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The ten years of Buchanan's life, from 1835 to 1845, was a period of varied and rather unrelated experiences, almost as miscellaneous as the articles which found their way in the old navy into the Lucky Bag on shipboard, or as divergent as the "cabbages and kings" among the "many things" cited by Lewis Carroll's Walrus to the Oysters on that memorable occasion as topics of conversation.
Before the expiration of his three months' leave, which had been granted on his arrival from the last Mediterranean cruise, Buchanan requested, on January 24, 1835, duty on the Receiving Ship at Baltimore. This request was not granted, nor his renewed application for the same position, on March 27. Meanwhile, however, he had been more successful in other quarters to gaining his heart's desire, for on February 19, 1835 he was married in Annapolis to Miss Anne Catherine Lloyd. The ceremony was performed by Doctor George McElhiney, Rector of St. Anne's Church.1 It is thought p75 by Buchanan's daughters that their parents first met at the wedding of Lieutenant Charles Lowndes, United States Navy, to their mother's sister Sally Scott Lloyd, on May 4, 1824, when Buchanan was enjoying a short vacation from pirate-hunting in the West Indies. If this is true, Anne Lloyd was at that time only sixteen years old, as she was born January 14, 1808.
Courtesy of Mrs. Elizabeth Buchanan Sullivan
Mrs. Franklin Buchanan was the daughter of Governor Edward Lloyd and Sally Scott (Murray) Lloyd. The Lloyd family was one of the most distinguished in Maryland. The first Edward Lloyd, of Welsh ancestors who had settled in Virginia, came to Maryland in 1649 and made his home on Greeberryº Point near Annapolis. Later, he acquired an estate in Talbot County, across the Chesapeake Bay, in that portion of Maryland known as the "Eastern Shore", and here built in 1668 a mansion which he called Wye House. Meanwhile, he had become highly influential in the affairs of the colony. In 1650 Governor Stone appointed him Commander of Anne Arundel County, and for several years he was also Privy Counsellor of Maryland. The bulk of the estate, constantly increasing, descended from generation to generation to the eldest son, usually named Edward, who always occupied a prominent position socially and politically. Edward Lloyd V, the father of Mrs. Franklin Buchanan, was a Representative in Congress, 1806‑1809, Governor of Maryland, 1809‑1811, and United States Senator, 1819‑1826. His sister, Mary Tayloe, was the wife of Francis Scott Key, author of the "Star-Spangled Banner", their marriage ceremony having been performed in the beautiful Annapolis mansion, often known p76 as the "Chase House",2 which was purchased by Edward Lloyd IV and used by his son as the Governor's Mansion. Governor Lloyd died the year previous to the marriage of his daughter Anne and Franklin Buchanan, on June 2, 1834, at the early age of fifty‑six, his wife outliving him many years until May 9, 1854. According to the Baltimore Patriot he was "as remarkable for the munificence of his private hospitality as for his public spirit".
Buchanan's pay, at the time of his marriage, was only $1200 a year, as he was then "waiting orders";3 but the purchasing power of money was much higher then than now, and it was July 30, 1836 before he made application for the position, then newly created, of Assistant Inspector of Ordnance. This request was granted, and on August 25 he was ordered to Norfolk to assist the members of a board, composed of Commodore Morris and Captains Thomas ap Catesby Jones, Shubrick, Kearny, and Conner, in testing the safety and efficiency of medium and light guns. This duty did not keep him on active service long, however; and on November 18 he was again placed on the list of those "waiting orders".
But later in the same year Buchanan was appointed to command the Receiving Ship4 at Baltimore, and was p77 engaged in the monotonous routine of this shore duty for more than two years. On March 7, 1839, he wrote Secretary of the Navy James K. Paulding, requesting orders as flag lieutenant of Commodore Claxton's squadron, "in consequence of the prospect of a difficulty between our country and Great Britain". This trouble grew out of a dispute over the Maine boundary, which in the year 1838 led the state of Maine in the "Aroostook War" to attempt to seize a portion of the disputed territory. Buchanan, now eager to embrace any opportunity for active service and advancement in his profession, was granted his request, his orders being dated April 27, 1839. The flagship of Commodore Claxton's squadron was the famous old frigate, the Constitution, then commanded by Captain Daniel Turner. Accordingly, it became Buchanan's good fortune to serve in another of those ships whose glorious achievements had rendered illustrious the early pages of American naval history.
