Rank(s): Marine Private
Dates of Service: 12/18/1813 - 12/8/1814
Birth Date: 1794
Abraham Burnham was born in 1794 in Ipswich, Massachusetts.
Burnham enlisted as a private in the Marine Corps on July 31, 1813. He was a part of the crew of USS Syren. He was transferred to the Charlestown Navy Yard on September 22, 1813.
In 1813, he was 5 feet, 4 inches tall with hazel eyes, a sallow complexion, and brown hair.
Burnham joined Constitution ’s crew as a private on December 18, 1813. He provided small arms fire aboard ship in combat, and stood sentry watches outside the Captain’s cabin and at posts near the galley and grog tub and on the spar deck on a daily basis. Burnham detached on December 8, 1814.
Marine privates served as the shipboard police force and were, in effect, seagoing soldiers. They used the same manual of arms as the army and trained in much the same way. Unlike the army, marines had to be familiar with naval work and warfare. Marines could not be ordered aloft to do the work of the seamen there, but they could expect to man the capstan or serve as gun crews on the gun deck. Marines stood watch as sentries at sensitive parts of the ship, to see that no unauthorized people passed into those spaces (such as the captain’s cabin or the spirit room). In battle, marines armed with muskets or rifles took up station along the gangway or in the tops to keep up a constant fire on the enemy’s decks. The marine private received $6.00-$8.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
He participated in a war cruise, capturing a small British man-of-war and three merchantmen.
Burnham’s place and date of death are unknown.