Dates of Service: 5/20/1812 - 3/18/1813
Birth Date: 1784
Death Date: 10/24/1850
Peter Woodbury was born in Beverly, Massachusetts in 1784. He was the son of Herbert and Hepzibah Pride Woodbury. His father was a “well known” shipmaster in Salem. Woodbury married a woman named Hannah from Scituate, Massachusetts on November 11, 1823. Together the couple had four children, three sons and a daughter. Their son Jeremiah served in the US Navy during the Civil War.
Woodbury joined Constitution ’s crew as a quartermaster on May 20, 1812 while the ship lay at the Washington Navy Yard. He was discharged on March 18, 1813.
Battles and Engagements
Woodbury served on board during Constitution ’s victory over HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. He also was there for the December 29, 1812 battle with HMS Java . During that battle, he and three other helmsmen steered the ship. Early in the fight, a British cannonball smashed Constitution ’s wheel, killing or wounding all four men stationed there. Woodbury lost the thumb and the first two joints of the two adjacent fingers of his left hand.
Because of his wound, Woodbury was discharged from the Navy when Constitution returned to Boston. He was awarded a half pension of nine dollars (that is, half his monthly pay while in the service). He was not placed on the permanent pension list, however, and so had to reapply for his pension every two years. In the opinion of his examining physicians, Joshua Fisher and Abner Howe (the former the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, the latter a “classmate of the Hon. Daniel Webster”), Peter Woodbury should have been put on the permanent pension list, “as it is impossible to restore his hand to its original perfection and usefulness.” Thanks to their testimony he was finally put on the permanent disability list in 1830. Peter Woodbury died of dysentery in Beverly on October 1, 1850, aged 66.