George W. Drake

Surgeon's Steward in Charge, USS Kittatinny

George Whitfield "Whit" Drake was born 28 November 1842 in Union County, New Jersey. Before his enlistment in the Navy, Drake worked as a pharmacy clerk in Elizabeth, NJ.

Drake enlisted in the Navy on 10 August 1863 at Brooklyn, New York. He was rated a Surgeon's Steward and attached to the USS Kittatinny that day. The Kittatinny did not have a surgeon attached as part of her complement for her second cruise to the Gulf, so Drake was effectively what in the modern Navy is termed an IDC "Independent Duty Corpsman". His billet of "Surgeon's Steward in Charge" was made official by Farragut on 1 May 1864. [2]

On 31 May 1865, Drake was admitted to Naval Hospital Pensacola afflicted with typhoid fever and double pneumonia. He died there a week later on 7 June. Drake was 22 years old and had been in the Navy for one year and nine months. The USS Kittatinny sailed home for New York two months later without Drake.

When he was not on duty, Drake wrote numerous letters home about life aboard the Kittatinny, some of which are transcribed here.


On board US Schooner Kittatinny
At Sea
August Thursday 20, 1863

Dear Mother, Father, Sister and Brother,

"I am out on an ocean sailing"

It would be useless for me to attempt to give you a description of "a life on the ocean wave". But I will give you a slight delineation of events as they happened to me on my first sail in a regular war ship.

First, we sailed from New York on Tuesday the 11sth of this month at 10 AM or there abouts. But we did not sail either, we were towed as far as Sandy Hook by a steamer. The steamer then cast off and we set sail. The parting letters are confided to the Pilot and he goes over the side often wishing you a prosperous cruise and as the swift pilot boat leaves you, you fee as if the last connecting link with home is broken. There was a good many heartaches I have no doubt, but no one showed it. I kept looking back to catch the last glimpse of land, but its only the green ones who do that. The old sailors look ahead and think of what their supper will be. Well we were soon out of sight of land and then my stomach got to be in a very disturbed state but I was not as sick as I expected to be. I was more home sick than anything else - and even now the tears are rolling down my cheeks as thoughts of home fly through my mind but I feel less home sick as the time passes.

And now for a description of the "schooner" the correct name is Kittatinny. She is a very fast sailer and this is the second or third cruise she has been on lately. She is not a regular built Navy vessel but one of those that the Government purchased at the commencement of the war and if they were all as good there would be less blockade runners escape. A sample of her sailing I saw yesterday, we passed two vessels, both being smaller and lighter and today we boarded one vessel and hailed another and as I am writing there is another in view which they intend boarding I suppose, another thing that may interest you that is the living we have. I can assure you it is very plain and not likely to give you the "dyspepsia". Breakfast at 8 o'clock, dinner at 12 and supper at 4 PM then to bed at 8 PM. Well what we have for our meals is the question. Breakfast is composed of coffee and hard tack. Dinner of rice and beans, salt beef, salt port and such things as that. Then comes the supper which is very plain - hard tack and tea, then go up on deck and smoke. I sit down side of an old sailor and have him tell me what sent him to sea - for instance to escape punishment from tyrannical parents and others to drown the memory of slighted love, others seeking adventure and so on. I think many a romance might be written from an old salt's life. There is on board this vessel about 77 men, officers and all, and I am the only one that is acquainted with medicine in any way, there being no surgeon on board, although the officers and men all call me "doctor." On average there is 4 men on the sick list every day and it would be still same if I had a good supply of medicine, there being only a small stock of pills, etc. I will now stop writing until tomorrow, which will be Sunday. You will see by the date that I commenced writing on Thursday and have been writing some every day since we are now off the coast of Florida. When I dated this letter, day before yesterday, we were off that hot hole of rebellion "Charleston".

Sunday evening, 6 PM. I thought I would add a few lines more to my letter to tell you how I kept Sunday. We generally or we did last Sunday read the Episcopal service on the Quarter Deck but did not today as it looked "like rain." I read 3 or 4 chapters in the Bible, and it brought tears to my eyes when I thought how often Mother has told me that it was no disgrace to be seen reading the Book of God. But I have determined to read the Bible while I am away if I did not at home. I suppose you will go to Church this evening and how I wish I was at home to go also.

Monday 24 AM. We have just passed the Island of Abaco or Hole in the Wall. The first land seen in 13 days, only to think of being shut up in a ship for nearly 2 weeks when you have been used to having whole city to roam about in. One thing I want to write about before I forget it, that is about clothes and things that I have left at home. The letters in that little box will interest no one and therefore I want Mother to take them and lock them up somewhere. My clothes I want to have packed in camphor or something to preserve them from moths. There is a black coat that I used to wear (the one I bought off Josh) which Father can wear and he can wear my overcoat on Sunday, also but I don't want it wore every day because he would soon spoil it - now mother do be careful of my clothes and letters. Let Mary have my studs and sleeve buttons to keep. My watch and ring I gave to Mr. Jackson to keep, he is the Executive Officer of the ship and a very nice man. I would have left them home if I had for a moment thought and will if I have an opportunity send them home.

Wednesday 26, 8 AM. We raised anchor this morning and are now sailing for "Key West" I suppose. We were anchored all the day yesterday at sea, that may surprise you but its true for all that on the Bahama Banks the water is about 15 feet deep for miles and miles and you can see bottom very plain - we had to anchor on account of the squalls which are very destructive about here. I suppose we were 100 miles from land when one struck the ship and we anchored as easily as we could in the creek.

Sunday 30th, PM 5 o'clock - We had service this morning, I read the Bible for quite a time this afternoon. Its raining now very hard. Mr Jackson the Executive Officer informs me that we are going to New Orleans. I have just finished reading the 1st chapter of Proverbs and I wish I could live as it demands - you read it.

