He begins by saying "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, and Capt. John Joiner. 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 their arms; the declarant engaged with those officers, and served in the capacity of Captain's Stewart [Steward] during the whole time he was on board."
His early account of finding service on board the South Carolina is interesting in several ways. First, he states that he had "...arrived in Amsterdam from England on his way to America..." If this passage is indeed true, then he must have been in an English prison and escaped or been part of a prisoner exchange. Either of these is a distinct possibility, in that both of these situations did indeed occur during the American Revolution. But, the pension application of George Fisher is silent on this issue further - there never appears anything in the way of an explanation as to what he was doing in England during the war and then moved to Amsterdam "...on his way to America..." Further research may well uncover the truth behind this situation.
(Note: After more careful examination, towards the middle of his pension application, Fisher does state 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 this declarant was enrolled, he must now serve for sixpence a day without rations or leave the country, he chose [text missing, paper torn] latter, and arriving at Amsterdam entered on board the South Carolina frigate, as before mentioned;..." This then is an explanation of the origins of George Fisher - he was born and reared in England and voluntarily left the country at the beginning of the American Revolution because he, evidently, did not want to serve in the militia. Yet, when he leaves England and arrives in Amsterdam, Holland, he almost immediately signs on board the frigate South Carolina, a ship most definitely sailing for the rebels against his King and Country. If this is to be believed, then there must have been other factors at work in the mind, heart and life of George Fisher other than just a desire to avoid militia duty in England.)
Second, "...he accidentally heard of a large Frigate fitting out in that port supposed to be for America..." There are several accounts of seamen as well as officers being in Amsterdam, or even France, and hearing of the frigate South Carolina and seeking service on board this ship. But, by all accounts, Fisher is an enlisted man who hears of this frigate who recently has come from England and is seeking to reach home. Again, what was he doing in England?
Third, when he boards the South Carolina, he finds it "...under the nominal command of a Dutch Capt., though really under the command of a Commodore A. Gillon, and a Capt. John Joiner..." There is no mention ever of this ethereal "Dutch Capt." in any other pension applications filed by any other American. He may well have existed but, kept a low or background profile, knowing that he was simply a ploy to attempt to fool the British who were very closely watching the frigate for fear that it was to be turned over to the rebels. Still, it is interesting that the "Dutch Capt." is never mentioned again other than in the pension application of George Fisher. Yet, Fisher knows who is the real commander of the frigate - Capt, John Joiner under the overall command of Commodore A. Gillon, Commanding Naval Officer of the State of South Carolina.
Fourth, Fisher application goes on to say that "...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 their arms;..." Why these two officers, one of them unnamed, would be the only ones in uniform on board the South Carolina is somewhat of a riddle. Commodore Gillon and Capt. John Joyner were both on board the frigate and it is known that Gillon preferred a very fashionable uniform. The onlt explanation that this writer can offer is that the British had informers and spies who kept a constant eye on the frigate. These informants would have been versed in identifying the uniforms of commanding officers and Gillon and Joyner would have known this. Thus, they may well have chosen to not appear on the open deck in uniform while the frigate was still in port.
Fifth, Fisher's application goes on to say "...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 interest here being that Fisher's application states that he served in a non-combatant role on board the South Carolina. Fisher's application is the first application that does not claim that the deponent was either a marine, sailor, midshipman or officer who would have served in a combatant role on board the ship.
Sixth, Towards the beginning of Fisher's application, he gives a type of calendar of events concerning the ship and its voyage across the Atlantic Ocean. It is fairly detailed and could have only come from some type of record such as his "pocket book" would have provided him. For instances, he records that between June 13, 1780 and August 24, 1781, the South Carolina ( formerly known as L'Indien) moved from Amsterdam to Bolx Cove, from Bolx Cove to the Texel, from the Texel to the open sea. This seems like a long time to get a vessel from its berth to sea until one takes into account that the frigate drew more water than there was available at the bar at the mouth of Amsterdam harbor. But, the detail continues beyond this incident. He states when they arrived in and left Corunna, Spain. He talks of sighting the Selvedge Islands northeast of the Canary Islands. He mentions crossing and recrossing the Tropic of Cancer and the sighting of the Florida Keys. He mentions being chased off from Charleston, SC by "... three English frigates". The sighting of Abico Island in the Bahamas. While sailing for the Bahamas, on January 6, 1782, he states that the ship "...Fell in with and took a flat of five Jamaica men homeward bound." Four days later, he mentions that they "Arrived in the Havannah and sold our prize fro 91500 Dollars." He mentions the invasion fleet departing from Havana and its exact size - "...a fleet of sixty two sail with 2030 Land tro[ops] on board..." He speaks of the arrival at New Providence and its fall two days later on May 10, 1782. He then mentions running aground "...near the mud fort..." in the Delaware River on June 5, 1782. He concludes with the simple statement that on June 18, 1782 "...Arrived at Philadelphia. Here ends the remarks in the Pocket Book." Either George Fisher has a remarkably good memory and recorded all of this at some later date or he actually recorded it all as it was happening. This is rather interesting in that, as stated earlier in this portion of this blog, he was a non-combatant on board the South Carolina and might not have been privy to all of these activities due to his other duties. The information contained in this "pocket book" is remarkably detailed and would have been crucial to recalling and documenting these details of the maiden, and only full length, voyage of the frigate South Carolina.
