Charles Bulkeley (1752-1848) was born in Colchester, but his family soon moved to New London. Bulkeley was in the West Indies trade at the beginning of the Revolutionary War. He served as a midshipman in the Continental Navy ship Alfred and was captured in 1778. Escaping from prison in England he returned to New London and commanded the privateer Active in 1781. She was damaged during Arnold’s raid on New London, during which Bulkeley fought with the militia. He then commanded the privateers Marshall and Randolph. After the war he engaged in the West Indies trade as a merchant and master. A Democrat, Bulkeley supported the War of 1812. He built the large privateer schooner Mars and made a 100-day cruise to the Azores, returning in February 1813 after taking 11 prizes. One of his sons was lost at sea during the cruise. The British blockade of New London prevented a second cruise. After the war Bulkeley managed his store, served as president of the association that built the monument at Fort Griswold, and maintained a close friendship with General Henry Burbeck.


Guy R. Champlin (1785-1817) was born in New London, the son of Captain Lodowick Champlain and Mary Richards, who married George Avery of Groton after Captain Champlain died in 1786. He received a protection certificate as Guy R. Champlain at age 18 in 1803. By 1806 he was second mate in the ship Marshall from Leghorn to New Orleans (George Coggeshall was first mate). He commanded the New York privateer General Armstrong on a voyage to the South American coast, 1812-13. Thinking it was a well-armed British merchant ship, the privateers attacked a Royal Navy frigate. Wounded in the battle and sent below, Champlin threatened to blow up the General Armstrong if his officers surrendered. When they returned to New York, Champlin received a sword from the owners. After he recovered from his wound he commanded the New York privateer Warrior during a successful cruise in the eastern Atlantic, 1814-15. Following the war he apparently settled at New Orleans as a ship chandler and was involved with the Lafitte brothers at New Orleans and the Mexican revolutionary privateering port of Galveston. Commanding a 6-gun privateer (pirate?) schooner against Spanish vessels, he captured several slavers. Preparing to land several hundred slaves in the Atchafalaya River, he drowned in 1817 when his boat swamped.


George Coggeshall

George Coggeshall (1784-1861) was born at Milford and went to sea in 1799 as a 15-year-old cabin boy. He sailed with Adam Pond, Guy Champlin, and other future privateers in the West Indies, transatlantic, and China trades before he became captain at 25. In 1813 he bought half of the Milford-built letter-of-marque schooner David Porter, which carried five guns. With a crew of 30 he sailed to Charleston, where he loaded cotton for France. Coggeshall took one prize during his crossing and nearly lost his schooner during a severe gale in the Bay of Biscay. Unable to sell his cargo as the French Empire collapsed, Coggeshall made a short cruise and took four prizes out of an unguarded British convoy, then sent the David Porter home while he waited in France to settle his accounts. In November 1814 he took command of the Baltimore privateer Leo, then in France, took on a crew of 100, and made a short cruise in the English Channel. On December 1, while bound to Lisbon for repairs after losing a mast, the Leo was captured and taken to Gibraltar. The wily Coggeshall slipped across the bay to Spain and eventually made his way home in a Portuguese vessel, arriving in May 1815, more than 16 months after leaving in the David Porter. Coggeshall remained at sea after the war, and in the 1840s and 1850s he published detailed accounts of his many voyages and the comprehensive History of the American Privateers, and Letters of Marque, During Our War with England (1856), which remains an excellent source despite some errors.


Simeon Haley

Simeon Haley (1781-1859) was among the most active patriots in the “cursed little hornet’s nest” of Mystic. Haley went to sea at 17 and was captain of coasting vessels by the age of 23. He was an owner and master of the coasting schooner Atlantic, 1805-09, and Jeremiah Holmes sometimes served as his mate. In April 1813, he acted as prize master of the Mystic privateer Hero, taking command of the Fox after her capture by the Hero. In June 1813 he was part of the crew from Mystic that saved the sloop Victory from capture by British barges at the mouth of the Mystic River. During the Battle of Stonington, Haley served in the battery, frequently being the one to fire the cannon. In 1814 Haley also commanded the private armed boat True Blooded Yankee, as well as the boat that lured a British barge to capture at Groton Long Point. After the war he was owner and master of several sloops and schooners through 1842. This postwar painting is attributed to John Brewster Jr. (© Mystic Seaport Collection, Mystic, CT, #1941.265)



Silas Plowden Halsey (1787-1813), the son of Revolutionary War officer, lawyer, and militia officer Jeremiah Halsey and his wife Esther Park, was born in Preston. He went to sea as a teenager and was first mate of the brig Franklin on a voyage to South America in 1806. At 19 he took command of the sloop Eliza and made four voyages to the West Indies and South America, 1806-07. After the embargo, he commanded the schooner Orion on a voyage to Tangier in 1810. In July 1813 he gained the designation “the renowned Halsey” for his submarine expeditions against HMS Ramillies. Success in sinking her would have paid him handsomely under provisions of Congress’s 1813 Torpedo Act. In the 1840s Samuel Colt determined that Halsey’s submarine included a water cock to let in water to submerge, a hand-operated force pump to evacuate the water, a hand-operated propeller crank that also served as an auger to attach a torpedo to an enemy ship’s hull, a “conning tower” around the operator’s head, and an air tube, somewhat like David Bushnell’s Revolutionary War submarine Turtle. New London metalworker John Sizer built Halsey’s torpedo. Halsey reportedly made three unsuccessful voyages to attach his torpedo to the keel of the Ramillies, drowning in his submarine during his last attempt.


