Activity 2: Trafalgar - The American Crew
Study of the crew of HMS Victory at the battle of Trafalgar show that the crew was made up of men from many lands. The most detailed research suggests a total crew of 821 on board for the battle. Of these, 23 were born in the United States of America.
Most of these 23 were 29 years old or under, and so were born in the newly independent country, but three were older, the oldest being 47.
It is difficult to be sure how they came to be on board a British warship. In one case, Samuel Lovett, he is listed as pressed (forcibly impressed into service) but all the others are listed as joining from other British vessels. However, it is possible that they were pressed from US vessels, perhaps in the West Indian trade, onto other British ships and from then on listed as transfers rather than pressed. It was common practice in times of war when crews were needed to transfer men immediately from one ship to another on reaching harbour to ensure that they did not desert.
The men are listed as being born in a range of east coast cities, including New York and Philadelphia, Baltimore and Charlestown. The list of names and ranks is given below. The abbreviated forename as in the official lists is shown. It can generally easily be interpreted, but Jno could be John or Jonathan or another variant.
Some questions which you might want to explore to help understand more about the Americans in the crew of H.M.S.Victory.
- How many years before the battle of Trafalgar had the United States of America become independent of Britain?
- How big was the country we now call the United States of America in the year of the battle of Trafalgar? An historical atlas will help with this.
- Who controlled the West Indian islands at this time? Why did various countries fight over the islands? Why do you think that American ships went to and from the West Indian islands?
- One of the names in this list is listed as 'Mid', short for Midshipman. A midshipman was a junior officer. Devise a search on the internet using this man's name, the United States navy and the rank of Admiral. Can you discover if there is a link between this man and another famous seaman of more recent times?