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LIFE IN THE FIELD
By the year 1850, there was a sufficiently large group of assistants
and sub-assistants who spent a significant part of each year in Coast Survey
field operations to make up a sub-culture of American society. This small
group of men, and included among them were the relatively small number
of Navy and Army officers who served for a large portion of their careers
working in the field on the Survey, were generally well-educated and relatively
sophisticated. It is apparent that many, if not most of them, could have
prospered within the confines of more conventional society. However, they
were attracted to a life that involved danger and personal sacrifice, much
travel at a time when traveling was neither easy nor safe, exposure to
potentially fatal diseases with distressing regularity, and the establishment
of few roots except within the community of the Coast Survey. Most of the
men who stayed with the Survey were perfectionists and detail-oriented
workaholics. But they were also idealists who felt that they were making
a contribution to a great national undertaking for improving the safety
of the seaways and opening up the far-flung outposts of the Nation to commerce
and settlement. As these men were in many respects the heart and soul of
the Coast Survey, their way of life should be investigated.
J. Morris Wampler joined the Coast Survey in 1847 as a young man of
17. With the exception of West Point, there were few educational institutions
concerned with teaching science and engineering in the United States at
that time. Young men would come out of schools such as the Philadelphia
Central High School, or, for a lucky few, be taught elements of mathematics
and physics at home by a scientist father. In the odd case of Wampler,
he was educated at a Southern female academy. He seemed to have had minimal
political or family connections which sometimes accounted for the appointment
of young men into the Survey. However, either through family friendship
or because of math, science, and drawing skills he was brought to Superintendent
Bache's attention and offered a position in the Survey. He also had considerable
sailing skills that were possibly developed prior to his entry in the Survey.
Initially, he was assigned to the drawing division for training, but he
demonstrated an aptitude for field duty and was soon attached to a topographic
party. Wampler was born in Baltimore; but in the 1850-1851 period he called
Loudoun County, Virginia, home, as his widowed mother had married a Mr.
Mavin, a mill owner from that area. Consequently, politically and socially
his view-point was pro-Southern.
Wampler maintained a diary of his travels, social life, and Coast Survey
activities for portions of the years 1850-1851.(1)
His diary provides a unique window into life on the Survey, including both
his experiences in the field and as a young single man-about-town who had
more interests than merely drawing maps and surveying the coast. Through
his diary and official communications with Superintendent Bache, his movements
and sometimes quite intimate thoughts can be traced. Morris Wampler, as
he preferred to be called, was assigned to a party in Galveston Bay, Texas,
in the winter and spring of 1849-1850; proceeded to the Marblehead area
of Massachusetts in the summer and fall of 1850; and then returned to Galveston
Bay in the winter of 1850-1851. He was following the North-in-the-summer
-- South-in-the-winter cycle of the itinerant engineers of the Coast Survey.
At the start of his diary entries, he had already advanced to the rank
of Sub-Assistant and was earning $600 per year plus a per diem allowance.
While working in Galveston Bay and its various arms, he was chief of a
topographical party and also in charge of the Coast Survey Schooner NYMPH
which was used for transportation and living quarters. While in Massachusetts
he worked on a topographical party under the direction of Assistant Henry
Whiting and lived either in a field camp or a boarding house depending
on the work area.
Morris Wampler's diary begins in mid-June of 1850. Wampler was proceeding
up the Mississippi River on the steamboat SALADIN after having worked in
Galveston Bay seeing "nothing but prairie and marsh since leaving home
seven months ago." He was gratified to see the hills of Vicksburg and Natchez
as he passed up the river on his way to Washington, D.C. Wampler was going
to visit at Coast Survey headquarters prior to reporting for his summer
assignment. He took leave time to visit friends in St. Louis for a few
days and then left on the afternoon of June 17, 1850, on the Steamboat
FASHION. On its way downstream to Cairo, Illinois, the FASHION made about
12 knots before turning up the Ohio River at 7:30 A.M. on the 18th. The
Ohio River washed "in its clear water the sides that had gathered mud and
sand from the thick Miss. water." After a long day of "undulating banks,
running river, dodging bars, snags.... at 10 o'clock p.m. we touched at
Shawnee Town." Wampler stayed on the FASHION until reaching Louisville,
Kentucky, on the morning of June 20. Here he "Bought 6 volumes of Coopers
Sea Tales" and transferred to the steamboat TELEGRAPH NO 2 for Cincinnati.
On the TELEGRAPH NO 2 he ran into three Coast Survey friends(2)
who were also returning from the Gulf Coast and heading for their summer
work. This steamboat had a good run up to Cincinnati where they arrived
early on the morning of the 21st and "had our duds & selves transported
to the Burnet Ho. where we got a good breakfast, changed shirts, etc. etc."
By "11 1/4 o'clock" Wampler was on the steamboat HINDOO bound for Wheeling,
Virginia. Morris took a bus-man's holiday and read Cooper's "The Pilot"
until late at night and then slept in and missed his breakfast the next
morning. He was enjoying himself so much with beautiful scenery and Cooper's
sea tales that he forgot it was the Sabbath on the morning of 23 June.
However, "About 9 o'clock a.m. we ran close into an Island called Williamson's
Id. to 'bring the dead', which consisted of one of the firemen (free Coloured),
who died early this a.m. of the Cholera. (3)
It was Melancholy to see how little thought or attention was paid during
such solemn rites, but 5 men got into the yawl and a oblong box was passed
in, the men cracking jokes occasionally. They pulled ashore, about 30 yds,
& in a sand well shaded with bushes they dug a hole somewhat below
the high water mark, Laughing & Joking the while. After this was completed
the box containing the body was let down & the hole filled as expeditiously
Wampler arrived in late afternoon of the 23rd at Wheeling but wasn't
too impressed: "Here I am in this miserable dirty hole.... Stopped at the
dirty hole of the United States Hotel." He left the next morning by stage
coach and traveled on the National Pike to Washington, Pennsylvania, "at
the rate of 10 knots and through a finely cultivated country, & fine
scenery with a jolly coach full ... we arrived at 11 o'c." This was a rest
and recreation stop as he set off in search of Miss Lizzy Greene. He was
soon distracted by her friend and waxed eloquent in nautical terminology
in praise of her charms, "Miss Mary Dawson, oh what a little beauty from
Pittsburg. What a fine cut about the bows this little craft has, &
nicely rounded timbers, well set fore & aft & below, & she
is hard to beat with all canvass set going free, her top rigging &
figure head cut water all of nicest mold & the taper arms of the foretop
arms were the nicest little fixtures." At 11:00 A.M., on the morning of
the 26th, he "bid good bye & promised Miss Mary Dawson to call on her
at Pittsburg etc. Got in stage & was soon rattling over the dusty pike....
Got Cumberland [Maryland] at 7 o'c. a.m. after a disagreeable night dust
& no sleep." Within an hour he had boarded the railroad cars, then
dined at Harpers Ferry, and arrived in Washington, D.C., at 7:00 P.M. The
trip from St. Louis involved three steamboats, two stagecoaches, and one
railroad and took nine days of actual travel. Total expenses for the trip
amounted to about $70.00.
At Washington, D.C., he received a warm reception from Major Isaac Ingalls
Stevens, Assistant-in-Charge-of-the-Office; but, as Superintendent Bache
was in the field close to Beltsville, Maryland, he proceeded out there
by railroad on Saturday, June 29. He found "Prof Bache quite agreeable
and affable... took dinner with him." Bache showed him the instruments
"in observing tent and astronomical Tent. Would give me a better vessel
if I wanted it etc." Wampler returned to Washington that evening and spent
most of the next week boarding at the Coast Survey office while reducing
his field work from Texas and writing his annual report. Friday night,
the day after Independence Day, he went "through N (4)
Serial rounds of dissipation" in the ubiquitous taverns of the capital
city. Not surprisingly the next day he followed this up with a "Horrid
bad head ache." On Sunday, he atoned for the weekend with "Church 3 times."
As with many young field officers, he showed disdain for the administrative
details of the work when he "Took Accts. to Hein [Samuel Hein, Disbursing
Agent for the Coast Survey] and after bothering awhile with him, got check
on Corcoran & Riggs [local bank.]" This same day, Tuesday, July 9,
he noted: "President Taylor extremely ill. Doctors with him all day. P.M.
10 h. 35m. He breathed his last, when a great nation overflowed with tears,
and wept a bitter grief." The following day, "Offices all closed &
Hanging festooned in crape. A country mourning." At this time he proceeded
to his home in Loudoun County, Virginia, where he spent the next month
and a half. Wampler spent much of this time completing his sketches and
maps of the season's work. He also helped with the family harvest.
Morris Wampler started off for his next job and was in New York City
with Superintendent Bache on September 6 visiting the chart-selling establishment
of George and Edmund Blunt. Bache told him that he would like to change
his working section to South Carolina from Texas, probably in response
to Wampler's request for a better vessel. Wampler made a tactical error
in dealing with the boss: "I did not like that, told him so." Consequently,
he returned to Galveston Bay and the NYMPH in the winter. The following
day he left by railroad for Boston. While traveling through Connecticut,
he engaged two companions in conversation, a young lady and a young man,
"but he was not so intelligent and agreeable as my other companion. He
was a Northerner. She a Southerner." On this trip, Wampler experienced
a problem that any modern-day traveler would recognize: "At Springfield
where the passengers changed cars and the baggage ditto, My instruments'
legs & umbrella(5) were left through
the negligence of the Baggage Master and after arriving in Boston I telegraphed
for them." It was a week before he received these critical pieces of equipment.
Upon arrival in Boston he proceeded to Camp Whiting(6)
, near the ocean between Salem and Beverly, Massachusetts. "Camp is lovely,
& most romantically situated. Pitched in Mr. W.'s usual way." The month
of September was spent working out of this camp. Because of its proximity
to Beverly and Salem, there were many social functions including chowder
parties, dances, and late evenings at the local hotels spent in lively
conversation and indulging in oysters and other fine fare. Young ladies
would often come to visit at the camp, and, one evening while they had
visitors, Wampler "got a fine Shot at the troublesome skunk and wounded
him. He left his Card."
His work was mainly at Marblehead during the month of September. He
loved the sail over and back as he often referred to such matters as "Started
for camp with smashing breeze on Starboard Quarter, with one tack, from
Marblehead Whf." Another day, he "Went over rolling like a frigate wing
and wing(7) .... Got back to Camp after
a nice beat of 5 or 6 tacks after sundown." His work on Marblehead went
well, but he was pointedly reminded of the problems of working close to
civilization when: "Whilst engaged working, some one went to my boat &
stole the Declinator(8) & Cap of Telescope."
At the end of September, Wampler, "Packed my duds and started off in boat
with three men for Marble Head, where we are to take lodgings for two or
three weeks." By October 5, the fall frontal passages were making themselves
evident as it was "Very windy & excessively cold. Saw a lump of Ice."
That evening "Fire broke out in stable adjoining our Boarding Ho, Great
excitement. Unusual for Marblehead to see a fire, our House in danger,
ladies very much alarmed. Carried Baskets of Water on roof. Kept it wet.
Soon put out fire, immense crowd of people, strange manners of females
Over the next two weeks Wampler complained often about bitter cold and
wind. Many days he resorted to compass directions and chaining distances
as the plane table was too unstable in the wind. Wet cold fogs became common.
The Coast Survey steamer BIBB came into the area to conduct hydrography
and Wampler was ordered to make "a tracing of Shore Line for the hidrographical
party just arrived." On Sunday, October 13, he "went to church with Mr.
McCorkle. Heard a Slavery sermon ridiculous!" A few days before he had
gone to Boston to hear a Jenny Lind concert. "Paid $4.00. Good seat...
Somewhat disappointed." He saw five other Coast Surveyors at the concert.
The following week he went to hear the singing group Kilmistes three nights
in a row and was "very much delighted." Perhaps he expected more out of
Jenny Lind's singing than he got for the equivalent of two days' pay.
Wampler and the Coast Surveyors slugged it out against the deteriorating
weather until the end of October. The 23rd he was "Out on Neck before Sun
Rise to get low Water."(9) This finished
his work at Marblehead, and he was ready to return with his crew to Camp
Whiting. However, "A young girl where the Men boarded, begged that I would
let the men remain over night, to a dance. I consented as one of them was
fiddler, and it would break up their fun to take him off." On the 26th
the BIBB left the area to be laid up in Boston for the winter. That same
day, "Poured down rain all day horrid Weather." The next few days saw little
improvement. The 28th -- "Very Boisterous Wind, serious apprehension for
Safety of Camp." The 29th -- "Went off in boat in Gale of Wind to Marblehead
Rock. Very heavy Sea Rowed Back... tremendous Wind from N.N.W. Cold as
Mid Winter. I am constantly thinking on my Texas trip...." The 31st --
"Settled Mess Bill at Mansion H. & at Simmons Clothes Store. Walked
home late with Clear Conscience." A few days later Camp Whiting had been
dismantled and Wampler was headed back to Texas. His diary has a break
at this point, but he probably stopped at Coast Survey headquarters in
Washington, D.C., and at his home before proceeding South.
New Year's Day, 1851, found Wampler at the Fremont Hotel in Galveston,
Texas. Naturally, there was "Much drinking at Hotel." However, "Men hard
at work on Schr. Nymph, resetting rigging etc." Wampler found time to visit
an old girlfriend, but "from the uncivil treatment I received of her, I
have resolved that she be scratched from my books." He shortly found a
new girl friend who was "interesting & intelligent, and what's more,
very amiable...." and arranged to rent a horse and buggy for "a delightful
ride on the celebrated Galveston Beach."
