An Enterprising Spirit:

Richard Hamilton, 1811-1819


J. Calvitt Clarke III

Jacksonville University


80 Meadow Heights Lane

Lexington, VA 24450



In Progress






            Despite his cold, on June 3, 1906, Judge Joseph Hamilton of Albion, Nebraska, sat at his desk to write a letter to his daughter, Katherine Hamilton.[1]  He wrote, “I recollect of some old letters that my father wrote while a prisoner of War of 1812.”  In an enclosure, “An Enterprising Spirit,” he further described his understanding of his father’s career:

            Capt. Richard Hamilton, of New London, commanded a privateer, and he was a seafaring man, as were his four brothers.  He was captured in the war of 1812 and imprisoned twenty months in Dartmouth prison, Eng.[2]  He made his escape a month before the war closed and the American prisoners released.

            Capt. H. was shipwrecked off the French coast in his last voyage, and floated on the companionway door three days before he was picked up by a passing vessel.  He, the mate and the cabin boy were the only survivors of the crew.  While floating, he cut a strip off the door with his knife, and tied a piece of red handkerchief to it.  This improvised flag called the rescuers’ attention to him, and probably saved his life.  After the other two had been picked up the lookout saw a spot on the waters. . . .

            Before Capt. Hamilton’s ship left port on the last cruise, the mate came to him, and asked him to go to a fortune tellers and have his fortune told.  As a reason for the request he said that the fortune teller had told such a story that the mate would not go to the sea unless the captain did as requested.  Capt. Hamilton refused at first, but in the end went the day before they sailed.  The fortune teller said. “so You’ve come to ask the old Hag something, have you?  You’ll know it three days out.”

            The prophesay was fulfilled, as the wreck occurred “three days out.”[3]


            Some twenty-five separate letters that Richard Hamilton wrote to his parents and brothers between 1811 and 1819 have survived, at least in the form of photocopies.  They provide interesting and personal insights to major historical events as they buffeted Richard about, and they put the accuracy of Judge Hamilton’s family memories to the test.






            In the first extant letter, the young, twenty-two-year-old officer, Richard Hamilton, wrote to his parents, Joseph and Rebecca,[4] on September 4, 1811 from Morlaix, France,[5] where the French were holding him prisoner.  After a twenty-eight-day merchant voyage, he and his brig[6] had been taken by a French privateer, the Eleanor.[7]  The French removed all the crew except Richard and two others.  After three days, they arrived at a small town, Tréguier,[8] where the French took the three ashore without allowing them to grab their extra clothes.  Taken to the Commissary of Marines, “as worthy an old scamp as ever existed,” and he had the three Americans searched for money.  Finding some on Richard, he ordered it taken.  Richard, by his own account swore they would not have it and threatened “to break the first ones head that attempted it.”  Before a guard of soldiers could take him to prison, however, the mayor of the town arrived, and Richard complained about what had happened.  The mayor told the Commissary that, because the Americans were not prisoners of war, he had no authority over them.  The mayor also told the Americans to put their protection certificates[9] and money in his hands for security.  Promising he would befriend them while in Tréguier, the mayor helped the Americans protesting against the officers and crew of the privateer on the theft of their clothing.[10]


            The next day, the French owner of the Eleanor arrived in town, and he questioned the Americans about their brig.  Afterward, the Americans went to the office of the mayor, who restored their protection certificates and money.  The mayor then sent a guard of soldiers to take them the seventy-five miles to Morlaix and to the care of the American Consul there.[11]


            On the first day of their journey, the guard treated the Americans well.  The next day, however, a party of horsemen relieved the guards, and they “often” tried to ride over the prisoners, if they walked too slowly.  Angered, the American cook grabbed a stone and knocked one of the horsemen from his horse.  The French then chained the Americans to their horses and forced them to walk that way the rest of the day.  The next day, the guards allowed the Americans to hire horses, but, fearing escape, they chained the prisoners’ feet under the horses bellies, and in that way, they entered the town of Morlaix.[12]


            The Commissary in Morlaix ordered the Americans thrown in jail, and there they remained for three days until the American Consul claimed them as citizens of the United States.  The French then released the Americans, and their captain joined them.  They had the liberty of the town by day but had to be at their lodgings by dark.  Four weeks went by before the captain got passports to go to Paris to attend the trial of their brig.  He had “great hopes” for regaining his ship and part of the cargo.[13]


            Jonathan Russell,[14] the American Minister, ordered Jean Diot,[15] the American Consul in Morlaix, not to allow any of the Americans to leave France until the trial was over.  Richard wrote that most likely the Americans would have to winter in France, if the French condemned the cargo.  And if the French did condemn the brig, Russell had gotten permission for the American crew to fit out one of the sequestered ships at Lorient[16] in Brittany.  They would then sail it in the latter part of winter to carry dispatches back to the American government.[17]


            Richard told his parents that he had already written “a number of letters and put them on board of Cartels[18] to go by the way of England,” but they had “all been detected” and returned to him.  Richard warned his parents that he might not have an opportunity to write soon.[19]


            Belying that fear, Richard again wrote his parents on October 1.  His health was good, but he had no news on the trial of the brig—its fate depended on the larger political relations between France and the United States.  Richard expected that he and his compatriots would lose all their books, quadrants, and clothes.  While he had more liberty than when he had last written, he was less optimistic about being able to leave quickly and certainly not before the trial was over: “I expect to remain in this Country long enough to be a complete Frenchman as I already begin to sputter the Language so as to be understood by them.”  Time hung heavily, with little to do except strolling around the town.  He again warned that he would not be able to write soon, this time because there were no more vessels in Morlaix bound for America.  Richard asked that the family write with family news.[20]


            Six weeks later, Richard again wrote his parents.  Once more tying his fate with larger politics, Richard mentioned that Napoleon Bonaparte was in Holland but would soon return to Paris.[21]  He expected the French would decide the fate of all American captives on his return, and he hoped they would quickly clear his brig.  But if condemned, he said the French would immediately send the detainees home at American expense.  “I think that you may expect me home about the first of March,” he wrote.  Richard further explained,

there is great expectations in this Country of a speedy war between America and G Britain which is hurrying all of the Americans in France to return home as soon as possible.  since the Emperor has been in Holland he has sent the most of the Dutch Seamen into his Country to man his fleets at Brest,[22] Amherst and the flotilla at Bologne.[23]  since we have been here there has been two general draughts[24] through this province that swept the most of the young men.  they are comforted with the promise of some great estate in England and seem as positive of it as if they had it in hand.  they are sent to the flotilla at Bologne.[25]


            Richard noted that the Americans were not the only foreigners in France: “there has lately been marched through this place upwards of four hundred Spanish prisoners they sentenced to hard labour in the dock yards at Brest.  I think that they are the most miserable set of beings that ever I saw.  all of the prisoners that are taken in Spain are condemned to slavery.”[26]


            Richard turned more personal.  “We have much more liberty than we had when we first arrived here.  we are allowed to walk in the Country as much as we please but not near the Seashore.”  He explained how he hoped his letter would get home.  “These will go in a Gersy[27] smuggler and from thence to England before it can get on board of an American vessel.”  The French had returned his trunk of clothes but not his sea clothes or quadrant.[28]


            Richard again wrote his parents on February 4, 1812.  After assuring them of his good health, he reminded them that in his last letter he had hoped for “a speedy termination to our process.”  However, “since the arrival of the US Brig Hornet[29] all of the American tryals have been suspended upon what account I am not able to learn.”  The day before, the Americans with Richard had received a letter from “our Capt,” who wrote of his hope of getting his vessel and “to be indemnified for the plunder of our Clothing.”  He also said that within a month he expected “that the American affairs” would be adjusted.  “Since Mr. Barlowe[30] has arrived in this Country he has given orders to Mr. Diot the Consul at this place to furnish us with a Suit of Clothes which we stood much in need of.”[31]


            Richard then casually mentioned in one paragraph what would be two primary causes of the destruction of Napoleon’s empire.  “The Emperor is to go up the north shortly with his whole army.  It is expected to be against the Russians.  he has drawn all the best of his troops from this part and marched them towards Paris.[32]  there is great scarcity of grain in this Country at present.  they are gathering all that is possible to be had for the army in Spain.”[33]  On a more personal level, Richard told his parents, “I am obliged to make a virtue of necessity and inform myself in the French tongue which I begin to understand sufficient to hold a conversation in it.”  Wishing to return home soon, Richard was “in hopes it will not be long that that I shall have tarry here for I am heartily fatigued with such a lazy line of life.”[34]


            This languid observation is the last Richard’s family and friends heard from him for the next twenty-two months—a silence, which belied his adventures.






