As recorded in the Hancock County Historical Society by Maureen Singleton Return to USS SHIELDS DD 596
Thomas Shields, purser of New Orleans, (my 3rd great grandfather) was born at Bohemia Manor, Delaware in 1783. (Transcription of note regarding Thomas Shields and brothers; "Article on the original grave of Thomas Shields, Purser"). His father was Thomas Shields who was a merchant in Delaware, left there when his sons Samuel Bayard Shields and Thomas were young and went to Abbeville, South Carolina. I’m not sure when he made this trip but it was between 1783 when Thomas was born and 1790 when his next child, William Franklin Shields was born. William and Theodore, the two youngest children had a different mother from the older two. One other source I have, an excerpt from a letter written in the late 1800’s, mentions a sister of Thomas, named Fransena, who lived in the Washington, D.C. area, with whom he frequently corresponded and visited on numerous occasions with his wife Ellen and children
On January 1804 Thomas entered the Navy from Middletown, Delaware as Midshipman. A capsule of his service is enclosed. (Navy Department, Bureau of Navigation 11 December 1931). As you can tell from these records which I received from Dr. Dudley, Thomas never retired from the Navy. The copies of letters regarding his service mention written requests made by him for leaves to settle accounts. I am not sure where such letters could be found but if you have a suggestion please let me know.
As to his exploits in the War of 1812, I am sure you are aware, since this is documented in a number of books. In the book “British at the Gates” by Robin Reilly, a fellow officer in the area was Dr. David C. Ker, Andrew Jackson’s Chief of Surgery. Either Dr. Ker’s daughter, Ellen (my 3rd great grandmother) or his sister, Carolina made the welcoming remarks to Andrew Jackson on his victorious entry into New Orleans after the conclusion of the War of 1812. Ellen Blanchard Ker, daughter of Dr. David C. Ker and Margaret Benson Ker was bon in Fredericksburg, Virginia and married Thomas Shields at the age of 16 at Shieldsborough, Mississippi. They had five children who are listed on the family group sheet I sent you, along with their respective spouses. Thomas died in 1827. After his death, Ellen remarried, she married Levy Peirce (or Pierce), secretary of State for Louisiana. As far as I know they had no children as she died the next year. As for the children of Thomas and Ellen, the three girls apparently became the wards of Levy Pierce, for they were given land (several blocks of property just west of downtown New Orleans) by him in 1835.
Wilmer , their oldest son, became the Ward of Dr. William Newton Mercer, a good friend and Army surgeon during the War of 1812. There was such a close connection the many in the family think he was more than a friend. There was a Dr. Hugh Mercer in Fredericksburg, Va. Where the Kers came from and Dr. Mercer is listed as having come from Virgiania, so he may have been related through the Kers. Wilmer also entered the Navy having attended the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis. He later retired from military service at the request of Dr. Mercer to assist in running his six plantations in Mississippi (Buckhurst, Oakland, Deer Park, Laurel Hill, Ellis Cliff) and Louisiana (Bohemia). Wilmer inherited Buckhurst, Oakland and Bohemia from Dr. Mercer upon his death.
Thomas” brother Theodore was an officer during the War of 1812 before becoming an elected official in Marengo County, Alabama and his other brother William Franklin was a career Navy man, having reached the osition of commander at his death in 1856. His papers are in the Mississippi Archives in Jackson, Mississippi, which includes a letter either to or from his brother Thomas. His older brother, Samuel Bayard Shields was an attorney. His papers are listed in NUCMC. But I am not sure at this point where they are. Samuel’s son Benjamin Glover Shields who represented Marengo Co., Al. In Congress and was later sent by appointment of President Polk to represent the United States at Venezuela. He later moved to Falls County, Texas
William Bayard Shields, Thomas’ cousin, was Secretary of State of Delaware and moved to the Mississippi Territory in 1803 or thereabouts. He became a Territorial Judge and was later Supreme Court Judge for the State of Mississippi. Another cousin was Thomas Rodney, brother of Caesar Rodney, signer of the Declaration of Independence. Another cousin was James Bayard, one of the representatives at the signing of the Treaty of Ghent. Another cousin was William Bayard at whose home Alexander Hamilton died after his duel with Aaron Burr. An unusual coincidence is that Aaron Burr, after that altercation, was arrested and later defended by William Bayard Shields. The judge for that trial was Thomas Rodney. Hence, three cousins were involved in that one incident – William Bayard who owned the home at which Alexander Hamilton died, W. B. Shields who defended the accused and Thomas Rodney who served as judge. Joseph Dunbar Shields, son of William Bayard Shields was also a judge in Mississippi and wrote two books, “The Life and Times of Sargent Smith Prentiss” (SSP was the tutor for the Shields children) and “Natchez, its Early History” which includes a description of the character of Thomas Shields. Joseph D. Shields’ papers are in a repository at LSU.