January 9, the NYMPH was ready and left Galveston for the working grounds
in East Bay. That night Wampler earned his pay as at "1 o'c. A.M. blowing
strong from north. Got up to see all right. Saw vessel bearing down right
upon us on Larboard bow. Saw us before close enough to hail them. They
hailed me, asking our position, which I gave as near as could guess. 2
A.M. Got up & saw that my 2nd boat was gone adrift, very dark, &
stormy. Mad as the devil at loss of boat (new); it was towed astern the
other boat, with good 2 ½ inch rope, which chafed apart, owing to
the rough sea. I then wrote advertisement & reward to the finder, put
it into an empty bottle & threw said bottle overboard.... did not sleep
a wink the whole night." Heading into East Bay, he anchored and "Took boat
a.m. & sounded Lady's Pass, on Hannah's Reef. Wind very light &
strong current through not withstanding which I got underweigh to beat
through. On first tack the current swept bows round, & the first thing
I knew was hard & fast aground. Got out Spars & succeeded in getting
The NYMPH only had a 3-foot draught, but it was Wampler's job to bring
it into uncharted portions of the bay and map the shoreline prior to a
hydrographic survey party sounding out the channels and anchorages. Tides
were unpredictable and greatly affected by the winds. Under these circumstances,
it was not uncommon for the NYMPH to either run aground or have the tide
recede leaving the vessel high and dry. During this first trip, Wampler
went out one morning from the NYMPH with a boat and three men for working
on shore and : "Got stuck with boat on the mud flats, & could not get
within a mile of Shore any way but one & that I did not want to go.
Returned with difficulty to Schr. Rowing mud the whole way up to vessel
the tide having left the Nymph in 18 inches Water only." The next day he
was able to get ashore, finished his work at the extreme end of East Bay
Bayou, returned to the schooner and "moved about 1 ½ miles to Westward
& came to again in 3 feet water & 4 feet mud."
A succession of violent storms passed over the Galveston Bay area during
the winter of 1850-1851. Wampler would put out to work and within a day
or so retreat to Galveston. On his next trip to East Bay he left Galveston
on January 20 but on the 21st the weather was "very cold & wet. Strong
East Wind fog & rain, densely thick. Started for Galveston, not possible
to work such weather run by compass courses, hit Ladie's pass nicely, but
had to beat through the narrow crooked place, & of course, got hard
& fast aground, & there stuck for rest of day. Tried all means
to get off & the last expedient failed until the tide came in, which
was to transfer all the ballast, provisions, anchors, chains & heavy
articles into the boats. Tried to back off with Sails, rigged square sails
of awnings, got out Spars. Rigged tackle to Spars. Jumped overboard all
hands & Officers, & put Shoulder to her but all to no purpose,
and about Sundown tide got us off, & a smashing breeze but thick &
rainy as mischief, very cold."
Wampler's worst night was yet to come. February 27 started out warm
in the morning but it was very threatening. The NYMPH was anchored off
Smith Point with a large expanse of bay to the north and northwest. Around
noon, it "commenced raining heavily wind got around to West & N. W.
I was laying very quietly in 6 feet water hard bottom until then, when
a tremendous surf rolled and placed me in a peculiarly unpleasant situation.
You may judge how the Surf was when I lay at anchor in 6 ft. & drawing
3 ft. My stern would thump so heavily as to throw up the rudder.... I had
but one other alternative & that was almost hopeless, to get in one
anchor, slip other & beat through the Surf off the lee shore &
Breakers. I had no more thought when I determined upon it that if were
possible to get the schooner away, than I had of going to the Moon, but
for the sake of having to say I did all that possibly could have been
done by man to save her, the men so active & ready, & the directions
happily so timely given & promptly executed is certainly all that kept
us from staving high and dry on the Breakers. The Storm raged so violently
that it was hardly possible to carry a reefed mainsail & Jib and surf
would dash so tremendously against her Bows, that in one roll she would
lose nearly what she made thus in 4 or 5 tacks.... I made an offing of
about a mile from where I slipped & came to in 9 feet water, soft bottom.
Big anchor & every inch of chain. That evening there were such furious
rain lightning & such a tempest of wind, was aweful. I certainly expected
every minute she would part Her cable & go furiously into the breakers...."
Morris had prepared for that possibility and was ready to "run up the
Jib put her right before the wind & send her bows on, as hard &
fast as she would be driven. Had watches out all night in the cold &
rain, was up myself the whole night in wet clothes. But what a display
of broken crockery & spilt castors & Molasses Jugs. The
whole floor was a sight (molasses lake). I expected at every tack to stave
the Boat to Smash. And if it had not been that I risked my own life to
prevent it, t'would certainly have been done. I will never come out again
in a vessel without Quarter Davit for boats."
Mercifully, the weather cleared up the following day. But Morris felt
"mighty badly, loss of sleep & so much anxiety disturbed me sadly,
both in mind & Body.... Who shall say it is not cold, he is a liar."
Wampler, reflecting his exhaustion from battling the storm all night, then
allowed himself the luxury of railing at the state of his vessel and at
Superintendent Bache: "It is a down right imposition on a gentleman's feelings
to be sent to a far off section, not half provided for . A schooner, that
would not make a launch for a sloop of war, no securities
for boats, going before the wind. Boats are staving into her, have
to use a cable to tow with, or lose the boat. There is not
a dry corner in her berth deck when the weather is rough. How can men be
expected to work cheerfully through a varied winter, made up of the severest
storms imaginable, & the hottest possible bearable weather, in such
a place. Is it not very self evident that such economy, as prompts the
Supt. to retain the Schr. Nymph in service, is false, utterly false."
The next few days after this were relatively calm. Saturday, March 1,
was a productive work day and although Sunday was calm, Wampler observed
the Sabbath and stayed aboard all day reading and writing letters. Occasionally
he would do accounts or write business letters on a Sunday but he never
did field work or send the men out to work on the Sabbath. Two days later
he was off Anahuac at the mouth of the Trinity River. Not surprisingly,
Wampler saw three steam vessels that had been blown aground at the entrance
to the Trinity River during the recent storm. As many triangulation signals
had also been destroyed during the storm, Wampler repaired them and then
prepared for the trip back to Galveston. On March 5 he sent ashore for
fresh provisions and "got nothing but eggs & 3 chickens, & some
The next evening, Morris encountered another hazard of frontier Texas.
He returned to Galveston; and, as it was a Friday night, he attended a
ball at the Fremont Hotel. At "2 o'c. Potter and Self took Drew(10)
home. He was dead drunk, wanted to shoot us, drew a loaded pistol &
flourished it about some time. I turned in at Fremont." The following morning
"Woke up, having slept very soundly, being wearied by my dancing, right
on top of the fatigue of sailing & being worked up by pitching &
Rolling of the vessel. Found me quite unwell, and the first thing I knew
I was down again.... Sent for Doctor Holland, & he prescribed. T'was
a bilious attack."
Not all social affairs ended up so disagreeably for Wampler. Most of
his socializing in Galveston revolved about Coast Survey friends who happened
to be in Galveston on the occasions when he could make it to port. He saw
Assistant James Williams, Sub-Assistant Spencer McCorkle, and Mr. Stevens
(probably George W. Stevens, Major Isaac Stevens' cousin) who were conducting
triangulation or Captain Andrew Hussey who had taken the Schooners BELLE
and NYMPH to Galveston Bay. When Lieutenant Commanding T. A. M. Craven
of the Coast Survey Schooner MORRIS arrived in Galveston Bay with the hydrographic
party, Wampler made sure to pay his respects. He was comfortable with the
local gentry and on one occasion played billiards till 3:00 A.M. with Williams,
Commodore Moore, and Judge Franklin. On that particular evening he returned
to the BELLE with Williams and slept on board. He continued seeing Miss
Lizzy Watrons, whom he had taken on the Galveston beach for a horse and
buggy ride, until the end of March when Miss Idy Saltmarsh caught his eye.
He always seemed to have some young lady whom he was visiting socially
when in Galveston.
However, Morris missed one major social event. On Friday, February 21,
he made a run for Galveston out of East Bay in order to attend George Washington's
"Birth night Ball, but after it was quite dark, my heart failed me &
I came to.... in 9 ½ feet water." In spite of missing this social
event, he was pleased to make it into port the next day for Washington's
Birthday. "The Stars & Stripes were spread profusely today, as it were,
rainbows of promise - our indissoluble Union - commemorating the rise of
that Sun which first drew into this beautiful system, that constellation
the most remarkable in the Solar System of Nations - Washingtons Birthday."
Morris Wampler was a patriot; ironically, he like many others could not
see that the Nation was disintegrating.
Wampler finished up January with only 6 days of actual plane table work
accomplished; another 6 in February; but then in March the weather improved,
and he managed twelve days of field work. Most of the topographic work
involved shoreline around bayous and marshy ground. Concerning work in
this area, Wampler had written Bache the year before, "It would be difficult
for me to give you an Idea of the marshy character of these parts. But
for next season, I have been taught to anticipate one without a bottom,
filled to profusion with alligators, and snakes of all kinds, the grass
and reeds growing from eight to twelve feet high."(11)
He was plagued by "Miriads of Mosquitoes" on relatively warm days. Most
work was fairly straightforward, and he was able to see sufficient signals
to delineate the shoreline. He reported three or four miles of shoreline
mapped as a "good days work." Not all of this work was with the planetable
as on occasion he resorted to chaining and compass courses when working
in high brush. In one bayou with particularly marshy shores he used a pocket
compass for direction and counted each stroke of the oars as so many meters
for measuring distance as his crew rowed up the channel and he sketched
the shoreline. Occasionally he would find a signal out of the reported
position which generated additional work. While working in Turtle Bay,
upper Galveston Bay [Trinity Bay,] he became "Very much perplexed with
signals" because of woods and large marshy areas obstructing his line-of-sight.
He solved this problem by putting up three large signals and added, "Higher
than any of the Triangulation Pts." Of course, another crew had put in
the triangulation signals.
Overall, Wampler had excellent progress and Superintendent Bache was
well pleased. He wrote in his 1851 report:
"The party of sub-assistant J. M. Wampler was in the field during the first five months(12) of 1851, and had in use the Coast Survey schooner Nymph. Its duties were made arduous by an inclement season, and by the necessity of often working at stations covered with water.
"The results of the work are comprised in a complete topographical map
of Galveston Bay, (see Sketch I, No. 2,) of which about one-third had been
accomplished the previous season. The amount of work may be reckoned as
follows: shore-line surveyed, 281 miles; area of country, 188 ½
square miles; and 25 miles of roads. It includes West bay, East bay, and
Bolivar peninsula, Turtle bay, and the delta of Trinity river."
Morris Wampler left the Coast Survey in April, 1853. His diary from
early April, 1851, to April 28, 1853, is lost. When it resumes again in
1853, he had returned to Texas to conduct surveys for a railroad. He was
working for R. J. Walker, Bache's brother-in-law, so he must have had a
reputation for good work. He was then married and had a year-old son. He
found himself impecunious in Texas while the promised job at $1,500 per
year proved non-existent. Ironically, Bache had advised him in early April,
"I think you will be throwing away your prospects to leave the C. S."(13)
He managed to return to his home and then put out his shingle as civil
engineer in the city of Baltimore. He worked there and on jobs such as
railroad surveying in Arkansas until the beginning of the Civil War when
he joined the Confederate Army and served as an engineer. He was killed
when a piece of shrapnel severed his spine on August 17, 1863, at Battery
Wagner, Charleston Harbor, during a Union naval bombardment.
Alexander Dallas Bache spent much of each year in the field in tent camps or on Coast Survey vessels observing at triangulation stations, measuring baselines, and inspecting the work of various field parties. He was a capable geodesist and conducted primary triangulation in New England and the Mid-Atlantic states and measured baselines in Maryland, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, two in Florida, and Maine. In this way he assured that he was not considered a "mere bureau head" and kept his finger on the pulse of the Survey. With this travel he also stayed in touch with scientific and political colleagues throughout the country.
As with Hassler before him, there was a bit of spectacle and pageantry
surrounding Bache's field camps. He often took his wife with him on these
excursions as he spent a substantial portion of most years in the field
up until the advent of the Civil War. The living was good and often highly-placed
visitors would come to the Superintendent's camp to share in a hardy outdoor
experience with Superintendent and Mrs. Bache. He would also take prominent
scientists to the sites of his operations and train them in Coast Survey
methods. Professor Fairman Rogers(14) of
the University of Pennsylvania, Varina Davis (15),
wife of Bache's good friend Senator Jefferson Davis, and the astronomer
Maria Mitchell recorded field experiences with Bache during these years.
Professor Fairman Rogers accompanied Superintendent Bache to many of
his field camps. In the spring of 1855 he traveled with him to the coast
of Florida to help with the measurement of two base lines. The first of
these base lines was at Key Biscayne in the vicinity of present day Miami
while the second was at Cape Sable on the extreme southwest portion of
the Florida Peninsula.
Bache and his party arrived at Key Biscayne on April 2 and immediately
commenced operations. An advance crew pitched camp on the seashore near
the south end of the base line. This particular base line was about 3 ½
miles long and extended from the north end of the island in a north-south
direction through the interior of the island. In 1855 Key Biscayne "was
uninhabited, except by the light-house keeper and his family, and covered
on the north-west side with dense forests of black and red mangrove, and
the south-east with a thick growth of the scrub fan palmetto, with here
and there a sea grape tree and a few bushes. A fine sandy beach, not of
great width, extends along the eastern side...."