Monday, August 31, 1863 We are now steaming for Pensacola, but I don't think we will stop there, we only want to get nearer land where we will have more wind. The executive officer has been put under arrest by the Captain. For what I don't know - but he has completely worn the good feelings of the men and petty officers. I mess with the petty officers and he talking the other evening to me about asking them how they liked him. I course not to let them be aware of it. Well I asked them and they all said they liked him as an officer and as a man. He seems to take a great interest in me and will sit in a port hole with me and talk by the hour of home - he says that I will appreciate it when I return and I think he is bout right. He is from the state of Maine, so is the Captain and two other officers. Let me give Josh a little advice if he goes as Surgeons Steward again, let him go in the Army not because the Navy is worse than the Army - no far from it, its a great deal nicer in the Navy but if he has a surgeon over him he may have to wash his clothes and such things as that. I guess I will stop writing now until tomorrow as it tires me more to write than it does to do all the rest of my duty. You will have to excuse the writing as the rolling of the ship to any one that is not used to it is a perfect nuisance. You know I can write better but I have to write so fast that its impossible.

Thursday, Sept 3rd I shall have to close very abruptly as the Captain is going ashore. Give my regards to all the girls and boys and to Cous Falton, tell him that I like it as well as I anticipated. Send some postage stamps.

Your son and brother

PS address is
Surgeons Steward Geo. Drake
USS Kittatinny
West Gulf Blockading Squadron
Care Naval Lyceum Brooklyn

Good bye.


September 17, 1863
Off the "Bay of Matagorda"

Dear Sister -

I am enjoying healthy air but I can't say that I am altogether healthy. I suppose on account of the change in the food, but its the same as we always have had and will have until we set in a civilized part of the country again. We left Southwest pass 12 days ago one Saturday and sailed for Galveston where we arrived the following Tuesday at 12 PM, we waited there until about 4 PM and then sailed for our cruising grounds which is from about 20 miles from Galveston to Matagorda, at least 100 miles of they very worst coast to blockade there is on account of the bars and shoals and 4 or 5 iron clads which the rebels have. The first thing we did was to sail close along the coast and immediately examine the different passes and bays where blockade runners can run in. Well after sailing the entire coast down to Matagorda bay, we "about ship" and put out to sea, it was not very long before the cry of "sail ho" brought but every man on deck, sail running out from land. I thought soon we had a prize but it proved not, it was a vessel bound to New Orleans from Matagorda with a cargo of molasses. Since that we have chased any number of vessels but they always prove to be either a US Gun Boat or a transport.

When sailing along the coast by Matagorda Bay, about one week ago, we saw an Iron Clad laying just inside the bar and two schooners laying alongside - well it was last Sunday morning that we saw them about 8 o'clock AM, about noon we put out to sea after examining every thing closely with glasses, about 4 o'clock the men muffled the oars, then we knew they was going to fit out an expedition to cut her out of the Bay or else set her on fire. About dark we were within 60 miles of land when "about ship" and we put in. About 9:30 the drum was beat to call the men to quarters, when all sudden we saw a large steamer sailing right for us, we were then about 10 miles from land, that was an exciting time I can tell you because we knew if it was the rebel steamer we would have a rough time as she is iron clad and cotton clad. Then those sailors stood by the guns all on the look out, then the order was passed "train your guns on the object" all of sudden up went a rocket from land then up went the signal lights on board the vessel for such it proved to be a regular US Navy brig which had been sent from Galveston to inform us to keep off from land in the night and day time as they expected the Rebels would send out those iron clads and capture us. What the rocket was intended for by the Rebels I can't say, but I can say that if that that Brig had not put her signal up as she did, she would have been a dead loss to the United States, as we have quite a heavy battery and every gun was pointed right at her.

Suppose we had went and cut out that vessel (or tried to) what would have been the consequence. Why we would have in all probability lost our vessel and been made prisoners and i would much rather be home than be a prisoner in the hands of those Texas Rangers who the sailors say would massacre you as quick as kill a "nigger." The sailors are a very superstitious set of beings any how. Poor fellows some of them did not know that we were at war hardly, but their blue shirt covers a kind heart. I am afraid yet that we will be captures if the Captain (who is a regular dare devil, excuse me) does not keep away from land. The injunction that he received does not seem to have done any good, he still keeps running in and out again, the first thing he knows he will put in and the wind die out our "mutton will be cooked."

The battery of this vessel is 6 guns, 4 broadside 32 pound, one 12 pound howitzer and one 30 pound parrot on the half deck which is a pivot wither side for or aft being within range of it, we consider it the most effective gun on board. But the 32 pounders are very effective just being 9 feet long they carry a shot a great distance. The vessel is pierced for, to carry 4 guns on each side, but to have speed we have to dispense with a little force. Speaking of speed reminds me of what the Admiral said when we left Southwest Pass, said he "there is the fastest sailer in the fleet" and I believe we are, we overhauled the steamer Bienville the other day with as much ease as we do a little sloop. Think of sailing 16 and 17 miles an hour faster than you sail on the steamboat to New York by about 5 miles an hour.

September 18, 1863, 53 miles from "terra firma": I shall have to write with a lead pencil as it is so very rough that the vessel rolls more than ever since we have been out. Last night we had a tremendous thunder shower and a regular young tornado followed when we had to put out the sea. Does not seem strange that when there is a storm they go way out to sea instead of running into land. It did seem so to me bad for all that you had better be 1000 miles from land in a storm than 10 miles. There is a great difference in the sea here from that in the ocean. The waves here being very short and more apt to swamp a vessel than the waves of the ocean, which are long and rolling and not "dumpy" as the sailors term it. The air is very cold this morning, cold enough for an overcoat. We expect to go to Pensacola about the 1st of December for stores and water, but that is quite a long time to look ahead. Why don't you have Father's picture taken and your own and send yours and his to me. I wish Father would get his picture taken as he is getting old and I may not see him again but I pray that I will and see you all before long. But I don't anticipate seeing home in at least two years so if we get home in less time than that time I shall be agreeably disappointed.

September 22, 1863, 3 PM: PS We are bound for Galveston where we expect to be this evening or tomorrow morning, we will leave our wounded man in the Hospital. I hope to get a letter from you if there is any mail at all, but I don't expect one and its if don't get one I shan't be disappointed, oh if I could only hear from you I think that it would take away some of my home sickness, but not all of it. Oh to be once more on "terra firma" my natural element. I would be content to dig "terra firma" in that sewer that they are digging in Broad St, but with all my wishing I am bound to satiate myself.

