Ervin, Sara Sullivan. South Carolinians in the Revolution: With Service Records and Miscellaneous Data, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1965.)
Lewis, James A. Neptune's Militia: The Frigate South Carolina during the American Revolution, (Kent, OH: The Kent State University Press, 1999.)
Moss, Bobby Gilmer. Roster of South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 1983.)
Navey, William, copier and indexer. "South Carolina - Federal Pension Report - 1835", (USGenWeb Archives, posted -
March 9, 1999.)
Revill, Janie, copier. Copy of the Original Index Book: Showing the Revolutionary Claims Filed in South Carolina Between August 20, 1783 and August 31, 1786, (Baltimore, MD: Genealogical Publishing Co., Inc., 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, (Columbia, SC: South Carolina Archives Department, 1957.)
Pension Application of George Fisher S46036
Like the man covered in the previous post - William Nourse, Midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina - George Fisher, Captain's Steward on board the frigate South Carolina, is also an "Old Countryman" - an individual born in England who had immigrated to the colonies prior to the American Revolution but, was living here in America at the commencement of hostilities with Great Britain. Yet, George Fisher's story was to be different from the other tales of the "Old Countrymen" who had immigrated to America. He fully intended to immigrate to America but, circumstances and situations overtook him before he could successfully cross the Atlantic Ocean. Thus, he found himself serving on board the frigate South Carolina as "Captain's Steward". His story is a fascinating story, well worth documenting and telling.
But, unlike some of the other members of the frigate South Carolina, not that much information is actually known of the life of George Fisher, Captain's Steward. Some men wrote detailed and quite lengthy pension applications which contained vast quantities of pertinent information concerning their lives, both before and after the American Revolution. Others recorded information concerning their lives and accomplishments but, obviously with the assistance of more literate friends as well as lawyers. Yet, even though the pension application of George Fisher is the lengthiest - seven full pages - the writer of this blog has encountered to this date, it only provides fragments of the life of George Fisher, both prior to and following the American Revolution. But, according to Lewis's work, page x, the following passage appears concerning the frigate South Carolina and the reams of documentation that resulted from her very existence:
"It is unlikely that any other ship under American command produced more written commentary than the South Carolina. This was partly because of the size of her crew, with well over a thousand individuals serving aboard in some capacity. Also responsible for the mountains of information about the ship on both sides of the Atlantic were the controversies that swirled around the ship for nearly seventy years after she stopped sailing. Greed played a further role in putting pen and ink to paper. Individuals felt themselves eligible for both state and national pensions after the war. Finally, there was just something special about the South Carolina that encouraged those who sailed on her to write about life at sea, often not fondly, at some point. An amazing number of individuals who trod across the deck of the great ship were literate.".
George Fisher was certainly numbered among the final category of individuals mentioned. That he was literate is proven out not only by his pension application, "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036", but, also by the fact that he was a "Captain's Steward", which means that he was able to write down and record the information communicated to him by the senior officer on board the frigate South Carolina, Commodore of the Navy of South Carolina, Alexander Gillon, but also by those of the actual captain of the patriot ship-of-war, the frigate South Carolina, Captain John Joyner. George Fisher, "Captain's Steward", was in a unique position to record and document the day-to-day activities of the patriot frigate as well as the daily activities of the personnel - officers as well as enlisted men. So, if any one on board the frigate South Carolina was uniquely fitted to write the actual history, operations, and daily life on board the patriot frigate, it would most certainly be George Fisher, an "Old Countryman", as defined by the times. George Fisher's pension application proves all of this out.
Previously, George Fisher, Captain's Steward, has been covered in a single post in this overall blog. From this specific post, it can be ascertained that George Fisher was indeed literate and must have occupied a post on board the frigate South Carolina according to his ability to handle the English language in a written, literate manner. This post is entitled:
"An Overview of the Activities of the Frigate South Carolina - the Pension Application of George Fisher" and is dated "11/14/2014".
