Ervin, Sara Sullivan. South Carolinians in the Revolution: With Service Records and Miscellaneous Data, (Genealogical Publishing Company, 1965).
Johnson, Joseph, MD. Traditions and Reminiscences, Chiefly of the American Revolution in the South: Including the Biographical Sketches, Incidents and Anecdotes, Few of Which Have Been Published, Particularly of the Residents in the Upper Country, (Walker & James, 1851).
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina During the American Revolution, (The Kent State University Press, 1999).
No Author. The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Guide to the Collections, (New York, 1922).
Ney, Virgil. The Evolution of the Armored Infantry Rifle Squad, (United States Army Combat Developments Command, 1965).
Peterson, Harold L. Arms and Armor in Colonial America, 1526-1783, (Bramhall House, 1956).
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).
Stroud, Michael. HMdb.org - "Richard Wall Marker - The Historical Marker Database"
Pension Application of Richard Wall S22032
A rather unusual and unorthodox event took place in late 1779 in the waters around the continent of Europe. This occurrence was unorthodox in that a commanding officer, in this case John Paul Jones of the Bon Homme Richard, gave to a junior officer on board his ship, "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall, a commission in a very irregular, unofficial form. It is also very unusual in that this "Cadet of Marines" would go on to serve as a midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina. Rather than "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall receiving a commission in the form of an official paper commission, he received a set of "Breast plate" from John Paul Jones. This transaction, its intention on the part of Captain John Paul Jones , and the possible ultimate disposition of this "Breast plate" of armor will be one of the subjects of this post. But, further research has revealed that Richard Wall, first a "Cadet of Marines" on board the Bon Homme Richard and later a midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina led a very interesting life that had its own share of mystery like that of James O'Fallon (or Fallon), surgeon on board the frigate South Carolina. The following post will hopefully give more factual credence to the character and life of this man who passed from the scene over two hundred years ago - "Cadet of Marines"/Midshipman Richard Wall. From any perspective, Richard Wall led a very interesting life, indeed.
Richard Wall is mentioned in two previous posts in this blog. The first one is dated "11/19/2014" and deals specifically with the life and activities of Richard Wall during and after the American Revolution. The second one, dated "01/16/2015", addresses all the men who were given the rank or rating of midshipmen on board the frigate South Carolina in which Richard Wall is included as one of the men on board the frigate in this capacity. Thus, he has already been treated at some length in this overall blog and thus this blog writer will not repeat information already recorded for Midshipman Richard Wall. Suffice it to say, Midshipman Richard Wall signed on to the frigate South Carolina while she was moored in Philadelphia, PA harbor and was captured on board the frigate on December 20, 1782. He was among those carried into British captivity in New York City on board the HMS Astrea, arriving there on December 23-24, 1782. As an American naval officer, he was paroled on Long Island until he was exchanged at the end of the war when he chose to return to and settle in Charleston, SC. Still, the subsequent new research has uncovered some "questions" concerning certain features of his life as related to the American Revolution.
The first "question" or issue concerning the claims of Midshipman Richard Wall is the issue of the piece of personal armor, the "Breast plate", given to him by Captain John Paul Jones of the Bon Homme Richard. The only place this blog writer has ever encountered a mention of this armor is in Richard Wall's pension application, "Pension Application of Richard Wall S22032". In the deposition he made on October 19, 1833, Wall stated, "that he never received and could not have received any discharge from the service because he was taken prisoner and continued so until his arrival at Philadelphia. That he did not receive any written Commission nor were any given out to any person whatever as far as he knows and believes. All the commission he ever received was a Breast plate given him by John Paul Jones to be worn as an evidence of his authority and rank." The numerous biographers of Jones are silent on both the "Breast plate" of armor incident as well as the person of "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall even being on board the Bon Homme Richard. There is no further mention of this "Breast plate" in any correspondence concerning Richard Wall. He makes careful, intentional reference to the fact that he did not receive any official, hard-copy form of a commission from Captain John Paul Jones. Yet, he never mentions the "Breast plate" of body armor again. This is an unusual form of commission to receive from a commanding officer, so it begs the questions as to why he never mentions it again. Possibly, it was on board the frigate South Carolina on the date of its capture by the three British men-of-war on December 20, 1782 just off of Cape Henlopen, DE. But, still it would seem that Midshipman Richard Wall would have emphasized losing it to his British captors so as to confirm in the minds of the congressional committee that he had indeed been commissioned by Captain John Paul Jones of the Bon Homme Richard and thus deserved a pension. Yet, Midshipman Richard Wall is silent on this issue, in his pension application as well as any further references to him in the writings of others.
