Rank(s): Marine Private
Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 1780
John Hoffman was born in Baltimore, Maryland about 1780.
Before joining the Marines, Hoffman worked as a baker. On December 14, 1810 he enlisted for five years under Captain Hall in New York.
While a ship was in port undergoing repair, Marines frequently transferred off and on. Private Hoffman first joined Constitution’s crew as early as 1810 while the ship was at Washington, DC. He joined again on June 28, 1812 and seems to have been transferred to the Boston Navy Yard sometime after September 15, 1812.
Marine privates served as the shipboard police force and were, in effect, seagoing soldiers. They used the same manual of arms as the army and trained in much the same way. Unlike the army, Marines had to be familiar with naval work and warfare. Marines could not be ordered aloft to do the work of the seamen there, but they could expect to man the capstan or serve as gun crews on the gun deck. Marines stood watch as sentries at sensitive parts of the ship, to see that no unauthorized people passed into those spaces (such as the captain’s cabin or the spirit room). In battle, Marines armed with muskets or rifles took up station along the gangway or in the tops to keep up a constant fire on the enemy’s decks. The Marine private received $6.00-$8.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
Hoffman participated in the victory over HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and shared $50,000 prize money with the crew.
On November 16, 1812 he left the Marine Barracks at the Boston Navy Yard and joined USS Chesapeake’s crew. Luckily, he was once again transferred back to the barracks on May 11, 1813, two weeks before HMS Shannon captured the Chesapeake in a battle off Boston Light. On August 9, 1815 Hoffman went on board USS Prometheus. He appears to have done duty on the ship until discharged from the Marine Corps on February 7, 1816.