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James Dennis Hammond

Rank(s): Able Seaman

Dates of Service: -

Birth Date: 1780

Death Date: 10/24/1840

Early Life
James Dennis Hammond was born in Marblehead, Massachusetts in 1780 or 1785, one of 12 children of Benjamin and Jane Hammond.

Early Experience
Hammond must have gone to sea at an early age, because by 1806 he was sailing from Salem as mate of the merchant brig Betsey.

Hammond joined Constitution’s crew on July 30, 1812 as an able seaman. He had previously served on board gunboat 85 in Boston Harbor.
The able seaman was an 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 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. The able seaman made $12.00 per month.

Battles and Engagements
Hammond fought in the battles against HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812. During the Java engagement, while stationed at carronade no. 10 on the quarterdeck (where he acted as second sponger and fireman), Hammond received a wound in his “left thigh.” He recovered sufficiently from this wound, because the navy transferred him to Oliver Hazard Perry’s squadron on Lake Erie in the late spring of 1813, where he served on board USS Lawrence.

On November 14, 1829, Nathaniel L. Hooper of Marblehead wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury to explain that Hammond had “become sick & poor…in consequence of a wound received in the Engagement between the United States Ship Constitution and the Java.” Hooper requested information on how Hammond could apply for a pension. On the same day, Hooper wrote a similar letter to the Secretary of the Navy, explaining that the wounds had left him unable to work, and, therefore, “chargeable to the Town.” Hammond’s representatives must have called upon Dr. Amos A. Evans, then living in Elkton, Maryland, to write an affidavit on Hammond’s behalf because in December 1829, Evans wrote the following:“…[Hammond] received a contused wound in the thigh, which removed part of the Rectus muscle…and that although it, being a flesh wound, was reported on the official return at the time, ‘slightly,’ he suffered very considerably with it, and was afflicted with the pains for some considerable time afterwards.” The pension was granted, based on this evidence, in February of 1820.

Sometime between 1830 and 1840, Hammond, indigent and disabled, moved into Marblehead’s almshouse. He died there on October 24, 1840.

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