            The United States and the United Kingdom, as the French had hoped, were soon at war.  On March 1, 1813, Richard set sail from Brest aboard the famously successful American privateer, the True-Blooded Yankee, to prey on British shipping in the Irish Sea.  The captain soon placed Richard in command of one of the captured prizes and ordered him to take it to Norway, “and to open a Correspondence for all others that she might send there, after disposing of them agreeable to my orders.”[35]  Having fulfilled his orders, Richard tried to return to France by way of Sweden, but by this time the Swedes had declared war on Denmark and had joined the coalition fighting Napoleon.  Stopped at the border, Richard had to find another route.  In his laconic, understated words, “I was thereby necessitated, if possible, to cross from Norway to Jutland in a small boat and was taken for the attempt on the 22nd of July.”  Richard had fallen into British hands.[36]


            By December, Richard was imprisoned on a prison ship, the Crown Prince Frederic, at Chatham, England, and quite unhappy.[37]  In a letter to his parents, he complained at the “Barbarity” of British imprisonment, especially compared to his experience with detention by the French.  The British were

afraid of granting the Americans too many privileges . . . but what makes my situation the more ineligible is that being confined in a place where there is no respect shown to either quality[38] or colour,[39] and likewise being mostly composed of persons that have released from H.B.M's service[40] who being no longer under dread of the lash, and enthusiastically filled with a spirit of that Equality which they seemingly boast of, as belonging to every citizen of the U. States, make them above all manner of and renders our Prison a mere scene of confusion.

Richard continued in a more reflective, even dispirited, tone:

When I reflect on the past scenes of my life, it seems next to an impossibility for me to perform any undertaking without meeting with some blasting obstruction, and for one whose support in the even of life depends on his youthful exertions, meeting with so many impediments to his expectations as I have since commencing to the World with a determination (if possible) to render my situation somewhat eligible is enough to fill his mind with a disgust for all business whatever, and after recounting his wanderings and disappointments, qualify him to subscribe himself a Journeyman to Misfortune.

While Richard was in “tolerable good health” he admitted he had to guard it.  He venomously continued:

the place that we are confined in reminds me more of a Dog kennel than place of confinement for Human Beings for we are allowed the open Air, only from 8 in the morning until 3 PM and as for the Moon & Stars I positively protest that I have seen neither since my confinement.  candlelight we are allowed, at our own expence, until 10 in the evening and that is a privilege granted in such a manner as to make us consider it a great favour.[41]


            There was one ray of light.  In a postscript, Richard enigmatically wrote, “I have a friend in London, who write She is in great hopes of obtaining my liberty in the course of this or the next month.  This Friend is a Lady I formed an acquaintance with while I was in France.”  He promised that “should I be once more emancipated, I shall endeavour to seek recompence for my present situation, as soon as an opportunity may offer.”[42]


            Seven months later, on June 15, 1814, Richard again wrote to his parents from his confinement on the prison hulk, although there were evidently other letters that no longer exist.  Though in good health, his “great hopes of being speedily liberated” had fallen through because of the “inattention” of the universally reviled American agent, Reuben G. Beasley.  Richard was placing his hopes in peace talks, but he did not expect too much:

I cannot form any great hopes upon by reason of the great reinforcement now sending to America and also by the infatuation of the Regency of this Country who publicly assert that may affect a division between the northern and southern States and thereby overthrow the independency of America now that she stands a single enemy against them.[43]


            This was Richard’s last known letter from Chatham; on November 26, he wrote from the infamous Dartmoor Prison.[44]  While he does not explain his transfer, some time in August or immediately after that month, the British had removed the Americans from the Crown Prince Frederic to Dartmoor.  Surely, Richard was part of this mass transfer.[45]


By this time his family’s fortunes had changed.  He had heard news from follow citizens of New London of the death of his father, Joseph:

of all of misfortunes cups this is the bitterest for me to swallow.  had I been at home at the mournful event I might have been the better reconciled to it.  I might also have been able to contribute that assistance was requisite to a tender and most disconsolate Mother.

He did take consolation, however, that his younger brother, John, was now of age and was

qualified to take charge of the family affairs which were in a very intricate situation at the time of my leaving home, and also to assist his Mother in advising and settling the younger Brothers which is a task he ought to consider as indispensably devolved upon him through the involuntary and coercive absence of an elder Brother, a charge that he ought to consider that he can be none too delicate in performing.[46]


In that same letter, Richard turned his attentions to describing “the horrors of Dartmoor,” a task he felt

inadequate to paint.  the distress that prevails is almost incomprehensible.  the bleak situation and ruinous state of the Prison obliges us to make use of our blankets, hamocs, and other articles of covering to prevent the weather from beating upon us.  the daily accounts of mortality from the Hospital is from six to eight which might be prevented were we more comfortably situated and proper attention given to us.

In truth, Dartmoor was a mixed bag, with some suffering harsh conditions and most, most of the time, faring quite well, given their incarceration.  As doubtless many a prisoner before and since, Richard vowed that should he be restored to liberty, he would take “any means to defend myself for I would rather sacrifice my existance than again to be dragged to this place as food for vermin.”  And the chances of being restored to his liberty?  While Richard had lost hope that there would soon be peace, he allowed, “There is at present more hopes of an exchange when I may one more be able to restore to your embraces of a long long lost ........ but affectionate Son.”[47]


            A month later on December 24, 1814, the Americans and British signed the Treaty of Ghent, in Ghent, The Netherlands, which formally ended the War of 1812, although the British told their prisoners about it only three months later.  On December 31, a week after the treaty-signing at Ghent, agent Beasley visited his countrymen at Dartmoor for the first and last time.  He brought them extra clothing but little else.  Because he did not have a plan for prisoner transportation, not only did the Americans already at Dartmoor continue to languish after the peace, but the British continued adding to the prisoners’ ranks well into March 1815.[48]  Despite Richard’s hopes for a prisoner exchange and a peace treaty, he was among those who continued to suffer at Dartmoor.


            Fully aware at last that peace had been signed, Richard wrote again on April 1.  He assured his brother, Joshua, that he was in good health, “which task, believe me, will always be embraced with extreme pleasure.”  Because of the family’s situation, he declared his wish to get home, but he had responsibilities and needed money:

the embarrassing state of my affairs in France demands my immediate return to that Country necessary previous to my return to America and am now only waiting the arrival of my Passport to set out to rejoin the Brig in which left home.  to obtain as settlement with the Armateurs[49] of the T.B. Yankee is attended with great difficulty and also requires my appearance in that Country indispensably necessary for as much as I wish once more to rejoin my Friends and as highly as I prize the security of my Mother and Brothers, I cannot think of returning to them without first endeavoring to secure what may be justly my dues, the earning of which have been attended with as many difficulties and disappointments—for to return home after a tedious absence of four years without a farthing to bless myself with and thereby exposed to the censure and ridicule of the more fortunate is what I cannot at present think of without extreme pain.[50]


            Richard was clearly tired and despaired of his life at sea: “Should everything on my arrival at France answer my expectations, I am in hopes of being able to realize sufficient to settle myself in some permanent business on shore, without being necessiated to follow the precarious employment of the Seas for a livelyhood.”  Noting postwar, economic dislocations, he promised Joshua,

I shall make it my business to return home from France as soon as possible, when I am in hopes of finding you engaged in some mechanical trade which is far preferable to following the Seas in the present fluctuating state of affairs not only at home but also throughout all Christendom, as (no doubt) you will be able to perceive in the Public Prints.[51]


            After castigating his brother, John, for not fulfilling “the duty which he owes to an absent Brother” by not writing, he returned to his understandable despair toward a sailor’s life.

