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Captain Ridgely's Constellation had sailed under orders to await the summer season in the Rio de la Plata before standing south for Cape Horn. But, at Montevideo, Ridgely received a report that led him to order a survey of the frigate's main mast. A majority of the inspecting board decided that the spar could be fished securely enough to round the Cape, but felt that it should be condemned. Well aware that main masts were not available either at Montevideo or on the west coast, Ridgely returned to Rio de Janeiro where the Royal Dockyard made and stepped a new mast. This was merely the first in a series of instances where warships departed on protracted cruises in remote waters only to find that the navy yards whence they had sailed had done their work very poorly.
During the enforced delay at Rio de Janeiro, Captain Ridgely took action to cope with a problem which often confronted American commanding officers at the time. He noted with concern that a number of his midshipmen had been involved in duels, either as principals or seconds, at both Rio de Janeiro and Montevideo. The dangers of this practice were obvious, and the captain required the "young gentlemen" to pledge their honor that they would abstain from dueling before allowing them to go ashore. Three of the ship's twenty-nine midshipmen considered this unwarranted tyranny, and were sent back to the United States to resign their appointments. The Navy Department did not approve of Ridgely's action and allowed the midshipmen to remain in the service, if they so desired. It must be remarked, however, that the "Constellations" avoided duels thereafter. The Navy Department offered no alternative method for discouraging this demoralizing practice, and one's sympathies remain with Captain Ridgely.
After the afore-mentioned meeting with Captain Downes at Valparaiso, p28 Ridgely lost no time in requesting that another frigate and a sloop-of‑war be sent out to join him. Until they could arrive, he decided to follow Downes's example of co‑operating with the British squadron in the area. He was soon a close friend of Commodore Sir Thomas Hardy. Anglo-American friendship prospered to the extent that a Board of Survey ordered to inspect the Constellation's fore and mizzen masts included the carpenter of Hardy's flagship Creole and the master and carpenter of HMS Owen Glendower. It is apparent that the co‑operation was more advantageous to the United States than to Great Britain, since the latter's squadron consisted of a ship-of‑the‑line, two frigates, and a sloop, while Ridgely had only one frigate. Hardy followed the practice of keeping one of his ships at Callao and another at Valparaiso constantly. In the Constellation's absence, these ships watched American interests as well as their own.
Captain Ridgely had sailed from Boston in the belief that his personal sympathies would be with the gallant Peruvians and Chileans who were fighting for independence from Old World tyranny, but this feeling did not long survive his arrival at Valparaiso. He found the Patriots to be "base and vulgar" men almost without exception. This attitude was furthered by the arrogant manner of Lord Cochrane. Ridgely was not alone in his opinion of this adventurer; on one occasion Hardy had threatened to remove the Patriot admiral from his flagship and send him to England to be tried on charges of piracy.
On the other hand, the American captain was soon on cordial terms with the cultured Spaniards who were fighting to maintain a political system that he loathed. The Patriots, sure of the sympathy of their North American brethren, were aghast when Ridgely offered General Don Joaquin de Pezuela, the exiled viceroy of Peru, accommodations on board the Constellation while arranging for his passage to Spain in the American merchantman General Brown. The Patriots charged that Ridgely had acted in bad faith in this matter.1 He had persuaded General José de San Martín to release the detained American vessel, and in her the Spaniard was given passage. The American consul at Valparaiso joined in denouncing this action, but his impartiality was not beyond suspicion. Whether or not Ridgely broke his word is not important here, but it is significant p29 that this was the first example of political asylum being offered a refugee by an American warship on Pacific Station. In time this custom came to be authorized by naval regulations, but it had no basis in international law. Seemingly Pezuela was not allowed to carry on political intrigues from the safety of the Constellation, so it is difficult to judge Ridgely harshly for his humanitarian act.
