Letter from William McCann to his brother, October 27, 1848.
Letter from William McCann to his brother, October 27, 1848.

Guide to the William P. McCann Papers, 1848-1906

MS 350

A collection in the
Special Collections & Archives Department,
Nimitz Library

Naval Academy Seal

United States Naval Academy
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, MD 21402-5029

Prepared by: David D'Onofrio
(Original Guide by Mary R. Catalfamo)

January 2010

Descriptive Summary

The William P. McCann Papers combine two accessions, one a donation to the Special Collections & Archives Department by Lily May Olson and the other a purchase. Accession Nos. 94-62 and 95-23.
7.5 linear inches.
Access to the William P. McCann Papers is unrestricted.
The William P. McCann Papers are the physical property of Nimitz Library. Copyright belongs to the authors or creators of the works, or their legal representatives. For further information, consult the Head, Special Collections & Archives.
It is the responsibility of the researcher to secure written permission to publish, reprint, or reproduce material from Special Collections & Archives. The researcher assumes responsibility for infringement of copyright or literary or publication rights. Please contact the Head, Special Collections & Archives for permission to publish and for further information
Preferred Citation:
William P. McCann Papers, MS 350
Special Collections & Archives Department
Nimitz Library
United States Naval Academy

Biographical Chronology

1830 Born May 4, in Paris, Kentucky.
1848 In October, arrives in Annapolis, Maryland for Naval School entrance examinations.
On November 1, enters the United States Navy as a midshipman.
In December, sails aboard the recently recommissioned U.S.S. Raritan (Frigate), which was serving as flagship of the Home Squadron.
1850 In June, sails aboard the U.S.S. Raritan for a second cruise, now serving as flagship of the Pacific Squadron.
1853 On May 5, transfers to U.S.S. Columbia (Frigate), which was serving as flagship of the Home Squadron.
On October 28, reports to the United States Naval Academy for examination.
Graduates from the United States Naval Academy.
1854 On June 14, is warranted as a passed midshipman.
In June, is ordered to U.S.S. Cyane (Sloop-of-war).
In July, is transferred to U.S.S. Vixen (Gunboat) while she was under repair at the New York Navy Yard.
In September, reports for duty aboard U.S.S. Independence (Ship-of-the-line), which was recommissioned to serve as flagship of the Pacific Squadron.
1855 On September 15, is warranted as a Master.
On September 16, is commissioned as a Lieutenant.
1858 In January, is ordered to the receiving ship U.S.S. Allegheny (Gunboat).
In August, reports aboard U.S.S. Sabine (Frigate).
1862 In April, transfers to U.S.S. Maratanza (Gunboat).
On August 5, is promoted to Lieutenant Commander.
In October, receives command of U.S.S. Hunchback (Gunboat) of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
1863 On September 26, is detached from Hunchback in order to take command of U.S.S. Kennebec (Gunboat) of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron.
1864 On October 31, is detached from U.S.S. Kennebec.
1865 On February 6, receives command of U.S.S. Tahoma (Gunboat).
1866 On July 25, is promoted to Commander.
1866-1876 Serves as captain of U.S. Ships Tallapoosa (Gunboat) and Nipsic (Gunboat); at the Naval Academy as Assistant to Commandant of Midshipmen; in Executive Duty; at the Philadelphia and Norfolk Navy Yards; and as inspector of the Eighth and Eleventh lighthouse districts.
1876 On September 21, is promoted to Captain.
1876-1882 Serves as captain of Lackawanna (Sloop-of-war), Independence, and Pensacola (Screw sloop-of-war).
1883-1887 Serves as Light-house Board member, Naval Advisory Board President, and on court-martial duty.
1887 On January 26, is promoted to Commodore.
Receives command of Boston Navy Yard.
1890 In August, receives command of the South Atlantic Station.
1891 In August, is relieved as commander of the South Atlantic Station, and subsequently serves as president of the Naval Examining and Retiring Board.
1892 On May 4, is transferred to the retired list.
1898 Serves as prize commissioner for the southern district of New York.
1906 On January 15, dies in New Rochelle, New York.

Scope and Content Note

The Commodore William P. McCann Papers, comprising 7.5 linear inches of documentation, span from 1848 until 1906. The papers, consisting primarily of handwritten journals and correspondence, cover all but the last two years of McCann's career in the U.S. Navy.

Included in the collection are copies of outgoing letters, journals, press clippings, a map, a plan for a naval vessel, and a certificate. All items, with the exception of the certificate, are handwritten or hand-drawn.

