Blacks in the Revenue Cutter Service, Unrecognized

Bill Wells put this on his Facebook page. I am reproducing it here with his permission. 

Coast Guard Black History Gap:

The Revenue Cutter Ingham built by Colonel John Patterson at St. Mary’s, Georgia in 1831 was schooner rigged about 36 feet in length, 12-foot beam, and 5 feet 6 inches in depth and was of about 19 tons burthen. She was small and purposely so for her cruising grounds of the South Georgia waters from the South end of Cumberland Island to South end of Jekyll Island.

He first commander was the Inspector of the Revenue John Nicholson. His crew was one man at 30 dollars per month and two other men at 20 dollars. One of these men was a slave named Thomas Paine, the “property of the Collector of Customs Archibald Clark, also of St. Mary’s. Following Nicholson, a succession of commissioned USRCS officers were in command of the cutter including 1st Lt. Levy C. Harby, USRCS, one of the first Jews to serve in the USRCS.

Thomas Paine served as a seaman aboard and a constant factor. His knowledge of the cruising grounds was noted by the USRCS officers as was his skill in handling the vessel and other related jobs. Paine became the quintessential public servant and remained with the cutter until sold in the late 1840s. Unlike other cutters where there was a separation between officers and crew, this cutter’s size and accommodations only allowed close berthing. It was the first true racially integrated cutter.

Although a slave, like so many others of the period, Paine created for himself a position in the U. S. Revenue Cutter Service that endured. The fact that he was paid a salary showed the respect and trust held in him.

Bill added the following in a comment:

Nothing is presently known about his life other than his service aboard a cutter.

Maybe someone will pick up the mantel and find him.

There are also six revenue cutter seaman buried on the north end of Kiawah Island (South Carolina–Chuck) and three more on the south that the Coast Guard has ignored. The Coast Guard doesn’t bring them home.

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