As for your question regarding Shieldsborough I am enclosing several items which were sent to me by the Hancock County Library System and which are confirmed in the records of theAmerican State Papers. In 1789 the Spanish government granted this land to Constantio Tardil. The next year it was granted to Thomas Shields. Since at that time Thomas, the purser, would only have been 7 years old it must have been his father who received this grant. As far as I know the older Thomas never lived on this land. He died in 1803 in South Carolina. There is a book documenting the Bayard genealogy which mentions the older Thomas’ brother, Archibald, as having gone earlier to New Orleans as a merchant. I have found no verification of this but that may be true as other members of the family – Thomas Rodney, William Bayard Shields (son of Archibald) and Thomas the purser all end up in that Natchez, New Orleans, Shieldsborough triangle. In 1816 Thomas, the purser, and Ellen were married at Shieldsborough. This was during the summer and many inhabitants of New Orleans had their summer homes there. I don’t believe Thomas and Ellen lived there permanently. The 1820 census has them living in St. Tammanhy Parish, just on the other side of the Pearl River and I have a deed to property there, situated on the Pearl River which Thomas sold to Dr. David C. Ker, Ellen’s father 09 June 1820. In 1823 Thomas, Ellen and family were living with Dr. David C. Ker in downtown New Orleans. I’m not sure if they remained there or not. But I believe Thomas may have been having financial difficulties. It Appears that he owned land all over, including Mexico (probably Texas at the time), Honduras and South America. In 1818 Shieldsborough was officially designated as a town (Acts Passed at the First Session of the First General Assembly, State of Mississippi) It remained thus until 1875 when it changed back to Bay St. Louis (“Steamboat, Yellow Jack, and the Six Sisters). I have a copy of the documents related to this claim which are in the Private Land Claim papers of the National Archives. According to the American State Papers it was recommended in 1820 that Congress not ratify the Spanish land grant awarded to Thomas Shields. The papers in the National Archives seem to begin the dispute in 1820. It appears from the documents that this dispute continues until the early 1920’s when the land was then awarded to a resort complex. As best I can tell since no heirs ever really came forward to claim or fight for the land it left the family. A strange coincidence is that my great grandfather was attempting to determine the disposition of that land and whether the family had any right to it in the 1930’s and 40’s. He died in 1941.
I am sure you are aware that there was a destroyer named for Purser Shields in World War II. The family has photos and mementos of the commissioning of this ship. It was decommissioned and sold to the Brazilian government in the 1070’s.
Bureau of Navigation
11 December 1931
PURSER THOMAS SHIELDS, UNITED STATES NAVY, DECEASED
1804 Jan 2
1804 Jan 20
1804 Mar 21
Ordered from Middletown D. to Washington
1804 Apr 6
Attached to the CONGRESS
1804 Apr 10
Ordered to Baltimore under Lt. Gardner
Returned to U.S. in CONSTITUTION at New York
1807 Dec 21
Ordered from Washington to Phila. to wait for orders
1808 Mar 12
Attached to Phila. Station
1808 Mar 28
Ordered to Baltimore Station with pay of Sailing Master
1809 Apr 3
Ordered to Washington as Mid’n
1809 Apr 14
Appointed, warrant dated and to rank and ordered from Washington to Baltimore Station
1809 Apr 25
1809 Jul 21
Ordered from Baltimore to NAUTILUS at Wash.
1811 Mar 4
Ordered to N. Orleans
1812 Apr 25
Nomination confirmed by Senate and commissioned
1815 Dec 2
Permission granted to visit Washington
1818 Aug 10
Ordered from N. Orleans to PRESENT to settle accounts
1819 May 28
1823 Jul 8
Leave of absence granted 9 mo. Delaware
1827 Apr 27
Leave 12 mo.
1827 May 22