This past Sunday was the annual Pilgrimage for the Sea Services at the Seton Shrine, where the midshipmen of Annapolis are invited to a special service at the altar of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the patron saint of the U.S. Sea Services. Just in the nick of time, the Archives worked with a conservator to bring out a special item for display during the service – the ship’s log of the U.S. Frigate Macedonian, upon which her son William served from 1818-1821. The ship had originally been the British ship Macedonian before succumbing in battle to the United States Navy during the War of 1812. It was rebuilt from its damage in Newport, Rhode Island and set off for North Africa in 1815 to serve in the Barbary conflicts. During William’s service, the ship provided aid and protection along the Pacific coast of North, Central, and South America. While William served his country on this voyage, his mother left this world for the next.
The ship’s log was kept by John Lithgow, and includes the names of those who served on the ship, its dimensions, and day-by-day log of its actions. It also contains full drawings and illuminations.
The binding of the book had entirely deteriorated. Evidently, some repairs had been attempted in the past, as some pages did not open the whole way due to misplaced glues and adhesives, and the remnants of a brittle, destructive tape covered the spine of the book.
When these tapes were (very carefully) removed, the conservationist made an interesting discovery – an old label to the book. Using a magnifying glass, we can make out a few spare words (“Does this say ‘Ocean’”?), but we fear some of this information has simply been obliterated by time. Can you make out anything that we can’t?
Naval logs provide valuable information for military history, geographers, historians, and genealogists. In addition, within the last decade, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has been utilizing naval logbooks to study environmental conditions of the oceans in the past. The largest holder of naval logs in the United States are the national archives locations in Washington, DC and College Park, MD. They have digitized many of their log books, and they are available online.
For more information, see:
In addition to William’s service on the Macedonian, her other son Richard served on the USS Cyane, upon which he passed away in 1823 while off the Mediterranean coast of North Africa. He was buried at sea. William then served on the same ship as his late brother for three years before receiving his commission as a Lieutenant on the Sloop of War Hornet tracking pirates in the West Indies. He resigned his commission in 1834 after nearly 17 years of service.
The USS Macedonian which William Seton served on should NOT be confused with the second USS Macedonian which served in the Civil War.