• Si Biggs

John Ledyard, American Author, enlisted as a Royal Marine on Cook's Final Voyage


John Ledyard was a writer of the first great travel story by an American to be published in the United States

John Ledyard was born in Groton, Connecticut, in 1751; his mother moved the family to Southold, Connecticut, in 1762. He entered Dartmouth College in the spring of 1772, but left after a few months to explore the wilderness and live among the Indians. He returned to Dartmouth the following year, but once again left after a few months, this time taking off down the Connecticut River in a dugout canoe he had made by hand. After another period of wandering he undertook to become a minister, but his study of theology lasted but a few weeks before he signed on as a seaman on a vessel bound for the Mediterranean.

Upon reaching Gibraltar, Ledyard enlisted in a British regiment, but he was released a year later and returned to Connecticut. After spending some time with friends and relatives Ledyard again set out for adventure.

He made his way to London, where he met Captain James Cook, who was about to set sail on his third (and ultimately final) voyage of exploration.

Ledyard signed up as a corporal of marines and sailed with Cook on July 12, 1776. Ledyard was part of the first British party to reach Nootka Sound and Alaska, and it was during this voyage that Cook "discovered" the Sandwich (now Hawaiian) Islands. Cook was killed by cannibals in the Sandwich Islands on February 14, 1779; the expedition returned to London on October 6, 1780.

Image: Francesco Bartolozzi, The Death of Captain Cook, 1784, engraving

Ledyard spent the next two years serving in the British Navy, but he refused to fight against his countrymen and spent most of that time confined to barracks.

He did not return to the United States until December 1782, when the ship on which he was serving anchored at Huntington, Connecticut; he jumped ship soon after reaching American waters.

After the war, Ledyard published his account of the Pacific voyage -- the first great travel story by an American to be published in the United States.

Courtesy of The Robinson Library

The voyage of the Resolution and Discovery, 1776-1780

List of marines who sailed on the voyage.

Resolution

(All of the Plymouth Division except number 1, All joined 9 July 1776 except Phillips and Portsmouth)

1.Phillips, MolesworthSecond Lt. (Chatham Division. Joined 12 June 1776) +

2.Gibson, SamuelSergeant

3.Thomas, JamesCorporal *

4.Ledyard, JohnCorporal

5.James, JohnPrivate

6.Harrison, JohnPrivate

7.Hinks, TheophilusPrivate *

8.Brown, RichardPrivate

9.Scruse, WilliamPrivate

10.Girley, ThomasPrivate

11.McDonald, JohnPrivate

12.Jackson, JohnPrivate °

13.Morris, ThomasPrivate

14.Allen, JohnPrivate *

15.Fatchett, ThomasPrivate *

16.Perkins, JohnPrivate

17.McLeod, JohnPrivate

18.Carley, IsaacPrivate

19.Harford, ThomasPrivate

20.Portsmouth, MichaelDrummer (Joined 11 July 1776)

* Killed at Kealakekua Bay, 14 February 1779. ° Wounded in the eye at Kealakekua Bay, 14 February 1779. + Wounded at Kealakekua Bay 14 February 1779, but survived the incident.

Courtesy of The Cook Society


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