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Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 1829-1830: 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 143
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean
  • Dates: 1829-1830
  • Size: 0.15 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 volume of 97 leaves
  • Creator: Vincennes (Sloop-of-War)
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: U.S.S. Vincennes was a United States Navy sloop-of-war. The Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean span primarily from August to November 1829 and consist of narrative journal entries, copies of letters, orders, and tables. Under the command of William Bolton Finch, Vincennes cruised the Pacific, with calls in Nuku Hiva (Marquesas), Hawaii, Tahiti, Raiatea, Macau, Canton, Manila, Cape Town, and St. Helena.

History of U.S.S. Vincennes (Sloop-of-War)

The first U.S.S. Vincennes was laid down at New York in 1825, launched on April 27, 1826, and commissioned on August 27, 1826, Master Commandant William Bolton Finch in command. She departed for her first cruise from New York on 3 September 3, 1826.

Accompanied by Commodore Jacob Jones' frigate Brandywine, Vincennes cruised in the Pacific protecting American merchantmen and whalers until June 1829, when she was ordered to the Society Islands and Hawaii, en route to Macao, China, which she reached early in 1830. From Macao, she sailed to Manila, arriving on January 29. From Manila, she sailed across the Indian Ocean to Cape Town, South Africa. After a brief stop at St. Helena, she returned to New York on June 8, 1830 to become the first U.S. Navy vessel to circumnavigate the globe.

Vincennes was decommissioned at New York on June 10, 1830. Following repairs, she was ordered to the West Indies under the command of Commander Edward R. Shubrick. She anchored at Pensacola on March 31, 1831, but her cruise was cut short by yellow fever. She put into the Portsmouth (New Hampshire) Navy Yard on July 29, 1832 and was decommissioned there on August 19.

Recommissioned on June 1, 1833, Commander Alexander S. Wadsworth in command, Vincennes departed Portsmouth that autumn for her second Pacific cruise, with orders to visit Fiji, Palau, China, and Sumatra. She also became the first American warship to call at Guam. She arrived at Singapore on January 24, 1836, then called at Quallah Battu on Sumatra on February 15. After stops at Cape Town and St. Helena, she stood into Hampton Roads on June 5, 1836 to complete her second circumnavigation. Decommissioned on June 18, 1836, Vincennes was overhauled for two years at Norfolk.

From August 18, 1838 until June 10, 1842, Vincennes served as flagship of Lieutenant Charles Wilkes' United States Exploring Expedition to the Antarctic and South Pacific. Delayed by repairs in South America until January 6, 1839, Vincennes established an observatory in Cape Orange while Wilkes and most of the rest of the squadron sailed south. Following Wilkes' return on March 30, Vincennes put in at Valparaiso between May 15 and June 6, before sailing to Callao. On July 13, Vincennes sailed for the Tuamotu Archipelago, arriving on August 13, 1839, where the squadron conducted surveys in August and September. Surveying Samoa in October and November, Wilkes also concluded an agreement with native chiefs governing affairs with American merchantmen and whalers. The squadron left Apia on November 10, and after calling at Australia in December, embarked on a second voyage to the Antarctic. Vincennes discovered Piner Bay on January 30, but finding further westward exploration blocked by ice on February 17, she set sail for Sydney.

Vincennes left Sydney on March 19 bound for New Zealand, and spent the next six months surveying the Fiji Islands, before putting into Honolulu on September 23 for surveys and repairs. Vincennes then sailed on April 6, 1841, arriving at Cape Disappointment on April 28. Unable to cross the bar into the Columbia River, Vincennes instead sailed for the Strait of Juan de Fuca, arriving on May 1. Anchoring at Port Discovery, the expedition conducted surveys in the Vancouver Island area until May 11, when Vincennes anchored off Fort Nisqually. Vincennes returned to the strait on June 20, continuing surveys of the creeks and inlets of the bay until August 3, when she sailed again for the mouth of the Columbia.

