SHIP:  
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
MUSEUM:  
9:00 am - 6:00 pm
SHIP:  
10:00 am - 5:00 pm
MUSEUM:  
9:00 am - 6:00 pm

Ship's Crew

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John Mitchell

Rank(s): Able Seaman

Dates of Service: -

Early Life
Mitchell’s date and place of birth are unknown, but he may have been from Marblehead, MA.

Mitchell joined Constitution’s crew as an able seaman on May 6, 1811. He later served as captain of the maintop and was discharged sometime after April 3, 1814.

The able seaman was an 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. Stationed on the maintop, Mitchell was one of the elite “topmen” in the crew. As an able seaman, Mitchell made $12.00 per month. When serving as captain of the top, he made $18.

According to Seaman Moses Smith, Mitchell had an interesting sense of humor:

“The first of January [1812] was made memorable only by the following incident. We were exercising sail. Jack Mitchell, who was an able seaman, and second captain of the fore-top, was assisting in taking in two reefs. Come to shake them out, the earing got jamed in the crinkle; whereupon he out knife, and cut it. This being observed, he was called down, and received a dozen on the bare back with a cat-o-nine tails.

‘That’s a new-year’s gift,’ cried Jack.

This expression has fixed that first of January indellibly in my mind. We all of us had to take a ‘dowry’ now and then, and a little wit was the only commodity with which we could ever season such sauce.”

Battles and Engagements
During Mitchell’s service on board, the ship made a diplomatic mission to France and Holland. Later he participated in the battles with HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812. He received $42.62 ½ and $42.30 in prize money for the victories. He served as train tackle man to no. 3 carronade during the second battle. He was on board when Constitution captured a British man-of-war schooner and three merchant vessels in 1814.

Mitchell’s date and place of death are unknown.


Crew ID

9487