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Notes on the Captains of the Vessels in the Battle of Valcour Island under Brigadier General Benedict Arnold

Part 1e:
Isaac Seaman- Revenge Schooner, John Thatcher- Washington Galley

by Stephen Darley


There is no record of Isaac Seaman’s birth or early life. However, Isaac Seaman must have had previous experience commanding vessels because he entered the Revolutionary War from Albany, New York in April of 1776 as the Captain of the Revenge Schooner  under the then Commodore on Lake Champlain, Jacobus Wynkoop. The Commodore post was later taken over by Benedict Arnold in July and he left Seaman in place commanding the Revenge. On August 17, 1776, Arnold ordered Captain Seaman to sail down the lake seven or eight miles to observe any enemy activity in anticipation of a British attack from Canada. On August 24th, Seaman joined the Arnold flotilla and headed north along the shore of New York for approximately eight miles, but observed no British activities.  On the 26th   of August, the Connecticut gondola lost her mast during a storm and Seaman’s vessel towed the damaged gondola out of harm’s way. In the subsequent Valcour contest, Revenge was one of only five vessels to reach Fort Ticonderoga intact after the battle.

In her pension application (W. 16399), his widow, Margaret, encloses letters and certifications from a number of individuals regarding Isaac Seaman’s service as commander of Revenge on Lake Champlain in 1776. Based on the pension application, there is no question as to the identity of the Captain Seaman who was the commander of the Revenge.

After the battle, on February 18, 1777, Schuyler ordered Seaman to go to Fort Ticonderoga with his crew and operate under the command of Colonel Anthony Wayne. Because of the lack of experienced seafaring men at Fort Ticonderoga, on March 24, Seaman was ordered by Schuyler to go to Fish Kill and recruit a company of forty-nine sailors. He was at Fort George in June of 1777 but no vessel being under his command  is listed. In 1778, he was serving in the Quarter Master General department of the Continental Army and at that time was given command of a vessel on the Hudson River. Seaman served on that vessel through the end of 1779 and into 1780. He left the service sometime in 1780.

Seaman married his wife, Margaret, on March 9, 1777 in Albany, New York. After the war, he continued in the seafaring business and in 1804 he was on a petition to the Common Council of the City of New York to allow vessels over one hundred tons to enter into “Old and Coffee Slips.” In 1815, he was listed in the Annual Register of Albany as a “ship master marine.” He died in Albany on April 10, 1820 and is buried in the Old Dutch Burying Ground of Sleepy Hollow.[9]


John Thatcher was born in Norwalk, Connecticut on July 25, 1742. By 1766, he was living in New Milford, Connecticut, and he seems to have been living in New Haven prior to the outbreak of the war as he was listed as one of the original members of 2nd Governor’s Footguard of New Haven, along with Benedict Arnold and Eleazer Oswald, in a document dated December 28, 1774. He was also listed as being from New Haven in the autobiography of Samuel Blakeslee of Wallingford, Connecticut. In the summer of 1776, he was captain of a company in Colonel Heman Swift’s Connecticut Regiment and marched with them to Fort Ticonderoga. In August of 1776, he was appointed as captain of the Galley Washington at the request of Benedict Arnold and by August 25, he was with General David Waterbury and was delivering messages from Waterbury to Gates.

In the Valcour battle, Thatcher and Waterbury surrendered Washington on October 13 due to its condition and inability to fight. General Waterbury, who was on the Washington during the action, described her condition as “so torn to pieces that it was almost impossible to keep her above water.” As a result of the surrender, all survivors, including Waterbury and Thatcher, were taken prisoner and all of the Washington’s crew were quickly released on parole and Thatcher’s sword was returned to him.

In the battle, Thatcher was wounded in the leg prior to the surrender and some time thereafter he lost the leg. Arnold described the Washington’s role in the action in a letter to Gates on October 12, where he says “the Congress and Washington have suffer’d greatly, the latter lost first lieut. Killed, & Capt & master wounded.” According to his son David’s statement, his leg wound was so severe that he was “disabled for life to do business, having lost his property & leg, and being unable to support his family.” As a result of his injury, he was awarded a pension in 1789 under the Act of June 7, 1785. Obviously, he had no subsequent service in the Revolutionary War. He married Ann Perry in 1767 and she had three children. He married Mehetable Ufford in 1778 and she had five children, including David. John Thatcher died on January 16, 1805 at the age of sixty-two and was buried in Litchfield, Connecticut. His pension file provides the evidence for his command of the Washington.[10]


[9]Isaac Seaman.; Isaac Seaman Pension Application, W16399; NDAR, Vol. 9, 174; Fowler, 204;; Joseph Fry. Annual Register and Albany Directory for the Year 1815, June 13, 1815; Information on Isaac Seaman,   

[10] Waterbury to Gates, American Archives, S5, Vol. 1, 1187; John Thatcher Pension Application, R1439; Arnold to Gates, S5, Vol. 1, 1129; Heitman, 537; Rev. Charles M. Selleck. Norwalk. Norwalk, CT: Selleck, 1896, 451-454; John Thatcher Family Tree,; Thacher-Thatcher Genealogy. New York Genealogical and Biographical Record, Vol. 44, 1913, 245-252; Second Company Governor’s Foot Guard, Souvenir History 150th Anniversary, 1775-1925. New Haven: Tuttle, Morehouse & Taylor Co., 1925, 6-7.

Date this page was last edited: 1/23/2016

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