The line had already been graded to near level and cleared of brush
along its whole length prior to Bache's arrival. Both ends of the line
were marked with copper bolts inserted in stone monuments. These were buried
in the ground and capped with a small stone pyramid to facilitate locating
them again if need be. The point at the southern end of the base line had
already been occupied as an astronomic station, and its latitude, longitude,
and an azimuth to another point determined. Bache decided to begin the
measurement of the base at its north end so that the party would be working
towards camp. After making initial comparisons of the measuring bars with
a standardized iron bar to assure no damage had occurred to the instruments,
the bars (enclosed in insulating tubes; thus each six-meter length measured
was termed a "tube") and all their associated paraphernalia were placed
in a small boat and towed by the Coast Survey Schooner BOWDITCH to the
north end of the island.
Work began the following day and Rogers described the routine:
"At four o'clock in the morning, the summons to turn out was given, and by half past four all the party were on the way to North Base, a distance of about four miles from camp. Arrived there, the tubes which had been placed in the line the day before, were uncovered, and the transit set up in the continuation of the line, as mentioned, the position of the first tube over the initial point adjusted by the transit across the line, the levels of the sectors tested with an engineer's level, and the measurement commenced....(16) The work was continued until eight o'clock; from eight to nine was devoted to breakfast on the line; the work then resumed until one; dinner on the line from one until half past two, and operations resumed until about five, making about eight hours a day of actual work. The work of the first day or two lay through black mangrove woods and swampy ground, and the mosquitoes and sand flies tried the patience of the observers sorely; the trees, too, cut off the sea breeze, and, although in the shade, the thermometer stood at an average of 84o.5 F. At night the tubes were covered up, the trestles dressed in their triangular canvass covers, and left without any guard, as there were no inhabitants to disturb them and no signs of any Indians."
"After leaving the woods and coming out upon the open plain, which was
covered with scrub palmetto about four feet in height, through which the
path was cut, the heat was, at times, very oppressive even when tempered
by the sea breeze...."
It took nine days to finish this base line; 965 tubes total were measured.
When reaching South Base, tube 965 projected beyond the marked point and
a distance back of 0.34775 meters was measured with a beam compass. The
tubes were again compared to the iron bar standard, and when all was found
to be satisfactory, they were "packed up and despatched in the schooner
Bowditch to Cape Sable...." Bache went in a separate vessel to Cape Sable
by way of Key West, skirting the reef and inspecting the triangulation
and topography that had been conducted in the area.
At Key West, word was brought to Bache that due to excessive rains,
the ground at Cape Sable "was only a pasty mass of mud." Undaunted, Bache
made preparations to proceed on and after a short delay caused by a strong
northeast gale finally got underway. On arrival at Cape Sable, the vessel
anchored a few hundred feet off Fort Poinsett, "a mythical kind of establishment
on the point of Cape Sable, consisting of an embankment forming two sides
of a triangle and capable of holding about a hundred men." Here "things
were found to be in rather better condition than was anticipated, the rain
had ceased, and the ground had attained a sufficient solidity, for the
purposes of the measurement." There was no camp pitched at Cape Sable because
of the proliferation of mosquitoes "which were described as exceeding anything
of the kind in any other part of the world." In fact, "A party, consisting
of an officer and several men, which had been left on shore with a camp
for two days and nights, were taken off in a state of absolute exhaustion
from want of rest, having spent all night in combat with these insects."
Consequently, the schooner anchored out a mile offshore "to avoid these
flying marauders," and the base line measuring party returned to the relatively
cramped quarters of the small vessel each afternoon upon completion of
its day's work. The logistics of the daily coming and going of the measuring
party must have caused some problems as the party consisted of "six officers,
including the Superintendent, and about sixteen men." There is no mention
of having dinner (a mid-day meal) on these days, so it is possible cooks
and other laborers did not accompany the party ashore as at Key Biscayne.
Because Bache feared the return of rainy weather, he chose to commence
the baseline measurement immediately instead of running his comparisons
with the iron bar standard prior to beginning work. He was willing to gamble
that nothing had occurred to his apparatus and also to modify standard
operating procedure according to the situation. It was fortunate that he
did so; while running levels over the base line after it had been measured,
it was found that "... the ground had already become somewhat soft from
rain, and the last day on shore was memorable for a drenching rain, which
fell much to the annoyance of the parties who were finishing the operations."
The area that they were working in was Cape Sable Prairie, "a strip
five or six miles in width, between the sea and the everglades." White
Water Bay was to the north. Rogers considered the area to be:
"... an exceedingly beautiful place, apparently made for the site of a base line, as smooth and level as a floor, and carpeted with a great variety of plants and grasses, some of which change their colors with the different stages of growth and give beautifully varied hues to the ground.
"Mangrove hammocks of varied shapes and sizes spot the prairie at intervals....
These hammocks are filled with a variety of orchids or air plants which
grow in great abundance on the trees, the cactus, whose short stinging
spines interfere much with the passage through them, and the Spanish bayonet,
whose magnificent white spike of flowers frequently shows out against the
dark mangrove. But this beautiful place is cursed with mosquitoes, so that
we found it impossible to begin work on shore until nine o'clock, A.M.,
and necessary to stop by five in the afternoon; after this time clouds
of them issued from the woods, and assailing any individual who was unfortunate
enough to be on shore, drove him to the boats in a state of impotent rage."
There were sufficient deer in the area to keep the party well-stocked
with venison. Other fauna noted in the area included: "One large black
bear, which fell a victim to the men who pursued it into the water and
despatched it with boat hooks and oars, a few coons, some wild cats, and
forty-three alligators, which a reconnoitering party saw holding a caucus
in a creek, were all the wild animals that we met with." No Indians were
seen despite a general Indian uprising in South Florida. Rogers felt that
the size of the survey party might have appeared too strong to them. However,
he felt "... they must have been attracted by the clouds of smoke which
rolled up from the prairie which we had set on fire for the purpose of
clearing it." The crewmen amused themselves by chasing a bear while the
more refined gentlemen were mesmerized by "the long walls of flame as seen
at night from the vessels" which "added very much to the beauty of the
Because the ground was quite level and much of the brush and prairie
grass had been burned off by the base line crew, the measurement work went
quite rapidly in spite of the mosquito- shortened days. The average time
per tube for the Cape Sable base was 2 minutes and 51 seconds for a distance
of 1,072 tubes. This eclipsed the Bodie Island, North Carolina, base line
record of 2 minutes 54 seconds per tube. However, that line extended over
a substantially longer distance of 1,807 tubes. All work was finished by
May 18, 1855, and the party proceeded back to the north, "everything having
been accomplished without any accidents or serious sickness, although all
the men were from the north and unused to out-door work in such a warm
Many years later, Professor Fairman Rogers, then the Treasurer of the
National Academy of Sciences, eulogized Bache and included this picture
of camp-life with him:
"... in his summer camps there were always some extra tents for those who were fortunate enough to receive invitations to visit him in his wild retreats. He spent several months of each year under canvas, at the primary triangulation stations, or on base measurement, and returned to his duties in the capital refreshed and invigorated by the mountain air, long strolls, and change of scene. Bright reminiscences are those of these mountain camps, with the morning's writing, the midday dinner, the genial face of the hostess, the pleasant chat over the bottle of Rhine wine, and, if there was no observing in the afternoon, the long rambles down the hill, with the climb back again, the camp being of necessity near to the summit, finishing up with an evening of conversation or reading, unless the stars were good enough to allow themselves to be observed."(17)
Bache's good friend Jefferson Davis and his wife Varina were among those
"fortunate enough to receive invitations" to visit with him in the summer
of 1858. This would be their second summer excursion with Bache as they
had visited with him a few years earlier in New Hampshire. Senator Davis
had been quite sick during much of 1858 and was ordered by his doctor "to
a higher latitude for a month or two, after the adjournment of Congress."
The Davis's proceeded to Portland, Maine, where they visited many friends.
Towards the end of the summer Bache invited them to join him at his triangulation
party camp at Mount Humpback, Maine.(18)
They traveled by rail to Bangor and then took stages to the mountain, spending
a night in a rustic inn. Varina Davis recalled(19)
that the following morning:
"We drove nine miles over a most wonderful natural road, called by the
country people 'horseback,' elevated over sixty feet and sloping steeply
down on each side to the valley which it intersected, like a levee built
by Titans. Interspersed throughout the rich valley on either side, in the
lush green grass, were the most enormous bowlders of granite, many of which
looked like Egyptians tombs. As there was no stone of the kind underlying
the soil, Professor Bache thought they had been left there by some great
flood.(20) The apex on which we drove was
only about twenty-five feet wide and nearly uniform throughout its whole
length, which stretched to the foot of Mount Humpback. There we found an
ox team in waiting hitched to a sled, and we were driven up the side of
the mountain, which was so steep that the oxen seemed sometimes to be about
to fall back upon us. These were the first oxen I ever saw goaded, and
Mr. Davis remonstrated many times against it with the driver."(21)
The road up the mountain was called "Jeff Davis Road"(22)
for many years afterward and served as a fire trail up to a lookout station.
It was built by Thomas McDonnell, "Artificer in the Coast Survey." McDonnell
was the equivalent of a construction engineer and responsible for building
the large signals associated with the primary triangulation and constructing
roads and paths to some of the more difficult stations. This was necessary
as hundreds of pounds of equipment and supplies were hauled to the remote
locations where survey crews sometimes lived for weeks at a time.
After arriving at a flat area near the top of the mountain, the Davis's
found: "... white tents pitched,(23) one
for each of us, an excellent cook, tenderloin steaks from Bangor, vegetables
from the neighboring farms, and to all this comfort was added the newest
books, and an exquisite and very large musical box which played 'Ah, cher
la morte," and many other gems of the then new operas of Verdi. Professor
Bache, who could not sing a tune, kept up a pleased murmur of musical accompaniment
as an expression of his delight. He read aloud at night, and a part of
the day we watched him taking observations and enjoyed his clear explanations
of his method. As the sun went down and shone upon the heliotropes, one
fixed star after another gleamed out on the distant hill-tops, and our
heliotrope answered back again to the dumb messages sent by scientists
on every hill. The most noticeable thing to us, who were used to the insect
clamor of our summer nights, was the silence on the mountain, and we saw
no evidences of insect life. The fall of a leaf could be plainly heard,
and it seemed to afford relief to Mr. Davis's exacerbated nerves, after
the noise and bustle of Washington, to stay in this secluded place where
he could be a lotus eater for a while."
In this idyllic setting at nearly 1,500 feet above sea level, Bache
continued his work and measured angles between 6 primary points, 8 secondary
points, and an azimuth marker. In the course of this work over 1,200 horizontal
angles and 500 vertical angles were measured and recorded, astronomical
observations for latitude, azimuth, and time were made, as were magnetic
and meteorological observations.
While the Davis's were not engaged in learning about the survey work,
they "looked for numerous signs of the glacial period, reasoned and wondered
over them, picked up 'ghost flowers' and found exquisite mosses, sometimes
a foot deep, of velvety green. Mr. Davis took our little girl with us on
his shoulder, and did all the things so joyful to towns-people on an outing
in the country. So health came back to his wasted form...." After 3 weeks
on the mountain, the Davis's returned to Portland, passed through Boston
and New York, and then returned to Washington, D.C. Varina Davis, in her
memoir of her husband, makes no mention of the relationship between Bache
and Davis over the next two years. One can wonder if Bache ever thought
back to this mountain-top visit during the dark days of the Civil War and
regretted the course of his good friend, the President of the Confederate
States of America.
Shipboard life on the Coast Survey was not without its trials. It would
be easy to surmise that the coast-wise work of the Coast Survey was relatively
safe and without its perils. That was far from the case as many times the
vessels of the Survey worked on open coasts far from ports of refuge. Even
while in ports or working in sheltered waters there were many dangers.
Violent weather with little means of predicting approaching storms, groundings
on uncharted shoals, collisions at sea, shipboard fires, boiler accidents,
and the possibility of epidemics striking the crew were all part of the
hydrographic and oceanographic work. Close to 40 men died as a result of
accidents and epidemics affecting Coast Survey vessels and field parties
between 1850 and the beginning of the Civil War. In spite of this, the
work continued and only four vessels were lost during this period.
The Coast Survey Schooner PHOENIX was a typical Coast Survey vessel
used for the transportation and housing of topographic and triangulation
crews during the mid-Nineteenth Century. Its dimensions were length of
70 feet, beam of 17 feet, and draft of 7 feet. (24)
The PHOENIX was acquired from the Navy in late 1845 and served with the
Survey until 1857. Lieutenant Commanding Carlisle Pollock Patterson, a
future head of the Coast Survey, was its first commanding officer and sailed
it from New York to the vicinity of Mobile Bay in November, 1845. The PHOENIX
was the first vessel of the Survey on the Gulf Coast. During 1846 Patterson
conducted tide and current surveys and hydrographic surveys of Horn Island
Passage, parts of Mississippi Sound, and the bar at Mobile. Although used
for hydrography in 1847, the acquisition of the Revenue Steamer R. J. WALKER
for hydrographic use in 1848 relegated the PHOENIX to the role of providing
transportation and housing for triangulation and topographic parties for
the remainder of its useful life in the survey.
The PHOENIX led a relatively uneventful existence under Assistant W.
