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  • The Captain’s Clerk

    Tyrone G. Martin

    Published Date : December 1988
    For nearly three years, this researcher has been building a database on personnel who have served on the U.S.S. Constitution, “Old Ironsides,” during her 191 years of service. The database now contains information on over 9000 individuals -- officers and sailors who have served on the famous frigate. The information has been gleaned from such primary sources as the ship’s logs, muster lists, pay rolls, watch, quarter and station bills, journals, and official and private correspondence. Although rarely completed in full, each person’s form provides for the inclusion of information on birth and death, rank or rate upon arrival, promotions/demotions, arrival and departure times from the ship, battle station, watch section, and specific duties. Also provided are sections for noting items of interest such as recipients of the sailor’s allotment, participation in a particular action or event of note, and a list of sources and their locations. These include both primary documents and published material, providing a picture of the conditions under which the man served and the events witnessed.

    Currently, the database is virtually complete for all those serving prior to 1854. Similar information for crew members through 1881 is on hand awaiting entry in the database. All of the ship’s officers of the 20th century are thought to be accounted for, but more research is needed on the enlisted men for the modern period.

    If you think this database might he of use to you in determining whether or not your Uncle Jonathan was, in fact, an old sea dog on this legendary ship, send his name and any other information that might be useful in making a positive link (e.g., period of service) to the Captain’s Clerk, 68 Pond Street, Cohasset, Massachusetts 02025-1920. Include a stamped, self-addressed letter-size envelope and $2.00 to cover the cost of the search and preparation of the report on any entry found (or not found). If the person’s name is a common one, the clerk will report to you on the one who appears most likely to he your seaman, inform you how many others there are who seem to fit the information you provided, and give you an opportunity to order reports on the remaining persons by that name.

    Commander Martin, (U.S. Navy, Ret.) is a former Captain of the U.S.S. Constitution and self-appointed ship "biographer" He has been compiling this database for the past three years, using primary sources to identify men who served. He welcomes any additions or corrections, with source documentation, and may be reached at the above-mentioned address.

    Sample File Record from "The Captain's Clerk"

    Record of Service in the U.S.S. Constitution

    Name = Bryant, William
    Category = NE (Navy Enlisted)
    Date/Place of Birth = 5 Jan. 1781; Sandwich (Ipswich?), Mass.
    Date/Place of Death = 15 June 1867; Fairfield, Me.
    Rank/Rate = Ordinary Seaman
    Date/Mode of Entry = 15 May 1798; shipped at Boston, Mass.
    Date/Mode of Departure = 31 May 1799; discharged at Boston, Mass.
    Battle Station =
    Watch Station =
    Specific Duty =
    Remarks = Plank owner. Later married Lydia Haley of Rhode Island and moved to Kendall’s Mills, Maine. Five children:
    Mary (1810), Harriet (date?), Cyrus and Susan (1818, twins), and Haley (1823). Mary was the mother of Maine Governor Seldon Connor.

    Sources: A Most Fortunate Ship, by Tyrone C. Martin (1980); William Bryant’s Ledger

    Front the files of The Captain’s Clerk, 68 Pond Street, Cohasset, MA 02025-1920. Please forward any additions or corrections to the above address, including sources of information.

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