Member Blogs > Read'Em Again BooksYou Never Know When Something Good Might Show Up - 27 Jun 12

  • Thu, 19 Jul 2012 12:28:48    Permalink
    I was recently at a stamp show, NAPEX 2012 at the Hilton McLean-Tysons Corner in Northern Virginia, looking for advertising covers and billheads in the bourse when I struck up a conversation with a nearby gentleman. It turned out that he dabbled in militaria, and he mentioned that he had a Civil War ships journal.  When I asked if he was interested in selling it, he told me that he happened to have it with him as well as another ship's log from the early 1800s.  We struck a deal on the spot.  
    One of the volumes was a partially printed book, The Seaman's Journal: Being and Easy and Correct Method of Keeping the Daily Reckoning of a Ship, During the Course of Her Voyage.  The Columns and Spaces are Properly Ruled and Divided for the Entrance of Every Necessary Observation: and the Several Departments Arranged in the Most Regular and Conspicuous Manner, that contained the logs of five different voyages on four different ships between 1804 and 1810.  Many of the entries included hand-drawn illustrations of islands, several reported boardings of U.S. vessels by British warships, one reported the impressment of an American sailor, and one ended when the ship, the Amsterdam Packet, was condemned (seized) by the British and impounded at their Navy Yard in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for alleged violations of neutrality.  The condemnation posting was especially interesting because the seizure of the Amsterdam Packet was referenced in James Fenimore Cooper's famous biography of an American seaman, Ned Myers: A Life Before the Mast. The same day I posted the log on-line, it was snapped it up by an English dealer with a special fondness for illustrated ship journals.The other volume is a fascinating journal kept by the Assistant Paymaster of the U.S.S. Wachusett during the early days of the American Civil War, and it is still available for sale. 

    Journal of the Cruise of the U.S.S. Wachusett, 1862.  The journal begins on 12 March 1862, nine days after the ship was commissioned, two days after it was assigned to the North Atlantic Blocking Squadron, and the evening before it departed the Boston Navy Yard for Hampton Roads, Virginia.  On 4 May, a boat crew raised the Stars and Stripes at Gloucester Point following its participation in the Battle of Yorktown.  Soon thereafter, the screw sloop moved to the James and sailed up river toward Richmond to participate in the attack on Fort Darling at Drewry's Bluff.  Despite heavy damage from the Union ships' guns, the Confederate battery on the bluff was able to block the advance and save Richmond.  The Wachusett remained in the area through August, patrolling the York and James Rivers. The journal entries are extensive and detailed, providing much information not available elsewhere.  Content includes a short description of the damage to the U.S.S. Minnesota by the C.S.S. Virginia (formerly the U.S.S. Merrimack), troop transports arriving in Hampton Roads, passing the U.S.S. Monitor, being named the flagship for the attack on Yorktown, exchanging fire with Confederate batteries, concern about the Virginia's possible approach, the arrival of General McClellan in Hampton Roads, taking a rifled shell through the rigging, spotting a Union balloon, shelling Yorktown and Gloucester Point, landing at the abandoned Confederate Navy Yard at West Point and singing Dixie and Yankee Doodle around an old piano, raising the flag at Gloucester Point, landing at Yorktown, attending a battlefield funeral and burial, the sinking of the Virginia, the arrival of President Lincoln's cabinet in Hampton Roads, being stopped at Drewry's Point, the U.S.S. Galena's damage and casualties, and, most dramatically, the bloody and fatal ambush of the ship's landing party at City Point (Hopewell).  The entries conclude in mid-June.  $6,500

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