A Sailor in 1809


We Americans went to war over some clear issues as well as some cloudy ones. History still remains the judge and jury about what wars were just and beneficial to a nation and what only used to serve special interests. What would you think if you got the following letter from a man alive in 1809?

From the High Seas in 1809

“You can call me Tom. I’m a sailor, an American citizen and a veteran of the War for Independence. I always loved the sea, its passion and beauty and promise of adventure. I’ve seen my share of doldrums and huge waves and mighty wind and fearsome storms. It’s a dangerous life at times. But one day, there came another danger to me as a sailor.

You see, after we won our independence from Britain, our brand new nation was building a big fleet of merchant ships. And soon, I heard that the British sailors were lured over to American vessels in hoards. After all, who wouldn’t be? The pay was higher and the conditions on board were better than they’d found on English ships. Well, after a while the British merchant fleet suffered from a lack of men to sail her vessels. Then, something terrible happened. British Naval ships took on some of our merchant fleet.

One day, they started to board our ships and grab any of the crew who they thought to be British subjects. These poor souls didn’t even have the right to change their citizenship to America. They were bound and taken away and made to serve England. Trouble was, however, that they also took those of us who had become American citizens. It wasn’t easy to prove that you were an American instead of a British subject. After all, we looked the same and sounded the same.

And so, one day the British Naval ship came along side of my vessel. They pushed their way aboard and impressed me into serving a British ship. Can you imagine my horror? I was now serving the very people I’d fought so hard to gain independence from. Later, I learned that almost 5,000 men had been taken off American merchant ships in this manner. I thought we were close to another war with England in 1807. Back then, three American crewmen were killed aboard the Chesapeake after the British Leopard fired upon her off the coast of Norfolk, Virginia. Well, we were close to war then, but the debate still raged on.

I was lucky. Eventually, I did manage to get my release after the British learned that I was truly an American. But war’s coming again, I tell you. I can feel the war coming once again.”
As we all know, the war of 1812 did come to our shores. Washington burned. Andy Jackson arose as a hero. We fought a final battle with England before we became great partners. No one dared to attack our new nation until recent times.

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this edition and will visit here for future postings. In the meantime, for more historical fact and fiction, please visit http://www.YoreAmerica.com. See you there. Kathy Lonetto

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