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John D. Henley Letterbook, 1808-1812: Finding Aid

Published in April 2020

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 38
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: John D. Henley Letterbook
  • Dates: 1808-1812
  • Size: 0.17 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 34 leaves
  • Creator: Henley, John D. (John Dandridge), 1781-1835
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: John D. Henley was an officer in the United States Navy. The John D. Henley Letterbook spans from July 9, 1808 to November 27, 1812. The letterbook was maintained by Henley while serving under David Porter off New Orleans, including the lead up to and early months of the War of 1812.

Biography of John D. Henley

John Dandridge Henley was born on February 25, 1781 in Williamsburg, Virginia, and received his warrant as a Midshipman 14 October 1799. Early in his career, Henley was recognized for his contributions during the Barbary Wars against Tripoli. On August 3, 1804, while attached to Gunboat No. 6, Henley and the vessel's crew successfully boarded and seized an enemy ship of superior size and complement. Henley later took part in several other attacks as Commodore Treble's squadron engaged in operations against the Tripolitan pirates. After the wars, Henley was promoted to Lieutenant on January 3, 1807.

During the War of 1812, Henley was promoted again, to the rank of Commander on July 24, 1813. Later in the War, he commanded U.S.S. Carolina (Schooner) during the Battle of New Orleans. During the battle, Carolina and several other ships offered gunfire support, protecting the flank of Andrew Jackson's forces. After the war, Henley was promoted to the rank of Captain on March 5, 1817. In 1819, he assumed command of U.S.S. Congress (Frigate), captaining that vessel until at least 1822.

Later in his career, Henley served successively in several shore establishments, serving as the Commanding Naval Officer at Charleston in 1827 and Baltimore in 1828, and commanding the Portsmouth Navy Yard by 1829. Henley later returned to sea, and by 1835, was aboard the newly recommissioned U.S.S. Vandalia (Sloop-of-war). John D. Henley died on May 23, 1835 on board Vandalia at Havana, Cuba.

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Description of Contents

The John D. Henley Letterbook, comprising 0.17 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 34 leaves, spans from July 9, 1808 to November 27, 1812. The letterbook was maintained by Henley while serving under David Porter off New Orleans, including the lead up to and early months of the War of 1812.

The volume consists primarily of orders, circulars, and communications received by Henley from Porter pertaining to such subjects as supplies, personnel matters, crew conduct, finances, the disposition of Marines, embargo enforcement, war preparations, suppression of the slave trade, and the operations of Gunboat No. 64. The final eight leaves of the volume consist of copies of letters sent by Henley in the days leading up to and shortly after the outbreak of the War of 1812. These letters pertain to such topics as the operations and condition of U.S.S. Viper (Brig), including the transportation of the American Consul to Havana. The volume includes a list of the officers of U.S.S. Viper. An index to Commodore Porter's orders appears at the front of the volume.

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The John D. Henley Letterbook comprises a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The John D. Henley Letterbook 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.

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Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of David Porter McCorkle in December 1859. Accessioned in April or May 1869. Accession No. 12046.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to the career of John D. Henley in this repository includes the Watch-, Quarter-, and Station-Bill of the U.S.S. John Adams and the U.S.S. Congress, 1818-1819, MS 73.

Similar documents from the career of John D. Henley are available at the Peabody Essex Museum and the Portsmouth Athenaeum.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

John D. Henley Letterbook, MS 38

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

"John D. Henley (DD-553)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2015,

United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1821-1829.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in April 2020.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Gunboats -- United States -- History -- 19th century
  • Henley, John D. (John Dandridge), 1781-1835
  • Porter, David, 1780-1843
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
  • United States. Navy. New Orleans Station
  • Viper (Brig)

Genre Terms

  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

John D. Henley Letterbook, 1808 July 9-1812 November 27

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