James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster, 1881-1882: Finding Aid
Published in April 2020
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 130
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster
- Dates: 1881-1882
- Size: 0.15 linear feet
- Container Summary: 1 volume of 217 leaves
- Creator: Dresser, James Walter
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: James Walter Dresser was a Midshipman in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1881. The James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster spans from August 26, 1881 through October 31, 1882. The volume, a practice log, was compiled by Dresser during his two years mandatory sea service as a Passed Midshipman while attached to U.S.S. Lancaster, under the command of Bancroft Gherardi.
Biography of James Walter Dresser
James Walter Dresser was admitted to the United States Naval Academy from Minnesota on June 21, 1877, age 16 years 8 months. Dresser graduated from the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1881 and proceeded to sea aboard U.S.S. Lancaster (Screw sloop-of-war) for his two years mandatory sea service as a Passed Midshipman. Following his cruise aboard Lancaster, Dresser was honorably discharged from the United States Navy on June 30, 1883. James Walter Dresser died in 1917 in Huron, South Dakota.
History of U.S.S. Lancaster
The screw sloop-of-war U.S.S. Lancaster was laid down by the Philadelphia Navy Yard in December 1857, launched October 20, 1858, and commissioned May 12, 1859, Captain John Rudd in command. In July, she departed Delaware Bay for the Pacific, and after her arrival on station, began service as flagship of the Pacific Squadron on December 8, 1859. She served in that capacity until 1866, cruising along the coast of South and Central America, Mexico, and California, protecting American commerce and the Pacific mail steamers. While maintaining her traditional mission during the American Civil War, she did make one notable contribution to the Union effort when, on November 11, 1864, her men captured a party of Confederate officers on the passenger steamer Salvador, which the Confederates planned to convert into a commerce raider. In the spring of 1866, Lancaster received extensive repairs at the Mare Island Navy Yard and, on June 27, sailed from San Francisco the Norfolk Navy Yard, where she arrived on March 8, 1867 and decommissioned on the 19th.
Recommissioned on August 26, 1869, Lancaster sailed for the South Atlantic. Upon her arrival at Rio de Janeiro on January 6, 1870, she served as flagship of the squadron until 1875. From January to May 1874, she took part in fleet drills in the North Atlantic and was stationed at Key West in case of war with Spain during the Virginius Affair. After diplomatic efforts resolved the controversy peacefully, Lancaster returned to the South Atlantic until she departed Rio de Janeiro on May 21, 1875 for home. Arriving at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on July 12, she was decommissioned on July 31, 1875, and laid up for repairs.
Lancaster recommissioned on August 26, 1881 and sailed for Europe on September 12. On November 9, she became flagship of the European Squadron where she cruised extensively in the Mediterranean, northern European waters, and on the coast of Africa. From June 27 to July 20, 1882, the flagship was at Alexandria, Egypt during a series of riots and was present when the British fleet bombarded the city's forts. Rear Admiral J. W. Nicholson welcomed on board American and foreign refugees and landed a force to guard the American consulate and assist in extinguishing fires, in burying the dead, and in preserving order. Rear Admiral Charles H. Baldwin relieved Rear Admiral Nicholson of command of the squadron on March 10, 1883 and proceeded in Lancaster to Kronstadt, Russia. On May 27, the Admiral and his staff attended the coronation of Tsar Alexander III at Moscow.
Early in 1885, Lancaster cruised down the west coast of Africa en route to Brazil. She arrived Rio de Janeiro July 1, 1885 and served as flagship of the squadron until 1888, cruising along the coasts of South America and Africa protecting American interests and conducting squadron drills and exercises. Lancaster sailed on January 18, 1888 from Montevideo for Europe arriving at Gibraltar on April 6. As flagship of the European Squadron, she cruised in the Mediterranean until she departed Gibraltar July 2, 1889 and returned to the United States, arriving at New York on August 8. She decommissioned at the New York Navy Yard September 7, 1889 and was towed to Portsmouth, New Hampshire for repairs.