One of the most serious threats to American shipping in the Pacific was presented by the semipiratical depredations of one Vicente Benevedes, a Spanish naval officer who had a commission of doubtful validity for operations against Patriot vessels. Basing at Auranco (location uncertain, possibly Arauco), he showed little respect for any flag, and had captured American ships and imprisoned their men. Ridgely attempted to trap him, but the wily Spaniard escaped. A later effort by the commanding officer of HMS Conway was no more successful. The waters of the Spaniard's lair were too shallow to permit the approach of warships. Only boat expeditions could be sent against him, and these were always detected in time for their quarry to escape. Benevedes was never captured, but the foreign naval forces were able to limit his activities and most of his prisoners eventually made their way to Valparaiso.
Captain Ridgely's request for additional ships was answered by the news that he would be relieved by Commodore Charles Stewart, who was to leave the United States with the ship-of‑the‑line Franklin and the schooner Dolphin in September 1821. As Ridgely had reported, the British and French squadrons in the Pacific both included capital ships, and Cochrane had a vessel of sixty guns; consequently, the Navy Department felt it desirable to send the Franklin out. Her size made it necessary that she be accompanied by a small vessel which could do most of the active cruising, and for this purpose the Dolphin was assigned.
Stewart had received the courtesy title of commodore while commanding the Mediterranean Squadron. Any officer of the United States Navy who commanded a squadron was addressed by that title thereafter, regardless of his future employment. The ship in which he sailed flew a blue broad pennant at her main truck; he was accorded the courtesies due the same rank in foreign navies; and yet he was officially only a captain, for that was the senior naval rank p30 which had Congressional sanction. But official or not, the Pacific Station received its first commodore commanding an American squadron in April 1822.
Commodore Stewart found the Constellation awaiting him at Valparaiso. Captain Ridgely took the new commander in chief and Mrs. Stewart, who had accompanied her husband in the relative comfort of the flagship, to Santiago for the usual introductions and consultations. They spent four days at the capital, but Stewart would accept no civilities from the government, nor did the latter show any great desire to offer them. Stewart's coldness undoubtedly offended the Chileans, but their attitude must have been due in part to their dislike of Ridgely.
Early in his command of the Pacific Squadron, Stewart came to grips with the problem of communications. He was unwilling to accept the delay incidental to sending dispatches by way of Cape Horn, especially since this delay could be cut in half if the messenger traveled the shorter Isthmian route. But few merchant ships sailed from Valparaiso and Callao to Panama, and the Dolphin could hardly be used as a dispatch boat to the exclusion of all other duties, more especially because the Franklin had gathered much marine growth while in ordinary at New York, and so was no longer the swift sailer that Stewart had commanded in the Mediterranean.
The American commodore solved the problem in his own way. When the merchantman Pearl arrived at Valparaiso from the United States with the dismantled frames and timbers of three small schooners which she hoped to sell in the Hawaiian Islands, Stewart entered into an agreement with her master. Carpenters from the Franklin assembled all three; Stewart purchased two for a nominal sum, and the master of the Pearl disposed of the other. The three were the Peruvian (sometimes called Peruviano), launched at Arica in August 1822; the Waterwitch, built at Quilca about a month earlier; and the Robinson Crusoe, assembled at Juan Fernández. The first two were manned from the Franklin and served as dispatch boats until they were sold in 1824 prior to Stewart's return to the United States.
The exact status of the two schooners was very uncertain. Stewart himself considered them to be his private property; certainly he had paid for them although they were assembled and manned by naval p31 personnel. With one brief exception, neither was employed on private business. However, there was no Departmental sanction for their acquisition and use, and neither was commissioned as an American warship. Therefore, it seems best to regard them in the light of pirate vessels maintained by the commander in chief solely for the purpose of facilitating the performance of his duties.
These little schooners proved to be most useful. They kept the commodore in fairly close contact with events at Guayaquil and Panama, then the northern limits of his station, and hurried the passage of letters and dispatches to the United States, as well. Although they were not public vessels, they were not ineffective in showing the flag because both were so obviously manned by naval personnel. The Franklin's lieutenants eagerly sought the active service offered by command of the schooners. However, Stewart's effort to provide better communication with the United States had one result that he did not foresee and that did not become evident until the completion of his tour of duty in the Pacific.
