Dates of Service: 10/28/1812 - 2/17/1813
Birth Date: 1770
John Carlton was born in Salem, Massachusetts around 1770. He was the son of Revolutionary War veteran Colonel Samuel Carleton and his wife Eunice.
An 1814 portrait of Carlton by Dutch artist Charles Delin depicts him as he looked in his mid-forties. His dark hair is thick and swept forward over his forehead. The corners of his blue eyes are crinkled, from smiling or squinting into the sun at sea. Reverend William Bentley of Salem wrote in his famous journal, “My friend John Carlton has engaged as Navigator and pilot in the Constitution, a Ship of the US Navy now lying in Boston harbor. He is an able navigator and of good habits. He is the son of Col. Carlton who was in the army of the revolution and known to me many years.”
Carlton joined Constitution ’s crew sometime before October 28, 1812. Although carried on the muster and pay rolls as a chaplain, Carlton actually was a master mariner hired as an expert pilot for Commodore Bainbridge’s anticipated foray into the Indian and Pacific Oceans. He left the ship sometime after February 17, 1813.
Education, rather than religious fervor, was a prerequisite for a chaplain’s commission in the early American navy. Few navy chaplains were ordained ministers, but most were college educated. It is true that the chaplain was required to read divine service at Sunday muster and perform funerals, but the chaplain’s most important duty was to serve as a schoolmaster to the midshipman and teach them writing, arithmetic, navigation, and sometimes foreign languages. On board squadron flagships, the chaplain often served as the commodore’s secretary. Most chaplains served in the navy for a year or less. They were paid $40.00 per month and got two rations per day.
Battles and Engagements
He participated in the battle with HMS Java and received $42.30 in prize money.
In 1813, he was appointed to USS John Adams as a chaplain and also ranked captain’s clerk. His place and date of death are unknown.