Vincennes was dispatched to San Francisco on August 8 to survey the Sacramento River, commencing on August 14. The remainder of the squadron arrived on October 19 to aid in completing the survey. The ships sailed for Oahu on November 1 and put to sea again on November 27. Vincennes sighted Wake Island on December 19 and anchored in Manila Bay on January 11, 1842. Departing Manila on January 21, she anchored off the island of Sulu on February 2. After concluding a treaty with the reigning sultan, she sailed on to survey the islands of the Sulu Sea. After putting in at Singapore for supplies, she departed for home on February 26. She arrived off Sandy Hook, New Jersey on June 10, 1842, almost four years after the beginning of the expedition.

Vincennes was next assigned to the Home Squadron under the command of Commander Franklin Buchanan. She sailed to the West Indies and cruised off the Mexican coast protecting American interests, and deterring any potential invasions of the Republic of Texas, until the summer of 1844. Vincennes returned to Hampton Roads on August 15 to enter dry dock.

On June 4, 1845, Vincennes sailed for the Far East under command of Captain Hiram Paulding. Accompanied by U.S.S. Columbus, she sailed as part of a squadron under the command of Commodore James Biddle, who carried a letter authorizing Caleb Gushing, American commissioner in China, to make the first official contact with the Japanese Government. Arriving to find that Gushing had already left for home and that his successor, Alexander H. Everett, was too ill to make the trip, Biddle was left to conduct the negotiations himself. Vincennes and Columbus sailed for Japan on July 7, 1846 and anchored off Edo on July 19. Commodore Biddle's attempts to discuss the opening of Japan to foreign trade were politely rebuffed, and the vessels weighed anchor on July 29. Columbus returned to the United States, but Vincennes remained on the China Station for another year before returning to New York on April 1, 1847, where she was decommissioned.

Recommissioned on November 12, 1849, Vincennes sailed from New York the next month, bound for the west coast of South America. On July 2, 1850, while lying off Guayaquil, Ecuador, she harbored the Ecuadoran revolutionary General Elizalde for three days. Sailing on to San Francisco, she lost 36 crew members to the Gold Rush. Turning south, Vincennes cruised off South America until late 1851, monitoring the activities of revolutionaries ashore. After a call to the Hawaiian Islands, she proceeded to Puget Sound, arriving on February 2, 1852. She then returned to New York, where she arrived on September 21 to be decommissioned.

Vincennes was recommissioned on March 21, 1853 and sailed to serve as flagship to Commander Cadwalader Ringgold's survey of the China Seas, the North Pacific, and the Bering Strait. The squadron stood out of Norfolk on June 11, 1843 and charted numerous islands and shoals in the Indian Ocean before arriving in China in March 1854. Here, Ringgold was relieved for medical reasons and command of the expedition transferred to Lieutenant John Rodgers. Vincennes sailed on to survey the Bonin and Ladrone Islands, and returned to Hong Kong in February 1855. The expedition sailed again in March and surveyed the islands between the Ryukyu chain and Japan, followed by the Kurils. Vincennes left the squadron at Petropavlovsk, Russia, to sail towards Wrangel Island, but was prevented by ice. Vincennes returned to San Francisco in early October and later sailed for New York, where she arrived on July 13, 1856, completing another circumnavigation.

Decommissioned four days later, she was laid up until recommissioning on November 3, 1857. Assigned to the African Squadron, Vincennes patrolled along the African coast in the suppression of the slave trade. She returned home and was decommissioned on April 3, 1860 at Boston.

