Samuel Harris Green
Dates of Service: -
Birth Date: 5/2/1773
Death Date: 5/26/1843
Henry Gilliam was born around 1790 in Georgia, to parents Peter and Mary Gilliam of Lincoln County.
Green’s father was a privateer captain in the American Revolution, and the son must have gone to sea at an early age. Before the War of 1812 he sailed in command of several merchant vessels out of Marblehead.
Green joined Constitution’s crew as a quartermaster on 5 October 1813 while the ship was at Boston, MA undergoing repair. He was finally discharged and transferred to USS Enterprise on 7 July 1815.
The quartermaster was appointed by the sailing master and assisted the master’s mates with their duties. He helped supervise the stowage of ballast and provisions, coiled the anchor cables in the tier, supervised the men at the helm, and kept time with the watch-glasses. A quartermaster made $18.00 per month and received one ration per day.
Green was the victim of an unfortunate accident. In his pension application, he said, “While cruising off Barbados, one night when beating to arms, he was severely and badly wounded in the leg by being accidentally cut and bruised by an iron hoop.” As a surgeon who examined him in 1837 put it, the wound “consisted of a fracture to the fore part of the bone of his leg by an iron hoop connected with a match-tub in a dark night & which resulted in an incurable running sore which always has & probably always will be a great deal of trouble to him.”
This was in March 1814. By the end of the month, provisions were running low, the mainmast had a large crack in it, and Captain Stewart decided to steer for Boston. On 3 April, the ship made landfall around Cape Ann and headed south for Boston in the light breeze. About 8:00 that morning, the lookout sighted two ships to the south-east and closing fast. As they got nearer, it was obvious that these were two British frigates closing in to cut off Constitution from Boston. Stewart’s only choice was to run into Marblehead to evade his pursuers.
Stewart first asked Quartermaster Samuel Anderton to pilot the ship in, but Anderton replied that Green, who had sailed as a ship master out of the port, would be a more suitable choice, so the Captain asked Green to pilot Constitution into Marblehead harbor. No doubt he’d done this hundreds of times in many different vessels, but it still must have been a nerve-wracking job, especially with two 38-gun British frigates bearing down astern. Worst of all, because of his injury, he wasn’t capable of standing. He had to be lifted out of his hammock, dressed and carried on deck. He was placed in a chair lashed to the rail near the wheel, so he could see the ship’s position and speak directly to the helmsmen.
As soon as they were abreast of Halfway Rock, they sailed strait in for the harbor, and the safety of the gun batteries erected there. They dropped anchor about 12:30. The two British ships, the Junon and Tenedos, weren’t willing to risk sailing into unknown waters or face shore batteries. They gave up the chase and stood about six miles offshore. A few hours later Stewart sailed around to Salem. After two weeks there, the British ships were nowhere to be seen, and Constitution made a dash for Boston.
In the meantime, Green’s brother came and took him home to the family in Marblehead where he stayed a few days until he was feeling better and then went on the rejoin the ship in Boston. He stayed on board until June, but his leg refused to heal and he was sent to the Marine Hospital in Charlestown. After 119 days in bed, the doctors thought he could return to duty, and he rejoined the ship just before she sailed again in December.
Battles and Engagements
Green was on board during the battle with HMS Cyane and Levant on 20 February 1815, and was sent as part of the prize crew to the Levant. Unfortunately, Levant was cornered by a British squadron at Porto Praya in the Cape Verde Islands and recaptured. The American prize crew was taken prisoner and carried to Barbados. Green wasn’t there long, because news of the peace treaty soon reached the island and the British sent all the prisoners home. For his participation in the victory, he shared in the $20,000 in prize money for the Cyane and received $51.81 for the Levant.
Green returned to sea after the war, but his health steadily declined as the years went by. By 1838, according to one witness, “one side of him [is] wholly paralyzed and [he] is unable to move from his chair without help.” He died on 26 May 1843 of palsy.