The above stated reason for not taking the frigate South Carolina onto the roster of warships of the British Royal Navy seems unlikely to this blog writer. Even though the British officials saw the conflict in the Americas as winding down, they must have also foreseen the continuation of the conflict with France at least and, possibly, Spain likewise. That would have meant that the conflict would have widened in its scope of involvement. It would seem that an extra ship-of-war would have been readily welcomed and deployed to some other area of conflict around the world. "...But, the great frigate had one last military role to play. During the British evacuation of New York late in 1783, the South Carolina transported nearly six hundred veterans across the Atlantic to Longreach and Deal, England. Ironically, these were all German soldiers, and some of them might have served as marines on this very frigate, under Joyner. The South Carolina also had a familiar escort on this voyage, the HMS Quebec, one of the three frigates involved in her capture in December 1782" (Lewis, Neptune's Militia, page 127).
(Note: According to the journal of Johann Conrad Dohla, Hessian Diary of the American Revolution, translated by Bruce E. Burgoyne, pages 233, 238, the troops carried to Deal, England were of the Anspach-Bayerath Regiment and not of any of the units that provided the marines for the final cruise of the frigate South Carolina. There is some possibility that some of them may have served as marines on board the frigate South Carolina but, not much of a likelihood.)
Rather than not taking the frigate South Carolina into the Royal Navy over reasons stemming from hostilities winding down, there is another possibility - the lack of care and attention to maintenance over the years had worn the frigate out. "Nevertheless, had the South Carolina truly been the best of fighting frigates in 1783, it is hard to imagine that His Majesty's navy would not have found space for such a gem. Most likely, the American frigate was not the best, nor even acceptable. She was probably in such sorry repair by this date that the cost of restoring her to fighting condition would have been too great. While the frigate had been at sea only slightly over two years at the time of her capture, her construction had begun in 1777. She was an aging vessel by the end of the war, never completely coppered, if at all, and never fully repaired or refitted at any of her stops. Knowing that she was his for only three years, Gillon had invested little of his limited capital in preparing the South Carolina for a long life" (Lewis, Neptune's Militia, page 127). The most feasible reason for the frigate South Carolina not being taken into the Royal Navy as a fighting vessel is that she was worn out and badly in need of repair and refitting. These repairs, coming at the end of a costly war, were too much for the naval personnel involved in the matter to even consider. "She was put up for sale in New York during the summer of 1783 along with her naval stores, sails, cables, and guns. Whether anyone purchased her at this point is not known..." (Lewis, Neptune's Militia, page 127).
This brings our narrative to the first, and lengthiest, of the two depositions mentioned above in the title of this post. This deposition is found in Middlebrook, Louis F. The Frigate South Carolina: A Famous Revolutionary War Ship (The Essex Institute, 1929), pages 14-16, and is recorded as follows:
Public Record Office
High Court of Admiralty
Prize Papers, Bundle #455
Province of New York
Court of Vice Admiralty
Thomas Tireman, First Lieutenant of H.M. Ship of War Quebec, commanded by Christopher Mason, Esqr. makes oath that on or about the 20th of December instant off the Delaware, His Majesty's Ship of War Quebec in company with H.M. Ships Astrea & Diomede met with and seized as prize a certain ship called the South Carolina then under the command of John Joyner. That the papers now lodged by the Deponent in the Registry of this Court were found on board the said ship at the time od said capture; that no other papers, books or writings were found on board the said ship or at any time since, and that the said papers are delivered in the same state they were found.
(signed) Thos. Tireman
Sworn 30th Dec. 1782.
S.S. Blowers, Surrogate.
The deposition of Thomas White, taken on behalf of our Sovereign Lord the King in the cause of John Tabor Kempe Esqr. His Majesty's Advocate General of the Province of New York at and by the relation of Christopher Mason Esqr. Captain and Commander of the H.M. Ship of War the Quebec, on behalf of himself and Thos. Lenox Frederick Esqr. Captain and Commander of the Ship of War Diomede, and Matthew Squire Esqr. Captain and Commander of the H.M. Ship of War Astrea, and the other officers and crews of said ships of war and all others interested therein, Libellant of a certain ship called the South Carolina, her apparel and furniture taken upon the standing interrogatories filed in this Court.
1. This deponent saith that he was born at Salem in the Massachusetts Bay; that he has followed the Seas for 7 years last past & that he is a subject of the United States of America.
2. That he was present at the taking of the armed ship South Carolina.
3. The said ship was taken off the Delaware on 21st December instant; that she was taken as prize because she was American property; that she sailed under American colours; that she was seized by His Majesty's ships of War, the Astrea, the Quebec & Diomede; that several broadsides were fired from the Diomede and one from the Quebec at the said ship the South Carolina before she was taken.
4. That John Joyner was the Commander of said ship at the time she was taken; that he was appointed by the Governor of South Carolina; and that his fixed place of residence is in South Carolina.
5. That the said ship is of burthen of 1300 tons; that there were 430 men on board of her when taken; that they are chiefly Americans and said crew were shipped at Philadelphia.