you will give my warmest love to our Brother William.  tell him that I am really unhappy to learn that he has embraced a Sailors profession and am fearful that he will find when too late that there is nothing permanent to be expected from it but Chagrin and Disapointments which I have learnt to my Sorow.[52]

Aware of his own duties, he admonished William,

you will remember my warmest duty and affections to our tender and beloved Mother and tell her that the irreparable loss of our much lamented Father is felt in the most sensible manner by me, the subject being too tender to comment upon I shall refer it until I may be able to offer personally that duty that her unhappy situation my require.  in the meantime I would have you to offer every duty that is the merit of so invaluable a Mother, also during the absence of your Brothers to make it your immediate care to render every assitance in your power that her aged situation may require—you will recollect that it is your eldest Brother who calls upon you to fulfill those duties for him, which his absence precludes him from, and which on his return he will sacredly consider as a duty devolved upon him.[53]






            Two weeks later on April 16, Richard announced to brother Joshua that he was back in Morlaix, “emancipated from the horrors of captivity and once more restored to the blessings of liberty.”[54]  He hoped to arranged his affairs so that he could leave “in about a month.”  He asked Joshua to tell members of the crew of the True-Blooded Yankee that he been empowered “to act in their behalf,” but at the moment he could do nothing for himself or them.  Richard had learned that some of the True-Blooded Yankee’s prizes had gotten to ports in the United States, and he advised that “it would be prudent for them to seized upon such parts of them as may fall to the Armateurs as soon they may learn at what Ports they have arrived.”  Richard promised he would do everything he could to get “their accounts so as for them to be able to know the amount of what is due to them.”[55]


            Richard turned to French politics—the period when Napoleon had returned to power during what has come to be called “The Hundred Days.”[56]  He sympathetically viewed the directions he thought France was heading.  every thing appears to be in perfect state of tranquility in this Country,” he wrote.

the Emperor is universally acknowledged and it is next to an impossibility for any foreign coalition to again hurl him from that throne that nations have called him to.  it is the cry of all the inhabitants that they are determined to have who they please for a monarch and not to be dictated by any foreign Potentates whatever they wish their Sovereign not to interfere with the concerns of any nation whatever, but denounce vengeance against those who may interfere with theirs.  this determination they appear to be well able to support.[57]


            Richard finished his letter by noting that his health was “much better than it was” when he had left “that abode of horror and misery Dartmoor.”  He also noted that he had forwarded to Joshua “a package of letters & papers.”[58]


            Five months later, in mid-September, Richard again wrote Joshua.  It was a quick note, because “the Capt by whom I forward this is only waiting the tide for his departure.”  He reminded Joshua of his springtime optimism that he would soon return home, in “command of the Brig given me in which I left the U.S. and having a more advantageous lay than I could expect to receive in any Vessel at home.”  Now, however, Richard had “concluded to remain in this capricious Country sometime longer.”  Richard explained that in about three weeks he was going to Ostend.[59]  At that time, he would be able to provide more detail about his plans.[60]


            On January 25, 1816, Richard wrote his mother with good news.  After the obligatory salutations he explained that his ship, which had been in Ostend for two months, was “now on the point of sailing for Lisbon[61] for which place I have obtained freight and from thence return to Antwerp[62] to be ready to receive a freight for the U States, I believe to Baltimore.”[63]  Richard had just returned “from the frontiers of Germany,” where he had been working to get “freight for America, the reason of not immediately receiving it is on account of the expensive duties now existing in the U States.”[64]


            Apparently, those plans fell through. On June 1, he wrote his mother another short note.  He was about to leave Antwerp for France where there was a cargo waiting to go to the United States, where he hoped to be by August.  Feeling sympathy for Europeans in general and likely the French in particular, he explained why it was so difficult to find cargoes so that he could return home:

The unhappy and distressed situation that this Country is placed in by the wars of Monarchs against their subjects has renders all commerce so fluctuating that its merely impossible to obtain a return Cargo for vessels direct from America and compels most of the Americans to return in ballast.[65]  to attempt to describe the situation of this part of Europe is impossible.  suffice it to say that the Allies, in abandoning it, completely relieved it of every thing but Misery which will occupy the inhabitants a great number of years to relieve themselves from.[66]


            Seven weeks later on July 6, Richard joyfully wrote William from Morlaix that he had received three letters from home—after having long complained about not receiving any from friends or family,

my sentiments in the reading of them I am not able to describe, although I had already learned (from some of our fellow schoolmates) the most of the contents.  but being the first direct news from the family since my departure [five years earlier in 1811], and during my tedious absence makes their value inestimable.  to be able to learn of the good health of our dear Mother is the very acme of my happiness.  the establishment of my Brothers is also what I am happy to learn.

He then turned to the poor, international, commercial trade, which was haunting his ability to return home:

as for myself, my situation is almost indescribable.  should Commerce be properly established I have every expectation of shortly being able to return once more to my home with my head above water notwithstanding the many misfortunes that have fallen upon my back since leaving my home. . . .  should I return to the U.S. I will in inform you at what time, and where you will find me, wishing to have you for about one year with me.[67]


            Two weeks later, Richard wrote William from Morlaix.  He was engaged in removing the sheathing from the bottom of his ship and replacing it with copper.[68]  As soon as he had information about his destination, he promised to tell his family.[69]


            Matters did not go as well as Richard had hoped.  On Oct. 7, 1816, he wrote William from Bordeaux, “You will undoubtedly be surprised to receive news of me from this place which a few weeks since was unexpected to me, having unfortunately lost the Brig that I was in.  I have proceeded on here in order to obtain a passage once more to my native Country.”  His plan to sail home as captain of a vessel laden with cargo had fallen through.

the misfortune that I speak of, happened on my sailing from Morlaix through fault of my Pilot who had the goodness to place me in as fine a situation as he possibly could find to entirely ruin the vessel, and most of the Cargo in a few hours of time.  I was fully loaded with a Cargo consisting mostly of linens of different qualities and some articles of provisions bound to Port au Prince (St. Domingo) when this misfortune happened to me.

Sadly, he had put everything he had earned since his liberation into his adventure plus all the credit he had been able to get.  Fortunately, however, his French creditors behaved “very honourably . . . in forcing the sales of the Auction on my damaged articles at so high a price that I was able to answer all my Creditors to their full demands.”  Still, Richard was left “with a bare sufficiency for getting home.”[70]


            His experiences of the last several years had left him despondent:

had this been the first misfortune that ever happened to me I might perhaps afflict myself more, but as Madame Adversity troubles herself so much with my affairs I begin almost to look on her as my Step Mother and by force reconcile myself to her favours in the end hoping she prove like most other Ladies a little capricious and place her affections on some other favorite.

He added, “I am really happy that Joshua has not embraced a Sailors life as at present it is so precarious that almost any occupation is to be held in preference.”  Finally, Richard promised William, “If I can find any employ from this place previous to the sailing of the vessel that I have engaged my passage in, I shall certainly embrace it owing to the stagnation of all Commerce in the US.”[71]


            Again in Bordeaux in mid-November, Richard once more wrote William.  He apologized for writing, “instead of forwarding myself personally which I should have done, was it not for the entire stagnation of all Commerce in the U. States.”  He did, however, have some good news.  He was now First Officer aboard the brig Amazon of Philadelphia, “with the promise of commanding her on the arrival at New Orleans, the place of her destination.”  He had engaged his passage for New York, but when offered this position, he considered it,

preferable to embarking as a passenger, runing the hazard of passing the winter idle, and perhaps in the end, not able to better the present offer.  The earnest desire that I have to embrace my Mother and Brothers renders my late misfortune double distressing for previous to that I was so situated as to enable me to entertain hopes of shortly visiting you in easy circumstances.”

In lieu of returning directly himself, he sent a present:

I send you by Mr Robertson Mate of the Ship Minerva, of New York, my Portrait, who promises to forward it immediately on to you.  it will be attended with a small phial of Varnish which ought to be immediately put onto it very lightly after washing the painting perfectly clean.  if there shuold be any expences of duties Mr. Robertson will inform you by letter.

