Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 4/17/1791
Death Date: 11/25/1819
Hector Cowell was born on April 17, 1791 in Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Cowell joined Constitution’s crew as quartermaster on November 1813. He was promoted to acting gunner on July 18, 1814. He was demoted to able seaman on April 10, 1815.
The quartermaster was appointed by the sailing master and assisted the master’s mates with their duties. He helped supervise the stowage of ballast and provisions, coiled the anchor cables in the tier, supervised the men at the helm, and kept time with the watch-glasses. A quartermaster made $18.00 per month and received one ration per day.
The gunner was responsible for all of the ship’s cannons and their equipment, small arms, gunpowder, shot, and magazine tools. Gunpowder is highly flammable, so great attention was paid to properly securing the powder magazine; the captain kept the keys, and only the gunner was allowed to open the space. The gunner also supervised gunnery drill and in some cases small arms drill. In battle, the gunner’s station was the magazine, where he oversaw the filling and passing of cartridges. He made $20.00 per month and two rations per day.
The able seaman was the elite member of the crew. Having sailed for years “before the mast” on merchant vessels or worked his way up through the ranks in the navy, it was on him that the officers relied for the smooth operation of the ship. The traditional requirements for the seaman were that he be able to “hand (furl or take in a sail), reef (reduce a sail’s area), and steer,” but these were in fact the barest requirements for the seaman rating. In addition, they were expected to be familiar with nearly all aspects of shipboard labor. He had to be able to cast the sounding lead, be able to sew a sail with a palm and needle, and understand all parts of the rigging and the stowage of the hold. Furthermore, he had to know how to fight, as part of a gun crew or with small arms. It was from the ranks of the able seamen that the petty and warrant officers were drawn. The able seaman made $12.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
He participated in a war cruise capturing a small British man-of-war and three merchantmen, and in victories over HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on February 20, 1815. He received $232.11 in prize money.
Cowell was transferred to USS Enterprize on July 1, 1815. He died on November 25, 1819 in New Orleans, Louisiana.