Before Joining USS Constitution
Francis Mullen was born in Ireland in 1778.
Francis Mullen enlisted in the United States Marine Corps on May 24, 1809 and before the War of 1812 was posted to USS President. When he enlisted, he stated that he had formerly been a “soldier,” indicating that he may have served in the British army or marines before coming to America.
At his enlistment in 1809, Mullen stood 5 ft 9 inches tall, and had grey eyes, black hair, and a dark complexion.
Life Aboard USS Constitution
Marines were frequently transferred from ship to ship and barracks to barracks as needed. Mullen entered Constitution for the first time in June 1810. Transferred to the Washington Navy Yard in April 1812, Mullen once again joined Constitution a week before the declaration of war against Great Britain. He remained on board until transferred to the President again in March 1813.
Marine privates served as the shipboard police force and were, in effect, sea-going soldiers. Standing watch as sentries at sensitive parts of the ship, Marines ensured that no unauthorized people passed into those spaces (such as the captain’s cabin or the spirit room). Marines could not be ordered aloft to do the work of the seamen, but they could attend the capstan or serve as gun crews on the gundeck. In battle, Marines armed with muskets or rifles took up station along the gangway or in the tops to keep up a constant fire on the enemy’s decks.
Battles and Engagements
As described in a letter written by Lt. John Contee, Mullen was wounded during the battle against HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812: “Francis Mullen, Stationed on the Mizen Top, was the only Marine wounded, and he slightly thro’ the ancle, by a musket ball.” Despite his wound, Mullen was well enough to go to sea in late 1812, and was on board the ship when she met and defeated HMS Java on December 29, 1812.
After Mullen initially recovered from his leg wound, the navy transferred him to USS President in March 1813. Captain John Rodgers commended his service, remarking: “I have good reason, from personal knowledge & observation, to believe him to be an honest & deserving man.”
Unfortunately for Mullen, his leg never properly healed. The doctors who examined him at the U.S. Naval Hospital declared: “that his right leg, which had been wounded by a musket ball, is varicose, and when he takes exercise, very painful.”
Disabled by his injury, Mullen applied for a pension in 1820 and was soon granted a half pension of $3 a month.