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Journal of the U.S.S. Congress, 1816-1817: Finding Aid

Published in May 2004

Summary Information

  • Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
  • Publisher Address:
    589 McNair Road
    Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
    Phone: 410-293-6917
  • Call number: MS 22
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Journal of the U.S.S. Congress
  • Dates: 1816-1817
  • Size: 0.17 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 70 leaves
  • Creator: Congress (Frigate: 1794-1834)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: An unidentified midshipman kept this journal, spanning the period 16 November 1816 to 26 April 1817, as part of his naval training. The frigate Congress, under the command of Captain Charles Morris, patrolled the Gulf of Mexico. The Special Collections & Archives Department's MS 23 continues this journal, but it is not in the same handwriting.

History of the U.S.S. Congress

The U.S.S. Congress, one of the original six frigates authorized by congress on March 27, 1794, was laid down at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, New Hampshire. Following a hiatus in construction, Congress was launched August 15, 1799, Captain J. Sever in command.

Initially assigned to the East Indies protecting American interests from French privateers, Congress was forced back to Hampton Roads following the loss of a mast. Following repairs, Congress served nearly two years, before being placed into ordinary in August 1801. Three years later, she was recommissioned for service in the Mediterranean Squadron, before being placed in ordinary a second time in 1811.

Just prior to the outbreak of hostilities with Great Britain, Congress was recommissioned under the command of Captain John Smith. Throughout 1812, she patrolled the North Atlantic, capturing nine prizes, before being reassigned to the Brazilian Coast in 1813, where she captured four more prizes.

Following the cessation of hostilities, Congress, now under the command of Captain Charles Morris, sailed for the Mediterranean. In November 1815, she returned home for service in the Gulf of Mexico suppressing piracy, until September 1817.

Over the next six years, Congress made several more cruises battling piracy and protecting American commerce on several stations, before finally being converted to a receiving ship in 1829. In 1834, Congress was deemed beyond repair and broken up at the Norfolk Navy Yard.

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Description of Contents

An unidentified midshipman kept this journal, spanning the period 16 November 1816 to 26 April 1817, as part of his naval training. U.S. Navy regulations required midshipmen to keep regular journals and submit them for examination to their commanding officers at specified periods. Captain Charles Morris (1784-1856) was in command of the Congress; "Ex.d Ch Morris" appears at the foot of the 1 December 1816 entry.

At the front of the volume is a hand-written "Method for working a Lunar Observation by Spherical Trigonometry." A large printed advertisement for Edmund M. Blunt, nautical publisher and author of the American Coast Pilot, is glued to the front paste-down. The Blunt advertisement is partially obscured by two Naval Academy library labels. The sheets that make up the volume are printed as blank forms, two to a side, with "Printed by Edm. M. Blunt, 202 Water-Street, Corner of Beekman-Slip, New York" running at the bottom of each sheet. Thus when bound, the forms run vertically on each page, the printer's information appearing on the recto of each leaf.

The journal begins on 16 November 1816, when the Congress weighed anchor and sailed from Boston for the Gulf of Mexico. The terse entries contain information typically found in a logbook. On 20 December 1816, Captain Daniel Todd Patterson (1786-1839), in command at New Orleans, came on board and left the following day. U.S. Navy vessels mentioned include the hermaphrodite brig Tom Bowline, the ketch Surprise, the schooner Firebrand, the "barge" Bull Dog, and Gun Boat No. 155. On 22 February 1817, the midshipman recorded "from 9 A.M. till 12, the squadron employed in firing at a target." On 1 April, ordinary seaman Woodward Bond died and his body was buried on shore. On 26 April, four midshipmen came on board from New Orleans and "Mid Newcomb was ordered on Board the Gun Boat."

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The entries of the Journal of the U.S.S. Congress are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use


Access is restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Journal of the U.S.S. Congress is 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.

Physical Characteristics and Technical Requirements

Due to its fragile nature, access to the Journal of the U.S.S. Congress is restricted to microfilm.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Accessioned on February 3, 1872. Accession No. 13815.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available in microfilm.

Related Archival Material

The Special Collections & Archives Department's MS 23, Remarks Made on Board the United States' Frigate Congress, 1817 continues this journal, but it is not in the same handwriting.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Journal of the U.S.S. Congress, MS 22

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in May 2004. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in May 2004 and revised by Jennifer A. Bryan in August 2009.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Congress (Frigate: 1794-1834)
  • Logbooks
  • Morris, Charles, 1784-1856
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources

Genre Terms

  • Manuscripts
  • Ships' logs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Journal of the U.S.S. Congress, 1816-1817

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