Collection consists of a two volumes titled "Journal of a Cruise from Norfolk, Virginia to the Pacific Ocean in the United States Frigate United States, Isaac Hull, Esq'r, Commander" kept by Philadelphian midshipman Lawrence Penington from 4 December 1823, through 22 April 1827. United States was one of six frigates authorized to be constructed by the Naval Act of 1794 and it served as the flagship for Commodore Hull who was head of the American naval squadron on the Pacific Coast of South America. Penington documents navigation statistics, weather reports and daily ship life, along with the larger issues of interaction between the American naval squadron and British, Spanish, Chilean, Colombian and Peruvian naval and military counterparts.
USS United States
USS United States was the first of the original six frigates authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794. Designed to be the crux of the fledgling Navy, Joshua Humphreys designed United States and her sister ships to be larger and more heavily armed than standard frigates of the period. Built in Philadelphia and launched on 10 May 1797, USS United States became the first ship of the United States Navy. After she was launched and outfitted, she went on to participate in the Quasi-War, the War of 1812, and the Second Barbary War. In November 1823, United States was put under the command of Commodore Isaac Hull with the Pacific Squadron to protect American shipping and commercial interests. The squadron patrolled the waters of the Pacific until returning to New York in April 1827. USS United States sailed with various other squadrons during her history, including the Mediterranean Squadron (1833-38, 1847-48), Home Squadron (1839-40), and African Squadron (1846-47), as well as sailing with the Pacific Squadron again from 1841 to 1842. It was on this second patrol in the Pacific that she was joined by ordinary seaman Herman Melville, who wrote about the experience in his novel White-Jacket, or The World in a Man-of-War. Decommissioned at the Norfolk Navy Yard in 1849, United States was captured by Confederates when the yard was taken in April 1861. The Confederates commissioned her as CSS United States, sometimes called Confederate States, to be a receiving ship. In May 1862, they scuttled the frigate in the Elizabeth River, Virginia, to obstruct Union vessels. After Union forces recaptured the Navy yard, she was raised and towed to the yard. In 1865, the Bureau of Construction and Repair ordered United States broken up and the wood sold.
United States (frigate), 1797-1865, Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships, Navy Department, Naval History and Heritage Command.
Paine, Lincoln P. 1997. "USS United States." In Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia. Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin.
Commodore Isaac Hull
The son of a mariner, Isaac Hull was born in Connecticut in 1773 and spent his childhood sailing with his father. Hull was a master of ship by age 19, commanding several merchant vessels during the 1790s. In 1798, he was commissioned a lieutenant aboard USS Constitution, becoming its commander in 1810. He distinguished himself during the Quasi-War and the War of 1812, and became recognized as one of the Navy's ablest commanders. After commanding the Pacific Squadron between 1823 and 1827, Hull served as Commandant of the Washington Navy Yard from 1829 until 1835 and then commanded the Mediterranean Squadron from 1839 until 1841. He spent the last two years of his life on leave and died on 13 February 1843 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
"Hull, Isaac,"Britannica Concise Encyclopedia. Chicago: Encyclopaedia Britannica, 2012.
"Isaac Hull,"Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, 7 August 2013.
Lieutenant Lawrence Penington
Lawrence Penington was born on 25 October 1805 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He entered into the service of the United States Navy on 22 November 1822. While aboard USS United States, Penington served as a midshipman. His reporting on United States ended with his commission to the newly constructed sloop-of-war, USS Fairfield. Penington was later promoted to lieutenant and served aboard USS Ontario, USS Pennsylvania, USS Vandalia, and USS Bainbridge. He passed away on 5 August 1870.
The Army and Navy Chronicle, Vols. 4-5, 1837.
The Army and Navy Chronicle, Vols. 8-9, 1939. See Navy: Orders: Resignations, 21 February 1839, p. 127.
Naval Register For The Year 1830. Communicated to the Senate, January 4, 1830.
The USS United States Logbooks are comprised of two leather-bound volumes, recorded by midshipman Lawrence Penington while under the command of Commodore Isaac Hull as part of the Pacific Squadron. The first volume begins with departure from Norfolk, Va., and dates from 19 November 1823 until 31 December 1825. The second volume dates from 1 January 1826 until 22 April 1827 and ends with the ship docking in the Hudson River.
The volumes contain the mandatory technical notes, navigation statistics, and weather reports expected of a ship's logbook, but Penington's records also illustrate the day to day activities of shipboard life both while at sea and in harbor. The crew's duties included continual sail, mast and rigging repair, scraping, both interior and exterior painting and caulking, the refilling of water casks whenever possible, and the procurement and distribution among squadron vessels of a wide variety of foodstuffs, particularly fresh beef and vegetables. The records detail the various public punishments sailors could suffer for drunkenness, fighting, disobedience, stealing, and desertion. The punishments mentioned include whipping with the cat o' nine tails, court martial, imprisonment, discharge, and transfer to other vessels. Penington also chronicled the deaths and burials of the men both at sea and on land.
The interactions with the ships of various navies are recorded, including the English, French, Chilean, and Peruvian navies. Some of the English vessels they encountered were HMS Cambridge, HMS Briton, HMS Tartar, HMS Éclair, HMS Caledonia, HMS Mersey, and HMS Blanche. The French vessels were La Diligente and Duke of Bordeaux. They regularly interacted with the Peruvian ships Macedonian, Protector, and Caledonia, as well the Chilean Independencia and Montezuma. American naval vessels that are mentioned as part of the Pacific Squadron were USS Peacock, USS Dolphin, and USS Endeavor. On 4 May 1825, they came upon an English ship that reported it had been boarded by the Spanish armed brig, Centinela, and robbed of its mate and four men. On 20 July 1825, United States saluted the English frigates Tartar and Briton in honor of the anniversary of the coronation of George IV.
While stationed in the Pacific, the squadron was regularly anchored at Callao, Peru, and Valparaiso, Chile. From Callao, the squadron witnessed the Peruvian rebellion against Spanish rule and the birth of their independence as a free nation. On 22 February 1825, United States was visited by General Simon Bolivar, along with his aides and General Tristan. On 27 February 1825, the U.S. brig Sarah George arrived with guns and ammunition for General Bolivar. They witnessed the hauling down of the Spanish flag from the castles of Callao and the raising of the Peruvian flag on 4 January 1826.
Though the logbooks list Lawrence Penington as the only writer, the handwriting changes at times. It begins in Volume 1 on page 250, where the script changes to calligraphy and some dates are repeated. From then on, it changes back and forth periodically between the script and calligraphy, sometimes mid-sentence. This continues on into Volume 2.
Purchased (Naval History Endowment, Bodo Nischan Manuscript Endowment, state funds) from Carmen D. Valentino of Philadelphia, Pa.
Processed by Allison N. Miller, November 2013.
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.