John D. Armstrong
Rank(s): Surgeon’s Mate
Dates of Service: 5/28/1812 - 12/29/1812
Death Date: 91824
Born in Ireland on an unknown date, Armstrong immigrated to America sometime before 1805.
While there is not a lot of information about the type of medical training that Armstrong had before his work for the Navy, it can be assumed that he was skilled enough and had enough formal education to receive a commission as a surgeon’s mate in May 1812.
Armstrong joined the Constitution on May 28, 1812. He was subordinate to the surgeon but as a commissioned officer enjoyed many of the privileges not afforded to the mates of warrant officers. Armstrong would have attended to the wounded and dying alongside his superior, the Surgeon, as well as the health needs of the crew. Being an Irish citizen and subject to the authority of the British Crown, Armstrong wrote often to the Secretary of the Navy requesting to be placed onshore for fear of capture and possible death for being a traitor to the Crown. The Secretary denied the requests claiming there were no billets onshore for him. So he remained at his battle station in the cockpit, but he never had a watch.
Surgeon’s mates assisted the surgeon in his duties. The surgeon’s mate was akin to the modern medical student gaining valuable on-the-job training. Surgeon’s mates berthed in the cockpit (or steerage) and ate there with the warrant officers. They received $30.00 per month plus two rations per day.
Battles and Engagements
Armstrong was onboard Constitution during both engagements of HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812 and would have undoubtedly had attended to many wounded sailors. He took prize money from both engagements.
Armstrong was discharged in Boston, MA on December 3, 1813 and died in September of 1824 after being awarded two Congressional Silver Medals for his actions during the battles.