Modern history



ACW Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, Department of the Navy, 1978

DU Duke University

FMC Franklin and Marshall College

KSHS Kansas State Historical Society

LOC Library of Congress

LRWEE Letters Relating to the Wilkes Exploring Expedition, Rolls 1-7 of the National Archives microfilm, Records Relating to the United States Exploring Expedition Under the Command of Lt. Charles Wilkes, 1836- 1842 (Microcopy 75)

MV Magnificent Voyagers: The U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842, Smithsonian Institution Press, 1985

NA National Archives

For anyone wanting to know more about the U.S. Exploring Expedition, the best place to start is William Stanton’s The Great United States Exploring Expedition. Wonderfully written and researched, Stanton’s book approaches the Expedition in terms of its contribution to the rise of science in America. Magnificent Voyagers, an illustrated catalogue of a 1985 exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution edited by Herman J. Viola and Carolyn Margolis, is much more than a catalogue, containing articles that analyze the Expedition from a multitude of perspectives. An earlier book, David B. Tyler’s The Wilkes Expedition, is also useful, as is the important group of essays about the Expedition published by the American Philosophical Society in Centenary Celebration: The Wilkes Exploring Expedition of the United States Navy, 1838-1842. Daniel Henderson’s biography of Wilkes, Hidden Coasts, makes good use of Wilkes’s own writings but seems reluctant to criticize or evaluate its subject. William H. Goetzmann’s New Lands, New Men: America and the Second Great Age of Discovery investigates the impulse to explore by sea and land that culminated in the Expedition and the many U.S. expeditions to the West that followed. Echoing observations made by William Stanton in The Great United States Exploring Expedition as well as Stanton’s earlier and seminal investigation of science and race in nineteenth-century America, The Leopard’s Spots,Barry Alan Joyce assesses a portion of the scientific legacy of the Expedition in The Shaping of American Ethnography: The Wilkes Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842. Alan Gurney’s The Race to the White Continent: Voyages to the Antarctic examines the Exploring Expedition in the context of the other European voyages to Antarctica, while Kenneth Bertrand’s Americans in Antarctica and Philip Mitterling’s America in the Antarctic to 1840 are also essential reading. Frances Barkan’s The Wilkes Expedition: Puget Sound and the Oregon Country provides an excellent account of the Expedition’s accomplishments in the Pacific Northwest.

Only a hundred copies of the fifteen published scientific reports of the Exploring Expedition were printed by the U.S. government. The Smithsonian Institution Libraries has recently digitized all these publications, a mammoth undertaking that makes these exceedingly rare works available to a general audience for the first time. To view these fascinating, stunningly illustrated reports, as well as the original edition of Wilkes’s Narrative, go to

Wilkes’s five-volume narrative of the Expedition is a padded, uneven read, but parts of it, particularly his description of the assault on Antarctica, are exhilarating. Wilkes’s personality is best revealed in his not always reliable, but always self-serving Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes (ACW). William Reynolds is well served by Voyage to the Southern Ocean, a collection of the letters he wrote home during the Expedition edited by Anne Hoffman Cleaver, a Reynolds descendant, and E. Jeffrey Stann. Reynolds’s public and private notebooks from the Expedition, as well as his letters written during the Expedition, are at Franklin and Marshall College (FMC). An edition of Reynolds’s private journal, edited by myself and Thomas Philbrick, will be published by Penguin in 2004.

The scientist and artist Titian Peale’s journal has been published in a magnificently illustrated volume edited by Jessie Poesch, while the officer George Colvocoresses and the sailors Joseph Clark and Charles Erskine each published accounts during their lifetimes. Just a year after the return of the Expedition, the surgeon James Palmer published a narrative poem titled Thulia: A Tale of the Antarctic, about the exploits of the schooner Flying Fish, which also includes a prose account of the cruise.

Anyone interested in braving the massive amount of unpublished material connected with the Expedition should consult Daniel C. Haskell’s indispensable The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 and Its Publications 1844- 1874, published by The New York Public Library in 1942. Most of the existing officers’ logs, letters, and courts-martial records are at the National Archives (NA) in Washington, D.C., although the Library of Congress and the Smithsonian Institution also have much Ex. Ex. material. The twenty-three officer journals at the National Archives are available on microfilm as Records Relating to the United States Exploring Expedition Under the Command of Lt. Charles Wilkes, 1836-1842 (Microcopy 75), Rolls 7-25. A good number of the officers retrieved their journals at some point after the Expedition; as a result, many of the journals are now scattered among various repositories, the locations of which are listed in the bibliography; these journals are also available on microfilm. The courts-martial records related to the Expedition are also available on microfilm from the National Archives, Microcopy 75, Rolls 26 and 27.

In 1978 an important cache of Wilkes material was donated to Duke University. Used here for the first time in a book-length examination of the Ex. Ex., the Wilkes Family Papers at Duke contain dozens of letters Wilkes wrote to his wife Jane during the Expedition, as well as letters from Jane, their children, Wilkes’s brother Henry, his brother-in-law James Renwick, and others. Other important collections of Wilkes papers are at the Kansas State Historical Society (KSHS), the Library of Congress (LOC), and the Wisconsin Historical Society.


My thanks to Jane Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution, for providing me with the total weight of the Expedition’s collections. I have inherited the concept of the sea as America’s first frontier from my father, Thomas Philbrick, whose James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction describes how the country’s fascination with the sea was reflected in the popular literature of the first half of the nineteenth century. See also my foreword to American Sea Writing: A Literary Anthology, edited by Peter Neill, Library of America, 2000, pp. xiii-xvii. I am also indebted to Daniel Boorstin’s concept of “sea paths to everywhere” in The Discoverers, particularly the chapter “A World of Oceans,” pp. 256-66. As John Noble Wilford points out in The Mapmakers, Lewis and Clark were instructed to locate “the most direct and practicable water communication across the continent for the purpose of commerce,” p. 225. For my comparison of Cook’s second voyage to the voyages of earlier explorers, I am indebted to Boorstin’s The Discoverers, pp. 280- 89. For an account of British exploration before and immediately following Cook, see Glyndwr Williams’s “To Make Discoveries of Countries Hitherto Unknown: The Admiralty and Pacific Exploration in the Eighteenth Century,” in Pacific Empires, edited by Alan Frost and Jane Samson, pp. 13-31. William Goetzmann provides the statistics concerning the number of European expeditions to the Pacific in New Lands, New Men, p. 268.

For an excellent overview of the many accomplishments of the U.S. Ex. Ex., see Herman Viola’s “The Story of the U.S. Exploring Expedition” in MV, pp. 9-23. In an 1841 report, Secretary of the Navy Abel Upshur stated his ambitious goal to expand the U.S. Navy until it was at least “half the naval force of the strongest maritime power in the world.” At that time the American navy included eleven ships of the line, seventeen frigates, eighteen sloops, two brigs, nine schooners, three storeships, and three receiving ships in commission. See Claude Hall’s Abel Parker Upshur, p. 127. For information on China’s and Portugal’s exploratory efforts, see Boorstin’s The Discoverers, pp. 156-95. Gavin Menzies provides an intriguing, if perhaps overstated, account of Chinese exploration in 1421: The Year China Discovered America (2003).

Secretary of the Navy James Paulding’s instructions outlining the intended destinations of the Ex. Ex. are in volume one of Charles Wilkes’s Narrative, pp. xiii-xxiii. According to Geoffrey Smith in “Charles Wilkes” in Makers of American Diplomacy, edited by Frank Merli et al., the Ex. Ex. was the “last global voyage wholly dependent upon sail,” p. 14.

William Reynolds’s enthusiastic words about the Ex. Ex. are from the October 29, 1838, entry of his private journal. On the Lewis and Clark Expedition as a model of good leadership, see James Ronda’s “‘A Most Perfect Harmony’: The Lewis and Clark Expedition as an Exploration Community” in Voyages of Discovery, edited by James Ronda, pp. 77-88. William Reynolds’s enthusiastic remarks about the Expedition and Wilkes appear in his private journal, recorded on October 29, 1838.

Samuel Clemens’s memories of Wilkes the explorer were prompted by his reading the obituary of Wilkes’s widow, Mary, in 1906; in Mark Twain’s Autobiography, vol. II, pp. 120-21. Thoreau’s reference to the Expedition appears in the final chapter of Walden, p. 560, in The Portable Thoreau,edited by Carl Bode, Penguin, 1977. For an examination of Thoreau’s wide reading in the literature of exploration, see John Aldrich Christie’s Thoreau as World Traveler. In the pamphlet The Stormy Petrel and the Whale, David Jaffé argues that Wilkes was a major inspiration for Ahab in Moby-Dick. Jaffé cites Melville’s reference to “young ambition,” p. 21, and elsewhere says of Wilkes, “Clearly, here was a man who could have been a great national hero for any one of a dozen incredible exploits. But the hero was a tarnished one. Melville must have perceived in a sudden flash that here was a great man with a tragic flaw—a will that was unbending to the point of fanaticism or monomania,” p. 18.


For an account of how the names “South Sea” and “Pacific” came into being, see Ernest Dodge’s New England and the South Seas, p. 10; Herman Melville also provides an interesting version of this naming process in his lecture “The South Seas,” in The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860, pp. 411-12. In the Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy, 1798-1877 (subsequently referred to as ACW), Wilkes writes that “the adventures of discoveries” had possessed him since “my early boyhood.” He continues, “Indeed, it was this strong bias which led me to sea & the naval Service. I had indulged in the idea of procuring distinction and a craving after the excitement and scenes which such an enterprise would offer,” p. 337. Bernard Smith in European Vision and the South Pacific discusses how exploration in the first half of the nineteenth century was predominantly by sea instead of land, p. 2.

Wilkes speaks of his traumatic separation from his father in ACW, pp. 7-8; he describes the witch, Mammy Reed, in ACW, pp. 4-5; he writes of having “no other companions than my books and teachers” in ACW, p. 12. Dodge’s New England and the South Seas contains a good account of the sea otter trade, pp. 22-25; 57-65. Even before the secret of sea otter furs became public knowledge, an American who was part of Cook’s expedition, John Ledyard, mounted a personal campaign to send a trading venture to the Northwest. He even traveled to France, where he won the support of Thomas Jefferson and John Paul Jones, but it wasn’t until 1787, when a group of six New England merchants enlisted Captains John Kendrick and Robert Gray, that an American sea otter voyage became a reality. When Astor died in 1848, he was considered to be the richest man in the United States; his great grandson, also named John Jacob Astor, would have the distinction of going down with the Titanic in 1905. Edmund Fanning, who sold the Tonquin (named for the gulf that would become famous during the Vietnam War) to Astor, wrote about the ship’s demise in Voyages to the South Seas, Indian and Pacific Oceans, pp. 137-50. F. W. Howay in “The Loss of the Tonquin” compares various known accounts of the disaster and tells of how the story eventually made its way east.

For an account of the naval side of the War of 1812, see William Fowler’s Jack Tars and Commodores. Daniel Henderson in Hidden Coasts describes the celebrations New Yorkers regularly gave naval heroes during the War of 1812, pp. 9-10. Wilkes relates Mammy Reed’s prediction that he would one day be an admiral in ACW, p. 4. James Fenimore Cooper’s pessimistic words about Wilkes’s chances of getting a midshipman’s appointment are in ACW, p. 37. Wilkes speaks of his “hankering after naval life” in ACW, p. 16. He describes his first voyage on a merchant vessel in ACW, pp. 20-28. Wilkes’s revealing statement about how his “tastes were not in unison” with a life at sea is in ACW, p. 29. Wilkes speaks of the death of his father in ACW, p. 37. Wilkes relates his impressions of Commodore William Bainbridge in ACW, pp. 41-42. Bainbridge may have been an unfortunate role model for Wilkes. Although an acknowledged hero of the War of 1812, Bainbridge had also suffered his share of defeats and was known as “Hard Luck Bill.” See Craig Symonds’s “William S. Bainbridge: Bad Luck or Fatal Flaw?” in Makers of the American Naval Tradition,edited by James Bradford, pp. 97-99. Wilkes’s statement concerning the “debauchery” typical of a naval vessel is in ACW, p. 45. His confession that he “had but few friends” among the officers of the vessels on which he served early on in his career is in ACW, p. 104. He speaks of his long-standing love of Jane Renwick in ACW, pp. 106-7.

Wilkes describes his cruise to the Pacific aboard the Franklin in ACW, pp. 109-43. He tells of meeting Captain Pollard in ACW, pp. 168-70. For another account of the Wilkes-Pollard meeting, see my In the Heart of the Sea, pp. 207-10. William Cary’s narrative Wrecked on the Feejees was found in manuscript in an attic in the town of Siasconset on Nantucket and published a few years later in 1887. Walter Whitehall’s The East India Marine Society and the Peabody Museum of Salem speaks about the sandalwood trade and also includes the memorial written in 1834, pp. 12-13. Amasa Delano describes the killing of seals in his Narrative of Voyages and Travels, pp. 306-7. My information on Nathaniel Palmer’s encounter with Bellingshausen is based largely on the chapter “Lands Below the Horn” by Robert Morsberger and W. Patrick Strauss in America Spreads Her Sails, edited by Clayton Barrow, Jr., pp. 21-40. Davis’s and Burdick’s sealing voyages to the Antarctic Peninsula are analyzed in Kenneth Bertrand’s Americans in Antarctica, 1775-1948, pp. 89-101. The 1828 memorial from the citizens of Nantucket is included in J. N. Reynolds’s Address on the Subject of a Surveying and Exploring Expedition, pp. 165-66.


For information about John Barrow, see Fergus Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys: The Original Extreme Adventurers, pp. 1-12. A. Hunter Dupree writes about the disappointing aftermath of the Lewis and Clark Expedition in Science and the Federal Government, pp. 27-28. In his 1825 Inaugural Address, John Quincy Adams speaks of how European voyages of discovery have not only brought glory to their nations but contributed to “the improvement of human knowledge.” He continues, “We have been partakers of that improvement and owe for it a sacred debt, not only of gratitude, but of equal or proportional exertion in the same common cause,” in Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897, volume II, edited by James Richardson, p. 312.

As early as 1811, President James Madison had selected the sealer Edmund Fanning to lead a small exploring expedition to the Pacific. Unfortunately, the outbreak of the War of 1812 meant that what would have been known as the Fanning Expedition never left port. Prior to that, in 1790, a Maryland surveyor named John Churchman unsuccessfully attempted to convince Congress to fund a voyage to Baffin Bay off the west coast of Greenland to conduct magnetic experiments; see Dupree’s Science and the Federal Government, pp. 9-11.

Elmore Symmes speaks of John Symmes’s stint in St. Louis in “John Cleves Symmes, The Theorist” in Southern Bivouac, p. 558. For an account of Terra Australis Incognita, see Jacques Brosse’s Great Voyages of Discovery, pp. 14- 16. As Reginald Horsman relates in “Captain Symmes’s Journey to the Center of the Earth” in Timeline, Symmes read Cook’s Voyages when he was just eleven years old; Horsman also describes what it would have been like for a ship to sail into the “great verges,” p. 8. As Horsman also relates, a novel entitled Symzonia: A Voyage of Discovery,purportedly based on a sea captain’s journal of a voyage into the interior of the earth, was published in 1820. E. F. Madden provides a brief overview of the holes in the poles in “Symmes and His Theory,” in Harper’s New Monthly Magazine, pp. 740-49. The Symmes petition was presented by R. M. Johnson of Kentucky and appears in Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States, 17th Congress, 1st Session, p. 278. A second petition from an Ohio delegation was presented to Congress on February 7, 1823, in Debates and Proceedings, 17th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 191.

