Papers (1894-1901, 1958-1974, 2009, undated) of a U. S. naval officer (Rear Admiral), graduate of the U. S. Naval Academy, 1872, who served as commander of the European Squadron, 1895, and Mare Island Navy Yard, 1898, and consisting of correspondence, newspaper clippings, genealogical tables, a poem, photographs, and miscellaneous.
William Alexander Kirkland was born in Hillsborough, N.C., on July 3, 1836, the son of Anna McKenzie Cameron and Alexander McKenzie Kirkland, a merchant. He entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis in 1850 at age fourteen. In 1851 Kirkland was attached to the PORTSMOUTH, then later to the ST. LAWRENCE before his return to the academy in 1856. At this time, Kirkland was promoted to passed midshipman. Between the years 1856 and 1863 he served on several ships attached to the Brazil Squadron. By 1858 he had been promoted to lieutenant and by 1862 to lieutenant commander. The following year, Kirkland received orders to serve on the JAMESTOWN followed by the WYOMING in the East Indian Squadron. He was on the WYOMING when the ship attacked the forts on the Shimonoseki Straits in Japanese waters.
After returning to the Unitized States in 1864, Kirkland received his first command. This was on the gunboat OWASCO, part of Rear Admiral David G. Farragut's Western Gulf Blockading Squadron. Until the end of the Civil War, Kirkland commanded the river monitor WINNEBAGO, which was involved in fighting during the last months of the war around the Mobile Bay Area.
In 1866 Kirkland returned to South America to serve as commander of the WASP. Two years later, the commander of the South Atlantic Squadron, Charles H. David, ordered Kirkland to rescue Charles A. Washburn, the American minister in Asuncion, Paraguay. At this time, Paraguay was involved in the War of the Triple Alliance. Kirkland, who spoke fluent Spanish, was able to persuade Paraguay's dictator to allow the release of Washburn. Owing much to this achievement, Kirkland was promoted to commander in 1869.
During the next decade Kirkland spent two years ashore on ordnance duty and in various other command positions. In 1880 he was promoted to captain while serving on the SHENANDOAH on the South American station. During the next decade Kirkland remained ashore commanding in succession the Norfolk Navy Yard, receiving ship COLORADO, New York Navy Yard, receiving ship VERMONT, Harbor of New York League Island Navy Yard, and as governor, the Naval Home in Philadelphia.
In 1894, Kirkland was given command of the South Atlantic Squadron, but then requested an assignment to the European Squadron. Expecting to be further promoted, instead, Kirkland was soon removed from the command of the squadron. This demotion occurred after Kirkland made some controversial remarks related to the French president and American missionaries in Turkey.
From 1896 until his death, Kirkland commanded the Mare Island Navy Yard in California. He died on August 12, 1898, and was buried in the Naval Academy Cemetery at Annapolis. In 1860, Kirkland had married Consolacion Victoria Gowland of Montevideo, Uruguay. She died in February 1909. Together they had five children (Anna Rebecca, Maria Isabel, Florencia Maria, Roberto Lathrop Gowland and William Alexander, Jr.), all born in Montevideo.
Source:Dictionary of North Carolina Biography. Edited by William S. Powell. The University of North Carolina Press.
Correspondence is largely concerned with controversies surrounding Kirkland in 1894 and 1895. Kirkland complains of President Cleveland's decision to replace him in the Pacific Station by an assignment to South America, but he is granted a request for eventual command of the European Station. In June, 1895, Kirkland is reprimanded for a note sent congratulating the new President of France, M. Faure. Kirkland's defense is overruled by Secretary of the Navy Herbert, causing Kirkland to appeal directly to President Cleveland (August, 1895). Further difficulty arises when Herbert objects to published statements by Kirkland on missionary activity in the Near East.
Other correspondence includes an interesting letter by the inventor John Lay (October, 1894) describing, with drawings, his recent innovations in torpedo design. There is also a short letter (1898) from Theodore Roosevelt concerning the number of vice-admirals needed, and a letter (1895) from Sec. Herbert approving Kirkland's acceptance of a snuff box from Kaiser Wilhelm at the opening of the North Baltic Sea Canal. Other items of note include a letter and a fitness report on future admiral, Alfred T. Mahan (February, 1895), and a copy of a letter by G. Hanotaux, the French Foreign Minister, thanking Kirkland on behalf of President Faure.
Further correspondence concerning Admiral Kirkland includes a letter (1894) from Secretary of the Navy, F. M. Ramsay, concerning the status of foreign officers aboard American ships; a commendation of Kirkland with a brief description of conditions in Asia Minor (1895) by Thomas Gibson, U.S. Consul in Syria; a note from the Sous Prefet of Havre informing Kirkland that M. Faure will receive him and his staff; a memorandum by Kirkland commenting on his troubles with the Navy Department; orders from the Secretary of the Navy transferring Kirkland to the Atlantic Squadron and one relieving him of this command; and miscellaneous correspondence of a more personal nature.
Other items include a toast to the city of Glasgow and a poem written by Kirkland in conjunction with a request for active service after the disaster of the "Maine."
There are also several items pertaining to W.A. Kirkland, the admiral's son. These include a letter of recommendation, an award certificate, and a congratulatory letter written by James Forrestal. Two interesting letters by the Younger Kirkland give an entertaining and informative family history that follows the movements of the Kirkland family upon arrival in America and provides brief biographies of various relatives. Included are a lengthy portrait of Admiral Kirkland and a brief mention of Paul Carrington Cameron. There is also a description of Kirkland's boyhood experiences on the eastern shore of Maryland. Also included is a letter from Alice Kirkland Corbus concerning the collection.
Other items consist of two newspaper clippings, one contains the Admiral's comments about missionaries and the other is a copy of an obituary of Roberto G. Kirkland. There are also several photographs of W.A. Kirkland, both father and son, as well as Kirkland family genealogical charts (1700s-1900s) accompanied by an undated letter from Mrs. Peter G. George, a Kirkland descendent. Also included is an article describing the history of Paraguay, as well as a copy of Revelaciones y Reflexiones: El Histrico Laudo Arbitral del Presidente Rutherford B. Hayes 12 de noviembre de 1878, a Spanish publication (with English notes) concerning President Rutherford B. Hayes' boundary arbitration in Paraguay written by John A. Fatherley.
Gift of Mrs. John Corbus
Gift of Ms. Jean Bradley Anderson
Gift of John A. Fatherley
Processed by P. Skeen, January 1975
Processed by Dale Sauter, 2009
Encoded by Apex Data Services
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
(a book related to the Great War in Paraguay from 1865-1870). By John A. Fatherley.