Tag Archives: Virginia State Navy

Sunday’s Salute #38~ Benjamin Strother ~ Revolutionary War

Benjamin Strother, my 1st cousin 7 times removed, was born on June 25, 1750, in Fredericksburg, Virginia. He was the youngest of 5 children born to Anthony Strother (1710-1765) and Behethland Storke (1716-1753 ). He joined the Virginia State Navy in 1768, at the age of 18. After 3 years of service he was promoted to midshipman which was a rating for an experienced seaman. He was then assigned to the ship the Tempest, at Frazer’s Ferry under the command of Captain Collier Saunders.

During the American Revolutionary War, the provisional government of the Virginia Colony authorized the purchase, outfitting, and manning of armed vessels to protect the colony’s waters from threats posed it by the Royal Navy. The Virginia fleet primarily patrolled the Chesapeake Bay, and was perpetually undermanned and poorly armed. Some of the ships were used in commerce, sent on voyages to the West Indies and even Europe. Between 1775 and 1779 the fleet captured 15 prizes, but also lost several ships the same way. The British raided the shipyard at Gosport in 1779, destroying stores and several unfinished vessels.

The arrival of British forces in South Carolina in 1780, and increased raiding activities by the British in Chesapeake Bay created increased demand for naval defense, and Virginia had to resort to forcing some men to serve as seamen. After a British fleet landed troops led by turncoat Benedict Arnold in December 1780, Virginia in desperation, hired privateers to assist the Navy. Even so, Arnold advanced up the James River as far as Richmond. A fleet of over twenty small Virginia ships and privateers pursued him, and in a one-sided engagement in April 1781 (The Osborne’s), the British captured twelve and the rest were either scuttled or burned. The Tempest was one of the ships destroyed.

The disaster on the James left the Virginia Navy with a single ship, the Liberty. She supported operations that resulted in the Siege of Yorktown later in 1781, as did three additional ships hired by the state. When Cornwallis was forced to surrender at Yorktown, Virginia, citing financial reasons, discharged most of its seaman. This is when Benjamin enlisted in the Continental Army until the end of the war.

Benjamin married Catherine Price (1753-1805) in 1778 in Fredericksburg, Virginia. They had 5 children, 1 son and 4 daughters. They moved to “Forest Park” near Charles Town, Jefferson County, Virginia (now in West Virginia). Here he died on October 10, 1807, at the age of 57.

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