For information on Jeremiah Reynolds, who despite being a famous person of his day has virtually slipped through the cracks of history, I have depended on R. B. Harlan’s The History of Clinton County, Ohio, pp. 580-85, and Henry Howe’s Historical Collections of Ohio, pp. 431-33. Instead of his relationship with Symmes, it has been Reynolds’s connection to Edgar Allan Poe that has interested most scholars; see Robert F. Almy’s “J. N. Reynolds: A Brief Biography with Particular Reference to Poe and Symmes” in The Colophon, pp. 227-45, and Aubrey Starke’s “Poe’s Friend Reynolds” in American Literature, pp. 152-59. In Remarks on a Review of Symmes’ Theory, Jeremiah Reynolds speaks of Weddell and the open polar sea, then continues, “suppose, like Weddell, under some fortuitous circumstances, the icy circle should be passed, a few days press of sail would reach the 90°, where anchor might be cast on the axis of the earth, our eagle and star-spangled banner unfurled and planted, and left to wave on the very pole itself, where, amid the novelty, grandeur, and sublimity, of the scene, the two little vessels would turn once around in twenty-four hours,” p. 72.

A letter from Jeremiah Reynolds on the subject of “an Antarctic Expedition” appears in Doc. No. 88, House of Representatives, 20th Congress, 1st Session, pp. 3-4. A series of memorials and letters of support (from such notables as Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones and Secretary of the Navy Samuel Southard) are included in Rep. No. 209, 20th Congress, 1st Session. Reynolds’s 1828 report on uncharted islands and shoals is in Doc. No. 105, House of Representatives, 23rd Congress, 2nd Session. In a letter dated June 22, 1838, Wilkes’s old naval friend Lieutenant R. R. Pinkham, a Nantucketer, charges that Reynolds’s report “was copied word for word, from the Nantucket Inquirer, after Jenks [editor of the newspaper], Thornton, and myself had spent months in collecting [the information]” (KSHS). The launching of the “strong and splendid discovery ship Peacock” is described in the New York Mirror, October 4, 1828, p. 106.

Wilkes tells of his chance meeting with Jane and her mother at a chemistry lecture in ACW, p. 209. For the relationship between science and the U.S. government, see A. Hunter Dupree’s Science and the Federal Government, as well as Robert Bruce’s The Launching of Modern American Science, 1846-1876, George Daniel’s American Science in the Age of Jackson, and Nathan Reingold’s “Definitions and Speculations: The Professionalization of Science in America in the Nineteenth Century” in The Pursuit of Knowledge in the Early American Republic, edited by Alexandra Oleson and Sanborn Brown, pp. 33-69. For information concerning Ferdinand Hassler, I have depended on Ferdinand Cajori’s The Checquered Career of Ferdinand Rudolph Hassler, as well as Albert Stanley’s “Hassler’s Legacy” in NOAA Magazine, pp. 52-57. For information on Wilkes’s brother-in-law James Renwick see the Dictionary of American Biography and ACW, pp. 724-27. Wilkes describes his relationship with Hassler in ACW, pp. 216-25.

Wilkes’s October 5, 1828, letter to Secretary of the Navy Samuel Southard is in Collection 250, Box 28, Folder 11 of the Southard Papers at the Princeton University Library. Jeremiah Reynolds’s October 28, 1828, letter to Southard, in which he describes Wilkes’s and Renwick’s “spirit of dictation,” is also at Princeton. Senator Hayne’s arguments against the 1829 expedition are in No. 94 of 20th Congress, 2nd Session.

For information on the South Sea Fur Company and Exploring Expedition, see Edmund Fanning’s Voyages Round the World, pp. 478-91, which includes a report from the expedition’s leader, Benjamin Pendleton; see also William Stanton’s The Great United States Exploring Expedition(subsequently referred to as Stanton), pp. 26-28. The geologist James Eights’s description of the South Shetland Islands is contained in Edmund Fanning’s Voyages to the South Seas, pp. 195-216. Wilkes tells of being stricken with smallpox in ACW, pp. 285-86. In his introduction to Voyage to the Southern Ocean, Herman Viola speaks of how Wilkes’s bout with smallpox prevented him from meeting William Reynolds on the Boxer, p. xxix. Wilkes describes his surveying duty at Newport, Rhode Island, in ACW, pp. 286-93. He tells of his fallout with Hassler in ACW, pp. 294-96.

For information about the Depot of Charts and Instruments and Wilkes’s role in creating what became known as the Capitol Hill Observatory, I have relied on Steven Dick’s “Centralizing Navigational Technology in America: The U.S. Navy’s Depot of Charts and Instruments, 1830-1842” in Technology and Culture and “How the U.S. Naval Observatory Began, 1830-65” in Sky and Telescope. Wilkes describes his family’s introduction to Washington, D.C., in ACW, pp. 300-303. Harold Langley speaks of the importance of politics to a successful navy career in Social Reform in the United States Navy, 1798-1862, p. 23. My discussion of Andrew Jackson’s relationship with the U.S. Navy owes much to John Schroeder’s Shaping a Maritime Empire: The Commercial and Diplomatic Role of the American Navy, 1829-1861, pp. 22-28. Jackson’s words of praise concerning the incident at Quallah Batoo are quoted in Schroeder, p. 28.

Jeremiah Reynolds was not only a proponent of science; he was also possessed with a Jacksonian sense of the United States’ imperialist destiny: “Our flag should be borne to every portion of the globe, to give to civilized and savage man a just impression of the power we possess, and in what manner we can exercise it when justice demands reparation for insulted dignity”; in Voyage of the United States Frigate Potomac, p. ii. For the influence of Reynolds’s “Mocha Dick, the White Whale of the Pacific” on Melville, see Perry Miller’s The Raven and the Whale, pp. 20-22. My references to Reynolds’s 1836 “Address on the Subject of a Surveying and Exploring Expedition” are from the edition published by Harpers in 1836; pp. 31, 72-73, 90, 98. My thanks to Susan Beegel and Wes Tiffney for their comments concerning scientific collecting in the nineteenth century. John Schroeder in Shaping a Maritime Empire cites Ohioan Thomas Hamer’s defense of an exploring expedition, p. 34. Southard’s motion to fund “an exploring expedition to the Pacific Ocean and South Seas” was approved by a vote of 44-1 on April 27, 1836; in Register of Debates in Congress, 24th Congress, 1st Session, pp. 1298-99; see also pp. 3470-73 for the debates that occurred on May 5, 1836.

For information on Mahlon Dickerson’s tenure as secretary of the navy, see W. Patrick Strauss’s “Mahlon Dickerson” in American Secretaries of the Navy, vol. 1, edited by Paolo Coletta, pp. 155-63. Strauss’s “Preparing the Wilkes Expedition: A Study in Disorganization” in Pacific Historical Review provides a good, blow-by-blow account of the many missteps associated with the beginnings of the Expedition. Jackson’s letters to Dickerson about his interest in the Expedition are in the Letters Relating to the Wilkes Exploring Expedition (LRWEE), National Archives (NA). For an analysis of Commodore Jones’s involvement in the Ex. Ex., see Gene Smith’s Thomas Ap Catesby Jones: Commodore of Manifest Destiny, pp. 70-92.

Wilkes’s letters to Dickerson concerning the purchase of instruments in Europe appear in LRWEE. Wilkes’s trip to Europe to purchase instruments for the Expedition is chronicled in the dozens of letters he wrote his wife Jane in the Wilkes Family Papers at the Library of Congress; see also Doris Esch Borthwick’s “Outfitting the United States Exploring Expedition: Lieutenant Charles Wilkes’s European Assignment, August-November, 1836” in Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society, which quotes from the November 4, 1836, letter to Jane in which Wilkes refers to “these giants,” p. 171. For information on James Ross and his discovery of the magnetic North Pole, see Fergus Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys, pp. 291-92; 334-35. On what was referred to as the “Magnetic Crusade,” see John Cawood’s “Terrestrial Magnetism and the Development of International Collaboration in the Early Nineteenth Century,” pp. 585-86.

The scientist Walter Johnson’s February 14, 1837, letter describing the insufficiencies of Wilkes’s collection of instruments as well as Charles Pickering’s February 15, 1839, letter about the lack of microscopes and Wilkes’s March 18, 1837, letter withdrawing his name from consideration as astronomer are in LRWEE.

In April 1837 the Expedition’s newly constructed vessels participated in sea trials. According to Daniel Ammen, who witnessed the trials, “had the object been to build vessels of exceptional slowness the success would have been undoubted”; in The Old Navy and the New, p. 28. The rancorous public exchange between Jeremiah Reynolds and Dickerson is reprinted in Reynolds’s Pacific and Indian Oceans. The reference to the “Deplorable Expedition” appears in the January 25, 1838, issue of the Long Island Star; cited in David Tyler’s The Wilkes Expedition (subsequently referred to as Tyler), p. 19. For an account of the attempts made by the friends of Nathaniel Hawthorne to secure him a position with the Expedition, see James Mellow’s Nathaniel Hawthorne in His Times, pp. 84-87. For information on the Panic of 1837, I have relied on Arthur Schlesinger’s Political and Social History of the United States, 1829-1925, pp. 53-61.

Wilkes describes his survey of Georges Bank and his meeting with Nathaniel Bowditch in ACW, pp. 325-30, 360-68. According to Barbara Mc-Corkle in “Cartographic History, 1524-1850” in Georges Bank, edited by Richard Backus, “a better survey was not undertaken until 1930-1932,” p. 16. Wilkes speaks of his relationship with his cabin boy Charlie Erskine in ACW, pp. 331-33; Erskine’s account is in his Twenty Years Before the Mast, pp. 10-11. Lieutenant James Glynn in an October 21, 1837, letter to George Emmons describes being cheered at a New York theater; cited in Tyler, p. 1; see also Stanton, p. 54. Stanton describes the heating system in the Macedonian, p. 54. In an October 31, 2002, personal communication, the arms expert Charles Thayer describes the genesis of the Bowie knife pistol. Jones designed the pistol and described it as “ideal for penetrating into the interiors of islands inhabited by savages.” Jones’s attempts to retrieve the Expedition’s instruments are detailed in his letters to Poinsett in LRWEE, as is his November 21, 1837, letter of resignation. According to Stanton, word reached Washington of the French voyage to the Pacific and Antarctica in July of 1837, pp. 50-51.

In a May 5, 1838, letter to Wilkes, the naturalist Titian Peale states that “a reduction in the number of members of the Scientific Corps . . . is absolutely requisite as far as regards the beneficial results of the Exped” (KSHS). For information about Joel Poinsett, I have relied on the Dictionary of American Biography and Stanton, pp. 60-61. John Quincy Adams’s stern words to Poinsett about the Expedition are in the Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, volume 9, p. 491. Poinsett’s March 1, 1838, letter to Dickerson is in LRWEE.


William Reynolds speaks of reading in the Library of Congress in an April 24, 1838, letter to his sister Lydia. Unless otherwise indicated, William Reynolds’s letters are located at the Shadeck-Fackenthal Library, Franklin and Marshall College. Reynolds speaks of “the immaculate ‘Bowditch’” in a November 19, 1836, letter to Lydia; he writes of Lydia’s relationship with Rebecca Krug in an October 30, 1836, letter. He tells of a midshipman being “bilged” in a May 26, 1837, letter. Howard Chapelle provides the dimensions of the Pennsylvania in The History of the American Sailing Navy, pp. 371-72, 549. Reynolds tells of the Pennsylvania’s voyage to Norfolk in a January 6, 1837, letter to Lydia. Herman Viola provides information on Reynolds’s family background in his introduction to Voyage to the Southern Ocean, pp. xxviii-xxix. Reynolds’s letter describing a typical day at the Depot is dated April 24, 1838. In a May 1, 1838, letter he writes of his admiration of Wilkes, and on May 13, 1838, he writes of Wilkes’s family seal.

Wilkes recounts how he was awarded command of the Ex. Ex. and then put the squadron together during the spring and summer of 1838 in ACW, pp. 333-59, 370-72, 374. Beverley Kennon’s April 13, 1838, letter protesting Wilkes’s appointment is in LRWEE. Joseph Smith’s April 21, 1838, letter of congratulations to Wilkes is at KSHS. The congressional debates involving Wilkes’s appointment are contained in the Congressional Globe, 25th Congress, 2nd Session, p. 297.

Lieutenant Matthew Maury, a bitter rival and critic of Wilkes, claimed that Poinsett wanted to offer him the same opportunity Poinsett gave Wilkes. Maury wrote a friend that Poinsett had asked him to tell him, without regard to rank, who was the officer most qualified to lead the Expedition. Even though he felt he was the best suited, he gave Poinsett a list of officers with his name at the bottom, claiming he felt he had no right “to draw distinctions among brother officers.” Maury said that Poinsett “froze up in disgust . . . and gave Wilkes the command, and so I was the gainer, for I preserved my integrity.” Rather than a question of integrity, it may have been a lack of personal courage. Maury was even farther down the list than Wilkes, and his appointment would have inspired an even greater uproar—if indeed Poinsett was seriously considering him for the command. Later in his career, Maury would prove just as politically opportunistic, if not more so, than Wilkes. See Frances Williams’s Matthew Fontaine Maury: Scientist of the Sea, pp. 114-20.

In volume one of William Hudson’s official journal of the Expedition (at the American Museum of Natural History, New York), Hudson was careful to include a copy of Poinsett’s June 5, 1838, letter insisting that the Expedition was “purely civil.” James Natland’s comments about James Dana’s religious conversion prior to the departure of the Expedition appear in his “At Vulcan’s Shoulder: James Dwight Dana and the Beginning of Planetary Volcanology,” pp. 312-39. In an April 3, 1838, diary entry, Secretary of the Navy Dickerson writes, “Mr. Poinsett considered as dying” (The New Jersey Historical Society). An April 7, 1838, letter from Hudson to Wilkes (at Duke University [DU]) reveals that it was Hudson’s idea to replace the ships’ iron water tanks with casks.

Reynolds’s description of how he and May assisted Wilkes in his observations is in a June 17, 1838, letter to Lydia. Wilkes requested the acting lieutenant appointments in a July 11, 1838, letter to Paulding, LRWEE; on the back of the letter Paulding notes the appointments as going to Carr, Walker, Johnson, Hartstene, Alden, Case, Emmons, Perry, Underwood, and Dale. The reference to “refractory and evil spirits” resulting from “senior officers contending among themselves” is from Matthew Fontaine Maury’s “Scraps from the Lucky Bag,” published anonymously in the Southern Literary Messenger, April 1840, p. 235. For an excellent analysis of the issue of rank in the nineteenth-century U.S. Navy, see Donald Chisholm’s Waiting for Dead Men’s Shoes: Origins and Development of the U.S. Navy’s Officer Personnel System, 1793-1941, especially Chapter 8, “Movement Toward Rationalization, 1837-44,” pp. 167-94; my thanks to John Hattendorf for bringing this source to my attention. In a June 11, 1838, letter to his uncle (at DU), Wilkes’s nephew Wilkes Henry writes that “From Mr. Waldron [the purser of the Vincennes] I heard that Mr. H. would hereafter be Captn Hudson. It must give you a great deal of pleasure.” Wilkes refers to Poinsett’s change of heart after his illness in ACW, p. 372; elsewhere in ACW Wilkes describes how Poinsett “left the impression on my mind that it was the intention of the Govt to do it [give him and Hudson acting appointments] just before the departure of the Expedition and I was gulled into the belief it would be done and from day to day anticipated receiving Acg Commissions, but none came,” p. 371. Wilkes also claimed that after the Expedition had been concluded Poinsett “admitted to me that it had been a great omission on the part of the Government to have entrusted me with such an important Command without conferring on me the Mantle of a nominal rank,” ACW, p. 371. Wilkes’s half-joking reference to having Jane come along as his “assistant” was written in July 1838 from Norfolk and is at DU; unless otherwise indicated, all letters between Wilkes and Jane are located at Duke University. Wilkes’s July 19, 1838, letter to Poinsett about the acting captain appointments for himself and Hudson is in LRWEE.

