decade, we’ve learned that the shipboard lives of the officers, sailors, and Marines is only one part of a complex story. Though it was the men who fought the battles and suffered physical wounds, for the women left at home, wives, sisters, and mothers, the war brought its own traumas and hardships.
|Purser Chew’s sea bag. Many of Abigail’s letters probably nestled in this bag. USS Constitution Museum collection, photo by David Bohl.|
1812. Thanks to Thomas’ position and other investments, the Chews were financially comfortable, and did not suffer from the acute poverty that afflicted so many sailors’ families. Nevertheless, Abigail never became accustomed to Thomas’ frequent absences, nor reconciled to the dangers of his job. He came home briefly after Constitution’s successful battle with HMS Guerriere but was soon appointed to the ill-fated Chesapeake, commanded by his friend James Lawrence.
cartridges from the magazine to the guns, Thomas survived unscathed, but he was
present when Capt. Lawrence issued his final command: Don’t give up the ship.
|A coral brooch, earrings, and bracelet brought home for Abigail from the Mediterranean. USS Constitution Museum collection.|