E. Greenwell for a number of years. Then, on March 31, 1854, while in Mississippi
Sound under the command of Assistant Julius Erasmus Hilgard,(25)
and "... while riding at anchor on a short chain with everything closely
stowed, the schooner was struck broadside by a tornado and capsized in
about 20 seconds time. The hatches being open, she thus afterwards sunk
in 20 feet and myself and the crew were obliged to take refuge in the mastheads
which remained just above water. The violence of the gale soon subsided
and in about one hour we were enabled to clear the weather boat" and rowed
to the shore.(26) Superintendent Bache
reported: "Measures were immediately taken for the recovery of the vessel;
but owing to boisterous weather and other difficulties, three weeks elapsed
before she was raised and the property on board recovered."(27)
Hilgard, making the most of this disaster, observed "the action of sea-water
upon the metals used in the construction of instruments...." after raising
the Phoenix and inspecting the scientific instruments that had been immersed
in salt water for the past three weeks. Among the metals observed, Hilgard
noted that: "German silver, an alloy of copper and nickel, was not tarnished
in the least degree, nor did it become so when afterwards exposed to the
air without being cleaned with fresh water. It is much to be recommended
for clamp and tangent screws, springs, and other working parts of instruments
which require hardness and elasticity, and are frequently exposed to the
action of salt spray when used on the beach...." (28)
Hilgard found good out of the sinking of the PHOENIX which could be applied
to the work of the Survey.
Apparently the PHOENIX, like its mythological namesake, arose from this
disaster and was at least functional, if not as good as new. At the beginning
of the following survey season, Joseph Smith Harris, a recently appointed
aid from the Philadelphia Central High School and also a nephew of Bache's
good friend John Frazer, was sent to the PHOENIX to join Hilgard's party.
Harris was a somewhat priggish young man who was consumed with concern
for his health; size (he was over 6'3" tall and often referred to his and
other individuals' relative height in his autobiography;) sibling rivalry
with his older brother Stephen, a sub-assistant on the Survey whom Joseph
informed us was 5' 9" tall; pecuniary gain; and various odd inter-relationships
with his relatives including his mother whom he once sent a box containing
four live rattlesnakes and a copperhead as a gift. In spite of all of these
quirks, Joseph Harris was a meticulous young man and ultimately reached
the pinnacle of success in the business community as the president of a
major railroad. He also left an autobiography which provides a glimpse
of Coast Survey shipboard life in the 1850's.(29)
Prior to proceeding to the PHOENIX, Harris worked with Julius Hilgard
at Station Yard, Philadelphia, in the late fall of 1854 where he was engaged
in checking earlier triangulation and astronomic work. By mid-November,
this work was completed and Harris was on his way to the PHOENIX. The convenience
of railroad travel, as compared to Morris Wampler's 1850 trip from New
Orleans to Washington, D.C., had increased significantly as he took railroad
passage through Pittsburg, Cleveland, and Chicago to the Mississippi River
at Alton, Illinois. From there he proceeded south to New Orleans on steamboat.
His "drinking from river water, with foul smells and decaying meat began
to upset me with diarrhoea...." Within a few days of arrival at New Orleans,
he developed a case of typhoid fever from which he nearly died. Fortunately,
he was able to stay with his physician uncle who nursed him back to health.
After a month lying in bed, he proceeded to the PHOENIX which was at Mobile
on January 20, 1855.
He soon met the other aids on Hilgard's party, Max Hering and Richard
Bland Washington. Hering had come to Mobile by ship from Philadelphia,
an extremely rough 31-day passage in which the vessel had run out of food.
He described Hering as "at bottom a pretty good fellow, though he had but
a poor education. He was rather small, slight and meagre." Washington,
on the other hand, was a great-nephew of President George Washington and
"was enough like the old General to be taken for a lineal descendant. Tall,
well formed and handsome, he had all the physical qualities needed to make
a successful man, but he was an absolute ignoramus." Harris's estimation
of Washington was correct, as he was sent home within a few months. Washington,
following in his father's footsteps, became a naval surgeon during the
Joseph Harris spent his first few weeks with Hilgard's party in charge
of a small sloop which was used for building signals and other odd jobs
as required. Provisions on these trips were slight and, as Harris did not
care to cook for himself, consisted of a "bag of hard bread, a demijohn
of molasses, and a boiled ham." The molasses spilled during a sudden squall
one day and covered everything in the boat.
Assistant Hilgard left for Washington, D.C., on February 9 and placed Harris in charge of the PHOENIX. The crew was let go at this time and the ship was anchored off Mississippi City, just to the west of Biloxi. Here Harris attempted to do some astronomical work on shore, but "the weather was never good enough to make a set of observations, smoke from burning woods and mist and looming always obscuring the air." The winter was quite cold and one morning Harris awoke to find ice covering the brackish water of Mississippi Sound and extending from the shore out 1/3 mile to the PHOENIX. Hilgard returned on April 14 and at that time a new crew was hired. In early May, they "got a new cook, a slave named George to replace Romeo another slave. The change was greatly to our advantage." Hilgard left again on May 14 and placed Joseph's brother Stephen, who had reported to the party in the last month, in charge of the vessel.
With the coming of warm weather, the insect life increased exponentially.
Although the ship had been underwater for three weeks a year earlier, the
cockroach population seemed to have not been affected. Harris wrote:
"... We lived reasonably well on board the vessel though there were
some drawbacks. The cabin was infested with cockroaches which would get
into our sleeping places. Washington held them in more horror than he did
getting up, which was a great trial to him, and Hering's frequent summons
to him was to call 'cockroach' in a sentorian voice at which Washington
expecting one to drop on him from over head would spring out to discover
that the alarm was a false one.
"Their favorite roost however was on the sliding door of the china closet
to call it such, where the dishes were kept. It was in the forward part
of the cabin and was just beside the stove. When it was suddenly drawn
shut there would be hundreds of cockroaches disturbed scampering for shelter.
One of the dainties of our table was 'sirop de batterie' which was molasses
from which the sugar had not been taken. It was always on the table in
a glass jug with a metal top which seemed to fit well but not too well
to prevent the cockroaches having access to the sweet fluid which they
loved as well as we did. When we desired any we would pour it out and would
usually find cockroach carcasses with it. We would pick them out and go
on with the 'sirop' which did not appear to be injured at all.
"On one occasion while lying at anchor near the schooner Gerdes her
officers came aboard in the evening saying that the cockroaches which had
a spread of wings of three inches had taken possession of the cabin flying
about so that it was impossible to stay there. They never treated us in
this way but their action must have made the cabin uninhabitable."
Working close to the swamps and marshes of the Mississippi delta also
brought the surveyors into contact with countless mosquitoes and other
voracious insects. One night in August, the vessel anchored in Lake Borgne,
"... the mosquitoes invaded the vessel so that no one thought of going
to bed but stood all night to fight them with boots on our feet, gloves
on our hands, and veils to shield our faces. They were certainly thousands
of them aboard. The crew and the officers suffered alike, and when the
sailors respectfully represented next morning that it was too bad to stand,
we thought so too and retreated out of the locality.... They are worst
in calms, as they are timid flyers and do not venture out when the wind
blows. On shore the greenheaded flies which draw blood wherever they bite
but whose bite is not poisonous and a smaller black fly made life unbearable.
I once went ashore to sleep at a station that I might observe in the half
hour after dawn when the air is still enough. The green flies and mosquitoes
would have killed me before morning, but I climbed up to the observing
stand fifteen feet above the marsh and there slept all night with a blanket
drawn over my head. The pests would not fly so high...."
Besides insects that could carry diseases and drive the surveyors to
distraction on the Gulf Coast, other serious problems existed. Little clean
fresh water existed anywhere near the working grounds on Mississippi Sound
and Lake Borgne. The crew of the PHOENIX "would take it from the shore
in whiskey barrels but it never kept, and smelled and tasted horribly while
it was working. Once having newly painted the vessel's decks we took the
water that fell on them during a rainy day, but that was worse than any,
tasting of paint...." The crew could also be a hazard. On July 4, the crew
"got drunk and mauled Peter the head man so that they had to be arrested
for assault, fined and discharged...." The ship did not have a full crew
again for the remainder of the year. Hurricanes, then as now, were occasional
visitors to the Gulf Coast. The PHOENIX rode out two hurricanes in 1855;
the first in early August and the second from September 15 to 17. During
the September storm, "It blew great guns and rained as I never saw it elsewhere.
It was reported as the heaviest storm since 1819, but we rode it out safely
in the lee of the high sand hills on the eastern end of Cat Island. Our
instruments which were standing on Cat Island were not injured though the
observatory was unroofed and nearly filled with sand."
Joseph Harris did better financially than many of his fellow aids. In
September, 1855, after only a year on Coast Survey service his salary was
raised to $25 per month with per diem of 60 cents per day. Harris noted
that this was the highest pay that he "ever got in that service..." and
that, "For the year I received $180, which was less than my daily receipt
in 1901." As the winter of 1855-1856 was extremely harsh throughout the
eastern U. S., Harris earned this extra pay a few months later when he
had to row three miles to pick up Julius Hilgard at Rigolet's Light. Harris
related, "There was a norther blowing, the thermometer was 25, our oars
were covered with icicles where the water dropped from them above the blades,
and the bottom of the boat was filled with ice. About this time the fresh
water ponds on Cat Island were frozen over so that the ice would bear a
man." The following day, Hilgard and Stephen Harris left the party and
Joseph was required to lay up the vessel for the remainder of the winter.
A week later, Harris was on his way north to Coast Survey headquarters
to complete some drafting and other engineering work prior to resigning
from the Survey.
During Harris's year on the PHOENIX, triangulation was completed from
Pascagoula, Mississippi, to the entrance to Lake Pontchartrain, a distance
of about sixty miles. The following year, the PHOENIX was placed under
the command of Assistant Samuel A. Gilbert and ordered to work on the Texas
coast. It arrived in Texas with its "sails split and the vessel pretty
On February 9, 1850, the Coast Survey Steamer HETZEL was anchored offshore
from Cape Canaveral in 2 ½ fathoms. The HETZEL was 150 feet long
with a 22 foot beam and 7.5 foot draft. A moderate wind was blowing from
the southeast. Lieutenant Commanding John Rodgers (30)
was conserving fuel and not keeping "steam up" in order to assure completion
of the assigned work. At 11:40 P.M. he ordered the port anchor let go as
the starboard anchor cable had abruptly parted and the HETZEL was drifting
rapidly onto the beach. The port anchor dragged; and, although an attempt
was made to get up steam, within a few minutes the vessel was pushed up
high on the beach by the wind, surf, and tide.(31)
The next day was spent taking off provisions to lighten the vessel,
pumping out water, making a tent camp on the beach, and dragging for the
starboard anchor as it would be required in helping kedge off. Fortunately
for Rodgers, the starboard anchor was found and the broken link was recovered.
This defective link had been welded only about one sixth of its diameter.
On February 12, "... vessel hove ahead about half her length by steam and
anchors.... parted one hawser and stranded another in attempting to get
off. The next day, "... pumping vessel; hove vessel about two lengths ahead
by steam and hawser, when one hawser parted; bottom of furnace fell out,
vessel sagged onto beach; heavy sea; repairing furnaces; seas breaking
entirely over vessel." The next few days were spent in repairing the furnace
and pumping water out as "the tide ebbed and flowed through the vessel's
A less determined man than John Rodgers may have given up at this point,
but Rodgers demonstrated the perseverance and mettle that would win him
much glory during the Civil War. On the 17th, "dug the sand from about
the vessel; attempt to get the vessel off ineffectual...." The following
day, "water casks taken out to place under bottom of vessel; pumping; another
ineffectual attempt to get off at high water." On February 19, "... Pumping;
digging away sand; got a heave on the hawser without moving vessel; fitted
small bower and carried further out; got a pull of the hawser; vessel appeared
to move a little."
Rodgers's indomitable will refused to accept the inevitable. On the
20th "... as the vessel began to break ground the water gained on the pumps,
and finally put out the fires; preparation to caulk." The next four days
were spent continuously caulking, pumping, and bailing. After two more
failed attempts to heave the ship off the beach, on the afternoon of the
24th the vessel was refloated. However, "At 6 P.M. water gained so fast
on the pumps that it was deemed expedient to beach the steamer. At 8, high
and dry on the beach." After 3 more days of caulking, pumping, bailing,
and attempting to haul the HETZEL off, Rodgers finally succeeded on February
28. "Vessel hove off to her anchors, 6 to 8 p.m.; bailing, 8 p.m. to midnight;
hove up anchors, got the boats from shore, stood along land to Indian river.
Pumping and bailing; sounded every fifteen minutes in 8 and 9 fathoms."
By 9:00 A.M. the following morning, the HETZEL had crossed the bar of Indian
River and was beached for repairs. Partial repairs were effected at Indian
River, but ultimately the vessel limped to New Orleans via Key West and
Rodgers was assigned a small schooner, the PETREL, to complete the work
in Florida while Lieutenant Wilmer Shields took the HETZEL to New Orleans.
Here Shields found, "... that the Hetzel's hull and frame were much strained,
a number of her butts started, some of her planks almost entirely separated
from the timbers, and her stern post started; the oakum forced from her
bottom and bilge seams, which were open fore and aft; a portion of her
copper lost, the remainder much bruised, her keel charred and bruised in
several places. The engine works, boiler, and frame were much shattered,
and required and received extensive repairs.... " It was amazing that the
HETZEL survived this experience and went on to survey another day. The
work of the HETZEL under Lieutenant Commanding John Rodgers is commemorated
by Hetzel Shoal, a few miles to the east of Cape Canaveral.