Hoping to leave Bordeaux in two or three weeks, Richard asked that his family should forward their letters to New Orleans.[72]


            Just one month later, Richard again wrote William from Bordeaux, announcing his imminent departure for New Orleans.[73]






            Affairs of the heart and marriage prospects preoccupied many of young Hamilton’s thoughts while away from home.  He apparently had some sort of commitment from a Miss Rogers, presumably of New London, and permission from his and her parents.[74]  Aboard the prison ship, Crown Prince Frederic, a lovelorn Richard in June 1814 asked his parents: “To Miss R.....  I wish you to present my warmest respects and beg my excuse for not writing to her, as I have to smuggle this, an addition to it would be too bulky.  I know that it is not common for Parents to be the bearer of Love dispatches, but in this case you must overlook it.[75]


            Soon at Dartmoor Prison, melancholy and nostalgic, in November 1814 he wrote his mother:

in regard to my Amour with Miss Rogers (should her sentiments with regards to me be the same as at the time of my leaving home) I would have my Brothers treat her in every way that may be due to an intended Sister.  as I am in hopes of being able on my return home to form an establishment for life.  should her sentiments be altered, which doubtedly they may know you may suppress this altogether.[76]


            Ten months after his release from English prison and back in Morlaix, Hamilton plaintively implored his brother, to tell him about Miss Rogers as he had not heard anything about her since he had left home.[77]


            By July 1816 and still in Morlaix, he had received unpleasant news.  He wrote to his brother William, expressing his hope that their brother might soon marry:

            I should be extremely happy to learn that our Brother John might be well established in business at home, or at least well enough to warrant him in marrying as undoubtedly it would be a great comfort to our aged Mother to have the society of a Daughter in the house, and can I be able to assist him in any family affairs, I will be happy to do all that lies in my power for my age, and situation will (perhaps) never allow me to establish a family.  therefore I shall always consider his as my own.

Why this resignation at age twenty-seven?  Evidently, Miss Rogers had found another whose “address” she had accepted.  He continued in that same letter to William:

            I wish you to present yourself (in my name) to Miss R. and demand those letters that I have forwarded to her as I can't altogether hold her excusable in retaining them, after she saw fit to accept the address of another.  it is true, that the length of any absence might warrant her in making another choice.  also, inform her as from me, that with whoever she may establish herself I wish she may enjoy every happiness.[78]


            Only two weeks later, he again wrote William.  He explains that he had heard news from two compatriots, the first “an officer in the Navy and appeared by his conversation to be perfectly acquainted with all the Gossips and walking Newspapers of the town,” and the second a gentleman he had seen in Antwerp.  He continued in the sad and philosophical spirit of someone who had seen and suffered much:

the hypocrisy of those who stiled themselves my Friends I am not greatly surprised at for what can one expect from those who have had so little experience with mankind as to think their conduct is or ought to be a criterion for the universe.  The conduct of Miss R. gives me so little pain that I hardly have given a thought since you have verified the reports that I had previously heard.

It seems safe to infer that Hamilton had heard that Miss Rogers had justified her behavior by claiming he had, in effect, abandoned her.  He continued: “to be unfortunate is not to be criminal.  therefore always even when all correspondence was so precarious I used every endeavor to inform her of my attachment to her either by direct or indirect means, ‘ever’ not wishing to sport with the affections of a Woman.”  As if to stress his lack of bitterness, he added, “however I wish you (in my name) to give her Brother my most sincere thanks for his attachment for me, wishing him every happiness with his amiable Consort.”[79]


            More upset over Miss Rogers than he allowed, a year later he tried to justify to Joshua his not having yet returned home after his release from Dartmoor.  He explained:

there was another attachment to my home that made me ambitious to exert my youthful tallents that filled my bosom so as to leave no vacancy for any other object that now has ceased for me and left a dreary void for another to fill.  to return and view another cobly[80] strutting in the Heaven that I was preparing for myself would be an Amertume[81] to the happiness of revisiting my aged Mother and native home.  I should have returned immediately after my Arrival in France from Prison, had I not heard a young gentleman recounting his Amours in N. London.[82]

It would seem that he had even suffered the indignity of hearing directly from the victor in the contest for Miss Rogers’ affections.


            At least for the moment, Richard gave the appearance of not long mourning love lost.  By mid-December he had written from Bordeaux, asking William to send notarized certificates attesting to the death of their father and another attesting that Richard was unmarried and that he had his mother’s permission to marry whomever he wished.  He explained that such certificates were “indispensably necessary in this Country.”  Richard declined to describe his woman in detail, but he did allow that, “the young Lady that has gained my affections is a Miss Kroger daughter to a very respectable Merchant of this City.  and as she is from a Family both able and willing to assist me in the Command of a Ship I think that both for choice and interest I could not have better pleased myself.”  He added “that she is worthy to be acknowledged by our beloved Mother as a Daughter or by my Brothers as a Sister.”  Fearing “miscarriage,” Richard advised his brother to get duplicates of the certificates; the first William was to send immediately to Bordeaux to an intermediary—“as the sooner it may arrive the better.”  The second he was to keep until he heard of Richard’s arrival in New Orleans, “from whence I will be more particular as there will be no danger of miscarriage by the Post.”  Richard asked William to assure his mother and brothers that, “that by marrying in this Country it is not my intention to abandon my home, neither is it the wish of the young Lady that I should.”  Richard closed, “recommending punctuality and speed” and asking “if possible don't let my request be known out the Family.”[83]


            Twelve days later, Richard was aboard his ship, but contrary winds on the Garrone River off Poliac[84] were delaying his voyage to New Orleans.  With his proposed betrothal much on his mind, Richard took the time to write his brother, Joshua.  He again asked for a notarized death certificate for his father and a certificate that “that I am not married at home, nor in any other part of the World to your knowledge with permission from our Mother for me to marry with the young Lady that I spoke of in my last regularly attested by a Notary Public.”  Joshua was to forward these to Bordeaux, not to the intermediary as originally he had requested, but directly to the father, Monsieur I. I. Krogër.  He added, “be careful in the manner of your writing to me and let the Family situation be as eligibly painted as you possibly can with prudence.”  Richard, after inquiring about his father’s estate, added:

            The Family that I wish to ally myself with is very respectable.  The young Lady, it is useless for me to mention, as everyone wishes to paint their own Amours in the highest of Colours.  but as the affair is not sure until the arrival of my Certificates and Letters from Home, I wish you to keep it as secret as possible.  and use the greatest expedition in forwarding them on, not doubting but it is a favour you will kindly perform where the welfare of a Brother is so materially concerned.[85]


            Richard finally arrived in New Orleans and on March 12, 1817 he wrote William, asking about the fate of the certificates he had requested.  At last, he added more detail of his “amour,” although he was still sketchy: “The Father of the young Lady is a German by by birth.  a very respectable Commercial Merchant and is herself qualified to shine in any society of Life.  she is about twenty years of age, not the greatest of Beauties, but is, as far as I can discover possessed of sweet, amiable, character.”  Richard promised that soon after they married, they would visit, when they could judge her for themselves.  He again asked his brother, “not to mention the affair to anyone out of our own immediate Family as it is useless to publish an affair of this nature until it is passed.”[86]


            Richard wrote nothing more about his amours.  For whatever reason, his proposed betrothal with Miss Krogër never flowered into marriage.






            As he had promised in his last letter to William from Bordeaux in December 1816, Richard returned to the United States.  On March 12, 1817, Richard was able to write William from New Orleans.

            It is with the greatest of pleasure that I inform you of my safe arrival at this Place as also our Beloved Mother and Brothers, whom I am in hopes that this will find enjoying every blessing of health.  I have neglected for some days writing to you in expectations of receiving news from you and also in hopes of informing you in what manner I might place myself.  but the great stagnation of Commerce has greatly frustrated my expectations.[87]  but I have every reason to hopes that in few weeks I may able to write you under more favorable circumstances, although at present I cannot call myself badly situated.