Commodore Stewart had arrived in the Pacific Ocean to find that the newly created Patriot government of Peru had recently proclaimed a blockade of the entire coastline still under Spanish control. This supposedly was enforced by a squadron commanded by Admiral Guise, who had already seized several American merchantmen believed to have been carrying cargoes consigned to the Spaniards. As insufficient time had elapsed for the proclamation to reach Europe and the United States, these seizures were clearly illegal. Moreover, Peruvian warships were rarely present on their blockading station, and the whole blockade was conducted in a very haphazard fashion. The new commander in chief among other things questioned the legality of such a procedure, but with little success. His task was not eased by the fact that Great Britain, hoping to win favor with the government obviously winning the war in Peru, had acquiesced in the blockade. It must be added that the British could hardly protest with consistency against an illegal blockade when they had so recently been guilty of much more flagrant violations of internationally recognized principles of blockade.
Finally, Stewart addressed to General Antonio José de Sucré, civil and military commandant at Callao, a letter so forcefully setting forth the American position that the Peruvian government was p32 moved to recognize the justice of the American argument and to free the detained ships. In this letter, which Chief Justice John Marshall called the best statement of the principles of blockade that he had ever seen,2 Stewart also took the opportunity to warn the Patriots against too‑eager acceptance of British friendship lest the newly established Latin American republics find themselves indebted to England to an undesirable extent. This dignified statement may not have won the affection of the Patriot government for Stewart, but it must have gained him Patriot respect, however unwilling.
Meanwhile, a ukase issued by the Tsarist government of Russia had caused some alarm in Washington. Foreign contraband trade with Russian America was increasing, and the St. Petersburg regime, in September 1821, forbade foreign merchantmen to approach the coast within 100 Italian miles north of 51° North latitude. Such an assertion of sovereignty over the high seas was quite indefensible, and in addition, the southern boundary of Russian America was thus moved southward into the Oregon Territory, an area claimed jointly by the United States and Great Britain.
American interests in the Pacific Northwest were not then sufficiently extensive for the ukase to cause widespread alarm in turn, but the House of Representatives did inquire of the Secretary of the Navy the best means of obtaining information about our harbors on the Pacific Coast and of landing artillery at the mouth of the Columbia River. Secretary Smith Thompson referred the questions to the Board of Navy Commissioners, and Commodore Rodgers replied:
. . . these objects might be accomplished by engaging a suitable merchant vessel by the month and sending her with one of the Schooners now in service . . . If the Dolphin could be spared from Commo. Stewart's command, the transport might join her at Valparaiso. . . . it is probable that it might not be convenient for the Dolphin to be detached from the command of Commo. Stewart. . . .3
Rodgers' closing statement was correct; the Dolphin could not be spared from her normal duties, and many years were to elapse before American artillerymen landed their guns in Oregon. The Russian edict was not enforced, and the United States government limited its action to an official remonstrance.
As Stewart's cruise was coming to an end, he was ordered to be at p33 Valparaiso in January 1824 to turn over the command of the Pacific Station to Commodore Isaac Hull, who was coming out in the frigate United States. Repeated requests for additional force had met with success; the sloop-of‑war Peacock was designated to accompany the "Old Waggon" (United States was so called because of her sluggish sailing), but her outfitting was delayed and she did not sail until later. The United States was also bringing out new officers for the Dolphin which was to remain in the Pacific.
Commodore Isaac Hull.
USS United States.
Commodore Stewart returned to the United States to find that his conduct while in command of the Pacific Station had not met with universal approbation. He was informed that the Peruvian government had made official complaint against him, and that this complaint had been seconded by American consular officials. Under the circumstances, Secretary of the Navy Samuel L. Southard felt it necessary to order an official investigation into the matter.
As a result of this investigation, a general court-martial was ordered to convene in Washington on 18 August 1825 to try Captain Charles Stewart on charges of unofficerlike conduct, disobedience of orders, neglect of duty, and oppression and cruelty.
