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William E. Conant Diary, 1917-1919: Finding Aid

Published in 1993

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 280
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: William E. Conant Diary
  • Dates: 1917-1919
  • Size: 0.04 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 folders
  • Creator: Conant, William E.
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: William E. Conant was an enlisted sailor in the United States Naval Reserve during and after World War I. The Conant diary and additional letter pertain to Conant's service aboard the minesweeper U.S.S. City of Lewes during World War I and aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Ingraham during her shakedown in 1919.

Biography of William E. Conant

William E. Conant, a resident of Dedham, Massachusetts, enlisted in the United States Naval Reserve on May 7, 1917 at the Charleston Navy Yard. During the First World War, Conant served aboard the minesweeper U.S.S. City of Lewes. During his service aboard her, the City of Lewes, which was a converted fishing vessel, was deployed to Brest, France, as part of a squadron under the command of T. P. Magruder. Initially intended to perform both mine sweeping and convoy escort duties, City of Lewes and her sister vessels were soon found unfit for convoy duty, and she was subsequently restricted to only mine sweeping duty. Conant was detached from City of Lewes on November 7, 1918 for return to the United States. After the war, Conant served aboard U.S.S. Ingraham (Destroyer : DD-111) during her shakedown cruise in 1919.

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Description of Contents

The William E. Conant Diary covers the period from August 24, 1917 through November 21, 1918. Most of the diary concerns Conant's experience as an enlisted man aboard the World War I minesweeper City of Lewes operating along the coast of France.

Conant's diary notes that the City of Lewes left Provincetown, sailing for France, on August 26, 1917. Stopping at the Azores on route, the ship reached Brest, France, on September 18, 1917. During its time in France, the ship touched at the ports of Brest, Douarnenez, Penmarch, Lorient, Ile de Groix, Quiberon, Belle Isle, Ile Houat, Ile Hoedic, le Croisic, and St. Nazaire. While in French waters, Conant discusses the ship's assignment as a minesweeper and her limited convoy and patrol duties. The diary also mentions that the ship delivered supplies and mail to other members of the fleet. Additionally, the diary records matters such as ship repairs and maintenance, coaling, and Conant's leaves and illnesses. Specific events and incidents noted by Conant include the ship's inability to mine sweep due to poor coal and the resulting disposal of over ten tons of such coal (1918 July 15); the drowning of a man overboard (1918 July 17); the sighting of a submarine while firing as a mine (1918 September 19); the return of the ship's captain from the hospital (1918 September 27); assisting the ship Douglas (1918 October 7-8); theft aboard ship (1918 October 27); rumors of and eventual confirmation of the end of the war (1918 November 7-11).

Included with the diary is a letter from Conant to his mother covering the period from May 22 to June 2, 1919, while Conant was serving aboard the destroyer U.S.S. Ingraham. Written during the ship's shakedown cruise, the letter discusses the Ingraham's cruise from San Francisco to San Diego, Salina Cruz, Balboa (Panama), and through the Panama Canal to Cuba.

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The William E. Conant Diary is organized into the following two files:

  • File 1: Diary, 1917 August-1918 November
  • File 2: Correspondence, 1919 May
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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The William E. Conant Diary 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 in April 1991. Accession No. 91-17.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

There are no other known collections of papers of William E. Conant.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

William E. Conant Diary, MS 280

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

Navy Department. Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Naval History Division. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1959-1981.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1993. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1993 and revised by David D'Onofrio in December 2013.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • City of Lewes (Minesweeper)
  • Conant, William E.
  • Ingraham (Destroyer : DD-111)
  • Minesweepers -- United States
  • United States. Navy -- Sea life
  • World War, 1914-1918 -- Naval operations, American

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Diary, 1917 August-1918 November

Box 1 Folder 2

Correspondence, 1919 May

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