The HETZEL spent the next few years uneventfully. In the summer of 1855,
the HETZEL was under the command of Lieutenant Commanding John J. Almy(32)
working in lower Chesapeake Bay. Almy had been a good neighbor to his maritime
brethren in this area and had assisted three vessels during the course
of the season. Parties of officers and men from the HETZEL had assisted
the schooners JANE BRINDLE and DAVID COX which had gone aground on Hampton
Shoal and the schooner ARNO which had grounded on Willoughby's Bank. Of
this type of service, Almy remarked: "It is often in my power, and I deem
it my duty, to go to the relief of vessels in danger when I can do so consistently
with the discharge of other duties devolved upon me."(33)
Almy commented on a little-known aspect of Coast Survey work as many vessels
and mariners have been assisted by the Coast Survey and its descendant
Because of Lieutenant Commanding Almy's concern for his fellow mariner,
it seems all the more tragic that on the morning of August 24, 1855, the
port boiler of the HETZEL exploded killing outright three of the crew,
injuring several others, and seriously damaging the vessel. The steamer
was furnishing transportation to Captain Augustus A. Gibson, U.S. Army,
Assistant in the Coast Survey, who was drawing views for the charts of
the coast of Maryland and Virginia north of Cape Charles. The ship was
at Sand Shoal inlet, "under what was supposed to be easy steam, when the
port boiler burst." Third Assistant Engineer Samuel C. Latimer, U.S. Navy,
William Bulger, first-class fireman, and Bernard Moran, seaman, were killed
outright. William Gardner, first-class fireman, John T. Knight, second-class
fireman, and Michael Scanlan, ordinary seaman, were scalded badly and died
within a few days of the accident. Almy and the surviving crew must have
had tremendous presence of mind following the explosion as the vessel was
in flames and thought to be sinking. Finally they contained the fire and
stopped the leak. It was found that: "The hurricane deck, wheel-house,
and bulk-heads around the boiler are a perfect wreck, as also the smoke-stack,
steam-pipe, and some other parts...."
In the afternoon, with the aid of a fair wind and tide, the HETZEL's boats towed her to a safe anchorage inside Sand Shoal. The scalded were removed to houses on shore where they were attended to by Passed Assistant Surgeon Williamson of the HETZEL and a visiting doctor. Almy reported that "coffins are being made, and other preparations for burying the dead." The evening of the 24th Almy read the burial service over two of the dead and the following day over three others. The sixth man lingered for a day or two longer. The men were buried "upon Sand Shoal island, which is inhabited and cultivated, and head-boards, with their names will be placed to mark their graves." Almy eulogized these men as "excellent in character, behaved well, performed their duty faithfully, and were good citizens of Norfolk and Portsmouth, where their families reside."(34) The HETZEL was then towed to Hampton Roads and later up to Baltimore for repairs.
Within a few months a board of inquiry was convened to determine the
cause of the explosion on the HETZEL. It found that "the immediate cause
of the accident was the closing of the steam stop-valve upon it, on the
evening of 23rd of August, with a view of more thoroughly cooling that
boiler preparatory to making the repairs, and that this valve was forgotten
and neglected on the morning of the 24th of August...." The boiler was
an older model with no safety valve and an explosion was the result. Although
the boilers were considered old and weak, the board concluded that "had
they been new and strong, it could only have affected the result so far
as a remote probability that a very little further time before the explosion
might have given a slightly increased chance of its attracting the attention
of some one to the fact of its being closed, and giving them an opportunity
to open it in time to relieve the boiler, and thus avoid the accident;
but, on the other hand, had the boilers been thus new and strong, and the
stop-valve not opened, it must have eventually exploded, and the results
would have been much more disastrous...."
Closing of that particular steam stop-valve was not normal operating
procedure; and, after closing it, the desired effect of cooling down the
port boiler was not achieved. Thus, the engineers waited until the morning
to effect their repairs; but, "The next morning, in the hurry and bustle
of making the repairs, and getting the vessel under way, the fact of the
valve being closed the evening previous was entirely forgotten. Bulger,
who aided in making the repairs, was relieved from his watch at 8 a.m.,
at which time the leak had not yet broken out.... finding, after he (Bulger)
came off watch, that the forward man-hole plate was leaking, he went down
the fire hatch to screw it up.... and about this time the leak broke out.
Bulger then came up and went aft, on the port side, and was last seen alive
near the entrance to the boiler room on the port side.... we suppose that
it had occurred to Bulger's mind that the valve was shut, and when last
seen alive he was about entering the boiler room to examine the valve....
and if so, he was probably on the top of the boiler, but had not time to
open the valve before the terrible catastrophe occurred which so suddenly
deprived him of his life...."
The commission chose not to assign culpability in this accident to any
one particular individual as "...it must be borne in mind that no positive
order had been issued to close the valve, that it had not been customary,
and in fact had not been done before during the whole season; and hence
that such forgetfulness was more probable and excusable...." The final
statement of the report suggests that: "... whoever was in fault, he or
they have paid the penalty, either in loss of life or in mental anguish,
more than commensurable with so involuntary an offence."(35)
In spite of the two major accidents to the ship in the 1850's, the HETZEL
continued sailing and served as a Union gunboat during the Civil War.
On the night of January 5, 1856, the Coast Survey Schooner BENJAMIN PEIRCE was anchored peacefully in the St. John's River off Jacksonville, Florida. Assistant A.M. Harrison had left the vessel that evening and placed sailing-master P.R. Hawley in charge of the vessel. Hawley saved the PEIRCE and the brig IZA that evening from a drifting burning vessel which had borne down upon the PEIRCE just before midnight. Hawley recounted the events that followed:
"Just before twelve I heard the cry of 'fire' on shore, which I found
was caused by the burning of the steamer 'Seminole.' There being no wind
at the time, I did not attempt to get the vessel from her anchorage, nor
could I if I had desired to do so; within a few moments after the alarm
was given, the steamer was ablaze from stem to stern, and, having been
cut from her moorings to prevent the adjoining buildings and wharves from
catching fire, she was drifting down the stream. By the time I could collect
the men on deck, the burning wreck was within fifty yards of the 'Peirce,'
heading directly athwart her bows. Leaving one-half of the men on the 'Peirce,'
all prepared with buckets and axes to prevent, if possible, the steamer
becoming entangled in the rigging of the 'Peirce,' I manned the largest
boat and started for the steamer, which by this time, was close aboard,
made fast a tow line and commenced towing her. The steamer struck the vessel
just abaft the starboard fore-chains, but, having got a little headway
by towing, she did not, as I feared she might, become fastened to the rigging
of the 'Peirce.' In the short space of time occupied in towing her past
the 'Peirce,' the intense heat destroyed the foresail, mainsail, and main
gaff-top-sail; also the starboard main shrouds and main topmast back-stay,
with some of the running rigging; most of her spars and both masts were
much charred, and also the starboard bulwarks, galley, cabin quarter-house,
and deck. A new boat belonging to Mr. Huger, which was lying on the deck,
was also considerably damaged. The glass in the skylight of the cabin was
broken by the excessive heat, and the taffrail crushed by the falling of
the main boom, the topping lift which supported it being destroyed. From
six to eight hundred dollars will, I think, put the vessel in as good condition
as formerly. Seeing that the flames on the 'Peirce' were all extinguished,
I continued towing the steamer to keep her clear of a brig which was at
anchor a short distance astern of us. After a severe struggle the steamer
was towed clear of the brig, and I went on board of her to render what
assistance might be required. The captain of the brig not being able to
control his men, and being very much alarmed himself, turned the command
of the vessel over to me; and I do not hesitate to say, that, with the
assistance of our own men from the Peirce, we succeeded in saving the brig
'Iza,' with a full cargo, from being totally consumed. Since the fire I
have had carpenters at work planing down the masts and spars of the Peirce,
which were all charred to the depth of a quarter of an inch; also in making
new dead-eyes, &c., a new taffrail, and a rudder for the boat, which
"As the main shrouds were nearly burnt through, and knowing that it
would endanger the safety of the mast if it came on to blow very heavily
with a rough sea, I took the responsibility of ordering immediately such
standing rigging as was necessary. I have not ordered either sails or running
Harrison returned to the PEIRCE and wrote Bache the following day that
he had examined the schooner and was "only astonished that she was saved
at all. The entire starboard quarter must have been in flames, besides
the starboard rigging, and the deck on the quarter is completely charred.
There was no wind, nor would the short interval which elapsed after the
burning steamer had been drifted to the Peirce admit of getting the schooner
under way and moving out of reach of danger; hence, there was but one course
left for him to pursue, and that one he followed, namely, to endeavor to
tow the Seminole away from the schooner."
Harrison continued, "That the exertions of Mr. Hawley were not unattended
with personal danger, you can judge from the fact that his clothing and
hands were burned. I can but sorely regret so serious a casualty to the
vessel under my charge, but, at the same time, a sense of justice obliges
me to free Mr. Hawley from all cause of censure, and to give him the well-earned
credit of having acted with judgment and courage...."(37)
Hawley was representative of a group of men who were virtually invisible
within the Coast Survey. As opposed to the naval officers who manned the
hydrographic and oceanographic ships, the civilian crew that manned the
schooners of the topographic and triangulation parties were rarely mentioned
within the reports of the Superintendent. Bache probably considered them
expendable vessel operators with few ties to the scientific work. Very
little exists in the correspondence files of the Superintendent related
to these men. However, they manned approximately ½ of the vessels
operated by the Coast Survey and their skills helped make possible much
of the work accomplished. Many, like Hawley, were undoubtedly brave and
Weather has always been a problem to the mariner whose usual goal is
to put sufficient water between his vessel and the coast to assure that
no storm will blow him on a lee shore. Coast Survey vessels usually operated
in proximity to the shore and were subjected to a variety of dangerous
weather situations. Frontal passages affected them on the Gulf Coast and
East Coast; tropical and extra-tropical cyclones roared through their working
grounds; and random thunderstorms occasionally spawned tornados and waterspouts
capable of sinking small vessels.
In the early spring of 1854, the schooners PHOENIX and GERDES were working
off the Louisiana coast. On March 29, the GERDES proceeded out of Mississippi
Sound in transit to western Louisiana. The following morning off Pass a
Loutre the small schooner encountered a strong gale which carried away
the main gaff, but then the weather moderated somewhat and by 5:00 P.M.
the vessel was five miles to the south of Southwest Pass. At that time
"her course was laid, steering west by south, for Ship Island channel,
so as to give the land a berth of twenty miles. At 8 o'clock it commenced
to blow strongly from SE. and E. and the night was so dark that the main-mast
could not be seen from the wheel. At 11:30 p.m., by a flash of lightning,
breakers were seen close under her lee, and before the helm was fairly
down she had struck with tremendous force, and the sea commenced washing
over her some ten feet high. The spoon-drift at the same time prevented
all sight or hearing; within three hours a current quite contrary to the
ordinary direction had swept the vessel from her course, the whole distance
of her offing. At daylight she was found to be nearly a mile west of
Fourchon Pass, close to the beach, with only six inches of water under
her bows and four feet astern."(38) In
a 3 ½ hour span the GERDES had drifted approximately 20 miles to
the northwest while attempting to steer to the southwest prior to going
aground on East Timbalier Island. This was the same night the PHOENIX was
sunk by a tornado in Mississippi Sound.
Bache in commenting about the experiences of the GERDES and PHOENIX
noted, "In this section the officers of the Survey have had, during the
past season, more trials of endurance, and less of the reward of success,
than usually falls to their lot. Not only was the weather generally unfavorable
to work, but the hurricane of March 30-31 swept over the coast where two
of our small vessels were employed, stranding one and capsizing and sinking
the other. Happily, no lives were lost in either case; but the stranded
vessel was put afloat, and the sunken one raised, at a loss of time and
means that told heavily upon the operations of the parties using them...."(39)
Ships scheduled for duty on the Texas coast also had their problems in 1854. The schooners MORRIS and BELLE which had been used for duty on the Gulf Coast were old vessels which had been transferred from the Army Quartermaster Corps at the close of the Mexican War. In 1853, the BELLE had sunk in Galveston Bay during a gale while the MORRIS had been sailed to Pensacola and left there "by her officers, in a sinking condition." The opportunity to repair the MORRIS certainly was limited though, as an epidemic was sweeping the Gulf Coast in 1853. The ship's medical officer, Passed Assistant Surgeon Daniel L. Bryan, reported for duty at the hospital in Pensacola to care for the sick and there fell ill and died. During this epidemic, two engineers who were serving on the Coast Survey Steamer R. J. WALKER on the Mississippi coast also contracted the disease and died.(40)
The MORRIS was left to rot, but the BELLE was raised. However, it could
not be repaired for the 1854 season without considerable expense and delay.
Its work was accomplished by the Coast Survey Schooner ARAGO in Galveston
Bay with difficulty as there were crew desertions and much bad weather.
The BELLE was ultimately repaired but lost in 1857 near St. Andrew's Bay,
Florida, after going aground on an uncharted shoal and breaking up. Fortunately,
no injuries occurred in this accident and all equipment was salvaged.
Other close calls occurred with distressing regularity. The schooner
BOUNCER, used as a tender by the party of Lieutenant Commanding John Maffitt
while surveying Port Royal Bay, was lost in a severe gale on April 23,
1855. "The vessel was at anchor when the gale came up but could not be
got under weigh, and both cables parting, she went ashore and was dashed
to pieces." No lives were lost "but the property contained in the vessel,
public and private, was lost or much injured."(41)
Three weeks later the Coast Survey Schooner ARAGO, Lieutenant Commanding
Edwin J. De Haven, went aground near the entrance to the San Bernard River,
near present day Freeport, Texas. Curiously, De Haven reported that the
weather was not unusual, although the wind and sea were setting directly
on the beach. Unexpectedly the vessel began dragging its anchors and was
in the breaker line and being driven ashore before the anchors caught.
