John Cumming Howell Journal, 1836-1887: Finding Aid
Published in 1992
- Publisher: United States Naval Academy. Special Collections & Archives.
- Publisher Address:
589 McNair Road
Annapolis, Maryland 21402-5029, USA
- Call number: MS 270
- Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
- Title: John Cumming Howell Journal
- Dates: 1836-1887
- Size: 0.21 linear feet
- Container Summary: 1 volume
- Creator: Howell, John Cumming, 1819-1892
- Language(s) of material: English
- Abstract: John Cumming Howell was an admiral in the United States Navy. The Howell Journal touches upon each of the ships he served aboard, focusing more prominently on his times aboard U.S.S. Boston (Sloop-of-war) of the West Indies Squadron, U.S.S. Saratoga (Sloop-of-war) of the East India Squadron, the Talbot (Ship), U.S.S. Susquehanna (Side wheel steamer) of the Mediterranean and Home Squadrons, U.S.S. Seminole (Screw sloop-of-war) of the Brazil Squadron, U.S.S. Franklin (Screw frigate) of the European Squadron, and U.S.S. Trenton (Screw steamer) of the European Squadron, as well as his service during the Civil War.
Biographical Chronology of John Cumming Howell
- On November 24, is born to Richard Lewis and Rebecca A. (Stockton) Howell in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
- On June 9, is appointed to the United States Navy as a midshipman.
- Is attached to the West Indies Squadron.
- In May, is granted a leave of absence.
- In October, is reattached to the West Indies Squadron, serving aboard U.S.S. Levant and U.S.S. Macedonian.
- In October, is assigned to special service aboard U.S.S. Poinsett.
- In December, is attached to the receiving ship U.S.S. Delaware at Norfolk, Virginia.
- In January, is granted a leave of absence, followed by a period without orders.
- In June, is assigned to the Naval School in Philadelphia.
- In June, begins serving with the Mediterranean Squadron, followed by the Brazil and East India Squadrons, serving aboard U.S.S. Congress, U.S.S. Columbia, and U.S.S. Perry.
- On July 1, is promoted to Passed Midshipman.
- In September, is granted a leave of absence.
- In December, is appointed naval storekeeper at Macao, China.
- In March, returns to the U.S. and stands without orders.
- In September, is attached to the receiving ship U.S.S. Union at Philadelphia.
- Is attached to the Home Squadron aboard U.S.S. Raritan.
- On February 21, is promoted to Master.
- On August 2, is promoted to Lieutenant.
- In April, is granted a leave of absence, followed by a period without orders.
- In August, is assigned to the Pacific Station aboard U.S.S. St. Mary's.
- In September, is attached to U.S.S. Saratoga of the East India Squadron.
- In November, is placed on sick leave.
- In January, is attached to the receiving ship U.S.S. Union at Philadelphia.
- In April, is attached to U.S.S. Susquehanna of the Mediterranean and Home Squadrons.
- In May, is granted a leave of absence.
- In June, is assigned to the receiving ship U.S.S. Princeton and Naval Rendezvous, Philadelphia.
- In March, is attached to U.S.S. Seminole of the Brazil Squadron.
- In July, is assigned to the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron aboard U.S.S. Minnesota.
- In October, is transferred to the East Gulf Blockading Squadron aboard U.S.S. Tahoma.
- On July 16, is promoted to Commander.
- In December, returns home to await orders.
- In February, receives command of U.S.S. Lehigh of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
- In July, is assigned to special duty at the New York Navy Yard.
- In August, receives command of U.S.S. Metacomet.
- In September, is attached to U.S.S. Nereus of the North Atlantic Blockading Squadron.
- In May, is appointed Fleet Captain, North Atlantic Squadron, aboard U.S.S. Minnesota.
- In October, is appointed commander of the Philadelphia Naval Rendezvous.
- On July 25, is promoted to Captain.
- As of June, is standing without orders.
- In August, is assigned to court-martial duty.
- In August, is assigned to board duties at Philadelphia.
- In December, is appointed Fleet Captain and Chief of Staff of the European Squadron aboard U.S.S. Franklin.
- As of November, is standing without orders.
- In December, receives command of the League Island Navy Yard.
- On January 29, is promoted to Commodore.
- In October, receives command of the Portsmouth Navy Yard.
- In September, is appointed Chief of the Bureau of Docks and Yards.
- On April 25, is promoted to Rear Admiral.
- In July, is assigned to special duty at the Navy Department in Washington, DC.
- In September, receives command of the North Atlantic Station, flagship U.S.S. Powhatan.
- In January, receives command of the European Squadron, flagship U.S.S. Trenton.
- As of October, is without orders.
- In November, is appointed to the Naval Retiring Board.
- On November 24, is placed on the Retired List.
- On September 12, dies in Folkestone, England.
Description of Contents
The John Cumming Howell Journal, spanning from 1836 to 1887, covers Howell's entire U.S. Navy career and some of his post-retirement years. Howell's journal touches upon each of the ships he served aboard, focusing more prominently on his times aboard U.S.S. Boston (Sloop-of-war) of the West Indies Squadron, U.S.S. Saratoga (Sloop-of-war) of the East India Squadron, the Talbot (Ship), U.S.S. Susquehanna (Side wheel steamer) of the Mediterranean and Home Squadrons, U.S.S. Seminole (Screw sloop-of-war) of the Brazil Squadron, U.S.S. Franklin (Screw frigate) of the European Squadron, and U.S.S. Trenton (Screw steamer) of the European Squadron, as well as his service during the Civil War.
