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1808 Muster Roll of the Ordinary, Officers, Seamen, Servants, & Boys
Washington Navy Yard
By : John Sharp ©


Muster Roll of Officers, Seamen, Servants and Boys employed in the
Ordinary Washington Navy Yard 19 May 1808 - fifty two names including
fifteen African Americans                                                                        

Introduction:
      This roll of men employed in the Ordinary of the Washington Navy Yard on 19 May 1808 was prepared at the request of Secretary of the Navy, Robert Smith. The Ordinary in the early Unites States Navy held ships in reserve, or for later need, at WNY. Typically these ships had seen hard service abroad and were awaiting restoration, but due to the small naval appropriations of the era, repairs were not possible. These ships, for example the frigates Adams and President, were held in set-aside awaiting money to repair them and were usually tied up in backwater areas of the shipyard. While they were awaiting repair, they were modified by the removal of their masts. These ships typically had small or minimal crews comprised of semi retired or disabled sailors who stayed aboard to ensure that the ship remained in usable condition, provided security, kept the bilge pump running, and ensured the lines were secure. Enslaved African Americans were often placed or leased to the navy yard to work in the Ordinary. Theses jobs were considered attractive to slave masters as the wages they collected were regular, and the Navy provided supervision and security of their human property. Today this 1808 list of employees of the Ordinary provides a valuable record for historians and genealogists seeking to understand the history of federal employment and the important role of African Americans in the early naval yards.

Beginning in the winter of 1807, the Embargo Act, led to a tightening of the naval appropriations. In response, on 21 April 1808, Secretary of the Navy, Robert Smith, gave WNY Commandant Commodore Thomas Tingey direction to reduce his workforce.

      Our expenses at the Yard must be reduced. They are at present astonishingly great. You will take a particular view of all the different departments & of each class of laborers the work to be performed, and number of the laborers necessary to perform the minimum of labor necessary to perform it & report the sum to me in your opinion as to the retrenchment which must most economically be made. You will at sometime send to me a muster roll of all the persons of every description employed in the Yard designating the monthly or daily pay allowed to each & in case of black whether they be free or Slaves & where they were Slaves the persons to whom they respectively belong and you will communicate all such other circumstances as may be know to you or as may be disclosed to you whist you shall be making the enquiry, herein directed, which maybe calculated to assist in the retrenching in the most judicious manner the expenses of the yard.

      On 5 and 19 May 1808, Commodore Thomas Tingey, responded with plans to reduce his workforce in accord with Secretary Smith's direction. As the Secretary required, Commodore Tingey, listed his workforce plus the names of his black employees both free and enslaved and a special request for a "customary indulgence" to allow him and his officers to continue putting their slaves on the WNY payroll.

      At Washington Navy Yard reductions in force could be devastating for employees since the vast majority of the Yard was a per diem workforce and were paid a daily wage. Navy officers as well as seamen were also subject to reduction, and were let go as the needs of the naval service or naval appropriation dictated. As such, these early workers were particularly vulnerable. Any prolonged unemployment could rapidly lead to destitution as most workers and ordinary seamen had little savings to fall back on and imprisonment for debt within the District of Columbia was a daily reality sanctioned in law.

      The list Commodore Thomas Tingey provided the Secretary on 19 May 1808 enumerates both his military and civilian employees assigned to the WNY Ordinary. His list as drawn up records 52 employees by name and gives their occupations
(for the remainder of the Yard workforce, see: 1808 Reduction In Force).

      In his 21 April 1808 letter, Secretary Smith particularly expressed his desire to have detailed information regarding the WNY numerous slaves. One of Secretary Robert Smith's chief concerns was to learn the number and occupations of black employees both free and enslaved. In so doing he was most likely trying to avoid discharging white civilian employees and seamen. The Ordinary was composed of fifty-two employees fifteen of which were African Americans. Commodore Tingey's request that Smith grant his approval or indulgence of the Yard's practice of allowing naval officers to place their servants ('servants' was the preferred euphemism for slaves) on the rolls of the WNY Ordinary, would have sanctioned this lucrative custom. The Yard practice was that once on the rolls, new officers could draw both the pay and rations of their slave servants. The legality of slavery in 1808 was never a question for Smith, only the propriety of entering officers' slaves on the public rolls. Smith's analysis and response to Tingey's query is confined exclusively to examination of this legal issue. Smith had a keen legal mind and had been a highly successful lawyer and litigator who made a small fortune through his legal work. After considering Tingey's request, Smith found the proposal wanting and went ahead with his plans to discharge as many slaves as possible; much to the chagrin of the Commodore. After Smith left his position, custom apparently prevailed as the April 1829 enumeration of WNY employees lists thirteen slaves in the Ordinary including African American diarist Michael Shiner.
Washington Navy Yard Employees in April 1829

 

Appreciation:
My gratitude to Ms Gail Munro for her extraordinary help in providing the research material that are sine qua non for this
Washington Navy Yard project.