The McCann Papers are arranged alphabetically by document type into a single series with no subdivisions. The correspondence consists of ten letters from McCann to his father, brother (John), Garret Thompson, and Secretary of the Navy John Mason. The letters, most likely copies from a larger letterbook, pertain largely to McCann's efforts to enter the Naval School, including his examinations and a meeting with the Secretary of the Navy. The letters also describe various historical and physical aspects of the Naval School, Annapolis, the Maryland State House, the Norfolk Navy Yard, and U.S.S. Raritan.

The journals, written in several hands and most likely produced in retrospect, span from 1848 to 1890. The journals discuss, in varying levels of detail, McCann's numerous posts and tours of duty. In addition to providing such standard information as courses traveled, weather, itineraries, duties, and recreation, the journals also detail McCann's experiences during the American Civil War, including the siege of Yorktown and the Battle of Mobile Bay; the War of the Pacific between Chile, Bolivia, and Peru; and his experiences as lighthouse inspector and member of the Lighthouse Board. The journals also feature McCann's views on topics such as American politics, foreign policy, and diplomacy. Interspersed throughout the journals are press clippings.

The remainder of the collection consists of several oversize documents, including McCann's commission as a Commander in the U.S. Navy, a hand-drawn map of Mobile Bay, and hand-drawn sketches of the U.S.S. Merrimack (Frigate) depicting her conversion to the ironclad C.S.S. Virginia.

Container List

Box Folder  
1 1 Correspondence, October 18 - [November 1], 1848

From Annapolis, MD. Descriptions of voyage to Annapolis for examination (October 18); meeting with Secretary of the Navy (October 21; 27); passing examination; Naval School professors as entirely impartial; and anticipated course of study (November 1).

2 Correspondence, November 4-14, 1848

From Annapolis, MD and Norfolk, VA. Descriptions of Annapolis and Maryland State House (November 4); the Naval School, and "brotherhood" of midshipmen (November 6); the Norfolk Navy Yard (November 13); and Raritan as the "most pleasant" ship (November 13).

3 Journal No.1, October 1848-February 1861

Includes descriptions of McCann's naval education, including his time at the U.S. Naval Academy and aboard U.S. Ships Raritan, Columbia, Vixen, Independence, Allegheny and Sabine.

4 Journal No. 2, December 1861-March 1864

Includes descriptions of McCann's service aboard U.S.S. Sabine before and during the Civil War; service aboard U.S.S. Maratanza as temporary commander and participation in the siege of Yorktown; service aboard U.S.S. Hunchback, including engagements at New Bern, Washington, and other North Carolina sites; and transfer to Kennebec as commander. Also includes excerpts of a 'logbook relating to the foundering of the Governor, November 2, 1861."

5 Journal No. 3, February 1864-January 1867

Includes descriptions of service aboard U.S.S. Kennebec, including the Battle of Mobile Bay; command of U.S.S. Tahoma; unsatisfactory tour of duty at U.S. Naval Academy; and command of U.S.S. Tallapoosa.

6 Journal No. 4, January 1867-November 1872

Includes descriptions of a shipboard cholera outbreak in Philadelphia in 1867; service at the Navy Yard, Philadelphia; tour of duty as Inspector of Lights, Eighth District; and command of U.S.S. Nipsic, including the protection of American interests in Cuba, Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

7 Journal No. 5, November 1872-June 1881

Includes descriptions of duties as Equipment Officer at the Navy Yard, Norfolk; Inspector, Eleventh Lighthouse District; command of U.S.S. Lackawanna, including safeguarding national interests in Mexico and the Washington Territory; and command of the receiving ship U.S.S. Independence, Mare Island, CA.

Box Folder
2 1 Journal No. 6, June 1881-September 1884

Includes descriptions of command of the flagship of the Pacific Squadron, U.S.S. Pensacola, including peacekeeping mission in the Chilean-Peruvian area during the War of the Pacific (1881-1882), and critique of American diplomatic efforts during the war; court-martial duty in the U.S. and abroad; and membership on the Lighthouse Board.

2 Journal No. 7, September 1884-June 1890

Includes descriptions of service on, or as president of, various boards and courts-martial including the Lighthouse Board and the Naval Advisory Board; command of the Boston Navy Yard; and McCann’s opinions on contemporary political and naval conditions.

3 Obituaries, January 1906
Box Folder
MSOS 1 Commission - Commander (effective December 8, 1867), June 6, 1868
2 Maps and Plans (Hand-drawn), ca. 1862 and undated

- Map of Mobile Bay, undated
- Plan of the New Merrimack, ca. 1862