Undoubtedly the most important of the charges was the first. Specifically, Stewart was accused of building and operating vessels for his own account, carrying specie for American merchants for his own benefit, transporting horses to Lima where they were sold to the Spanish forces besieged there, and generally showing undue partiality to the Spaniards. The third charge, neglect of duty, was concerned with the infrequency of target practice on board the Franklin; and the last, oppression and cruelty, dealt with the alleged mistreatment of a lieutenant who had been confined in the flagship while awaiting trial by court-martial.
The delay in convening the Stewart court-martial was due to the time allowed him to gather evidence and witnesses for his defense. Finally, in the soggy heat of a Washington August, the most noted officer of the United States Navy faced the glittering ranks of nearly all of the senior officers not serving afloat. (The members of the court were Captains James Barron, William M. Cane, Robert T. Spence, John D. Henley, Jesse D. Elliott, Stephen Cassin, James Renshaw, Thomas Brown, Charles C. B. Thompson, Alexander S. Wadsworth, George W. Rodgers, and George C. Read, with Captain p34 Barron serving as president and Mr. Richard S. Coxe as judge advocate.)
Stewart's defense was dramatic. Certainly he had obtained and employed the Peruvian and Waterwitch, but only once had either been used for other than government business, and then merely to safeguard a cargo owned by American merchants until stowage space could be obtained in a merchant vessel. Consul Jeremy Robinson, who had taken great exception to the building of the schooners, had welcomed the opportunity to send his dispatches in them. Specie had been carried in the flagship for American merchants; this was the usual practice in the Royal Navy, and no direct orders against it had been issued in the American service. Indeed, this manner of guarding American interests in the Pacific was considered most valuable. The horses sold in Lima had pulled the commodore's carriage in the various cities listed, and had been sold only because they were unlikely to survive the Cape Horn passage on the way home. Perhaps the commodore had seemed partial to the Spaniards, but Captain James Biddle felt that Peruvian opinion on this point might be unreliable:
I believe it is impossible for any commanding officer to be in the Pacific without giving offence to the one side or the other. The royal party, knowing the general feelings of our countrymen, are jealous of them; the patriots, on the other hand, expecting too much, are dissatisfied.4
For the remaining charges, it was admitted that the Franklin's great guns had not been fired as often as was desirable. Much of her time necessarily had been spent in ports where target practice was not practicable, but the ship's company had been drilled frequently in every evolution short of actual firing. The lieutenant in question had not been kept in close confinement, and a doctor had examined him periodically to make certain that his health was not deteriorating as a result of his arrest. No court-martial had been convened on the station because a sufficient number of officers of the required rank could not be mustered without immobilizing the Dolphin for an undesirable length of time.
Commodore Stewart's peers were not long in deciding the case. On 5 September 1825, Secretary Southard informed him that he had been honorably acquitted of all charges. Moreover, the members of p35 the court unanimously stated their belief that Commodore Stewart had acted with the highest distinction during the whole period of his command in the Pacific.
Commodore Isaac Hull, meanwhile, was finding it necessary to keep his flagship at Callao most of the time. The fighting against the Spaniards was centered around Lima, and Hull wished to be close to the scene of likely trouble. No doubt this was pleasant for Mrs. Hull and her sister who accompanied the commodore. Furthermore, the American Minister at Lima, a cultured gentleman by the name of William Tudor, quickly became a good friend of Hull; and Simon Bolivar, commanding the Patriot forces in the region, was favorably impressed by the commodore's charming sister-in‑law. Whether his interest was genuine or merely politic is not now apparent, nor can it be ascertained to what extent the lady returned his favor.
This is not to imply that command of the Pacific Station was a mere pleasure cruise. Under Bolivar's orders, Admiral Guise had resumed the blockade of the Peruvian coast, but no more effectually than before, so Hull was soon protesting against illegal detention of American vessels. Bolivar was assured that any legal blockade would be respected by the Americans, but sister-in‑law or no, Hull intended to prevent any infringement of American rights.