According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, section entitled "Appendix: Crew and Marines of the South Carolina", page 147, the following information is recorded concerning George Fisher:
George Fisher British, Captain's Steward
The information provided here does indeed indicate that George Fisher did serve on board the frigate South Carolina as well as giving his "position" occupied on board the patriot frigate, that of "Captain's Steward". It also indicates that he was also of English extraction, a condition not unknown among other members of the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina.
Also, according to Moss's work, Roster of South Carolina Patriots, page 315, the following information is recorded concerning George Fisher:
George Fisher - He served as captain's steward on board the frigate South Carolina during 1780, 1781, 1782. C.S.; A.A.2402A; C528.
This passage confirms George Fisher's service and his "position" on board the frigate South Carolina but, also provides the dates of his service - 1780-1782.
These two separate, succinct, factual pieces of information comprise the service of George Fisher on board the frigate South Carolina during the course of the American Revolution. But, they most definitely place George Fisher, "Captain's Steward", on board the frigate South Carolina as a member of the crew for the last few years of the American Revolution, specifically from 1780-1782.
This brings us to the pension application of George Fisher, "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036". As stated earlier in this post, this is the lengthiest pension application encountered to date by the writer of this blog. But, it is also not in strict chronological order as far as the life story of George Fisher is concerned. It does indeed contain a great deal of information on his life, both before and after the American Revolution, but, addresses the events of his life in a rather disjointed manner. The writer of this blog will attempt to "re-organize" and present this important information it in a manner that will more closely follow the natural course of the life of George Fisher so that a more "understandable" picture of his life is presented to the readership of this blog.
The earliest documentary evidence concerning the life of George Fisher is found on page 15 of his pension application (page 5 of the copied pension application available to the writer of this blog) and constitutes a baptismal record. The text of this brief document is as follows:
Mary and George (Twin Children) of William and Mary Fisher of Little Crakehall, Georhan, January 27.
I certify the above to be a true extract from the Parish Register of Baptisms at Bedale in the County of York, the same having been examined and compared here by me this 28th Day of August 1829.
S/ (signed) Thomas Monson, Rector of Bedale"
This is a brief statement by "...Thomas Monson, Rector of Bedale...County of York..." confirming that George Fisher was baptized on January 27, 1758 in the parish of Bedale, County of York, England. Baptisms usually took place within one to two weeks of the birth of a child. Thus, George Fisher was most probably born at some time around the middle of the month of January 1758. This document was produced on August 28, 1829, when George Fisher would have been roughly seventy-one and one-half years old. Earlier in his pension application, George Fisher stated that "...near five years past having occasion to visit England...". This visit would have had the intention of obtaining several documents that would verify his previous residence in England just prior to the outbreak of the American Revolution. By adding "...near five years past..." to this date, a date of 1833 or 1834 would be arrived at. The portion of George Fisher's pension application containing this statement was submitted to "....B. J. Earle Judge of the Court of Common Pleas now sitting..." on October 29, 1833. Thus, more than likely, George Fisher obtained this baptismal record on this specific trip to England in 1829. A statement further on in the pension application indicates that the duration of this trip to England was "...near two years on his late visit to England...". George Fisher was already quite elderly when he visited England in an effort to secure documentation relating to events that had transpired almost fifty years earlier.
(Note: This document was undoubtedly written in the hand of Fr. "...Thomas Monson, Rector of Bedale..." on August 28, 1829. He would most likely not have been the original baptizing Anglican priest of Mary and George Fisher. That specific, unnamed priest was almost certainly deceased by this time, if he was an older priest, or, if he was a younger priest, had been reassigned to another Anglican parish by August 1829. Fr. Monson was only serving to verify the evidence that George Fisher was seeking at this specific moment in time.)
(Note: The "'Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia', entry for 'Bedale, England'" contains information concerning the church in which George Fisher was most likely baptized. This specific church was most likely St. Gregory's, Bedale. The current church structure, as it stands in Bedale, England, was built in 1840, according to several online sites. But, according to these same sites, the church has been there in Bedale, England since the AD1000s. This must surely be the church that George and his twin sister, Mary, were baptized in on January 29, 1758.)