 

Transcription:
      This transcription was made from the National Archives and Records Administration Record Group 45 microfilm of the letters of Commodore Thomas Tingey dated Thomas Tingey dated 21 April and 19 May 1808 and the undated memoranda of Secretary Smith with his response to Thomas Tingey dated 25 May 1808. In transcribing these letters and enclosures, I have striven to adhere as closely as possible to the original in spelling, capitalization, punctuation and abbreviation (e.g. "Do" or "do" for ditto or same as above) including the retention of dashes, ampersands and overstrikes. On the enclosures African American names are prefixed with C or X. Where I was unable to print a clear image or where it was not possible to determine what was written, I have so noted in brackets. Where possible, I have attempted to arrange the transcribed material in a similar manner to that found in the letters and enclosure.

John G. Sharp                         February 23, 2009
Stockton Ca                                                      

==================================================

 


					Navy Yard Wash 19th May 1808  
Sir 

	I have the honor to transmit to you herewith a duplicate of the Muster Roll of the 
Navy in Ordinary with observations thereon, elucidating the situation of every person 
therein enumerated and how employed.  The five marked with a cross before their names I 
have directed to be forthwith discharged - The ten with the C, prefixed to their names, are 
respectfully submitted for your consideration begging leave at the same time to observe 
that, it is well known to be established custom, that whenever an officer has been ordered 
on duty - so, as to give him the command of men, entered on the muster roll for pay &c 
said officer hath invariably entered thereon one or two at least of his own servants or taken 
such servants from the men so entered - It would appear then Sir - singular and tend to 
excite unpleasant feelings, were myself and the Officers under my command at this place, 
to be the only exceptions to the customary indulgence  -  An indulgence also common to 
every officer, in the Military and Marine service- and generally in number according to 
Rank .

	It is therefore hoped with submission, by myself and Officers attached to this yard, 
that you would pleased to take this matter into consideration - and sanction to us the 
indulgence common to all our brother officers here to be allowed service and the quantum 
to each

  			I have the honor to be 
				very respectfully
 					Sir 
						Your Obedt Servant 

						Thos Tingey 

	Hon Rt Smith 

==================================================

 

      The following unsigned and undated two page memoranda circa 11 / 12 May 1808 directly follow the above letter of Commodore Thomas Tingey. In essence Tingey's query was a request to Secretary Smith to approve the "customary indulgence" and provided legal sanction for Commodore Tingey and the naval officers assigned to WNY to continue to place their personal slaves on the public payroll and draw pay and rations for the same. This memorandum is probably Smith's analysis of the question presented by Commodore Tingey. Robert Smith was a lawyer and the analysis of the question presented by Tingey reflects his legal training.

==================================================
      Capt Tingey, has referenced to "an established custom - " The Question is has there ever been an established custom for navy officers on shore to place their private servants upon the Public rolls, retain them in their respective families & draw for their services the pay & rations as are allowed to the men working in the publick service in ordinary - the case put must be answered in the negative - It has been the custom for officers to appointed to ships to carry on board ship with their servants , who are then placed on the rols of the ship, the officers receive their pay & rations - but the servant onboard ship is at all times liable to be called into action - and the Commanding officer can at all times assign to such servants such duties as in his opinion the publick good may require - Such servants are stationary on board ship & are always ready for duty -

      On shore they cannot at all times be called into service - the Commdt officer cannot assign on any emergency the performance of nay special duty - because such servants being under the immediate direction of their respective master may at the time their services may be required to them by their respective masters -

      Thus the causes do not appear parallel - & no custom on board ship can apply ashore from the material differences of the situation of servant on board ship & ashore -

      There is no custom but one recent origin (& since we can trace its date it is no common law) in the N Yd here - The question then occurs ought such a custom now to be established - No! - because, it cannot be a useful one -

      In the army a Commanding Officer is entitled to draw 1 ration per day only & this without pay for a Servant belonging to him -

      In the Marine Corps - the same-

      If in the army and the Corps an Officer taken a servant from the line - such servant, not the officer, draws his pay & ration -

      Thus the Indulgence ( for there is no other name by which it can be allowed ) asked, is authorized neither by the usage in the arm, navy or Marine Corps - An officer in the army or Marine Corps can draw no pay for a servant belonging to him - The officers of the Yard here ask pay for their servants - A servant to an officer in the army or Marine Corps if taken from the line draws his own pay rations; if not taken from the line the master draws the ration only -
Thus then the rule written it would become a source of emolument to the navy officers - whereas the army officer never can draw any emolument for the same form.

