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Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea, 1832-1942 (bulk 1832-1833): Finding Aid

Published in May 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 94
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea
  • Dates: 1832-1942
  • Bulk Dates: 1832-1833
  • Size: 0.11 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 38 leaves
  • Creator: Fish, Peter Stuyvesant
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: U.S.S. United States was one of the original six frigates of the United States Navy. The Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea spans from July 3, 1832 to November 23 1833. The journal, in the form of a diary, was kept by Captain's Clerk Peter Stuyvesant Fish.

History of U.S.S. United States (Frigate)

U.S.S. United States, one of six frigates authorized by Congress on March 27, 1794, was designed by naval architect Joshua Humphreys and Captain Thomas Truxtun. Built at Philadelphia, she was launched on May 10, 1797 and commissioned on July 11, Captain John Barry in command. She fitted out at Philadelphia during the spring of 1798 and, on July 3, was ordered to sea.

Ten days later, in company with U.S.S. Delaware, she departed for Boston, where the two were to form up with U.S.S. Herald and the revenue cutter Pickering. As neither were not ready to sail, United States and Delaware departed Nantasket Roads on July 26 unaccompanied and headed for Barbados, reaching Bridgetown on August 21. The following afternoon, United States captured the French privateer Sans Pareil, and took her next prize, the privateer Jalouse, on September 4. On the return north, a gale separated Jalouse from United States, and she entered the Delaware River alone on September 18.

United States put to sea again on October 17, 1798 with orders to cruise between Cape May and the New England coast. However, a storm forced her south off Cape Hatteras, and she did not anchor in the Delaware again until the evening of October 30. Following repairs, United States put to sea on December 18 and headed back to the West Indies where Barry was to command the American squadron. On February 3, 1799, she sank the privateer schooner L'Amour de la Patrie, and on the 16th, she arrived off Guadaloupe to negotiate an exchange of prisoners. After two attempts, Barry arranged to exchange his 58 prisoners for an equal number of American sailors. On February 26, Barry seized Cicero, but was unable to track down her captor, the French privateer Democrat.

By mid-March 1799, Barry's squadron had grown to contain two frigates, three ships, and four revenue cutters. On March 26, the United States took the French privateer schooner La Tartueffe and its prize, American sloop Vermont, southeast of Antigua. On April 19, Barry turned over command of the squadron to Commodore Truxtun, and the United States sailed for home, reaching New Castle, Delaware on May 10.

United States got underway from New Castle unexpectedly on July 6, 1799 when her cable parted during a storm. Since Barry had already received sailing orders, he opted to depart for Hampton Roads, anchoring on July 22. After receiving a new bowsprit, United States got underway on August 13 in company with Insurgent. Soon after, the ships parted, and the United States ultimately sailed north and anchored off Newport on September 12.

On November 3, 1799, United States sailed for Europe with American commissioners appointed to negotiate a settlement with France. She returned to New York in April 1800 and was laid up for repairs. In the fall, she resumed duty as flagship of the West Indies Squadron but, as a peace treaty with France had been signed, she was recalled and returned to Chester, Pennsylvania on April 28.

United States departed Chester on May 17 and proceeded to the Potomac where the Washington Navy Yard was being established. United States was decommissioned there on June 6, 1801 and was laid up with the frigates President, Constellation, Congress, and Chesapeake. United States remained in there until 1809 when orders were given to ready her for active service. On June 10, 1810, she sailed for Norfolk for refitting, under the command of Captain Steven Decatur, Jr.

After the outbreak of the War of 1812, United States, Congress, and the brig Argus joined Commodore John Rodgers' squadron at New York and commenced cruising off the east coast until the end of August. The squadron again sailed on October 8, 1812, and, three days later, after capturing Mandarin, United States parted company and continued to cruise eastward.

At dawn on October 25, 1812, lookouts on board United States sighted the sails of what would turn out to be H.M.S. Macedonian. Engaging initially at 0900, by noon, Macedonian was left a dismasted hulk and was forced to surrender. She had suffered 104 casualties, vice 12 in United States, which emerged from the battle relatively unscathed. Following repairs to Macedonian, United States and her prize finally entered New York Harbor on December 4. Macedonian was subsequently purchased by the Navy, repaired, and had a long and honorable career under the American flag.

