Scammel, 1791

Jan. 10, 2020

Scammel was named by Alexander Hamilton for Adjutant General of the Continental Army Alexander Scammell (1747-1781) of New Hampshire, a hero of the American Revolution who was killed by the British after being captured.  Note that Hamilton was rather careless about spelling--as were many men of letters of that time.  Interestingly, this is the second cutter to receive the name of a Revolutionary hero but with an incorrect spelling (the General Green, it should be Greene).


LAUNCHED: 24 August 1791

COST:  $1,225.65

DECOMMISSIONED: Sold 16 August 1798

DISPLACEMENT: 51 85/95 tons


LENGTH:  57 6/10'

BEAM:  15 8/10'

DRAFT:  6 5/106'

COMPLEMENT:  4 officers, 4 enlisted, 2 boys

ARMAMENT:  10 muskets, 20 pistols


Although little documentation exists regarding any of the first ten cutters' activities these government vessels undoubtedly carried out a myriad of tasks.  Many of these duties were spelled out in letters from the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to the various collectors of customs, who were in direct charge of the cutters and their crews.  The duties specifically assigned to the cutters and their crews as legislated by Congress and expounded by Hamilton included:

  • boarding incoming and outgoing vessels and checking their papers (ownership, registration, admeasurement, manifests, etc.) 

  • ensuring that all cargoes were properly documented

  • sealing the cargo holds of incoming vessels

  • seizing those vessels in violation of the law 

They were also tasked with a number of other duties that were not related to protecting the revenue.  These included:

  • enforcing quarantine restrictions established by the federal, state or local governments

  • charting the local coastline

  • enforcing the neutrality and embargo acts

  • carrying supplies to lighthouse stations

  • carrying official (and unofficial) passengers

  • other duties as assigned by the collector

Their primary purpose, however, was to protect the revenue of the new nation by deterring smuggling.  That meant sailing out of the port to which they were assigned and intercepting vessels before they came too close to the shore.  It was here, well out of the harbor but within sight of the coast, that smugglers unloaded part of their cargoes into smaller "coaster" vessels or directly onshore to avoid customs duties.  The collectors usually had smaller boats that could check vessels as they sailed into port.  Therefore these ten cutters were not harbor vessels; they were designed to sail out to sea, survive in heavy weather, and sail swiftly so that they might overtake most merchant vessels.  They were the nation's first line of defense against attempts to circumvent the new nation's duties, the country's major source of income during this period.

Cutter History:

Scammel was named by Alexander Hamilton for Adjutant General Alexander Scammell of New Hampshire, but one notes that Hamilton was rather careless about spelling--as were many men of letters of that time.  Interestingly, this is the second cutter to receive the name of a Revolutionary hero but with an incorrect spelling (the General Green, it should be Greene).

The surveyor who examined Scammel prior to her entering service noted that "she had two masts, one deck, a short quarter deck, low waists with rails fore and aft, and was schooner rigged."  As in the case of so many of these cutters, the Scammel's monthly journals have been lost.  Nevertheless, some information has survived.  She cruised from Nantucket to Passamaquoddy and on occasion did sail in tandem with the cutter MassachusettsScammel seized the Lucy of Stamford for "illegal registration" and was eventually condemned and sold, along with her cargo for $750.  The money was awarded to Yeaton. 

Overall it would seem that Yeaton and his cutter carried out their duties effectively.  The local collector, under whose authority Scammel sailed, Joseph Whipple, informed Hamilton that:

"The services performed by the Cutter I conceive to have been very important to the safety and preservation of the Revenue.  The Coast which is assigned to her, that of New Hampshire and the District of Maine, extending nearly 300 miles, many of which afford convenient places for fraudulent practices which have been checked by the attention and vigilance of the officers of the SCAMMEL.  The services for the year past consisted in cruising the aforementioned Coast, in entering and examining the Vessel's papers, instructing the ignorant coasters, and in bringing to justice those who break or evade the laws.  Instances of contraventing of the laws have been discovered and prosecuted and some of them failed by the unaccountable determination of the court."

She was sold on 16 August 1798 to Clement Jackson for $565.


Hopley Yeaton, Master, 1791-1798.  Yeaton probably brought along his slave, Senegal, during the Scammel's patrols as was this practice was permitted by the Treasury Department at this time.

John Flagg, First Mate, 1791-1791
John Parrott, Second Mate, 1791-1791
Samuel Hobard, Third Mate, 1791-1791

Yeaton fired three of his crew after their first few months of service.  The men had been in "open rebellion" over issues of pay and daily food rations--particularly after they learned that their fellow sailors on board the Massachusetts received more and varied foods each day than they did.

Benjamin Gunnison, First Mate, 1792-1798
John Adams, Second Mate, 1792-1796

Sam Odiorne, Second Mate, 1796-1798

In 1796, the enlisted crew were:

Danzil Donnavin, Seaman
James Smith, Seaman
Thomas Fowler, Seaman
George Yeaton, Seaman (he was Yeaton's son)

Joseph Call, Boy
Stephen Weeks, Boy


Donald Canney.  U.S. Coast Guard and Revenue Cutters, 1790-1935.  Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1995.

Stephen H. Evans.  The United States Coast Guard, 1790-1915: A Definitive History (With a Postscript: 1915-1950).  Annapolis: The United States Naval Institute, 1949.

Florence Kern.  Hopley Yeaton's U.S. Revenue Cutter Scammel, 1791-1798.  "The most effectual check to the mischiefs. [sic]"  Washington, DC: Alised Enterprises, 1975.

U.S. Coast Guard.  Record of Movements: Vessels of the United States Coast Guard: 1790 - December 31, 1933.  Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1934; 1989 (reprint).