Guide to the Journal of the U.S.S. Congress, the Citizen, and the Canton, 1816-1820
A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029
Prepared by: Mary R. Catalfamo
Revised by: Jennifer A. Bryan
August 2004, March 2010
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
Scope and Content Note
This journal's unidentified author was presumably a naval officer. Roughly half the volume recounts the frigate Congress' 1817-1818 voyage to South America under the command of Captain Arthur Sinclair. In 1817, President James Monroe appointed three commissioners, who sailed aboard Congress, to gather information on the new governments in South America. Ports of call included Rio de Janeiro, Montevideo, and Buenos Aires. In 1819, Congress sailed to Brazil to deliver the United States Minister Plenipotentiary to his post, and then continued across the South Atlantic to China. This cruise, up through March 1820, is also recorded in the journal.
The remainder of the manuscript contains the following information: a journal of the ship Citizen's voyage from Manila to Baltimore; a page of calculations; the "Rules and Regulations of the Congress," dated Boston, 2 August 1816; the "Trim of the U.S. Frigate Congress;" "Observations by Capt. Charles Morris of the U.S. Frigate Congress Cape François;" "Directions for Sailing into Cape François" (July 1817); "Directions for Sailing into the Harbour of Port au Prince;" the dimensions of the following U.S. Navy vessels--Hornet, Guerriere, Congress, Constellation, Constitution, Boxer and Saranac; "Rules by Com: Wm Bainbridge for Masting and sparring ships of any Dimensions--Length of Masts;" "Com Rodgers--Rule for placing the masts;" "Rules for Sparing [sic] Masting & Rigging Ships by Com Rodgers;" "Rigging by Com Rodgers;" "Diameter of Hull Mast & Spars of the U S Sloop Peacock;" "Hull Masts and spars of the Independence;" and a journal of the ship Canton's voyage from Boston to Canton [Guangzhou], China and back to Boston.
Glued to the front pastedown are two newspaper clippings. One describes a rock in the Sunda Strait. The second clipping contains navigational information on Governor's Strait [Singapore Strait] and a partial list of officers of the U.S.S. Brandywine, dating this clipping to circa 1844. Based on information regarding the Congress' officers from the Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps, the date of the second newspaper clipping, and the 1816 Rules and Regulations of the Congress copied into the journal, it is possible that the manuscript's author was Thomas W. Wyman, a lieutenant on the frigate for the years the journal covers.
The cruise information contained in the manuscript is essentially that of the vessel's logbook. The entries begin abruptly on 12 December 1817 with Congress at sea. The frigate anchored at Rio de Janeiro on 30 January 1818, and the following week joined other vessels in firing salutes to honor the coronation of John VI, King of Portugal, who as prince regent had established his court in Brazil during the Napoleonic wars. On 8 February, the journal keeper recorded, "the King is about the Med: Size, corpulent, a very pleasant, though not a very Intelligent countenance, appears about 50 yrs of age." Congress completed her voyage on 9 August, when she was hauled into her berth at the Gosport Navy Yard [Norfolk Naval Shipyard] in Virginia.
The next entry begins on 7 March 1819 with Congress preparing for another cruise, this time under the command of Captin John D. Henley. The vessel sailed from Gosport Navy Yard to Annapolis, Maryland in April to embark John Graham, minister plenipotentiary to Portugal, and his family. Graham had been one of the three commissioners on the previous cruise. Congress left Annapolis on 6 May, but put into Hampton Roads when a leak under the counter was discovered. It was "reported not necessary to detain us[,] stop'd it as well as we could. On the 16th of May unmoor'd got underway...Saw a Frigate at Anchor suppos'd to be the U.States, cheer'd her, which was return'd." Congress arrived at Rio de Janeiro, where Graham and his family left the ship, in July.
On 17 July, Congress got underway to continue her voyage east to China. On 2 September, Amsterdam Island was sighted, and on 19 September, the frigate was standing in for Sunda Strait. The journal keeper noted on 27 October, "At this Season of the year, Ships Navigating the China Seas should be prepar'd to encounter heavy gales of wind, which will generally be met with at the change of the Monsoons." Three days later, he wrote, "I think this may be term'd a Typhong [sic]." Congress reached Canton in mid-November.
The entry for 31 December reads, "This day I was taken Sick." From this point on, the manuscript turns into a personal journal. Congress left China on 10 January and arrived in Manila Bay on 18 January 1820. The author went ashore on 23 January "on a Sick Ticket from Doctor Barnwell." He then records, "On 10th of March I made application to Capt Henley for permission to return to the U.S. as a good opportunity offerd, in the Ship Citizen after some time dilly dallying the permission was granted on such conditions as I could not have accepted, in any other situation than the one I then was in."
It took the Citizen 158 days to sail from Manila to Gibraltar. After two weeks at Gibraltar, the Citizen sailed for Baltimore on 10 September, arriving at the port in mid-October. At this point, the manuscript switches from a journal of voyages to a record of various documents, all mentioned previously. The volume ends with a voyage of the ship Canton from Boston to Canton and back to Boston. There are no years given for the voyage. The ship left Boston on 27 April and returned on 31 March.
This manuscript, along with the Special Collections & Archives Department's MS 22 and MS 23, provide an almost continuous account of the cruises of the U.S.S. Congress from November 1816 through March 1820.