Mary Ann Baker
Writings of Samuel Follin
John Follin Sr., Lieutenant, United States Navy
My father, John Folin, was in the American Revolution as a sailor from Virginia, as I have heard him tell many times. From numerous reminiscenes that I have heard him repeat, I judge that he embarked as a sailor at Bellhaven now called Alexandria, Virginia, and that not long after his ship was attacked by a British vessel and chased for three days. He said that the balls fell thick and fast all around him and at first he was greatly scared but soon got so he did not mind it. His vessel was captured and he was taken to England with the other prisoners and held a year, then for some reason they were taken to the rock of Gibraltar and kept about about a year, when they were transferred to a British man-of-war in the same vicinity, where they remained for near another year. The idea probably was to have them aid the British in the defense of Gibraltar during the "Great Siege," the great fortress then undergoing a four year investment by the combined forces of France and Spain. As my father was a Scotch-Irishman he was claimed the choice of taking the oath of allegiance to King George III of a flogging. He chose the latter, and was tied to a grating and given thirty-nine lashes on his bare back. On the man-of-war they were often flogged for very trivial offenses.
Frequently heard father speak of a man by the name of Adams from Philadelphia. While near Gibraltar Adams formed a plot to get away. The plan was to take the boat that belonged to the vessel and escape to the mainland. The plot was detected and Adams whipped three times with a doctor standing by each time to say how much he could stand and he was kept confined for a long time. Adams said: "The next time they would whip me; I'll go or die!" Finally he found a good opportunity. It was the custom it seems to keep the arms in a locked compartment. One day while nearly all the ship's crew was eating dinner Adams gave his friends a signal, the arms-house was locked, the guards overpowered, and Adams jumped into the boat and had a knife at the throat of the marine there. The others jumped in, the marine was put out and they rowed. Adams stood up and waved his handkercheif at those on the ship. They were fired on and Adams called loudly "Pull, boys! Pull!" He was the only one who was struck, but they got away and home to America.
Those left on the ship, including my father, were treated harder than ever. in speaking of the whipping of Adams father said he bore it well, never even grunting. An officer standing by on one occasion, said: "Lay it on; damn rebel!" Adams replied: "I have a wife and children in Philadelphia and if you were in my place would you not try to get to them?" The only reply was "Give it to him!"
Father spoke of the fine climate in the region of Gibraltar. There, as well as in England, they were given a chance to take the oath of allegiance to the British Crown. It seems that before father's vessel was captured they were going to Cadiz. While prisoners in England they were sometimes whipped and they had very little to eat. One day a butcher came into the prison followed by a fat bull dog. The boys soon had the dog skinned and father tried to get a piece of the meat but failed. The prisoners had a peculiar way of making money part of the time. One or two would escape and go to a certain house where the proprietor would hide them for a few days, waiting for the reward, when the runaways would be returned. The next day half of the reward would come back to them inside a loaf of bread or some such way. They managed to make an endless chain of it. Near the close of the Revolution father was on a cartel for exchange and he was taken to Philadelphia for that purpose. He walked all the way home from there, through Baltimore and Georgetown. He said he craved milk all the time and got plenty of it, begging for food until he reached home. Father was about 17 years of age when he went to the war. When I was a small boy there were two swords at home and I used to play soldier with them. I do not know their history. Joseph, my younger brother, had a large drum such as was used by the military and he learned how to beat it like a regular drummer.
I have heard at least a half a dozen men from Washington and Georgetown urge father to apply for a bounty and a pension under the law. His reply always was: "No, I don't need it; my Government is poor and I can get along without it."
Authenticity Affadavits and other information on this family can be found in "A Genealogical History of the Follin Family in America" By Gabriel Edmondston