Richard worried for his brother and his choice of occupations:

            you mention to me that you are engaged in the Smack fishery, let me caution you (my dear Brother) against imbibing too many of their idle habits and conduct.  you will certainly allow me to advise from experience being perfectly acquainted with their technical terms and phrases, which may well serve in their particular society, but will appear rather insipid when some more proffitable employment may call you from them, which I am greatly in hopes may shortly be the case.[88]


            From New Orleans, having just returned from the “Coast of Mexico” where he had “made a short voyage in an armed Brig to protect our trade against the Corsairs Patriotic (or rather Pirates of Mexico),[89] on November 1, 1817, Richard answered a letter Joshua.  He pridefully explained why he had not yet returned home:

            you ardently request me to return to that home that was once the very height of my happiness, and still so anxiously desired by me.  but why return in the present stagnation of Commerce to northward?  to pull of my hat and beg for employ from those that I am now totally a stranger to?  no.  that I can’t do.  for to meet those that once saw me in a prosperous situation among Strangers would be an alloy for the great happiness of once again kissing my beloved Mother and Brothers.

Hurt at accusations of indifference, he justified his long absence from home:

            your letter almost accuses me of being estranged from my Family and Friends, but believe me that that idea is altogether erroneous for had their minds been as much occupied with me as mine burned to hear from them I shold not for four years so ardently requested an answer to the many letters that I wrote.  the Portrait that I sent was to supply the place (as I then thought of a forgotten Brother, but opportunity for corespondence having oppened I have learned that I have still an aged and affectionate Mother and considerate and loving Brothers interested in my welfare.[90]


            On March 18, 1818, from Campeche,[91] Mexico, Richard wrote his mother describing a traumatic, “almost unparalled shipwreck” his vessel, the Tippo Saib, had suffered on February 3.  Bound for Mexico, “our Commerce not allowing a too near approach we anchored about ten Leagues to the Southward in the open Sea in about 4 fathoms of water.”  The next night, a gale struck from the north, “and our vessel being under jury spars (having in a previous gale broke the head of the Fore Mast) we were forced to ride by our anchors.”  The ship began striking bottom, the bilges filled, and the seas were breaking over the ship so that the small boats, with only some of the crew aboard, could no longer stay close to the ship.  Richard dramatically continued:

by remaining on board to endeavour to stop the confusion of, and encourage the Seamen, I lost my passage in the Launch, and seeing no possibility of gaining either of the boats, by reason of the Sea being strewed with pieces of the wreck, I with difficulty mounted the stump of Fore Mast, the only Spar then standing

After securing himself, he saw an officer and seamen swept over the stern.

and hanging to different fragments of the wreck to the leeward of me, such as gained light pieces drove so far to leeward as to be saved by the boat the most of the remainder were either killed or drowned among the wreck of the deck plank and spars washed from the main part of the wreck

Richard explained his salvation:

            The Vessel breaking up let the Foremast in the water, and finding impossible to remain in that situation any longer, and seeing the Stern disengaged from the hull, I swam to it and commenced driving to the leeward, in a direction nearly parallel with the shore.

            I remained driving in this manner with the Sea breaking over me and washing my cloathes from off me with no other nourishment that a piece of green hide with which one of the boom crutches were lined for two days, when I was taken off by a small Spanish Schooner.

His rescuers took him, the sole surviving officer, to Laguna[92] and then to the city of Campeche, “on acct. of the Cargo that we had landed.”[93]


            Only eleven months later on February 21, 1819 and a day before setting sail to return to New Orleans, was Richard again able to write his mother.  He had been detained and “debared from every opportunity of informing of my situation.”  He added information about his wreck.  The Tippo Saib had sailed from New Orleans bound for Campeche, but a few days out the hull suffered damage.  The crew spent “a long time at sea repairing damages to enable her to proceed.”  Arriving at their destination,

a Spanish Brig was dispatched to receive her Cargo, and immediately after receiving it, the two vessels were driven from that coast by a severe gale from the north, which the Tippo Saib, being unable to weather, was cast on the banks between this Laguna and totally lost with the Captain and [most] of the Crew.  the Spanish Brig, seeing our fate but unable to assist us, bore up and run for this Port.

The authorities then took control of the cargo “as there was no manner of proof in what manner or where it was shipped, excepting the declaration of the Captain and Crew who declaring received from a vessel dismasted at Sea, and after wrecked on the Banks, with the probability of the loss of the Crew.”  A year-long law suit to restore the cargo began.[94]


            As the sole surviving officer, Richard made “a claim of the property in behalf of the Owners, until an agent for them might arrive empowered to support their defence and demand a restitution of their property.”  Fortunately Richard had managed to save every document regarding the vessel and its cargo, and thus “we were fully able to frustrate every action commenced against the Cargo.  after a tedious and dissagreeable length of time, which in any other than a Spanish country, would have been decided in less than two months they having nothing but suspicion to support their action.”[95]


            The Spanish confined Richard, and, as he put it in a later letter, “the four first months was none too agreeable being in a strict state of confinement in that burning clime and debarred from every manner of communication till finding they were unable to frighten me, they placed me in a more eligible situation until a demand was made for me by the government of the U.S. when I was immediately restored to liberty.”[96]  They eventually improved his situation, although he did complain of the heat.[97]


            Richard next wrote Joshua from New Orleans on March 13, 1819.  He explained that the Tippo Saib had been fitted out in New Orleans to take a cargo invoiced at $400,000 to the coast of Mexico, where “suitable vessels” would meet the ship “to convey the Cargo to its destination.  Having discarged the cargo, bad weather forced the ship “to run near the port of Campeachy for shelter.”  The Tippo Saib then foundered on the shore.  To Richard’s surprise, he “found one of the Vessels, containing the greatest part of the Cargo, under seizure, having been forced there by the same gale in which the Tippo Saib was lost.”  Because Richard was the only surviving officer, he became the ship’s representative “until some one might arrive empowered by the owners to defend the action commence against the goods contained in said vessel, then under seizure.”  Once that agent had arrived, the Spanish authorities sent Richard to the capital and excluded him “from all communication purposely to embarass” the defense “or to exact a heavier bribe “than he had already offered.  The Spanish found it impossible “to debar” him from writing the owner’s representative.  The “convincing justice of his case and a bribe of $50,000 won the “tedious” twelve months.  The Spanish allowed him to leave immediately.  He was pleased that his “health during my detention in that burning climate was much better than I could have expected, after my great

sufferings at the time of the loss of the vessel.”  Richard confided to his brother that his voyage had not been “as lucrative” as he had hoped, but it had not lost money.  Richard did not yet know his next steps as the merchant for whom he was working, Paul Lanusse,[98] wanted him to stay in New Orleans for a few weeks, when he would have a vessel for him in the French trade.[99]


            Again from New Orleans, on April 2, 1819, Richard wrote Joshua that he was confident in finding permanent employment through Paul Lanusse.  He had given Richard the command of a brig, but he did not know when he would go to sea, “as at this season trade is generated at a stand here, owing to the low state of the waters in the back Country debaring the decent of produce for exportation.”[100]


            This is the last of Richard’s extant letters.



            Despite his earlier skepticism about ever finding a mate, on July 3, 1822 Richard married Mary Williams.  Born on March 7, 1798 in Stonington, Connecticut, her family had lived in Connecticut since at least the late seventeenth century.  Little is known about Richard’s life after these letters, other than a little about his children.  He died on March 26, 1845, presumably in New London.



            His son, Judge Hamilton respectfully described Richard as “an enterprising man . . . finely educated, and an astronomer.”  His memory of his father’s stories, however, was muddled.  Richard had not commanded a privateer.  The judge conflated Richard’s two wrecks into one, and he mistakenly associated his capture by the British with that one wreck.  His story about his father’s dramatic rescue off the coast of France clearly came from the events off Campeche.  Richard did not escape from Dartmoor.  As for the story of the fortune teller, it presumably happened in New Orleans—if true.  It is, however, too good a story to not want it to be.






            The New Englander, Richard Hamilton, is my great, great, great-grandfather.  His daughter, Mary Hamilton, was born in 1823 in New London and died in 1913 in Brooklyn, New York, where she had moved to be with her husband.  Their daughter, Ella Hamilton Bailey, lived her entire life in Brooklyn, where she died in 1927.  One of her sons, Joseph Calvitt Clarke (3), was born in Brooklyn and was my grandfather.


