Rank(s): Able Seaman
Dates of Service: 8/6/1813 - 7/31/1815
Cunningham’s place and date of birth are unknown.
John Cunningham joined Constitution ’s crew as an able seaman on August 6, 1813. He was assigned to gun no. 8, 1st loader as a part of the second division. He was discharged on July 31, 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, 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
Cunningham participated in the battles with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant and received $22.19 in prize money.
Cunningham’s place and date of death is unknown.