      I know nothing of the custom Capt Tingey speaks of respecting officers entering private servants for pay No doubt when an officer is employed on board of a vessel he selects & employs such of the crew as he pleases - Servants thus create no expense to the government the person to employ as Servants are part of the crew - In the Army if an officer keeps a private Servants he is allowed by law one ration & per day but no pay - Military Officers are allowed to take soldiers for private Servants in that case the Soldier receives his pay not the officer as our establishment and the follower is at all time subjected to be called upon go an soldier and if the regulations of the army are essential and president for the case in question. I presume it can only extend to authorize the officers to take from the Ships in ordinary persons to be used as Servants. Certainly not to allow them emoluments for their own Servants Slaves to them & not any way engaged for the public.

==================================================

      Secretary Smith's formal response to Tingey's inquiry is below, however, the Yard practice of employing slaves in the Ordinary continued. The April 1829 enumeration of WNY employees reflects thirteen slaves in the Ordinary including African American diarist Michael Shiner             April 1829 Employees at the Washington Navy Yard

==================================================
Capt. Thomas Tingey					25 May 1808	
Navy Yard Washington   					Navy Depart.

                   Your letter of the 19th inst has been received and considered. There 
exists no law, which warrants the indulgence therein asked. Nor does the usage either 
of the army, Navy or Marine corps, sanction such an indulgence - And I cannot 
permit the introduction of a rule, without law or precedent, or any apparent necessity. 
The Servants in question must therefore be immediately discharged. 
							R. Smith 

==================================================
							Navy Yard: Wash 26th May 1808

Sir 

	I am honor'd with your letter of yesterday, relative to the Servants, mentioned in my 
letter  of the 19th inst and have in pursuance of your instructions directed the immediate discharge 
of 

	Abram Lynson			John Russell			Philip Greyhook
	Charles Lancaster 		Thomas Downs 			James Johnson 
	Ferdinand Lands 		George Brown 			Thomas Rolls
	Orlando Vincent 		Henry Brown  

	I am ever ready with pleasing promptitude to obey your orders - yet I cannot dissemble 
that I experienced some unpleasant feelings: at having asked an indulgence that cannot be 
complied with - especially as the officers of the Yard, would be well satisfied, to be only on an 
equality (or even nearly approximating thereto) with those around us, not immediately attached to 
the Yard. 

					I have the honor to be 
						Very respectfully 
							Sir 
							   Your Obed Servt 

									Thos Tingey
	The Hon Robt Smith 

==================================================


 
1808 Muster Roll of the Ordinary,
Officers, Seamen, Servants, & Boys
Washington Navy Yard 19 May 1808
No. Names Station Pay   Observations
1 James B. Potts Boatswain $20   One of the Boatswains of the Yard residing on board the Adams frigate -
2 George Hodge " 20   One of the Boatswains of the Yard residing on board the frigate President with the other boatswain -
3 Saml Kelly Gunner 20   Acting as Gunner being disabled by the loss of an arm - resides on board the President -
4 Salvadore Catalano   30   Italian Pilot acts as gunner of the Navy Yard - since the death of Stephenson & resides on shore out of the Yard
5 Jas Orde Carpenter 20   Carpenter of the Ordinary - resides on board -
6 David Cretmyer Master at Arms 18   Onboard
7 Thos Johnson Steward 18   Ditto
8 Christian Christoff Seamen 12   Ditto
9 Louis Pinnanco " 12   Ditto
10 Jas Ferguson " 12   Ditto
11 Wm Worth " 12   Ditto
12 John Mc Carty " 10   Ditto
13 John B.Megline " 10   Ditto
14 John Coats " 10   Attends on the Boatswain Hodge resides on board -
15 Robert Cobell " 3   Supernumerary on board -
16 Thos Marshall " 10   On Board
17 John Peet " 10   Ditto
X18 Ralph Mc William " 10   Slave of Dr Mc Williams on board
19 Joseph Fisher " 10   On board
20 George Marshall " 12   Ditto
21 George Mc Fall " 12   Ditto
22 John Gill " 10   Ditto
23 David Grant " 8   Ditto
24 George Buchanan "     Supernumerary on board
25 Lancelot Mitchell " 10   On Board
26 Charles Shorlis Seamen 12   Ditto
27 Francis Henry Ord 10   Ditto
28 Anthony Noble Seamen 12   Ditto
29 John Berne " 12   Ditto
30 [illegible] Martin " 12   Ditto
31 Pat Ferrell Ord S 10   Ditto
32 James Fox Seamen 12   Ditto
33 Abraham Borkman " 12   Ditto
34 Peter Mincure " 12   Ditto
35 Angelo Formae Ord S 10   Supernumerary on board
36 Thos Holt Seamen 12   On board
C37 Charles Lancaster Ord S 11 Slave of Dr McWilliams Servant of Capt Cassin -
C38 Abraham Lynson Seamen 12   Ditto of Capt Tingey and Servant-
C39 Ferdinand Lands Boy 8   Ditto of Lt Talbot servant to Ditto on shore -
C40 Orlando Vincent " 5   Ditto of Harrison servant of on shore-
41 John Johnson Ord S 10   On board - attends on both the Boatswains -
C42 John Russell Boy 8 Slave of Lt Haraden works on board
C43 George Brown   10 Slave of Dr Ewell serves on the [illegiable]
C44 Henry Brown   10   Ditto of Dr Ewell Dito -
C45 Phillip Greyhook Boy 8   Servant of Lt Haraden serves on board -
C46 James Johnson Ord Seamen      
47 Francis Boles Boy 8   Apprentice of Mr. Deblois works on board -
X48 George Saunders   10 Slave of Mrs. Carroll on board
X49 Mace Saunders   10 Ditto of Mrs. Carroll Ditto
X50 George Plowden   10 Ditto of Doct Mc Williams Ditto
C51 Thomas Downs     app of Lt Haraden Ditto
X52 Peter Brisoe     Slave of George Briscoe