In A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession, Christopher McKee provides a detailed description of the preparation of a naval vessel for a presidential visit, p. 123. Edgar Allan Poe’s tribute to Jeremiah Reynolds’s role in instigating the Expedition is included in his review of a pamphlet about the Exploring Expedition in Graham’s Magazine, September 1843, pp. 164-65. Jeremiah Reynolds’s reference to Wilkes as a “cunning little Jacob” is taken from an anonymous article written by Matthew Maury, in Reynolds’s Pacific and Indian Oceans, p. 464. William Reynolds’s enthusiastic letter to Lydia about the final preparations for the Expedition is dated August 12, 1838. Wilkes’s sorrowful letter to Jane about leaving her and the children was written August 11, 1838. The description of Wilkes’s captain uniform is taken from the Wilkes Court-Martial Records, Vol. 44, No. 827, p. 26. William Reynolds’s description of the “éclat” of the Expedition’s officers at the eve of departure is from an unpublished manuscript describing Wilkes’s behavior during the Expedition (subsequently referred to as Manuscript) at FMC, p. 1. Wilkes refers to the acting captain appointment as his “shield of protection” in ACW, pp. 370-71. Wilkes’s final letter to Poinsett describing his “mortification” is dated August 18, 1838, and is at the Pennsylvania Historical Society. The pilot’s report of the high morale of the Expedition’s officers appears in the August 25, 1838, Niles Register. Wilkes’s description of feeling “doomed to destruction” is from his Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition (subsequently referred to as Narrative), vol. 1, p. 3.


I have based my description of the squadron’s departure on an illustration in Charles Erskine’s Twenty Years Before the Mast, p. 15. Wilkes claims the Vincennes can “do everything but talk” in an April 5, 1840, letter to fellow explorer James Ross, reprinted in the appendix to vol. 2 of the Narrative, pp. 453-56. Louis Bolander in “The Vincennes, World Traveler of the Old Navy” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings cites a reference to the cabin of the flagship being a “pavilion of elegance,” p. 826. First Lieutenant Thomas Craven’s praise of the Vincennes is in a June 10, 1838, letter to Wilkes in KSHS. Philip Lundeberg in “Ships and Squadron Logistics” in MV speaks of the alterations to the Vincennes and the thirty-six-foot stern cabin, p. 152; he also provides excellent information about the other Expedition vessels. See also Lundenberg’s and Dana Wegner’s “‘Not for Conquest But Discovery’: Rediscovering the Ships of the Wilkes Expedition” in American Neptune, pp. 151-67. Howard Chapelle discusses the Expedition vessels in The History of the American Sailing Navy, specifically mentioning the Relief’s innovative use of spencers on all three masts, p. 389. Stanton, who also provides an overview of the Expedition’s vessels on the squadron’s departure from Norfolk, cites the Peacock’s difficulties on the Persian Gulf, p. 75. Hudson discusses his concerns about his vessel in his log. Philip Lundeberg has compiled a useful comparison of exploring vessels in Appendix 1, “Characteristics of Selected Exploring Vessels” in MV, p. 255. Wilkes speaks of his “very distressing thoughts” in ACW, p. 376. A copy of Wilkes’s instructions is included in the Narrative, vol. 1, pp. xxv-xxxi. Wilkes writes Jane of his “fatigues” on September 2, 1838.

William Reynolds discusses Wilkes’s changing uniform; for most of the first year of the voyage, Wilkes’s “shoulders, with an excess of modesty, had not even borne the single swab, the only insignia, which his rank as a Lieutenant in the Navy, and as the ‘first officer,’ in Command of the Squadron, entitled him to”; Manuscript, p. 17. In a September 1, 1838, letter to Jane, Wilkes writes, “I have made Carr my flag Lieut. . . . and [he] is much with me.” In a personal communication (February 9, 2002), William Fowler expresses his doubts about Wilkes’s having the authority to name a flag lieutenant. Dudley Pope writes insightfully about the solitude of command, as well as different command styles, in Life in Nelson’s Navy, pp. 62-64. J. C. Beaglehole in The Life of Captain James Cook speaks of Cook’s “paroxysms of passion,” p. 711. Reynolds mentions that Wilkes “was accustomed to be the guest of the ward room,” as well as Wilkes’s habit of squishing spiders, in his Manuscript, p. 5. Wilkes describes how he responded to the facial hair challenge in ACW, pp. 384-85. He speaks of his ability to read the characters of his officers in an October 21, 1838, letter to Jane.

Unless otherwise indicated, all of Reynolds’s quotations are from his private journal. He writes of the “youthful faces” among the officers in an August 30, 1838, letter to Lydia. In a September 16, 1838, letter to Jane, Wilkes mentions his breakfast with Reynolds and May. In a May 8, 1838, letter to Lydia, Reynolds tells how he was mistaken for his friend May. Wilkes writes Jane of how “very smoothly” his relations with his officers have been in a September 26, 1838, letter. In an October 21, 1838, letter to Jane, he predicts that in a short while “I shall have gained [the officers’] affections and will be enabled to do most anything with them.” Charles Erskine describes his contemplated murder of Wilkes in Twenty Years Before the Mast, pp. 14-20.

Reynolds refers to the “graceful beauty” of the schooners in a September 6 entry of a letter to Lydia begun on August 30, 1838. George Emmons refers to the schooners as “the pets of the squadron” in the February 5, 1838, entry of his journal (at Yale). In an October 21, 1838, letter to Jane, Wilkes tells of both Craven’s and Lee’s pleas to Hudson that they be given command of the schooners. Reynolds describes Wilkes’s daily inspection of the schooners in his Manuscript, pp. 4-5. Wilkes’s September 13, 1838, order concerning journals is included in the appendix to volume 1 of the Narrative, pp. 367-68. Reynolds speaks of the George Porter incident in both his journal and a September 15, 1838, entry in his August letter to Lydia.

For a brief history of Madeira, see Jean Ludtke’s Atlantic Peeks: An Ethnographic Guide to the Portuguese-Speaking Islands, pp. 233-34. Samuel Eliot Morison discusses Christopher Columbus’s relationship to Madeira in Admiral of the Ocean Sea, pp. 517-19. The amount of Madeira taken by Cook in 1768 is noted in The Endeavour Journal of Joseph Banks, 1768-1771, edited by J. C. Beaglehole, p. 8; my thanks to John Hattendorf for bringing this to my attention. Wilkes tells of the wine he purchased in ACW, p. 388. In a revealing passage in ACW, Wilkes states, “It was surmised that when I had got through my Scientific duties and preparations & was to take command of my own ship and the Squadron, I would be embarrassed and prove a failure, but I felt myself completely at home and gave my attention to all parts essential to the Service,” p. 374. As he makes clear in the subsequent description of how he proceeded to frustrate First Lieutenant Craven’s attempts to make crew assignments, Wilkes was anything but “at home” on the deck of the Vincennes.

Wilkes describes how the squadron searched out doubtful shoals in his Narrative, vol. 1, p. 28. For information on bioluminescence, I have depended on Richard Ellis’s Encyclopedia of the Sea, pp. 36, 95, 255. For information on Magellanic Clouds, I consulted the Web site For information on the artists James Drayton and especially Alfred Agate, I have looked to Philip Lundeberg’s “Legacy of an Artist Explorer,” pp. 1-5. Bernard Smith in European Vision and the South Pacific writes about the camera lucida, p. 255. William Reynolds tells of the busy scene on Enxadas Island in a December 4, 1838, letter to Lydia. Wilkes refers to the anxiety he was feeling in Rio in a December 22, 1838, letter to Jane. Doris Esch Borthwick’s “Outfitting the U.S. Exploring Expedition” contains a good description of how a pendulum experiment was conducted in the nineteenth century. The description of Wilkes’s outburst while performing experiments in Rio is contained in a small daybook kept by William Reynolds, in which he appears to have recorded testimony from the court of inquiry Wilkes later called in Valparaiso, Chile, to investigate the actions of Lieutenant John Dale. Reynolds speaks of the ominous nature of these “little outbreaks” in his Manuscript, p. 6.

In a November 25, 1838, letter to Jane, Wilkes writes, “[Nicholson] calls us all Mr. Hudson, Mr. Wilkes and I spoke to him yesterday about it & told him that if I had a disposition to retaliate, I should call him only Capn Nicolson.” Commodore Nicholson’s correspondence with Wilkes while the Expedition was at Rio is at KSHS; he makes the comments about Wilkes not being a captain in a January 4, 1839, letter. Wilkes tells of crying during a pendulum experiment in a December 9, 1838, letter to Jane; he tells of his physical collapse in a December 22, 1838, letter to Jane; he also describes the incident in ACW, p. 398.

In a January 2, 1839, letter to Wilkes, Commodore Nicholson writes, “I most sincerely regret we have ever met, as since you have been in this Port, with every disposition on my part to serve and aid you, you have evinced nothing but dissatisfaction.” On a copy of Wilkes’s correspondence with Nicholson, Secretary of the Navy Paulding scribbled a March 13, 1839, note concerning Wilkes’s “tone of feeling which does not seem to be called for by the occasion” (KSHS). William Reynolds writes of Wilkes’s “hanging back” when it came to the approach to Cape Horn in his Manuscript, p. 7. Wilkes speaks in detail about his suspension of Craven in ACW, 403-5. Reynolds writes of how some of Wilkes’s officers initially defended his actions in his Manuscript, p. 6.

Joseph Couthouy mentions Thomas Piner’s comments about “getting into the suburbs” in the February 6, 1838, entry of his journal (at the Museum of Science, Boston). Captain Porter’s words about the horrors of rounding Cape Horn are in his Journal of a Cruise Made to the Pacific Ocean in the U.S. Frigate Essex, p. 84. For information about tacking a square-rigged ship, I have consulted John Harland’s Seamanship in the Age of Sail, pp. 181-89.


James Cook’s words upon reaching his Ne Plus Ultra appear in J. C. Beaglehole’s Life of Captain James Cook, pp. 365-66. When it came to Wilkes’s assigning two new commanders to the schooners, he later claimed that a “drinking bout” on the Flying Fish contributed to his decision to remove Passed Midshipman Samuel Knox from command, ACW, p. 406. Wilkes tells of how he acted to “astonish” the squadron by dismissing Lee in a February 23, 1839, letter to Jane; in that letter he adds that he was forced “to cut him off by way of example although he is a very good officer as respects to duty.” Robert Johnson refers to the “devilish Schooners” in a February 18, 1839, entry in his journal. On Weddell’s 1823 record sail south, see Jacques Brosse’s Great Voyages of Discovery, p. 185. Wilkes tells of their encounter with the whaleship in his Narrative, vol. 1, p. 134. Wilkes describes himself in “excellent spirits” in a February 26, 1839, letter to Jane.

Johnson tells about the repair of the Sea Gull’s broken gaff in the February 28, 1839, entry of his journal. On the Antarctic Convergence, see Edwin Mickleburgh’s Beyond the Frozen Sea, p. 22. Johnson speaks of the many penguins and whales in his March 1, 1839, journal entry. Wilkes compares an iceberg to the Capitol building in a March 31, 1839, letter to Jane; he also speaks of his exchange with Ringgold about “adventuring with boldness.” The sealer Robert Fildes’s description of the South Shetland Islands as a place created by a drunken Mother Nature appears in E. W. Hunter Christie’s The Antarctic Problem, p. 91. Johnson describes the ice-encrusted state of the Sea Gull in a March 5, 1839, journal entry. Wilkes speaks of being “so full of energy” in a May 22, 1839, letter to Jane. Kenneth Bertrand details the route taken by Jeremiah Reynolds’s privately funded voyage south in Americans in Antarctica, pp. 144-58. Jacques Brosse in Great Voyages of Discovery tells of d’Urville’s unsuccessful first attempt to sail south in 1837-38, pp. 185-89.

William Hudson complains of the leaky condition of the Peacock in a March 11, 1839, journal entry. Titian Peale tells of being awakened by Lieutenant Perry and his snowball in a March 9, 1839, entry. George Emmons tells of William Stewart’s fall in a March 10, 1839, journal entry. Hudson describes the Sunday service he conducted in a March 17, 1839, entry. Hudson complains of “this fancy kind of sailing” in a March 17 entry.

All of James Palmer’s account of the Flying Fish’s sail south appears in “Antarctic Adventures of the United States’ Schooner Flying-Fish in 1839” in the appendix of Thulia: A Tale of the Antarctic, a book-length poem Palmer wrote about the voyage, pp. 65-72. William Walker’s account of the voyage appears in the appendix of volume 1 of Wilkes’s Narrative, pp. 408-14. My description of the formation of grease ice is from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency’s Antarctic Pilot, p. 18. In The Antarctic Problem, E. W. Hunter Christie says that the Flying Fish’s voyage was “no mean achievement in so small a vessel so late in the season,” p. 135. See also Henderson Norman’s “The Log of the Flying-Fish” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, pp. 363-69.

Reynolds’s account of his open-boat survey of Tierra del Fuego is in his journal. Joseph Couthouy’s remarks about the sailing characteristics of the launch appear in a March 7, 1839, journal entry. Darwin’s remarks about the primitive state of the Yahgans appear in The Voyage of the Beagle, p. 213. Bruce Chatwin in In Patagonia claims that Darwin “lapsed into that common failing of naturalists: to marvel at the intricate perfection of other creatures and recoil from the squalor of man. . . . For the mere sight of the Fuegians helped trigger off the theory that Man had evolved from an ape-like species and that some men had evolved further than others,” p. 128. Johnson tells of walking over the warm crust of Deception Island in a March 12, 1839, journal entry.

Wilkes recounts how Long did not hug the coast (as Wilkes had suggested) during his passage to the Strait of Magellan in ACW, p. 409. James Dana’s account of the Relief’s near-disaster at the Strait of Magellan is from a March 24, 1839, letter to Robert Bakewell reprinted in Daniel Gilman’s The Life of James Dwight Dana, pp. 99-103. King’s description of the navigational horrors of the Milky Way are contained in Lieutenant Long’s March 19, 1839, journal entry; other quotations from Long are from his March 18-20 entries. Pickering’s comment about a man’s hair turning gray is from his March 18, 1839, journal entry; the other quotes from Pickering are taken from his March 19 and 20 entries. Wilkes recounts Pickering’s “philosophic act” in ACW, p. 410. The reference to the Relief’s “remarkable escape” is from Gershom Bradford’s “On a Lee Shore” in The American Neptune, p. 282.