            This has posed a question for me.  He received the names of his paternal father and grandfather, both named Joseph Calvitt Clarke.  The family hailed from New Orleans, where his father had been born in 1848.  At some point, Joseph (2) moved to Brooklyn and came to marry a girl from the neighborhood, Ella.  The question is, Why did Joseph Calvitt Clarke move from New Orleans to Brooklyn?  See “The 'I' in History: An Historian's Self-Indulgent Foray into Family History: The Calvet's from France to the American Frontier.


            My working hypothesis is that Richard Hamilton, while in New Orleans and as a ship’s captain working for one of New Orleans’ leading citizens, Paul Lanusse, socialized with the city’s upper crust.  This would include the Clarke family, where Joseph Calvitt Clarke (1) was an important attorney and judge and whose own father, Joshua Giles Clarke had been the Mississippi’s first Chancellor.  I am supposing that the families kept contact, and perhaps provoked by the travails attending the Civil War, part of the family moved north to Brooklyn.  I hope to unravel the story of this branch of my family.


[1] After Richard Hamilton, his wife held the letters.  On her death, they passed to her son, Richard II.  How did photocopies of these letters get to the Mariners Museum of Norfolk, VA?  “The copies of the Hamilton letters came to the museum in the mid-1970's from a private donor in Midlothian, Virginia.  Unfortunately, there is no supporting documentation with the donation that provides provenance on the collection, nor do I have any record of the current location of the originals.  Email, Bill Barker (Mariners Museum), July 08, 2009.  Judge Hamilton’s letter came to me as part of a small collection of family papers my father had.

[2] In the course of the War of 1812, over 20,000 American seamen were at one time or another held prisoner by the British at Dartmoor Prison.  All spellings, punctuations, and underlining are as in this letter and those of Richard Hamilton.

[3] Joseph Hamilton to Kate Hamilton, Albion, Nebraska, June 3, 1906.

[4] Joseph Hamilton was born on Aug. 19, 1757 in East Greenwich, Rhode Island.  His family was in Rhode Island before the start of the eighteenth century.  Joseph married Rebecca Hempstead in 1783, probably in New London, Connecticut.  Her family had lived in New London from before the mid-seventeenth century.  Their child, Richard, was born on Apr. 2, 1789.  Richard’s siblings were Joseph, Joshua, William, and John.  The elder Joseph Hamilton died in 1814.

[5] Morlaix is on the coast of Brittany, France.

[6] A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts, and, to improve maneuverability, the mainmast also carried a small, fore-and-aft sail.  Fast and maneuverable, brigs served as war ships and as merchant vessels.  They were especially popular in the 18th- and early 19th-centuries.

[7] During the Napoleonic Wars, Napoleon Bonaparte retaliated against Britain’s blockade of the French Empire with his own Continental System, enacted by the Berlin Decree of 1806 and the Milan Decree of 1807.  Further restricting American trade, the Decree of Bayonne of 1808 responded to the American Embargo Act of 1807.  These decrees resulted in a virtual blockade of the British Isles and specified that neutral ships complying with British regulations could be seized and their crews interned, when they reached European ports.  The French began seizing U.S. ships in 1807.  And in 1810 with the Decree of Rambouillet, they captured large number of U.S. ships trying to enter the ports of the French empire.  French captures actually outnumbered the British.  Napoleon’s Continental System, however, collapsed in 1811.  David S. Heidler and Jeanne T. Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia of the War of 1812 (Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1997), 48, 348, 441, 521; Greg H. Williams, The French Assault on American Shipping, 1793-1813: A History and Comprehensive Record of Merchant Marine Losses (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Co., 2009), pp.

[8] Tréguier is in the Cotes d'Armor department to the north of Brittany.

[9] The impressment of American seamen by the British was one of the causes of the War of 1812.  The Fourth Congress on May 28, 1796 authorized the Seamen's Protection Certificates to protect American merchant seamen from impressment.  The application records are in the Old Military and Civil Branch at the National Archives.  After about 1815, the impressment of seamen ceased, but the Seamen's Protection Certificates had proved to be a valuable form of identification and continued to be issued until just before the Civil War.  The government briefly resumed the practice during the World War I era.  Because the purpose of the Seaman's Protection Certificate was to identify individuals clearly, applications required a seaman’s name, age, place of birth, and a physical description, all attested to by a knowledgeable person or documentation.  Public officials and notaries devised their own application forms to suit their fancy; some were simple and some flamboyant.  The physical description usually included height; color of hair, eyes, complexion, and distinguishing marks such as tattoos, birthmarks, scars, or disfigurements.  Sometimes they included the shape of the nose, chin, and face.  Ruth Priest Dixon, “Genealogical Fallout from the War of 1812,” Prologue Magazine 24 (Spr. 1992): pp. no. 1.

            Richard Hamilton’s certificate, issued on Sept. 30, 1805, marked his birth place as New London, Connecticut; his age as 16; his complexion as darkish; and his height as 5’ 9”.  It also noted a scar between toes of his right foot.  Customs District: New London; Date issued, Sept. 30, 1805; and Certificate Number, 3447. Seamen’s Protection Certificate Register Database, Mystic Seaport,, accessed Sept. 29, 2009.  The Mystic Seaport: The Museum of America and the Sea has provided a copy of the original page with Richard Hamilton’s application for a protection certificate.

[10] CK 79 (2): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Sept. 4, 1811.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.

[14] Jonathan Russell, 1771-1832.  In 1810, President James Madison named Russell Chargé d’Affaires in Paris.  Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 456-57.

[15] Jean Diot’s tenure as American consul on Morlaix spanned from the American Revolutionary War through the War of 1812.

[16] At the beginning of the 17th century, merchants who were trading with India had established warehouses in Port-Louis in Brittany on the Atlantic Ocean.  In 1628, they built additional warehouses across the bay, at the location soon called L'Orient [the Orient].

[17] CK 79 (2): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Sept. 4, 1811.

[18] A cartel was an agreement between two belligerent powers for the delivery of prisoners or deserters, and a cartel ship was a vessel commissioned in time of war to exchange prisoners or to carry any proposals between hostile powers.  It could not carry cargo, ammunition, or implements of war, except a single gun for signals.

[19] CK 79 (2): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Sept. 4, 1811.

[20] CK 79 (3): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Oct. 1, 1811.

[21] Napoleon Bonaparte, 1769-1821.  General, First Consul, and Emperor of the French.  Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 368-70.  The Emperor annexed Holland to France in 1810, and in Sept. the following year, he and his Empress visited the province to inspect its civil and religious administrations.

[22] Located in a sheltered position not far from the western tip of the Breton Peninsula in Brittany, Brest was an important seaport and naval base.

[23] Bologne (Boulogne) (or Boulogne-Sur-Mer) is an important port and fishing town in Northern France south of Calais and opposite the port of Dover.

[24] Drafts.

[25] CK 79 (1): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Nov. 20, 1811.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Jersey is the largest of nine Channel Islands in the English Channel between north western France and southern England.

[28] CK 79 (1): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Nov. 20, 1811.

[29] USS Hornet (1805-1829), a 441-ton brig-sloop built at Baltimore, Maryland, commissioned in Oct. 1805.  She operated along the U.S. Atlantic coast and in the Mediterranean until decommissioned in late 1807.  Recommissioned a year later, she again cruised in U.S. waters and took dispatches to Europe.  In 1811 Hornet was converted to a ship-sloop at the Washington Navy Yard, D.C.  See Naval Historical Center,, accessed July 6, 2009.  Also see Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 243-44.

[30] Joel Barlow, 1754-1812.  In 1811, Barlow became U.S. Minister to France.  The year before, Napoleon had suggested that France would stop enforcing the Berlin and Milan Decrees if the United States stropped trading with Britain.  Yet French depredations against American shipping continued.  So the poet-diplomat had two goals: to receive payments for the illegal seizure of US ships and to secure normal commercial relations with the French.  Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 37.

[31] CK 79 (4): Joseph Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Feb. 4, 1812.

