James Duncan papers  1673-1875
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Biographical/Historical Note

The British sea captain, James Duncan, saw action during the Seven Years' War in 1762 and 1763 as a seaman aboard the Anson . Following the war, he entered the merchant marine, commanding a commercial vessel, but at the outbreak of the American Revolution, he outfitted a ship at his own expense, christened her the Rose , and sailed for the American coast as a privateer. Shortly after his arrival off the coast of North America, he engaged in battle with a French vessel and lost; the Rose was sunk and Duncan was taken as a prisoner of war to Philadelphia. During his captivity, a fire in New York City destroyed some of his property, but whether this property was in goods or real estate on shore, or aboard a ship moored in the harbor is not known.

Upon his release from prison, Duncan re-entered the Royal Navy and served on several vessels for the next seven years, returning to England in 1783, as he put it, "reduced to Bankruptcy occasioned by… having lost during the war £5,500 belonging to other people, & 12,000 £ and upwards" of his own. Apparently, he regained much of his lost wealth, for at his death in 1803, he left an estate valued in the thousands of pounds. His widow, Ann, spent £300 for mourning clothes alone, and his brick home at Roehampton in Surrey, thirty-four acres of land located six miles from London's Hyde Park Corner, was valued at £7,000.