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40 stated that "...Gillon placed twenty-six marines on her deck and sent her to France under the supervision of a prize master, Midshipman James Pile". This brief passage makes it seem as though that the twenty-six marines and the prize master, Midshipman James Pile, were the only crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina on board the prize ship Alexander when she was recaptured by the British man-of-war HMS Hearts of Oak. Yet, just a few pages later in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 43, it states that "...the prize Alexander consumed a detachment of marines and two petty officers." The writer of this blog feels that there were at least a few other crewmen than just the twenty-six members of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg". But, in the same way, this writer feels that there was not one, as cited in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, but, rather at ;least two Americans detached to assist in taking the prize ship Alexander into a French port. This writer also feels confident that he has discovered the identity of both of these men - Midshipman James Pile and Master's Mate James Pike.
Both names appear, one immediately after the other, in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 161:
James Pike (Pile?) Master's mate
James Pile (Pike?) Midshipman, volunteer
Obviously, these two men both share the same first name and their last names only differ in their spelling by a single letter. Alternate spellings of a last name are not at all uncommon in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", pages 135-170. Confusion can easily arise especially when the first name is the same and the spellings of the last name are slightly different. Yet, their ratings differ significantly, with one being an officer (James Pile) and the other being an enlisted rating (James Pike). Also, the questioned parenthetical repetition of the last names in both citations led the writer of this blog to initially assume that these was confusion in identifying this man. Yet, the pronounced difference in the two ranks were an indication that there might be more than a single individual in a confused situation here.
First, the post will address:
James Pike - in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, the section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 161, he is cited as being a "Master's mate" on board the frigate South Carolina. This is the only really concrete reference to him in all of Lewis's work. In Kaminkow's work, Mariners, page 152, the following entry for him appears:
James Pike - he was a native of Boston, MA. He was a master's mate. He served on board the Alexander or prize to the South Carolina. He was committed to Old Mill Prison on November 21, 1781. According to records, he was still in Old Mill Prison in April 1782.
(Note: the statement "...according to records..." refers to two sets of records kept in England. The first set is the "Home Office Records, Bibliography No. 35" and indicate that the prisoner in question was still in prison in April 1782. The second set of records is the "State Papers, Bibliography No. 34" and indicate that the prisoner in question was still in prison in January 1782.)
In Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 773, the following entry is found for James Pike:
James Pike - he served as a master's mate aboard the South Carolina and was dead prior to October 1785. A.A.1880A; Y244.
This is all the hard information concerning Master's Mate James Pike who served on board the frigate South Carolina. Yet, in the passage in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 39-40, only Midshipman James Pile is cited as being on board the prize ship Alexander with the twenty-six marines of the "Voluntaires du Luxembourg". But, a few pages later, on page 43, a reference is made to "...the prize Alexander..." as having "...consumed a detachment of marines and two petty officers." No mention is made anywhere in Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, as to who this other "petty officer" was in fact. Yet, Kaminkow's work, Mariners, cites Master's Mate James Pike as having been captured on board "...the Alexander or prize to the South Carolina..." He is the only entry within Kaminkow's work, Mariners of the American Revolution, who is cited in this manner. Master's Mate James Pike, obviously, was also on board the prize ship Alexander as a part of her prize crew headed for the nearest French port when the HMS Hearts of Oak sighted her and successfully gave chase.
(Note: The writer of this blog finds it interesting that Master's Mate James Pike was a native of Boston, MA yet is cited in Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, page 773. This is clear indication that Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, contains not only native South Carolinians who served during the American Revolution but, also any who served for the state of South Carolina, regardless of their state or country of origin. This writer also finds it interesting that James Pike is cited as being "...dead prior to October 1785.")
Second, and finally, the post will address:
James Pile - he is cited, as noted above, as being a "midshipman, volunteer" on board the frigate South Carolina. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, also refers to him as a "prize master" which is a title/position usually reserved for an individual of officer rank and status. This same passage mentions only James Pile as accompanying the prize ship, Alexander, manned by twenty-six Voluntaires du Luxembourg marines, into the nearest French port. In Wates's work, Stub Entries, page 107, the following entry for James Pile appears:
No. 604, Book C - Issued the 12th February 1785 to Mr. James Pile for One Hundred & Sixty Six Pounds two Shillings Sterling for Ballance of Wages due him as midshipman on board the South Carolina Frigate and for One Years full Pay also for his Share of Prize Money for Prizes Carried into the Havanah as per Certificate from the Auditor General.
Principal - 166p.2s.0d
Interest - 11p.12s.6d
Essentially, the identical information is cited in Revill's work, Copy of the Original Index Book, page 385. Incidentally, this is roughly the same amount awarded to other officers also cited in Revill's work as having served on board the frigate South Carolina. Thus, even though the citation from Moss's work below does not cite James Pile as a "midshipman" per se, this is an indication that he indeed held officer status.
The citation for James Pile in Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 774, states the following:
James Pile - he served on aboard the frigate South Carolina and was on the Havana cruise. A.A.5953; O604.
(Note: Dr. Moss accidentally made a mistake in citing James Pile as having his stub entry noted in "Book O, No. 604" rather than "Book C, No. 604" which is where the proper entry is found.)
This citation makes no mention of James Pile's rank as a midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina but, does indicate his service on board the frigate. But, at this point, a discrepancy does occur. The Moss citation states the he served on board "the Havana cruise". But, according to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 39-40, clearly states that he was captured on board the prize ship Alexander by the HMS Hearts of Oak shortly after departing from the frigate South Carolina on or about September 15, 1781. If Midshipman James Pile was also committed to Old Mill Prison on the same date as Master's Mate James Pike, he would have entered that British prison on November 21, 1781. Since "the Havana cruise" took place from April 22 to May 14, 1782, Midshipman James Pile would have to have either been released from Old Mill Prison or escaped from that British prison and somehow reconnected with the frigate South Carolina at one of her ports of entry on the European side of the Atlantic Ocean as she was making her way across the Atlantic Ocean. This is highly unlikely to have occurred. Most likely the reference in the Wates's work to "...One Years full Pay also for his Share of Prize Money for Prizes Carried into the Havanah..." refers to his privilege status as an officer on board the frigate. An officer usually would have signed on board a warship with an understanding that a certain percentage of "prize money" would be due to him for each and every enemy ships captured and the cargo on board that ship, regardless of whether or not he had been captured before those prizes had been taken by his warship. Master's Mate James Pike's entry in Kaminkow's work, Mariners,page 152, indicates that he was still in Old Mill Prison in April 1782. More than likely, Midshipman James Pile was also still in that same prison along with his fellow-incarcerated shipmate James Pike and thus wold have missed out on "the Havana cruise". But, the money would still have been due him after the war as noted from the date of his payment, February 12, 1785, "...as per Certificate from the Auditor General." This clears up the statement in Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, concerning his having participated in "the Havana cruise".
One, final point is to be made in this lengthy post concerning the prize ship Alexander and all who were related to this ship in one way or another. It can be safely determined that neither Midshipman James Pile nor Master's Mate James Pike made it back to America to serve on board the frigate South Carolina for her second, brief voyage. If one carefully checks the captive's lists of the three British men-of-war - HMS Diomede, HMS Quebec, and/or HMS Astrea - that actually captured the frigate South Carolina off the Capes of the Delaware on December 20, 1782, neither of these men's names appear on any of those lists. Thus, they were not on board the frigate South Carolina at the time. Most probably, both of them were still incarcerated in Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England where they had been since November 21, 1781 when they were first consigned there. For these two brave mariners of the frigate South Carolina, their "war" on behalf of "the Revolutionary Cause" would be fought by a different means.