Your loving brother

PS Don't forget to give my regards to all the young ladys and especially to Mary Claxton. Now what are you laughing at mother. I wonder if I can't send my regards to a young lady without you laughing at me - never mind mother I'll forgive you, but when I come home I'll settle that with yo myself until that time think of and pray for your loving and affectionate son

Mother and Father

If it is any consolation for you to know that I read the Bible daily. I am very glad and rest assured that I read at least one chaplet a day. Whit


But now its far different - very cool, with a spanking wind from the northwest at 2 AM. I was awakened by the loud orders of the deck officer, and the loud voices of the sailors combined with running over the deck taking in sail. About 10 minutes after they had the sails in, a squall struck us which surpassed any squall I have seen since leaving New York. Oh! did it make things crank, carried away the jib, sail in ribbons and away we went before the wind at an awful rate - so the men say who were on deck. The sea was smooth as a glass and us scudding through the water at such a rate as to send the water over the bow. Now the waves are rolling about as high as a "mail keg" or a little higher. I stood on deck and looked out the port about 8 o'clock and it looked awful. Away down down we would go nothing but great bodies of water of water all around high as the mast, you would surely think they would rush over you, then up up we'd go until sitting up on a great wave, down again but we are going along nicely now. I have to keep an eye on the inkstand as it does sliding around, everything that is not stationary has to be made so.

Thursday (September) 24, 8:30 AM. Yesterday a sail was reported and we crowded on all sail, overhauled her in the run, fired a shot at her and she bore down for us. From New Orleans loaded with Quartermaster Stores for General Bank's Army. We was sorry to hear it as she would have been quite a valuable prize. We are away out to sea in blue water this morning. Wind light, air cool and pleasant. I should like to have you have such nice warm days, up North this winter as we have down here. I think you would keep your furs in camphor. The moon rose splendid last night, do you know that you never saw it rise nor will unless you go out to sea. 2 PM. Steaming west, wind south east. I would keep a journal if I had a blank book, there is so many things transpiring on board and in cruising around that it would be very interesting as well as laughable - some things that happen are very laughable - I mean trick that are played on the landsmen.


Off Matagorda, October 12, 1863
9 AM

Dear Sister and Parents, brother and friends,

A dead calm, the ocean as smooth as a "dust pan" - the men are at quarters and are making a horrid noise rolling the heavy guns in and out, in and out. The borders and pikemen running from one end the vessel to the other to repel imaginary enemies and the loud voice of the Captain giving orders, the bell ringing for an imagined fire, the men running with fire buckets and hammocks to smother it and passing provisions and muskets to put in the boats and such like - and its all done in such an earnest and determined manner than any one but one used to seeing it would think it was reality, that the vessel was on fire, that the ship sides were all filled with shot holes and that borders were trying to effect a standing point on it. "Cease firing" that order has just been passed and everything is as quiet as a church, what a difference, you would not think there was a person on board but yourself if you did not see them. Training and discipline are the two things that have made this crew what it is - every man is acquainted with his position and is aware that if he does not fill it properly and correctly that he good for the "black list" a position not envied by them - as they have to keep the bright work clean around the ship and do the dirty work. The steamer we saw last night proved to be a mail boat, but no news from home - every one thought it a rebel cotton boat when first seen - but it soon proved to be the Tennessee - had no mail at all for us but had one for every other vessel, on the way has captured to prizes within a week - good luck for them but bad luck for us.

Tuesday (October) 13, 1863 10 AM - Another exciting time last evening - there was a light reported about 8 PM and at 8:30 we saw several - they were on land supposed to be signal lights for some blockade runner. This morning I turned out at 5 o'clock and the light wind blowing direct from land was splendid. Oh! how sweet it did smell. Its the first time since I had been out that anything has pleased me as much as it did. It was a treat, a luxury, a [illegible] it was "bully" to use a not very slight term. If we had a steamer I have no doubt we would catch any number of prizes. I tell you that the Navy Dept is behind the age - keeping large and swift gun boats off Galveston were we could do their duty and allowing vessels to run in and out with impunity on our station. There was 4 or 5 there when we was last month. When we go away for provisions, I suppose there will be no guard here at all. There are any number of rumors on board in regard to where we are going, some say to Galveston only, others to Ship Island, others to Southwest Pass only, others to New Orleans were we will relive the steamer, what one thought. "I am not at liberty to state" as the newspapers "correspondents" have it because I don't know. Some say we will lay there all winter and I hope that they are correct in their sayings but - (since I have written the name that the "madame" has afloat) you will allow me to say my opinion which is simply this, that we will leave here shortly for provisions and go somewhere and after we get there we will come back again and stay until we are obliged to leave again on the same errand and that this will be our station until this "cruel war is over" - which day I hope is not far distance when we will be able with a loyal and united people to demand from England and France an apology for insults and wrongs heaped upon us in this great trial and if they do not grant them we will be ready with a strong navy, a strong army and an unbroken front to uphold the red white and blue on land and sea. What do you think of that, don't you think I had better keep out of the air and engage myself in deliver 4th of July orations or had I not better wait until I return and run for "pound keeper" in the 3rd ward against "stingy woodruff" I guess this will do for today, anyhow for the present as I don't wish to tax my abilities for it might lead to something serious. I might have a "rush of brains" to the head. 1 PM I have just finished my elegant dinner - beef salted so as to preserve it - only a little salt - I belive if a piece of it as large as your hand was dropped in Salt Lake it would make that Salt Lake worse than it is. Oh! its salty, salter, saltest, commodore salter or "any other man". Then we had bread which was very good and that's all we had any how. No we had pepper and salt, the salt was for the beef. Oh! that good salt beef - superlative - so nice and tender - tender yes - about as tender as a piece of red sole leather. But the pork we have is so nice and salt to - its lovely and you know how much I admire salt pork. I have seen some ribs that come out of the pork and think they would make good ribs for a "man of war" and those from the beef would make a keel for the "Great Easter" if they was sawed off a few feet on each end. But its better than none and not much either - if we had none we would growl and so the odds is the difference - by the way the beef and pork must have been salted down by the ancients and they did not do it right, made a mistake put in a barrel of salt of saltest for an ounce of the aforesaid salt. I will stop writing for today unless something happens as for instance capturing a prize. I am anticipating an elegant supper "hard tack", tea, pickels and that delicious beef - cold - make sandwiches - makes elegant ones one will last me just 1 hour and 15 minutes. No joking but they are so nice and salty.