(Note: There are at least three references to a breastplate of body armor belonging to Captain John Paul Jones being in the United States in the post-Revolutionary War period. The first reference is contained in The Metropolitan Museum of Art: Guide to the Collections, (New York, 1922). This work consists of an overview of the works of art one would experience as one entered each gallery in the museum. On page 32 of the publication, it states that "...on the wall at this point are the breastplate and backplate worn by John Paul Jones." Another publication, Ney's work, The Evolution of the Armored Infantry Rifle Squad, page 10, states that "the corselet which John Paul Jones wore in his fight with the Serapis is preserved at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York." But, the associated asterisk states, at the bottom of the entry, "Author's note: a breastplate worn by John Paul Jones may be seen in the collection at his tomb beneath the chapel of the United States Naval Academy." In Peterson's work, Arms and Armor in Colonial America, 1526-1783, page 309, there is a picture of a breastplate and a backplate that are captioned with "Plates 312. Back and breast plates worn by John Paul Jones." The provenance of the plate is "U.S. Naval Academy Museum". The associated text is found on pages 310-311 and is as follows: "In the museum of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis is preserved a corselet consisting of a back and breast plates that John Paul Jones said he wore during his famous fight with the Serapis, and which he may well have worn in other naval actions in which he participated." These three entries seem to indicate that there are more than one set of armor here in the United States associated with Captain John Paul Jones. For that matter, John Paul Jones may indeed have had several sets of this armor which may address why he gave one set of it away to a junior officer on board the Bon Homme Richard. Possibly, these three references may indicate that the Metropolitan Museum of Art might have donated the breastplate associated with the person of Captain John Paul Jones to the United States Naval Academy after the opening of the crypt containing the mortal remains of John Paul Jones on January 26, 1913. Only further research can definitively clear up this issue of the body armor of Captain John Paul Jones and the final disposition of it as well as the set given to "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall.)
The second issue with Midshipman Richard Wall deals with the period of time that he was on board the Bon Homme Richard just prior to his capture by the British while pursuing deserters. In his pension application, Richard Wall cites that "... after leaving the port of L'Orient on a cruise when off the western coast of Ireland it became necessary to tow the ships head from the land for which service a boats crew was ordered who whilst thus engaged in towing the ship seized the opportunity to effect their escape. The said Richard Wall with Cullen Lunt, Sailing Master and some of the crew were ordered to go in pursuit of the deserters and whilst engaged in performing this duty was captured by boats sent from the land to take them..." A search of the rosters of the Bon Homme Richard do not reveal a Cullen Lunt as having ever served on board the frigate under John Paul Jones. But, this same search also does not reveal the name of Richard Wall either. Both of these men were captured prior to the famous battle with the HMS Serapis, which took place on the night of September 23, 1779. These rosters usually indicate the crew and marines that were on board during this famous engagement. But, as with Ricard Wall, Cullen Lunt is never referred to in any of the other biographical works on John Paul Jones as being the Sailing Master of the Bon Homme Richard prior to the engagement with the HMS Serapis. This could possibly be a slight oversight on the part of Jones's biographers or an indication that Cullen Lunt may be a figment of Richard Wall's imagination.
Both the third and fourth issues Midshipman Richard Wall are contained within an account of the final battle of the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782 as she was clearing the Capes of the Delaware. Midshipman Richard Wall did not write the following account but, is mentioned twice within the text of the account. The account is contained within Johnson's work, Traditions and Reminiscences, page 132-133, as follows:
"The frigate left the Capes of the Delaware at the time anticipated by the New-Yorkers, and shortly after it three British frigates joined in pursuit of her. In this crisis, as I was informed by Richard Wall, one of the crew, Capt. Joyner was not to be seen; he was certainly not on his quarter deck, directing the course and management of the ship during the chase, nor her preparation for action, if that should be necessary. When the enemy came within gunshot, one of the thirty-six pounders, by order of an officer, was fired at the nearest British frigate, and the ball passed through her cabin, near the quarter galleries, showing what more might be done. At this Joyner came out of his cabin, not in the usual dress of an officer going into battle, but with his head newly powdered, with his best naval uniform on, decorated with gold lacing and epaulets, as if going, by invitation, to a dinner party.Instead of ordering a general fire to be opened on the enemy, he reprimanded the officer in the presence of his men, for having fired that gun without his permission. Not another gun was fired by the South Carolina, and she was shamefully surrendered without resistance. Captain Joyner was put on shore in New-York, and went about on his parole; but his men were confined in the prison ships, lying in the Wallabaugh, back of Brooklyn. Mr. Wall also told me, that his brother, Gilbert Wall, was with him in this frigate at this time, and was outrageous at their surrender without a fight. That both of them, and many others of her crew, had been with Paul Jones in the capture of the Serapis; that they all believed she could have sunk at least one of the British frigates; and might have escaped the other two; but that the South Carolina had been sold and her crew also."