De Haven reported that: "At high water on the 25th [of May] I was relieved
by finding the ARAGO once more afloat outside of the breakers, and apparently
not injured to any extent. There was still, however, much hard work required
to render her efficient. All our material from truck to keelson was on
shore, and was yet to be boated off through a dangerous surf. The boats
were capsized occasionally, but the alacrity and perseverance of officers
and men overcame all difficulties, and the vessel was equipped and under
way by the 27th...."(42)
During the second half of the 1850's, there seemed to be more than normal
instances of violent weather resulting in damage to Coast Survey vessels.
Many Coast Survey vessels were caught in storms resulting in sufficient
damage to require proceeding to a repair facility prior to continuing work
or going on to the working area.
Assistant Charles Boutelle experienced double jeopardy in December, 1855. His triangulation party left New York for the South Carolina coast in early December, 1855, on the Coast Survey Schooner GUTHRIE. This vessel was damaged off the New Jersey coast in a storm shortly after leaving. Boutelle transferred his crew to the Coast Survey Schooner WAVE, under Assistant John Seib, which left Baltimore on December 17, 1855. The WAVE, in turn, was disabled in a storm off Fryingpan Shoals and managed to limp into Charleston after two hard weeks at sea on January 3, 1856. It was another month before the WAVE was able to transport Boutelle and Seib to their working areas. The winter of 1855-1856 must have been quite bad as the steamer WALKER was not able to attempt leaving Delaware Bay for its work on the Gulf Coast until mid-March because of ice in the Delaware River. However, the WALKER damaged its wheels in this attempt causing further delay for repairs.
On January 4, 1857, the Coast Survey Schooner CRAWFORD was conducting
sounding operations between Cape Romain and Charleston Harbor entrance
when it "was blown from her station off Bull's island in a furious storm
which prevailed along the coast. By extraordinary exertions Lieut. Chandler
(43), the officer in charge of the CRAWFORD,
kept the vessel afloat during the twenty-four days of unusually tempestuous
weather, and finally succeeded in reaching Smithville, North Carolina,
with loss of sails, one of the surveying boats, and considerable damage
to the hull of the schooner. To the energy of Lieut. Chandler and excellent
conduct of the crew must be attributed the preservation of the vessel,
which, before making port, had been leaking badly."(44)
The following month the Coast Survey Schooner GALLATIN was driven ashore
on Amelia Island "by the swell and northeast wind, the ring of the anchor
giving way. Fortunately the vessel sustained no injury, and with the valuable
assistance rendered by Lieut. G. W. Custis Lee (45),
United States Corps of Engineers, in charge of Fort Clinch, and by others,
Lieut. Comg. Trenchard(46) was enabled
to get her afloat by the 25th, and resume the regular work of the season."(47)
Later in the year the Coast Survey Steamer BIBB, Lieutenant Commanding
C. R. P. Rodgers(48), was surveying in
the vicinity of George's Bank when caught in a storm and "... In bearing
up for Gloucester harbor during the storm the mainmast of the BIBB was
lost, but will be replaced without delay...." (49)
A short time later the Coast Survey Schooner BOWDITCH departed New York
in November for the west coast of Florida under Lieut. J. C. Clark, U.S.A.,
Assistant in the Coast Survey, "but the vessel was obliged to put back
with loss of sails, and sustained damage, causing delay on her final passage
to the south." The BOWDITCH arrived on December 13, 1857. Bache put a new
twist on the problem of storm damage to the Coast Survey vessels when he
pointed out that "The sum required for new sails, by lessening the amount
allotted, also shortened the period of work, which, in consequence, was
closed on the 1st of April." (50) Not only
did repairs of damage to vessels shorten the possible time available for
work, but it also reduced the available operating funds.
Three more Coast Survey vessel would feel the wrath of the elements
before the close of the 1850's, the steamer VIXEN and the schooners HASSLER
and BENJAMIN PEIRCE. In 1860, the schooner CRAWFORD had a unique experience
which caused no damage but much excitement: "While employed in the hydrography
of St. Simon's entrance, Georgia, the schooner CRAWFORD [Lieutenant Commanding
John P. Bankhead(51)] very narrowly escaped
destruction on the morning of the 13th of June by a water spout. The spray
from it fell on the deck of the vessel, but fortunately a flaw from the
whirlwind at the same time shot the schooner ahead, causing her taffrail
barely to clear the body of the rushing column."(52)
Besides the obvious setback to operations caused by damage to Coast
Survey vessels, survey operations were also retarded by the loss of commercial
vessels carrying Coast Survey equipment and personnel during the 1850's.
The most serious incident involved Assistant Woods Baker, who died as a
result of an explosion on the steamboat REINDEER while traveling between
work areas in 1852. In 1856 various instruments bound for a Coast Survey
party working at Matagorda, Texas, were lost in the sinking of the steamer
CRESCENT CITY.(53) The same year, a base
line measuring apparatus being sent to Point au Chevreuil, Louisiana, was
lost when "The vessel ... in which they were despatched was unfortunately
wrecked on the Bahamas, near Nassau...."(54)
In late June 1860, the Coast Survey Steamer BIBB left United States
waters to take part in an international project to conduct observations
on a total eclipse of the sun predicted to occur on July 18, 1860. This
project marked the first use of a Coast Survey vessel in an international
project and it also marked the first time that the Coast Survey or any
of its descendant organizations operated a vessel in sub-Arctic latitudes.
The shadow of the eclipse was predicted to pass across North America
from Washington Territory on the Pacific Coast on a line to Cape Chudleigh
in northern Labrador, 400 miles south of the Arctic Circle, and thence
to southwestern Europe where many leading European astronomers planned
to make observations. Perhaps Bache was caught sleeping as he had not requested
an appropriation to conduct an expedition to observe this eclipse in his
budget for 1860. Once apprised of the "rare opportunity for us to co-operate
in these world-wide observations," he acted swiftly to mount expeditions
to the Pacific Northwest and to northern Labrador. Displaying his political
talents, Superintendent Bache enlisted an old ally, Senator James Pearce
of Maryland, to introduce a resolution in the Senate on May 8 which passed
the same day. Things stalled for a bit and it was not until June 15 that
President Buchanan approved the final resolution directing the Coast Survey
to organize expeditions to northern Canada and Washington Territory. What
was most remarkable about this effort was that Bache was able to use science
to attract the attention of a Government which could only have been immersed
in issues relating to the impending breakup of the Union. Bache also obtained
$1,100 from the Smithsonian Institution and private individuals for procuring
various scientific apparatus and equipment.
As directed, Bache proceeded to make arrangements for the expeditions.
The West Coast trip was of a relatively small scale, but the eastern expedition
required assigning the Coast Survey Steamer BIBB under Lieutenant Commanding
Alexander Murray, U. S. N., to the expedition. Stephen Alexander, Joseph
Henry's brother-in-law, was placed in charge of the scientific aspects
of the work and a small complement of scientists and technicians volunteered
to accompany the BIBB. After two weeks of frenetic preparations, the BIBB
departed New York on June 28 "for this distant, arduous, and somewhat dangerous
service." Unfortunately, the second night out seaman John McCalmut was
lost overboard in spite of fair weather. On July 3, the BIBB arrived at
Sydney, Cape Breton Island, where a supply of coal was taken on board,
and then proceeded on to Aulezavik (55),
Latitude 59o 47' 49" North, at the northeastern tip of Labrador.
The trip from Sydney to Aulezavik was described by Lieutenant Commanding
"On the 7th of July the BIBB passed the light-house of Belle Isle, and
proceeded along the coast of Labrador. Icebergs were constantly in sight,
but not so numerous as to obstruct navigation. The weather continued pleasant
until the morning of the 10th, when a stiff breeze from the southward and
eastward set in, with a tremendous sea. Towards evening the fog began to
settle down, and the icebergs to drift towards the land. We sought a harbor,
and at 10 p.m. anchored behind an island in latitude 56o 43'
N., which afforded shelter from an impending storm. The weather continued
thick and stormy until the afternoon of the 11th; but, in consideration
of the main object of the expedition, the accomplishment of which was hazarded
by each delay, I determined, after advising with Lieutenant Ashe, R. N.,
who had joined the party at New York, to take the inside passage and push
on, the fog still remaining outside, and the ice being pressed close in
along the islands. We had in this way made some forty miles when the only
accident occurred that was worthy of record in the voyage. While under
the least possible pressure of steam, and carefully feeling her way, the
vessel ran upon a ledge of sunken rocks, but with the aid of her anchors
was got off at the return of the tide, and again headed on her course,
being at meridian, again in the open sea."(56)
The remainder of the voyage and the return were relatively uneventful.
Observations of the eclipse were made at Aulezavik which established the
longitude of that site and also helped establish corrections to further
refine the longitudes observed in North America relative to European observatories.
The inclusion of Lieutenant Ashe, Royal Navy, and director of the British
observatory at Quebec, was possibly the first instance of a foreign scientist,
as a representative of his government, taking part in a United States scientific
On June 21, 1860, the Coast Survey Steamer WALKER with a crew of 72
and the wife of Joseph Seawell, the executive officer, was lost at sea
as the result of a collision. Twenty men died in this accident making it
the worst single disaster to strike the Coast Survey or any of its descendant
organizations. As Bache referred to this tragedy in only three widely separated
paragraphs in his report for 1860, perhaps he found it too painful to deal
with; or the events overtaking the country overwhelmed all else in 1860
and 1861. This accident was disturbing for a number of reasons beyond the
immediate loss of a ship and twenty of its crew. With the approaching Civil
War, there was never an inquiry concerning the causes of this accident
and the assignment of responsibility for its consequences. Surprisingly,
Superintendent Bache never printed a listing of names of the deceased crewmen.
The feeling Bache projects in his report for 1860 is that his primary concerns
with this disaster were the need for an appropriation to cover the cost
of a new steam vessel and the effect lack of such a vessel would have on
the operations of the Survey. These were valid concerns but they were tempered
with little compassion for the victims of the tragedy.
Bache's initial reference to the loss of the WALKER in his report for
1860 occurred on the first page and omitted the name of the steamer and
any reference to loss of life:
"The progress of the work has been, taking all its branches together,
greater than during the year before, but the loss of one of our best steamers
by collision at sea has been a sad drawback to the general prosperity of
the work. As my estimates for the time of completion of the survey must
be materially affected by this loss, I earnestly recommend a special appropriation
to replace the steamer at the earliest practicable period."
On page 10 Superintendent Bache referred to the name of the vessel,
but once again refrained from mentioning that any fatalities occurred:
"The loss of the steamer WALKER, by collision at sea, requires an appropriation
to replace her. As the government acts as its own insurer, this is an indispensable
item of estimate. The loss of a considerable part of the records of last
season's work, and the loss of time from having no steamer to take the
WALKER's place in the Gulf of Mexico, will be sensibly felt in our progress,
and I would respectfully urge that another steamer be supplied at the earliest
practicable period, so as to enable us to work up again as soon as possible
to the former efficiency."
Finally on page 44, Bache gave some idea of the magnitude of the tragedy
and its circumstances:
"I have elsewhere referred to the wreck of the steamer WALKER, on the
21st of June of the present year. This disaster, which involved loss of
life to twenty of her crew, with the total loss of the vessel and all the
records on board, was occasioned by collision with a schooner laden with
coal, and occurred about three o'clock in the morning, while the WALKER
was off Absecom (today spelled Absecon,) New Jersey, in command of Lieutenant
J. J. Guthrie, U. S. N., and on her passage from Norfolk to New York. The
officers of the WALKER and survivors of her crew were rescued from imminent
peril by Captain L. J. Hudson, [referred to as Captain S. S. Hudson in
most accounts] of the schooner R. G. PORTER, and safely conveyed to May's
Landing, on the coast of New Jersey. The steamer sunk in less than half
an hour after the collision, which took place about twelve miles from land."(57)
This rather bland description of the events of the morning of June 21,
1860, is in stark contrast to the reports on the wreck of the brig WASHINGTON
in the 1846 annual report, the reports on the HETZEL tribulations of 1850
and 1855, and the loss of the JEFFERSON in 1851. Part of the reticence
to report on the WALKER disaster may have stemmed from murky responsibility
concerning the accident.
The command structure of the WALKER was quite odd at this time (as was
that of all major Coast Survey vessels) as the withdrawal of naval officers
from the Coast Survey dictated the hiring of civilian merchant marine officers
to stand watches while the crew signed on under naval articles. The captain
of the WALKER, Lieutenant John J. Guthrie, was the only naval officer on
board and had served in the Navy continuously since 1834. The executive
officer, Joseph A. Seawell, had been dismissed from the Navy on the recommendation
of the Efficiency Board in 1855. (See pages -- for discussion of the Efficiency
Board.) Seawell was the officer on watch at the time of the collision.
After Superintendent Bache received a telegram on June 21 notifying him
that the WALKER had sunk and twenty of the crew were missing, he immediately
wrote to Lieutenant Guthrie asking him to report the circumstances of the
Guthrie wrote Superintendent Bache on June 23:
"It becomes my painful duty to report to you the loss of the U.S. Coast Survey Steamer "Walker" which was sunk at sea in Five Fathoms of water about six miles SE of "Absecum [sic] Light" on the coast of New Jersey, in consequence of being run into by a schooner - supposed to be the "Fanny" on the morning of the 21st of this month about 2:20 A.M.
"Two of the boats were stove in and rendered useless by the collision, the two remaining ones were lowered, and many of the crew saved by this means, and the timely assistance of the "R. G. Porter," of Mays Landing, N. J., Capt. S. S. Hudson, who came to our assistance in this hour of need.... I cannot withhold ... profound regret for the melancholy fate of that portion of the crew who are still missing and who it is to be feared have found a watery grave.
