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Hamilton Douglas Halyburton






Lt. Hon. Hamilton Douglas Halyburton (10 October 1763 – 31 December 1783) Lt. Hamilton died of exposure while commanding the barge of HMS Assistance, which was caught in a snowstorm while going to look for deserters and wrecked on Sandy Hook.

Hamilton Douglas Halyburton (10 October 1763 – 31 December 1783) was a British Lieutenant who died at Sandy Hook, New Jersey. He was born to Sholto Douglas, 15th Earl of Morton and Katherine Hamilton, granddaughter of Thomas Hamilton, 6Th Earl Of Haddington.  


He had changed his name to Halyburton when he inherited the Pitcur estates. The date of James Halyburton’s death has not been firmly established. Family histories place it around 1742–3, but his son, Colonel James Halyburton, was served as heir on 17 July 1755. When the colonel, who was himself by all accounts a rather unstable individual, died childless in 1765, Pitcur passed to his great-nephew, Hamilton Halyburton Douglas, son of the 15 th Earl of Morton.

He died on 31 December 1783 when he was in command of the barge of the HMS Assistance. He was using it to chase deserters off of Sandy Hook. He and his crew were caught in a winter storm and they all died, all but one of the bodies washed ashore the next day. They were described as "12 gentlemen and one common sailor".

Katherine Hamilton, the Dowager Countess  of Morton erected a monument, but it was destroyed by the French. The grave was rediscovered in 1908 during expansion of a road.

In 1937, a new Halyburton Memorial was constructed.


"On this spot were buried the remains of the Honorable Hamilton Halyburton, 1st Lieutenant, Royal Navy, son of the Earl of Morton, and James Ohampion, Lieutenant of Marines. Together with twelve members of the crew of H.M.S. Assistance who died here at Sandy Hook in line of Duty on December 31, 1783.."

Explanatory information board:

"In January of 1783, as the Revolutionary War was ending, British warships withdrew from New York Harbor. While the warship H.M.S. Assistance was anchored in Sandy Hook Bay, some of her crew deserted and escaped into the salt marshes here. A search party of thirteen men, led by 1st Lieutenant Hamilton Douglas-Halyburton was sent to find them only to get caught in a blizzard and perish. The bodies were buried in a common grave that, some time later, was lost. In 1908, workmen discovered the remains and the British sailors were re-interred at Cyupress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn. The present memorial was erected by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1937."


The H.M.S. Assistance was off Sandy Hook at the end of December, ready to sail back across the Atlantic. On the 31st, six seamen under the command of a midshipman set off from the Assistance in a long-boat to retrieve water from the transport Bridgewater nearby. These men overpowered the midshipman, cut the rope, and pushed toward the Jersey shore. (Five men had also deserted from the Assistance on the preceding day.) The fourteen men named above boarded a barge in pursuit of the deserters. Soon after the sailors left the Assistance the weather began to worsen; the wind picked up and it began to snow heavily. The snow and wind continued on New Year's day, so much so that the crew members aboard the Assistance could not make out any of the smaller boats.

The morning of 2 January 1784 saw moderate and clear weather. The men on the Assistance were able to make out both the long-boat of the deserters and the barge of their pursuers on the beach. An unnamed officer was sent ashore to find the men and bring them back to the Assistance. The officer found the bodies of the men frozen to death, near the water's edge. The deserters were never found. Their names, as listed in the muster book of the Assistance were: Michael Broderick, 21, of Tipperary; Jonathan Cooney, 21, of Dublin; Anthony Crane; George Dicks, 28, of Portsmouth; Bernard Innes, 24, of London; William McDonald, 22, Greennough, Scotland; Thomas Martin, 22, Wexford, Ireland; Jonathan Morris, 21, Bristol; Thomas Murphy, 31, Dublin; Jonathan Shears, 22, Broadhampton; Samuel West, 24, Richmond.

The Assistance was 'flying the flag of Sir Charles Douglas', commander in chief of the Nova Scotia station, when a boat load of seamen deserted the ship. This was not an unsual occurence, and so Lt Hamilton, together with '12 gentlemen and one common sailor' were sent in pursuit. They all perished when the barge got stuck on a sandbar.

File:Halyburton Memorial Sandy Hook.jpgHalyburton's mother, the Countess Dowager of Morton, originally erected a marble monument over the graves of the men at Sandy Hook. Sometime around the year 1808, during the Napoleonic Wars, an armed French vessel landed on the Hook, and some of the crewmen took the time to destroy the monument. The grave was rediscovered when excavations were being done at Fort Hancock with the view of erecting new government buildings there. The New York Times reported that a vault was found during the excavation in which the remains of fourteen men of the Royal Navy were found. The remains were reinterred at Cypress Hills National Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York in 1909, and a large, granite monument was erected over their grave in 1939.

At Sandy Hook lye interred
The Remains
of the Honourable Hamilton Douglas Hallyburton, Son of Sholto Charles Earl of Morton and Heir of the Ancient Family of Hallyburton of Pitcurr in Scotland, who perished on this coast with twelve more young gentlemen and one common Seaman, in the spirited Discharge of Duty
on the 30th or 31st of December 1783
Born on the 10 of October 1763.
A youth who in contempt of hardship or Danger, though possessed of an ample Fortune served seven years in the British Navy with a manly Courage and seemed to deserve a better fate.

This plain Monumental stone is erected by his unhappy Mother Katherine Countess Dowager of Morton to his dear memory and that of his unfortunate companions.

James Champion Lieutenant of Marines
Alexander Johnstone, George Paddy, Robert Haywood
Charles Gascoigne William Tomlinson
Andrew Hamilton William Spry
William Scott John McChain
David Reddie Robert Wood
Young Gentlemen
George Towers common seaman
Cast away, all found dead and frozen, and buried in one Grave.

On Hamilton Douglas Halyburton's death in 1783, Lord Douglas Gordon-Hallyburton (10 October 1777 – 25 October 1841), a Scottish soldier and Member of Parliament, succeeded to the estate of Pitcur, near Kettins in Forfarshire, and adopted the name and arms of Hallyburton of Pitcur.






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