Rank(s): Able Seaman
Dates of Service: -
William Long was born in Wiscasset, Maine (then part of Massachusetts).
Long joined Constitution as a seaman on March 1, 1811 at New York. Discharged on March 18, 1813, he re-enlisted on August 22, 1813. He was finally discharged on July 14, 1815 at Boston, MA.
Long first served as a seaman. 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.
During the battle with HMS Java on December 29, 1812, Long was shot through the upper body by a “large grape shot” which left his left arm and shoulder disabled. In August 1813 he reenlisted as the ship’s cook, one of the few jobs available to disabled men on a ship. The cook occupied an important position aboard ship. The cook did not truly cook, in the sense of making original dishes from scratch. On the contrary, his role was more supervisory than participatory. He oversaw the steep tub, the barrel in which the salt meat was allowed to soak before cooking. He tended the fire in the camboose (stove) to ensure the food was roasted, baked, or boiled properly, and oversaw the scouring of the copper boilers in which the crew’s rations were prepared. The selling of slush, the grease and fat that rose to the surface of the boilers during cooking, was his special privilege, but he first had to provide the boatswain with all that was needed for lubricating various moving parts on the ship. The cook received $18.00 per month.
Either the pain of his wound or his naturally gruff disposition made Long somewhat ill-tempered and improvident in his speech. He was court-martialed on October 18, 1814 for an incident involving “mutinous” language. He had been ordered to serve cheese as a substitute for pork to the ship’s crew. The ship’s steward, Simpson Shaw, testified that Long would not receive it, saying he “would see the ship in hell and all on board damned first, and those who did receive it were damned fools.”
Battles and Engagements
During 1811 and early 1812, the ship patrolled the American coast enforcing US trade laws and carried out a diplomatic mission to France and Holland. Long participated in the battles with HMS Guerriere, HMS Java, and HMS Cyane and Levant. He was wounded in the left arm and shoulder during the battle with the Java. He received $42.62 ½ and $42.30 for the first two battles and shared with the crew $45,000 for the last.
Long received a pension of $6.00 per month for his wounds, although both Surgeon Amos Evans and Commodore William Bainbridge believed he should have received a pension of $12.00 per month. This pension commenced on March 18, 1813. He was re-examined by John B. Brown, M.D. on November 11, 1821, who concluded that Long was entitled to a continuance of his pension. Long’s son William R. Long wrote to the Secretary of the Navy in July 1837 requesting an orphan’s pension; Long had clearly died some years before.