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George Henry Preble Papers, 1858-1869: Finding Aid

Published in November 2008

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 381
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: George Henry Preble Papers
  • Dates: 1858-1869
  • Size: 29 items (1 folder)
  • Creator: Preble, George Henry, 1816-1885
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: Letters to William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), U.S. Senator from Maine. The early correspondence relates to attempts to increase pay for naval officers. The letters from 1862 to 1869 center on Preble's dismissal from the Navy for allowing the C.S.S Florida (built in England as the Oreto) to reach safe harbor in Mobile during the blockade in 1862, and Preble's efforts to be reinstated and cleared of any wrongdoing. Two letters relate to Preble's friend Navy Paymaster J.B. Rittenhouse.

Biography of George Henry Preble

George Henry Preble was born in Portland, Maine on February 25, 1816, the son of Enoch and Sally (Cross) Preble. George Preble’s uncle was Commodore Edward Preble (1761-1807). Influenced by his father, a sea captain, and his uncle, George Preble accepted an appointment as a midshipman in 1835. He served in the Mexican War and, from 1853 to 1856, in Commodore Matthew Perry’s expedition to Japan.

In the first year of the Civil War, Preble served aboard the U.S.S. Narragansett (screw sloop-of-war) and then commanded the U.S.S. Katahdin (gunboat) during the capture of New Orleans. Promoted to commander on July 16, 1862, Preble, on board the U.S.S. Oneida (screw sloop-of-war), took command of the blockading force off Mobile. In September, when the Oneida failed to prevent the Confederate commerce raider Florida (built as the Oreto in England) from reaching the safety of Fort Morgan at the entrance to Mobile Bay, Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles dismissed Preble from the service for neglect of duty. At President Abraham Lincoln’s directive, Welles reinstated Preble five months later, but the officer was passed over for promotion to commodore and assigned to the aging U.S.S. St. Louis (sloop-of-war), then at Lisbon. Encountering the Florida a second time at Funchal, Madeira, Preble was once more unable to capture the Confederate raider.

Passed over for promotion again after the Civil War for what had occurred at Mobile, Preble obtained a naval court of inquiry in 1872. The court only partially exonerated him. In 1874, he was promoted to commodore, made retroactive to 1871, and in 1876 he was promoted to rear admiral. He retired with that rank in 1878 and lived in Boston until his death on March 1, 1885.

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Description of Contents

Almost all the papers in this collection, spanning the dates 1856 to 1869, are letters to William Pitt Fessenden (1806-1869), U.S. Senator from Maine. The early correspondence relates to attempts to increase pay for naval officers. The letters from 1862 to 1869 center on Preble’s dismissal from the Navy for allowing the C.S.S Florida (built in England as the Oreto) to reach safe harbor in Mobile during the blockade in 1862, and Preble’s efforts to be reinstated and cleared of any wrongdoing.

Preble’s first letter to Fessenden on the subject of the Florida, dated November 13, 1862, mentions Preble’s intention to privately publish all the letters and other documents relating to the event and his subsequent dismissal. That pamphlet, The Chase of the Rebel Steamer of War Oreto, is in the Special Collections & Archives Department. Two of the letters ask Fessenden’s assistance in obtaining relief for Preble’s friend Paymaster J.B. Rittenhouse, stationed in Panama, whose safe was robbed of $15,000 in gold. The other documents are copies of petitions and a circular.

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Arrangement

The George Henry Preble Papers are arranged chronologically into a single series with no subdivisions.

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Access and Use

Access

Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The George Henry Preble 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 from Joseph Rubinfine American Historical Autographs in 1977.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional documents connected to Rear Admiral Preble are located at the Navy Department Library, Naval Historical Center in the George Henry Preble Collection (http://www.history.navy.mil/library/special/preble_g_coll.htm).

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

George Henry Preble Papers, MS 381

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

This collection was processed by Jennifer A. Bryan in November 2008. Finding aid written by Jennifer A. Bryan in November 2008.

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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

  • Fessenden, William Pitt, 1806-1869
  • Florida (Cruiser)
  • Preble, George Henry, 1816-1885
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865

Genre Terms

  • Correspondence
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

George Henry Preble Papers, 1858-1869

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