AN ACT to Authorize the Raising a Corps of Sea Fencibles.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That the President of the United States be, and he is hereby authorized to raise for such term as he may think proper, not exceeding one year, as many companies of sea fencibles as he may deem necessary, not exceeding ten, who may be employed as well on land as on water, for the defense of the ports and harbors of the United States.
Sec. 2. And be it further enacted, That each of the said companies of sea fencibles shall consist of one captain, one first, one second, and one third lieutenant, one boatswain, six gunners, six quarter gunners, and ninety men.
Sec. 3. And be it further enacted, That the commissioned officers shall receive the same pay and rations as officers of the same grade in the army of the United States; that the boatswains, gunners, quarter gunners, and men shall receive the same pay and rations as warrant officers of the same grade and able seamen receive in the service of the United States.
Sec. 4. And be it farther enacted, That the officers, warrant officers, boatswains, and men raised pursuant to this act, shall be entitled to the like compensation in case of disability incurred by wounds or otherwise in the service of the United States, as officers, warrant officers, and seamen in the present naval establishment, and shall be subject to the rules and articles which have been or may hereafter be established by law, for the government of the army of the United States.
Sec. 5. And be it further enacted, That this act shall be and continue in force during the present war between the United States of America and their territories, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, and the dependencies thereof.
Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That in the recess of the Senate, the President of the United States is hereby authorized to appoint all the officers proper to be appointed under this act, which appointments shall be submitted to the Senate at their next session for their advice and consent.
Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the sum of two hundred thousand dollars be, and the same is hereby appropriated to carry this act into effect, to be paid out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated.
APPROVED, July 26, 1813.
AT BALTIMORE, MARYLAND
“SEA FENCIBLES, A number of men are wanting to make a company of Sea Fencibles. Seamen, Ordinary Seamen or Landsmen. It will be a comfortable situation during the Embargo, for those who are out of employ. The pay is 12 dollars per month and navy rations; to serve one year, and paid their whole wages monthly. Those who enlist are not liable to be transferred to the Flotilla or any other corps, but are to act as occasion may require under their own Officers, for the defense of Baltimore. Those who wish to enlist will apply at the rendezvous, No. 70 st. F[ell’s] P[oint] or at Fort McHenry. None need apply but healthy men. M. SIMMONES BUNBURY, Capt. U.S. Sea Fencibles.”
On July 26, 1813 Congress passed “An Act authorizing the raising a corps of sea fencibles,” who may be employed as well on land as on water, for the defense of the ports and harbors of the United States.” Congress authorized ten companies along the eastern seaboard of which two were raised in Baltimore. These unique amphibious artillery companies were under captains Matthew S. Bunbury and William H. Addison.
The word “fencibles” were defined as corps raised for limited service, exercised in the use of musketry and sea-board defense fixed fortifications and the maneuvering of gunboats. Though seamen in general they were under the U.S. War Department and issued muskets and acroutrements. They, except for the officers who wore the standard U.S. Infantry uniform, the enlisted men wore no standard uniform, only the clothing of their trade.
Their defense of the marine shore batteries at Fort McHenry in September 1814 helped give inspiration to a new national hymn “The Star-Spangled Banner.” In June of 1815 the corps was discontinued.
Sources: Baltimore Patriot, April 13, 1814; Acts and Resolutions of Congress, Record Group 11, National Archives; Scott S. Sheads, “U.S. Sea Fencibles at Fort McHenry, 1813-1815,” (Military Collector & Historian, vol. 34, No. 4, Winter 1982), 159-163.