NARRATIVE OF MOSES D. WEBBER
THE CREW OF THE
FROM 1835‑1838,IN A PRIVATE COLLECTION
"...I was an ordinary seaman on board
the Revenue Cutter Hamilton and when in port and at anchor off
"At that time Commodore John Downes was Commandant of the Navy Yard...
"I spoke to the Captain of the Cutter
Capt Girdler of Marble head and told him I wanted to ship on the Constitution
and he took me in his boat to the Navy Yard and before Commodore Downes and told him who I was and that he was acquainted
with my father in
"I received my pay and discharge from
the Cutter and at once inlisted [sic] in the Navy of
"Andrew Jackson was President of the
"The ship was hurriedly fitted out,
the officers assigned, crew shipped and put aboard, stores, ammunition etc
taken in, then under command of Commodore Eliot we got under way as soon as
possible, our destination being the coast of
"The Constitution was rated a 44 gun ship, mostly medium 32 pounders weighing about 3300 lbs. each with 32 pound carronades (pig handle, so‑called) on the quarter deck and having about 400 all told of officers and crew.
"My position on board the ship was as one of the messenger boys (as I was but 15 years old I had to ship in the Navy as a boy) and I was Powder Boy of the 3rd devision [sic] on the main deck (that is the deck below the upper or spar deck).
"There were twelve guns in this division, medium 32 pounders weighing about 3300 lbs, each six on each side of the ship. When both batteries were manned, that is the guns on both sides of the ship, there were about 15 men and boys at each gun (the largest ones), the smaller ones the carronades requiring about 5 or 6 to man them. The guns' crew (at the 32 pounders) were designated as 1st and 2nd Captains of gun, 1st and 2nd loaders, first and second spongers, first and second side tackle men, first and second train tackle men, 1st and 2nd hand spike men, 1st and 2nd wad and shot men with a powder boy or boys to each division.
"For boarding an enemy's ship in action or repelling boarders from the enemy, the #1 men of the guns crews were designated as 1st boarders and the #2 men as 2nd boarders, part of them as #1 or #2 pikemen to handle the boarding pikes. At the call for boarders the #1 boarders and #2 pikemen responded first, leaving the #2 men at the guns, at the command 'Away all boarders,' all went.
"The ship was rated a 44 gun ship, but carried more than that number of guns about 50, if I remember right, (in the war of 1812, she carried from 52 to 54 guns). When at quarters when but one battery (that is the guns on one side of the ship) was manned, all the men belonging to a gun, (that is the No. 1's and #2's) were at the gun. When both batteries were manned the #1's of the gun crew remained at the starboard battery, the #2's going to the port battery. The spar upper deck guns were divided into two divisions, the Forecastle division and the quarter deck division. On the main deck (the next below the upper or spar deck) there were three divisions making five divisions of guns on the ship.
"There was another division called the sixth or Master's division which was not stationed at the big guns consisting of sail trimmers, firemen (men to be on the lookout for and extinguish any fire that might occur on the ship in time of action). Stopper men, whose duty it was in action to make such repairs as was necessary of any damage caused by the fire of the enemy to the standing or running rigging. This division was also known as small arms men, that is they were drilled in the use of musket and in case of action when not otherwise employed were supposed to use their muskets on the enemy.
"We had a Marine guard, soldiers of about 25, who were not attached to any of the divisions, but who in action were supposed to act as sharpshooters, under command of their own officers.
"The boats of the ship were designated
as 1st, 2nd and 3rd Cutters, Launch and Dinghey
[sic]. I will say here that on this ship
but in no other in the Navy that ever I saw or heard of, she carried guns only
on the Quarter Deck and Forecastle (that is in the foreward
[sic] and after part of the ship) on the spar (upper) deck, there were no guns
on that deck in the waist (or middle of the ship's sides) in the place of these
she had what were called deep waist nettings for the hammocks, where they were
stowed standing on end instead of as usual in other ships being laid out flat
in the hammock nettings which extended from the quarter to the break of the
forecastle, just forward of the forerigging, the
whole length of the rail on both sides in those ships, except a clear space at
both gangways. This peculiarity can be
seen in any true picture of the ship, in the ship herself, or in that complete
model of her now and for years in
"On the main deck (that next below the upper or spar deck) were ports and guns all along both sides. The figure head of the ship on this cruise was that celebrated one of the full length figure of General Jackson, carved in wood, from which the head was sawn one dark stormy night before this cruise, while a sentry was walking his beat right over it on the forecastle (as Naval History relates). However the full and complete figurehead gilded and shining in the sunlight like gold went on this cruise with us.
"We remained on the coast of
"At this place we enlisted several men
as additions to the crew. Also a boy of
eleven years of age named Gabriel Col (pronounced as if written Koll)(Spanish) as cabin boy for
Capt Burrage [sic: Boerum]
and also to wait on the officers. He is
living now in
"After leaving Port Mahon the ship
went first to
"The latter part of our cruise was
taken in the Mediterranean until we were ordered home and the line of
Note: This excerpt is from the typescript of a much
longer paper relating his entire Navy career written by Mr. Webber and dated 5
February 1900. He wrote it in response
to a request from Mrs. Caroline E. Wyman of