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Smith Woodward Nichols Papers, 1859-1874: Finding Aid

Published in 1991

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 266
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: Smith Woodward Nichols Papers
  • Dates: 1859-1874
  • Size: 0.21 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 half-manuscript box
  • Creator: Nichols, Smith Woodward, 1843-1915
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Smith Woodward Nichols was an officer in the United States Navy and a member of the United States Naval Academy Class of 1862. The papers pertain primarily to Nichols' time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, including his summer cruise aboard U.S.S. Plymouth, and his subsequent service as an officer in the U.S. Navy at the Boston Navy Yard and aboard U.S.S. Omaha.

Biographical Chronology of Smith Woodward Nichols

  • Is born in Massachusetts.
  • On September 27, is appointed to the United States Naval Academy as a member of the Class of 1852.
  • In May, the Class of 1862 is ordered to active duty.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Wabash (Steam frigate) of the Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
  • On July 16, is commissioned as a Lieutenant.
  • Attached to the school ship U.S.S. Macedonian.
  • Attached to the U.S.S. Shenandoah (Screw sloop) of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
  • In December, takes part in the bombardment of Fort Fisher.
  • In January, takes part in the capture of Fort Fisher, including leading a naval land assault company.
  • In January, is attached to U.S.S. Passaic (Monitor) of the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
  • In July, is detached from U.S.S. Passaic.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Shenandoah, serving in the Asiatic Squadron.
  • On July 25, is commissioned as a Lieutenant Commander.
  • Detached from U.S.S. Shenandoah.
  • Assigned to special duty in Boston.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Terror (Monitor).
  • Assigned to the Boston Navy Yard.
  • In May, is attached to U.S.S. Omaha (Screw sloop) of the South Pacific Station upon her commissioning.
  • Detached from U.S.S. Omaha.
  • Assigned to ordnance duty in Boston.
  • On April 26, is commissioned as a Commander.
  • Assigned to duty as Light-House Inspector.
  • Detached from duty as Light-House Inspector.
  • In April, is transferred to the Retired List.
  • On November 18, dies at Ashmont, Massachusetts.
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Description of Contents

The Smith Woodward Nichols Papers, comprising 0.21 linear feet of documentation, span from 1859 to 1874. The papers pertain primarily to Nichols' time as a midshipman at the United States Naval Academy, including his summer cruise aboard U.S.S. Plymouth, and his subsequent service as an officer in the U.S. Navy at the Boston Navy Yard and aboard U.S.S. Omaha.

The collection consists primarily of two journals, the second of which is a copy book. The collection also includes two loose journal pages, two pencil drawings, two fragments of seaweed, and a fragment of a letter.

The first volume, spanning from June 18, 1859 to March 10, 1860, begins with Nichols' private journal of his midshipman cruise aboard U.S.S. Plymouth in the summer of 1859. During the cruise, Plymouth, under the command of T.T. Craven, touched at Plymouth, England; Brest, France; Cadiz, Spain; and Funchal, Madeira. Nichols' entries include notations on weather conditions, watches kept, ports visited, other ships encountered, midshipmen's shipboard lessons, drills, shipboard life, and references to specific midshipmen, officers, and visiting British and French midshipmen. Specific entries include the Plymouth running aground (June 22); drunkenness of seamen (July 25); the mock-trial of a sailor (September 6); and complaints about the type of work detailed to midshipmen (September 22). The remainder of the journal details Nichols' life as a midshipman at the Naval Academy during the fall of 1859 and spring of 1860. Nichols' entries note his studies, classes, recreation, Sunday religious services, Nichols' treatment in the hospital, and references to specific midshipmen and instructors. Specific entries from this period of the journal include discussion of a temperance pledge by the midshipmen in response to the drunkenness of [Midshipman Thomas] Bowen (November 26, 28); a fund drive to save Mt. Vernon (December 12); rat problems at the Academy (January 12-23); Captain Blake's dismissal of [Midshipman Andrew] Clark (February 18), and an exhibition of Edward Maynard's new breech-loading rifle (March 3).

The second volume, spanning from February 1872 to December 1874, pertains primarily to Nichols' service aboard U.S.S. Omaha as Executive Officer. The first four pages in the volume, all copies of correspondence, date from Nichols' service in the Equipment Office of the Boston Navy Yard in May 1872. The remainder of the volume, commencing on page 5, picks up with the commissioning of the Omaha on September 12, 1872, a listing of her officers, and an inventory of her battery. Beginning on page 8, Nichols' entries take the form of a ship's log, detailing the ship's movements, navigational readings, and port calls at Valparaiso, Coquimbo, Callao, Iquique, Payta, and Panama. Pages 51 to 67 consist of Nichols' personal diary, dating from February until June 1873. The diary entries describe Nichols' daily activities and routine, weather conditions, operations with U.S.S. Pensacola, the court-martial of J.K. Cogswell, and a funeral for a French midshipman killed during exercises.

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The Smith Woodward Nichols Papers are arranged chronologically.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The Smith Woodward Nichols Papers 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

Purchased in January 1990. Accession No. 90-06

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to Nichols' time as a midshipman at the Naval Academy may be found in his Conduct Record in Special Collections & Archives, Nimitz Library.

Materials Cataloged Separately

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

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

Smith Woodward Nichols Papers, MS 266

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

Hamersly, Lewis Randolph. The Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps. Philadelphia: L.R. Hamersly and Co., 1890.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1991. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1991 and revised by David D'Onofrio in March 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Midshipmen -- United States -- Conduct of life
  • Nichols, Smith Woodward, 1843-1915
  • Omaha (Screw sloop-of-war)
  • Plymouth (Sloop-of-War)
  • United States Naval Academy -- Midshipmen -- Cruises
  • United States Naval Academy -- Students
  • United States Naval Academy. Class of 1862

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
  • Ships' logs
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Journal Pages, [1859] August 25-September 12

Two pages from a midshipman logbook, possibly from the 1859 midshipman summer cruise aboard U.S.S. Plymouth.

Box 1 Folder 2

Private Journal of a Cruise in the U.S.S. Plymouth, 1859 June 18-1860 March 10

Journal covers Nichols' cruise aboard the Plymouth from June 18, 1859 to September 27, 1859 and subsequent experiences at the Naval Academy during the academic year from September 27, 1859 to March 10, 1860.

Box 1 Folder 3

Private Journal of a Cruise in the U.S.S. Plymouth - Enclosures, 1859-1860

Two fragments of seaweed, one from the October 10, 1859 entry and possibly referred to in the February 15, 1860 entry, as well as two pencil drawings of wooden buildings, possibly from the October 26, 1859 entry.

Box 1 Folder 4

U.S.S. Omaha Journal, 1872 May-1874 December

Box 1 Folder 5

U.S.S. Omaha Journal - Enclosures, 1874 June 15

Fragment of a letter acknowledging orders to conduct a survey.

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