[32] The French invasion of Russia of 1812 was a turning point in the Napoleonic Wars.  When he invaded, Napoleon was at the height of his power with almost all of continental Europe either directly or indirectly under his control.  Although Napoleon had intensively prepared for provisioning his army, the efforts proved inadequate.  The Grand Armée suffered huge losses during the march to Moscow in the summer and autumn, and during its retreat from Moscow that winter, starvation, desertion, typhus, and suicide robbed it of more men than had actual combat.

[33] France and the Allied Powers of Spain, the United Kingdom, and Portugal fought the Peninsular War for control of the Iberian Peninsula during the Napoleonic Wars.  The war began when French armies invaded Portugal in 1807 and Spain in 1808 and lasted until the Sixth Coalition defeated Napoleon in 1814.  Napoleon's failure to pacify the people of Spain allowed Spanish, British and Portuguese forces to secure Portugal and engage French forces on the frontiers while Spanish guerrillas bled the occupiers.  Years of fighting in Spain gradually wore down Napoleon's famous Grande Armée.  In 1812, with France gravely weakened following Napoleon's failure of Russia, a combined allied army pushed into Spain and liberated Madrid.  War and revolution against Napoleon's occupation led to the Spanish Constitution of 1812, which became a cornerstone of European liberalism.  The cumulative crises and disruptions of invasion, revolution, and restoration led to the independence of many of Spain's American colonies.  See Part 6.

[34] CK 79 (4): Joseph Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Feb. 4, 1812.

[35] George Coggeshall, History of the American Privateers, and Letters-of Marque, During Our War with England in the Years 1812, ’13 and’14.  Interspersed with Several Naval Battles Between American and British Ships-of-War (New York: Published by and for the Author, 1856), 149, notes that the True-Blooded Yankee captured the ship Industry, and sent it to Bergen, Norway, to be sold.  This could be the ship Richard commanded.  For more on the True-Blooded Yankee’s successful career, see, 168, 202-04; also see Edgar Stanton Maclay, A History of American Privateers (New York: D. Appleton & Co., 1899), 274-77, 356.

[36] CK 79 (5): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Chatham, England, Dec. 15, 1813.

[37] For life aboard British prison ships, see Francis Abell, Prisoners of War in Britain, 1756 to 1815: A Record of Their Lives, Their Romance, and Their Sufferings (London: Oxford University Press, 1914), 37-91, esp., 82-91 for the prison hulks at Chatham; for specific mention of the Crown Prince, see 79, 82, 84-90, 152.

[38] That is, social class.  Richard, apparently, was a bit of a gentlemanly and a Puritan-descented snob.

[39] Since the Revolution, the American merchant navy had provided employment for free Negroes, and in these years, the regular American Navy also recruited black seamen.  The British imprisoned many of them on the prison hulks.  When the first Americans reached Dartmoor in Apr. 1813, their captors scattered them among the French barracks, but in May the British moved all of the Americans into No. 4 Barracks along with nearly a thousand French.  In the next eighteen months, as more Americans came into the prison and as the French left after the end of the European war in the spring of 1814, the Americans occupied five of the barracks.  Of the Americans sent to Dartmoor about one out of seven was black.  At first, the British mixed blacks with other prisoners, but by early 1814 whites had petitioned that blacks receive separate quarters, arguing that they were dirty by habit and thieves by nature.  It would seem that Richard participated in this petition or at least sympathized with it.  At first, the British segregated blacks in the upper stories of No. 4, but by Sept. nearly all whites had moved out of the building.  No. 4 remained the black barracks until the late spring of 1815, when with numbers at Dartmoor sharply reduced, the prisoners were again integrated.  Reginald Horsman, “The Paradox of Dartmoor Prison,” American Heritage 26 (Feb. 1975): pp. Issue 2 (on web); Abell, Prisoners, 251.

[40] H.B.M’s service, His British Majesty’s Service.  At the time of ratification of the treaty, 2,500 of Dartmoor’s prisoners were impressed American seamen, who had refused to fight in the British Navy against their countrymen when the War of 1812 broke out.  Benson John Lossing, The Pictorial Field-Book of the War of 1812, or, Illustrations, by Pen and Pencil, of the History, Biography, Scenery, Relics, and Traditions of the Last War for American Independence (New York: Harper & Brothers, Publishers, 1869), 1068.  Richard, himself, wrote, “there are now in this Depot [Dartmoor] about 5,500, nearly 2,000 which were impressed into the service of this Country previous to and have surrendered themselves as prisoners since the War.” CK 79 (7): Richard Hamilton to Widow of Joseph Hamilton, Dartmoor Prison, Dartmoor, England, Nov. 26, 1814.

[41] CK 79 (5): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Crown Prince Prison Ship, Chatham, England, Dec. 15, 1813.

[42] Ibid.

[43] CK 79 (6): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Crown Prince Prison Ship, Chatham, England, June 15, 1814.

[44] Before the spring of 1813, American prisoners in England had languished on hulks at Plymouth, Chatham, and Portsmouth, but beginning in Apr. of that year a steady stream of these prisoners went to prisons on land.  By far the most infamous was Dartmoor, where the British kept 6,500 hundred Americans to the early summer of 1815.  It was a prison of remarkable contrasts: harsh conditions on the one hand and prosperous, village-like life on the other.  Both the British and the American governments provided the basic necessities for the prisoners, and quarrels over the exact responsibility of each meant at times that the two governments ignored prisoner needs.  From the spring of 1814, Washington agreed to supply the necessary clothing through its London agent for prisoners, Reuben G. Beasley, but there was still notable neglect and delay.

            Surprisingly, there was a good deal of money circulating in Dartmoor.  The allowance given by the American government to each prisoner allowed some trade.  Many seamen discharged from British ships as Americans received prize money and wages; some with prosperous families were able to have money sent to them from the United States; some worked for the British as tradesmen and other jobs.  Even counterfeiting added to the available money supply.  The single most important opportunity for the seamen to spend their money, and to make some, was the market held every day except Sunday from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

            After the Treaty of Ghent ended the War of 1812, the British assumed the Americans would provide the necessary ships for prisoner repatriation, but neither the American government nor its agent, Beasley, moved with haste.  Beasley, long disliked by prisoners for his neglect, now became an object of loathing.  On Mar. 25, 1815, prisoners hung and burnt his effigy.

            Only two weeks later and facing unruly prisoners, jittery guards on Apr. 6, fired on them, killing 7 and wounding 31.  The tragedy convinced the British that they could no longer wait for Beasley and the American government to provide the vessels for repatriation.  The British allowed those who could provide for themselves to leave immediately, and London decided to send the rest of the prisoners home at joint British-American expense, ships to be provided immediately and the details of cost worked out later.  Horsman, “Paradox of Dartmoor Prison,” pp. and Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 143-44.  For life at Dartmoor, see Abell, Prisoners, 235-61; Charles Andrews, The Prisoners' Memoirs, or, Dartmoor Prison; Containing a Complete and Impartial History of the Entire Captivity of the Americans in England, From the Commencement of the Late War Between the United States and Great Britain, Until All Prisoners were Released by the Treaty of Ghent. Also, a Particular Detail of All Occurrences Relative to that Horrid Massacre at Dartmoor, on the Fatal Evening of the 6th of April, 1815 (New York: Printed for the author, 1815); and Maclay, History of American Privateers, 367-78.

[45] Abell, Prisoners, 90.  Judge Hamilton seems to be mistaken in his belief that his father had escaped before the massacre at Dartmoor.

[46] CK 79 (7): Richard Hamilton to Widow of Joseph Hamilton, Dartmoor Prison, Dartmoor, England, Nov. 26, 1814.  In several letters Richard refered to the delicate situation his family was in when he left.  He never described or explained the problems the Hamilton family faced.

[47] CK 79 (7): Richard Hamilton to Widow of Joseph Hamilton, Dartmoor Prison, Dartmoor, England, Nov. 26, 1814.

[48] Heidler and Heidler, eds., Encyclopedia, 144; Abell, Prisoners, 84, 86, 249-1, 254, 258.

[49] French, a person who arms and deploys a ship he owns; an outfitter.

[50] CK 79 (8): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Dartmoor Prison, England, Apr. 1, 1815.

[51] Ibid.

[52] Ibid.