The proceedings of John Dale’s Court of Inquiry are contained in the Court-Martial Records, No. 884. In his “General Orders” concerning Dale’s Court of Inquiry (reprinted in the appendix to volume 1 of the Narrative, p. 421), Wilkes insisted that the mishap was due to Dale’s “inexperience” and “want of determined perseverance.” Daniel Goleman’s comments concerning the “emotional mind” come from his Emotional Intelligence, p. 291.

In a March 13, 1839, letter to Jane, Wilkes says that he “suffered much anxiety” as a result of the incident involving Dale at the Strait of Le Maire, adding, “I scarcely ever suffered so much in the same time—when they came on board I immediately suspended Lt. Dale.” Reynolds refers to the “turning point” in his Manuscript, p. 16. In a letter to Jane written over the course of June 12-16, 1839, Wilkes refers to the “astonishing” coincidence that all of Jones’s officers proved incompetent.

In a June 3, 1839, letter to Jane, Wilkes refers to the officers he will consign to the Relief as “useless trash.” Reynolds’s words about the difficulty of “quieting Captain Long” are from his journal. Wilkes mentions the floggings in his Narrative, vol. 1, pp. 232-33; he talks about the loss of the Sea Gull on pp. 206-7; he theorizes about how the schooner went down in ACW, p. 411. Reynolds speaks of the “poor fellows” of the Sea Gull in a June 30, 1839, letter to Lydia.

Wilkes’s reference to giving his officers “the necessary rebuke” is in a May 14, 1839, letter to Jane. He speaks of Carr hanging on to his coattails in a June 12-16 letter to Jane. The statistics about dueling come from Charles Paullin’s “Dueling in the Old Navy” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, p. 1157. Christopher McKee in A Gentlemanly and Honorable Profession writes eloquently about the “psycho-dynamics” of dueling in the navy; he also claims that Paullin’s assertions about dueling are exaggerated, pointing out that the number of deaths attributed to duels accounts for just “one percent of the total number of officers who left the navy before the date,” p. 404. Wilkes refers to Wilkes Henry’s duel with George Harrison in a June 12-16, 1839, letter to Jane. George Harrison had a reputation in the squadron for hotheadedness; several months later he would be suspended for disrespectful conduct toward Lieutenant Sinclair, who commented on Harrison’s apparent hatred for “the whole human race, himself included.” Wilkes tells of his conversation with Hudson about Henry and of the officers’ letter of support in a July 3, 1838, letter to Jane. The officers’ letter is reprinted in the appendix to Wilkes’s Narrative, vol. 1, p. 422.

Wilkes speaks in praise of Captain McKeever in ACW, p. 412; in a May 22, 1838, letter to Jane, Wilkes mentions that McKeever, unlike Nicholson, refers to him as “Captain Wilkes.” Johnson’s worries about McKeever’s “sinister views” are recorded in a June 29, 1839, journal entry. Reynolds speaks of his despair and anger over Wilkes’s decision to take on McKeever’s nephew in a June 30, 1839, letter to Lydia.


In a July 3, 1839, letter to Jane, Wilkes writes, “I have bought or rather had made a pair of beautiful epaulettes & that I intend to wear them—keep this to yourself as I think it now high time to appear in my proper uniform.” In a September 12-21 letter to Jane written from Tahiti, Wilkes recounts how he “hoisted the Broad Pendant and . . . my two straps as did Hudson by an order of mine so you see I have had the impertinence to give myself sufficient Dignity at least in appearance.” Wilkes refers to this action as “a bold and unwarranted stroke of policy on my part” in ACW, p. 377, but insists that “it was justified under the necessities of the case.” Reynolds speaks of Wilkes’s “immense” epaulets in his Manuscript, adding, “It is not a little remarkable that the assumption of all this Naval Splendour was deferred until Mr. Wilkes felt himself out of the regions usually infested by American men of war. Perhaps he thought he could carry it more bravely among the breechless savages than amidst the pomp and circumstance of real, full blooded Captains and Commodores, in whose presence he might have been disagreeably reminded of the old fable of the ‘Daw in borrowed plumes!’” p. 17. Wilkes’s decision to make himself a commodore also fits with what psychologists have termed the “glass bubble syndrome”: “People with a narcissistic personality sometimes fantasize consciously and often unconsciously that they are living by themselves in glory, protected from the rest of the world and the common herd by a shield made of something impervious, like a glass bubble. From this vantage point, they can look out at the world with disdain and without fear of challenge”; from Richard Nixon: A Psychobiography, by Vamik Volkan et al., p. 98. Wilkes refers to his hoped-for acting appointment to captain as a “shield of protection” in ACW, pp. 370-71.

Reynolds speaks of the mystery of a coral island in a September 12, 1839, letter to Lydia. Titian Peale’s comments about the “sorry business” of leaving the scientific corps idle are in an August 14, 1839, journal entry. In contrast to their experiences in the Tuamotus, the scientists had spent a profitable two months in South America, much of it spent hiking into the Andes, where they collected numerous specimens and artifacts. At one point a condor decided that Charles Pickering was the one who should be collected. When the giant bird swooped down with its talons outstretched, the naturalist was forced to fight it off with his Bowie knife pistol.

My description of how Wilkes conducted a survey is based largely on his own “Mode of Surveying the Coral Islands” in the appendix of volume 1 of his Narrative, pp. 429-32, as well as “Surveying and Charting the Pacific Basin” by Ralph Ehrenberg, John Wolter, and Charles Burroughs in MV, pp. 165-70. William Goetzmann talks about the speed of Wilkes’s survey method in New Lands, New Men, p. 276.

Wilkes’s order about being kind to natives is reprinted in his Narrative, vol. 1, pp. 308-9. Johnson speaks of Sac’s enthusiasm for killing penguins in a March 10, 1839, journal entry. Wilkes’s words about the encounter with the natives of Reao Atoll (referred to as Clermont de Tonnere) are from his Narrative, vol. 1, pp. 312-14. Reynolds’s comments on the dignity of the natives are in his journal. Wilkes’s pronouncements about the effects of the Expedition’s first encounter with Polynesians is in ACW, p. 423; Whittle’s outrage is recorded in his journal (at the University of Virginia), p. 48. Couthouy’s angry encounter with Wilkes is recorded in an August 31, 1839, entry. Peale’s frustrations appear in an August 29, 1839, entry. For an interesting analysis of the tensions between the Expedition’s officers and scientists, see Elizabeth Musselman’s “Science as a Landed Activity: Scientifics and Seamen Aboard the U.S. Exploring Expedition” in Surveying the Record, edited by Edward C. Carter II, pp. 77-101. Reynolds tells of the disintegration of relations between Wilkes and his officers in a December 22, 1839, letter to Lydia. Reynolds includes a copy of Wilkes’s order concerning “familiarity among officers of the different grades” in his August 28, 1839, response to Wilkes, in Box 1, Area File 9, RG 45, NA. Reynolds talks about the motivations behind the order in his Manuscript, pp. 26-27. Wilkes writes to Jane of his having “given up inviting the officers to my table” in a September 12-21, 1839, letter.

Reynolds describes Wilkes’s behavior at Napuka Atoll (referred to as Wytoohee) in his Manuscript, pp. 24-25. The near-collision of the Flying Fish and the Vincennes would be seemingly endlessly revisited in both Pinkney’s and Wilkes’s courts-martial (No. 826 and 827, NA); Wilkes gives his side of what happened in his Narrative, p. 332, and ACW, p. 429-30, while Reynolds gives a quite different version in his Manuscript, pp. 22-23; Reynolds also details several incidents that illustrate Wilkes’s lack of seamanship, pp. 27-28.

Reynolds questions Wilkes’s sanity in a December 22, 1839, letter to Lydia. Wilkes speaks of Jane being his “moderation” in an August 18, 1838, letter. Wilkes brags to Jane about his management of his officers, whom he refers to as “drones,” in letters written on June 12-16 and July 3, 1839. In the introduction to ACW, John Kane, Jr., refers to Wilkes as the “Stormy Petrel,” p. v. Reynolds talks about Wilkes’s tendency to order all hands on deck in his Manuscript, p. 27. The surgeon John Fox testifies to Wilkes’s sleeping habits in testimony recorded during Wilkes’s court-martial, No. 287, p. 240. Wilkes’s writes of his “constant anxiety” in ACW, p. 429.

Jacques Brosse in Great Voyages of Discovery recounts how De Brosses coined the term “Polynesia,” p. 16. Ernest Dodge tells of Magellan’s voyage across the Pacific in Islands and Empires, pp. 3-7. For information on Wallis, Cook, Bougainville, and Tahiti, I have relied, in large part on Brosse’s Great Voyages, pp. 19-42. Dodge discusses the missionaries in Tahiti in Islands and Empires, pp. 87-92. Wilkes’s memories of the squadron’s arrival at Tahiti appear in ACW, p. 424. Wilkes tells Jane about the measures he has taken to eliminate improper relations between his men and the Tahitian women in a September 12-21 letter. Wilkes writes of the scientists’ forays into the interior of the island in his Narrative, vol. 2, pp. 28-29, 44-47. Charles Pickering writes about the fallacy of applying Western rules to the Tahitians in a September 21, 1839, entry; he speaks about the Tahitians’ ability to take advantage of their environment on September 23, 1839; Pickering’s journal is at the Academy of Natural Sciences, Ewell Sale Stewart Library. In New Lands, New Men, William Goetzmann attributes “the first glimmerings of what came to be known by the end of the nineteenth century as ‘cultural relativism’” to Herman Melville, p. 234. But here we see the concept in the writings of both Pickering and Reynolds, well before the publication of Melville’s first novel Typee in 1846. James Dana testifies to the positive shift the scientists experienced once the squadron reached Tahiti in a February 12, 1846, letter to Asa Gray (at the Gray Herbarium Archives, Harvard): “The Scientifics had all they desired, after this first year’s doings of which Couthouy so complains.” Reynolds records Wilkes’s arrogant words about the impossibility of action being taken against him until the return of the squadron in his Manuscript, p. 31.

Wilkes describes Pago Pago Harbor in his Narrative, vol. 2, p. 70. Reynolds recounts his and Underwood’s circumnavigation of Tutuila in his journal. Wilkes speaks of the Peacock’s difficult leave-taking from Pago Pago in his Narrative, p. 81; of his own troubles leaving Pago Pago, he simply says, “The moment was a trying one, and the event doubtful; all were at their stations, and not a word was spoken. Of my own feelings on the occasion I have no very precise recollection; merely remembering that I felt as if I breathed more freely after the crisis had passed and we were in safety,” p. 87. Reynolds provides two detailed accounts of the near-disaster at Pago Pago—in his journal and in his Manuscript, p. 30. In Seamanship in the Age of Sail, John Harland speaks of the methods of coaxing a ship through a tack in light air, p. 186. Whittle’s assessment of Wilkes’s “symptoms of confusion and alarm” are in his journal, p. 80. Reynolds’s account of the events that led to his suspension is from his journal.

My account of the “almost mutiny” aboard the Vincennes has been pieced together from ACW, pp. 430-31, and Hudson’s November 4, 1839, journal entry, pp. 328-30, describing a meeting aboard the Vincennes in which Wilkes accused Couthouy of insubordination. According to Hudson, Couthouy urgently denied “any insubordinate intention” and countered with the claim that many of Wilkes’s officers were refusing to assist the scientists in collecting specimens. Wilkes was scheduled to meet with the chiefs of Upolu in a few hours and didn’t want to hear any more from Couthouy and told him the meeting was over. But just as Wilkes prepared to leave his cabin, Couthouy returned, breathlessly insisting that Wilkes should speak to Passed Midshipman William May, who had refused “to make collections.” May soon appeared “in a state of some excitement,” denying Couthouy’s accusation. After assuring May that he believed him, Wilkes left for the meeting. Hudson’s account clearly indicates that Wilkes succeeded in putting Couthouy on the defensive. Tyler, p. 115, also draws on Wilkes’s and Hudson’s accounts of this encounter but places greater faith in Wilkes’s memory than I have. For more information about Joseph Couthouy, see Michael Wentworth’s “The Naked Couthouy.”

Reynolds’s account of his conversation with Wilkes about his “improper & disrespectful manner” is from his journal, as is his description of his adventures on Upolu. For information on Horatio Hale, I have depended on Jacob Gruber’s “Horatio Hale and the Development of American Anthropology,” The American Philosophical Society, pp. 9-11, as well as Stanton, pp. 65-66. Ben Finney’s Voyage of Rediscovery provides a useful analysis of James Cook’s emerging awareness that the peoples of Polynesia came from a single source, pp. 6- 13. For my account of the birth of Polynesian culture and how that culture was transported to the islands of the Pacific, I have relied on Patrick Kirch’s On the Road of the Winds, pp. 211-41; the estimate of pre-contact population density on Upolu is from Kirch, p. 312; Kirch also speaks of methods of population control, p. 309; how each Polynesian canoe was “an arkful of biotic resources,” p. 303; and the fact that a South Pacific island is not naturally suited to human habitation, pp. 315-16. Finney in Voyage of Rediscovery cites Hale’s use of Ex. Ex. meteorological data in developing his theory of how the Polynesians pushed east, p. 17. Kirch discusses the predicted sequence of island discoveries, p. 241; he has revised his estimated dates of settlement in Hawaiki, Ancestral Polynesia: An Essay in Historical Anthropology, p. 79; my thanks to Paul Geraghty for bringing this source to my attention. Reynolds’s concerns about the westernization of Upolu, as well as his reveries about Emma, are in his journal.

Reynolds’s account of his run-in with Carr is from his journal. Whittle’s grief-stricken words about Reynolds’s departure are in a November 11, 1839, entry in his journal, p. 84. Reynolds recounts his excitement about the squadron’s arrival at Sydney in his journal; he speaks of Wilkes having received help from his quartermaster in his Manuscript, p. 31.


My description of Antarctica is derived from several sources; many of the statistics come from the modern-day compilation of sailing directions published by the National Imagery and Mapping Agency known as the Antarctic Pilot, pp. 18-22, 82, and the Polar Regions Atlas published by the Central Intelligence Agency, pp. 35-37, as well as The Book of the World, New York: Macmillan Library, 1998, pp. 29, 112-13, and The National Geographic Atlas of the World, Seventh Edition, Washington, D.C.: National Geographic, 1999, pp. 122-23; and conversations with retired navy commander Maurice Gibbs, who served as a meteorologist in Antarctica. For information on James Ross, his discovery of the magnetic North Pole, and his preparations for going south, see Fergus Fleming’s Barrow’s Boys, pp. 291-92; 334-35. On the “Magnetic Crusade,” see John Cawood’s “Terrestrial Magnetism and the Development of International Collaboration in the Early Nineteenth Century,” pp. 585-86.

Wilkes tells what the people of Sydney thought of the U.S. Ex. Ex., especially relative to the Ross Expedition, as well as his own expedition’s preparation for the cruise south, in his Narrative, vol. 2, pp. 275-77. W. H. Smyth’s definition of “martinet” is in his Sailor’s Word Book, p. 471. The phrase “mask of command” comes from the book of that title by John Keegan. Wilkes tells of the effects of being a martinet in ACW, p. 391. He speaks of being “a great man” in a December 10, 1839, letter to Jane. Wilkes describes the difference in leadership styles between himself and Hudson in ACW, p. 403. Reynolds’s reference to “Antarctic Stock” is from a March 4, 1840, letter to his mother. Wilkes speaks of the travails of Lieutenant Ringgold in ACW, p. 439, 443-44. Sinclair’s mention of the Flying Fish’s miserable crew is in a December 25, 1839, journal entry.

