Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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TUCKER, Samuel, naval officer, born in Marblehead, Massachusetts, 1 November, 1747; died in Bremen, Maine, 10 March, 1833. He was the son of a ship-master, and when eleven years old ran away and shipped in the English sloop-of-war " Royal George." He had command of a merchantman in 1768, and made many voyages before the Revolution as a captain. When the war began he was in London, and narrowly escaped compulsory service in the British navy. He returned as a passenger in a ship that was owned by Robert Morris, and on the voyage took charge of the vessel during a violent storm. Mr. Morris then introduced him to General Washington, who commissioned him a captain in the navy, 20 January, 1776, and assigned him to command the armed schooner " Franklin." While this vessel was fitting out he took command of a small schooner for a short cruise, and fell in with a British transport with troops and stores. After a desperate engagement for two and a half hours the transport surrendered. The stores were given to Washington's army, and arrived most opportunely. Tucker received the thanks of Washington and the army for this brilliant service. In March, 1776, he was transferred to command the schooner "Hancock," in which he captured two English brigs in Massachusetts bay on 17 April, the ship "Peggy" on 29 July, a brig and a brigantine on the following day, and the brig "Lively" on 29 October, 1776. He captured more than thirty vessels in the "Franklin " and "Hancock " m 1776. The list was destroyed, but the prizes included several armed vessels, and some of them were very valuable. On 15 March, 1777, he was appointed to command the frigate "Boston," in which he took out John Adams as minister to France in February, 1778. In June, 1779, after capturing five prizes on his return voyage from France, he convoyed a fleet of merchantmen from the West Indies to Philadelphia, loaded with clothing that had been bought in Holland for the American army. He was chased by the British frigate " Pole," but by a ruse obtained a commanding position and compelled the enemy to surrender, without firing a gun. He next cruised in the "Boston" with the frigate " Confederacy" also under his command, and captured several British privateers. In August, 1779, he sailed in company with the " Deane," under Commander Samuel Nicholson ; both ships captured several prizes, and the " Boston" took the sloop-of-war " Thorn" alone. He sailed in the "Boston" in 1779 to join the squadron of Commander Abraham Whipple to assist in the defence of Charleston, South Carolina The American squadron was captured by the British fleet on the surrender of Charleston, and Tucker was paroled, 20 May, 1780. He went to Boston, effected his exchange with Captain Wardlaw, whom he had captured in the " Thorn," and obtained command of his former prize. He was highly successful on this cruise, and captured seven prizes. He endeavored to capture the enemy by stratagem whenever it was possible. In July, 1781, he was taken in the "Thorn" by the British frigate "Hind" off the mouth of St. Lawrence river. He and his crew were carried to Prince Edward island, where they were kindly treated. He was permitted to go in an open boat to Halifax with some of his officers, instead of which he went to Boston, notwithstanding the peril of the undertaking. Upon his arrival he wrote to the British commissary at Halifax saying he and his officers considered themselves on parole, as their escape was not strictly proper. The British officer accepted the apology for the escape, and also granted them their parole. After the war Tucker received a vote of thanks from congress for his services. The country was without any navy from 1785 till 1797, and Tucker commanded several packets between the Atlantic ports and Europe. In 1792 he removed from Marblehead to a farm near Bristol, where afterward was the town of Bremen, Maine In 1813 British privateers committed depredations on the coast of Maine, and the commodore was called on to command a schooner. Two brass cannon were borrowed from the fort at Wiscasset, and with improvised armament the schooner chased and captured a privateer after a desperate fight of two hours. The vessel proved to be the "Crown," with valuable stores, which Tucker distributed among the needy people of the district. After his retirement from the sea he served as selectman of the town of Bristol, was elected to the Massachusetts legislature in 1814-'18, and was a member of the convention to form a constitution for the new state of Maine in October, 1819, after which he was a member of the Maine legislature in 1820-'1. In 1820 he was a presidential elector. He had great difficulty in obtaining compensation for his services as a captain in the navy. His claim for pay was debarred by a statute of limitation, and in his old age he was in reduced circumstances, as he had been defrauded of the fortune that came to him from his immense prizes. In March, 1821, he was granted a pension of $20 a month from 1 January, 1818. In June, 1832, this was increased to $600 per annum. At the time of his death he was, excepting General Lafayette, the highest in rank of surviving officers of the Revolution. See " Life of Commodore Samuel Tucker," by John H. Sheppard (Boston, 1868).
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