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MUSEUM:  
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Ship's Crew

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James Jackson

Rank(s): Able Seaman

Dates of Service: -

Early Life
Jackson’s date of birth is unknown, but he may have been born in New York.

Seaman Jackson was transferred from Gunboat 85 to Constitution’s crew on July 30, 1812. He served out his enlistment and then reentered on September 6, 1813. He was finally discharged on May 19, 1815.

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, 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
Jackson was among the few sailors who participated in all of Constitution’s battles during the war. He participated in victories over HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812, receiving $42.62 ½ and $42.30 in prize money for the victories. He was on board when Constitution captured a British man-of-war schooner and three merchant vessels. He fought in the battle with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on February 20, 1815 and received $51.81 in prize money. During the last engagement, while serving as the 1st loader at no. 2 carronade, Jackson received a wound that badly fractured his left forearm.

As soon as he had recovered from his wound, Jackson returned home to New York. He applied for and received a pension of $5.00 per month, which began in March 1816. His arm seems to have been improperly set, because by 1829 an examining surgeon wrote, “the fracture has been a bad one. The arm is considerably smaller than its fellow; and considerably shorter. There is no doubt that the strength of that arm is much impaired by the injury received.”

On February 1, 1831, after receiving $30 from his pension, “he went and purchased some clothes and having a few dollars left he put it in a pocket Book which contained his pension Certificate and on arriving at his home in Madison Street…he missed his pocket Book.” Whether he lost it or it was stolen he could not say, but after making a “diligent search” for it, he concluded that it was lost for good.

By 1837, Jackson had been given a job at the Washington Navy Yard, but here he continued to be plagued by bad luck. On July 3, 1837 he received a severe injury “in the line of his duty” that resulted in the amputation of his right leg. In the opinion of the yard’s surgeon, “such a loss to a laboring man, I consider equal to a total disability.” Jackson received a new pension of $6.00 per month on October 17, 1837.


Crew ID

7118