The sloop-of‑war Peacock finally left the United States some months after Hull had sailed. This little ship must have experienced one of the more unpleasant passages out:
A few days after our departure from the U. S. we experienced a very heavy Thunder Shower attended with frequent vivid flashes of Lightning, one of which struck the Ship, killed four Men instantly & wounded several others dangerously, however they recovered partially, yet the greater part of them will never perfectly be restored. . . . Adding to this [the low temperatures] the constant heavy gales prevalent off the Cape, however our time would have been rather more pleasant had the small Pox not paid us a long & exterminating visit. We lost 12 valuable men by this disease, and at a time when the ship appeared at the mercy of the waves, their loss was severely felt owing to the vessel being then already too short manned.5
Hull found it necessary to send the Peacock's commanding officer home for trial soon after the sloop arrived at Callao. Lieutenant Beverly Kennon was detached from the flagship to take command, p36 and Hull, desiring to give Kennon a more experienced first lieutenant, ordered Lieutenant William Ramsay to the United States. The latter objected to the transfer, and the commodore sent him home with his late commanding officer. When the two reached Washington, Secretary Southard immediately ordered Master-Commandant Thomas ap Catesby Jones to the Pacific to assume command of the Peacock, and Ramsay was sent out as Jones's first lieutenant. He looked on this as a personal victory over the commodore and treated him with some condescension. Hull was too dignified to notice lapses from a respectful attitude in so junior an officer, but Ramsay was so unwise as to treat Master-Commandant Jones in the same manner. The fiery Virginian accepted the challenge, and Lieutenant Ramsay was soon on his way to the United States once more, this time under arrest. He had to be sent home for trial on the charges preferred by Jones because, once again, a competent court could not be convened on the station without detaining the smaller warships.
While Ramsay was setting a record of sorts for assignments to and detachments from the Pacific Station, Commodore Hull was presented with a more serious problem. Supposedly, the Spanish viceroy at Lima had licensed several vessels as privateers, and these were showing small respect for neutral flags. Later it appeared that the privateers were fitted out under orders from the governor of the province and without the knowledge of the viceroy. Since the latter alone had the authority to grant commissions to privateers, it was possible to regard these vessels as pirates. Hull had no definite instructions for this contingency; therefore, when the "Old Waggon" overhauled one after a chase in which the privateer lost her topmasts, the "pirate" was left to the tender mercies of Patriot Admiral Guise who quickly burned her. The problem was made more serious by the tendency of the privateer crews to seize their vessels and turn pirate in earnest. However, this annoyance was ended before the Navy Department could take any steps to cope with it. The Patriot triumph in Peru in 1826 relieved Commodore Hull from further troubles of that sort.
But in 1824 the Spaniards were still fighting and sent warships out to lift the Patriot blockade. On 12 September, their squadron arrived off Callao to bring Admiral Guise to account, and the latter got p37 under way to meet the challenge although his force was clearly inferior. Apparently the United States would have been directly in the line of fire, so Hull also weighed anchor to shift his position. Almost at once the Spanish admiral appeared to change his mind, and stood out to sea again. Hull learned soon afterward that the Spaniard had explained his conduct by professing to believe that the American frigate was coming to the assistance of the Patriot ships. Clearly this incident could have led to another general court-martial; therefore, Commodore Hull took the precaution of getting a letter from the senior British officer present to support his report. This proved sufficient to counteract the Spanish allegation that he had been guilty of unneutral conduct.
In August 1825, Commodore Hull received orders to send one of the smaller vessels to the Mulgrave Islands (now Mili Atoll) in search of the American whaleship Globe. This vessel's company had mutinied, killed her officers, and set out for a cruise among the Pacific islands. The Dolphin could be spared at the time, so Lieutenant-Commander John Percival (later the fabulous Captain "Mad Jack" Percival) was ordered to prepare for this duty. In order that the little schooner might embark the necessary stores, Percival reduced his crew to seventy men before sailing.
