Samuel Cooper Hixon
Rank(s): Sailing Master
Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 7/13/1784
Death Date: 9/8/1840
Samuel C. Hixon was born in Boston, MA on July 13, 1784, the son of Joseph Sayer Hixon and Abigail Cooper. Samuel’s maternal grandfather was the Rev. Samuel Cooper, the pastor of the Brattle Street Church in Boston. His paternal grandfather was an English gentleman, and had served as the keeper of His Majesty’s wardrobe in the palace at Greenwich. The family lived on Hanover Street in Boston.
Hixon must have gone to sea at an early age, but so far there is little information about his education. By 1807 he was in command of vessels trading to West Indies. He may have commanded a small privateer (mounting only one gun and carrying 45 men) out of Boston soon after the declaration of war in June 1812. It appears he was captured by the British, but was released on parole late in 1813.
Hixon joined Constitution’s crew as acting sailing master on July 21, 1813 at Boston. He received his warrant, confirming his rank, on April 30, 1814.
The sailing master was responsible for the day to day running of the ship. He had to be an excellent seaman and navigator, and be well-versed at working and maintaining a vessel at sea. He oversaw the loading and stowing of ballast, provisions, and other cargo. Navigation was his direct responsibility, and he was in charge of keeping the logbook and charts. In addition to the ship’s logbook he kept a journal in which he noted navigational challenges or dangers not marked on charts, inventories of stores and provisions brought aboard and used. Finally, he was responsible for keeping the ship in good sailing trim. The master’s mates, boatswain, and carpenter reported to the sailing master. Because a sailing master held his rank by virtue of a warrant from the Navy Department rather than a commission, his was not a promotion-track position. He was paid $40.00 per month and received two rations per day.
Battles and Engagements
Hixon served on board during Constitution’s battle with HMS Cyane and Levant on February 20, 1815. During the engagement, he was in charge of steering the ship, with the help of four helmsmen. According to the narrative of Marine Fifer Thomas Byron, Hixon was “as good a master as ever stepped a ships deck.” “Great credit was due Mr. Hickson [sic] in maneuvering so as to prevent their raking her [Constitution] as she was backing and filling the whole action.”
After the battle, Hixon went on board the captured Levant as one of the prize officers. Unfortunately, the ship was retaken by the British at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands several weeks after the battle. The war was over by that point, however, and Hixon returned home to Boston.
In June 1815, Hixon requested a furlough from the Navy to “prosecute a voyage to the East Indies.” In 1817 he was appointed sailing master to USS Macedonian. By 1828 he was on leave again. In 1831, he was appointed sailing master of the receiving ship at the Boston Navy Yard. During this period the family lived at 57 Myrtle St. in Boston.
He helped form the Naval Benevolent Association of Boston in 1833. By May 1840, Hixon was suffering from “a severe affection [sic] of the eyes” and was unable to write. He died on September 8, 1840 at the Charlestown Navy Yard.