J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2008

John Loring, Midshipman

John Loring was born in 1761, one of the younger sons of Commodore Joshua Loring and his wife Mary. He and his twin brother Thomas may well have been the first children born in the Loring-Greenough House, built in 1760 and still standing today in Jamaica Plain. Thomas died at age seven.

Commodore Loring got his naval title from service to the Crown on Lake Ontario during the French and Indian War. His oldest son, also named Joshua, was a lieutenant in the army’s 15th Regiment during that same conflict. When the next war came around, young John decided to enter the British military as well, but he chose the saltwater navy.

John Loring was commissioned as a midshipman at age fourteen in 1775. I’m not sure what month he entered the Royal Navy, but his first assignment was apparently on the man-of-war Scarborough, commanded by Capt. Andrew Barkley, and that ship wasn’t in Boston for the first seven months of the year. It was patrolling the harbor of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, disabling the defenses at Fort William and Mary and seizing ships with any sort of food. In August the Scarborough returned to Boston, bringing along royal governor John Wentworth and his family. Presumably Midshipman Loring went on after that.

In early January 1776, the Scarborough captured a schooner named Valent that was said to be heading from Salem to Winyaw, North Carolina. (Winyah Bay is actually in South Carolina, so I can’t explain that.) Barkley apparently made that schooner part of a little fleet he took down to Georgia.

There Capt. Barkley rescued another royal governor, James Wright. In March 1776, the Royal Navy and the local Patriots fought over some rice ships on the Savannah River. Barkley’s forces seized a lot of supplies, but the Georgians burned other vessels to keep them out of royal hands and felt that they had won a great victory.

Barkley sent the Valent back to Boston with a cargo of “rum, sugar, &c.” from Georgia. According to the usual procedures for capturing a ship, he had replaced its captain, who was named Cleveland, with some of his own officers. The two “prize masters” on the schooner were mate Edward Marsh, and young John Loring.

TOMORROW: Midshipman Loring returns home.

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