"During this sad catastrophe the sea was running high and the wind very
fresh... I need not add that the loss of my own professional reputation,
necessarily incident to such an accident occasioned very slight regrets
compared to the depths of sorrow I endure for the missing - and heartfelt
sympathy entertained for the anxious and bereaved families and friends
- I am sure you understand the workings of the heart sufficiently to render
it unnecessary for me to essay to unfold mine in written terms...."
Lieutenant Guthrie finished this doleful letter with a request for Superintendent
Bache to notify the Secretary of the Navy and "obtain for me a court of
inquiry and investigation." Bache replied to this letter on June 25: "I
have telegraphed to request a detailed report of the circumstances of the
disaster to the "Walker" as the one now made gives no idea of the facts
of the case...."
Guthrie responded with additional detail:
"... On the night of the 21st about 2:20 A.M., I was awakened by an unusual noise on deck, and my first thought was that the 1st officer was getting a cast of the lead, but soon after heard the Executive Officer tell some one to call the Captain - an officer came down and reported to me that the vessel was sinking - I went on deck and directed her to be headed inshore, and to give her all the steam speed possible, seeing Absecum Light distinctly - being about West - Nor. West - distant about nine miles ....
"A schooner was near us, which I hailed and requested to keep by as
we were sinking - soon after this the engineer reported the fires extinguished
- and the water gaining very rapidly on us - I had previously sent men
down in the coal bunkers to see if the leak could be stopped in any possible
way - twas found to be impracticable - finding she must inevitably go down
soon - I directed the mainmast to be cut away - the boats to be lowered
and some of the ladders to be towed astern for buoys - and also directed
the quartermaster to get a cast of the lead - he reported five fathoms
water - Soon after she sunk. It was found two of the boats had been crushed
.... the two remaining ones picked up what portion of the crew they thought
they could carry in safety; Nothing was saved, except what was on and about
the persons of those who were rescued - all the Note Books, Instruments,
charts of the vessel etc. went down with her and as all the records are
gone - I have to depend upon memory for the facts - all of which it is
impossible to remember distinctly...."
Lieutenant Guthrie continued with the thought that the steamer might
be raised or that the engines and machinery could be recovered. This was
erroneous as the steamer had sunk in approximately 13 fathoms instead of
the 5 fathoms that Guthrie initially thought and was about 12 miles offshore
instead of the 5 to 6 miles reported. If there is any criticism of Guthrie,
it is that he had no idea where his ship was when it was struck and also
that he was not awake and on deck as his vessel had just passed the busy
entrance to Delaware Bay and would be approaching progressively more congested
waters as it approached New York City. However, Lieutenant Guthrie's second
letter seemed to appease Superintendent Bache as he wrote back on July
6, "If your desk could be procured containing the papers of the survey,
it would be worth $2500 and if the engines or parts of it can be had it
would help us materially." He also advised Guthrie "to consult the District
Attorney, for which I will pay, as to the propriety of libeling the Sch.
Fanny, making in conjunction with Mr. Seawell statement of facts to him
upon which he will ground his opinion." In spite of the fact that the FANNY
had sailed into Cape May harbor "with a rent in her foresail, her head
spars carried away and her cutwater injured" and "the time of her arrival
was such as to make it almost certain that she was the author of the accident,"
the captain and owners must have threatened a libel suit against Lieutenant
Guthrie for suggesting to the press that it could have been their vessel
that had collided with the WALKER.
Bache also requested that Executive Officer Joseph Seawell write a report
detailing his recollections concerning the accident. Seawell wrote that
a schooner was observed one point on the starboard bow on the morning of
the 21st, that the WALKER was slowed to take a cast of the lead, and after
resuming on course, the schooner had crossed the WALKER's bow and was then
on the port side. To open the distance between the vessels, Seawell had
the helm put "aport", meaning in the jargon of the times to come to starboard.(59)
After putting the helm "aport," he noticed that the light of the schooner
remained on a constant bearing indicating that the schooner had come "astarboard."
Collision was inevitable as the WALKER was too slow (making about 5 knots
in a head sea) to get out of the way of the onrushing schooner which was
probably making close to 10 knots. The schooner first struck the WALKER
on the port bow, recoiled and struck the steamer again close to midships,
and then passed down the port side and continued on without stopping.
Seawell had the captain notified, mustered men from below on deck, sent
men down to attempt stopping the leaks with mattresses and canvass to no
avail, manned pumps which were unable to keep up with the rising water,
commenced chopping down the main mast to make a raft to save part of the
crew, trailed the starboard boats (the port boats had been crushed) astern
in readiness for loading the crew, and pointed the WALKER towards the shore.
(Seawell takes credit for these actions as did Lieutenant Guthrie.) When
it became apparent the ship would not stay afloat and the boiler fires
had been extinguished by the rising waters, the crew lined up and without
pushing or panic commenced loading the boats. Probably they were not aware
that there was insufficient room for all of them on the boats; as soon
as the boats were loaded to what was considered a safe limit for the conditions,
the order was given to "shove off." This left about twenty to thirty men
on the deck of the ship including Joseph Seawell.
Unfortunately, as the vessel went down the mainmast became fouled in
the boat davits and was carried under leaving little additional raft material
to which the remaining crew could cling. As the vessel was sinking below
the waves, the crew dove off the ship until only Seawell remained on board.
A contemporary newspaper account described what occurred next:
"... He waited until the vessel took the last plunge and then jumped head foremost into the sea with the view of clearing the whirlpool occasioned by the sinking ship. As he sprang forward one of his feet got entangled in a rope attached to the part of the vessel upon which he was standing, and he was drawn down till the steamer reached the 'ocean floor.'
"Mr. Seawell's sensations were doubtless strange, as he was twisted
around several times by the eddying waves. While in this perilous position
anchored, as it were, to the wreck, Mr. S. pulled a knife out of his pocket,
and tried to cut the rope which held him. Before he could do this, he felt
himself rising to the surface again, and as he ascended, he experienced
the same spiral motion, or turning round, but in reverse order from when
he went down."
When he surfaced, he came up a short distance from three crewmen who
were clinging to flotsam and they assisted him in extricating himself from
the rope. Ultimately, they were picked up by the schooner R. G. PORTER
with the rest of the survivors and transported to Cape May, New Jersey,
and from there to the Brooklyn Navy Yard. Following Superintendent Bache's
allusion to "libeling" the FANNY, there seemed to be little additional
effort to conduct an investigation into either the causes of the accident
or the placing of blame.
After receiving initial information, Superintendent Bache seemed to
have lost interest in the disaster except only from the standpoint of the
lost data and the effect on future productivity. Apparently, the Navy also
had little interest in pursuing an investigation of this disaster and giving
Lieutenant Guthrie a hearing. Although he had initially requested a hearing,
Guthrie made no further requests and seemed to be content to let matters
be. He was, however, very concerned with his pocketbook and requested that
transportation of surviving officers and crew from Cape May to the Brooklyn
Navy Yard be paid for by the Government and also requested that the officers
receive a few months' pay to cover the cost of their personal effects lost
in the disaster. He made no such request for the crew. Superintendent Bache
wrote back that he certainly would see to it that the individuals providing
transportation to the officers and crew would receive payment, but that
it was beyond his control and would require an act of Congress to provide
the officers with any additional pay.
By September, Superintendent Bache apparently made the decision that
he no longer required or wanted Guthrie assigned to the Coast Survey. A
naval officer assigned to the office apprised Guthrie of this who then
wrote the Superintendent expressing surprise. Bache wrote back assuring
him of no animosity; however, Guthrie received orders assigning him to
the Sloop-of-War SARATOGA on October 6, 1860. Perhaps this was purely coincidental,
but it appears that Guthrie was eased out of the Survey. He remained in
the United States Navy until July 13, 1861, when he joined the Confederacy.
While under his command, the C. S. S. CHATTAHOOCHEE was accidentally sunk
by the explosion of her boilers on May 27, 1863, while preparing to sail
from its anchorage at Blountstown, Florida. This disaster took eighteen
lives. It appears that it was very unlucky to sail with Lieutenant John
J. Guthrie no matter under what flag he served.
The forgotten men of this tragedy were those who lost their lives in
the early morning hours of June 21, 1860. They were:
Henry H. Reed Captain of the Forecastle Timothy Conner Quarter Gunner
Jeremiah Coffey Cooper
Joseph M. Brown Quartermaster
Michael M. Lee Ship's Cook
Marquis Bonevento Officers' Steward
James Patterson Officers' Cook
Michael Allman Seaman
John Driscoll Seaman
Robert Wilson Seaman
Cornelius Crowe Ordinary Seaman
Charles Miller Ordinary Seaman
George M. Johnston Landsman
Samuel Sizer First Class Fireman
Peter Conway First Class Fireman
Daniel Smith First Class Fireman
John Farron Second Class Fireman
James Farron Second Class Fireman
Joseph Bates Second Class Fireman
George Price Second Class Fireman
Coast Survey vessels and crews often assisted other vessels in distress
and the citizens of the areas in which they were working. In the 1850's
Coast Survey vessels on the East and Gulf Coasts towed 4 damaged vessels
to port; assisted seven vessels that had gone aground; saved some fishermen
from drowning; sheltered and transported to safety the victims of two ship
wrecks; helped save two vessels, two towns, and one fort from fire; and
assisted two U.S. Navy vessels, one by towing and the other by piloting.
The Coast Survey Steamer VIXEN took part in five of these episodes, while
the steamer HETZEL and schooner VARINA netted four apiece.
Most vessels to which assistance was rendered were of American registry.
An exception to this occurred on August 14, 1856, when sailors from the
VIXEN, Lieutenant Commanding S.D. Trenchard, manned the pumps of the British
bark ADIEU off Cape Ann, Massachusetts, "bound to Boston, laden with railroad
iron and sugar, and in a sinking condition -- her officers and crew much
exhausted from constant labor at the pumps." The VIXEN towed the ADIEU
into port and received the thanks of the British consul at Boston.(60)
A second instance of helping foreign registry vessels occurred in February,
1860, when "... the Russian bark VESTA ran on the north breaker at Ossabaw
entrance and was wrecked. Her officers and crew were received and sheltered
for the night in the VARINA, and by the co-operation of Lieut. Comg. Fauntleroy
and his party the cargo and stores of the vessel were ultimately saved
to the owners."(61) This assistance was
acknowledged "in suitable terms" by the Russian vice-consul at Savannah.
Most offers of assistance involving saving of life and property were
altruistically motivated. However, officers and crew alike were not above
accepting remuneration for services rendered if offered. The "suitable
terms" of thanks tendered by the Russian vice-consul could have referred
to payment for the officers and crew of the VARINA as there was no stigma
attached to government officers receiving material rewards for using their
office to assist private citizens in distress in mid-Nineteenth Century
America. In 1857, the ship HETZEL under Commander William T. Muse discovered
the ship MANLIUS of Boston off the Virginia Capes in danger of sinking.
Muse sent Lieutenants R. D. Minor and Bayard E. Hand and 24 crew members
aboard the sinking ship. They manned the pumps and managed to save the
vessel. "In testimony of their appreciation of this service, the owners
of the vessel presented, through the Treasury Department, to Lieutenants
R. D. Minor and Bayard E. Hand, U. S. N., each a gold chronometer watch,
and forwarded at the same time a contribution in money, which was divided
amongst the crew engaged in the relief of their ship...."(62)
This contribution was $20 dollars per man, the equivalent of over 1 and
½ months' pay for each man taking part in the rescue.
Although there were only two recorded occurrences of assistance to United
States Navy vessels prior to the Civil War, one was a precursor to the
naval role of Coast Surveyors during that conflict. Captain David G. Farragut,
commanding officer of the United States Sloop-of-War BROOKLYN, wrote Superintendent
Bache on February 17, 1859:
"Sir permit me thus to acknowledge the great service I have received
from the Coast Survey, through the kindness of Mr. C.O. Boutelle, chief
of the party encamped at Land's End, mouth of Beaufort river, South Carolina,
who volunteered his services, and handsomely piloted this ship up to within
four and a half miles of the town of Beaufort and down again; and continued
to extend every assistance and courtesy in his power during our stay in
Curiously, this was a forerunner of Boutelle's role at the Battle of Port Royal 2 ½ years later in which he was the chief pilot taking Union vessels into Port Royal Sound, close to the waters in which he was piloting the BROOKLYN. The lesson was not lost on Farragut, as three years later he used Coast Surveyors to pilot vessels across the bar of the Southwest Pass of the Mississippi while preparing to launch his expedition against New Orleans.
The Army was assisted by the Coast Survey on at least one occasion during
these years. While the VARINA and R. J. WALKER were engaged in hydrographic
work at Pensacola, Florida, a fire occurred at Fort Pickens on the night
of January 20, 1857. The crew of both vessels "promptly repaired to the
scene of the disaster" and "co-operated in the measures taken to stop the
destruction of property." Functioning as fire-fighters was not limited
to Army forts as the towns of Beaufort, South Carolina, and Apalachicola,
Florida, both sent messages of thanks to Superintendent Bache for the assistance
rendered by Coast Survey parties in stopping the spread of disastrous fires.(64)
The Coast Survey compiled a respectable record of assisting fellow mariners
and the citizens of coastal towns during the years before the Civil War.