The Dolphin proceeded to the Mulgrave Islands by way of the Galápagos and Marquesas Islands. In the Mulgraves, Percival found that the natives had murdered all except two of the mutineers, these being kept as slaves. After some difficulty, their release was procured, and the Dolphin sailed for the Hawaiian Islands, leaving behind seeds, pigs, and strict instructions that visiting mariners be well treated.
The schooner arrived at Honolulu on 9 January 1826, the first American warship to visit the island group.6 The Dolphin remained at Honolulu until 11 May. American merchants were overjoyed at the presence of one of their country's men-o'‑war to protect their interests, but missionaries were less enthusiastic, particularly since the "Dolphins" expressed great dissatisfaction over the recently realized suppression of prostitution. Percival was accused of sympathizing with his men, and of having a hand in a riot in which American sailors were involved. Despite this he seems to have used p38 his influence to keep order among the crews of the numerous whalers wintering there, and his men did good work in salvaging cargo and specie from the wrecked merchant ship London.
Before the Dolphin had returned from her pioneer cruise, Hull was ordered to take the United States on an island cruise in support of American trade. In return, he reported that the hostilities on the Pacific coast of South America were finally at an end, but that his presence was still required at Callao. It seemed likely that the Chilean and Peruvian navies would decommission their warships, and there was a real danger that the hardened seamen so discharged might seize vessels and become pirates. Therefore, he ordered the Peacock to prepare for the island cruise.
Commodore Hull had nothing of importance to add to the general Department orders under which the Peacock sailed, but he may have shown to Master-Commandant Jones the private letter in which Southard urged him to co‑operate with missionaries whenever possible, "and [you] will receive the benedictions of the pious for the good you may perform."7
The sloop-of‑war made sail in June 1826. She called at the Marquesas, informally regarded as American since Porter had used them as a base of operations in 1813, and then sailed to Tahiti, the first American man-o'‑war to visit this alluring island. Jones drew up a treaty — between the government of the United States and the dusky Queen of the island — relating to the treatment of American vessels and citizens touching there.
The Peacock flew to the northward once more and anchored at Honolulu, where word of her coming had preceded her. American merchants were hopeful that her captain would intervene in their quarrel with King Kamehameha III over a sandalwood contract, but if they expected swift action, they were disappointed. The overbearing Jones showed that he could be very diplomatic on occasion, and spent several weeks learning all he could about prevailing conditions, incidentally winning the good will of the King. His efforts to collect the sums owed to American merchants by the monarch were not entirely successful, but he did negotiate a treaty with Kamehameha on behalf of the United States. Much like the previous agreement which Jones had drawn up at Tahiti, but more comprehensive, it covered the problems of desertion from American whalers, treatment p39 of merchantmen visiting the Hawaiian Islands, and salvage of American ships wrecked in the vicinity; furthermore, it provided most-favored-nation status for the United States.
Probably because this treaty mounted to American recognition of Hawaiian independence, its ratification was never advised by the United States Senate. Nevertheless, it seems to have been a very able document and was regarded as binding by the Hawaiian rulers for some years afterward; thus, most of the objectives sought by Jones were realized.
Master-Commandant Jones further interested himself in the conditions prevailing among the crews of the large number of merchant vessels in Hawaiian waters, and submitted a very interesting report on the general situation in the Pacific Ocean area. Although he appears to have exaggerated the success of his negotiations with Kamehameha, Jones's cruise was very profitable.
The Peacock left Hawaiian waters early in January 1827 and sailed to the eastward, touching at Californian and Mexican ports to replenish her supplies. Arriving at Callao, Jones found that Hull had departed for the Atlantic in the United States, having been relieved by Commodore Jacob Jones with the Brandywine frigate and the sloop-of‑war Vincennes. The Peacock also was to return to the United States, but the "roaring Brandywine" had brought out a new complement of officers and men for the little Dolphin and the schooner remained on Pacific Station.