Wall's account or involvement in this recitation of the final action of the frigate South Carolina is a scathing indictment of actions displaying cowardice in the face of the enemy while in action against them on the part of Captain John Joyner. The account of the action clearly states at one point that the information is being gained by means of an informant, "...as I was informed by Richard Wall, one of the crew..." and in the second place as "Mr. Wall also told me..." Thus, this account of the final battle of the frigate South Carolina is based upon information provided to the writer of the account by Midshipman Richard Wall. The closing sentence of the account contains verbiage that seemingly alludes to collusion with the enemy on Captain Joyner's part to turn over the frigate South Carolina to the Royal Navy. This is the only account of this nature that this blog writer has encountered in his research. All other accounts of Captain Joyner's actions on that fateful day have done him and the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina credit to their attempt to elude the three British men-of-war that pursued her that day. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 94-95, indicate that the frigate South Carolina could have easily bested any of the three British frigates in single combat but, was seriously outgunned by all three combined. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 94, states that "by all accounts the inexperienced crew of the South Carolina, including the Hessian marines and at least a handful of the former English soldiers, fought well and hard." Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 94-95, closes with this final account of the action: "After the South Carolina received six broadsides from the Diomede and one from the Quebec, Joyner ordered his ship to fire her guns, not wishing to surrender with his cannons loaded." This directly contradicts the statement found in the preceding account when it was stated that "...not another gun was fired by the South Carolina..." after the single "unauthorized" cannon shot ordered by the unnamed officer. The account given on the pages immediately cited above place Captain John Joyner on deck and squarely involved in the actions that fateful day. Finally, Captain John Joyner was tried before a board of inquiry, upon which sat Alexander Gillon, in South Carolina in 1783 and another board of naval inquiry the following year in 1784. Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 105, clearly states that "the Commodore's presence undoubtedly helped lead this panel to the findings that there had been no command negligence in the ship's capture." Both boards exonerated Joyner and all involved.
The surprising aspect of this scathing account of Captain John Joyner's conduct on board the frigate South Carolina on December 20, 1782 is that this account was supposedly penned by none other than Commodore Alexander Gillon himself. This account is contained within Johnsons' work, Traditions and Reminiscences, pages 127-140, and is headed "Memoirs of Commodore Gillon". The work does carry a publication date of 1851 with no indication of when this account was written. Alexander Gillon died in 1795. It may be that this account was written by someone else well after Gillon's death with an intent of discrediting John Joyner for some unknown reason. All accounts of the interactions between Alexander Gillon and John Joyner carry a positive note of cooperation and Joyner's courage was proven before the beginning of the American Revolution and at the outset of the Revolution. It thus seems highly unlikely that John Joyner would have conducted himself with such indifference and implied conspiracy during a serious naval encounter upon which the very survival of his warship and safety of his crew and marines depended. Thus, the writer of this blog holds this scathing account suspect until proven otherwise.
(Note: John Joyner's activities on behalf of the patriot efforts to win independence are covered in posts entitled "John Joyner, Gillon's Second in Command" and dated "10/06/2014" and "So, Who were the Three Captains with Commodore Gillon? - The Cases of John Joyner, John McQueen and William Robeson/Robertson" and dated "05/15/2015". The contents of both of these posts clearly demonstrate Commodore Gillon's dependence on the experience and courage of John Joyner.)
This brings us to the fourth issue concerning Midshipman Richard Wall. This one also involves the entry entitled "Memoir of Commodore Gillon", and, if correctly cited here, constitutes an outright falsehood, perpetrated either by Richard Wall himself or by an unknown individual who may have drafted the above cited "Memoir" on behalf of Richard Wall. This falsehood is found in this passage taken from the text of the "Memoir":
"Mr. Wall also told me, that his brother, Gilbert Wall, was with him in this frigate at this time and was outrageous at their surrender without a fight. That both of them, and many others of her crew, had been with Paul Jones in the capture of the Serapis; that they all believed she could have sunk at least one of the British frigates; and might have escaped the other two..."