[53] Ibid.

[54] Judge Joshua Hamilton in 1906 wrote that Richard had escaped Dartmoor about a week before the massacre of Americans on Apr. 6, 1815.  In the extant letters, Richard does not mention how he left Dartmoor.  His last letter from the prison was on Apr. 1, and by the time of his next letter on Apr. 26 he was already in Morlaix.  The British released the first group of Americans on Apr. 20 and the rest several days later.  See Abell, Prisoners, 254-55.  It seems most likely that he left Dartmoor among the released Americans.

[55] CK 79 (9): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Apr. 26, 1815.

[56] Napoleon returned from exile on Elba while the Congress of Vienna was sitting.  On Mar. 13, 1815, the powers at the Congress of Vienna declared him an outlaw; four days later the United Kingdom, Russia, Austria and Prussia, members of the Seventh Coalition, bound themselves to put 150,000 men each into the field to end his rule.  This set the stage for the last conflict in the Napoleonic Wars, the Emperor’s defeat at the Battle of Waterloo, the second restoration of the French monarchy on July 8, and the permanent exile of Napoleon to the distant island of Saint Helena, where he died in May 1821.

[57] CK 79 (9): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Apr. 26, 1815.

[58] Ibid.

[59] Ostend a Belgian port city in the province of West Flanders.

[60] CK 79 (10): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Sept. 17, 1815.

[61] Lisbon, an important port, is the capital and largest city of Portugal.

[62] An important port city, Antwerp, now in Belgium, was then part of Kingdom of the United Netherlands (1815 to 1830).

[63] Baltimore is located in central Maryland along the tidal portion of the Patapsco River, an arm of the Chesapeake Bay.  Founded in 1729, Baltimore is closer to major Midwestern markets than any other major seaport on the East Coast.

[64] CK 79 (11): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Ostend, Belgium, Jan. 25, 1816.  The Tariff Act of 1816 was the first complete protective tariff was adopted by the United States.  The act protected the textile, hat, leather, paper, and cabinetwork industries established during the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815) and the War of 1812.  The highest duties were to remain in force only three years on the assumption that American manufacturers would adjust to the conditions of peace and hold their own against foreign competitors.  This view proved wrong, and others demanded protection, for example the wool, hemp, glassware, iron and lead industries, which led to a general upward revision of the tariff in 1824.

[65] That is, the Americans, as if they were the ballast in ships without a cargo.

[66] CK 79 (12): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Antwerp, Netherlands, June 1, 1816.

[67] CK 79 (14): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Morlaix, France July 6, 1816.

[68] Sheathing, the protective material applied to the underwater surfaces of a boat's hull to protect the planks from worms. Presumably for Hamilton’s vessel, this sheathing was pine tar payed over its bottom.  Copper sheathing was better, especially for ships making long voyages and into warm climates.  Copper, however, in sea water corrodes and requires frequent replacement.  This was a serious expense to the ship owner.

[69] CK 79 (16): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Morlaix, France, July 16, 1916.

[70] CK 79 (17): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Bordeaux, France, Oct. 7, 1816.

[71] Ibid.

[72] CK 79 (18): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Bordeaux, France, Nov. 15, 1816.

[73] CK 79 (13): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Bordeaux, France, Dec. 12, 1816.

[74] See CK 79 (1): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Nov. 20, 1811, which references a letter Hamilton likely sent from Morlaix to Mr. I. Rogers.

[75] CK 79 (6): Richard Hamilton to Joseph Hamilton, Crown Prince Prison Ship, Chatham, England, June 15, 1814.

[76] CK 79 (7): Richard Hamilton to Widow of Joseph Hamilton, Dartmoor Prison, Dartmoor, England, Nov. 26, 1814.

[77] CK 79 (10): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Morlaix, France, Sept. 17, 1815.

[78] CK 79 (14): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Morlaix, France July 6, 1816.  Richard sent this letter twice.  The one cited above was postmarked in New York on Oct. 17.  The duplicate was postmarked in New York on Nov. 1.

[79] CK 79 (16): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Morlaix, France, July 16, 1916.

[80] I believe “cobly” is the correct transcription.  I, however, do not know the meaning of the word.

[81] Amertume,” French, bitterness.

[82] CK 79 (20): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Nov. 1, 1817.

[83] CK 79 (13): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, Bordeaux, France, Dec. 12, 1816.

[84] The Garonne River plays an important role in inland shipping in France.  It allows seagoing vessels to reach the port of Bordeaux from the Atlantic Ocean and Bay of Biscay.

[85] CK 79 (19): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, Garonne River, France, Dec. 24, 1816.

[86] CK 79 (23): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Mar. 12, 1817.

[87] After the War of 1812, the American economy boomed, but by 1817, financial irregularities and irresponsibility led to the beginning of the first American recession.  Within two years, the economy fell in into the Panic of 1819 marked by a wave of bankruptcies, foreclosures, and unemployment.  This Panic was the first major financial crisis in the United States.

[88] CK 79 (23): Richard Hamilton to William Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Mar. 12, 1817.

[89] Corsairs” were French privateers, corsaire in French.  Brigands and pirates in the late 18th and early 19th centuries ranged the Gulf of Mexico.  One of their strongholds was at Galveston, Texas.  This sufficiently explains why Richard sailed “in an armed Brig to protect our trade.”  But this does not explain his use of the phrase, “Corsairs Patriotic (or rather Pirates of Mexico).”  Against the backdrop of Napoleon’s occupation of Spain, Mexico had begun its struggle for independence.  Many of the pirates involved themselves tangentially in Mexico’s War of Independence.  Perhaps a more specific answer lies in the adventures of Francisco Javier Mina.  A liberal, Mina fled Spain for England, when the Bourbon Monarchy reestablished itself in 1815.  In May 1816, having sailed from Liverpool in a small vessel with a dozen others, Mina recruited some Americans in Baltimore and elsewhere, got a few small ships, and transported his forces to the pirate stronghold in Galveston.  His group landed at Tamaulipas on the Mexican coast in Apr. 1917 to prepare his revolt.  His small forces then move inland to Guanajuato and defeat on Oct. 27, 1817.  Herbert Ingram Priestley, The Mexican Nation: A History (NY: Macmillan Co., 1923), 243-44; Henry Bamford Parkes, A History of Mexico (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co., 1938), 164-65; Justo Sierra, The Political Evolution of the Mexican People (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1969), 164-66.  For Mexico’s larger struggle for independence, see 149-71.  Also see William C. Davis, The Treacherous World of the Corsairs of the Gulf (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2006), pp.

[90] CK 17 (29): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, New Orleans, Nov. 1, 1817.

[91] On the Yucatan Peninsula, Campeche is a state in the south-east region of the Mexican Republic, bordered to the south by Guatemala and to the west by the Gulf of Mexico.  The city of Campeche is the capital and is located on the shore of the Bay of Campeche of the Gulf of Mexico.  The city was founded in 1540 by Spanish conquistadores as San Francisco de Campeche atop the pre-existing Maya city of Canpech or Kimpech.

[92] “Laguna” in Spanish means “lagoon.”  Richard was likely taken to Carmen Island, which stands in the Laguna de Términos on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico in the border area at the western edge of the Yucatán Peninsula.

[93] CK 79 (21): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Campeche, Mexico, Mar. 18, 1818.  Clearly, Judge Hamilton in his letter of 1906 confused these events, the sinking and dramatic rescue, with Richard’s earlier wreck off the French coast.

[94] Joshua Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Campeche, Mexico, Feb. 21, 1819.

[95] CK 79 (22): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Campeche, Mexico, Feb. 21, 1819.

[96] CK 79 (26): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, July 20, 1819.

[97] CK 79 (22): Richard Hamilton to Rebecca Hamilton, Campeche, Mexico, Feb. 21, 1819.

[98] Paul Lanusse was one of the leading merchants in New Orleans.  In 1804 he served on the board of directors of the newly established state bank of Louisiana.  He was elected an alderman in 1812.

[99] CK 79 (24): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Mar. 13, 1819.

[100] CK 79 (25): Richard Hamilton to Joshua Hamilton, New Orleans, Louisiana, Apr. 2, 1819.