Recommissioned on March 19, 1891, Lancaster proceeded to New York, then to the Far East on July 13, arriving at Hong Kong on January 4, 1892 where she served as Rear Admiral D. B. Harmony's flagship of the Asiatic Squadron until 1891. She sailed from Hong Kong on February 15, 1894 for the United States, via the Suez Canal, and arrived at New York June 8, 1864, where she decommissioned at the end of the month.
Lancaster recommissioned on September 12, 1895 for duty with the South Atlantic Squadron. She arrived at Montevideo, Uruguay on February 13, 1896. From that port, she operated on the South American coast until the following year, serving part time as flagship of the squadron. On September 5, 1897, she sailed for the United States, arriving in Boston on November 18, and decommissioning on December 31, 1897.
After the outbreak of the Spanish-American War, Lancaster recommissioned on May 5, 1898, and arrived in Key West on May 31 to serve as station ship. Detached from that duty, served as a as a gunnery training ship beginning on January 8, 1899, cruising the Atlantic training landsmen until she decommissioned at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on May 1, 1902. Lancaster then served as receiving ship at the Philadelphia Navy Yard from November 16, 1903 to March 31, 1912.
Lancaster was transferred to the Bureau of Public Health Service, Treasury Department, on February 1, 1913. She served as a quarantine detention ship at Reedy Island, Delaware, Quarantine Station until 1920, then was transferred to the New York Quarantine Station for similar use. Her hulk was broken in 1933.
Description of Contents
The James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster, comprising 0.15 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 217 leaves, spans from August 26, 1881 through October 31, 1882. The volume, a practice log, was compiled by Dresser during his two years mandatory sea service as a Passed Midshipman while attached to U.S.S. Lancaster, under the command of Bancroft Gherardi.
Attached to the European Squadron, the Lancaster departed from New York and made calls at Naples, Alexandria, Port Mahon, Gibraltar, Lisbon, Cadiz, Malta, Messina, Villefranche, Trieste, Callaro (Dalmatia), and Corfu. The logbook records weather/sailing conditions, ship's location, and daily occurrences aboard ship. The entries of July 11-12, 1882 pertain to the British naval bombardment of Alexandria, Egypt.
The James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster comprises a single volume.
Access and Use
Patron use restricted to microfilm.
Copyright and Permission
The James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster 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.
Acquisition and Appraisal
Provenance and Acquisition
Location of Copies or Alternate Formats
This collection also available on microfilm.
Related Archival Material
Additional material pertaining to James W. Dresser in this repository can be found in his Midshipman Conduct Record. Additional practice logs from members of the Class of 1881 aboard U.S.S. Lancaster include logs by Rudolphus R. Cockle (MS 132), William F. Flournoy (MS 134), David L. Printup (MS 131), and Guy G. Rodgers (MS 133 and MS 135).
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
James W. Dresser Log of the U.S.S. Lancaster, MS 130
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:
Callahan, Edward William. List of Officers of the Navy of the United States and of the Marine Corps, from 1775 to 1900. New York: L.R. Hamersly & Co., 1901.
"Lancaster I (Screw Sloop-of-War)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2015, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/l/lancaster-i.html.
United States Naval Academy. Annual Register of the United States Naval Academy. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1877-1881.
"NH 67385 James Walter Dresser," Naval History and Heritage Command photo collections website, accessed April 6, 2020, https://www.history.navy.mil/our-collections/photography/numerical-list-of-images/nhhc-series/nh-series/NH-67000/NH-67385.html.
This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in April 2020.
These materials have been indexed in the Naval Academy Library online catalog using the following terms. Those seeking related materials should search under these terms.
Name and Subject Terms
- Alexandria (Egypt) -- History
- Dresser, James Walter
- Egypt -- History -- British occupation, 1882-1936
- Lancaster (Screw sloop-of-war)
- Naval education -- United States
- United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
- United States. Navy. European Station
- Ships' logs