The trouble with Great Britain did not materialize in war, but was settled by arbitration in the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842. Commodore Claxton was, therefore, sent to command the Pacific Squadron based at Callao, Peru. The Constitution carried, besides the Commodore and her Captain, eight lieutenants, five passed midshipmen, fifteen midshipmen, two assistant surgeons, and the purser, who was McKean Buchanan, Franklin Buchanan's elder brother. This was the only ship in which the two brothers saw service together during their entire naval careers. In all, the Constitution had a complement of 515 officers and men.a
The frigate sailed from New York, May 20, 1839, with the American Minister to Mexico, Powhatan Ellis, p78 as a passenger. This cruise has the unique distinction of having been described in a book by one of the sailors on board the Constitution, which is entitled "Life in a Man of War, or Scenes in 'Old Ironsides' during Her Cruise in the Pacific by a Fore‑top-man". This book gives one a full account of what life on board an American frigate in peace time was like in the old navy of sails, then on the point of disappearing forever. The author is filled with ardent admiration for the Constitution. For example, he records his feelings just before joining her as follows: "I perceived the old Constitution lying in the river, with her neat and faultless hull, and elegant tapering spars; she certainly was an object which the criticising eye of a sailor would wish to gaze ardently upon; she is at any time a superb looking frigate, and well may the American people be proud of her; but at this particular time, she looked to me all I could require for a three years' habitation; and her destination being the Pacific Ocean, I anxiously wished that no unforeseen accident would occur to prevent me from being enrolled among her crew. "5
There is also unusual praise for Buchanan in this book,b which without doubt gave the recipient great satisfaction on the publication of the volume in 1841. The incident recorded happened early in the afternoon of June 1st as the ship sped onward favored with lovely weather. Suddenly that ominous cry of "a man overboard" was heard throughout the ship. "Our maintopsail was quickly laid to the mast", writes the seaman-author, "the life-buoys cut away, and the life-boat, with a bold and determined crew, under the direction of our flag lieutenant, Mr. B. –––––, who in this as well as similar p79 instances during our cruise has always been one of the first individuals to jump into a boat when a shipmate was about to meet a watery grave, and by his prompt and energetic action, setting an example to the crew; were now pulling vigorously towards the person in the water, who could be perceived some short distance from the life-buoys striking out for the ship with 'might and main'." The man was rescued, and Buchanan had one more humanitarian deed to his credit.
On July 19, the American minister was landed at Vera Cruz, and the ship proceeded next day to Havana, arriving just in time to celebrate the Fourth of July in that port. From here the Constitution made a good run to Rio de Janeiro in fifty‑two days, arriving on August 27 and finding there the sloop St. Louis. On September 9, in company with this vessel, she sailed for the Pacific. Lovely weather continued. As the "Fore‑top-man" has it (for he was also a poet), —
"When from Brazil we sailed away,
All hearts were light, all spirits gay,
Joy beamed in every face.
And as our star-specked flag looked back,
Our frigate walked her foamy track
With dignity and grace.
With breeze auspicious on we flew,
The land soon dimmed upon our view,
Our tars smiled with delight;
And many a wish and many a prayer
Was offered to the breezes fair,
By all on board that night.
p80 And as we loosed each lofty sail,
And spread them to the favoring gale,
The work was done with glee;
For well we knew with this fair wind
We soon, with Heaven's assistance kind,
The Chilean shores would see. "6
But there was trouble in store. In the first place, after passing the Falkland Islands, when the weather began to grow colder, it became known that, though a mistake in provisioning the vessel, the grog was all expended. This was sad news to the sailors, about to face the rigorous cold of Cape Horn, who had rather have been deprived of food than their strong drink,
"For grog is our starboard, our larboard,
Our mainmast, our mizzen, our log —
At sea, or ashore, or when harbour'd,
The mariner's compass is grog. "7
Furthermore, the officers were saddened by the serious illness of Lieutenant R. R. Pinkham, who had been suffering from an abscess of the left lung since shortly after leaving Rio and died of the disease on October 28, after the ship had rounded the Cape.
