Capt and Commander Stephen Buckland 1742-1782Leave a Comment
Biography of Captain Stephen Buckland February- 25-2012 by Wayne Jerome Rogers
Birth: August 1742, Connecticut, (American Ancestors, New England Genealogical Society, hereinafter “AA”, Volume 3 page 23).
Death: 7 May 1782, died at 39 years of age aboard the Jersey Prison Ship, New York, as a Privateer. (Goodwin, Joseph, East Hartford and its
History and Traditions” Raymond Library Co. East Hartford, Conn 1976, pg. 85); [AA, 3:23].
Marriage: Married Mary Olmsted of E. Hartford, Ct., 29 November 1767 [AA, 3:23].
Children: Mary, born 18 April 1769 ; Hannah b. 28 April 1771; Stephen, b. 21 May 1773;died September 1776; Stephen b. 4 September 1776, d. 7 September 1777; Elizabeth, b. 19 September 1778; Ralph 28 b. July 1781 [AA, 3:23].
Education: Unknown, but clearly was well educated, as shown by his letters and poetry to his wife, while on board the Jersey prison ship and the fact that his father was a commissioner of schools in East Hartford, CT.
Military: Commissioned 23 January 1776 as Captain-Lieutenant of Bigelow’s Independent Co., Connecticut Artillery (the first artillery company raised in Connecticut); promoted to Captain of Stevens Battalion Continental Artillery, 9th November 1776; the battalion became part of 3rd Continental Artillery in 1778. Captain, Crane’s Artillery Reg. 1 January 1777; detached to serve under General Gates against General Burgoyne (Saratoga). Subsequently stationed at Ticonderoga in 1776; Farmington in the winter of 1777-78; and Ft Arnold, West Point in 1779, at the time of the betrayal by Gen. Benedict Arnold. Resigned 12th April 1780 after having served four years [Francis Heitman, “Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the Revolution, Washington, D.C. W.H. Lowdermile & Co. 1893 pg. 105; Connecticut Adjutant-General’s Office; Record of service of Connecticut Men in the War of the Revolution (Hartford , The Case, Lockwood, Bainard, Printers and Binders 1899) pp. 124, 288. Not long after his resignation from the Continental Army, he was began service as a privateer, engaging in such naval service until being captured by the British 8 April 1782 and imprisoned in New York Harbor until his death scarcely a month later. (Middlebrook, Louis F. History of Maritime Connecticut during the American Revolution 1775-1783, Volume II, Salem, MA the Essex Institute 1925, hereinafter “Middlebrook”, p.191)
Cincinnati: Died in Service prior to the formation of the Society of the Cincinnati; first represented by a current Hereditary Member who joined in 2005.
Occupation: Likely a Ship Captain, as he knew ship and cannons and was commissioned to various privateer vessels [Naval Records of the American Revolution 1775-1788” Washington D.C Government Printing Office 1906; Middlebrook, p. 191].
Discussion: Steven Buckland was both as an Artillery Officer (4 years) and a Ship Captain as a Privateer (2 Years), serving for a combined period of 6 years! He resigned from the Continental Army 12 April 1780, after 4 years of service, but soon thereafter he was commissioned by Gov. Trumbull as Captain of a Connecticut privateer vessel. He captured the British Legion 19 August 1780. During the winter months, privateers typically returned to their homes, but when spring came, they resumed privateering. So on 19 March 1781 Stephen Buckland was commissioned again by Gov. Trumbull on the schooner Patty and captured large consignment of British goods on Long Island. Returning after a second winter period, he was commissioned with a Letter of Marque by the Continental Congress on the sloop Raven, 6 March 1782. However, he was captured 8 April 1782 by British Perseverance, Captain Ross and sent to New York, imprisoned aboard the infamous prison ship Jersey. Shortly after being imprisoned, he wrote 9 April 1782 to his wife (Mary Olmsted), telling her of his misfortunes and his hope that before long he would be patrolled:
“Not among graves but letters, old and dim
Yellow and precious, rare, we touched the past,
Reverent and prayerful, as we chant the hymn
Among aisles, where saints their shadows cast”
He wrote again 22 April 1782, “there were on board this ship almost seven hundred prisoners and increasing almost every day.” The ship was built to hold no more than 500 during its operational days as a frigate, the Jersey and others like her routinely kept upwards of 700 to 1000 prisoners on board. His younger cousin and crew member, Jonathan Chandler also of East Hartford Conn was on board the same captured ship Raven and was imprisoned with Capt. Buckland. He survived and provides a firsthand account of their ordeal aboard the Jersey. In Chandler’s rejected pension (as a Privateer), the then Colonel Jonathan Chandler , a hero of the War of 1812 as well, indicated that “with no change of linen the deponent was almost literally covered with lice and was sick and suffered everything but death and after remaining there about 6 months was exchanged and carried to Hartford the next Spring. He was unable to labor at all inconsequence of the sickness and hardship he endured which out of 92 prisoners taken, only 21(survived)that left the prison ship, amongst those that died were the Captain (Stephen Buckland), the Lieutenant, and the sailing master himself was left cripple as consequence of sickness from falling and sitting”. Capt. Stephen Buckland died May 7, 1782, having been able to survive the hellish conditions on the Jersey for barely a month. He left his wife and 4 living children. While there is a tombstone for him in Center Cemetery at East Hartford, CT, his real remains are probably with other martyrs of prison ships buried in Fort Green, Brooklyn, NY. If he were to have survived, who knows what he may have become. However, after six long years of service on both land and sea, Capt. Stephen Buckland made the ultimate sacrifice on behalf of his country. Although he remained unrepresented in the Society of the Cincinnati for 223 years after his death, his memory lives on. The Capt. Stephen Buckland Company of Artillery is reenacted regularly in Connecticut as an affiliate unit of the Nathan Hale Ancient Fifes & Drums.