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John Amos Guion Diaries, 1838-1842: Finding Aid

Published in August 2019

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 523
  • Location: Special Collections & Archives Department - Manuscripts
  • Title: John Amos Guion Diaries
  • Dates: 1838-1842
  • Size: 0.06 linear feet
  • Container Summary: 1 folder containing 2 volumes
  • Creator: Guion, John Amos
  • Language(s) of material: English
  • Abstract: John Amos Guion was doctor and banker who served as an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy. The John Amos Guion Diaries span from 1838 until 1842. The diaries are the product of Guion's services as a U.S. Navy Assistant Surgeon with the Brazil Squadron and the West Indies Squadron, and focus on the medical cases handled by Guion, as well as his readings in poetry and the history of western civilization.

Biography of John Amos Guion

John Amos Guion was born on September 22, 1816 in New Bern, North Carolina to John Williams and Mary Wade Guion. After studying at the New Bern Academy, Guion traveled to Tripoli at the age of 16, where he served as Consul D. S. McCauley's private secretary for two years. Upon returning to the United States, Guion studied medicine in Philadelphia, receiving his degree in 1837.

On June 20, 1838, Guion was commissioned as an Assistant Surgeon in the United States Navy and ordered to the Brazil Squadron in October of that year, where he served aboard the squadron's flagship, U.S.S. Independence (Ship-of-the-line), as well as U.S.S. Fairfield (Sloop-of-war). On October 28, 1840, he received orders to report to U.S.S. Macedonian (Frigate), which was serving with the West Indies Squadron at that time.

In 1843, Guion resigned from the United States Navy and returned to New Bern to set up a private practice. On March 14 of that year, he married Susan Sydney Roberts, with whom he would ultimately have eight children. Several years later, Guion partnered with Edward R. Stanly in the establishment of a woolen cloth factory in New Bern. In 1859, Guion moved into the field of banking, serving as Cashier for the Bank of Commerce in New Bern, and later, the National Bank of New Bern.

Guion retired from professional life following a stroke on August 10, 1886, although he remained active in the affairs of Christ Church and as a member of several boards, including the Board of Trustees of New Bern Academy. John Amos Guion died on March 14, 1894 in New Bern, North Carolina.

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Description of Contents

The John Amos Guion Diaries, comprising 0.06 linear feet of documentation in two volumes, span from 1838 until 1842. The diaries are the product of Guion's services as a U.S. Navy Assistant Surgeon with the Brazil Squadron and the West Indies Squadron, and focus on the medical cases handled by Guion, as well as his readings in poetry and the history of western civilization.

The first volume of Guion's diaries proceeds from both ends of the volume. From one end, the volume offers an account of Guion's first year of service as an Assistant Surgeon through diary entries and copies of letters to family members. The diary details Guion's orders to the Brazil Squadron along with fellow Assistant Surgeon J. Howard Smith (October 8, 1838); his service aboard U.S.S. Independence (Ship-of-the-line), alternating between Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Montevideo; differences between Watch Officers and Medical Officers, and criticism of the general lack of intellectualism and foreign language knowledge among regular officers in the Squadron (October 21, 1839); and the death, from scarlet fever, of two local girls that Guion had befriended (November 30, 1839).

From the other end, the volume consists of copies of, and quotations from poetry and literature. Included are quotations from various poems and novels by Sir Walter Scott; Hyperion, by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; Paradise Lost, by John Milton; "The Rape of the Lock," by Alexander Pope; and "Lines on an Autumnal Evening," by Samuel Taylor Coleridge; as well as sections entitled Miscellaneous Extracts and Miscellaneous Poems.

The second volume, which spans from October 1840 through August 1842, consists primarily of traditional diary entries and opens with Guion's attachment to U.S.S. Macedonian on October 28, 1840. Many of the diary's entries focus on topics such as Guion's self-described wretched emotional state and love-sickness upon joining the Macedonian; the detailed description of the symptoms of venereal disease and its treatment aboard ship; complaints regarding the ship's midshipmen; and specific medical cases, including those of crew members Charles H. Jones, William Dashwood, and John Calvary. Other specific topics include a description of Hispaniola and thoughts on Christopher Columbus (December 4, 1840); the death and burial at sea of Seaman William Dashwood (December 10, 1840); and Guion's low opinion of the City of Pensacola (December 23, 1840).

In addition to recording daily events, reflections on his homesickness, and discussions of medical cases, many of Guion's diary entries include quotations and discussions of works such as Edward Belcher's Narrative of a Voyage Round the World and Francois Guizot's history of European civilization, as well as Guion's own thoughts on the nature of civilization.

Guion's longer diary entries are often punctuated by series of shorter entries simply noting the ship's location and the weather. Also included is a section of copies of letters certifying the diagnoses of various men serving aboard U.S.S. Macedonian, as well as several regarding personal financial obligations. Located at the end of the volume is an index to letters sent and received by Guion.

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The John Amos Guion Diaries comprise two volumes in a single folder. Entries therein are arranged in roughly chronological order.

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Access and Use


Access is unrestricted.

Copyright and Permission

The John Amos Guion Diaries 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 Rosamond H. Rice in June 2006. Accession No. 07-35.

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Related Materials

Related Archival Material

Additional material pertaining to the career of John Amos Guion can be found in the John Amos Guion Papers, 1834-1838 and 1861 at the Duke University Libraries.

Materials Cataloged Separately

No materials have been removed from this collection and cataloged separately.

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Processing and Other Information

Preferred Citation

John Amos Guion Diaries, MS 523

Special Collections & Archives Department

Nimitz Library

United States Naval Academy

Selected Bibliography

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

Daves, Graham. In Memoriam, John A. Guion, M.D., New Bern, N.C., 1819-1894. 1894.

United States. Bureau of Naval Personnel. Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1838-1843.

Processing Information

This collection was processed by David D'Onofrio in August 2019. Finding aid written by David D'Onofrio in August 2019.

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Subject Headings

Name and Subject Terms

  • Guion, John Amos
  • Independence (Ship-of-the-line)
  • Macedonian (Frigate)
  • Sexually transmitted diseases -- Treatment -- 19th century
  • United States. Navy -- Medical care

Genre Terms

  • Diaries
  • Manuscripts
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Contents List

Box 1 Folder 1

John Amos Guion Diaries, 1838-1842

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