6. That the said ship was built at Amsterdam; that he has known her 2 years; that he saw her first at Amsterdam, and that he was First Lieutenant on board the same when she was taken.
7. That the name of the said ship was the South Carolina; that she had come from Philadelphia and was bound on a cruise (when taken) to seize British property, that the said ship was the property of the State of South Carolina and was armed with 40 carriage guns, 28 of which are 36 pounders (Swedish measurement) & the rest 12 pounders, and that she was commissioned by the Continental Congress to seize and take British property.
(signed) Thomas White
(Taken 28th Dec. 1782. D. Matthews, Reg.)
As seen immediately above, this 7-point deposition was indeed signed by Thomas White, the 1st Lieutenant on board the frigate South Carolina for her last, brief cruise. He was captured with the rest of the crew and marines and was transported to New York City harbor on board the H.M.S. Quebec (Middlebrook, The Frigate South Carolina, page 24). Once there, according to the roster of prisoners-of-war, he was placed on parole on December 27, 1782 (see above reference). The information contained in his deposition seems routine enough for several of the seven points stated in it. But, parts of it seem to be made up of sensitive information that Thomas White needed to have not divulged. In Point 4, he gives the position of the individual who appointed John Joyner the captain of the frigate South Carolina. He also gives the state of his residence, possibly opening his unsuspecting family in South Carolina to reprisals from the British. In Point 5, he gives the nationality of the greater portion of the crew and from where they had set sail. Point 6 gives the enemy some idea of when and for how long Thomas White had been familiar with the frigate. Finally, in Point 7, Thomas White gives too much vital information concerning the intended mission of the frigate and the commissioning body for the frigate and the point of her sailing from - Philadelphia, PA.
This blog writer is not familiar with the conditions of parole for a captured officer in the 18th century. It may be that he was honor bound to give whatever information was asked of him by his captors and to do so in a truthful manner. But, it still seems as though Thomas White "volunteered" too much sensitive information, even virtually at the end of the war. He was captured, along with the rest of the crew and marines of the frigate South Carolina, on December 20, 1782; placed on parole in New York City on December 27, 1782; and submitted his deposition on December 28, 1782. According to the post dated "04/14/2015", he was awarded 538p/8s/8d on May 20, 1783 (Revill, p. 385) . If he received his award after his release from British parole, then he spent a brief period of time in British captivity - just a few months and on parole, at that.
The second deposition recorded is that of Nathaniel Marston - the 2nd Lieutenant on board the frigate South Carolina for her last, brief cruise. In this source, Middlebrook, The Frigate South Carolina, page 16 this is the entry for the deposition of Nathaniel Marston - "the deposition of Nathaniel Marston is also included among the papers, the contents of which closely follow the deposition of Lieut. White. Marston was born in Massachusetts Bay and always had residence there. He was Second Lieutenant of the South Carolina". Middlebrook indicates that there is a physical deposition made by Nathaniel Marston "...the contents of which closely follow the deposition of Lieut. White". Marston may have also "volunteered" the same quality of information given by Thomas White but, there is no way of knowing without seeing the actual deposition of Marston and examining it. Yet, the implication is that he did give sensitive information in like manner. According to the post dated "04/14/2015", he was awarded 453p/9s/10d on May 29, 1783. Like Thomas White, if he received his award after his release from British parole, then he, too, spent very little time in British custody - like White, just a few months on parole.
(Note: Nathaniel Marston is identified in the pension application of Joshua Mersereau, "Pension Application of Joshua Mersereau S7224" as being the "1st Lieut." on board the frigate South Carolina rather than the 2nd Lieutenant. But, this information was given to W.E. Kennaugh, probably a court clerk in 1854. At the time, Joshua Mersereau, carpenter on board the frigate South Carolina, was 97 years old and blind. Also, in his pension application, he does not recall the first name of Nathaniel Marston. He only notes the name of the lieutenant in question as " ------- Marston". Both of these discrepancies can be forgiven a man so advanced in age and so far removed from the scene he is requested to recall.)
The captured commission refers to that of John Joyner, the commanding officer of the frigate South Carolina for that last cruise. The brief citation is cited in Middlebrook, The Frigate South Carolina, on page 16 and is as follows: "The Commission of John Joyner, mariner, Commander of the South Carolina, is a part of the budget, said commission being of the regulation form as issued by Congress, and the signatures of Elias Boudinot, President of the United States in Congress assembled at Philadelphia, as well as that of Charles Thomson, Secretary, and is dated November 8, 1782". The interesting point here is the date of the commission - November 8, 1782. The above text states that Congress confirmed the command of John Joyner on board the frigate South Carolina early in November 1782. Yet, the portion of Lewis's work Neptune's Militia dealing with this incident clearly states that Commodore Gillon "...relinquished command of the frigate South Carolina in late 1782" (Lewis, p. 86). Alexander Gillon must have remained on board the frigate after confirmation of the transfer of command of the frigate until his departure from Philadelphia for South Carolina. This may have had something to do with the fact that questions had arisen over the terms of the contract signed between the Chevalier du Luxembourg and Commodore Gillon almost three years earlier and that these terms may have been compromised by Gillon. It is possible that his only safety was on board the frigate South Carolina.