Wilkes describes squadron logistics at the beginning of the southern cruise in his Narrative, vol. 2, p. 283. Reynolds speaks of Wilkes’s nefarious strategizing in his Manuscript, pp. 33-34. Sinclair tells of the Flying Fish’s problems on January 1 in his journal; Reynolds provides the description of Wilkes’s interchange with his officers in his Manuscript, p. 35; he also talks of Wilkes’s “miserable double dealing,” p. 36. Unless otherwise cited, all of Reynolds’s descriptions of the Antarctic cruise are from his private journal. Joseph Underwood speaks of the sluggishness of the compass in a January 11, 1840, journal entry. Eld describes Hudson’s curiously lackadaisical response to their discovery of land in testimony from Wilkes’s court-martial, #827, pp. 199-200.

Reynolds gives a fascinating account of Wilkes’s propensity to dismiss the input of others: “[Wilkes] was so accustomed to contradict most flatly anyone who approached him with a report or with any subject that did not originate with himself, that his officers were really loath to subject themselves to such insolence,” Manuscript, p. 41. Wilkes’s description of navigating the ice in fog is from his Narrative, vol. 2, p. 294; his explanation of why he gave up on the idea of sailing in tandem is on p. 295. My description of the Newfoundland breed of dog is based on information in “Newfoundlands” by Sharon Hope available on the Web site My thanks to Susan Beegel for bringing this resource to my attention.

Alden’s description of the events of January 19, 1840, is from his testimony at Wilkes’s court-martial, pp. 153-54; his journal of the voyage is logbook #120 at the Mariners Museum, Newport News, Virginia. Wilkes speaks of his lack of faith in his officers in a January 19, 1840, journal entry. John Williamson’s testimony concerning his conversation with Wilkes on January 19 is from Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 195. Davis tells of Hudson insisting that he erase the mention of land in testimony from Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 195; Hudson also testified about the events of that day, p. 187. Reynolds provides added details about the Peacock’s encounter with an iceberg in his March 4, 1840, letter to his mother. The details about the Peacock’s chronometers being knocked over and the near crushing of a boat by two icebergs is from Wilkes’s Narrative, vol. 2, pp. 302, 304; Wilkes also describes Hudson’s last desperate attempt to push the Peacock through the ice, p. 305. Information on how to reship a rudder comes from John Harland’s Seamanship in the Age of Sail, p. 302. Reynolds refers to Wilkes as the “hero of Pago Pago” in his Manuscript, p. 39.


Unless otherwise indicated, Wilkes’s description of the Vincennes’s Antarctic cruise after January 23, 1840, comes from his Narrative, vol. 2, pp. 309-65. Joseph Underwood tells of his belief that a vessel might be driven further south, “if it were thought to be an object” in a January 22, 1840, journal entry; he describes his square-off with Wilkes in a January 24, 1840, entry. Wilkes speaks in detail about the episode at Disappointment Bay in ACW, p. 443. Reynolds tells of Wilkes’s hatred of Underwood in his Manuscript, p. 42. Alden recounts his January 28 conversation with Wilkes about land in his testimony at Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 157. Jared Elliott provides information on how the Vincennes was handled amid the ice in a February 21, 1840, entry. Reynolds tells of Wilkes’s command style in the Antarctic in his Manuscript, p. 40; he also tells of Alden’s and Blunt’s account of the rescue of seaman Brooks, p. 41; as might be expected, Wilkes’s account is quite different; in fact, he claims he was the one who first spotted Brooks on the yard, a statement that Reynolds angrily refutes.

For information on the aurora, I have relied on Robert Eather’s Majestic Lights: The Aurora in Science, History, and the Arts, pp. 3, 51. Wilkes tells of his celebration of the discovery of the continent and some of his officers’ disparaging remarks in ACW, p. 443. For information on the unusual clarity of the Antarctic atmosphere and the difficulties it creates in judging distances, see the Antarctic Pilot, p. 80. Charles Erskine tells of his experiences on the iceberg in Twenty Years Before the Mast, pp. 113-15; he also tells how he learned to read and write, pp. 39, 129. In New Lands, New Men, William Goetzmann refers to Wilkes’s picture of himself sliding down the ice as “the only recorded instance where Wilkes seemed to have had a sense of humor,” p. 206. Kenneth Bertrand in Americans in Antarctica mentions Ringgold’s misguided decision to head the Porpoise north, p. 178. D’Urville’s description of his encounter with the Porpoise is from his Two Voyages to the South Seas, p. 486.

Alden recounts the construction of the chart of Antarctica in his testimony at Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 154. Wilkes tells of his “wisdom and perseverance” in a March 7-11, 1840, letter to Jane. Alden recounts Wilkes’s speech about the secrecy of their discovery in Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 159. D’Urville speaks of the “tough work” of sailing along the ice barrier in Two Voyages to the South Seas, pp. 489-90. Alden’s testimony concerning his conversation with Wilkes about seeing land on January 19 is from Wilkes’s court-martial, pp. 153-54. I am following William Stanton’s lead in suspecting that Wilkes altered his journal entry for January 19; see Stanton, p. 173. Hudson unsuccessfully fended off charges that he altered his report to the secretary of the navy at Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 185. Wilkes tells of his emotional meeting with Hudson in a March 27- April 5, 1840, letter to Jane. Ringgold speaks of asking Wilkes why he hadn’t mentioned discovering land on January 26 in his testimony at Wilkes’s court-martial, p. 162. Sinclair’s skeptical words about Ringgold’s newfound memory of seeing land are from an April 12, 1840, journal entry. Wilkes confesses to Jane that no one on the Porpoise and Flying Fish was originally aware of land to the south in a March 31, 1840, letter. Wilkes’s April 5, 1840, letter to James Ross is included in Appendix XXIV of Wilkes’s Narrative, vol. 2, pp. 453-56.


In a March 18, 1840, letter to Jane, Wilkes speaks of his not having received a letter from her in sixteen months, as well as of Hudson having received a letter in Sydney dated the middle of August. His reference to not blaming Jane for the delay is in an August 13, 1840, letter. He speaks of being a “worn out old voyager” in a letter written between March 27 and April 5, 1840. Wilkes mentions the self-imposed distance between himself and Wilkes Henry in an August 18, 1840, letter to Jane.

R. A. Derrick’s History of Fiji provides a good summary of exploration, shipping, and trade in the group, pp. 64-74. I have depended on Derrick’s The Fiji Islands: A Geographical Handbook for geographical and cartographic information about the islands. Reynolds speaks of the motivations behind the Ex. Ex.’s survey of Fiji in his private journal, in which he also refers to Wilkes’s actions against various officers; he writes of the destruction of his and May’s “little palace” in an October 19, 1840, letter to his family. For information about Congreve war rockets I have depended on Richard Hobbs’s “The Congreve War Rockets, 1800-1825,” in U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, pp. 80-88.

James Cook’s reference to the Fijians’ “addiction” to cannibalism is cited in Fergus Clunie’s Fijian Weapons and Warfare, p. 1. Derrick writes about Tasman, Cook, and Bligh in A History of Fiji, pp. 37-47. Reynolds, who speaks of Wilkes’s preliminary chart of Fiji in his journal, tells of the pilot’s interchange with the Expedition’s commander in his Manuscript, p. 47. Wilkes writes of the squadron’s arrival in Fiji in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 45-47. Reynolds’s enthusiastic description of Ovalau is in a September 21, 1840, letter to his family. His description of a Fijian warrior is from his journal. Wilkes describes how a Fijian son strangles his mother and father in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 94; he also speaks of the sacrifices that accompanied the launching of Tanoa’s canoe, p. 97. Derrick chronicles instances of human sacrifice in A History of Fiji, p. 21, as does Clunie, p. 7. The reference to man being the most popular animal food source in Fiji is from Patrick Kirch’s On the Road of the Winds, p. 160; Kirch also discusses the development of “conquest warfare” in Fiji, p. 160.

Derrick in A History of Fiji tells of the impact of Charlie Savage, pp. 44-45; he also speaks of “tame white men,” p. 47. Clunie refers to David Whippy’s mercenary beginnings in Fiji, p. 92. Wilkes tells of his strategy in contacting Tanoa in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 48, in which he also recounts his climb up Nadelaiovalau, which he refers to as Andulong, pp. 50-52. Wilkes tells of setting up the observatory at Levuka and the organization of Alden’s and Emmons’s surveying parties in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 52-53. Wilkes recounts giving Sinclair a “severe rebuke” in ACW, p. 457; Sinclair gives his side of it in a May 11, 1840, journal entry.

Wilkes recounts Tanoa’s dramatic arrival in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 54. Derrick in A History of Fiji tells about Tanoa’s and Seru’s decimation of Verata, p. 22. The missionary’s account of Seru’s torture and eating of two prisoners appears in Clunie, p. 41. In his journal Reynolds refers to the squadron’s determination “to have the thing settled” when it came to the question of cannibalism, adding: “I remember reading in some book of travels, the assertion of the author, ‘that he considered all the accounts of such a practice among any people, to be fabulous: the bug bear stories of voyagers who delighted in tales of the marvelous: that he did not believe mankind could be so vile, or human nature so degraded: in short, that there was no such thing as a People who fed upon men for the love of it.’ If this gentleman, who had such exceeding faith in the goodness of human kind, had been killed in Fegee, his ghost would have corrected his notions with a vengeance. (See Quarterly review, Dec. or Sep. 1836.)” The argument to which Reynolds refers is essentially the same made by William Arens in The Man-Eating Myth (1979). See Gananath Obeyesekere’s attempt to discount contemporary references to cannibalism in “Cannibal Feasts in Nineteenth-Century Fiji: Seamen’s Yarns and the Ethnographic Imagination,” pp. 87-109; in Cannibalism and the Colonial World, edited by Francis Barker, et al. While Obeyesekere makes the excellent point that the sailors’ fears of survival cannibalism at sea contributed to their obsession with native cannibalism, he chooses not to refer to the Expedition’s findings concerning cannibalism, even though he is clearly aware of Wilkes’s Narrative. For a contrasting view, see Marshall Sahlins’s “Raw Women, Cooked Men, and Other ‘Great Things’ of the Fiji Islands,” in The Ethnography and the Historical Imagination, edited by John and Jean Camaroff.

Wilkes describes his meeting with Tanoa in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 55-60. Wilkes tells of his meeting with Paddy O’Connell and his decision to abduct Veidovi, whom Wilkes refers to as “Vendovi” (my thanks to Fiji scholar Paul Geraghty for pointing out the proper spelling of Veidovi), in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 68-69, 104-5. Reynolds recounts how Hudson went about capturing Veidovi in his journal, as does Wilkes in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 126-36. Wilkes tells of Whippy’s concerns about the taking of Veidovi in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 141-42; his description of how his dog Sydney protected him in Fiji is from ACW, p. 462. Wilkes recounts his meeting with Belcher in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 182; in ACW, pp. 463-64; and in a June 22, 1840, letter to Jane.

Reynolds speaks of Perry’s three weeks without orders from Wilkes in his Manuscript, p. 53. In addition to his journal, Reynolds tells of boat-surveying duty in a September 21, 1840, letter to his family. Hudson’s calculation about the number of miles traveled by the Peacock’s boats in Fiji is in his journal, p. 567. Reynolds describes the cannibalism incident aboard the Peacock in his journal, while Wilkes tells of Hudson vomiting in an August 10, 1840, letter to Jane. My thanks to Jane Walsh, an anthropologist at the Smithsonian Institution who has worked extensively with the Ex. Ex. collection, for sharing an article in manuscript in which she writes probingly about how the Fijians consciously manipulated the Expedition’s officers’ and scientists’ fears of cannibalism.

James Dana refers to the botanist Rich as “so-so” in a June 15, 1840, letter to Asa Gray in Daniel Gilman’s Life of James Dwight Dana, p. 122. Wilkes mentions the discovery of a new species of tomato and a stand of sandalwood trees, as well as Horatio Hale’s Fijian vocabulary, in his Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 306, 309, 325, 341. Derrick cites Hale’s reference to Fiji being “the school of arts of the Pacific Islands,” p. 17. For information about Pickering and Brackenridge in Fiji, I have also relied on Richard Eyde’s “Expedition Botany: The Making of a New Profession” in MV, p. 30. James Dana tells of how Darwin’s insights “threw a flood of light” on his own thinking about coral reefs in the preface to his Corals and Coral Islands, p. 7. Daniel Appleman’s “James Dwight Dana and Pacific Geology” provides an excellent account of Dwight’s use of Darwin’s insight about coral reefs, MV, pp. 91-95; Appleman also refers to how Dwight’s subsequent work during the Expedition would anticipate the theory of plate tectonics, p. 110.

Wilkes’s account of what he did during the four-day gale is in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 239, in which he also provides a detailed account of the incident at Solevu, which he refers to as Sualib, pp. 239-44. My account of the attack on Solevu also relies on the journals of Reynolds and Sinclair; Erskine, who was part of Perry’s boat-crew, also tells of the incident in Twenty Years Before the Mast, pp. 163-65. James Dana writes of the need to do something more than burn a Fijian village in a June 15, 1840, letter to Asa Gray in Daniel Gilman’s Life of James Dwight Dana, p. 120.


Wilkes tells of organizing the survey of the Yasawa Group in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 247. Sinclair voices his suspicions that Wilkes was mounting a “war party” in a July 15, 1840, journal entry. Wilkes refers to having reached “the top of the hill” in a June 22, 1840, letter to Jane. Reynolds’s bitter remarks concerning Wilkes’s unwillingness to include him in the survey party are in his journal. Sinclair describes Wilkes’s unseamanlike management of the Flying Fish in a July 16, 1840, entry; he also expresses his bewilderment and frustrations with his commander on July 17; he mentions Underwood’s loss of a mast on July 16. Reynolds details Wilkes’s persecution of Underwood in his Manuscript, p. 52. In his journal, William Briscoe, the ship’s armorer, included excerpts from Jared Elliott’s eulogy for Underwood and Henry, in which Elliott speaks of Underwood’s innate politeness. Wilkes tells of being pursued by native canoes to the western shore of Viti Levu in his Narrative, vol. 3, p. 259-61. Sinclair expresses his regret that the Flying Fish did not sail on to Malolo in a July 24, 1840, journal entry.

My account of the deaths of Underwood and Henry and the attack on Malolo are drawn from Wilkes’s Narrative, vol. 3, pp. 266-84; as well as the journals of Reynolds, Sinclair, Emmons, Alden, and Briscoe; and Joseph Clark’s Lights and Shadows of Sailor Life, pp. 149-57. Wilkes writes of being “unfit for further duty” after the massacre at Malolo in an August 10, 1840, letter to Jane, written on the second anniversary of leaving his family in Washington, D.C.; he also mentions finding fault with both Underwood and Alden in this August 10 letter. Reynolds describes the auction of Underwood’s possessions in his Manuscript, pp. 52-53, where he also writes of Wilkes’s treatment of Veidovi, p. 55. Wilkes tells of having the ship’s barber cut off Veidovi’s hair in ACW, p. 475. Reynolds describes his and his fellow officers’ depressed mental state after the Fiji survey in his journal.