(Note: The village of "...Little Crakehall..." which is listed in George Fisher's pension application as being where his father and mother, William and Mary Fisher, were living at the time of the baptisms of Mary and George Fisher, is located roughly two miles to the west of the village of Bedale, County of York. The village of Crakehall is bisected by the Bedale Beck, a stream which runs through the village, effectively dividing it into two villages. On the northern bank of the Beck is Little Crakehall and on the southern bank of the Beck is Great Crakehall. William and Mary Fisher undoubtedly traveled the two miles to the Church of St. Gregory's, Bedale to have their twin newborns, Mary and George Fisher, baptized on January 27, 1758.)
The only further bit of information contained within the pension application of George Fisher pertaining to his early, pre-frigate South Carolina era life is the brief, succinct statement that:
"...the declarant [was] born and living in England when the war between England and France broke out, during the American Revolution; England called out her militia in which the declarant was enrolled, he must now serve for sixpence a day without rations or leave the country, he chose [text missing,paper torn] latter,...".
(Note: it is the supposition of the writer of this blog that the missing text referred to by the statement immediately above as
"[text missing, paper torn]" is possibly the single word "the".)
A great amount of vital information is contained in this brief statement. First, the implication, introduced by George Fisher himself, is that he had spent his entire life, up to that moment in time, in the country of his birth - England. Hostilities broke out between England and the rebellious colonies in April 1775 but, did not commence between England and France until France chose to enter the conflict as the ally of the colonies in early 1778. At this point in time, George Fisher would have just turned twenty years old. Prior to this development, the belligerent nation had been across the Atlantic Ocean and presented no real threat to the Mother Country. Now, a much more powerful and deadly antagonist was just across the English Channel. This evil turn of fortune for Great Britain necessitated the calling out of the militia all over England in fearful preparation for an imminent French invasion. Those enrolled in the militia were immediately called out to defend their home counties or were threatened with certain penalties for not "turning out" in support of the Crown. According to the "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036", George Fisher was faced with a decision; namely, "...he must now serve for sixpence a day without rations or leave the country...". Men who had enlisted in the regular British Army were serving for eight pence a day with rations as well as a clothing allowance. Militia were obviously expected to serve their country for less than these regular troops did. George Fisher chose the latter option which made all the difference in his case. He could not have known how this decision would alter the course of his life.
With his decision made to leave his homeland of England, George Fisher continued the narrative of his departure in his pension application. According to the "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036", page 1, the story continued as follows:
"That having arrived at Amsterdam from England on his way to America, he accidentally heard of a large Frigate fitting out in that port supposed to be for America; on going on board he found her to be the South Carolina Frigate, under the nominal command of a Dutch Capt., though really under the command of a Commodore A. Gillon [Alexander Gillon], and Capt. John Joiner [John Joyner]. England and Holland then being at peace he found only two American officers in uniform on board, one of whom was Mr. John Marant [Mayrant] of this State, who was a Lieutenant on board this Ship, and has lately obtained a pension from the United States for his services thereon; the declarant engaged with those officers, and served in the capacity of Captain's Stewart [Steward] during the whole time he was on board.".
George Fisher was an Englishman and not an American rebel prisoner-of-war being held in one of the English prisons. Thus, he would have departed for the Continent as a freeman having made a hard choice instead of as a member of a prisoner cartel. Also, instead of landing in France, as all the prisoners did, he would have landed in a neutral country, like Holland. But, as the first sentence in this portion of his pension application states, he was intending on heading mush further westward to America. There, in Amsterdam, he "...accidentally heard of..." a patriot ship-of-war being prepared for a voyage to America - the frigate South Carolina.
