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Richard Dale Letterbook, 1802: 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 45
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Richard Dale Letterbook
  • Dates: 1802
  • Size: 0.15 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 30 leaves
  • Creator: Dale, Richard, 1756-1826
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Richard Dale was an early Commodore in the United States Navy. The Richard Dale Letterbook spans from January 11, 1802 to April 14, 1802. The letterbook consists of copies of letters sent by Commodore Richard Dale from Toulon and his flagship, U.S.S. President (Frigate), while in command of the American Squadron in the Mediterranean during the First Barbary War.

Biography of Richard Dale

Commodore Richard Dale was born on November 6, 1756 in Norfolk County, Virginia to Winfield and Anne Sutherland Dale. Pursuing from an early age a career at sea in the merchant trade, Dale joined the Virginia navy as a lieutenant at the outbreak of the American Revolution. Captured by the British, Dale switched sides only to be captured and imprisoned aboard the Continental Navy brig Lexington. He then rejoined the revolutionary cause in 1776 and continued to serve on the Lexington until his capture by the H.M.S. Alert in September 1777, after which Dale was confined to Mill Prison in Plymouth, England. After a failed first attempt, Dale escaped in 1779 from Mill Prison, fleeing to L'Orient, France, where he joined Captain John Paul Jones’ crew aboard the Bonhomme Richard, ultimately serving as Jones' first lieutenant. In 1781, Dale returned to America, serving aboard the Continental Navy frigates Trumbull and Queen of France.

Upon the cessation of hostilities, Dale returned to his pre-war career, and in 1791, married Dorothea Crathorne. In 1794, he received a commission from President George Washington as a captain in the newly established Navy. At the onset of the Quasi-War with France in 1798, the United States purchased and converted the merchantman Ganges into a warship under Dale's command. Dale had previously skippered the Ganges on a voyage to Canton in 1795 while on furlough.

Falling into a dispute over seniority, Dale took an unpaid leave of absence and sailed aboard the Canton in 1799. Dale returned to naval service in May 1801, commanding a squadron led by the U.S.S. President in the Mediterranean, protecting American interests against the Barbary Pirates. After being relieved in March 1802, Dale resigned his commission, retiring to Philadelphia, and thus establishing the Dales as one of Philadelphia's leading families. He died in Philadelphia on February 26, 1826.

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Description of Contents

The Richard Dale Letterbook, comprising 0.15 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 30 leaves, spans from January 11, 1802 to April 14, 1802. The letterbook consists of copies of letters sent by Commodore Richard Dale from Toulon and his flagship, U.S.S. President (Frigate), while in command of the American Squadron in the Mediterranean during the First Barbary War.

The letters pertain to such topics as repairs to U.S.S. President, movements of U.S. Navy vessels in the Mediterranean, dealings with American diplomats, preparations for the return to American waters, transactions with local merchants, the settling of debts, the deployment of U.S.S. Boston (Frigate) to Tunis and Tripoli, the conduct of Daniel McNeill, operations with the Swedish Squadron, the blockade of Tripoli, protection of Swedish and American convoys, recommendations to Dale's successor, the seizure of Tripolitan corsairs at Gibraltar, efforts by the Emperor of Morocco to free the captured Tripolitan corsairs, and the U.S.S. President's return to Hampton Roads. Correspondents include American Consul at Marseilles Stephen Cathalan, Jr., U.S.S. Philadelphia's commanding officer Samuel Barron, U.S.S. Boston's commanding officer Daniel McNeill, American Consul at Leghorn Thomas Appleton, Secretary of the Navy Robert Smith, Rear Admiral Soderstrom of the Swedish Navy, American Consul at Algiers Richard O'Brien, U.S.S. Essex's commanding officer William Bainbridge, U.S.S. George Washington's commanding officer John Shaw, and American Consul at Tangiers James Simpson.

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The Richard Dale Letterbook comprises a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Richard Dale 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 James Carson Brevoort in 1889. Accession No. 30222.

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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 Commodore Richard Dale in this repository can be found in the Dale Family Papers, MS 246.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Richard Dale Letterbook, MS 45

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:

Fredriksen, John C. "Dale, Richard (6 Nov. 1756-26 Feb. 1826)." American National Biography, Volume 6. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

Herring, H.J. The National Portrait Gallery of Distinguished Americans, Volume III. Philadelphia: Henry Perkins, 1856.

Reynolds, Clark G. Famous American Admirals. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Company, 1978.

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

  • Barron, Samuel, -1810
  • Boston (Frigate)
  • Dale, Richard, 1756-1826
  • McNeill, Daniel
  • Philadelphia (Frigate)
  • President (Frigate)
  • United States -- History -- Tripolitan War, 1801-1805

Genre Terms

  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Richard Dale Letterbook, 1802 January 11-April 14

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