Harold Bradley writes of how Americans dominated whaling in Hawaii in The American Frontier in Hawaii, p. 218. Charles Erskine describes how the sailors were dressed when they went out on leave in Twenty Years Before the Mast, p. 205. Reynolds recounts how the sailors conducted themselves while on leave in his journal. Erskine tells of writing his first letter to his mother in Twenty Years, p. 204. Reynolds recalls reading his mail in Honolulu in a September 21, 1840, letter to his family. I have also drawn upon letters he wrote on October 19, 1840, and November 16, 1840.

Wilkes tells of the “30 or 40 letters waiting for me” in a letter to Jane dated October 2-11, 1840. In two undated private letters to Secretary Paulding at DU, Wilkes informs him of his charges against Lee and Pinkney. “Over half my labours in this service,” he writes, “have been driving the officers to their duty.” Wilkes would produce a portion of Paulding’s encouraging letter of December 14, 1839, as evidence in his court-martial; it was reprinted in the New York Herald, August 3, 1842. Wilkes writes of the dismissal of Pinkney, Guillou, and Couthouy in letters to Jane dated November 8-22, November 30, and in an undated letter probably written in November 1840, claiming, “I take great pleasure in driving them up to the mark by whip and spur.” The reference to Wilkes “getting delirious” appeared in Niles Weekly Register, LVII (December 21, 1839), p. 258. Wilkes claims in a November 8-22, 1840, letter to Jane that Couthouy “has been writing all the lies home to his friend [ Jeremiah] Reynolds that have been published.” The quotations about senior officers being “immune to any serious punishment” come from Harold Langley’s Social Reform in the United States Navy, 1798-1862, p. 24.

Wilkes refers to the “all protecting care over me” in a May 22, 1839, letter to Jane. His angry words about Gilliss addressing him “with familiarity” are in an undated letter to Jane probably written in November 1840. In an undated letter probably written in the fall of 1840, he encloses a miniature of himself painted by the artist Alfred Agate that shows him with a captain’s two epaulets and asks Jane if she thinks “I am improved in appearance by the addition to my shoulders.” Reynolds’s words about Wilkes being “either crazy, beyond redemption, or . . . a rascally tyrant” are from his journal. Wilkes writes to Jane of making the Expedition “a brilliant one” in an undated letter probably written in November 1840, in which he also refers to “our promotions.” William Reynolds speaks of the news about Antarctica being received “with great Enthusiasm” in a November 16, 1840, letter.

Herman Melville writes of the “judicial severity” practiced by a navy captain in White-Jacket, p. 301. A list of the twenty-five instances in which Wilkes inflicted more than twelve lashes on his men is included in the Wilkes Court-Martial file, pp. 19-21. Harold Langley covers the history of flogging in Social Reform in the United States Navy, pp. 137-38; he also provides an excellent description of how it was performed, pp. 139-141. Wilkes’s treatment of the marines who initially refused to reenlist is documented in his Court-Martial file, pp. 19-21; George Colvocoresses testified concerning Wilkes’s actions against the marines, pp. 123-24. Langley writes of the marines’ “strange dual situation in regard to flogging,” p. 142. George Emmons, who brought charges against the marines Ward and Riley, writes of their and Sweeney’s punishments in an October 31, 1840, journal entry. Wilkes speaks of the consul’s complaints concerning the behavior of American whalemen and his decision to whip Sweeney and the marines “round the fleet” in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 57. Langley describes flogging round the fleet as a “death sentence” and also speaks of its rarity in the U.S. Navy, p. 142. Admiral W. H. Smyth in the Sailor’s Word-Book defines flogging round the fleet as “a diabolical punishment,” p. 582. My account of the flogging is also based on descriptions provided by Charles Erskine in Twenty Years, pp. 208-9; the October 31, 1840, journal entry of John Dyes; and testimony during Wilkes’s court-martial from Robert Johnson, p. 145, and Overton Carr, p. 203.

Wilkes writes of the great potential of Pearl Harbor in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 79. Reynolds recounts his last-minute transfer from the Peacock to the Flying Fish in his journal. For information on Mauna Loa I have relied on the monograph Mauna Loa Revealed, edited by J. M. Rhodes and John Lockwood, especially the Preface, xi-xii; and the chapter by Walther Barnard, “Mauna Loa Volcano: Historical Eruptions, Exploration, and Observations (1799-1910),” pp. 1- 19. See also Volcanoes in the Sea: The Geology of Hawaii by Gordon Macdonald, et al., and Andrew Doughty and Harriett Friedman’s Hawaii: The Big Island Revealed, pp. 28-29. Victor Lenzen and Robert Multhauf in “Development of Gravity Pendulums in the 19th Century” discuss Bouguer’s pioneering use of the pendulum in the Andes in The Museum of History and Technology, pp. 307-9. See also John Noble Wilford’s account of Bouguer’s activities in The Mapmakers, pp. 128-30.

James Dana describes his hastily formed impressions of Mauna Loa and Kilauea in a November 30, 1840, letter to Edward Herrick, in Daniel Gilman’s Life of James Dwight Dana, pp. 124-26. Wilkes writes of his climb up Mauna Loa “being one of the great works of my cruise” in a December 11, 1840, letter to Jane. He writes of his sedan chair and the absurdity of the scene as they set out up the volcano in a January 24, 1841, letter to Jane. Unless otherwise indicated, Wilkes’s description of his climb up Mauna Loa, as well as his visit to Kilauea, are from his Narrative, vol. 4, pp. 112-75. Wilkes would visit Kilauea a second time after climbing up Mauna Loa; it was during this second visit that Dr. Judd’s hairbreadth escape occurred. Roberta Sprague’s “Measuring the Mountain: The United States Exploring Expedition on Mauna Loa, 1840-41” in The Hawaiian Journal of History, pp. 71-91, is based almost exclusively on Wilkes’s Narrative. Charles Erskine recounts the yarn about dropping an iceberg in the caldera of Kilauea in Twenty Years, pp. 214-15. Wilkes speaks of regretting the loss of his chair soon after departing from Kilauea in a January 24, 1841, letter to Jane.

For information on altitude sickness, I have depended on Medicine for Mountaineering, edited by James Wilkerson, pp. 220-26. Erskine describes his and his fellow sailors’ “mirth and gayety” in the cave at Recruitment Station in Twenty Years, p. 219. Wilkes tells of his reaction to Judd’s news of the natives’ desertion in a January 24, 1841, letter to Jane. Erskine’s description of the hurricane atop Mauna Loa is in Twenty Years, pp. 221-22. Wilkes tells of his final examination of the snow-covered caldera of Mauna Loa in his Narrative, vol. 4, pp. 159-60. Snow blindness is described in Medicine for Mountaineering, p. 285. Wilkes speaks of the “loomi-loomi” in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 166.

John Dyes’s account of “yellow Hores” aboard the Vincennes is in a March 2, 1841, journal entry, in which he adds, “This has took place several times while her in the Captains Absence.” William May writes of his sexual relationship with a native girl in a May 9, 1841, letter to William Reynolds, Box 1, Area File 9, RG 45, NA. Wilkes complains of Chaplain Elliott’s behavior in an undated letter to Jane probably written in the fall of 1840.


An excellent discussion of the joint occupation of the Oregon territory by the United States and Britain is The Wilkes Expedition: Puget Sound and the Oregon Country, edited by Frances Barkan, p. 92. For information on the discovery and exploration of the Columbia River, I have relied on William Dietrich’s Northwest Passage: The Great Columbia River, pp. 67-70, and Timothy Egan’s The Good Rain: Across Time and Terrain in the Pacific Northwest, pp. 27-29. Vancouver’s mention of detecting freshwater along the Oregon coast is cited in Egan, p. 28. Gray’s discovery of the Columbia is recounted in John Boit’s log, which appears in Voyages of the Columbia, edited by Frederick Howay. My thanks to Mary Malloy for providing me with the estimate of the number of ships that had visited the Columbia River prior to Lewis and Clark. William Reynolds writes of the surprise of Belcher’s officers when they heard the Ex. Ex. was to survey the Columbia River in a October 19, 1840, letter.

Wilkes was in such a rush to get the Vincennes and the Porpoise out of Honolulu that he personally oversaw the recoppering of the brig. His lack of knowledge in this area, however, turned the usually straightforward procedure into a comical embarrassment for his officers. In his March 26, 1841, journal entry, George Sinclair writes, “Capt. Wilkes seems to have taken charge of the operation and everything goes on head over heels and is more noise and confusion than would be made in heaving down the whole navy at home.” Robert Johnson speculates about Wilkes’s commodore’s pennant in a March 24, 1841, journal entry: “I can suppose the possibility of the commander of the Expedition having authority to hoist a broad pendant, but it does appear to me strange he should do so without by intimation (at least) of such authority, Subject himself to the Suspicion, which I believe to be general, of an usurpation of dignities which are not his of right.” Wilkes writes of meeting Captain Aulick with his commodore pennant flying in a letter to Jane written from March 14-April 4, 1841.

Wilkes’s description of the Columbia River bar is in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 293. My description of the Columbia River and the many shipwrecks that have occurred at the bar are based on Dietrich’s Northwest Passage, pp. 97-109, and Egan’s The Good Rain, pp. 16-18. See also James Gibbs’s Pacific Graveyard. The Columbia River pilot Captain James McAvoy, of the aptly named Peacock, compares the collision of waters at the bar to “two giant hammers” in Egan’s The Good Rain, p. 24; Dietrich cites the reference by the Reverend Samuel Parker to the large number of deaths at the bar, p. 108. Wilkes refers to his decision not to cross the Columbia bar and to survey Puget Sound, as well as the near-disaster at Destruction Isle, in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 294. William May tells of the “tremendous bustle of bending cables” that ensued in a May 9, 1841, letter to William Reynolds, Box 1, Area File 9, RG 45, NA. Wilkes’s description of Veidovi’s “contempt” for the region’s native people is in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 297, as are his words of praise for Puget Sound, p. 305. Dietrich in Northwest Passage points out that there are now four navy bases in Puget Sound with none on the Columbia River, p. 109.

My account of Wilkes’s activities in the Pacific Northwest owes much to Constance Bordwell’s “Delay and Wreck of the Peacock: An Episode in the Wilkes Expedition” in Oregon Historical Quarterly; also, Edmond S. Meany provides a useful transcription of Wilkes’s difficult-to-decipher journal in his “Diary of Wilkes in the Northwest” in The Washington Historical Quarterly. Wilkes writes of having “no further difficulties with the officers” in a May 28, 1841, letter to Jane.

Wilkes tells of his concerns about Hudson’s ability to complete his assignment in the central Pacific cruise in ACW, pp. 499-500. Wilkes’s orders to Hudson are in Appendix VIII of his Narrative, vol. 4, pp. 517-19. Reynolds’s complaints about Hudson and the six-month cruise are from his journal. Daniel Appleman in “James Dwight Dana and Pacific Geology” in MV discusses how Dana’s observations of the linear pattern of island chains was “fundamental” to the formulation of the theory of plate tectonics, pp. 106-110. See also Robert Dott Jr.’s “James Dwight Dana’s Old Tectonics—Global Contraction Under Divine Direction” in American Journal of Science, pp. 283-311.

Bordwell in “Delay and Wreck of the Peacock” makes the point that Wilkes’s appearance at Fort Vancouver, “attended by a middle-aged draftsman clad in navy fatigues and armed only with a sketchbook,” had the effect of reducing the likelihood that the Hudson’s Bay Company would perceive the Ex. Ex. as a possible threat to their dominance in the region, p. 135. Charles Erskine describes the Fourth of July celebration at Fort Cowlitz in Twenty Years Before the Mast, pp. 235-38. Wilkes recounts how he found the celebration “truly gratifying,” as well as his concerns about the Peacock, in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 412.

Reynolds’s remarks about the importance of the Columbia survey to the Expedition and the sense of foreboding that gripped himself and the others are from his journal. Wilkes attributes the loss of the Peacock to Hudson’s “apprehensions and imagination” in ACW, p. 502. My account of the wreck is based primarily on Hudson’s journal, a microfilm copy of which is at the University of North Carolina, and Emmons’s journal, at Yale, for the days July 18-20, 1841, and Wilkes’s Narrative, vol. 4, pp. 489-94. Bordwell in “Delay and Wreck of the Peacock” also provides a useful description of the wreck, pp. 162-63, as do Stanton, pp. 249-52, and Tyler, pp. 285-99.

Unless otherwise indicated, Reynolds’s accounts of his time at the Columbia River are from his journal. Wilkes speaks of the “state of feeling” that led him to drive his officers to complete the survey of Puget Sound in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 478. Drew Crooks provides a detailed account of the Washington place names left by the Ex. Ex. in The Wilkes Expedition, edited by Frances Barkan, pp. 96-124. Wilkes recounts first hearing the news of the loss of the Peacock in his Narrative, vol. 4, p. 484. He speculates as to why Hudson was delayed so long in a July 27, 1841, journal entry. John Frazier Henry, in “The Midshipman’s Revenge” in Pacific Northwest Quarterly, theorizes that William May introduced two nonexistent islands into the survey of the San Juan Islands, Adolphus and Gordon, so as to embarrass Wilkes, p. 159. Although an intriguing theory, the bogus islands may have also been the result of the hurried nature of the Expedition’s survey of the island group in the wake of the Peacock’s loss. Wilkes’s confrontation with Robert Johnson is detailed in Wilkes’s July 17, 1841, journal entry.

Wilkes’s frustrations about how Hudson conducted his cruise of the central Pacific are in an August 6, 1841, journal entry. I have found Bordwell’s analysis of the mounting tensions between Wilkes and Hudson during the survey of the river especially helpful, pp. 169-73. Wilkes tells of having to start from scratch with the survey of the river in his Narrative, vol. 5, p. 113; he speaks of how he labored to “bring things into order” in ACW, p. 503. Soon after Wilkes asked Reynolds about his pea jacket, he decided that it was too dangerous to continue sailing up the river on a foggy night and ordered the Flying Fish back to Bakers Bay. “No man in his senses,” Reynolds ranted, “would have started. Great was our relief, to get rid of him. When we reached the cove, he went ashore & pitched his tent for the night.” Wilkes describes the incident with his commodore’s pennant in an August 25, 1841, journal entry. Both Stanton, p. 267, and Bordwell, p. 175, speak of the importance of Wilkes’s decision to allow the philologist Horatio Hale to leave the squadron and pursue his own interests.

Henry Eld’s praise of Wilkes’s “indomitable perseverance & tenacity” comes from a letter he wrote to his father after the Expedition on March 16, 1845 (at LOC); cited by Tyler, p. 397. Unlike Reynolds, Eld had maintained a healthy skepticism concerning the Expedition and its leader from the very beginning. Back on August 17, 1838, as the squadron sailed from Norfolk, Virginia, he wrote his father that “all the Zeal that I ever felt for the Service or my country has Evaporated” (LOC). Having never committed himself on a personal level to Wilkes, Eld was able to witness the disintegration of relations between the commander and his officers with an unusual, and much-needed, degree of detachment.

