Rank(s): Ordinary Seaman
Dates of Service: -
Craig’s place and date of birth are unknown.
John Craig joined Constitution’s crew as an ordinary seaman on May 6, 1811. In 1812, he was assigned to gun no. 15, pumps. On March 26, 1812, he was sick with dysentery for 14 days before returning to duty. He was discharged on the Secretary of Navy’s order on May 22, 1812. On August 9, 1813, he re-entered as an able seaman. He was promoted to coxswain on August 1, 1814. Craig was discharged on 16 July 1815.
Among the enlisted men, ordinary seamen stood in the middle of the lower-deck hierarchy. These men had typically sailed one or two voyages and knew basic seamanship. Like the able seamen, they too could “hand, reef, and steer,” but some of the more complicated maneuvers were foreign to them. Many ordinary seamen would have been numbered among the topmen, the young and agile crewmembers who were responsible for working aloft on the masts and yards. The ordinary seaman made $10.00 per month.
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.
The coxswain (pronounced “cock-sin”) had nominal command of a ship’s boat, its crew, and all the equipment belonging to it. Typically, the coxswain had charge of the captain’s barge or gig, and saw that the boat was kept in good condition. He had a whistle to call away the boat’s crew when needed. In the boat, he sat in the stern and steered. A coxswain made $18.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
Craig participated in the battle with HMS Guerriere and received $42.62 ½ in prize money. He also participated in the battle with HMS Java and received $42.30 in prize money. He later participated in the battles with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant and received part of the prize money.
Craig’s place and date of death are unknown. He could have possibly died during a war cruise on Constitution.