James Fairfield Brick Store Museum image

The Brick Store Museum holds over 30,000 pieces of archival material written by historic Kennebunkers. The column shares a voice from the past from the museum’s collection. This week’s letter was written by 31-year-old James Fairfield, captain of the ship MacDonough, to his wife, Lois Walker, after his ship was captured by the British during the War of 1812. Fairfield was taken to Dartmoor Prison in England, with thousands of American sailors, before being freed after five months as a prisoner of war.

  • Cynthia Walker

Onboard his Majesty frigate Bacchante Hallifax

November 12th 1814

Dear Wife

It is with regret that I have to inform you of our misfortune of being captured 30 hours after leaving you by the above frigate. By carrying away our aft and main topmasts in the chase we are all onboard this ship at present but expect to be sent onboard some other ship to be sent to England in about eight days where I expect we shall have to remain until peace which God send may be soon, I cannot get on shore nor hear any thing from Oliver but we are all well and in good spirits considering our situation[.] My dear I wish you to make your self as happy as you possibly can and I would advise you to sell your horse at any price you can get as the expense of him is considerable and sell any thing you have rather than suffer. I don’t know what part of England we shall go to but shall write every opportunity. Could you find out where I am[.] Nothing but my liberty would give me more pleasure than a line from you, or any of my friends my dear I hope this will find you in good health as it leaves me. Asa is well and contented and Capt. Lord likewise. With love and respect I remain your loving and affectionate husband until death

James Fairfield

Cynthia Walker is the executive director of the Brick Store Museum. She can be reached at [email protected] or 207-985-4802.

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