Samuel C. Nicoll  (1782-1850) was born at Stratford, the son of a merchant who had moved from New York to Stratford to manage property. Samuel apparently commanded coasting vessels on Long Island Sound as a young man. In May 1813 he took the 15-gun New York privateer schooner Scourge to sea by way of Long Island Sound (with Captain Decatur’s ships) and arrived on the coast of Norway at the beginning of July. He cruised the North Sea trade routes and north along the Norway coast, often in company with the Philadelphia privateer Rattlesnake. They created havoc among the unsuspecting Baltic traders and ships loaded with crucial naval stores from Russia, taking at least 22 prizes. Nicoll was so successful that he often remained ashore in Norway to manage sales of the vessels his lieutenant sent in, and he remained in Norway when the Scourge returned to New York. After the war Nicoll returned to his farm in Stratford but remained active in New York maritime circles.


Adam Pond (1783-1823), the son of Captain Charles Pond, a Revolutionary War captain and military officer, was born in Milford. Adam Pond was a captain by 1804 when he made a voyage to the Azores with future privateersman Charles Coggeshall in his crew. Idled by the embargo, he obtained command of a revenue cutter in 1809. By 1814 he was captain of the Milford-built schooner Sine qua non, which traded with France under a letter of marque. He had no recorded captures, but when he arrived at New York in April 1815 he delivered the first news of Napoleon’s escape from Elba. After the war Pond was engaged as a privateer against Spanish ships, in support of revolutionary South American republics.



Samuel Chester Ried

Samuel Chester Reid (1783-1861) was born at Norwich, the son of a captured British naval officer who had switched allegiance and settled in Connecticut. Samuel went to sea at 11 and was captured by a French privateer and imprisoned for six months in the West Indies. After service as an acting midshipman on the USS Baltimore during the Quasi-War with France he returned to merchant service and commanded the brig Merchant at age 20. Reid took command of the New York privateer General Armstrong in September 1814 and sailed to Fayal in the Azores. On September 26 three British warships arrived and sent barges toward the General Armstrong (even though Fayal was a neutral port). The British made several night attacks, losing as many as 250 casualties (the Americans lost 9). After further damaging one of the British warships, Reid scuttled the General Armstrong and his crew escaped ashore. His stout defense has been credited for delaying the British squadron’s arrival to support the attack on New Orleans, though this is in dispute. Following the war, Reid was named harbormaster of New York, where he improved the piloting service and navigational aids, and developed an improved code of signal flags for ships. He is perhaps best known for recommending that the design of the US flag have just 13 stripes (many versions had more), which was approved by Congress in 1818.


Nathaniel Shaler (1775-1814) was born at Bridgeport, although his family was from Bolton and the Connecticut River Valley. He and his brother William (who became a prominent mariner and diplomat) were quite young when they went to sea. Nathaniel Shaler was master of the brig Aurora when she was seized for trading in violation of Portuguese regulations at Para, Brazil, in 1803. He replaced the wounded Guy Champlin as captain of the New York privateer brig General Armstrong, making a successful cruise in 1813. He then took command of the New York privateer Governor Tompkins in 1814 and was lost at sea during her cruise.


John Washington (1787-1829) was the alias for a native of the Island of Guernsey. He was probably one of the British deserters from HMS Acasta who brought a barge in to Stonington in September 1813. Because of his experience and British accent, Washington then served as boarding master of the private armed boat Yankee of Mystic. He was one of the contingent who lured a British barge to capture at Groton Long Point in August 1814. When the Yankee went to Plum Island in September 1814 to kidnap a British officer (securing James Stewart instead), Washington acted as spokesman. After the war he settled in Mystic. His gravestone in the Packer Cemetery in Mystic is located a short distance from the unmarked burial site of a British Marine killed in the action at Groton Long Point.


Charles W. Wooster (1780-1848) was the son of Revolutionary War officer Thomas Wooster and grandson of General David Wooster. Born at New Haven, Wooster went to sea at age 11 and at 21 commanded the New York ship Fair American in trade to South America. He took command of the New York privateer brig Saratoga in the fall of 1812 and headed to the coast of Venezuela, where they captured several vessels. During her cruises under his command, the Saratoga took 22 prizes, including a heavily armed packet ship. After his return to New York, Wooster served as major of the New York Sea Fencibles, land-bound mariners who manned the port’s defenses. In 1815-16 he returned to transatlantic trade in the Halcyon, and in 1817 he took the brig Columbus, to the Pacific with a load of arms for the new Chilean government. He later served in the Chilean Navy, becoming its commander in 1822 and retiring as admiral in 1829. Wooster died in California.