The falsehood lies in the second sentence of the above quotation - "That both of them, and many others of her crew, had been with with Paul Jones in the capture of the Serapis..." (blog writer's emphasis). The pension application of Richard Wall is quite clear that he was captured while pursuing deserters prior to the famous battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the HMS Serapis and was "...detained in Forton Prison near Portsmouth until the autumn of 1782..." "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall was in British custody when the battle between the two ships-of-war took place off Flamborough Head, England on September 23, 1779. The footnotes attached to the pension application of Richard Wall makes specific note of this fact. Yet, the account given above in the "Memoir" clearly states "...that both of them [Gilbert Wall and Richard Wall], and many others had been with Paul Jones in the capture of the Serapis..." It would appear that whoever the writer of the "Memoir" was, he may have known Richard Wall personally but, was not acquainted well enough with the life of Richard Wall to know of his capture by the British prior to the famous engagement between the Bon Homme Richard and the HMS Serapis. In the same manner, it may have been that Richard Wall chose, in later life, to not mention his untimely capture prior to the famous engagement but, chose to relate the story as if he had been present at the battle. There is possibly yet a third explanation. The date attached to the "Memoir" is 1851, nine years after the death of Richard Wall in Charleston, SC. The writer of the "Memoir" might have received the story of this portion of Richard Wall's life from a family member of Wall's, possibly one of his two sons, Lancelot or Edward Wall. They may have related the story incorrectly or as they had heard it from their father or they may have changed it to further aggrandize their father's memory. It may be that the truth behind the fabrication of this glaring falsehood may never be known.
The fifth, and final, issue associated with Midshipman Richard Wall is in relation to the location of his burial. The post entitled "Richard Wall - Cadet of Marines on board the Bon Homme Richard/ Midshipman on board the South Carolina" and dated "11/19/2014" gives quite a bit of information concerning the life of Richard Wall. It states that after the conclusion of hostilities with Great Britain, Richard Wall, a native of County Limerick, Ireland, chose to settle in Charleston, SC. He evidently married a woman named Amelia, a "free woman of color" and thus entered the small group of individuals who married into the elite African-American community there in Charleston, SC. They had two sons, Lancelot and Edwin, who became very skilled tailors in Charleston, SC. This above cited post indicates that the prestige accorded the immigrant Revolutionary War hero was not diminished by marrying into the elite African-American community but, rather several immigrants had already done this and were still held in high esteem by the community at large in Charleston, SC.
So, one would assume that Richard Wall would, at his death, be buried in Charleston, SC. But, this blog writer has come across evidence that he might be interred in Savannah, GA instead. There is a marker in the the cemetery located on Louisville Road in Savannah, GA that has an inscription that is almost certainly related to the life of Richard Wall. It contains his correct birth and death years and in its short text relates his time on board both the Bon Homme Richard and the frigate South Carolina. Further research may well have cleared up this issue. The marker stone in question is located in a cemetery named the "Memorial to the American Revolution". The stones appear to be placed quite regularly in a grid-type of arrangement several inches apart on all sides but, close enough that an actual burial between these stones would be quite impossible. The markers are all flat and set into the ground flush with the surface of the lawn grass. Richard Walls marker was placed by the DeSoto Hilton Hotel of Savannah, GA. Thus, possibly someone worked at this hotel who was related to Richard Wall and specified that they wanted to place his marker or the hotel agreed to finance one of the markers and randomly drew the marker commemorating Richard Wall. It is almost certain that Richard Wall's mortal remains are interred somewhere in Charleston, SC because of his prominence within that community. But, this is only an assumption on the part of this blog writer because a search for his grave online turns up nothing.