Seventh, George Fisher is the only applicant so far found who mentions one of the real reasons for the delay in the frigate South Carolina in getting to sea - the delay in the Luxembourg marines reaching the South Carolina in the Texel. He, almost off-handedly, states that "...Her long stay in and near the Texel was occasioned by her waiting for the luxingburg [Luxemburg] troops. The Luxembourg troops were sent to assist in the attack on the Islands of Jersey and Guernsey, having at length arrived on board the Frigate to the amount of two and three hundred, under the command of Monsr. D. Aubry, the South Carolina put to sea as stated in the Pocket Book." This is a direct reference to the Legion or Volunteers of Luxembourg. These were troops of the private army or military unit belonging to the Chevalier de Luxembourg who actually owned the South Carolina. He had seen an opportunity for his troops to reap some glory for him and themselves by participating in the French attempt to capture the Jersey Islands, English-held islands just off the northern coast of France. In short, the attempted invasion was a fiasco with many French troops being captured, among them a large portion of the officers and enlisted men of the Chevalier's unit of Luxembourg troops. The Chevalier had already guaranteed these men and their services to Commodore Gillon as marines on board the frigate South Carolina. But, the invasion of the Jersey Islands had presented itself and he dispatched these troops to this use and subsequent lengthy delay in reaching the vessel then at the Texel. He, Fisher, also mentions that 200-300 of them came on board the South Carolina. This is correct observation on Fisher's part because other sources agree and document that 250- 300 Luxembourg marines came on board before the frigate South Carolina set sail foe her maiden voyage. Fisher's is the only pension application that even mentions this incident as a reason for the delay in the frigate South Carolina getting to sea.
Eighth, and briefly, Fisher states why it was that the frigate South Carolina so easily captured five vessels bound for Jamaica while she was in route to Havana. He states that "...the capture of the Jamaica Fleet mentioned in the pocket book was owing to their mistaking the South Carolina in the night for a British Frigate." The writer of this blog has never run across this stated reason for the capture of these five vessels on their way to Jamaica. It has been assume by this writer that the frigate, which was a fast sailing vessel, ran down these smaller, slower vessels and due to her overwhelming armament, cowed them into submission. But, it is recorded that the South Carolina carried flags of other nations, belligerents as well as neutrals, and used these flags to fool other ships as to her real identity. If this is indeed true, the commander of the frigate South Carolina may not have been above using the cover of darkness to fool the small fleet of Jamaica vessels into believing that the South Carolina was a friendly ship. No other pension application that this blog writer has seen up to this point mentions how it was that the South Carolina was able to capture an entire fleet of ships bound for Jamaica without the fleet dispersing and fleeing in different directions.
Ninth, it is evident from George Fisher's pension application that his service on board the frigate South Carolina did not continue beyond the frigate mooring at Philadelphia, PA in June 1782. His application states that "...the declarant having under his care of furniture, stores &c of the Commodore and Capt., he was detained on board at least 2 weeks after the frigates arrival in Philadelphia; he then received a certificate signed by Capt. John Joiner, specifying the sum due him and addressed to Gov. Matthews of South Carolina; no written discharges were given to he knows of; The precise date of this certificate is not recollected, but the declarant believes that it was within 3 or 4 days under or over the first day of July 1782." As Captain's Steward, Fisher would have had certain personal effects of the Commodore and Captain of the South Carolina in his possession and care. For this reason and possibly for other unmentioned reasons, he was kept on board the frigate. At some point while the frigate South Carolina was moored at Philadelphia, Commodore Gillon chose to leave the ship,probably because he was mired in legal proceedings regarding the conditions of his contract under which the Chevalier de Luxembourg had loaned the frigate L'Indien / South Carolina to the state of South Carolina.
