At Riverview Cemetery, not far from the Trenton, New Jersey waterfront, is the unkept and forgotten grave of Revolutionary War Naval officer Lieutenant James B. Stafford, a true American hero whose name and patriotic deeds should not be forgotten and whose grave should be restored and memoralized.
Born in 1755 in Wexford, Irleand, not far from the birthplace of Captain John Barry – the Father of the American Navy, Stafford enlisted in the American Navy during the revolution and served valiantly under Barry aboard the USS Alliance.
The Alliance, a large frigate man-of-war, transported General Marquis deLafayette to France to obtain fresh uniforms and supplies for Washington’s rag tag army. Then, after a mutiny, John Barry was given command of the Alliance and defeated a number of British warships, including two at once and also winning the last major naval battle of the war, so Lieutenant Stafford had engaged in swashbuckeling combat and helped defeat the British during the Revolutionary War.
According to the research of navy historian John Barry Kelly, at one critical point during the latter part of the revolution, Lt. Stafford was given the perilous task of communicating a vital dispatch from the Secret Committee of the Continental Congress to the American Minister in England, Henry Laurens. The former President of the American Congress, Laurens was then incarcerated in the Tower of London. Against great odds, and with ingenuity and stealth, Stafford successfully completed the mission.
As long time New Jersey resident, after the revolution Stafford retired to Trenton where he lived until August 19, 1838 when he died at the age of 83, the last surviving veteran to have served on the Alliance.
John Barry Kelly, a distant relative to both Captain John Barry and Revolutionary War Captain Richard Somers, of Somers Point, New Jersey (and no relation to me), is a Philadelphia Parks manager who is researching and writing about lesser known US navy officers from the Philadelphia area. John Barry Kelly located and recently visited Stafford’s grave, and reports that it “needs repairs and rehab. It once was a splendid tribute to a valiant officer, but now is in deteriorated condition.”
When he visited Kelly placed an American flag and Revolutionary War marker at the site. He then wrote to me asking a good question: could some VFW or veterans group or SAR - DAR – Sons - Daughters of the American Revolution, or some such organization, step up and adopt this grave site as a project?
Maybe by August 19, the anniversary of his death, the grave of American Revolutionary War Lieutenant James B. Stafford can be properly restored and serve as a memorial to all of the great, forgotten patriots like him.