The enlistments of the "Old Waggon's" crew expired some time before the frigate reached New York, and her men did not appreciate their detention in the service. Soon after she came to anchor, the entire ship's company gathered and demanded immediate discharge. Hull reported: ". . . I did not think proper to detain them by force for had I attempted it, I am confident the ship would have been in great confusion."8 Nor was this rather unpleasant episode the end of Hull's troubles. In 1833 his command in the Pacific was investigated by Congress. Apparently Michael Hogan, United States consul and navy agent at Valparaiso, instigated the inquiry. All charges were dropped after the commodore's secretary testified. Fortunately, few succeeding commanders in chief were required publicly to justify their conduct on Pacific Station.
With the wars in South America virtually at an end, the situation p40 in the Pacific was much less vexatious for American warships on that station. Commodore Jacob Jones took care to prevent the outbreak of piracy feared by his predecessor, nor did it develop to any extent. The Navy Department was apprehensive lest its successful campaign against the picaroons in the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea should have driven those desperate men across Central America to continue their lawless careers on the western coast. As a precaution against this danger, the light vessels of the Pacific Squadron added the coast of Mexico and the Panama area to their more southerly cruising grounds, but there is no indication that the picaroons ever operated in the Pacific Ocean.
The most urgent problem which faced Commodore Jones upon his arrival at Callao was that caused by impressment of American citizens into the armed forces of Peru. Most of the men so impressed had deserted from American merchant vessels to sail in coasters flying the Peruvian flag and offering much higher pay than their original ships. The government of Peru, which obtained men for its army and navy principally by impressment, took the stand that sailing under the Peruvian flag made the men citizens of that country. Jones and the American chargé d'affaires both protested, but the situation was not finally relieved until March 1828 when most of the Peruvian warships were decommissioned and the seamen were discharged.
Early in 1829, Secretary Southard ordered that the Vincennes be sent to the Society and Hawaiian Islands to render aid and protection to American merchantmen and whaleships frequenting those waters. Master-Commandant William B. Finch was to exert himself especially to prevent desertion from these ships, and to repatriate those men who had already deserted.
The Vincennes followed much the same track as the Peacock had sailed. In the Marquesas Islands, the good will of the islanders toward Americans had deteriorated, due in large part to the irresponsible behavior of merchant and whaleship crews, but Finch was able to arrive at a satisfactory arrangement with the Marquesans. The sloop then stood on to Tahiti, and again amicable relations were maintained with the people of the area.
At Honolulu, Finch took up the perennial questions of debts and sandalwood contracts, but he seems to have been little more successful p41 in settling them than was his predecessor, Master-Commandant Jones. However, he established a cordial relationship with the missionaries there and praised them highly in his report. On leaving Honolulu, the Vincennes sailed to the westward in accordance with her orders. She touched at Macao and various East Indian ports, and then returned to New York by way of the Cape of Good Hope, the first American warship to circumnavigate the globe.
Meanwhile, the time was approaching when Commodore Jacob Jones must leave the Pacific, and he was relieved in 1829 by Commodore Charles C. B. Thompson in the Guerrière frigate. As usual, the Dolphin received a fresh complement by the newcomer, while her erstwhile company was given passage home in the Brandywine. The squadron was completed by the sloop-of‑war St. Louis which had come out a few weeks before Thompson.
Commodore Thompson's orders contained a paragraph instructing him to collect information relative to the different types of sugar cane and their cultivation — an indication that warships on this distant station might be able to further agricultural knowledge in the United States. Henceforth, this was a standard part of the sailing orders issued to prospective commanders in chief of the Pacific Squadron. Its political significance lay in the fact that the government could point to knowledge so gained as evidence that the Navy was helping interests other than those of shipowner and merchant. At all times, however, the orders made it very clear that efforts to gain and transmit this agricultural information should not be allowed to interfere with the primary mission of the Pacific Squadron, which remained unchanged.