His pension application goes on to say, "the sum specified as you was 62 pounds some odd Shillings Sterling; as his pay was 3 Pounds Sterling per month, had the purser's account against him been mentioned, it would have afforded sufficient data to ascertain his time of service, which was a little upwards of 2 years on board said frigate in the revolutionary war. One 4th part of this Certificate, was paid in Philadelphia by an agent of the State: shortly after the declarant entrusted it to a person who promised to endeavor to get something for it in Carolina, but he has never seen it nor received any thing from it." This statement indicates the length of service of George Fisher which is the relative length of others who left the frigate South Carolina after it docked in Philadelphia.
He attempted to search further for actual proof that he had served on board the frigate South Carolina. But, he documents the further frustration of his efforts in his application: "The declarant regrets that he has been unable to procure any documentary evidence; In a healthy season of the year he visited the secretary of states office, there was no paper or documents in that office relative to the South Carolina frigate. Through the medium of a friend he had the other branch of the secretary of states office in Columbia searched; The state Treasurer wishing as he said to serve an old Revolutionary character, assisted in the search, the results of this search ended like that in Charleston; his friend had the Controller General's office searched also, the Controller responded that on searching his office, there were no books or papers relative to the South Carolina Frigate, except some papers in an old box relative to the claim of one Delosier, against the South Carolina Frigate, the declarant knows nothing of this Delosier, the Controller General further reported that 8 or 10 years past, the portage bill Book of the South Carolina, was taken out of his office by a committee of the Legislature, and never returned nor did he the Controller, know where it was or what had become of it. The declarant failing to procure any documentary evidence has been the more particular in relating so many occurrences and circumstances, with a view to enable the department to judge of the degree of credit due to his declaration." Fisher clearly states that he has found absolutely nothing of merit in his search for documentary proof that he served on board the frigate South Carolina. As a matter of fact, the only glimmer of hope that was mentioned to him regarded an individual who Fisher disputes as having even served on board the said ship. Thus, he includes this wealth of detail in the hopes of convincing the commissioners that he did indeed serve on board the South Carolina for the period of around two years and left the ship in Philadelphia before its last, brief cruise and capture by the Royal Navy.
At the end of his pension application, George Fisher adds supporting affidavits from others who also served on board the frigate South Carolina and knew Fisher to have also served on board the same frigate for the stated period of time. One of these supporting affidavits was provided by John Mayrant, who had served as 3rd Lieutenant on board the frigate South Carolina. Mayrant's affidavit includes the statement under oath that George Fisher "...entered on board of said frigate at Amsterdam about the month of May or June in the year 1780, and that he the said George served faithfully on board the said frigate in the capacity of Captain's Steward till he arrived in Philadelphia in June 1782, and when he was discharged in an honorable manner." Fisher sated in his pension application that Mayrant was one of the very first individuals he met after boarding the frigate South Carolina. This is clearly stated at the beginning of his application. Thus, Mayrant remembered him and his service on board the South Carolina. Fisher also has supporting affidavits from Richard Wall "...formerly an officer of the "South Carolina" Frigate in the service of this State in the Revolutionary War, commanded by Commodore A. Gillon..." and from one Hansford D. Duncan, a clergyman living in the same district of South Carolina as George Fisher - Barnwell District. This last mentioned individual states that "...we have seen and examined the Pocket book from which the remarks and occurrences relative to the South Carolina Frigate were taken and transcribed into the declaration of the said George, and find then correctly copied from the said pocket book into his declaration and that from the connection and the said pocket book...affords sufficient reason to believe and we do believe that the remarks and occurrences in relation to the said Frigate and transcribed as aforesaid and to his declaration are true..." Fisher even includes a small but, rather amazing, piece of documentation in his pension application further on in it. There appears the very brief citation by one Thomas Monson, Rector of Bedale, York, England that "... Mary and George (Twin Children) of William and Mary Fisher of Little Crakehall..." were both baptized on January 27, 1758. Preceding by a few days, weeks or months of this baptism date must have been the actual birthdate of George Fisher. He obviously felt the need to somehow confirm his age and that he was a native of England. He also had a twin sister, according to the record.
On November 1, 1824, George Fisher appeared in open court and was sworn in the presence of the court clerk, Orsamus D. Allen. This is the extent of his sworn statement; "I George Fisher do solemnly swear that I resided in America in the year 1782 & have resided in the United States & the State of South Carolina mostly ever since & particularly for 18 years, last past and I will be the most of my power & ability support the Constitution of the State and the Constitution of the United States and that I do hereby solemnly freely & voluntarily renounce & forever abjure all allegiance to any foreign King, Prince Potentate or Power & particularly all allegiance to the King of Great Britain whose subject I formerly was so help me God." So, 44 years after coming on board the frigate South Carolina as she lay at the Texel in Holland and signing on as a Captain's Steward, George Fisher had come home. He was 66 years old, according to his baptismal records.