Rank(s): Ordinary Seaman
Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 10/26/1794
Matthew Basset was born around 1794 in Marblehead, Massachusetts, son of Matthew and Elizabeth Basset.
Basset enlisted as an ordinary seaman on August 15, 1809.
Basset joined Constitution’s crew as an ordinary seaman on June 17, 1810. He was promoted to able seaman on January 6, 1811. He was discharged on April 30, 1811. He joined the Constitution again as an able seaman on September 15, 1813. In 1814, he was assigned to gun no. 2 as the 2nd loader/fireman as a part of the forecastle division.
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.
Battles and Engagements
He fought in the battles with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant and received $22.19 in prize money. He fought in the battle with HMS Guerriere and received $42.62 in prize money. He also fought in the battle with HMS Java and received $42.30 in prize money.
Basset was discharged from the Constitution on August 31, 1815. His place and date of death are unknown.