USS Constellation - Painting by Rear Admiral John W. Schmidt
[Wikipedia - USS Constellation was a 38-gun frigate, one of the "Six Original Frigates" authorized for construction by the Naval Act of 1794 and was distinguished as the first U.S. Navy vessel to put to sea and the first U.S. Navy ship to engage and defeat an enemy vessel. Constructed in 1797, she was decommissioned in 1853.] *1
Introduction - Alden Bradford Spooner was born on June 6, 1824. He was 15 when he joined the US Navy. At age 16 he was transferred to the USS Constellation. During the entire journey of the Constellation, 1840-1844, Spooner kept a journal. His journal entries record the status of the ship, the time and mileage between ports and departures. He makes note of nearby ships, cannon salutes, dignitaries that board the ship, deaths, lashings, and special happenings. There are pauses in his journal entries when the ship is at sea. Spooner's journal entries contain nothing of a personal nature. It is as if the ship were writing the journal.
Note: Quotation marks ( "" ) define exact quotes, which include misspellings and lack of punctuation. Square brackets ([ ]) define annotations. Links to reference matter will be defined by an asterisk with a number (*1). Links to reference information are located at the end of the text.
The Annotated Journal of Alden Bradford Spooner
October 27, 1840 "A journal of the U. S. Ship Constellation"
"Navy yard Charleston Massachusatts tuesday October th 27 1840"
[The Constellation's mission was to safeguard American lives and property against loss in the Opium Wars, and to enable negotiation of commercial treaties. In May 1843 she entered the Hawaiian Islands, helping to keep them from becoming a British protectorate, and thereafter she sailed homeward making calls at South American Ports.] *2
"Monday th2 [December] Mustard the crew and red the articles of war"
"Departure Sunday th6 (December) Strong winds with snow" [The destination of the Constellation was Rio de Janeiro]
"Sunday th13 [December] A gail under closs reef top sails a fid of ion fell from the mizen top and struck a seamen on the back part of the hed rendering him lifeless . . . a heavy sea all night"
"Tuesday Junary 5 1841 Punished 3 men 1 with 3 one with 4 and one with 6 lashes"
[Flogging with the Cat O' Nine Tails was common practice aboard the Constellation. One man was flogged 26 times for cursing the flag. Congress banned flogging in September 1850.]
"Sunday Junary th24 1841 Distance from Boston to Riode Janeiro 6170 miles 41 days"
[Three U. S. War ships were anchored in the harbor at time of arrival, the Boston, the Yorktown, and the Dale. The ships greeted each other with gun salutes.]
"Tuesday February 16th 1841 saluted the Empreor of Brazils with 21 guns and maned yards And hoisted the Brazilian flage at the fore"
[As naval customs evolved, the 21-gun salute came to be reserved for heads of state.]
"Rio de Janeiro Wednesday Febuary 24 1841 30 men and 6 Boys went on shore H. R. Miller belonging to the U. S. Ship Constelation was kiled by a stab from a boy J. Norel belonging to the said ship"
"Monday March 8th 1841 Got under way and went to sea Lay in port 42 days"
"Monday, April 5th 1841 Came to with our Starbord ankor in Table Bay [South Africa]
Saluted the English flag with 21 guns On our pasadge from Rio Degno to the Cape of Goodhope 28 days Distance 3485"
[South Africa - Table Mountain overlooks Table Bay and the city of Cape Town.]
[The Cape of Good Hope, colloquially know as Cape Colony, was a British Colony from 1814 to 1872. Before the British, the Dutch East India Company had control. The colony was founded as a resupply and layover port for the East India Company trading ships] *3
Saturday April 24 1841 . . ."Got under way Lay in port 19 days"
"Sundy 4th [July] 1841 served out an extra allounance groge to the crew Hoisted A American Encign at the fore and mizen At 8am fired a National salute of 21 guns At sunset fired a salute of 17 guns Surfed out A extra alouce of grog and another in the evening"
Vice Admiral Edward Vernon By Thomas Gainsborough
[Grog originally referred to a drink made with rum and water, which British Vice Admiral Edward Vernon introduced into the naval squadron he commanded in the West Indies on August 21, 1740. Admiral Vernon wore a coat of grogram cloth and was nicknamed Old Grogram or Old Grog.] *4
[Returned to Capetown] "Saturday July 24th 1841 Came to with the Starboard ankor in Table Bay Recived the new of the Deth of Genaral William H Harrison Pressiden of the u N. S. Hlf mass the Collors Fired A salute of 26 Minet guns"
[William Henry Harrison, the 9th President of the United States, died April 4, 1841 on his 32nd day in office of complications from pneumonia.] *5
"Saturday July 31th 1841 . . . At 6 P.M. got under way The [USS] Boston in company
3 Months and 27 days on the Cost of Africa" [Wikipedia - The fourth USS Boston was an 18-gun sloop of war . . . The Boston cruised the East Indies (1841-43)]
"Friday August 27th 1841 . . . 27 days on our pasage from Capetown to the island of Johanna"
[Johanna is one of the four Comoro Islands located between the north point of Madagascar and the African coast. The harbor at Johanna was small but deep. Ships stopped to resupply. Cattle, fowl, potatoe, yams, cocoa nuts were at a low cost and plentiful.]
"Saturday August 28th 1841 recived the King of Mohilla and Johanna saluted him with 3 guns on leaving him 13 guns"
"Wednesday September 8th 1841 . . . Called all hands up anchor
Boston in company laid at Johanna 11 days distance 3212 m."
"Thursday September 30th 1841 . . . At 6 P. M. John C Richardson departed his life with the brain fever"
"Friday October 2th 1841 Arrived at Quallabatoo" [ Kuala Batèë, Sumatra]
"Tuesday October 3th 1841 . . . Johanna to Quillabatoo 25 days distance 3385 m"
[The Constellation anchored with caution. A white flag was raised, the USS Boston was nearby. The crew was mustered and read the Articles of War]
[ Three years earlier in 1831 - An America merchant ship came into the chiefdom of Kuala Batèë to purchase a cargo of black pepper. The crew was massacred and the ship looted. One year later, February 1832, the USS Frigate Potomac arrived at Kuala Batèë; the settlement was bombed and the locals defeated. Shipping continued without incident for 6 years until another ship was attacked. In January 1838 the US decided to send in the big guns. Warship Columbia and John Adams set sail for Sumatra. Upon arrival at the chiefdom they commenced firing. The chief surrendered and agreed never again to attack American ships.] *6
"Tuesday October 5th 1841 The comedore accompanied by a member of officers of the squadran paid a visit to the Rajah"
"Wednesday October 6th 1841 One of the Ships boats capcized on the bar at the mouth of the river and a man Thomas Spauldin was drounded"
"Friday October 8th 1841 Departure The Rajah of SuSu visited the ship and on leaving was saluted with 3 guns"
[The next day due to a squall, shallow water, and the need to tow the ship to deeper water, the Constellation managed to get underway. The annotated journal of Alden Bradford Spooner will continue on the next post. ]
*1 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Constellation_(1797)
*2 - http://www.historicships.org/constellation.html
*3 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cape_Colony
*4 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Edward_Vernon
*5 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Henry_Harrison
*6 - https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Sumatran_expedition