George Fisher had found his means of getting to America and, so, he went on board and sought out the command structure of this patriot ship-of-war. This part of the pension application of George Fisher is the only time the writer of this blog has run across any reference to the frigate L'Indien/South Carolina as being "...under the nominal command of a Dutch Capt.,...". This is understandable, though. The Dutch were still on friendly terms with Great Britain and did not want to antagonize the British by being the origin point of a heavily-armed ship-of-war, bent on not only reaching America but, also on plundering and disrupting the merchant shipping of Great Britain as she journeyed across the Atlantic Ocean. British spies already had reported the construction of this large ship-of-war to the British Ambassador to the United Provinces (Holland), The Honorable Sir Joseph Yorke. He had, in turn, notified the home government, which had firmly lodged a protest and veiled warning with the government of Holland. Therefore, the Dutch placed a titular "Captain" of Dutch nationality on board the ship-of-war to give the appearance of conformity with the British request. Not only did George Fisher find a titular Dutch captain on board the frigate but, he also stated that "...he found only two American officers in uniform on board, one of whom was Mr. John Marant [Mayrant] of this State, who was a Lieutenant on board this Ship,...". George Fisher stated that he knew that the frigate was actually under the command of two American officers, which he names - "...Commodore A. Gillon [Alexander Gillon] and Capt. John Joiner [John Joyner]...". The implication here is that either neither of these men were on board the ship-of-war at this point in her service in the patriot Cause or that they were indeed on board but, simply not in uniform to hopefully disguise their true command identity from any British agents or spies. The writer of this blog believes that it was former since both men were actively involved in seeking out further support from the governments of both France and Holland as well as attempting to get last-minute details, supplies and ship's personnel on board. A great part of the delay of getting the patriot ship-of-war to sea was the extreme tardiness of the marine contingent - the "Volontaires du Luxembourg" - being assembled and sent on board the frigate.
(Note: See the post entitled "The Legion (or Volunteers) of Luxembourg - Gillon's Marines - Their Service on Board the Frigate South Carolina and "The Luxembourg Claims" and dated "11/26/2014" for a much more detailed account of the failed French assault on the English Channel island of Jersey and the subsequent long delay in getting these troops on board the frigate South Carolina.)
According to the "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036", page 1, this brief passage concludes as follows:
"...the declarant engaged with those officers, and served in the capacity of Captain's Stewart [Steward] during the whole time he was on board.".
The full implication is that Lieutenant John Mayrant and the other unnamed American officer were the men who employed George Fisher as the Captain's Steward for the maiden voyage of the frigate South Carolina rather than Commodore Alexander Gillon or Captain John Joyner. This mention of these two officers but, not the mention of Gillon or Joyner as the recruiting officers lends further credence to the absence of these two higher-ranking officers at the exact time of George Fisher's initial appearance on the deck of the patriot frigate. At any rate, George Fisher had become a member of the crew of the frigate South Carolina and was one step closer to realizing his goal - reaching America and beginning his life anew there.
(Note: George Fisher names John Mayrant directly as one of the two officers who received him on board the frigate South Carolina. The second officer remains unidentified as to name and rank. John Mayrant would remain in acquaintance with George Fisher after the war and also provided a supporting affidavit for George Fisher's pension application. But, possibly, the reason for George Fisher not naming the second officer was that he could not remember who it was and did not remain in contact with him after the cessation of hostilities with Great Britain. Richard Wall, who also settled in Charleston, SC after the war, was a midshipman on board the frigate South Carolina and provided a supporting affidavit for George Fisher as well. In his supporting affidavit, Richard Wall stated that George Fisher "...came on board the aforesaid frigate near Amsterdam in Holland about the month of May or June 1780...", which is corroborated by George Fisher's account, as will be seen shortly. Thus, this second unnamed American officer - the only other uniformed American officer on board the frigate South Carolina when George Fisher came on board - may have been Richard Wall. But, George Fisher seems to have maintained his acquaintance with Richard Wall after the war and even solicited a supporting affidavit from this former midshipman of the Navy of South Carolina. It would seem strange that George Fisher would not mention this in his own pension application. There is also the distinct possibility that Richard Wall was a prisoner-of-war in Forton Prison in Portsmouth, England at the time that George Fisher actually entered the service of the frigate South Carolina. Indeed, he possibly did not reach America by prisoner cartel until the summer of 1782 and signed on board the patriot frigate just prior to her second, brief voyage ending in her capture by the three British men-of-war off the Capes of the Delaware on December 21, 1782. Only further research can possibly secure the true identity of this second, unnamed, uniformed American officer who received George Fisher when he first came on board the frigate South Carolina in the summer of 1780.)