After the outbreak of the Civil War in April 1861, Vincennes was recommissioned on June 29, and assigned to duty in the Gulf Blockading Squadron. She arrived off Fort Pickens, Florida on September 3, and was ordered to assist in the occupation of Head of Passes, Mississippi River and remain there on blockade duty. On October 12, 1861 the Confederate ram C.S.S. Manassas and steamers Ivy and James L. Day drove the Union blockaders from Head of Passes, forcing Richmond and Vincennes aground. An abortive effort was made to scuttle Vincennes, but after the Confederate vessels withdrew early in the afternoon, she was refloated. After the Confederate attack, the Union sloop-of-war continued on blockade duty, capturing the blockade-running British bark Empress on November 27. On March 4, 1862, she was ordered to proceed to Pensacola and spent the next six months performing routine patrol and reconnaissance duty. On October 4, she was ordered to assume command of the blockade off Ship Island, Mississippi. While so deployed, boat crews from Vincennes and Clifton captured the barge H. McGuin in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, on July 18, 1863. Vincennes also reported the capture of two more boats on December 24.

Vincennes remained off Ship Island for the duration of the war and was laid up at the Boston Navy Yard on August 28, 1865. The veteran sloop was sold at public auction at Boston on October 5, 1867.

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Description of Contents

The Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean, comprising 0.15 linear feet of documentation in a single volume of 97 leaves, span primarily from August to November 1829 and consist of narrative journal entries, copies of letters, orders, and tables. Under the command of William Bolton Finch, Vincennes cruised the Pacific, with calls in Nuku Hiva (Marquesas), Hawaii, Tahiti, Raiatea, Macau, Canton, Manila, Cape Town, and St. Helena.

The volume includes descriptions of the islands visited and their native populations and royalty, as well as descriptions of interactions with the native populations, missionaries, merchants, and local chiefs/royalty, including exchanges of gifts and local chiefs' attempts to procure weapons and supplies from the Americans.

Major subsections of the volume include a narrative of proceedings on a visit to Noohevah; visit to Otaheite, or Tahiti, and Raiatea, or Uliatea with nautical remarks; visit to Raiatea (or Ulietea); remarks upon the passages to Noohevah, Otaheite and Raiatea; observations upon Noohevah, also passage from Society to Sandwich Groupe with remarks upon Byron's Bay; visit to Woahoa (or Oahu); retrospective view of the visit to the Sandwich or Hawaiian Islands; and supplemental documents, including lists of gifts given by the Americans, lists of Hawaiian chiefs, a table of Vincennes' daily position, and narratives of visits to Cape Town and St. Helena.

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The Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean comprise a single volume.

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Access and Use


Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

The Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean are 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

Accessioned on July 27, 1942. Accession No. 95759.

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Related Materials

Location of Copies or Alternate Formats

This collection also available on microfilm.

Related Archival Material

Additional material in this repository pertaining to U.S.S. Vincennes can be found in the Franklin Buchanan Naval Papers, 1796-1847 (bulk 1817-1847), MS 1; John E. Hart Letters, 1861-1863, MS 392; and John H. Aulick Papers, 1809-1996 (bulk 1809-1874), MS 336.

Official logbooks of U.S.S. Vincennes 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

Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean, MS 143

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

"Vincennes I (Sloop-of-War)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2015,

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

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

  • Bolton, William Compton, -1849
  • Cape Town (South Africa) -- Description and travel
  • Hawaii -- Description and travel
  • Hawaii -- Foreign relations -- United States
  • Hawaii -- Politics and government
  • Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) -- Description and travel
  • Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) -- Foreign relations -- United States
  • Marquesas Islands (French Polynesia) -- Politics and government
  • Saint Helena -- Description and travel
  • Society Islands (French Polynesia) -- Description and travel
  • Tahiti (French Polynesia : Island) -- Foreign relations -- United States
  • Tahiti (French Polynesia : Island) -- Politics and government
  • Tahiti -- Description and travel
  • United States. Navy -- History -- 19th century -- Sources
  • Vincennes (Sloop-of-War)

Genre Terms

  • Journals (accounts)
  • Manuscripts
  • Ships' logs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Transactions Growing out of the Visit of the U.S. ship Vincennes to the Principal Islands in the Pacific Ocean, 1829-1830

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