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Nimitz Library

William Henry Shock Papers, 1844-1902: Finding Aid

Published in 1996

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 321
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: William Henry Shock Papers
  • Dates: 1844-1902
  • Size: 3.54 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 manuscript boxes, 2 flat boxes
  • Creator: Shock, William Henry, 1821-
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: William Henry Shock was an engineer in the United States Navy. Consisting primarily of letterbooks, journals, and a manuscript by Shock, the collection spans Shock's entire U.S. Navy career, focusing on his steam engineering duties, especially in the years following the Mexican War and during the American Civil War.

Biographical Chronology of William Henry Shock

  • On June 15, is born in Maryland.
  • On January 18, is appointed as a Third Assistant Engineer in the United States Navy.
  • Serves aboard U.S.S. General Taylor (Side wheel steamer), Princeton (Steamship), Spitfire (Gunboat), and Mississippi (Side wheel steamer) during the Mexican War, participating in the capture of Tampico, Alvarado, Tuxpan, Tlacotalpan, and Veracruz.
  • On July 10, is promoted to Second Assistant Engineer.
  • Ordered to U.S.S. Engineer (Side wheel steamer) of the Home Squadron.
  • October 31, is promoted to First Assistant Engineer.
  • Attached to steamer Legare of the Coast Survey as senior engineer.
  • On special duty at Philadelphia superintending the construction of machinery for U.S.S. Susquehanna (Side wheel steamer).
  • In March, is promoted to Chief Engineer.
  • On special duty at Boston superintending the construction of machinery for U.S.S. Princeton (Steamship).
  • Serves as Inspecting Engineer of ocean steamers for the U.S. Mail Service.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Princeton of the Home Squadron as Chief Engineer.
  • Assigned to West Point superintending the construction of machinery for U.S.S. Merrimack (Frigate).
  • Attached to U.S.S. Merrimack of the Home Squadron as Chief Engineer.
  • Attached to U.S.S. Powhatan (Side wheel steamer) of the East India Squadron as Chief Engineer.
  • President of Examining Board of Engineers.
  • Special duty at St. Louis superintending construction of river monitors.
  • Assigned to the West Gulf Squadron as Fleet Engineer, participating in the capture of Forts Gaines and Morgan and the city of Mobile.
  • Chief Engineer of the Boston Navy Yard.
  • Chief Engineer of the Washington Navy Yard.
  • Attached to European Squadron as Fleet Engineer.
  • Serves as Inspector of Machinery Afloat and a member of the Naval Academy Board of Visitors.
  • In the Summer, is appointed Acting Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering.
  • Appointed Acting Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering.
  • Ordered to Europe on an inspection tour of public and private docks and yards.
  • Serves as representative of the Bureau of Steam Engineering at the International Exhibition in Vienna.
  • On March 3, is appointed Engineer-in-Chief and Chief of the Bureau of Steam Engineering.
  • On June 15, retires from the U.S. Navy.
  • On December 18, dies in Washington, DC.
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Description of Contents

The William Henry Shock Papers, comprising 3.54 linear feet of documentation, span from 1844 to 1902. Consisting primarily of letterbooks, journals, and a manuscript by Shock, the collection spans Shock's entire U.S. Navy career, focusing on his steam engineering duties, especially in the years following the Mexican War and during the American Civil War.

Five of the collection's seven volumes are letterbooks, spanning from 1844 to 1902. Consisting of both incoming and outgoing letters, as well as orders and reports, the letterbooks encompass the entirety of Shock's career, including his machinery installation work aboard U.S.S. Princeton and U.S.S. Merrimack. The letterbooks also cover Shock's superintendency over the construction of river monitors in St. Louis during the Civil War, as well as his post-retirement life.

The collection's remaining two volumes come in the form of journals. The first of these covers Shock's 1857-1860 cruise aboard U.S.S. Powhatan, Flagship of the East India Squadron. In the journal, Shock chronicles U.S.S. Powhatan's role in U.S. diplomatic relations and treaty-making with China and Japan, including the ship's role in the armed conflict, accompanied by the chartered steamer Toey-Wan, with the Chinese forts on the Pei Ho River. A second journal record's Shock's trip aboard U.S.S. Tennessee to Suez and his subsequent tour of Europe.

