Rank(s): Able Seaman
Dates of Service: 8/14/1813 - 10/4/1813
Birth Date: 1789
Death Date: 10/4/1813
Atherton was born June 2, 1788 at Mount Desert, Maine (then a part of Massachusetts). He was the son of Benjamin and Nancy Atherton, and the second of eleven children. In 1812, he married Patty (or Martha) Wasgatt of Eden, Maine. He applied for a seaman’s protection certificate at Salem, MA on July 17, 1812.
Atherton joined Constitution ’s crew as an able seaman on August 14, 1813. He died of unspecified causes on October 4, 1813.
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
During his time on board, the ship was blockaded in Boston, Massachusetts, and undergoing repairs.
Atherton’s place and date of death are unknown.