Skip to main content Skip to footer site map
Nimitz Library
Nimitz Library

John H. Knowles Papers, 1864-1914: Finding Aid

Published in 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
  • Call number: MS 382
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: John H. Knowles Papers
  • Dates: 1864-1914
  • Size: 0.08 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 2 folders containing 28 items
  • Creator: Knowles, John H., 1830-1895
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: The collection consists mostly of Knowles's discharge papers and documents relating to a widow's pension for Mary A. E. Knowles. Knowles, a quartermaster aboard the U.S.S. Hartford during the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864, is reputedly the man who lashed Admiral David G. Farragut to the ship's rigging at the request of Captain Percival Drayton, who feared Farragut might lose his balance or be wounded and fall. After the Civil War, Knowles served aboard training vessels at the U.S. Naval Academy.

Biographical Sketch of John H. Knowles

John H. Knowles was born in South Kingston, Rhode Island on August 30, 1830. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy in 1855. During the Civil War, he served as a quartermaster aboard the U.S.S. Hartford (screw sloop-of-war), the flagship of David G. Farragut, commander of the West Gulf Blockading Squadron. At the Battle of Mobile Bay, when Farragut climbed the Hartford's rigging to obtain a better view, Captain Percival Drayton became concerned that his commanding officer might be wounded or lose his balance and fall. Knowles is the man Drayton reputedly sent aloft to lash Farragut to the rigging. Knowles spent his latter years at the U.S. Naval Academy, serving aboard the academy's training vessels. He died in Annapolis on April 9, 1895.

Back to Top

Description of Contents

The collection spans the dates 1864 to 1914, and consists mostly of Knowles' discharge papers and documents relating to a widow's pension for Mary A. E. Knowles. With the exception of the U.S.S. Hartford, all the ships mentioned were training ships at the U.S. Naval Academy. Four items relate to Knowles' attempt to claim bounty money for vessels destroyed at New Orleans during the Civil War.

Knowles' discharge from the U.S.S. Phlox (side wheel steamer) on March 17, 1874 describes his numerous tattoos. In a letter dated November 1, 1895 to Mary A. E. Knowles concerning her widow's pension, Captain John Crittenden Watson writes, "Your husband was an honored shipmate of mine and one of the heroes of the Civil War." Watson served aboard the Hartford at the Battle of Mobile Bay and retired with the rank of rear admiral.

Included among the documents is a cabinet card of Knowles preparing to repel boarders and the decorative metal clasp for a ribbon or medal.

Back to Top


  • Papers, 1864-1914
  • Photographs, Ephemera, and Realia, 1874-1886, undated
Back to Top

Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The John H. Knowles 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.

Back to Top

Acquisition and Appraisal

Provenance and Acquisition

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Morris Snyder on September 11, 1984. Accession No. 84-24.

Back to Top

Related Materials

Related Archival Material

John H. Knowles' military personnel file may be available at the National Archives and Records Administration.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection.

Back to Top

Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

John H. Knowles Papers, MS 382

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Processing Information

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

Back to Top

Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Knowles, John H., 1830-1895
  • Knowles, Mary A.E.
  • Military discharge -- United States
  • Military pensions -- United States
  • United States. Navy -- Recruiting, enlistment, etc

Genre Terms

  • Certificates
  • Manuscripts
  • Photographs
Back to Top

Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

Papers, 1864-1914

Photographs, Ephemera, and Realia, 1874-1886, undated

Box 1 Folder 2 Item 1

Continuous Service Certificate, 1874-1886

Box 1 Folder 2 Item 2

Photograph - Portrait of John Knowles, undated

Box 1 Folder 2 Item 3

Decorative metal clasp, undated

Back to Top