The subscription service Fold3 recently added a category of records, Navy Officers’ Letters 1802-1884, to their online holdings. These are from the collection of the National Archives, but accessing them through Fold3 makes everything a lot easier. I’ve subscribed to Fold3, that specializes in military records, for years. It’s extremely useful as a research tool to quickly find and collect primary source material.
Much of the collection is very mundane stuff — leave requests, notification of change of address for officers not currently assigned a ship (so that the Navy Department could get in contact with the easily), and similar correspondence. But it can be useful in extracting the details of a specific individual’s career and experiences.
Here is a letter from Midshipman Edwin Ward Moore who, a bit over a decade later, would resign his commission in the U.S. Navy to take command of the so-called Second Texas Navy of the Republic of Texas. In July 1828, seventeen-year-old Moore had just passed three-and-a-half years as a Midshipman, and was clearly anxious to find a berth on a ship on active service. USS Hudson, a brand-new frigate recently purchased into the U.S. navy, was fitting out for a cruise in which she would serve as flagship of the U.S. Brazil Squadron, a small force that was positioned to protect American interests in the region during a period of conflict between Brazil and Argentina. Active-duty berths were hard to come by for young men like Moore during that period, but seagoing experience was essential for promotion. Service aboard a squadron flagship like Hudson was even more of a plum, where Moore might be able to gain the notice of the Commodore, John Orde Creigton, in the hope that that might ease Moore’s path to promotion even more.
Occoquan, Prince Willm Cy, Va
July 7th 1828
I have been on leave of absence since January and as I am very anxious to go to sea it would be very gratifying to me, if not inconsistent with the views of the Department, to receive orders to the United States Frigate Hudson, fitting out at New York.
Enclosed is a letter from the Hon. John S. Barbour which I did not received untill [sic.] a few days ago in consequence of its having been directed to Alexandria.
I am Sir
With Great Respect
Yr obt Servant
Midm E. W. Moore
Saml L. Southard
Secretary fo the Navy
As it happens, Moore didn’t get the appointment to Hudson. That frigate made a single, three-year cruise before returning to New York, where she was moored as a receiving ship for thirteen more years before being broken up. Far from USS Hudson being young Moore’s path to glory, today almost no one’s heard of her or her commander, John Orde Creigton.
U.S. warships at Port Mahon, USS Constitution at left, in 1837. Image from the USS Constitution Museum Collection.
Instead, Moore was assigned to the brand new sloop-of-war Fairfield, fitting out for service with the U.S. Mediterranean Squadron. Less that three months after sending off his letter to the Secretary of the Navy, Moore was aboard Fairfield as she entered the harbor at Port Mahon in the Balearic Islands. He stayed with Fairfield for a year in the Mediterranean before returning to the U.S. for shore duty, but returned to her in 1831 in the West Indies, where he served as Sailing Master and Acting Lieutenant.
Edwin Moore was on his way.