Wilkes writes about his potential difficulties with the secretary of the navy and the possibility of a “full investigation” in an October 18, 1841, letter to Jane. Reynolds predicts that there will be a court-martial at the end of the Expedition in an August 10, 1841, letter to his father. Reynolds compares refitting the schooner at sea to a drowning man mending his clothes in a November 7, 1841, letter. He describes the Flying Fish’s difficulties off Oregon in both his journal and a November 7, 1841, letter to Lydia. Wilkes writes about Yerba Buena and San Francisco Bay, as well as the Vincennes’s ordeal at the bar, in his Narrative, vol. 5, pp. 152, 171, 254-56. He tells of being “master now of all” in an October 18, 1841, letter to Jane.


In a November 22, 1841, letter to Jane, Wilkes reveals his plan to use his findings from the Pacific Northwest to win himself a promotion: “I have no idea of giving up my results until I am satisfied they intend doing what I conceive ought in justice to be done for me.” For information concerning how developing American attitudes toward the Oregon territory influenced Wilkes and the Expedition, I have looked to John Wickman’s dissertation “Political Aspects of Charles Wilkes’s Work and Testimony, 1842-1849,” Indiana University, pp. 27- 28. Wilkes speaks of John Aulick’s claims about his unbalanced mental state and Ross’s dismissal of his Antarctic results in two letters written on November 22 and November 27, 1841, both written from Oahu. James Ross would write in detail about his doubts about Wilkes’s claims and his meeting with Aulick in A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, pp. 275-90. Wilkes tells Jane to remove Aulick and his family from “the vocabulary of our acquaintance” in a November 27, 1841, letter.

William Reynolds writes of learning that the Flying Fish would not be sold in Oahu in his journal; unless otherwise noted, all quotations from Reynolds in this chapter are from his journal. Wilkes tells of the orders he issued to the Expedition’s commanders at Oahu in his Narrative, vol. 5, p. 265; he also refers to the many “Asiatic nations” at Singapore, p. 374. George Emmons included extensive notes and transcripts from Knox’s court of inquiry with the February 19, 1842, entry of his journal. Wilkes responds to the forty-two letters he received from Jane at Singapore in a February 20, 1842, letter. In a November 27, 1841, letter written at Oahu, he mentions his concerns about his sister Eliza: “I am well aware [it] will be a great trial meeting me yet I hope it may do her good. I have often been intending to write to her but could never yet bring myself to the trial.” He also writes about Eliza in his letter from Singapore. Henry Wilkes writes about the “deplorable loss” of Wilkes Henry in a February 17, 1840, letter that was sent to Singapore (at DU).

Wilkes tells of his decision to sell the Flying Fish in his Narrative, vol. 5, pp. 409-10. Charles Erskine describes his emotions on seeing the schooner for the last time in Twenty Years Before the Mast, p. 257. William Reynolds provides a statistical analysis of those who served on the Ex. Ex. in his Manuscript, p. 70; he also speaks of how Wilkes found it necessary “to concoct some scheme by which he could divert the other vessels from their homeward course and secure to the Vincennes a sufficient start,” p. 68. Erskine writes of the “gayety” aboard the Vincennes in Twenty Years, p. 258, in which he also tells of his trick using the dog Sydney and his decision not to reenter the navy, p. 263, and the death of George Porter, p. 258. Stanton describes the Fijian chief Veidovi as “the most spectacular of the specimens collected,” p. 281. Erskine in Twenty Years claims that quartermaster Tom Piner’s attempts to Christianize Veidovi were so successful that the men started referring to the chief as “The old Christian cannibal, man-eater,” p. 194. Wilkes tells of the bond between Veidovi and the interpreter Benjamin Vanderford in his Narrative, vol. 5, p. 418. William Briscoe recounts the details of Vanderford’s death in his March 23, 1842, journal entry.

For information about Secretary of the Navy Abel Upshur and his general attitude toward abuses by naval officers and by Wilkes in particular, I have depended on Wickman’s “Political Aspects of Charles Wilkes’s Work and Testimony,” p. 23, and Claude Hall’s Abel Parker Upshur, pp. 161-62. John S. Wily’s March 10, 1842, letter to Jane Wilkes, urging her to do everything possible to win her husband a promotion, is at DU, as is Jane’s memorandum, written in March 1842, describing her interviews with Upshur and President Tyler. Wilkes writes Jane of his hope of returning before the adjournment of Congress in a February 20, 1842, letter. He tells of seeing the map of Ross’s and d’Urville’s voyages to Antarctica at the Cape Town Observatory in an April 15, 1842, journal entry; he tells of the stop at St. Helena in his Narrative, vol. 5, pp. 440-41; he writes of ordering the officers to turn over their personal collections in ACW, p. 515, where he also refers to the rumors concerning his having kept a collection for himself, p. 513. George Emmons tells of having to hand over the Fijian bow and arrow in May 16, 1842, journal entry. Wilkes recounts his confrontation with William May over his marked box of shells in a May 23, 1842, journal entry; he speaks of “The state of excitement I now feel” in a June 2, 1842, entry. Emmons describes his final run-in with Wilkes in a June 1, 1842, entry.

Wilkes recounts the Vincennes’s return to New York in his Narrative, vol. 5, pp. 452-53. Reynolds speaks of the officers’ curiosity about how Wilkes would resolve the commodore pennant issue in his Manuscript, p. 69. Although Reynolds doesn’t mention it, Wilkes’s son Jack was a brand-new midshipman aboard the Delaware when Reynolds visited her officers at Rio de Janeiro; see ACW, p. 519. Reynolds refers to his dramatic weight loss during the Expedition as “enough to have satisfied a dozen Shylocks” in a November 7, 1841, letter to Lydia. Anne Hoffman Cleaver and E. Jeffrey Stann in Voyage to the Southern Ocean cite a reference Reynolds made in a letter eight years earlier to his having reached five feet ten and a half inches in height, p. 250. Veidovi’s death and mutilation are recounted in the New York Herald, June 11, 17, 26, 1842. Veidovi’s skull subsequently became part of the collections of the Smithsonian Institution. See T. D. Stewart’s “The Skull of Vendovi: A Contribution of the Wilkes Expedition to the Physical Anthropology of Fiji.”


Wilkes describes his return to his house on Capitol Hill and Jane’s knowledge of the “onslaught” that was about to be launched against him in ACW, p. 519. For my account of the political situation in which Wilkes found himself upon his return to Washington, I have looked to John Wickman’s dissertation “Political Aspects of Charles Wilkes’s Work and Testimony, 1842-1849,” pp. 29-41. Secretary of the Navy Upshur’s approach to officer relations is described in Claude Hall’s Abel Parker Upshur, pp. 161-62. Wickman mentions the fact that Wilkes attended a meeting of the National Institute for the Promotion of Science on the same day of his arrival in Washington, p. 31. James Renwick’s advice about how Wilkes should gain political support is in a June 19, 1842, letter to Jane at DU. Renwick, along with two of his sons, was involved in the survey on which the eventual Maine-Canada border would be based and therefore had much personal experience with the workings of the Tyler administration. Wilkes tells of his meetings with Upshur and President Tyler in ACW, pp. 520- 22. In a June 21, 1842, letter to Wilkes, Upshur refers to Wilkes’s June 16, 1842, letter in which he requested a court of inquiry; in Wilkes’s Court-Martial records at NA. John Quincy Adams details his meeting with Wilkes in a June 15, 1842, diary entry, in Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, vol. 11, p. 177. In addition to Wilkes’s account of his speech before the National Institute in ACW, pp. 525-26, I have relied on a story in the June 25, 1842, National Intelligencer and Wickman, pp. 36-37.

Upshur’s June 21, 1842, letter to Wilkes denying his request for a court of inquiry is in Wilkes’s Court-Martial records. Wickman discusses Wilkes’s report on Oregon and his “nationalistic remarks concerning the necessity of the 54-40 boundary line,” p. 38; he also describes Upshur’s “plan of suppression” when it came to the report, pp. 39-41. Upshur’s letter to Guillou ordering him to report to the Navy Department was produced during Wilkes’s court-martial; Guillou testified that he had made two trips to Washington—during the spring and at the end of June—to assemble materials for the case against Wilkes. Wilkes’s July 5, 1842, letter to Upshur complaining of the delay of his trial is in his court-martial records, as is Upshur’s July 8, 1842, letter to Wilkes informing him of the date of his trial and the July 15, 1842, letter to Wilkes ordering him to turn over documents relating to the Expedition. Wilkes tells of how he boxed the “most important papers & documents” of the Expedition before leaving the Vincennes in ACW, p. 515. Wilkes recounts his conversation with Senator Wright about Upshur’s order in ACW, p. 522. John Quincy Adams tells of his visit to Wilkes’s house in a July 9, 1842, entry in his Memoirs, vol. 11, p. 202.

My account of the courts-martial of William May, Robert Johnson, Charles Guillou, Robert Pinkney, and Charles Wilkes is based primarily on the courts-martial records at NA; the reports in the New York Herald, beginning on July 26, 1842, and continuing on an almost daily basis until September 10, 1842; and letters written by Samuel Francis Du Pont on July 25, 27, 29, August 25, 31, September 22, October 6 and 14, 1842, at the Hagley Museum and Library, Wilmington, Delaware. For information on Du Pont’s problems with Commodore Hull, I have consulted James Merrill’s Du Pont: The Making of an Admiral, pp. 128-32, and Linda Maloney’s “Isaac Hull: Bulwark of the Sailing Navy” in Command Under Sail: Makers of the American Naval Tradition, 1775-1850, edited by James Bradford, pp. 268-69; Maloney also speaks in general terms of the problems that the issue of rank had brought to the U.S. Navy in the 1840s, and specifically refers to the Cyane, p. 269.

An August 20, 1842, issue of the Niles Register refers to the uproar caused by the reading of Paulding’s letter at Johnson’s court-martial: “These instructions have been criticized by some with considerable severity.” Wilkes’s August 7, 1842, letter to Upshur, informing him that he cannot deliver the Ex. Ex. documents in his possession because of the “ominous and responsible situation in which I am placed,” is in Wilkes’s Court-Martial records. Reynolds praises Pinkney’s defence in an August 21, 1842, letter to his father. Herman Viola’s epilogue in Voyage to the Southern Oceanoffers a chronology of the events leading up to Reynolds’s marriage to Rebecca Krug and quotes from his August 14, 1842, letter to his father, p. 288; the letter from Lydia referring to Rebecca Krug’s continued availability is cited on p. 285. Reynolds refers to the newly-weds’ reception in New York in his August 21, 1842, letter to his father, where he also mentions Wilkes’s mental state and his disappointment in Guillou’s charges. Reynolds’s description of Wilkes’s defence is in a September 10, 1842, letter to his father. James Gordon Bennett’s editorial concerning Wilkes’s court-martial is in the September 10, 1842, issue of the New York Herald. Guillou’s sheaf of letters of support is included as part of his court-martial records, as is President Tyler’s commuted sentence. According to Wickman, “The fact that Guillou was the principal witness for the prosecution in Wilkes’s trial possibly had something to do with this reversal,” p. 71.


John Wickman in Political Aspects of Charles Wilkes’s Work and Testimony, 1842- 1849 discusses Upshur’s attempt to have Robert Greenhow write the narrative, as well as Wilkes’s relationship with Benjamin Tappan, pp. 51-62. Upshur became angry when Tappan referred to Wilkes as a captain, insisting that Wilkes was only a lieutenant. Tappan responded by reminding Upshur that his own president held a title he did not technically deserve since he had inherited the position after the death of Harrison and had not been formally elected by the American people.

Wilkes refers to the dispute over his pay in ACW, p. 531. In a September 22, 1842, letter to a naval friend, Samuel Du Pont writes, “You will find as soon as Wilkes knows his Sentence, that the grand intrigue, public and private will be entered into, to raise him to a post Captaincy. We have had the Commercial already out telling what was done in like case for Parry RM, Vancouver, etc. I hope if he succeeds that he will be put at the head of the list.” The author of the “Commercial” for Wilkes’s promotion was apparently his brother-in-law James Renwick. In a June 19, 1842, letter to Jane Wilkes, Renwick refers to “Poinsett and Paulding’s promise to seek for an appointment as Post Captain,” and asks for information so that he can write up the case for Wilkes’s promotion: “As a beginning I want the date of d’Urville and Charles’s striking the icy barrier. The fact of d’Urville’s promotion to an admiral, and from what rank, the fact of Ross’ promotion and from what rank.”

My description of the Ex. Ex.’s collection comes from Adrienne Kaeppler’s “Anthropology and the U.S. Exploring Expedition” in MV, pp. 120-42. Richard Eyde in “Expedition Botany: The Making of a New Profession” in MV talks about the size of the botany collection, p. 25. George Watson in “Vertebrate Collections: Lost Opportunities” in MV states the number of birds, mammals, and fish, pp. 48, 69. Stanton provides statistics on the number of fossil species as well as coral and crustacea species, p. 317. Douglas Evelyn in “The National Gallery at the Patent Office” in MV cites Charles Pickering’s account of the number of specimens in spirit jars and envelopes, p. 234. Kaeppler in MV describes Horatio Hale’s linguistic achievement, which included the first account of Chinook Jargon, “a simplified hybrid language that had emerged on the northwest coast during the eighteenth century in the contacts between European sailors and traders and the Indians of the area,” p. 142. Unfortunately, none of Hale’s original notebooks have survived; Charles Pickering’s are at the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia. William Goetzmann in New Lands, New Men describes the stunning scope and quality of the Expedition’s charts, p. 290; he also makes the point that the Ex. Ex. collections “outran the intellectual resources of the country,” p. 289. My account of the formation of the Smithsonian Institution is based largely on Nathan Reingold’s and Marc Rothenberg’s “The Exploring Expedition and the Smithsonian Institution” in MV, pp. 243-53. My thanks to Michael Hill for determining what Smithson’s original bequest would have been worth in today’s dollars. My account of the Expedition’s relationship with the National Institute is based largely on Douglas Evelyn’s “The National Gallery at the Patent Office” in MV, pp. 227-42, as well as Stanton, pp. 297-303; Stanton cites Pickering’s statement that the Expedition’s legacy should not be measured “by producing specimens to which an unfortunate importance has been so often attached but by the communication of facts,” p. 297.

Wilkes describes his moves to improve the Ex. Ex. exhibit at the Patent Office in ACW, pp. 528-29. Tyler describes the team Wilkes put together to produce the charts, p. 391. Stanton cites Ralph Waldo Emerson’s praise of the exhibit at the Patent Office, p. 301. Wilkes tells of the first lady’s unsuccessful attempt to secure plants from the Expedition’s greenhouse in ACW, pp. 529-30.

William Reynolds describes his visit to Washington, D.C., in a January 22, 1843, letter to Henry Eld. Wilkes claims to have been amused rather than angered by the “many misstatements and malicious remarks” in his officer’s journal in ACW, p. 541, in which he also claims his own Narrativewas “free from all vituperation,” p. 532. James Renwick refers to Jane Wilkes as Wilkes’s “amanuensis” in a January 8, 1843, letter to Jane, in which he also speaks of his progress in reading Wilkes’s manuscript. Eliza Henry (Wilkes’s sister) worries about Wilkes’s working too late at night on his book in an April 3, 1843, letter to Wilkes (at DU). Wilkes claims his manuscript reached three thousand pages in ACW, p. 532, where he also describes his book as “a monument to my exertions,” p. 533. His description of the explosion aboard the Princeton and the death of Upshur is in ACW, pp. 525, 584-87. I have also relied on Claude Hall’s description of the incident in Abel Upshur, pp. 210-12.