Wednesday (October) 14, 10 AM - I wish you would buy me a nice pair of skates and a sled, send them to me by express, for if it increases in coldness at the present rate it will be lovely skating down here by New Year's Day. I expect to see the whole Gulf of Mexico frozen over shortly. This morning at 5 o'clock it was cold enough to freeze a brass monkey. No doubt you will ask how I know, I suppose you will think some one told me so - but you are mistaken, I was up and saw it or rather felt it and I can feel it now if I go on deck, for all the sun shines brightly, I am sitting in the store room and looking out on deck and to see those sailors drilling with the guns and nothing but a shirt and pants on, the shirt open and a black silk neckerchief tied loosely around makes me shiver but they are sweating I suppose. I anticipate lovely skating and nice cool weather this coming winter - they may talk about spending winters in the South - New Orleans or Savannah, but you can take my word it that its as cold now, today, as cold I saw it before the latter part of November. The wind is north west, another favorable wind for blockader running out - I hope they will profit by it and us to, too the same amount. I will write anything interesting that occurs today - or exciting. Dinner today - pork and beans. Oh! delicious dish, fit for a king - if he is fool enough to eat them. The fragrant effusive is wafting to my nose and is a sign that they are boiling. Oh! Lukin bring along your most fragrant perfections and if they equal boiling beans I am a story writer.

October 15, 11 AM - Its a lovely day - sea smooth - no wind - twenty miles from land. Dinner, boiled rice and roast beef in cans, the sailors called it "bullion" a "bully" name for it. I wish Gideon Welles was obliged to eat one can a day - so much for the secretary and his contractors. My friend, the yeoman is sitting in front of me writing a letter home also. He is a very nice young fellow, he came from Troy. His father is a dealer in stores and hardware, the name is Johnson, his duty is to keep the ship stores, such as ropes, oil, tar, canvas, soap, candles, etc. Yeoman is his name as given by the Department.

October 16, 10 AM - Lovely day, wind blowing hard from the North East. Sail reported this morning, proved to be the US Brig Bohio. Feel down hearted as i did when Mollie Noxon and I ceased being friends - thought we seen it was a prize - see how easy it is to be mistaken - dinner today - bread, molasses, pickles, to sweeten the molasses, hard tack and "last but not least" that delicious, can you just give a good guess, now mother you guess, yes you are correct, it is "salted beef". We will have to leave here shortly for provisions and water, only 15 days allowance on board. We are at the extreme end of our cruising grounds, Matagorda Bay we can see the light house and land very plain.

October 17, 8 AM - its a far different day from yesterday, just such another day as the one we nearly drifted ashore. The wind is blowing a perfect hurricane, the seas are very high, barometer falling rapidly, sun shining lightly. Only 10 miles from land - sails all taken in except 4. The vessel is rolling in such a manner as to keep an inkstand from upsetting impossible. Obliged to write with a pencil, very bad day. Dinner pork and beans, had for breakfast scouse, coffee, pickles, hard tack. 10:30 AM sail is reported on our starboard beam, wind very strong. Ship under every canvas, we shall have to anchor pretty soon. Confound it. I wish I was home.

Sunday (October 18) 10 AM - We have anchored with the heavy one playing out about 300 feet of chain and are perfectly safe, the vessel riding the waves like a "thing of beauty" as she really is. The wind has changed and is blowing very strong from land. No danger whatever. No service today, very cold, regular freezing weather.

Thursday Oct 22, 9:30 AM - as you will see that I have written nothing since Sunday. I had better own it, but the continued fair weather has caused the sea to run so high that its almost impossible to write. There has nothing of interest transpired since Sunday except raising the anchor Monday morning and cruising along land - the wind being favorable we ran close to Valasco and there was 5 large schooners in there, and outside the harbor a fine large steam boat like the one used in the rivers - flat bottomed, capable of carrying an immense amount of cotton. But they are good for nothing to go to sea, unless it is very clear, one of them would not live one hour in the sea that is running at present. I suppose she is used for transporting things from inland. We will leave shortly for the needed stores. Mail boat it arrival expected. What is your opinion about the closing of the war or rather when do you think it will end - cause you send the Journal once in a while. I don't suppose I would ever received it, but if I should receive one it would please your homesick brother wonderfully. It is raining now, the only rain we have had since that last fearful storm nearly if not quite a month ago. But for all that we don't see the tide fall much.

Friday the 23rd Day of October - today and the most exciting, sorrowful things have occurred. First there is a heavy Norther blowing cold and foggy, and has been blowing since - well I don't remember the exact day, but anyhow the blow commenced to increase yesterday morning and last evening it was blowing a heavy sea - what is termed a "chop sea", waves running very high, at 8 o'clock I went to bed thinking of home and dear ones enjoying the comforts of it. At 2 o'clock this morning all hands were called, and I turned out and went on deck to gratify my curiosity, not being obliged to and there on the starboard beam was a great huge steamer within a stone throw, no light exhibited, but going along at a rapid rate, mysterious, what she was is the question. Some say the mail boat, others say the sloop of war Ossipee on the blockade off Galveston, but slipped her cable to get out to sea, and there are some who think she was the pirate Alabama, but then I don't think it probable as the Alabama would not have let us pass without firing a shot to let us know that she was around. Any how it was her duty to hail us as she was to the windward or on the weather beam. Well I went below and turned in had just got to sleep when the startling cry "man overboard" made every man leap. I dressed myself and was just going on deck when the word was passed for "Harvey Adams", no answer, again and no answer. He was gone. Poor fellow, but the worst I have yet to chronicle. There was no effort made to save him, not even an oar, life buoy, a plant, the boat was not lowered. No, a man's life was sacrificed. A man with a soul was actually killed. The ship was not put about, nothing done. Shame on the Officer of the Deck whose duty it was. Loud and deep are the imperfections and curses raining from the men on his head. The man at the wheel saw him go, gave the alarm and the officer of the deck answered in a not very elegant expression "its a damned lie" only to think, but he is a Catholic, that accounts for it. Then again he enquired if he was a seaman or landsman. Answer "He was a landsman sir" and he said "Oh!", just as if he was of no use whatever. Barry [Acting Ensign Gerard H. Barry], you are the man to answer for his life, answer for it. Not quite answer for but then again it was your duty to do something to save him. He gave one piercing scream as he went overboard and was ushered in to the presence of his maker unprepared. This was a young man of about 22 years of age, drowned off cruise, an only son, mother died short time ago, one sister who he loved as his life, father a respectable well do do man, resides in Lowell, Massachusetts. I can't praise him, I can only say he was a Christian. No, he was a profane and swearer, I think now and can imagine him swearing how little his thoughts were turned above when enjoying health and live. But he was kind hearted and loved by his shipmates. The Captain thought him as good a man as he had. An American, good sailor, pretty pennon but he was not prepared to die with all his good qualities how do they compare with the one thing needful - a love for God and respect for his commands. His sudden death has cast a gloom over the men. It is like loosing one from a family. It is an admonition for me to prepare to meet my maker, and also to keep before my mind the Bible command "Be ye also ready for in such an hour as you think not, the Son of Man cometh." We are anchored near Matagorda light house pretty close to land. Its exceedingly cold, an overcoat would be a grateful addition to my wardrobe.