 


Endnotes :

Commodore Thomas Tingey, 1750-1829 Commandant, Washington Navy Yard
for biography: Biography of Thomas Tingey

Robert Smith Secretary of the Navy 1757 -1842
for biography: Biography of Robert Smith

Dr. Thomas Beale Ewell, 1785 -1826
for biography Biography of Dr. Thomas Beale Ewell

Louis Deblois, US Navy Purser 1761- after 1821
for biography Biography of Louis Deblois

Salvadore Catalano, US Navy Sailing Master 1767 - 1846 a native of Palermo, Sicily he sailed with Stephen Decatur as pilot on 16 February 1804 into the harbor at Tripoli and helped recapture and burn the Frigate Philadelphia. Catalano later returned with Decatur in 1 805 to Washington DC and went to work at the navy yard. Catalano was appointed Sailing Master, 9 August, 1809and held that position until his death. His son Antonio Catalano worked at WNY as a carpenter.
for biography Obituary and Biography of Salvadore M. Catalano

USS Frigate Philadelphia See : USS Frigate Philadelphia Paintings and Article

Nathaniel Haraden Lieutenant US Navy
for biography : Biography of Nathaniel Haraden
note : Lt. Haraden's name is spelled a variety of different ways in naval records; e.g. Harraden, Haradin, etc.
Haraden appears to be the usage he preferred.

George Hodge, Boatswain USN appointed May 11, 1798 served in the USS Ganges under Captain Thomas Tingey. Boatswain's Hodge later served on the Frigate Philadelphia during the war against the Barbary Powers captured along with the rest of the Philadelphia crew and held prisoner in Tripoli. Hodge was able to return home in 1805 then served on the Frigate President and assigned Boatswain of the Ordinary 1807

James B. Potts, Boatswain USN appointed May 20, 1799 served in the USS Boston during the Quasi War with France. Potts served as Boatswain to the Ordinary at WNY 1804-1807. Potts was appointed Sailing Master, 24 July, 1812 in which position he served until his death 8 May, 1839

Samuel Kelly, Gunner USN lost arm in war against the Barbary Powers later served in the Ordinary at WNY

John Johnson Seamen USN had also served in the unlucky crew of the frigate Philadelphia and most likely knew Boatswain Hodge from their time together in the Bashaw's Tripoli dungeon.

US Navy Frigate Adams The frigate, named Adams honored John Adams, the second President of the United States commissioned in 1799 she served against the pirates and was successful in the Quasi War against France. In 1806 the Adams was laid up in Washington and remained inactive at the nation's capital. In August 1811 she became the receiving ship at the Washington Navy Yard. At the outbreak of the War of 1812, she once again went placed into service. On 3 September 1814, she was scuttled and set ablaze to prevent capture by a large and powerful British squadron.

US Navy Frigate President was 44 gun ship built in 1794 and was active against the Barbary pirates and in the Quasi War with France. She was in for repairs in much of 1808 but returned to service in 1809. The President was later captured by British forces during the war of 1812.

African Americans and the Washington Navy Yard see The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869
Navy Department Library online, transcribed with an Introduction and Notes John G. Sharp 2007.
The Diary of Michael Shiner

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