I like to think that I know a thing or two about early American history but every once in a while something comes along that makes me say “what?” Just such a thing happened today as I was cataloging one of our smaller collections. I came across a folder entitled “Sea Fencibles.” Contained within were two documents – a letter written by Duxbury’s own Judah Alden in 1817 and a Certificate given to a Mr. Jones (1823). Both documents referred to Sea Fencibles.
So, what exactly is a sea fencible? It is pretty much what you might guess based on the sound of the words. Sea Fencibles were companies of men formed for the defense of the seaboard. The term was originally used by the British during the Napoleonic Wars. Americans began using Sea Fencibles during the War of 1812, ironically against England. They were usually comprised of 107 men, all of whom had been employed in the maritime trades prior to the War.
The letter in our collection refers to a cannon that was lent to the town of Duxbury during the war to be used by the Sea Fencibles (it was returned to Charlestown after the hostilities were ended).
So there you have it. I hope you enjoy the addition to your vocabulary.