Saturday 24, 9 AM. We raised anchor at 6 o'clock this AM and are sailing along under easy canvas, cold as Greenland. I don't put any more on deck, for I have no business only to put the sick list in the "binnacle." I am writing in the storeroom. Yesterday at 2 PM, the clothes and effects of the lost man were sold at auction. The idea of selling one's things before he has been dead 12 hours, the joking remarks of the auctioneer, the coarse laugh of the men made me feel more solemn than any thing that has occurred since we left New York. We saw in Matagorda Bay a large 3 masted schooner, same model as this one. I should like to capture her loaded with "King Cotton." Last evening was perfectly splendid. The moon shone as bright as day, cold and clean. The steamer that passed us last night before last is supposed to be the mail steamer, if so we shall have to wait some time for our mail. Well they say, "patience waiting no less" or something like it, any how we have to use patience. It won't help matters by being inpatient. Dinner - Pork and beans. I wish it was dinner time, pork and beans are elegant. I would as soon have roast beef though.

Oct 25, 11 AM. Sail has been reported. We had church this morning, very cold attending it. I have just heard it reported that the sail is the mail boat. If it is, expect a letter. I do hope I shall get one, its stated on good authority that we go home next spring. If it was Sunday, I would dance. The sail reported is that 3 masted schooner we saw in Matagorda Bay. I can hardly sit still long enough to write this. I have been on deck and saw her quite a distance from us. Don't think we will catch her before night, hope to. I wish you would tell Mr. March the store keeper that I am well, tell him where I am - and give him my respects. I will write to him. 3 PM, we are gaining on the schooner very rapidly - she is acting very mysterious indeed. I have written a ltter to Mr. March, We will commence to fire the guns at her as soon as she gets in range if if she does not heave to we will sink her. We fired 2 shots and she had hove to, shows the English flag, played our game - the boat's crew is away.

26, 9 AM - We have at last captured a prize. The officer and men are now on board, we sent her to New Orleans last night. Her cargo is merchandise, general assortments, dry goods, quinine, wine, brandy - she proved to be a valuable one. She hailed from Vera Cruz bound for New Orleans, we sent her there whether she was bound or not. The men say their was to others there ready to sail for ports in Texas. We are laying around "loose" for them. By singer there is another sail reported, whew, if it is only a prize, I will stop and take a look around - tell Mr. March that we captured the vessel we were chasing when I closed his letter. No prize, it is the one we captured yesterday.

Tuesday 27, 6 o'clock AM - a sail reported, sail to be the mail boat. Can just see her, I hope to hear from home. I do want a letter from some one. It would be good to see a dog or cat if it only was from Elizabeth.

Your son and brother


(29 Oct 1863) Thursday, 29, 10 AM: Today is another splendid one, warm yet not too warm, in short its a day like we have in "Indian Summer" - last night the moon rose so beautiful. I never saw anything like it. It rose behind a cloud and reflected on the water, beautiful the sea was smooth - splendid sight - and the sea is the only place to see a sun rise or set in nature. Sometimes, after the sun has gone out of sight, a huge wave will come and pitch us up and see can see it again. When the sea is smooth, you can see the reflection on the masts long after the sun is out of sight from the deck. Dinner today is boiled rice and roast beef. We eat the rice with molasses, the beef with a fork of course. 5 PM A sail is reported out the Port Beam running in toward land. We had made all sail for her but it will be impossible to catch her tonight. We will trust to luck and watch for her in the morning. The Captain of the prize says there is some vessels running the blockade that we can't catch. Our Captain says he would like to try them.

(30 Oct 1863) Friday 9 AM: at 4 o'clock this AM, the sea was perfectly smooth, no wind, the sailors were sleeping on deck and actually sweating. But if a man has a desire to perspire now he would have to crawl in a furnace, for there is a young tornado blowing direct from the North. It commenced about 5 we put for land and are now safely anchored in 60 feet of water, playing out 500 feet of chain, cold as Greenland, waves running mountains high as if they would roll over us, but we ride them like a duck. About 6 there was a sail reported which proved to be a steamer laying at anchor about one mile south of us, but she has gone somewhere, supposed to be the "New London" a gunboat on the blockade off Galveston. And now if you see North can't get up a warmer blow for my sake down get up any for they are very disagreeable. Yesterday warm as summer today cold as winter, that is goes. Well its exciting anyhow and helps to pass hours away. Dinner corned or rather salt beef and bread.

(31 Oct 1863) Saturday 31, 9 AM: Yesterday was one of unusual excitations. At 10 or 11 o'clock, the man at the mast head commenced to report sails until he had reported about 10 then he stopped and about every hour reported another one. So it went. We laying at anchor all the time at sundown there was 17 sails in sight. At a signal gun they all raised anchor and stood for Matagorda direct. At 8 PM all hands were called to quarters as a large steamer was seen bearing down on us, we fixed the cable ready to slip it and manned the battery. She sailed by and inquired if we had seen a couple of transports loaded with troops, they have been blown away from the fleet in the gale. She, the McClellan, was looking for them. We raised anchor this AM at 6 and are now standing direct for Matagorda, where we supposed the fleet has gone. I hope so and that it will successful whatever it is destined to - if we capture the seaboard of Texas, it will relieve some of the blockade. The Captain of the prize says that we can capture the port very easy but that we never can subdued the inhabitants. I mentioned the case of New Orleans and he "dried up." I am anticipating some exciting news to write you shortly, although I suppose you will get it in the New York papers before you do from me.

