Rank(s): Ordinary Seaman
Dates of Service: -
Thomas Miller was born in New York.
Miller enlisted at Baltimore, Maryland and joined Constitution’s crew as an ordinary seaman on May 5, 1812 at Washington, DC. He was transferred from the ship sometime after February 17, 1813. He may have gone to Lake Ontario.
Among the enlisted men, ordinary seamen stood in the middle of the lower-deck hierarchy. These men had typically sailed one or two voyages and knew basic seamanship. Like the able seamen, they too could “hand, reef, and steer,” but some of the more complicated maneuvers were foreign to them. Many ordinary seamen would have been numbered among the topmen, the young and agile crewmembers who were responsible for working aloft on the masts and yards. The ordinary seaman made $10.00 per month.
Battles and Engagements
Miller participated in the battles against HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812 and HMS Java on December 29, 1812. During the second engagement he served as pumpman and second boarder at gun no. 7 on the gun deck. Lieutenant Lewis German said he “behaved very well during the time particularly in the two actions under Capt Hull & Commodore Bainbridge.”
In 1816, Miller enlisted on board USS Jones under Captain Woolsey at Sackets Harbor, NY. While working at the dockyard there, he fell from a ship on the stocks and severely fractured his left arm and lower jaw. Navy surgeons declared him unfit for duty and he was discharged on September 3, 1817. He was then left “wholly unable to serve as a Sailor or to work for a living and is destitute of friends and without money.” His name was placed on the Pension Roll of New York in November 1817. He left the United States in March 1820 and made his way to Valparaiso, Chile. In November 1825 he lost his certificate in a fire that ruined the house he was boarding in, along with all his clothing and other possessions. After that disaster he went to Buenos Aires, Argentina. While he was away, his pension money accumulated. Upon his return to New York, he could not find work and tried to obtain the money due him. His lawyer asked, “why should an Old Sailor who had spent his best days in the public Service and who was so disabled therein as to prevent him in his advanced age to obtain a support from Manual labour and after a long absence be placed in a situation so forlorn and deplorable as to require charity for a support when his Government by its Bounty has become his debtor to a considerable amount.” A new pension certificate was issued in October 1829.