The good weather held until they had come in sight of "the dreary and snow-capped summit of Cape Horn" on the 29th of September; then the following day there was a sudden change and a fierce gale began which buffeted "Old Ironsides" in the tempestuous seas for more than two weeks without intermission. By that time p81 the Cape had been doubled, and the ship turned northward, finding eventually more favourable wind and water and arriving on November 2 in safety at Valparaiso, Chile. Only two weeks were spent in this port, after which the Constitution sailed on to the base at Callao, Peru, which she reached on November 26th. After refitting and painting the vessel, off the Island of San Lorenzo, the crew were at liberty to enjoy the sights and pleasures of leave in Callao and also at Lima, the inland capital of the country, which they had ample time to see, as the ships remained at Callao until the last of February, 1840.c
A few days before the Constitution sailed, Buchanan was transferred to the Falmouth, commanded by Captain Isaac McKeever, for reasons set forth in the following letter to him from Commodore Claxton:
"Your letter of the 24th of January has been duly considered. I have partaken of the disappointment of your laudable wishes, in the recall of the Enterprise and Boxer, have witnessed your declining health, and, as your services of Flag Lt. may be more easily dispensed with than those of one for general duty, I hereby grant permission for your return to the United States, in the sloop of war Falmouth and, on your arrival there, you will report yourself to the Honorable Secretary of the Navy. Wishing you every happiness and a speedy return to the bosom of your family. "8
Besides Buchanan, the Falmouth carried as passengers Edwin Bartlett, United States Consul at Lima, and his wife, who were returning home. She sailed from p82 Callao on February 28th and, after an uneventful voyage by way of Valparaiso and Rio de Janeiro, arrived in New York on June 12, 1840. On receiving leave here for three months, Buchanan immediately joined his wife and three young daughters at Annapolis, then his place of residence. With the exception of a few week's duty at the Washington Navy Yard in November, 1841, he did not enter into active service again until April 5, 1842, when he was ordered to the steam frigate Mississippi as second in command. Meanwhile he had been promoted to the rank of commander on September 8, 1841.
Courtesy of Mrs. Franklin Buchanan Owen
The commanding officer of the Mississippi was Captain William D. Salter. There were five lieutenants, of whom Richard Wainwright was the fifth. Other officers aboard, who were to be associated with Buchanan at the Naval School, were Surgeon John A. Lockwood and Professor of Mathematics William Chauvenet. There were eight midshipmen and, as the vessel was propelled by steam, a chief engineer and six assistant engineers. She was then quite new, having been only recently launched at Philadelphia. This side-wheeler (for the first screw man-of‑war, Ericsson's Princeton, was not launched until 1843) was destined to have a remarkable career in the navy. When Buchanan reported for duty aboard her April 18, 1842, she had just arrived at Washington from New York in company with her sister ship, the Missouri. Here the vessels were visited by President Tyler, members of the cabinet and both Houses of Congress and the Diplomatic Corps, and officers of both army and navy. They were the "show" vessels of that day. They cost $567,408 apiece; had a tonnage of 1692 tons and a length of •225 feet, a beam of •40 feet, and a draft of •19 feet; carried two 10‑inch and eight 8‑inch p83 guns, and a crew of about 260 men; and were credited with an average and maximum speed of seven and ten knots respectively.
On May 24 the Mississippi proceeded to New York to coal and refit, and receive the remainder of her battery. Here she had other distinguished visitors, among whom were Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry, then commanding the New York Navy Yard, the American Minister to Belgium, and the captain of the French steam frigate Gomer. On July 28 the vessel sailed on a trial run to Key West, during which her performance was not very creditable. Captain Salter, writing on August 6, the day of her arrival at Key West, reported: "I am satisfied that it is impossible for this ship under her present rig of taut and heavy masts and yards, together with their squareness, to be able to make headway against a common nine knot breeze and head sea. . . . The ship was wet and so continued until the 3 August, when the wind veered and allowed me to use fore and aft sails, foresail, and both topsails, which has fully satisfied me that under steam alone, the ship as at present sparred will not be able to claw off a lee‑shore; in this opinion I am supported by Commander Buchanan, and have my doubts if she is not altogether unfitted for a cruising vessel in the Gulf. . . . In doubling Cape Hatteras we were twenty-four hours making seven miles."