Wilkes attributes “the style and beauty” of the published narrative to Joseph Drayton in ACW, p. 542; Daniel Haskell in The United States Exploring Expedition and Its Publications describes what the volumes looked like, pp. 33- 34. Wickman claims that the Expedition’s publications are “some of the most expensive books in the history of American printing,” p. 92; he also discusses Wilkes’s insistence on keeping the copyright to the Narrative, pp. 90-91. Wilkes tells of the challenge of seeing his big book through the press in ACW, pp. 535-37. Charles Davis’s reference to the “oppressive dimensions” of the Narrative is in the North American Review, vol. LXI, 1845, p. 100; he also refers to the “variety of styles” that are apparent throughout the book. Wickman provides a synopsis of the many, largely positive reviews of the Narrative, p. 97. For James Fenimore Cooper’s debt to Wilkes’s Narrative, see W. B. Gates’s “Cooper’s The Sea Lions and Wilkes’s Narrative” and “Cooper’s The Crater and Two Explorers.” David Jaffé in The Stormy Petrel and the Whale discusses Herman Melville’s use of the Narrative in Moby-Dick; he also points to Ko-Towatowa as the “prototype for Queequeg,” p. 43. Melville had a personal connection to the Expedition; before being detached from the squadron at Callao, his cousin Henry Gansevoort had been a passed midshipman on the Peacock. During the winter of 1858-59, Melville traveled around the Northeast delivering a lecture about the South Pacific that, as at least one newspaper reporter recognized, contained a veiled criticism of the Ex. Ex.’s attack on the Fijian village of Malolo. Melville termed it an “indiscriminate massacre upon some poor little village on the seaside—splattering the town’s bamboo huts with blood and brains of women and children, defenseless and innocent,” in “The South Sea” in The Piazza Tales and Other Prose Pieces, 1839-1860, pp. 415-16. David Roberts in A Newer World describes how Frémont’s wife ghostwrote his books and cites Bernard De Voto’s statement that Frémont’s reports “were far more important than his travels,” p. 127; he also tells of how the spring of 1845 marked the height of Frémont’s celebrity, p. 138. According to Goetzmann, Frémont was “the explorer as propagandist par excellence,” p. 172. See also Tom Chaffin’s The Pathfinder: John Charles Frémont and the Course of American Empire.

The decision in the marines’ suit against Wilkes is reported in the May 31, 1845, Niles Register; the suit is first mentioned almost three years earlier in the September 17, 1842, Niles Register. “Memorial of Officers of the Exploring Expedition” dated January 11, 1847, is in 29th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate, No. 47; the memorialists are William Walker, Robert Johnson, James Alden, John Dale, Edwin DeHaven, A. S. Baldwin, George Sinclair, William Reynolds, Simon Blunt, William May, Joseph Sanford, George Colvocoresses, and James Blair. Wilkes’s rebuttal is dated March 3, 1847, and is in 29th Congress, 2nd Session, Senate, No. 217. Reynolds’s complaint to James Pearce about the publication of Wilkes’s rebuttal is from manuscript material in the archives at FMC, as is his seventy-eight-page critique of Wilkes’s Narrative. Wickman discusses Thomas Hart Benton’s claim that the Columbia River offered a safe port, pp. 105-10. Letters from Reynolds and others concerning this topic appear in “Communications” in 29th Congress, 1st Session, Senate, No. 474; Wilkes’s “Statement” is in 29th Congress, 1st Session, Senate, No. 475. Chaffin in The Pathfinder discusses yet another dustup between Wilkes and Benton/Frémont in the spring of 1848, this one concerning the accuracy of Wilkes’s chart of the California coast, pp. 388-89. Wickman has a chapter about the Wilkes-Frémont feud, pp. 131-50, and claims that Wilkes came out the winner.

In a letter dated February 17, 1841, to Charles Wilkes (at DU), Henry Wilkes says that their sister Eliza and her daughter hope that the memorial to the slain officers will be at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn: “I should think that there will not be any difficulty in having their wishes effected as it is understood that Lieut Underwood though officially of Maine . . . was a resident of this state and considered as belonging to it.” For an account of the memorial that was eventually built at Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, Massachusetts, see Blanche Linden-Ward’s Silent City on a Hill, pp. 240-41. Wilkes claims that securing the annual appropriation for publication of the Expedition’s reports was “more trouble” than the Expedition itself in ACW, p. 546. The senator’s frustrated reference to “this thing called science” is quoted by Haskell, p. 23. John J. Audubon, on the other hand, immediately recognized the importance of the Expedition’s scientific reports. In the summer of 1842, he wrote young Spencer Baird (destined to become the head of the Smithsonian Institution) that the reports “ought to come to the World of Science at least as brightly as the brightest rays of the Orb of Day during the Mid-summer Solstice. Oh, my dear young friend, that I did possess the wealth of the Emperor of Russia, or of the king of the French; then indeed I would address the Congress of our Country, ask of them to throw open these stores of Natural Curiosities, and Comply with mine every wish to publish, and to Give Away Copies of the invaluable Works thus produced to every Scientific Institution throughout our Country, and throughout the World,” quoted in Haskell, p. 8.

After the publication of his report, Horatio Hale gave up the study of languages to become a lawyer in Canada. Late in life, he came out of retirement to dispute the findings of Lewis Henry Morgan, whose work with Native Americans and other native cultures had led him to declare that just as biological organisms evolved, so did societies, from the primitive to the more advanced. Hale’s work in the South Pacific and in Oregon had made him realize that Morgan was imposing his own value system on cultures that were neither more nor less advanced than Western societies; they were simply different. Not long after in 1887, Hale met Franz Boas, a German anthropologist who had been working in British Columbia and was destined to become a giant in his field. Hale’s insistence on the importance of fieldwork and language in the study of man resonated with the young scientist, and when Hale died nine years later, Boas wrote, “Ethnology has lost a man who contributed more to our knowledge of the human race than perhaps any other single student.” See Jacob Gruber’s “Horatio Hale and the Development of American Anthropology,” pp. 5-37, and Stanton, pp. 373-76.

Frederick Bayer in “The Invertebrates of the U.S. Exploring Expedition” in MV quotes Darwin’s praise of Dana’s report, p. 81. Stanton cites Humboldt’s reference to Dana’s “splendid contribution to science,” p. 372. The unrelenting pace Dana sustained after the Expedition’s return finally proved too much for him, and he suffered a nervous breakdown in the late 1850s. Although he would be forced to drastically reduce his output in subsequent years, he still managed to write popular books about coral and volcanoes that drew on his experiences with the Ex. Ex. “If this work gives pleasure to any,” he wrote in the preface to Coral and Coral Islands, “it will but prolong in the world the enjoyments of the ‘Exploring Expedition,’” p. 6.

Even if Oliver Wendell Holmes had no use for Pickering’s The Races of Man, the report contained, as Stanton demonstrates, insights of the highest order into how the human species had adapted to an extraordinary variety of environments. Pickering was influenced by his friend Samuel George Morton, the chief exponent of what became known as the American School of Anthropology. Morton claimed that each race (of which Pickering counted eleven) was a distinct species and had separate origins. See Stanton, pp. 338-48. Stanton also discusses the difficulties Titian Peale had with Wilkes and the publication of his report and judges John Cassin’s revamped version of the report to be “a triumph of new science,” pp. 327-29. On William Rich and Asa Gray and the botany reports, see Richard Eyde’s “Expedition Botany: The Making of a New Profession” in MV, pp. 25-41, as well as Stanton, pp. 331-37. The botanist John Torrey’s reference to Wilkes’s “quarter deck insolence” is quoted by Haskell, p. 22.

Goetzmann contends that between one-quarter and one-third of the federal budget in the 1840s and 50s went to the sciences and the arts, p. 178. On the importance of the sea as an American frontier, see Thomas Philbrick’s James Fenimore Cooper and the Development of American Sea Fiction. Goetzmann also writes insightfully about the “mountain men of the sea,” pp. 237-46.


For information on William Reynolds during the Mexican War and while living in Hawaii in the 1850s, I have depended on the epilogue by Herman Viola in Voyage to the Southern Ocean, pp. 292-93. My thanks to Reynolds descendant Anne Hoffman Cleaver for sharing with me the letters she possesses written by Rebecca Krug Reynolds. For information on Charles Guillou, I have relied on the biographical sketch by Emily Blackmore in Oregon and California Drawings, with a commentary by Elliot Evans, pp. 1-19.

Tyler cites a letter Jane and Charles Wilkes wrote to their son Jack in which they mention the celebration they hosted in December 1845, p. 396. Wilkes writes of the “delightful time” he and Jane had in Washington society in ACW, p. 533, in which he also tells of his and Edmund’s trip to North Carolina in the summer of 1848 and the death of his wife, pp. 637-56. Daniel Henderson in Hidden Coasts claims Jane died of blood poisoning, p. 224. Wilkes describes his move to the Dolley Madison house as well as his wooing of Mary Bolton in ACW, pp. 731-34.

My account of the transfer of the Ex. Ex. collection from the Patent Office to the Smithsonian Institution is based largely on Nathan Reingold and Marc Rothenberg’s “The Exploring Expedition and the Smithsonian Institution” in MV, pp. 243-53, and Stanton, p. 359. Stanton also writes about the other institutions the Expedition helped to foster and Wilkes’s essential role in “putting science into government and government into science,” p. 363. For my account of how Ringgold’s North Pacific Expedition, as well as the Ex. Ex. before it, made possible Asa Gray’s advocacy of Darwin’s theory of evolution, I have relied on Eyde in MV, pp. 38, 41; Stanton, pp. 368-70; and Goetzmann, pp. 345—58; as well as Gordon Harrington’s “The Ringgold Incident: A Matter of Judgment” in America Spreads Her Sails, edited by Clayton Barrow, pp. 100-111, and Allan Cole’s “The Ringgold-Rodgers-Brooke Expedition to Japan and the North Pacific, 1853-1859.”

For information on the post-Ex. Ex. career of James Alden, William Hudson, and other officers, I have relied on the ZB Files, Operational Archives at the Naval Historical Center. For an account of the laying of the transatlantic cable, see John Steele Gordon’s A Thread Across the Ocean. On the international search for the lost Franklin Expedition, I have looked to two books by Fergus Fleming, Barrow’s Boys, pp. 380-425, and Ninety Degrees North, pp. 1-91, and Elisha Kane’s Arctic Explorations.

Wilkes describes his Civil War experiences in ACW, in which he refers to the “beautiful day” on which he took Slidell and Mason from the Trent, p. 769, and how his hands became blistered at the celebration at Boston’s Faneuil Hall, p. 775; he also quotes President Lincoln’s praise of his actions, p. 776. In my account of the Trent Affair, I have also relied on Gordon Warren’s Fountain of Discontent: The Trent Affair and Freedom of the Seas, in which he quotes Wilkes’s reference to “one of the most important days in my naval life,” p. 22, as well as the Boston mayor’s praise of Wilkes and Wilkes’s humble response, p. 27, and the New York Historical Society president’s commemoration, p. 31. In a November 19, 1861, letter to his father, Charles Francis Adams, Jr., writes from Boston that the Trent Affair “created quite a stir and immense delight, though at first every one thought it must be a violation of national law; but [Richard Henry] Dana crowed with delight and declared that if Lord John made an issue on that, you could blow him out of water,” in A Cycle of Adams Letters, 1861- 1865, edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford, p. 71. On Wilkes’s subsequent activities during the war, I have relied on William Jeffries’s “The Civil War Career of Charles Wilkes.” Jeffries quotes Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles’s diary entries about Wilkes, p. 327, as well as Wilkes’s letters to his wife about the “comforts” of the Vanderbilt, p. 331, and “filling my pockets” with prize money, p. 335.

My account of William Reynolds’s career during and after the Civil War is based on Viola’s epilogue in Voyage to the Southern Ocean, pp. 296-98. The epilogue in ACW tells of Wilkes’s last years after the war, pp. 927—30. Wilkes’s son John recorded that the unpublished Physics report “was thought by the Admiral to be more valuable than any of the Scientific volumes of the U.S. Ex. Ex.,” in Haskell, p. 110. According to Victor Lenzen and Robert Multhauf in “Development of Gravity Pendulums in the 19th Century,” Francis Baily “appears to have found [Wilkes’s pendulum results] defective because of insufficient attention to the maintenance of temperature constancy and to certain alterations made to the pendulums,” p. 318. For information on Louis Agassiz’s unpublished report on fishes, see Watson in MV, p. 66. Stanton speaks of some of the absurdities contained in Wilkes’s Hydrography report, p. 362; he also refers to the many obituaries that made no reference to Wilkes’s involvement with the Ex. Ex., p. 363. The obituary describing Reynolds’s funeral is from the archives at FMC. For information on Charles Erskine, I am grateful to Daniel Finamore at the Peabody-Essex Museum, who provided me with a copy of Erskine’s calling card and a list of the artifacts that were donated to the museum, apparently by his son in the early twentieth century. I am also grateful to Jane Walsh at the Smithsonian Institution, who brought to my attention a November 11, 1859, memo describing the artifacts “Sent by order of Prof. Henry to Charles Erskine care W. Elliot Woodward, Roxbury, Mass,” in the Office of Distribution File, Record Unit 120, 1st Series, Volume 3:96, Smithsonian Institution Archives. William Reynolds expressed his fervent support for flogging in a manuscript titled “Response to the circular on naval punishment” at FMC. For an account of the attempt to abolish flogging in the 1840s, and Herman Melville’s role in it, see Robert Chapel’s “The Word Against the Cat: Melville’s Influence on Seamen’s Rights.” Charlie’s reference to the anonymity of the common sailor is from his Twenty Years Before the Mast, p. 310.


Ralph Ehrenberg, et al., discuss the use of Wilkes charts as late as the invasion of Tarawa during World War II in “Surveying and Charting the Pacific Basin,” MV, p. 187. James Ross undercuts Wilkes’s Antarctic claims in A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern and Antarctic Regions, p. 298. Kenneth Bertrand evaluates Wilkes’s discovery of Antarctica in great detail in Americans in Antarctica, 1775-1948, pp. 184-90, in which he refers to the difficulty of judging distances in Antarctica. In addition to his words about the “the greatness of his achievement,” Bertrand writes, “Time and subsequent exploration have substantiated Wilkes’s claim of an Antarctic continent and confirmed his landfalls,” p. 190. William Hobbs in “Wilkes Land Rediscovered” tells of the errors Douglas Mawson found in his own mapping efforts of the Antarctic coast, p. 634. He also cites Shackleton’s account of his firsthand experience with the phenomenon of polar looming when he sighted Wilkes’s Cape Hudson: “This is most weird. All hands saw the headland to the southwest, and some of us sketched it. Now (afternoon), although the sky is beautifully clear to the south-west, nothing can be seen. We cannot have drifted far from yesterday’s position. No wonder Wilkes reported land,” p. 643. Hobbs writes that “the naming of Wilkes Land came through German sources and that American atlases made no use of it, at least through the forties, fifties, and much of the sixties of the nineteenth century,” p. 649. James Dana’s letter to Asa Gray is dated February 12, 1846, and is at the Gray Herbarium Archives at Harvard.

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