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

Part 1g:
Philip Ulmer- Spitfire Gondola, David Hawley- Royal Savage Schooner

by Stephen Darley


Philip Ulmer was born in Waldsboro, Maine on December 25, 1751, the son of Johann Jacob “John Jr.” Ulmer. His grandfather was one of the original German settlers of Waldoboro in 1742. He married Christianna Young of Waldoboro in 1777 and they had 7 or 8 children. Not much is known about his early life.

According to his pension application, he joined a company in the 25th Continental Regiment commanded by Colonel William Bond in 1775 as a sergeant. He was with that regiment in 1776 in Canada where he was the captain of the Schooner Arabella, which operated on the St. Lawrence River. After his regiment returned to Fort Ticonderoga, he was assigned to command the Spitfire Gondola on Lake Champlain under General Benedict Arnold.

He was a first lieutenant in Colonel Joseph Vose’s regiment from January 1, 1777 until January 4, 1778, when he was discharged from the service at his own request. In 1779, he commanded a militia company in the Bagaduce expedition under Colonel Samuel McCobb, where he was wounded in the thigh by enemy artillery fire. In 1780 he commanded a regiment of militia in defense of Eastern Massachusetts, where he served at Penobscot and Camden, Maine, and left the service in November of 1780.

After the war, he and his brother moved to Ducktrap, Lincolnsville, Maine, and in 1809, he was appointed Sailing Master in the United States Navy, but was discharged by the Navy after only three months. Ulmer was a mason and a member of the first lodge in Camden, Maine. He died on October 3, 1816 at Lincolnville.[13]


David Hawley was born in Stratford, Connecticut in 1741, the son of James and Eunice Hawley. Nothing is known about his life prior to the Revolutionary War. Early in the war, Hawley went to the West Indies to bring back a cargo of gunpowder which was subsequently divided between Stratford and Fairfield. In March 1776, he was in command of a privateer sailing out of Stratford which was captured by a British man-of-war four days after sailing. He was taken to Halifax but escaped and returned home.

In July, 1776, he was appointed by Connecticut to command the Oliver Cromwell but before he sailed, he was commissioned by the State of Connecticut to raise a detachment for service on Lake Champlain. He served as the captain of the Royal Savage, which was sunk by the British on the first day of the battle, after it became disabled and was abandoned by its crew. Hawley then went on board another vessel, either the Washington or Congress, and continued to fight until the battle was over.

His next area of service was the Long Island Sound where he commanded at least two different vessels, Schuyler and Guilford. He was captured more than once but always managed to escape. In 1779, his vessel was taken by the British while in the New Haven Harbor but Hawley managed to avoid capture and fitted out a flotilla of armed boats. In November of 1779, he commanded a force of 20 men in a raid on Long Island, where his men captured Judge Thomas Jones of the Supreme Court of New York. Judge Jones was later exchanged for Connecticut militia General Gold Silliman, who had been taken prisoner the previous year.

In 1780, he led three armed vessels to Blue Point, Long Island, where he captured 11 British vessels. Also during 1780, he captured two British sloops in Long Island Sound one of which had numerous West India goods. Hawley is credited with capturing over 20 enemy vessels during the war. After the war, he built the first brick house in the City of Bridgeport on the corner of Water and Gilbert Streets, which was later used as a saddle factory by Seth B. Jones. Hawley never married and died in Bridgeport in 1807.[14]   


[13] Philip Ulmer Pension Application, S19963; Wendell E. Wilson. The German Ancestry of Mary Ulmer of Waldoborough and Lincolnville,, 221-254; Family Tree of Philip Martin Ulmer,; Mass. Soldiers & Sailors, Vol. 16, 249.

[14] David Hawley, Wikipedia;; Rev. Samuel Orcutt. History of the Old Towns of Stratford, Connecticut. Bridgeport: Fairfield County Historical Society, 1886, 398; William Howard Wilcoxsen. History of Stratford, 1639-1939. Stratford: Stratford Tercentenary Commission, 1939, 618-619 

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

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