It was a very tough and very challenging search, but I have finally
found evidence that William Boerum Wetmore indeed had, through his
ancestry, a connection with the frigate USS Constitution.
William Boerum Wetmore was born in 1850. I found his birth date
through his admission as a West Point cadet in 1867 (all sources
listed below). He was 17 years and 6 months of age when he admitted
West Point on 1 July 1867.
Through the FamilySearch genealogy database, I found out that his
parents were Samuel Wetmore and Sarah Tayler (or Taylor) Wetmore, née
Furthermore, I found out that Sarah Tayler Boerum was born in 1827 as
the daughter of William Boerum and Emily Boerum, née Browne.
By searchin another genealogy database, RootsWeb, I found out that
William Boerum was born 12 August 1796; he died on 3 November 1842,
"lost at sea in the Mozambique Channel" - so there can be no doubt
that he was a mariner.
The next step was to search the official lists of Naval Officers of
the War of 1812. And I found William Boerum: He was Midshipman aboard
the 18-gun US Navy sloop USS Hornet, under Captain James Lawrence.
The USS Hornet escorted the USS Constitution on her mission in autumn
1812. On October 30, the Hornet sailed for the Pacific in company with
the USS Constitution. En route, they were to rendezvous with USS Essex
at Salvador, Brazil. It was at this time, on 28 December 1812, that
Constitution fought her celebrated duel with HMS Java, in which the
USS Hornet played a certain role, and returned to Boston. The Hornet
stayed and blockaded British shipping at Salvador for a while.
If you would like to read more about the joint operation of USS
Constitution and USS Hornet, please follow this link:
(Maritime History: War of 1812 - USS Constitution engages HMS Java)
There can be no doubt that William Boerum was aboard USS Hornet at
that time. The list of officers of the USS Hornet in action with the
HMS Peacock on 24 February 1813, only few weeks later, mention him.
And between 28 December 1812 and that battle, the Hornet did not have
any opportunity to change crew members.
William Boerum obviously stayed a Navy officer after the end of the
War of 1812; but later, he served aboard the USS Constitution later.
The Constitution's log book mentions him as follows:
"15 Jun 1821 Exercised at general quarters -- Lieutenants David
Geisinger, William Boerum, and Samuel Breeze mentioned."
William Boerum stayed aboard the USS Constitution as he climbed the
ladder of ranks. Finally, from 1836 to 1838 he was the Commanding
Officer of the Constitution.
So this is the connection between William Boerum Wetmore and the USS
Constitution: His grandfather first served on the frigate's escort,
the Hornet, and later commanded the Constitution for about three
Naval History Center: Officers of the Hornet in action with the
Peacock, 24 February 1813
Naval History Center: Officers of the War of 1812 - Midshipmen
Maritime History: War of 1812 - USS Constitution engages HMS Java
Ships of the World - An Historical Encyclopedia: USS Hornet
The Captain's Clerk: USS Constitution Log, 10 April 1821 - 22 May 1824
United States Military Academy West Point Library: Official Register
Official Register of the Officers and Cadets of the US Military
Academy West Point, June 1867 (PDF file!)
USS Constitution Official Website: Commanding Officers of USS Constitution
RootsWeb WorldConnect Genealogy Database
FamilySearch Genealogy Database
Search terms used:
constitution hornet guerriere 1812
"uss constitution" wetmore
"u s navy" officers names
"william boerum" hornet
Hope this answers your question!
Clarification of Answer by
06 Feb 2004 16:48 PST
I forgot to mention the circumstances of William Boerum's death. He
died as the Commander of the Navy sloop USS Concord:
"[The USS Concord] was ordered on 28 June 1842 to proceed to the
island of Tristan da Cunha in the South Atlantic, thence to Madagascar
and the east coast of Africa for the protection of American whaling
interests. She ran aground on a sand bar on 2 October 1842 at the
mouth of the Loango River in the Mozambique Channel. Her crew made
determined efforts to save her, but when her captain, Commander
Boerum, was drowned while crossing the bar, Lieutenant J. M. Gardner
who succeeded to command, made the decision to leave the ship in the
river, and chartered the Portuguese brig Union to take the men to Rio
This leads to the conclusion that the date of death 3 November 1842,
given in the RootsWeb genealogy database, is a minor error. It should
be 3 October 1842.
Histoy of the USS Concord