Sunday Nov. 1st, 10:30 AM - Time flies swiftly, another month is gone and still i am here enjoying health for which God be praised. The 28th of this month, I will be 21 years old. I can't think of it without regret that I should have passed my school days so foolishly, I was often admonished that I would regret it and I do. Yesterday we passed a wreck of a schooner, both masts gone the water lapping over them, middling size, about as long as one of those you see in the creek. The boat was called away but did not go to it, suspected it contained a torpedo. We have missed the expedition entirely, supposed it has gone about, so much below where they will land on the mainland and marched up - we are sailing north by east, which is direct for Galveston, whether we will go as far remained to be seen. The land bears north by east and south by west. Last night we left and stood out and was once more in blue water. It looks so nice compared with the dirty green water that is near land, but we are in green water now, 20 fathoms.

(1 Nov 1863) Sunday Eve 5 PM - I have been thinking this PM of home and how I should like to come and take you by surprise when you was least expecting me. Tonight I suppose St. Johns Church will be filled with people as it is the first Sunday in the month. I can imagine you home sitting around the stove, Father with the Bible, Mother with some Christian book and Mary also. O how I wish I had wings to fly home and see you, but there is no use in wishing for home. I don't expect to see until one year at least of which nearly 3 months has passed. Mary I wish you would take care of my ring and studs and also see that my clothes are kept in good order, you can't imagine how I regret the time I used to see Mother go and get a pail of water when I had ought to have done so, but she would do it sooner than have a cross word spoken. I regret it and if ever I see her again my actions will be different. Sometimes I think I never shall because she is getting old - the grey hairs are showing themselves on her head and Father too, but I pray that her life may be spared and his also, that I may see them again before the "silver cord be loosed or the golden bowl be broken" my eyes fill with tears at the thought and I must stop writing for tonight with an earnest fervent prayer that the God above will spare me and protect me from danger and that he will in his mercy spare and protect her at whose knee I have often knelt in prayer.

(2 Nov 1863) Monday 9 AM. We are nearing Galveston, expect that as mail is there for us. Weather is very pleasant, sun shining and baffling. The men are drilling with the heavy guns. 3 PM We have arrived in sight of Galveston but there is no fleet to be seen. Very strange, they may have taken it. We are keeping well off from land, wind light. 3:30 PM We have just put the ship about going right away from land. Can't see a vessel in the Bay.

(3 Nov 1863) Tuesday 10 AM: The fog is so thick that we can't see any distance. We are hove to in 6 fathoms of water that is about 5 miles from land. We have not seen any of the blockage yet, if we don't see them soon, we will go to New Orleans I suppose. I am in a quandary, it's so strange that every vessel should be away, even if they have taken it. I should think they would leave one ship outside, some think the rebels have evacuated it. Our water is nearly gone - 10 days allowance.

November 3, 1863: The fog has turned into a drizzly rain and it promises to be a nasty day. The seaman sits in front of me reading "Rise and Progress" to an old sailor who is at work covering a trunk with canvas. Some of these old fellows can sew first rate, they make all their clothes and some work very fancy stars, anchors and flags ion their caps and shirt collars - what a queer set they are, yo will see one putting patches on a pair of pants until there is not one piece of the original left - it will be one mass of cloth and salient patches. Yet they will spend all their money at an awful rate when they get on land - when its all gone (100 dollars lasts about a week), back they go and ship for another year. If they see a man begging they will give him a dollar or just as it happens - if a man is sick they will wash his blanket or hammock, but if his health is good or rather if a man wants his blanket washed and don't like to do it himself - he can't get it done for any money. The man that washes my clothes charges 75 cents a dozen. He is about the only one on board that does wash. Some months he will clear 15 or 20 dollars.

November 4 10 AM: The fog was so thick last night that it was impossible to see the length of the ship ahead, This AM it cleared up and a beautiful rainbow was seen - but it has settled down again and hangs over the water like a pall. We are running along land at a pretty lively rate - yesterday a vessel was seen inside but on account of the thick fog, it was utterly impossible to make her out. The water is nearly gone, we will be put on half allowance shortly if we don't get some. What we have is old and has a very disagreeable taste, It seems to me that I would rather be on half allowance of provisions than 'aqua para'. 3 PM we have just sighted the fleet. They are anchored further up than usual, we see finally [illegble] Galveston. The rebels fired a shot at us but we are out of range. 4:30 We have just anchored.

Nov 5, 10 AM: I made out requisitions for medicine and handed to the Captain this AM. The boats went for water but have returned without any. We expect to get it with provisions tomorrow and then return to our old station. We have received no mail whatever, a mail boat is expected daily. The reason we did not get water is that they did not have any but would condense some immediately. We may stay here a day or a week. No telling. The fleet here is composed of one "sloop of war" and two "gun boats" together with a large steamer which might be called a gun boat. There is also two large schooners loaded with coal for the fleet, which with us makes 5 armed vessels and two unarmed, a total of 7. Galveston can be seen in the distance, it looked like quite a large city, several large buildings and church spires can be seen with ease. We also can see the battery that commands the entrance to the harbor and white tents supposed to be soldiers camping. I believe if we had had a fair wind the day we first arrived in front of the city, our captain would have been in thinking it had been taken. I have just been informed that we get water this PM. 1 PM we are taking water from the "New London." A large rebel steamer can be seen in front of Galveston, puffing and blowing. I wish she would come out and wake up this fleet and if she did, she would get such a pummeling as would end her career as a Rebel boat. The sky is overcast with dark clouds, looks much like a severe storm.

Good by
Write soon

PS the mail is closing.


Off Galveston, November 14, 1863
Saturday 1:30 PM

Dear sister

I have just this moment closed a letter for you and sent it, or rather handed it to Mr. Jackson and the boat that he is taking it with the others to the steamer has just started. The steamer will leave tonight. We may lay here so long that I will have another written before I am aware of it - the only thing now wanted among the men is envelopes, that's the cry, envelopes and paper, postage stamps etc. I have got one envelope left, the Captain says I can go on board the Flag Ship on Monday and stay as long as I choose.