After conveying to Pensacola the bearer of dispatches from the American Minister to Mexico, the ship returned to New York where she was ordered, November 7, to be "laid up" at the Boston Navy Yard. This order was at once carried out; and in the voyage north, Captain Salter reported, November 10, "Although we experienced heavy weather, the ship performed remarkably well and p84 the engine greatly improved and worked more satisfactory than heretofore in consequence of the late improvements". At Boston, the crew were transferred to the Ohio, though a part of them as well as some of the officers went to New York to the sloop Vincennes, which Buchanan had, on November 16, been ordered to command. In forwarding Buchanan's application for this command, Captain Salter wrote, "The high standing of this meritorious and accomplished officer the Department are already apprised of, and I take great satisfaction in bringing the same to the notice of the Honorable Secretary of the Navy, in the hope that he will give to him his favorable consideration".
There was some criticism of this appointment, which was said to have displeased "54 commanders and 28 Lieutenants" who had been passed over by the Secretary. The press, however, came to Buchanan's defense. For example, the following letter appeared in the New York Herald of November 27, 1842: "I do not wish to draw improper comparisons between officers, for I am well aware that many who have been passed over in the instance referred to are an ornament to the service, but if all that constitutes the officer and gentleman, the high toned man of honor with twenty-eight years' service in acquiring what all accord to him, the 'finished sailorman', was ever concentrated in one person, that one is Franklin Buchanan". "Sinbad" in the Journal of Commerce wrote of him in the same glowing terms.
Buchanan took command of the Vincennes on December 17, 1842. Though she was a sloop of only about 700 tons, she had already gained the distinction of being the first American man-of‑war to circumnavigate the globe and she was afterwards to be one of Perry's squadron p85 in the expedition to Japan. She had a crew of 217 officers and men; and among the former were Lieutenant Richard Wainwright and Surgeon John A. Lockwood, who had recently served with Buchanan on the Mississippi.
As a member of Commodore Charles Stewart's Home Squadron, the duties of the Vincennes were varied and numerous. She first sailed, January 24, 1843, to the old cruising ground for pirates and slavers off the southern coast of Cuba. After calling at Santiago, the ship arrived off the Isle of Pines February 19 where Buchanan dispatched an expedition in the launch, first cutter, and whale boat on the usual hunt for pirates. Two days afterward the pilot ran the Vincennes aground off Key Blanco, and only Buchanan's consummate seamanship saved the vessel from destruction. He thus describes the incident:9
"A boat was instantly sent to Trinidad for assistance and every exertion made to relieve her from her dangerous situation, by carrying out anchors astern, and lightening her of her water, shot, wet provisions, heavy spars, and other articles, but all our efforts failed, as the wind commenced blowing hard from the westward, and the swell on the bar increasing, the ship thumped heavily for some hours; no assistance arriving from Trinidad, and feeling confident she could not survive many more such heavy shocks, I gave orders 'as the last resort' to relieve her of her guns. While preparing to do so, I discovered she floated forward (having lightened her nearly a foot) and as a heavy squall was then rising to the northward and westward I determined to make the attempt to force her into deep water under a heavy press of sail, having previously ascertained by p86 sounding that we were in the shoalest water on the bank; with as little delay as possible, the topsails and courses were set, our cables and hawsers astern slipped, and all hands sent on the bowsprit and jib boom which tipped her sufficiently to relieve her keel; the squall struck her, and in a few minutes she was safely anchored in four fathoms of water, and I am happy to say without having sustained the slightest injury, and at this time is in perfect order for any service she may be called upon to perform."
It was, indeed, with thankfulness as well as patriotism that, the following day, the officers and crew celebrated Washington's Birthday, in honor of which a salute of 21 guns was fired. On March 4, the expedition returned with the report that orders had been carried out with the overhauling of only one suspicious vessel, and that she turned out to be legally flying the Spanish flag and so could not be molested. She was the Spanish brigantine Constancia, 240 tons, carrying a crew of forty-three men and armed with a long 12‑pounder and small arms and cutlasses; the slaver was from the coast of Africa and had on board 500 negroes, 34 having died and 2 jumped overboard during the passage.
