Clarifications

I was recently contacted privately regarding some information regarding the Connecticut for clarification; I will post some of these points here.

■The USS Connecticut was built under government contract from the end of 1798 into the first half of 1799 in the then township of Chatham, the portion now known as Portland, in the section that was later to be known as Gildersleeve.  She (the vessel) was never a part of the “Connecticut Navy” of the American Revolution, or of the grander “Continental Navy“, and not a one of the ships built during the RevWar (1775 – 1783) as a warship is known to have survived into the early Federal period (The USS Constitution was launched on 21 Oct. 1797, all you history revisionists!), and most certainly had not been then “sold into the new United States Navy.”

■The only “official” vessel of war during the RevWar named the Connecticut that I am aware of was a gondola (effectively a gunboat) built at Skenesborough, NY, in 1776 specifically for service in Lake Champlain.  She was built not for a “navy” but for the Continental Army, here commanded by Army Captain Grant and was attached to General Benedict Arnold’s command. While she did see combat during the “Battle of Valcour Island” (11-13 Oct, 1776) which delayed the British advance down the Hudson towards NYC, aiding in the American success at Saratoga (17 Oct. 1777), she was never a warship and never a “United States” vessel, our country not yet the United States but a Continental Confederation.  Nor was she named “USS Connecticut“, so later applications of her being the “first US” vessel named Connecticut is misleading and, in my sincere opinion, inaccurate. This vessel (gondola) was burned on the last day of the battle to prevent capture.

■The USS Connecticut was built under the contract of Seth Overton of Chatham, and he in turn hired Philip Gildersleeve and John Button, both also of Chatham, as sub-contractors to build the vessel and oversee the work.  Both these latter gentlemen lived on Shipyard Lane; this street is now known as Indian Hill Avenue and is located on the north end of Portland along the Connecticut River.  The river curves in there and the north side of Shipyard Lane (Indian Hill Avenue) was covered in private shipyards.  Seth Overton hired the end-most shipyard for the construction – Stevenson’s shipyard – in part because Mr. Stevenson also had a modest ironworks, necessary for the building of the ship.  The houses of Philip Gildersleeve, John Button, and Mr. Stevenson remain standing along the south side of Indian Hill Avenue today, and the shipyard is currently a privately owned vacant lot rolling down to the water.  The area was not known as “Gildersleeve’s Landing” until many years later, as one of the sons of Philip Gildersleeve – Silvester – opened a rather successful shipyard which was located at the current spot of Petzold’s Marine Center… Not exactly on the spot the Connecticut had been built upon, but a stone’s throw away!

  • Chatham was a large township, with Portland having separated as its own town in the 1840s, leaving the other villages of Chatham to later separate into such towns as East Hampton, Middle Haddam, &c; although I might add that these villages are often named in contemporary correspondance rather than referring to Chatham as a whole… Seth Overton always referred to his living in Chatham and his houses are in modern day Portland.  Seth Jr. removed to the eastern portion of Chatham, first East Hampton and then Marlborough, where he is buried nearby the town library.  I often find references to “Middle Haddam” in letters from the 1790s and 1800s, although it was indeed a part of Chatham.

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