Often Coast Survey vessels were the only representatives of the United
States Government for hundreds of miles, and no other assistance was available
in the event of emergency. While working in coastal towns, the able-bodied
men who worked on the Coast Survey vessels were a welcome addition in the
event of disaster. Local knowledge possessed by Coast Surveyors was also
put to good use as in the instance of Assistant Boutelle piloting the BROOKLYN
up the Beaufort River. Although occasional monetary rewards were received,
the primary motivation for this work was the desire to help one's fellow
In 1852, Assistant George Wise painted in verse a humorous, though melancholy, view of life in the field for the average Coast Surveyor:
George D. Wise, Assistant,
U.S. Surveying Schooner FRANKLIN,
September 25, 1852.
1. Kundahl, George. 1994. The Private Journal of J. Morris Wampler. George Kundahl is the great-grandson of J. Morris Wampler and was given his journals and diaries by his mother. Mr. Kundahl has taken the time to transcribe these works for his family and has generously shared their contents with the Office of NOAA Corps Operations.
2. Samuel A. Gilbert, W. E. Greenwell, and Augustus
Rodgers had been working in the vicinity of Mobile; Gilbert had been in
charge of a triangulation party while Greenwell had been in charge of a
topographic party. Augustus Rodgers was the brother of Lieutenant John
Rodgers, U. S. N. Gilbert disembarked at Cincinnati and went for a short
time to his home in Zanesville, Ohio. An improving transportation system
with a plethora of steamboats and an expanding railroad network made it
possible for some of the Coast Survey personnel to maintain their homes
in the interior of the United States. It also greatly facilitated travel
between the various portions of the country as compared to the time of
George Davidson's mentor, Robert Fauntleroy, who died of cholera on the Texas coast on December 13, 1849, (Bache, A.D. 1850. The report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey ... 1850. House of Representatives Executive Document No. 12, 31st Congress, 2d Session. December 19, 1850. Appendix No. 28, p. 116.) maintained a home in New Harmony, Indiana, near the Wabash River. This house is still standing at New Harmony State Park. During the years that Davidson worked with Fauntleroy, they would spend a portion of each summer in New Harmony working up the results of the winter field work on the Gulf Coast.
3. Wampler certainly would have been thinking of Coast Survey Assistant Robert Fauntleroy who had died of cholera at Galveston December 13, 1849. Fauntleroy had just arrived in Galveston to begin the winter's work and began showing symptoms of the disease on the morning of the 13th and died 13 hours later.
5. The "Instruments' legs" referred to his plane table tripod, which was constructed with a special head that allowed an observer to level and orient the plane table. The "umbrella" was used to shade the plane table alidade (the observing instrument) from the direct rays of the sun which helped it remain properly leveled.
6. Camp Whiting was named for Assistant Henry Laurens Whiting, the dean of Coast Survey topographers. Whiting was the chief of party on this particular survey and had a number of young Sub-Assistants working with him including Wampler, A.M. Harrison, Spencer C. McCorkle, and R. M. Bache. It is possible that Camp Whiting was merely Wampler's name for the camp because of its association with Whiting and not the formal name of the camp.
7. "Wing and wing" is a sailing term referring to wind and sea coming from directly astern and sails out to both sides of the vessel to maximize speed of vessel. Steering a vessel under such conditions is difficult and the vessel tends to roll more than if the wind is coming from the port or starboard quarter.
8. A declinator or declinatoire is a combined magnetic compass and straight-edge, used with a plane table to mark the magnetic meridian. See: Glossary of Mapping, Charting, and Geodetic Terms, Fourth Edition, 1981. Department of Defense, Defense Mapping Agency, Hydrographic/ Topographic Center, Washington, D.C. 20315.
10. It is unclear if Potter and Drew were residents of Galveston or members of the NYMPH's crew. Either way, Wampler's nonchalant description of this event and the apparent lack of any residual animosity toward Drew were remarkable.
14. Rogers, F. 1855. An Account of the Measurement of Two Base Lines in Florida, Section VI, United States Coast Survey. In: Journal of The Franklin Institute, Third Series, Volume XXX, Whole No. Volume LX. No. 6, December 1855. p. 361-372. Franklin Institute, Philadelphia.
16. Fairman Rogers fully described the measurement procedures in the first half of his article on measuring base lines in Florida. Journal of the Franklin Institute, Third Series, Vol. XXX. December, 1855. p. 361-372.
17. Rogers, F. 1869. Biographical Notice of Prof. Alexander Dallas Bache. Journal of the Franklin Institute. Third Series, Vol. LVII, Whole No. Vol. LXXXVII. No. 5, May, 1869. p. 353-360. Franklin Institute, Philadelphia
20. It is improbable that Bache felt these huge rocks had been left in place as the result of a great flood. Bache's good friend, Louis Agassiz, was the first to realize that much of the Northern Hemisphere had been covered with large glaciers in the recent geologic past. Being familiar with Agassiz's theory, Bache more probably hypothesized that these huge boulders were left behind with the retreat of glaciers as opposed to carried to their location by floodwaters.
22. Shaw, H. S. 1932. Jefferson Davis: An Early Friend of the Coast Survey In: Association of Field Engineers U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey Bulletin, No. 5, June 1932. p. 14-17. This article also includes extracts from the work of Varina Davis.
23. Maria Mitchell, who spent the summer of 1849 on Mt. Independence, Maine, with Bache's triangulation and astronomic party wrote of seeing "the tents of the party, like a snowcap upon the mountain-top ...." (In: Wright, Helen, Sweeper in the Sky, The MacMillan Company, New York. 1949. p. 73.
24. During the 1850's the Coast Survey operated many similar vessels including the AGASSIZ, ARAGO, B. SILLIMAN, BALTIMORE, BANCROFT, BELLE, BENJAMIN PEIRCE, BOLLES, BOUNCER, BOWDITCH, BRISK, CRAWFORD, EWING, F.H. GERDES, FAUNTLEROY, FRANKLIN, G.M. BACHE, GRAHAM, HASSLER, HOWELL COBB, HUMBOLDT, J. GUTHRIE, J. W. BAILEY, J.W. DANA, JAMES HALL, JOHN TORREY, JOHN Y. MASON, JOSEPH HENRY, MADISON, MARCY, MEREDITH, MORRIS, NAUTILUS, NYMPH, PETREL, PHOENIX, SOPHIA, TOM GEDNEY, TWILIGHT, and VARINA. The majority of these were schooners with length ranging from 60 feet to 85 feet. These vessels were used as transportation, living quarters for field parties, and as tenders for the larger hydrographic ships. They were generally manned by civilians and often the senior Coast Survey Assistant would double as sailing master and commanding officer of the vessel as well as being responsible for conducting survey operations.
25. Julius Erasmus Hilgard became the fifth Superintendent of the Coast Survey in 1880 following the death of Carlisle Pollock Patterson. Thus the PHOENIX had the distinction of being commanded by two future superintendents of the Coast Survey.
28. Hilgard, J. E. 1855. Letter of Assistant J. E. Hilgard, on the action of sea-water upon metals used in the construction of instruments, and on magnetic needles. In: Bache, A. D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 55. p. 192* - *193. (Appendices for 1854 employed a page numbering system designated by asterisks. The asterisks were placed to the right of even numbers and to the left of odd numbers.)
29. Harris, J. M. Ca. 1900. Autobiography of Joseph Smith Harris. Unpublished. Pages 31-65 have many references to Joseph Harris's experience with the Coast Survey. Pages 49-61 are particularly concerned with his field experiences including much information on life on the PHOENIX. This manuscript is archived at the U.S. Army Military History Institute, Carlisle Barracks, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. His autobiography includes one of the few accounts of day-to-day life on one of the small Coast Survey vessels operated by civilian Coast Surveyors and used for the transportation of triangulation and topographic crews. The first 183 pages of this document include Harris's early life up through the Civil War. Following one year on the Coast Survey, he served on the International Boundary Survey of the 49th Parallel for many years and then volunteered for Coast Survey service on the Mississippi River with Farragut and Porter during the New Orleans campaign. His experiences on the Mississippi River are detailed on p. 156-169.
31. Bache, A. D. 1850. Letter from the Secretary of the Treasury Transmitting The report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey, showing the progress of that work during the year ending November, 1850. House of Representatives Executive Document No. 12, 31st Congress, 2d Session. December 19, 1850. Appendix No. 22. Letters and reports relating to the stranding of the steamer Hetzel, near Cape Canaveral, and her subsequent relief, &c. p. 99 - 105.
35. Bache, A. D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. Appendix No. 70, Letter of the Superintendent, transmitting report of the Commission, called at the request of the Hon. Secretary of the Navy, to investigate the causes which led to the explosion of a boiler of the Coast Survey steamer Hetzel, in August, 1855. p. 335-340.
36. Harrison, A. M. 1856. Report of Assistant A.M. Harrison, on the circumstances attending disaster to the surveying schooner Benjamin Peirce, by the drifting to her quarters of the burning steamer Seminole, at Jacksonville, Florida. In: Bache, A. D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. Appendix No. 71. p. 341-342. The above excerpt was from the report of Sailing-Master P.R. Hawley to Assistant A.M. Harrison, dated January 6, 1856.
38. Gerdes, F. H. 1855. Extracts from letters of Assistant F. H. Gerdes to the Superintendent, in relation to the stranding of the schooner "Gerdes," in a hurricane near Fourchon Pass, Gulf of Mexico, on the night of March 30, 1854. In: Bache, A. D. 1855. Report of the Superintendent ... 1854. Appendix No. 59.
40. These were Second Assistant Engineer Washington H. Nones, U. S. N., and Third Assistant Engineer George E. Shock, U. S. N. The following year, Lieutenant Commanding T. A. M. Craven, in command of the Coast Survey steamer CORWIN, while surveying the Florida reefs was sent to Havana in order to convey diplomatic messages to Charleston, South Carolina, in relation to the seizure of the steamship BLACK WARRIOR. Upon return to the working grounds "when sickness broke out among his crew, one case of which terminated fatally, and obliged him to return to New York." (Report of the Superintendent of the Coast Survey... 1854. pp. 65-66.)
43. Lieutenant Ralph Chandler, 1829-1889. Chandler rose to the rank of Rear Admiral before dying while on duty as commander of the Asia Station. He served a little over five years on the Coast Survey from July, 1855, to August, 1860.
49. Bache, A. D. 1858. Letter of the superintendent to the Secretary of the Treasury, communicating the discovery of a small shoal southward and westward of Little George's Bank, by Lieutenant Commanding C. R. P. Rodgers, U. S. N., assistant in the Coast Survey. In: Bache, A. D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. Appendix No. 12. p. 150.
51. Lieutenant Commanding John P. Bankhead, U. S. N., (??? - 1867,) served only a little over a year on the Coast Survey. He rose to the rank of Captain. Bankhead commanded the U.S.S. MONITOR when it foundered off Cape Hatteras on December 31, 1862.
56. Murray, A. 1861. Report of Lieut. Comg. Alexander Murray, U. S. N., Assistant Coast Survey, relative to the Labrador eclipse expedition.... In: Bache, A. D. Report of the Superintendent ... 1860. Appendix No. 41. p. 400.
58. Correspondence and newspaper accounts of the sinking of the Coast Survey Steamer R. J. WALKER are found in: National Archives, Record Group 23, microfilm collection MF642, Roll 220, Volume IX, pp. 207-261. This includes correspondence from Lieutenant John J. Guthrie, Superintendent Bache, and executive officer Joseph A. Seawell. There are also a number of contemporary newspaper accounts of the circumstances surrounding the sinking. However, the newspapers in which the articles were published are not identified. There is a full crew list for the WALKER included in: MF 642, Roll 220, Volume VIII, p. 155-156. There are lists of casualties in: Roll 220, Volume VIII, p. 157; Roll 220, Volume IX, p. 250; and in newspaper accounts on Roll 220, Volume IX, p. 217-221.
59. The terminology refers to steering with a tiller. If a tiller is put "aport," a vessel will turn to the right or to starboard. Conversely, if a tiller is put "astarboard," the vessel will turn to the left or to port. This terminology persisted for many years after the introduction of rudders for which a wheel or lever manipulated to the right will cause the vessel to turn to the right (starboard,) or if manipulated to the left will cause the vessel to turn to the left (port.)
60. Trenchard, S. D. 1856. Letters to the secretary of the Treasury, transmitting a communication from Lieut. Comg. S. D. Trenchard, U. S. N., Assistant in the Coast Survey, relative to the rescue, by his party, of the British barque "Adieu".... In: Bache, A. D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. Appendix No. 69. p. 35.
62. Minor, R. D. and Muse, W. T. 1858. Reports of Commander W. T. Muse and Lieutenant R. D. Minor, U. S. N., Assistants in the Coast Survey, on the rescue of the American ship MANLIUS from sinking near Cape Henry by the officers and crew of the Coast Survey steamer HETZEL. In: Bache, A. D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. p. 37 (Bache's report) and Appendix No. 53, p. 434-436.
63. Farragut, D. G. 1860. Letter addressed to the Superintendent by Captain David G. Farragut, U. S. N., on visiting Beaufort river, South Carolina, with the United States steamship Brooklyn. Written on the United States Sloop-of-War BROOKLYN at Beaufort Roads, South Carolina, February 17, 1859. In: Bache, A. D. 1860. Report of the Superintendent ... 1859. Appendix No. 38.
64. The Fort Pickens fire was reported in: Bache, A. D. 1858. Report of the Superintendent ... 1857. p. 93 and p. 102; the Beaufort, S.C., fire was reported in: Bache, A. D. 1856. Report of the Superintendent ... 1856. p. 59; the Apalachicola, Florida, fire was reported in: Bache, A. D. 1861. Report of the Superintendent ... 1860. p. 82-83.