The collection consists of correspondence (1862-1863) from Hinkley to his sisters in which he details his activities while traveling as secretary to Commodore Thatcher, who is stationed aboard the U.S. Sloop-of-War
CONSTELLATION bound for the Mediterranean to protect Union shipping. The tour also served a diplomatic function as Thatcher and Hinkley met with American and foreign diplomats at each port.
Several letters include news about the Civil War as well as rumors from the diplomatic community about possible foreign actions. The news that Gen. George B. McClellan took Yorktown, Virginia, and the possibility of French mediation thereby recognizing the Confederacy (May 18, 1862) is noted as is Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton's culpability in not supporting McClellan (July 26, 1862). Later, Hinkley speculates on charges of incompetence being leveled at General McClellan (Dec. 18, 1862) and questions whether McClellan lost Richmond because the use of McDowell's Corps was withheld from him (July 4, 1863). Also included is a discussion of whether war with the Confederacy is justified by the Constitution (Feb. 26, 1863). Hinkley was unsure of the ability of the Union leaders to gain victory, while noting the success of the Confederacy against all odds (May 17, 1863). In the English port of Gibraltar, Union and Confederate ships, in theory, were both restricted to a twenty-four-hour stay. In reality the English were partial to the Confederacy and Hinkley notes that the CSS
SUMTER was allowed tostay indefinitely. There, also, relations between English and Union officers were tense, ending in a fight in a restaurant (May 4, 1862).
Items of interest about each country are also included in the correspondence. In Turkey, the easy life of Beirut missionaries who were better supported and had fewer responsibilities than the majority of clergymen in New England is detailed (Sept. 26, 1862). Hinkley also describes a meeting with the president of the Ottoman Railway Co., an English concern, and notes the condition of the line. In the same letter he recounts an excursion in Turkey on which he and some other officers embarked to investigate the murder of an American missionary. Included are a description of being accosted by bandits, a meeting with a local governor--a Bey--with descriptions of his palace and the method of smoking chibouques, and breakfast at the home of an Armenian (a billet arranged by the Bey). Hinkley also details the cause and events of a Maronite revolt with its resulting bloodshed. Social customs of the Turkish people are noted, including the elaborate rituals associated with haggling for all purchases and a description of the bazaar itself.
While in Italy, Hinkley describes visits with Hiram Powers, a noted sculptor, commenting on the status of Powers's statues of "Jefferson" and "Franklin" and mentioning the reasons for Powers's "America" being turned down for the top of the Capitol dome in Washington, DC, in favor of Thomas Crawford's "Armed Freedom" (July 4, 1863). Hinkley also gives a lengthy description of a rail trip to Switzerland via Genoa and Milan (July 29, 1863).
In Sicily and Sardinia, Hinkley notes Garibaldi's efforts toward Italian unity as well as the various political relationships of the parties involved (May 28, 1862). Comments about the differing views of Naples and Venice towards taking Rome by force are also noted (July 12, 1862). Hinkley performs a wedding on board the ship because the Protestant couple could not be married on Catholic soil (May 1863). While in Genoa, Hinkley describes the gay celebration following the granting of the Sardinian constitution (May 28, 1862).
The main body of correspondence contains descriptions of landscapes of the various countries, including Portuguese windmills, churches, castles, convents, estates and monasteries, and gives descriptions of each port and city or town at which they harbored, including social life, customs, and agriculture. Also included are descriptions of several inland trips Hinkley made, as well as accounts of dinners and meetings with American and foreign diplomats and politicians. He had made an agreement with his sisters to write only about things that would interest them. Ports and towns described include Lisbon, Portugal; Cadiz, Spain; Bay of Gibraltar; Genoa, Sardinia, Pisa, Florence, Naples, Pompeii, Palermo, Leghorn, Milan, Messina, and Speria, Italy; Vourlah Bay and Beirut, Turkey; Ayas in the Gulf of Iskenderun, Turkey; and Port Mahon, Minorca. Notable descriptions of buildings include the country palace of Count de Feroba, Lisbon; theconvent of the Capuchins, Cadiz; St. Michael's Cave, Gibraltar; the Villa of Count Palavicine, Genoa; the Camp Santo burial place and the Leaning Tower, Pisa; the excavations at Pompeii, the Royal Palace and the Royal Gallery of Paintings, Turin; and the Cathedral, Milan.
Several works of art are described at length: Murillo, "The Marriage of St. Catherine" (May 1862); Rubens, "Hercules Between Virtue and Vice, Personated by Minerva and Venus" (May 29, 1862); Raphael, "Madonna della Tenda" (Jan. 1863); and Veronese, "The Magdalene Anointing the Feet of the Saviour in the House of Simon the Pharisee" (Feb. 23, 1863).