The Foreign Service Journal, November 2020

66 NOVEMBER 2020 | THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL FS HERITAGE I n late September 2009, I took a two-hour ride on the Long Island Railroad to Southampton, New York, and then walked over to the North End Burying Ground. I took the lengthy trip to see the grave of Robert Sterry, one of the few 19th-century U.S. consuls who died in the line of duty whose grave is in the United States. The trip continued my long-standing interest in these over- looked diplomats, which began during my 2007-2008 assignment in Hong Kong (see “Russ and I,” June 2009 Foreign Service Journal ). AMERICA’S OVERLOOKED DIPLOMATS AND CONSULS WHODIED in the LINEOFDUTY Jason Vorderstrasse is a Foreign Service officer cur- rently serving as the diplomat in residence for South- ern California, Hawaii, Nevada, American Samoa, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands. He previ- ously served in Kingston, Hong Kong and Tijuana. He received AFSA’s 2020 Award for Achievement and Contributions to the Association for his work to preserve the memory of forgotten fellow diplomats. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of the State Department or the U.S. government. A discovery in a cemetery in Hong Kong spurred a quest to find the names of U.S. diplomats whose ultimate sacrifice remained unacknowledged. BY JASON VORDERSTRASSE Sterry, who served as consul in La Rochelle, France, starting in 1816, perished in the wreck of the scow Helen off Long Island on Jan. 17, 1820. Sterry had joined the Consular Service after seven years in the U.S. Army, during which he fought in the War of 1812. His request to President James Madison for a consular appointment came with the endorsement of Brigadier General Alexander Macomb. Although records are sparse, Sterry seems to have had an adventurous spirit, having moved to the Louisi- ana Territory following his graduation from what would eventu- ally become Brown University. Hailing from a well-connected Rhode Island family, he had made the move bearing a letter of introduction from President Thomas Jefferson. While in Louisiana, Sterry wrote an article criticizing the ter- ritorial governor, William C.C. Claiborne. Claiborne’s brother- in-law and private secretary, Micah Lewis, then challenged Sterry to a duel. Sterry killed Lewis in the duel, shooting him in the chest. Sterry’s son-in-law, Ferdinand Du Fais, later served as consul at Le Havre. His grandson, John Du Fais, became a New York architect of some renown. During my assignment in Hong Kong, I found three consuls who had died in the line of duty but were not recognized on the