Howell's entries on his cruise aboard U.S.S. Boston (1838 December-1839 March) include his description and remarks on Cuba. Among his experiences aboard U.S.S. Saratoga in Far Eastern waters, Howell notes that the ship was the first U.S. Navy vessel to visit Cajeli Bay on the island of Bouru (1851 March), and mentions two expeditions in which coolies were captured or killed (1852 May 24 and 28), as well as a typhoon in the Gulf of Tonkin (1852 October 9). While aboard the Saratoga, Howell discusses, with disdain, Commodore John Aulick's courts-martial of Passed Midshipman Fitzgerald and Captain Walker, as well as Aulick's conduct towards other officers.
Having contracted ophthalmia during the Gulf of Tonkin typhoon, Howell sailed back to the United States aboard the American ship Talbot. During the voyage (1853 May-November), Howell discusses his attempts to cure his eye inflammation with "blisters" and other remedies, as well as sightings of a comet. Howell also bemoans the slow progress of the ship Talbot as it passes through the ocean's doldrums.
Howell's next major entries date to his service aboard U.S.S. Susquehanna (1856-1858). While at Key West (1856 June 26-27), U.S.S. Susquehanna, under the command of Captain Sands, provided towing and guidance to U.S.S. Merrimack, under the command of Captain Pendergrast. In response to Captain Sands' displeasure at his Gibraltar shore leave, Howell lists in his journal the various cases and complaints of other officers against Sands (1856 July-August). On August 11, 1856, Howell's actions prevented U.S.S. Susquehanna from running over a barque.
In 1857, Howell notes U.S.S. Susquehanna's near-accident with a rock in English waters (July 17), the laying of the transatlantic cable (August), and Captain Sands' attempts at a treaty with the inhabitants of the Laffarine Islands [possibly Chafarinas Islands] (September 30). In Nicaragua, Howell participated in the capture of Colonel Anderson and other "filibusters" of the William Walker expedition (1857 November-December). Howell and other U.S.S. Susquehanna shipmates suffered from yellow fever and were treated at the Royal Naval Hospital, Port Royal, Jamaica and returned to the U.S. aboard a chartered English steamer (1858 March-May).
During the Civil War, Howell served aboard several ships and was involved in actions at Forts Clark and Hatteras and at Fortress Monroe; engaged in blockades and pursued blockade runners; captured a cotton steamer; and participated in both battles of Fort Fisher, which he deemed a "ridiculous assault."
As a senior officer, Howell's journal entries often focus on itineraries of ports and places visited, notable sites and objects encountered, and personages met. His April 14, 1880 entry remarks upon the Navy's plan to move Cleopatra's needle (obelisk) from Egypt to the United States over the vehement objections of other nationals.
Included in the journal is a 2 1/4 page autobiography of Howell, entitled "Succinct Account of the Life of Rear Admiral John c. Howell." In this account, Howell recalls acting as a second, receiving a grazed elbow in a duel, and notes his court-martial initiated by Phil Vorhees.
In the back of the journal are Howell's notes on the U.S.S. Saratoga's dimensions, drills, and guns, as well as a section entitled "Manuscript Gunnery - being result of experiments and calculations made on board H.B.M. Ship Excellent.
Throughout the journal are newspaper clippings on the transatlantic cable, comparisons between the Royal and American Navies, the attack on Fort Sumter, and the campaign of 1870, as well as editorial cartoons and drawings. The journal also includes two letters to Admiral Howell from 1881 regarding his order commanding U.S.S. Quinnebaug back to New York and a letter of thanks from N.S. Farquhar.
The John Cumming Howell Journal comprises a single volume. Contents of the journal are arranged chronologically.
Access and Use
Access is unrestricted.
Copyright and Permission
The John Cumming Howell Journal 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
Gift of Peter B. Hubbell in August 1990. Accession No. 90-45.
Related Archival Material
The Rear Admiral John C. Howell Collection, 1837-1898 (bulk 1844-1877) is available at the Navy Department Library, Naval History and Heritage Command (http://www.history.navy.mil/library/manuscript/howell_john.htm).
Materials Cataloged Separately
No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.
Processing and Other Information
John Cumming Howell Journal, MS 270
Special Collections & Archives Department
United States Naval Academy
The following sources were consulted during preparation of the biographical note:
Cogar, William B. Dictionary of Admirals of the U.S. Navy. Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1989.
This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1992 and revised by David D'Onofrio in February 2014.
Name and Subject Terms
- Aulick, John Henry, -1873
- Boston (Sloop-of-war)
- Casey, Silas, 1841-1913
- Farquhar, Norman Von Heidreich, 1840-1907
- Franklin (Screw frigate)
- Howell, John Cumming, 1819-1892
- Nicaragua -- History -- Filibuster War, 1855-1860
- Quinnebaug (Screw steamer)
- Sands, Joshua Ratoon, 1795-1883
- Saratoga (Sloop of war)
- Seminole (Screw sloop-of-war)
- Susquehanna (Side wheel steamer)
- Talbot (Ship)
- Trenton (Screw steamer)
- United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
- United States. Navy -- Sea life
- Clippings (information artifacts)