What is this?
A Bible removed from HMS Java after her defeat in 1812
When is it from?
Why is it Important?
Dulany Forrest served on Constitution as a midshipman during the War of 1812. This bible, apparently taken from one of the British crew’s mess chests, was his souvenir from the December 29, 1812 battle. It was a close fought and bloody action for both sides. Perhaps the scenes of death and destruction he witnessed inspired Forrest to purloin the bible. When Capt. Dacres surrendered Guerriere to Constitution in August 1812, he reportedly requested Capt. Hull to return his mother’s bible to him before the Americans set the prize on fire. The seamen of Java‘s number 17 mess clearly did not place such a high value on this example. They either did not survive the battle or did not feel that a bible would ease the trials of their captivity, and so left it behind.
The bookplate inscribed “Kissam” indicates that Forrest later passed the bible on to Surgeon Benjamin P. Kissam, USN. The doctor’s granddaughters donated the book to the ship.
The Holy Bible, Containing the Old and New Testaments. Cambridge Stereotype Edition. Printed by J. Smith, For the University and Sold by Messrs. Bilington, St. Paul’s Church-Yard; Mr. Mawman, 39 Ludgate Street London; and Mr. Deighton, Cambridge. 8 5/8 by 5 ¼ inches [octavo] with calfskin binding (rebound). A bookplate on the pastedown reads “Kissam.” On the endpaper in ink is written: “Dulany Forrest’s Book/ Coast of Brazil/ December 29th/ 1812,” and in a different hand, “This book was taken/ from the British frigate/ Java when she was/ Captured by the U. States/ frigateConstitution/ Commanded by Commodore/ William Bainbridge/ Dec. 29th 1812.” Opposite the title page is the inscription “Mess No. 17.”