He seems to have been on board the Confederacy for one successful cruise "..in the West India Seas..." in which a British brig was taken as a prize. On his return cruise to Philadelphia, the frigate Confederacy encountered three British ships, just off the Capes of Delaware, which captured the Confederacy and carried her captive crew into New York harbor. There William Nourse and his fellow crew members of the Confederacy "...suffered for many weeks the most cruel and vigorous treatment on board the Jersey Prison Ship then lying in the Walabough [sic, Wallabout Bay] near the harbor of New York." He records that he contracted and subsequently recovered from the "...Putrid fever which raged with great mortality on board the said prison ship..." He was later taken to England as a prisoner of war, eventually to be "...committed to Forton Prison near Portsmouth on suspicion of high treason..." and was incarcerated there for seven months. He was returned to Philadelphia as part of a cartel (prisoner exchange) in August 1782.
His words speak with a simple elegance at this point in the narrative "...but, being then out of employment and the Navy of the United States nearly destroyed by the enemy, he entered as a Midshipman on board a large Frigate South Carolina John Joiner Esquire Commander then lying in the port of Philadelphia of very heavy metal belonging to, and shortly before built in Holland for that State but your petitioner was in December following again captured on board said Frigate by a Fleet of British Ships of War and again carried into New York, paroled on Long Island and afterwards to Philadelphia from which situation he was only relieved by the return of Peace and the United States obtaining her glorious Independence." He closes his pension application with a poignant plea - "Your Petitioner in conclusion would beg leave to state that he is now and has been for many years a citizen of Mercer County Kentucky -- is now in the 64th year of his age, 3 years of the bloom of which he spent in the service of his Country suffering on that account the rage of a cruel enemy, in bonds and vigorous imprisonment -- which is probably the cause that he has been laboring for many years with a broken constitution and for months together such heavy infirmities as to render him entirely unable to attend to any kind of business." He filed a almost identical pension application on July 10, 1832. He died on August 30, 1836 in Mercer County, KY.
His application is interesting for a couple of reasons. First, in both instances of capture, William Nourse was taken prisoner off the Capes of the Delaware - the first time on board the Confederacy on April 16, 1781 and the second time on board the South Carolina on December 20, 1782. Second, in both instances, the enemy fleet which captured the ship that William Nourse was on board of consisted of three vessels. Third, William Nourse was first incarcerated on board the Old Jersey prison ship in Wallabout Bay, NY and would certainly have been sent back to this same prison ship a second time but, he was immediately paroled on Long Island. Lastly, and the writer of this blog finds this most interesting, nowhere in the pension application of William Nourse or in any of the several supporting affidavits does it ever state where William Nourse was born. Pension applications usually include some type of statement as to where the applicant was born but, since it was not a requirement to state place of birth, it does not necessarily appear in these applications. William Nourse is only mentioned as being a resident of Mercer County, Kentucky at the time of his pension application. In his second application, Nourse states "...that I am in the 69th year of my age and resided in Berkeley County Virginia..." Bobby Gilmer Moss's book, South Carolina Patriots in the American Revolution (page 734), also cites him as being a resident of Berkeley County, VA at the beginning of the war. This may give something of an indication as to where he was born but, with no real certainty. But, with great assurance, we can assume that William Nourse truly suffered for his country as a naval prisoner of war twice and that this circumstance may well have permanently damaged his physical constitution beyond natural repair. He was a healthy 17 years old when he entered the naval service as a midshipman. This was the price he paid for his dedication to his country, even before he had a country, per se.