According to the "Pension Application of George Fisher S46036", pages 1-2, the text of this pension application now comes to the existence of "a certain pocket book..." in the possession of George Fisher. This pocket book, in and of itself, reflects the fact that George Fisher was indeed literate as he states in his pension application that he himself maintained and added to the entries of this pocket book.
(Note: George Fisher might have been literate but, he organized and recorded events and other information in this pocket book in a very unusual manner. In the typical 18th century fashion, George Fisher used unusual capitalization, frequently ignored rules of consistency in punctuation, abbreviated certain terms in an unusual manner, and phonetically spelled unfamiliar names, to name just a few unusual habits of writing that he possessed. The writer of this blog has minimally "reorganized and restructured" the text of this pocket book for ease of reading and understanding the point of the communicated information. The actual text communicated is that of George Fisher but, has been slightly altered by the writer of this blog for the sake of clarity as concerns the readership of this blog. In certain cases, additional information has been added, offset in parentheses, to assist in clarifying certain chronological key points.)
George Fisher introduces this pocket book in the following manner:
"He had been and now has in his possession a certain pocket book in which he wrote down several circumstances and occurrences relative to the frigate her service &c, and and as those were written by him at the time they occurred he can safely swear to their truth and accuracy. This pocket book now being before him, faithfully transcribe those circumstances, they are verbatim as follows.
June 13, 1780 - [I] went on board of the South Carolina frigate at Amsterdam John Joiner Esqr. Captain.
(Note: George Fisher finally provides the readership of this blog with a definite date he entered the service of the frigate South Carolina. He also correctly identifies the actual commanding officer of the frigate - Captain John Joyner of South Carolina.)
January 1, 1781 - [We] arrived at Bolx Cove to winter.
February 20, 1781 - [We] left Bolx Cove and arrived in the Texel.
(Note: At some point in either June or July 1781, the tardy "Volontaires du Luxembourg" arrived in Holland and boarded the frigate South Carolina. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 28:
"on June 8  this riffraff moved off Luxembourg's payroll and on to that of the state of South Carolina. By the end of July 1781 the new additions had reached the frigate off Texel. At last the South Carolina was fully manned, bulging with 550 men.".)
August 24, 1781 - [We] bore away from the Texel North for America
(Note: This is the date that the frigate South Carolina actually left Dutch waters, bound for America. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, map on page 38, the patriot frigate weighed anchor and departed the Texel on August 4, 1781. Yet, George Fisher, "Captain's Steward", gave a date of August 24, 1781 immediately above. The discrepancy of time frames here can be addressed. Evidently, the frigate South Carolina was supposed to escort several merchant ships loaded with munitions for the Continental army back across the Atlantic Ocean. These ships were slow in assembling themselves, causing some distress on board the patriot frigate. Again, according to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, pages 37-39:
"For nearly three weeks the South Carolina tarried off the Dutch coast, waiting ever more impatiently for any of the cargo ships to emerge from Amsterdam. Gillon, William Jackson, and several others made repeated trips to shore, even to Amsterdam, to speed up the lethargic merchantmen.... Giving the small convoy one more chance to come out, on August 24 Gillon cruised past Texel Road for a last time and then turned the ship northwest for the voyage home.".
George Fisher's date of August 24, 1781 for the actual departure of the frigate South Carolina from Dutch waters and the beginning of the voyage home is therefore recorded in the pocket book quite accurately.)
September 26, 1781 - [We] arrived at Corunna in Spain.
October 17, 1781 - we [We] left Corunna and steered to the S. W. [Southwest]
October 28, 1781 - [We] passed by within sight of the Islands called the selvedges N. E. [Northeast] of the Cannaries.
(Note: These islands are actually referred to as the Selvagens Islands or Savage Islands and are located approximately 175 miles SSE of Madeira Island and about 105 miles NNE of the Canary Islands.)
October 31, 1781 - [We] arrived at St. Croix in the Islands of Teneriff [Tenerife].