For the most part, Thompson's cruise was uneventful; this was fortunate, as his flagship seems to have been very poorly prepared for this service. Reports of her decayed state reached the Navy Commissioners, and they recommended that her relief be prepared somewhat earlier than usual. Secretary of the Navy John Branch was not convinced that this was indeed necessary, so Commodore Rodgers replied with a quotation from Thompson's report of the Guerrière's condition:
. . . the most important parts of the decks and upper works of this ship are in a state so defective, and so liable to increasing disability as to p42 render her capability of returning extremely doubtful if the cruize should be protracted beyond 18 months or 2 years from the time of her departure from the United States.9
This was decisive, but Branch was still unwilling to incur the added expense of outfitting another frigate at once. Finally, work was begun to ready the Potomac frigate for sea; in the meantime, orders went out for Thompson to quit his station as soon as possible. Since the order was dated 10 February 1831, the Guerrière could hardly expect to be off the Horn before winter. Thompson's departure left Master-Commandant John D. Sloat of the St. Louis as senior American naval officer on Pacific Station until he was relieved by Master-Commandant Francis H. Gregory in the sloop-of‑war Falmouth some five months later.
Thus, a little more than a decade after the Pacific Squadron had first been formed, it had come to consist of three vessels: a frigate, a sloop-of‑war, and the veteran schooner Dolphin. Commanders in chief of this force had repeatedly asked for reinforcement, but the Navy Department did not believe it necessary. In all conscience, though, a good argument can be made for sending more warships to the Pacific Station. Its geographical area was expanding as American commercial and other interests continued to grow in the eastern Pacific. The island groups in that region had become a permanent responsibility of the Pacific Squadron, and the single sloop-of‑war usually spent much of her cruise in a visit to their waters. The frigate-flagship remained in the vicinity of Callao and Valparaiso, still the most important ports of call for American merchant vessels bound out or home. The little Dolphin was employed in visits to the smaller South American harbors, with an occasional run to Panama to carry dispatches and passengers.
The Navy Department, however, did not question the policy of maintaining a squadron on Pacific Station. Secretary Southard had assured the President of the United States that "the squadron in the Pacific has continued to be useful to the interests of the nation."10 And Secretary Branch, reluctant though he was to authorize a speedy relief for the Guerrière, obviously had no thought of changing the Navy's policy in the eastern Pacific.
1 General J. Paroisien to Robinson, 3 March 1822, "Correspondence relating to the Cruises of Cyane, Franklin, Ontario, Peacock, and United States, January 1818–May 1827." While a gentleman's agreement may have been made with the Patriots regarding Pezuela, there seems to be no evidence of any formal commitment on Ridgely's part.
2 Fletcher Pratt, Preble's Boys (New York: William Sloane Associates, 1950), p339.
3 Rodgers to Smith Thompson, 22 December 1821, "Board of Navy Commissioners' Letters to the Secretary of the Navy, April 1815–August 1842," I, 561.
4 Testimony of Captain James Biddle, American State Papers, Naval Affairs (Washington: Gales and Seaton, 1834‑1861), II, 513.
5 Letter written by Lieut. Andrew H. Foot, 15 September 1824, "Area Nine File, 1814‑1910."
6 Allan Westcott, "Captain 'Mad Jack' Percival," U. S. Naval Institute Proceedings, LXI (1935), 315. Dudley W. Knox, Captain, USN, A history of the United States Navy (New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1936), pp102 and 150, holds that Dolphin was the second American warship to visit Honolulu. However, his candidate for the honor, the prize Sir Andrew Hammond, was not a man-o'‑war at all, so I cannot consider her visit in 1814 as that of a warship.
7 Southard to Hull, 24 June 1825, "Letters to Officers, Ships of War, March 1798–September 1868," XVI, 58.
8 Hull to Southard, 24 April 1827, "Isaac Hull Letter Book No. 1, 25 October 1823–2 July 1827."
9 Rodgers to Branch, 17 September 1830, "Board of Navy Commissioners' Letters to the Secretary of the Navy, April 1815–August 1842," IV, 7‑8.
10 Southard to President J. Q. Adams, 2 December 1826, American State Papers, Naval Affairs, II, 728.
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