After repairs, United States, accompanied by Macedonian and the sloop Hornet, sailed from New York on May 24, 1813. On June 1, the three vessels were driven into New London by a British squadron, and United States and Macedonian were kept blocked there until the end of the war. However, Decatur was transferred to the frigate President in the spring of 1814, taking the officers and crew of United States with him. Hornet managed to slip through the blockade on November 14, 1814 and escaped to sea.

After the War of 1812, America turned its attention back to the Mediterranean, where Algiers had resumed preying upon American shipping, and on March 2, 1815, Congress voted to declare war. United States was subsequently assigned to Commodore William Bainbridge's squadron, but delayed by repairs, did not reach the Mediterranean until after a peace treaty with Algiers had been signed. United States remained in the Mediterranean as a deterrent until she sailed for home in the spring of 1819. She was decommissioned on June 9, 1819 and laid up at Norfolk.

United States did not sail again until 1824. From 1824 to 1827, she was deployed with the Pacific Squadron under Commodore Isaac Hull. She put into the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1828 for extensive repairs and remained there until 1830, when she was placed in ordinary at the New York Navy Yard through 1832. She served in the Mediterranean Squadron from 1833 to 1838 and was deployed with the Home Squadron during 1839 and 1840.

United States was repaired at Norfolk in 1841 and was designated the new flagship of the Pacific Squadron in January 1842, departing Hampton Roads on January 9. Herman Melville, future author of Moby Dick, enlisted as an ordinary seaman on board United States at Honolulu on August 17, 1843.

The vessel returned to the United States in 1844 and was placed out of commission at Boston on October 14. She was recommissioned there on May 18, 1846 and was detailed to the African Squadron for duty helping to suppress the slave trade. United States joined the Mediterranean Squadron in 1847 and served in European waters until ordered home late in 1848. She was decommissioned on February 24, 1849 and placed in ordinary at Norfolk.

United States remained at Norfolk until April 20, 1861 when the navy yard was captured by Confederate troops. Thinking it unnecessary, Union fire crews failed to burn the aging frigate. The Confederates, pressed for vessels, commissioned the frigate C.S.S. United States on April 29. On June 15, she was ordered to be fitted out as a receiving ship and was provided with a deck battery for harbor defense.

She was ordered sunk in the Elizabeth River as an obstruction to Union vessels when the Confederates abandoned the navy yard in May 1862. Shortly after the destruction of C.S.S. Virginia on May 11, 1862 and the surrender of the Norfolk Navy Yard to Union troops, United States was raised. In March 1864, when the Bureau of Construction and Repair decided to break her up, although that work was delayed until December 1865.

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Description of Contents

The Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising 0.11 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 38 leaves, spans from July 3, 1832 to November 23 1833. The journal, in the form of a diary, was kept by Captain's Clerk Peter Stuyvesant Fish.

The journal describes the daily occurrences of a cruise of the U.S.S. United States, under the command of John B. Nicolson, originating in New York, with calls at Madeira, Lisbon, Gibraltar, Mahon, Naples, Messina, Syracuse, Malta, Tunis, Toulon, Genoa, Spezzia, Leghorn, Elba, Palermo, Trieste, Corfu, and Piraeus.

At the front of the volume is a handwritten copy of the text of the Star Spangled Banner. While purportedly in the hand of Francis Scott Key, the authorship of this particular copy is disputed. Also at the front of the volume are two letters regarding the donation of the journal in 1942.

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The Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea comprises a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea 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 Stuyvesant Fish in 1942. Accession No. 96540.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Additional documentation in this repository pertaining to U.S.S. United States can be found in the Watch, Quarter, and Station Bills of the U.S. Frigate United States, 1817-1818, MS 66.

Official logbooks of U.S.S. United States may be available in Logbooks of U.S. Navy Ships, ca. 1801 - 1940, Record Group 24: Records of the Bureau of Naval Personnel, 1798-2007 at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea, MS 94

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

"United States (frigate)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2016,

Processing Information

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

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Fish, Peter Stuyvesant
  • Star spangled banner (Song)
  • United States (Frigate)
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
  • Voyages and travels

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Journal of a cruise on board the U.S.S. United States from New York to various ports on the Mediterranean Sea, 1832-1833, 1942

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