August 31, 2010

Peleg Tallman

The photo above is not that of Peleg Tallman. As a matter of fact this stone is not at Forest Hills Cemetery, either. [click on picture for better view]

Three reasons for showing this stone is that [1] the ship carved on it is the USS Trumball,
[2] Tallman served on board this ship in 1780 and [3] Mr. Tallman never sat for his portrait to be painted. His stone at Forest Hills is rather worn and I need something in this space to catch your attention.

This photo which I took is of the gravestone of Lt. Jabez Smith Jr. of the US Marines who died of injuries during fighting against a British ship on board the USS Trumball and he is buried at The Granary Burial Ground in Boston. During that same action Tallman was severely injured. More about that later.

First, let me make you aware that this will be one long post. So if you're up to it get a snack, a cup of tea, or, if you're not up to a long post, maybe, find something else to do.

All of that said let me tell you about Peleg Tallman. [Pronounced: Pell-leg, I think.]

Born in Tiverton, RI on July 24, 1764, his name Peleg was a popular one among pious people of that area. Taken from the Old Testament, Peleg was one of the two sons of Eber and it's meaning is a watercourse. Quite descriptive of one whose life would be so connected to the sea.

Peleg's mother died when he was just 8 years of age. Four years later his father, Peleg Sr., remarried and it would seem that he would never receive the Father of the Year Award. At the age of 12 Peleg Jr. was left to fend for himself. The year was 1776 and Peleg did what so many boys who had no trade did, he went to sea.

The American Navy was non-existent at this time so privateers began running out of American ports all along the East Coast to capture British ships [or at least try to]. Any ship that could carry a few guns made the attempt.

Peleg served on board one of these privateers the sloop Beaver and they were able to capture a few British merchant ships. He next served on board the privateer Rover which was captured by the 64 gun HMS Reasonable. Very reasonable to expect a 64 gun ship to capture a sloop, I guess. He along with his ship were taken into Halifax and he was obliged to serve on board British ships for some time. He managed to escape near Penobscot, Maine while with a work party on shore. He walked back to Boston. You must realize that this was a boy of about 14, at the time.

He was soon on board another privateer the Rattlesnake which, also, was outgunned. This time it would be 2 British men-of-war and they ran the Rattlesnake ashore. Peleg managed to jump overboard and escape. The ship was burned by the British. Again, walking and this time from New Jersey.
Peleg, reached New London where he went on board the USS Trumball. This ship was one of the first 6 ships built for the US Navy.
The year is, now, 1780 and unlike the privateers Trumball carried 28 guns. And our Peleg was a seasoned sailor who stood out among the "green" hands on board.
Trumball ran the British blockade of New London and on June 2nd spotted the British privateer Watt of 36 guns. In what has been described as the most intense sea battle of the Revolutionary War one that lasted for almost 3 hours, the American ship was not defeated. Didn't win but did leave the Watt a wreck floating away from the scene of battle. Trumball's main mast was shot away and she was unable to pursue the British ship.
Watt had 92 killed or wounded while Trumball had 39. Peleg Tallman was given command of the 2 after guns at the height of the battle and it was there that he was severely wounded.
Grapeshot [a type of shrapnel] was fired at Peleg's position and it tore his left arm off at the shoulder. How he survived the trip back to Boston is nothing short of a medical miracle but he did.
He was treated in Boston by Dr. Joseph Gardner and in 6 months Peleg was ready to go to sea, again.

On board a privateer of 16 guns which had no success in capturing British ships, Peleg returned to Boston and went on board another privateer of 20 guns. This ship, also, had no success at sea except to be captured by HMS Recovery.
Peleg and his crew-mates were taken to Kingsale, Ireland and "...hove into a loathsome prison...". Many months later they were transferred to Fortune prison in England and spent several months there until the peace in 1783. According to Peleg more than "...half of the prisoners died of smallpox and other disorders."

Years later Peleg Tallman wrote about his release... "The prison was cleared of its contents, and we were sent over to Havre, in France, and there landed naked as we were. We had no means of getting to America from there. I, with six others, walked through France, down to Nantz, I believe about 400 miles. We there got a passage on board a ship bound to Philadelphia, and there--pray, sir, look at my condition-- I was landed in the rags I stood in, without friends and only one arm, and knew not where to get a meal of victuals."
Peleg: "However, I made the best of my way to Boston and called on my old friend Dr. [Joseph
] Gardner...".
When Peleg returned from his imprisonment in 1783 the only one that he could turn to was the doctor. Dr. Gardner realized that Peleg was someone quite capable. So, before Peleg could have returned to sea the doctor sent him to Maine to check on the doctor's extensive property holdings there. This was in 1785 and thus began a relationship that would start this one armed young man on a career that led to his becoming one of the most successful men in Maine.

Dr. Gardner had a merchant ship built and put Peleg in as the Master. In this capacity he served for three years until the death of Dr. Gardner. He purchased half interest in the ship and continued as Master until 1791 when he sold his interest in it. For the next 8 years he commanded ships to India and other distant ports.
He had received a commission as Lieutenant in the US Navy and would have served on board the newly launched USS Constitution [Old Ironsides] if he had accepted it. But Peleg was happy where he was and returned it with his regrets.
That commission would be the only time that a seriously disabled private citizen was given such a position.