Sunday 15th, 12:30. Had just had my dinner of roast beef and dessicated potatoes. They are potatoes dried and then grated. Look something like hominy. We are laying quietly at anchor, everything is quiet, no boats running from one steamer to the other as they do on week days. Last night we cast the guns loose and provided them. The pivot gun was trained on Galveston, all the small arms were present with the cutlasses were ready for immediate use. The gunboats at sunset get up their anchor and take positions around like a picket guard so that the Rebels can't surprise them with a night attack. The New London went down on our station last Sunday, ran in close to Valparaiso and shelled the steamer that the rebels have there. She got up steam and ran up the river at a rapid rate, the battery on land fired at the New London but could not reach her. This New London is a very serviceable boat, having been out nearly two years, he is propelled by a screw and is very fast, once was a tow boat running from New London to New York. The expedition has had several hundred join it since its entry into Texas. I understand the people are in a starving condition, every little while a boat will come from Galveston with refugees, the other evening 15 soldiers pulled off in a small boat. I expect the Rebels will make an attempt with their iron clads or whatever they may be to raise the blockade. I should rather be out in deeper water with sails set if they come out while we are up in this part of the Gulf. The nights now are moonlight so we can see some distance and can slip our cable before they get to us. Sunday afternoon at sea or at anchor just as you please but any how I am far away from home. Oh, I should like to come home tonight but what is the use of my entertaining such thoughts. Its impossible so let it drop with the surety that I don't see home in at least one year from date of this letter. 5 minutes later - I have just been on deck to see the Rebels firing guns from one of their batteries - first you see a cloud of smoke then comes the thundering rolling rumbling report. I feel as if I could kill every one of them - not a very kind feeling is it. I know the Bible demands us to "love our enemies" but I think that you can't love a Rebel, a traitor to his country unless it is you love to see him hung. There goes another report, surely they must have plenty of powder. Yesterday the flags were lowered at half mast in respect for a sailor who had died with consumption on board the Brig in the AM, his remains were transferred to the New London and she took his remains way out to sea and there buried him. It was a sad scene, see the rough looking sailors lifting him over the side of the New London then away she went until at last we saw her turn around and put back. Then we knew they had deposited his body in the deep, poor fellow, far away from home, with no kind mother or sister to speak an encouraging word to him. No minister to pray for him, sorrowful sight, and sorrowful thoughts filled every head.

Tuesday 17. 7:30 AM - I have just finished my frugal meal. 1 hard tack and a pot of coffee. Yesterday the rebels kept up a continued fire from their batteries on land, the air was filled with a haze and we could not see further than 3 miles, but could hear the report very plain. They have some very heavy guns in the PM. The New London got under way and went away out of sight towards the entrance, after she had been gone about 3 hours, another one with a flag of truce went in but she met the New London coming out. The Virginia arrived in the PM from the Rio Grande, brings good news, captured 4 vessels cruising up.

Tuesday PM - This morning at 9 there was a sail reported which proved to be the steamer Circassian from New York or Boston. Our boat was lowered and I went on board with the paymaster and others. The very first person I met was Ed Charleston and wasn't I glad to see him - and he to see me - he said there was a mail for us and there was a small mail for me too. I am happy to say that I received 8 letters from home, 7 from you and one from Josh, and one included in the 7 from my dear Mother. I have finished reading them and am full of news. I feel so happy as a "lark" since hearing from home and that you are enjoying health but it fulls my heart with sadness to hear that Father has been sick. I am afraid that I have seen some of you for the last, but I hope not. Mother's kind letter nearly brought tears to my eyes. How I should like to have you know that I am well today and enjoying good heath as ever I did on land. I did not receive any papers, but I read that you have forwarded me some. I received a beautiful letter from Mary Clark, please tell her that its impossible to answer it as I have but one envelope, but as soon as I get some it shall be answered. The letters I received from you are from the date of August 14 to September 21 being the last one. Its almost impossible for me to receive the letters in full, one thing I am sorry to hear of Mary Saxon's illness. I never anticipated a long life for her, the delicate creation, innocent, pretty and kind and pure hearted a young lady as I ever knew, and I think of her many an hour, of her joyous laugh of her winsome way. No one could see her but to love her as I did and who can blame me, I would rather have her good will than any other young ladies with whom I am acquainted with. Tell her that I am sorry or that I regret to hear of her illness, that I earnestly home she will entirely recover. Sympathies with her family and if my sympathy could save her from the destroying [illegible], her life would be spared to her, parents and numerous friends a long time. But it rest entirely with God that is above, poor girl. The steamer had on board the American Counsel for Mexico - she has this morning left on her way down. I wish you would send me a box with a suit of clothes as soon as you can. Some shirts, pair of pants, vest and coat of blue cloth. I will pay for them, as soon as I have a good opportunity of sending money, but get them made for him as his clothes just fit me, the buttons are to be the Navy button, the coat one of those under coats like the one I used to wear on Sunday with 4 buttons on front. Ed Charleston will give you just the direction to send it, and send some books, have them packed in oil silk in a strong box. I shall have to close this as they go this PM.

Good bye, enjoying excellent health, write soon, I received no papers yet. Love to everyone and I sign my name