In addition to it's bound volumes, the collection also includes two draft manuscripts of Shock's "Appendix on Steel in Relation to Boilers." Dated 1883, the manuscript was intended as an appendix to Shock's 1880 book, Steam Boilers: Their Design, Construction, and Management. Also included are several of Shock's U.S. Navy commission and appointment certificates.

Shock's papers record his associations with such notable naval figures as David Glasgow Farragut, Gideon Welles, and Benjamin Franklin Isherwood (Shock served as Farragut's Fleet Engineer in the West Gulf Squadron).

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The William Henry Shock Papers are organized by document type.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The William Henry Shock 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

Gift of Professor Kenneth Hagan in June 1996. Accession No. 96-49.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Official records of the Bureau of Steam Engineering under Shock's administration can be found in RG 19.4, Records of the Bureau of Ships/Records of the Bureau of Engineering 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

William Henry Shock Papers, MS 321

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. New York: L. R. Hamersly Co., 1902.

"Engineer-in-Chief William Henry Shock, U.S.N." Army and Navy Journal (December 23, 1905): 464.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1996. Finding aid written by Mary R. Catalfamo in 1996 and revised by David D'Onofrio in April 2014.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • China -- Foreign relations -- United States
  • Japan -- Foreign relations -- United States
  • Marine engineering
  • Marine engines
  • Merrimack (Frigate)
  • Powhatan (Side wheel steamer)
  • Princeton (Steamship)
  • Shock, William Henry, 1821-
  • Steam engineering
  • Steam-boilers
  • Tennessee (Screw frigate)
  • Toey-Wan (Steamer)
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
  • United States. Navy. Bureau of Engineering

Genre Terms

  • Certificates
  • Correspondence
  • Diaries
  • Letter books
  • Manuscripts
  • Orders (military records)
  • Reports
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Letterbook: Correspondence Received, 1844-1875 1 volume

Shock's entrance into U.S. Navy service, orders, assignments and duties, appointments, promotions, ranks, leave, pay and reimbursements, examination matters, travel orders, commendations and letters of rebuke, engineering positions and responsibilities, surveys and inspections (ships, engines, and equipment), Shock's invention of metallic packing for steam engines (March 13, 1851), service on boards, and bounty claims.

1850-1854: construction and installation of engines aboard U.S.S. Princeton (Screw steamer). Inspection of U.S.S. San Francisco and U.S. Mail steamers.

1854-1856: construction and installation of engines aboard U.S.S. Merrimack (Screw frigate).

1857-1860: service aboard U.S.S. Powhatan (Side wheel steamer).

Box 1 Folder 2

Letterbook: Correspondence Sent, 1854-1856 1 volume

Shock's work as supervisor of construction of machinery and later chief engineer of U.S.S. Merrimack, including test performances, sea trials, and related matters.

1855 June 23: problems regarding transportation of Shock's brother on a U.S. Navy ship.

1855 October 16: survey of hull on U.S.S. Fulton (Side wheel steamer).

Box 1 Folder 3

Letterbook: Correspondence Received, 1861-1882 1 volume

Shock's appointments, duties, assignments, and service on various boards, including selection board for U.S. Navy engineers. Engineer candidates' responses of acceptance. European inspection tours. Supervision of construction and installation of ship's engines and related matters for U.S.S. Chilicothe (Ironclad steamer) and U.S.S. Indianola (Side wheel steamer). Surveys and examinations of various ships, engines, machinery, and naval facilities. Supervision of engineering installations on U.S.S. Tennessee (Screw frigate).

1862-1863: U.S.S. Chilicothe, U.S.S. Indianola, and other ships.

1870-1876: U.S.S. Tennessee and other ships.

1881-1882: Complimentary notices of Shock's book Steam Boilers, Their Design, Construction, and Management.