The Vincennes then sailed to Vera Cruz to cooperate with the American Minister to Mexico, General Waddy Thompson, in making more secure the property and lives of American citizens in that unhappy country, then in a disturbed condition and at odds with the United States because of the establishment of the independence of the Republic of Texas. In this service, the ship made four voyages between Vera Cruz and Pensacola, during which Buchanan was kept in touch with Mexican affairs through Minister Thompson, and the American consuls p87 and merchants in that country; he had pleasant relations also with the captains of British, French, and Spanish men-of‑war who were at this time engaged in a similar service in those waters in defense of their nationals. This particular service came to an end with the arrival of the ship at Pensacola, March 1, 1844. Here the new commander of the Home Squadron, Commodore David Conner, soon arrived in his flagship, the Potomac, and on April 4 was received on board the Vincennes.
Through Commodore Conner, Buchanan received orders to take his vessel to Santo Domingo to protect American interests on that island. Arriving at Havana, May 4, he found his orders revoked and he accordingly returned to Pensacola; thence he was ordered to the coast of Texas. Off Galveston, May 22 and 26, the British brigs Cybele and Cato were aground and in danger, and were assisted by boats from the Vincennes in getting off safely. For this aid Buchanan received, on May 28th, the thanks of William Kennedy, Esquire, the British consul at Galveston, and of the masters of the ships; and later on August 3 a letter of commendation from the British Minister to Mexico, R. Pakenham, to the Secretary of the Navy, was received, requesting him to "communicate to Commander Buchanan the high sense which Her Majesty's Government entertain of that officer's timely and able assistance".10 To this letter Buchanan replied as follows: "I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 28th inst. through the American Consulate at Galveston, expressing your thanks with those 'of the masters of the British merchant ships Cybele and Cato for the assistance rendered them by the Vincennes on the 22d and 26th p88 inst.' To be able at all times to render assistance to those in distress is, I believe, the natural feeling of sailors, and I have the proud satisfaction to know that those under my command are always ready and willing to exercise themselves in a good cause. I regret the serious accidents which occurred to the Cybele and Cato, but it afforded us the opportunity of proving to those for whom our Country and ourselves individually feel a sincere friendship our desire to maintain that feeling."
On June 8, 1844 the steamer Poinsett, with an American special messenger to Mexico on board, came alongside. Her commander, Lieutenant Commander Raphael Semmes, reported himself to Buchanan, with the news that the Mexican government positively refused to enter into arrangements with the United States for recognizing Texas as an independent power, and that Santa Anna, President of Mexico, claimed Texas to be a revolted colony and would consider any arrangement between Texas and the United States for annexing the former to the latter as a declaration of war against Mexico. As an indication that the United States government was determined to support Texas even by war the following portion of Commodore Conner's confidential instructions of May 19, 1844 to Buchanan might be cited: "If any attempt be made to invade Texas, during the time you may be there, by any foreign power, you will remonstrate with the commanding officer; and you will accompany your remonstrance with the assurance that the President of the United States will regard the execution of such a hostile purpose towards Texas under such circumstances, as evincing a most unfriendly spirit towards the United States; and which, in the event of the treaty's ratification (with Texas), now pending p89 before the Senate, must lead to actual hostilities with our country". Two years, however, were destined to pass before the outbreak of war between the United States and Mexico.
The Vincennes soon sailed again to Vera Cruz, thence to Pensacola, and from there in company with the Potomac and the Somers to Havana, whence she was ordered to Norfolk for an overhaul in the drydock at the Gosport Navy Yard. Here, on August 15, Buchanan paid off and discharged his crew, and delivered to his officers leave of absence for three months.
In this first experience as commander of a man-of‑war, Buchanan had displayed unusual aptitude for the manifold duties and heavy responsibilities connected with such a position. His dealings with the American diplomatic and consular representatives in Texas, Mexico, and Cuba had been courteous but straightforward and honest; and when it was intimated in the New Orleans Picayune11 that he planned to profit personally by conveying the payment of the "Mexican Indemnity" from Vera Cruz to an American port, he boldly challenged the truth of the article, and prepared to prove his assertions, "as an officer who feels that his honor is as dear to him as his life". His seamanship had been of the very highest order. As a disciplinarian he was strict, but ever ready to show indulgence when there was any evidence of sincere repentance and hope for better conduct in the future. Most of his disciplinary trouble had been associated with the evils of drunkenness. This he made it a rule never to overlook, on shipboard, in either an officer or a sailor, and his men were soon made well aware of his attitude in the matter. "The p90 crime of drunkenness in the navy", he wrote,12 "causes all the insubordination and consequent punishment to officers and men. My experience has convinced me of this fact, and hence my determination never to overlook such an offense when committed under my command."
