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A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia, 1800-1801: 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
    https://www.usna.edu/Library/sca/index.php
  • Call number: MS 170
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia
  • Dates: 1800-1801
  • Size: 0.17 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 items
  • Creator: Pickering, Timothy
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: U.S.S. Philadelphia was a United States Navy frigate lost during the Barbary Wars. A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia spans from Philadelphia's commissioning on April 5, 1800 to March 22, 1801. The journal, maintained by Timothy Pickering, notes the ship's course, speed, location, and daily operations during Philadelphia's Quasi-War cruise in Caribbean waters under the command of Stephen Decatur.

History of U.S.S. Philadelphia (Frigate)

The second U.S.S. Philadelphia, a frigate originally named City of Philadelphia, was built at Philadelphia for the United States by the citizens of the city. Designed by Josiah Fox, she was built by Samuel Humphreys, Nathaniel Hutton, and John Delavue, with carved work done by William Rush. She was laid down about November 14, 1798; launched November 28, 1799; and commissioned on April 5, 1800, Captain Stephen Decatur, Sr., in command.

Putting to sea for duty in the West Indies, she arrived on station in May 1800 and relieved U.S.S. Constellation (Frigate). During this Quasi-War cruise, she captured five French armed vessels and recaptured six merchant ships from the French.

Returning home in March 1801, Philadelphia was ordered to prepare for a cruise in the Mediterranean as part of Commodore Richard Hale's squadron. At his own request, Decatur was relieved of the command of Philadelphia by Captain Samuel Barron. The squadron, with Commodore Hale in U.S.S. President (Frigate), arrived at Gibraltar on July 1. Philadelphia was directed to cruise the Straits and blockade the coast of Tripoli.

Philadelphia departed Gibraltar for the United States on May 11, 1802, and was placed in ordinary. Recommissioned on May 21, 1803, she sailed for the Mediterranean on July 28 under the command of Captain William Bainbridge. She arrived at Gibraltar on August 24, and two days later recaptured the American brig Celia from the Moroccan ship-of-war Mirboka. Following a month of negotiations with the Sultan of Morocco at Tangiers in September, she sailed for Tripoli with schooner Vixen in early October to establish a blockade.

Philadelphia cruised off Tripoli until October 31, 1803, when she ran aground off Tripoli harbor. All efforts to refloat her failed and, under fire from shore batteries and Tripolitan gunboats, Captain Bainbridge was forced to surrender Philadelphia to the enemy, her officers and men made captive. With the help of a favorable tide, the Tripolitans refloated the warship and towed her into Tripoli harbor.

Three months later, Captain Edward Preble organized a port raid against the frigate in Tripoli harbor. A captured Tripolitan ketch, commissioned as Intrepid and commanded by Lieutenant Stephen Decatur, sailed with brig Syren in early February 1804. Disguised as a Maltese merchant ship flying British colors, Intrepid entered Tripoli harbor on the afternoon of February 16. Pulling alongside the frigate, Decatur and sixty of his volunteer crew boarded Philadelphia, charging with swords and boarding pikes. The sudden attack overwhelmed the Tripolitans, and within fifteen minutes, the frigate was in flames. Philadelphia drifted as she burned, coming ashore under the walls of the Pasha's castle.

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Description of Contents

A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia, comprising 0.17 linear feet of documentation, spans from Philadelphia's commissioning on April 5, 1800 to March 22, 1801. The journal, maintained by Timothy Pickering, notes the ship's course, speed, location, and daily operations during Philadelphia's Quasi-War cruise in Caribbean waters under the command of Stephen Decatur.

The journal makes frequent mention of vessels encountered and boarded by the Philadelphia. Specific entries include the injury of several crew members during gun exercises (May 2); the recapture of the schooner Betsy from the French (May 23); capture of a French letter of marque by U.S.S. Connecticut (July 15); recapture of the sloop Eliza and schooner Sally from the French (November 26-27); and the capture of the French privateer La Leveret (December 3).

A note on the inside cover reads: "Harlow Shapley, Harvard Observatory, Cambridge, Mass 1921."

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Arrangement

A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia is arranged by document type.

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Access and Use

Access

Patron use restricted to microfilm.

Copyright and Permission

A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia 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

Purchased from David L. O'Neal Antiquarian Booksellers in January 1979.

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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 U.S.S. Philadelphia in this repository can be found in the Richard Dale Letterbook, 1802, MS 45.

Other documentation pertaining to U.S.S. Philadelphia can be found in the Barron Family Papers, 1802-1841, at the Library of Virginia; and the Samuel Barron Papers at the College of William and Mary.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia, MS 170

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

Francis, Timothy L. "Philadelphia II (Frigate)." Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Naval History and Heritage Command, 2007, https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/p/philadelphia-ii.html.

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

  • Decatur, Stephen, 1779-1820
  • Philadelphia (Frigate)
  • Pickering, Timothy
  • United States -- History -- War with France, 1798-1800 -- Naval operations
  • United States. Navy -- History -- War with France, 1798-1800

Genre Terms

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

Box 1 Folder 1

A Journal kept on board the United States Frigate Philadelphia, 1800-1801

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