Was Your Ancestor A United States Sea Fencible?

September 2, 2013 in American History, Louisiana History

As a life long student of history, the first time I came across the term “sea fencible” I was shocked to learn that this British naval militia term for the men who were in a naval militia to provide defense in times of war between France and Britain — also applied to the seafaring men who protected the cities of Baltimore, Boston, New York, Norfolk, and Philadelphia between 1813 and 1815.  This little known Congressional Act passed by Congress on July 26, 1813 during the War of 1812 between the United States and Britain allowed for ten separate companies to protect the ports and harbors of the United States.  The officers received monthly pay, rations, and uniforms. The pay ranged from $23 on the low end to $40 for Captains. The enlisted sea-fencibles who were generally boatswains, gunners, and privates received pay that ranged from $12 for privates up to $20 for a boatswain.  The United States sea fencibles only existed from July 26, 1813 to February 27, 1815 when Congress repealed the act and then replaced it with the Corps of Sea Fencibles.

Oddly, the commanding officers were under the direction of the army while the rest of these Sea Fencible company was under the direction of the Navy.  Typically, a company consisted of a total of 107 men, officers and enlisted combined.  Currently, there is a push to establish a comprehensive list of War of 1812 ancestors made possible by the War of 1812 Pension and Bounty Land Warrant Application Files at Fold3.com.  Because there are over 7.2 million pages within 180,000 files that are in extremely poor condition restoration efforts are a huge undertaking.  Donations are being sought: Preserve The Pensions for this very worthy cause of making these pension records free and available to all historians, genealogists, and public seeking to know this little known part of history during the War of 1812.

In the meantime, it might be fun to contribute to the preservation of knowing who severed as a sea fencible under the officers listed below from other sources that a bound to exist in books, documents, and hidden away in historical society collections.  Was one of your ancestors one of them?  If so we’d love to hear from you, please include any document citations.

Alphabetical List of Known Sea Fencible Officers That Served in the War of 1812

*Note:  Dates are date of rank.

Adams, William P. 1st Lieutenant, Massachusetts, June 21, 1814

Addison, William H, Captain. Maryland – April 27, 1814

Barker, Peleg, Captain, New York, July 11, 1814

Bayner, Richard, 1st Lieutenant, North Carolina, August 7, 1813

Boner, John, 3rd Lieutenant, North Carolina, August 7, 1813

Brooks, Frederick, Captain, North Carolina, August 7, 1813

Bunbury, M. Simmons, Captain, Maryland, October 1, 1813

Contourier, John J., 1st Lieutenant, South Carolina, August 4, 1813

Cummings, James J., 1st Lieutenant, North Carolina, August 1, 1813

Davis, John S., Captain, New Hampshire, June 27, 1814

Du Bose, John, Captain, August 1, 1813

Dubose, John , Captain, South Carolina, August 4, 1813

Foy, Gregory, 1st Lieutenant, Maryland

Gill, John, Captain, Maryland, November 25, 1813

Gorsuch, Gerard, 3rd Lieutenant, Maryland

Green, George W., 1st Lieutenant, Maryland

Hardwick, John, 3rd Lieutenant, August 1, 1813

Isaacs, John M., 3rd Lieutenant, New York, July 2, 1814

Kalm, John, 1st Lieutenant, Delaware, July 22, 1814

Lytke, William, 2nd Lieutenant, North Carolina, August 1, 1813

McNair, George, 3rd Lieutenant, Maryland

Mitchell, Bird B., 2nd Lieutenant, North Carolina, August 7, 1813

Morris, Lemuel, Captain, New York, August 4, 1813

Newell, Thomas M., Captain, Georgia, August 1, 1813

Newman, James, 2nd Lieutenant, Maryland

Nicols, Abraham, 1st Lieutenant, Georgia, August 1, 1813

O’Neal, Ferdinand A., 2nd Lieutenant, Georgia, August 1, 1813

Robinson, Caleb P., 2nd Lieutenant, Maryland

Russell, William, 1st Lieutenant, New York, June 4, 1814

Tabor, Pardonr, 2nd Lieutenant, New York, June 18, 1814

Terry, Noah, Captain, New York – June 18, 1814

Williamson, John M., 1st Lieutenant, New York – June 18, 1814












8 responses to Was Your Ancestor A United States Sea Fencible?

  1. This is very interesting!

    Were the sea-fencibles all volunteers, or were any of them conscripted?

  2. Sir,
    I have old family, hand written letter stating that my ancestor, Maryland Private Peter Hash was a Sea Fencible under the command of Captain Bunbury M. Simmons on October 1, 1813
    Is there any way I can find more information or records to confirm.

    • Yes. I would start with the wonderful Maryland Historical Society library in Baltimore and then move to the National Archives in DC.

  3. My 3G grandfather, Benjamin Seaman Langdon, was a seaman in Captain Cunningham’s Company of the NY Sea Fencibles. EDR

  4. JP said on May 16, 2017

    Here is record of George W. Arnold of North Carolina, a sea fencible under Captain Brooks.

    Is it possible to know more about where and what they were doing?
    Per his George’s widow’s pension application, he only served for 75 days.

  5. Military, 1812 • New York, USA, Private, Captain Burrows, Jr.’s, Company, Sea Fencibles, New York
    Military 8 Nov 1814, Military Pay Location New York, USA, Rank Seaman, Company Capt. Alex. Robinson’s, Regiment Maj. Jas. T. Leonard’s Sea Fencibles.
    I”m still trying to find out if this gentleman is my ancestor or not but thought you might like the names of these NY Fencibles officers.

  6. U.S., War of 1812 Service Records, 1812-1815:
    Name James McConnell, Company CAPT. BURROWS, JR.’S, CO., SEA FENCIBLES, NEW YORK.
    Rank – Induction PRIVATE, Rank – Discharge PRIVATE
    Roll Box 137, Microfilm Publication M602

    New York, War of 1812 Payroll Abstracts for New York State Militia, 1812-1815
    Name James McConnell, Gender Male
    Military Pay Date 8 Nov 1814, Military Pay Location New York, USA
    Rank Seaman
    Company Capt. Alex. Robinson’s
    Regiment Maj. Jas. T. Leonard’s Sea Fencibles

    Records of Men Enlisted In Army (Ancestry page #256)
    #59. McConnell, James, Pvt, Sea Fencibles, Capt. P. Burrows, Jr, Sept 24 or 26, 1814, 3 months, M.R. Sandy Hook, Dec 10/14, present Capt A Robinson’s Co, Sandy Hook, ……, 8/15. Discharged.

    I’m not able to prove this James McConnell is my ancestor, though I am aware from family records that ancestor James McConnell’s date of death is unknown because he disappeared at sea, making it likely he was a seafaring man. I also am not aware if this is one or two different James McConnells, a fairly common name. Our McConnell was Scottish, not Irish, and he was from New York, b.1764 Bedford, Westchester, NY. Family later moved to Pittstown, Albany/Rensselaer County and Oneida County, NY. c.1800.

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