The following article from the Pensacola Gazette clearly sets forth the results of Buchanan's system:
"There is nothing on board of her (Vincennes) which indicates the martinet, no essence of pipe-clay or tincture of ramrod, so often to be found where there is strict discipline and nice order. On the contrary, there seems to be just that amount of ease and freedom of manner which ought to be exhibited where every man feels satisfied, contented, and protected. By what art it is that Buchanan and his officers have been able to perfect and maintain so admirable a system, we are not able to explain. But we know the fact that his men have proved themselves to be the most orderly and sober of any crews, not even excepting the French, which have ever been in this port. And as this ship has remained some months during the past year in the harbor, most of the time near the town, and yet no instance of disorder or even drunkenness has been seen or heard of by any of our citizens, the mind is naturally led to the conclusion that it is the existence of high qualities in those in command, and the exertion of a most prudent, but firm and judicious discipline alone, which could produce such results."
The experiences on the Vincennes prepared Buchanan admirably for his next important command, which was to be devoted to the training of young officers at the Naval School soon to be established. Before taking up p91 this very responsible command, he enjoyed a few months of leisure with his wife and five daughters at "The Rest",13 a beautiful residence situated on the Miles River near the town of Easton, Maryland, on the "Eastern Shore".
1 Her name appears as "Nancy Lloyd" in the notice of the wedding in the Maryland Gazette of February 26, 1835; and as "Nannie" in the register of St. Anne's Church in connection with the records of the baptism of her children. The latter was the one used by her family.
2 In this stately colonial mansion, Franklin Buchanan and Anne Catherine Lloyd also were married. (According to a letter from Buchanan's daughter, Mrs. Lizzie Buchanan Sullivan, of May 27, 1929.)
3 The pay of a lieutenant on active duty was then $1500 with one ration per day. (Law of March 3, 1835.)
4 The Fox (1836), the Pilot (1838), and the Pioneer (1839). During this tour of duty, Buchanan and his family are said to have resided in Baltimore at the southeast corner of Saratoga and Liberty Streets; but they also spent considerable time in Annapolis where Buchanan purchased in December, 1836, from Thomas Franklin, a handsome two‑story brick residence on Scott Street near the Severn River, for the sum of $2650. In Annapolis were born their first three daughters: Sallie Lloyd, December 18, 1835; Letitia McKean, February 27, 1837; and Alice Lloyd, December 28, 1838. Before the purchase of their residence, they probably lived with Mrs. Buchanan's mother.
7 From an old song, quoted in Op. cit., p58.
8 Of February 21, 1840. Poor Claxton was destined never to see his own home again, for almost exactly a year afterwards he was stricken with dysentery and died March 7, 1841, sincerely mourned by every man in his squadron.
9 Letter to Secretary of the Navy, February 24, 1843.
10 National Intelligencer, June 26, 1844.
11 Shortly before December 9, 1843.
12 To Secretary of the Navy David Henshaw, December 8, 1843.
13 This place, known formerly as "Ashby" or "The Ferry Farm", was purchased by Edward and Daniel Lloyd, as trustees under the will of Governor Edward Lloyd, for their sister, Mrs. Franklin Buchanan, from Solomon and Thomas Corner of Baltimore, probably in 1844. Buchanan's twin daughters, Nannie and Ellen, were born in Annapolis, September 25, 1841. His sixth daughter, Elizabeth Tayloe, was born at "The Rest", July 1st, 1845.
a This should probably not be taken as an exact figure. It appears to be an estimate based on their water consumption: see Admiral Snow's preface to Life in a Man-of‑War, p. xiii.
c The Constitution's time at San Lorenzo and Callao is the subject of two small but interesting chapters in Life in a Man of War. Lieutenant Buchanan is the first lieutenant whose ingeniously fair and methodical plan is detailed on p87 of that book.
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