Richard Wall, "Cadet of Marines" on board the Bon Homme Richard and Midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina, is mentioned at least twice more and in very favorable terms. In Revill's work, Copy of the Original Index Book, pages 385-386, Richard Wall's name appears on a list entitled "A List of the Officers & Men of the Frigate South Carolina, to Whom Certificates Have Been Given". The entry for him cites that on May 31, 1783, Richard Wall received a certificate from the state of South Carolina for 48p/16s/3d. Directly below his name is the name of his brother, Gilbert Wall, who on the same date received a certificate from the state of South Carolina for 159p/5s/9d. Both of these entries are at the bottom of page 385 in Revill's work. The second reference to Richard Wall is Ervin's work, South Carolinians in the Revolution, page 36, and is in the form of a table indicating those of the district of Charleston, SC who had been placed on the pension list under the act of Congress passed on June 7, 1832. The last name in the list is that of Richard Wall. He is cited as having been a "midshipman" and his service is cited as having been "Frigate Rd. P. Jones", which is rather mysterious in nature but, must be a reference to his services under John Paul Jones on board the frigate Bon Homme Richard. His annual pension amounted to $144.00. But, he is cited as receiving $432.00 in his first payment. This is due to his having been placed on the pension rolls on October 26, 1833 but, the actual commencement date of his pension payments dated back to March 4, 1831, two years prior to the date he received his first payment of exactly three times the annual amount. At that date of October 26, 1833, "Cadet of Marines/ Midshipman Richard Wall was 80 years old.
As a "Cadet of Marines" on board the Bon Homme Richard under John Paul Jones and Midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina under Commodore Alexander Gillon and later Captain John Joyner, Richard Wall led a very interesting life. He was born in Ireland but, was living in France at the time he signed onto the Bon Homme Richard. He was captured before the famous engagement with the HMS Serapis. After his release from British custody, he signed onto the frigate South Carolina only to be captured shortly after the frigate left the Delaware River. Thus, as a result of his sea service on both warships in the patriot cause, he spent a considerable time in British prisons and custody. After the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain, he settled in Charleston, SC, married into the elite free African-American community and raised two sons who went on to become quite respected members of Charleston, SC community. Seemingly, Richard Wall ended his life as a respected and wealthy members of the Charleston, SC elite as well as being treasured as a member of that society who had fought in the American Revolution.
Yet, if one examines the five "issues" cited above, one gets the feeling that Richard Wall may well have had feet of clay also. He was supposedly given a "breast plate" of body armor by Captain John Paul Jones. But, this would have had to happen prior to the famous battle between the Bon Homme Richard and the HMS Serapis because by the time of that battle "Cadet of Marines" Richard Wall was in Forton Prison near Portsmouth, England, having been captured while pursuing deserters from the Bon Homme Richard. Only in his pension application does Richard Wall mention this piece of body armor. He never again mentions it nor is it mentioned by any other participant anywhere in letters or accounts. None of the biographers of John Paul Jones allude to the giving of this gift in their accounts of Jones's life. It's final disposition is also left unaddressed by Wall and all of the others. So, at issue here is whether or not this piece of body armor - the "Breast plate" - ever even existed or was it a manufactured piece of lore so that Wall could further convince the congressional committee to give him his requested pension. In the same manner, the existence of Cullen Lunt, Sailing Master of the Bon Homme Richard prior to the battle with the HMS Serapis, is left in question. Wall specifically states that Lunt was also captured with him and the other crew members pursuing the deserters that day, well prior to the battle with the HMS Serapis. Yet, Lunt's name does not turn up on any of the rosters of the Bon Homme Richard nor is it recorded anywhere else for that matter. The account given in the piece entitled "Memoir of Commodore Gillon" is held highly suspect by the writer of this blog for several reasons. Supposedly, the "Memoir" was written by Commodore Alexander Gillon himself but, is so scathing in nature and tone towards John Joyner, his trusted second in command and actually in command of the frigate South Carolina when it was captured, as to be suspect in its origin and intention. Also, this "Memoir" is full of falsehoods concerning the final battle of the frigate South Carolina. These falsehoods are cited above and, at least once, involve Midshipman Richard Wall. Finally, it is in question as to where Richard Wall, the well respected member of Charleston, SC society, is actually buried. There is the marker in the "Memorial to the American Revolution" park in Savannah, GA which appears to be only a memorial marker. But, there is no grave in Charleston, SC, or anywhere else for that matter, that can be located online for Richard Wall. This last point might be cleared up through further research into the matter of Wall's final resting place.
So, in conclusion, who was the real Richard Wall? He was certainly a fighter for American independence. He indeed did suffered through two imprisonments, one on each side of the Atlantic Ocean. But, these two incarcerations seem to make up the vast majority of his efforts and time to win independence for his adopted homeland. There are possibly many fabrications and falsehoods contained in his accounts or accounts concerning him. These seem to taint his image as one who struggled for American independence. He did become wealthy and respected in Charleston, SC society but, how much of that was also built on fabrications concerning his earlier life as a fighter for independence. Too much time has passed and we may never know for sure. All we know for sure was that Richard Wall lived a remarkable life and he chose to live the last part of that life here in America. For that, America should be thankful.