Rank(s): Able Seaman
Dates of Service: 9/23/1813 - 2/20/1815
Brown’s place and date of birth are unknown.
James Brown joined the Constitution ’s crew as an able seaman on September 23, 1813.
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
Brown 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 shared with the crew $45,000 in prize money.
Brown was transferred to USS Congress, then at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on June 1, 1815. His place and date of death are unknown.