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Purser Thomas J. Chew

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Thomas John Chew was born on January 28, 1777 in New London, Connecticut, to Samuel and Lucy Miller Chew. He entered the United States Navy in 1799 for service in the Quasi-War with France and secured a purser’s commission in 1809. As purser, Chew was a commissioned officer responsible for keeping the ship’s pay and muster rolls, accounting for provisions, selling clothing and non-ration items to sailors, and keeping detailed account books. While at sea, Chew exchanged frequent correspondence with his colleagues and his wife, Abigail Hallam. Chew’s family was financially comfortable, thanks to his position and investments, and he often indulged in fine clothing and gifts.

On June 1, 1812, Chew joined USS Constitution’s crew and was aboard during the engagement with HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. For his service in battle, he was awarded a Congressional Silver Medal and shared in the crew’s $50,000 prize money. Chew departed Constitution on September 26, 1812, acting as purser of the Boston Navy Yard, and later transferred to USS Chesapeake. He resigned from the navy on March 12, 1821 and died in 1846.

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