He married Eleanor Clarke on June 15, 1790 and their marriage would last 51 years. A sum of years extraordinary by most of today's standards. They settled in Bath, Maine on land Peleg bought from his father-in-law. This land fronted on the Kennebec River and he would build a wharf, there. He began his shipbuilding business across from his home on Front Street [now Oak Street]. He would, eventually, own a fleet of 18 vessels. Bath, ME in the 19th century was producing more wooden ships than any other city in the world. At one time there were 40 ships under construction, along the Kennebec River.
The home was torn down in the early 20th century and the land is, now, a public park.

By 1801 Peleg Tallman was involved in politics in the Democratic Party. In served in the Massachusetts Legislature in the years 1801 through 1807. At that time Maine was a part of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and would remain so until 1820.
He went on to represent the Lincoln District of Maine in the 12th Congress in Washington from 1811-1813.
Like many in New England he was opposed to the war with England in 1812. Like so many wars the one in 1812 was not only wrong-headed but dumb. Granted that most merchants in the area opposed war with England because it would [and did] destroy their shipping business.
I've been sitting, here, at the keyboard for awhile wondering if I should go off on a rant about the war many believe the 1812 Overture was written for. Well, they play it at the fireworks at the Fourth of July concert on the Esplanade, don't they?
OK, OK, I'll spare you that one for another time.

Well, speaking of July 4th, in 1831 Bath, ME celebrated the day and Peleg Tallman hosted a grand banquet on his property. A few veterans of the Revolutionary War were in attendance and Peleg was proclaimed as " who has bled for his country."
Wealthy and generous, owning property in Maine, Boston, and Rhode Island, Peleg was "..not known to be a man of piety..". He did give generously to several area churches, though. His wife, Eleanor, who lies beside him at Forest Hills was pious to a fault. Many "religious" and missionary organizations were always buzzing around this wife of a very wealthy man for donations. She gave without Peleg's knowing, most of the times.
In his will he forbade any of his money being used for such causes. Somehow, though, Eleanor managed to continue giving. There is an account of one "religious" outfit who Eleanor hired to supply her with a few gold watches as gifts for her grandchildren. She paid for gold and got brass.
I feel that to emphasize her beliefs I should quote from a letter that she wrote to Peleg in 1836. "Could I but see you making any preparation for that world to which we are fast hastening, how it would rejoice my heart."
There is no reply, extant, but his love for Eleanor would cause him to save the letter.

Years at sea and many in command of ships along with his difficult, early history had made Peleg somewhat "..rough and tyrannical..". He was not without compassion as his personnel account books attest. Many are the entries for individuals and families who were generously assisted by him.

Peleg remained active to the end of his life. Six weeks after making his last entry in his cash account book, he died at the age of 76 on the 8th of March, 1841.

I should begin wrapping this post up, now. But a few items that need mentioning need to be mentioned.
One of his daughters married into the Gardiner [not Gardner, as in Dr. Joseph Gardner] of Gardiner, Maine and members of that family are next to Tallman. I began this search for information on that family and discovered Peleg Tallman. Asphodel Path is where you will find the Tallmans. Their part of the lot [it's all one lot] is overshadowed by the Gardiner monument, so look for that one. To find Asphodel Path find Mount Warren, first. On the right of the Warren lot [large puddingstone boulder] you will find a set of stairs, down, to the first terracing. The steps are rustic which means watch your step. At the bottom turn to the right and on the left you'll see the Gardiner monument.

The Tallmans were buried, originally in the Maple Grove Cemetery in Bath. His daughter, Caroline Gardiner, made the decision to move them to Forest Hills Cemetery in November of 1865 to the recently purchased Gardiner lot.
Many of the "Residents" of Forest Hills have been moved, some many times. I might do a posting on that issue, alone, in the future.

I have tried to do justice to the life of this courageous, brave, intelligent man but there is so much more to him. My words and ramblings, I hope, will lead some to look for more on Peleg Tallman. Again, I believe, the proper pronunciation is: Pell-leg. Any who know of a different pronunciation please inform this writer.
More information is available through, at least, 2 privately printed pieces of Peleg Tallman. One is by William M. Emery printed in 1935: "Honorable Peleg Tallman-1764-1841". This available at the New England Historical and Genealogical Society's website: The other is by Walter Henry Sturtevant in 1899: "Sailor of the Revolution,Master Mariner and Member of Congress." read before the Maine Historical Society on March 31st, 1899: This link takes you to the Archive site. For some reason it will not take you to the Tallman piece. If I was a real blogger I could make the link work. You have to remember I'm just some guy with a computer who has some information about Forest Hills Cemetery.

One more! Asphodel Path is named for a flower [as all the paths are named] that was used by the ancients for plantings by the tombs of loved ones. Some believed that the dead preferred the Asphodel as food. Strange. Maybe, just the roots, I don't know.
This is a description of what the flower looks like: I couldn't find a good site to link to for a picture. You can find a picture online , though.

Please inform your not so humble writer if any of the links do not work or you have any other concerns.

Thanks for staying with this. Any who have been out with me on the grounds of Forest Hills on a hot Sunday afternoon tour know that I love to share what I have discovered.
We have so many more interesting "Residents" at the "Ol' Boneyard" that are not known as well as the Top Forty you always hear or read about. I will try to inform you on as many of these as I can in the near future.... Your Boston Correspondent, Al Maze.

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