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Ship's Crew

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Peter Adams

Rank(s): Boatswain

Dates of Service: -

Death Date: 6/1/1813

Early Life
Adams’s date and place of birth are unknown.

Early Experience
Before Peter Adams served upon USS Constitution, he labored as a boatswain’s mate on Constitution‘s sister ship, USS President. It was here that he received a promotion to the rank of boatswain while the ship was in port at Hampton Roads, VA on April 18, 1812.

Due to his previous experiences on President, Adams was already an accomplished seaman when he transferred to Constitution. Being a Boatswain meant that he held the rank of petty officer and was in charge of the supervision and discipline of the crew. Adams’ main task would have been the vital upkeep of the ship that would have been necessary to assure that it would be seaworthy.

His duties would have ranged from the inspection of sail and rigging to supervising the weighing and dropping of the anchor. Adams also was required to report the status of the ship to the first lieutenant if any repairs were needed.

The boatswain (pronounced “bosun”) was responsible for the ship’s boats, sails, rigging, colors (flags), anchors, and cables. The ship’s rigging was his principal concern. He made sure that all the standing rigging and masts were set up properly, and that the running rigging was in good condition. He surveyed the sails to see that they were properly attached to the yards or stays and that they were well furled. He also acted as a sort of foreman for the crew, summoning the men to their duty and guiding them in their work, and seeing that the work was done with the least possible noise. The boatswain traditionally carried a silver call (or ‘pipe’) on a lanyard around his neck as a badge of office. In battle he was stationed on the forecastle. The boatswain was paid $20.00 per month and received two rations per day.

Battles and Engagements
During his time on board, the ship was on a diplomatic mission to France and Holland, and he later participated in victories over HMS Guerriere, August 19, 1812, and HMS Java, December 29, 1812
As a nod to Adams’ experience, it was said that Captain Isaac Hull consulted him before engaging a ship spotted upon the horizon in the afternoon of August 19, 1812. Recognizing the ship as English, Captain Hull engaged the ship, which was identified as HMS Guerriere.

Following Adams’ service onboard Constitution, Adams was transferred to USS Chesapeake. On June 1, 1813, the Chesapeake engaged HMS Shannon off Boston Light. After a quick, fierce battle, Chesapeake, commanded by Captain James Lawrence, surrendered.Chesapeake lost 252 men wounded or killed and Adams was counted among the dead.

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