Robert William Atkins
Rank(s): Able Seaman
Dates of Service: 9/2/1813 - 2/20/1815
Atkins’ date and place of birth are unknown, but he may have been from Marblehead, Massachusetts.
Atkins joined Constitution ’s crew as an able seaman on September 2, 1813 at Boston. He was transferred to the prize HMS Cyane on February 20, 1815.
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
Atkins was on board during the engagement with HMS Cyane and HMS Levant on February 20, 1815. He shared in the $20,000 in prize money for the Cyane and received $22.19 for the Levant . During the battle he served as second loader to gun no. 6 on the spar deck and also acted as a boarder when needed.
Atkins’ place and date of death are unknown.