November 24, 1781 - [We] left St. Croix.
November 29, 1781 - [We] crossed the tropic of cancer [Tropic of Cancer].
December 20, 1781 - [We] recrossed the tropic of Concer [Tropic of Cancer]. the [The] heat [was] at 83 degrees.
(Note: The course Commodore Gillon took to cross the Atlantic Ocean had been tried and deemed a successful one to take by none other than the initial mariner-captain to cross this body of water - Christopher Columbus. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 45:
"...having first tried to reach the New World through the higher latitudes of the North Atlantic, the Commodore now took the oldest sailing route to America 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.".
Portions of this route are referred to in the three brief entries above between November 24 and December 20, 1781.)
December 24, 1781 - [We] Saw the little Islands called the keys [Keys] North East of the Bahamas [Islands].
(Note: The writer of this blog is confused as to this statement by George Fisher. The islands known as the "Florida Keys" are directly west of the Bahamas Islands and thus do not fit this designation as being located to the northeast of the Bahamas. But, there are no islands to the northeast of the Bahamas except other islands that belong to the Bahamian Archipelago. George Fisher must have been referring to some of these lesser islands that do belong to this archipelago, such as Abaco Island and Eleuthra Island.)
December 27, 1781 - [We] Saw Sullivans Island off Charleston So. Carolina.
(Note: "Sullivan's Island" is a part of Charleston County, SC today and is considered a very affluent neighborhood of the area. It lies at the entrance to Charleston harbor. Sullivan's Island is the location of Fort Moultrie, though originally named Fort Sullivan. The fort won it's initial fame in American history for the "Battle of Fort Sullivan" that took place there on June 28, 1776. The day is still commemorated in South Carolina as "Carolina's Day", emphasizing the role that South Carolina played in the American Revolution. As the frigate South Carolina was passing the island on the above stated date, the battle would have happened almost exactly five and one-half years earlier.)
December 31, 1781 - [We] Saw Charleston [SC] again but was [were] chased off by three English Frigates.
(Note: According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 49, the following account is given regarding the sighting of Charleston, SC from the decks of the frigate South Carolina on December 31, 1781:
"On the last day of the year, December 31, the South Carolina approached the city of Charleston. Sliding past Sullivan's Island, [Commodore Alexander] Gillon entered the harbor, from which the city was four or five leagues away. Fort Moultrie and the houses of the town were clearly visible from the frigate's decks. So too was the Union Jack! (The Commodore probably had no way of knowing at this point that his own family had been forcibly removed from the city to St. Augustine.) When the presence of his ship provoked movement by three English men-of-war in the harbor, the Commodore turned around and left, probably through the south channel, since the city's lighthouse (undoubtedly the Old Charleston Lighthouse on Morris Island) was visible from the deck. Never again would the South Carolina be so close to her namesake.)
(Note: At this point an event occurs which is confusing, to say the least. According to Lewis's work, Neptune's Militia, page 51, the following account is provided:
"Although the ship's log was, curiously, no longer maintained after the departure from Charleston, it is possible to reconstruct the voyage to Cuba from diaries and correspondence. The South Carolina swung out into the Atlantic, returned to Abaco, entered the Northeast Providence Channel between Abaco and New Providence, and then turned west toward the Florida Gulf Stream through the Northwest Providence Channel. Once in the Gulf Stream the ship utilized the back current to head south toward Cuba. This was not easy sailing, as it involved considerable wearing and tacking, and Gillon was justly proud of "discovering" this passage. This was probably the safest route south and the one offering the greatest prospect of encountering merchant shipping.".
So, George Fisher's personal pocket book, which he retained into his later life and produced to record these travels of the patriot frigate in his pension application, becomes at this point vitally important in recording the voyages of the frigate South Carolina. His account of the further voyage of the frigate South Carolina is recorded as follows.)
January 1, 1782 - [We] left the coast of South Carolina and steered for the Havannah [Havana, Cuba].
January 4, 1782 - [We] Saw the island of Abbico [Abaco Island] one of the Bahamas.