|Birth: ||Mar. 23, 1746, USA|
|Death: ||Jun. 20, 1782, England|
Son of Nathaniel and Ann (Peck) Rathbun of Exeter, Rhode Island.
A merchant seaman out of Boston he offered his services to the newly formed Continental Navy in 1775. He was commissioned a 2nd Lt. and assigned to the sloop Katy (later named Providence). His first captain was court martialed for cowardice and replaced in 1776 by Captain John Paul Jones. The Providence became famous for "prize taking" and Captain Jones was given command of the Alfred (a much larger ship) and he persuaded Lt. Rathbun to transfer with him. In April 1777 Rathbun was promoted to Captain and given command of the Providence. The Providence patrolled the Atlantic seaboard sucessfully and in January 1778 Rathbun led an assault on Fort Nassau in the Bahamas capturing the fort intact. He was given command of the 28 gun frigate Queen of France in 1779. The battered Queen was scuttled at the Battle of Charleston, South Carolina and the guns used as shore batteries. Rathbun was captured when the city was surrended in May 1780. He was paroled and returned to Rhode Island and with no ships available, he tried his hand at running a Tavern in Kingston, Rhode Island. In the spring of 1781 he was offered command of a 20 gun Privateer out of Boston named The Wexford. In August 1781 he began to recruit a crew and soon set sail for the St. George's Channel. There 100 miles off Cape Clear he ran afoul of the 32 gun frigate HMS Recovery. Following a 24 hour chase, Rathbun and his crew were captured,and taken to Cork, Ireland where they were imprisoned until transferred to the Old Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. Rathbun died of disease in June 1782. His wife Polly had died in childbirth two months earlier and the baby had died too.
The outstanding services of Captain John Peck Rathbun faded from history for nearly two centuries. Only in recent publications (Valour Fore and Aft by Hope Rider), (John Paul Jones by Evan Thomas) and (Marines in the Revolution by Charles Smith) has he began to be recognized as one of the true heroes of the early American Navy.
In 1917 the U.S. Navy named a Destroyer after him but spelled it Rathburne (DD113 had 6 Battle Stars in WWII and was decomissioned in 1945). They Launched a newer ship in 1969 DE 1057 later redesignated FF1057 it was also named USS Rathburne.
Mary Leigh Rathbun (1759 - 1782)*
Old Mill Prison Cemetery
Plymouth Unitary Authority
Created by: David E. Rathbun
Record added: May 30, 2005
Find A Grave Memorial# 11062190