Box 3[OS] Folder 1

Letterbook: Correspondence Received, 1862-1902 1 volume

Career related documents, as well as Shock's retirement and post retirement life.

1862-1863: Special duty, St. Louis, superintendent of construction of river monitors.

1873: European inspection tour.

1881: Efforts to retain Shock as Engineer-in-Chief.

Box 2 Folder 1

Letterbook: Correspondence Received and Sent, 1879-1902 1 volume

Correspondents include Mrs. Vinnie Ream Hoxie, sculptor of the Farragut statue (Shock superintended the bronze casting); John F. Goucher, President of the Women's College of Baltimore (now Goucher College); Corcoran Gallery of Art; and Methodist Episcopal Church officials.

1898 January 17: Shock's call for annexation of the Sandwich Islands for naval reasons.

1898 May 10-12: Newspaper account of R.A. Belknap's attack on A.T. Mahan and Mahan's letter of response to Shock's support of Mahan.

1898 May 17: Shock's correction of newspaper account of LT Charles g. Hunter's heroism at Alvarado (Mexican War).

1892 May 2-3: Shock's account of storm loss of chartered Army steamer near Tampico Harbor, Mexico.

Box 2 Folder 2

Notes and Sketches by the way of a Cruise to China, Japan and back to the United States, 1857 November 10-1860 August 18 1 volume

U.S.S. Powhatan (Side wheel steamer), East India Squadron. Journal entries of U.S.S. Powhatan's activities, with emphasis on engineering matters, including: weather, sailing conditions, ship's position, arrivals and departures, descriptions of ports of call, foreign dignitary visits, ship maintenance. leave activities, and coal problems. Also entries of Shock as witness to diplomatic missions.

1857 December: transporting former President Pierce and wife to Madeira.

1858-1859: U.S.S. Powhatan, flagship of Commodore Josiah Tattnall, plays a role in diplomatic relations and treaty-making with China and Japan. Transportation and support for U.S. diplomats William B. Reed, Townsend Harris, and John E. Ward. Ward's treaty negotiations with China, including French-British military operations on the Pei Ho River.

1860: U.S.S. Powhatan conveys Japanese embassy to America. Visit by Hawaiian royalty.

Box 2 Folder 3

Record of a Special Trip (on the U.S.S. Tennessee to Suez) of Inspection and Report, 1875 June 25-September 25 1 volume

U.S.S. Tennessee left New York, June 25, with stops at Gibraltar, Palermo, Port Said, transited the Suez Canal, and reached Suez on August 15. Shock departed U.S.S. Tennessee on August 17, after which the journal offers Shock's impression of the Near Eastern and European cities he visited, ending with his September 25 arrival in Naples.

Box 2 Folder 4-5

Original Manuscript, Appendix on Steel in relation to Boilers, 1883

Manuscript for the appendix to Steam Boilers: Their Design, Construction, and Management, 1880.

Box 2 Folder 6

Original Manuscript, Appendix on Steel in relation to Boilers - Tests of Steam Coals, [1883]

Box 2 Folder 7

Original Manuscript, Appendix on Steel in relation to Boilers - Envelope, [1883]

Box 4[OS] Folder 1

Miscellaneous Papers - Admiral Farragut and his Pupils, 1864-1899, undated

Newspaper clipping, reproduction of signatures of Farragut's subordinates, and copies of Farragut's General Order 10 and General Order 12.

Box 4[OS] Folder 2

Miscellaneous Papers - Appointment (Engineer-in-Chief), 1877

Signed by President Ulysses S. Grant.

Box 4[OS] Folder 3

Miscellaneous Papers - Appointment (Engineer-in-Chief), 1881

Signed by President Rutherford B. Hayes.

Box 4[OS] Folder 4

Miscellaneous Papers - Commission (Chief Engineer), 1852

Signed by President Millard Fillmore.

Box 4[OS] Folder 5

Miscellaneous Papers - Commission (Chief Engineer), 1853

Signed by President Franklin Pierce.

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