Your loving brother


Off Galveston November 18th
Wednesday 1:30 PM

Dear Sister and Parents

I have just closed a letter for you and forwarded it. We will leave here this PM. I will endeavor to answer your letters more fully - now - in one you say gambling is injurious to good morals. I am well aware of it, and it is very injurious to your pocket also. Gamble I never did and never will while I have my senses and most certainly not on board a Navy vessel - for it is punished as court marital may see fit. Since leaving home the boys we have on board have been caught several times "pitching pennies" and their punishment is double irons and bread and water for a length of time. Say a week or 10 days. Its a very effectual cure. Its strictly forbidden in the Articles of War which we have read to us the first Sunday in every month. I read in a book entitled "Sermons to Loving Men" a lecture on it connected with other vices - no you need not worry about my ever gambling. There is no chaplain on board. I am well acquainted with Mr. De Grant and Sprague, Master's Mates who are both very fair men, they are not members of any church, but read the Bible regularly. I very often sit in their rooms and we sing hymns - both being good singers and I flatter myself enough to think I can sing a little. We very often pass an hour Sunday evenings very pleasantly. Mr. Sprague has charge of the library and he lets me have books and tracts when I want them. He was talking to me on Sunday evening on the uncertainly of life, mentioning young Adams sudden death as an instance. He was a great profaner of God's name but his last words were as he went over the side "Oh! my God" - fearful death. I am very sorry to hear that you are going to loose young Ludlow even for so short a time for I know how much you dislike his successors, Carry, Pignoy, Wilson and Co., but then I think you can stand it a while for I have no doubt the trustees will secure his services when he finishes his studies as a permanent assistant to the venerable Dr. Magire. It just as you say Mary, Annie Offerun is a very pretty girl and a very pleasant one too, but it spirls beauty to try and look pretty. I have written two letters to her just done it for fun - wonder if she will answer them. Don't you say a word about it, will you. Tell Lucy I received her song book and have read it all through especially the piece entitled "One good ship sails tonight" May give my regards to her and tell her to look out for a leave before they are all gone, just remind her "not to put off till tomorrow what should be done today." There is no such vessel the Mississippi ever passed us that I remember off, it must have been the Bienville. Every letter is directed wrong, you have it Kittanninny, instead of Kittatinny. Please rectify it or they may be miscarried. With sorrow I read of John Williams death and Luther Davis, both old play mates and one an old school mate, young Williams. I have no doubt they were both prepared to meet their Gd, one thing they had Christian parents to teach them the way they should go and to "remember their creator." 5 PM we are now under full sail and skipping along to our old station again. Raised anchor at 3:30. It seems natural to be sailing again, laying at anchor is very monotonous, the time drags along very slow any how but more so when at anchor. The wind is blowing pretty strong. I don't expect we will stay more than a month as we did not get our full supply of provisions and water. The steamer Virginia started at the same time we did for Matamoras. The wind is from the wrong point for us to give her a chase if it was only fair we would show her a clean pair of hulls. The weather is delightful - I have been running around today with my coat off, just like summer. It never is any colder only when we have a Norther. Tell father that a shark tooth is not any larger than the tooth of a large saw, or the ones I have seen are not. I have a back bone that I had presented me by one of the men. It is long enough to make a cane and about as large around as a broom handle - I am very sorry that I did not bid Mr Steems good by, but it was impossible as I only had a few moments to bid pleasant. Let her talk the will for the deed. I don't want you to fill your letters with such nuances as this - telling me you can hardly write on account of eating so much of onion stew, hash, water mellon, grapes. It is bad enough to miss them or to be deprived of the without being told of it. But I don't like water mellons or grapes - didn't you know it. I mean I don't like them where I can reach them, I could if I expected myself to eat a bunch of grapes and perhaps a piece of water mellon.

Thursday 19th, 9 AM: I am not very well today, slight sweating. I supposed it arises from eating fresh beef and apples after being deprived of them so long. We were out in blue water this morning early but now are in sight of land. Sarah Crane got married but who to thats the question. George Squire had ought to come in the Navy where they would learn him to get up before 8 o'clock in a very short time. I should like to take a squad of sailors and kick a few men out of Elizabeth and a few out of Westfield. These sailors are down on a peace man as they are on a Norther. It don't do for a man to talk peace here unless he wants to go overboard - don't worry about the Alabama, we are taking this craft for the men here would fight to the last, they don't fear anything. I supposed Mary not on will visit Elizabeth this winter. I understand she indents to. Syd Thompson is about right in his expression don't you think so. Tell him to take a trip down here if he wants to loose a little flesh. Remember me to him - I will stop writing you for the present and answer Mollie Clark's kind letter. Tell her that I have no stamps but expect some. 5 PM It is getting quite dark. I have answered Mollie Clark's kind letter. I hope she will get it and I hope to hear from her again as she writes a very interesting letter. Poor girl but she is such a Christian that I am almost afraid she will not live long. I don't think she anticipates a long life for her self. I should think the severe pain she has suffered would have taken away her learning yet she writes such a letter that I can hardly answer it. Oh, if I could only live as she advises.

Friday 20th, 10 AM - it is quite cool today, wind from the North. The waves run very high. I should like to have you see this vessel now rolling and pitching. I expect you would stand still and scream. I suppose you will see Mr. Chattleous son Ed - and he will tell you know I am - he will also tell you how to send a box to me - and I wish you would send me one. I want a comb, brush, pat of hair grease, some tooth powder, tooth brush, some shirts and handkerchief silk ones, an old neck tie and a pair of boots or shoes and a suit of clothes, blue cloth, pants, vest 9 buttons in front and the coat like a sack, you will know what kind I mean, with 4 buttons in front, navy buttons. I can pay for them when I have a chance to send money. Don't fail to do it, for if he don't see me he will keep it so it won't be lost and some papers, any kind, old picture papers. I observe Ed says that it costs nothing to send a box after it is delivered on board his vessel. It is pretty near time for his vessel to be coming back, but I am afraid we will miss him in his blow, anyhow I shall have it ready for him. I begun to fill it as if I had been from home one year and another thing I am getting more used to it, I don't feel quite so home sick as I used to. In closing this, I don't want you to forget to give my respects to every one, girls boys, men women old men and maidens and my love to everyone else.

And with an earnest kiss to you and mother I remain as ever
Your loving brother

PS I enclose this in a house made envelop not having any nice ones - and if you can send me some and note paper - do so, in fact you can forward anything that you think I would like to have. It just struck 6 bells which is 11 o'clock AM and I shall close so as to get my dinner. I had a can of condensed milk and have a nice pudding made for I can't eat the potatoes and meat because I am afraid the dysentery will come on again - do you want some pudding if you do come and get it.


But now its far different - very cool, with a spanking wind from the northwest at 2 AM. I was awakened by the loud orders of the deck officer, and the loud voices of the sailors combined with running over the deck taking in sail. About 10 minutes after they had the sails in, a squall struck us which surpassed any squall I have seen since leaving New York. Oh! did it make things crank, carried away the jib, sail in ribbons and away we went before the wind at an awful rate - so the men say who were on deck. The sea was smooth as a glass and us scudding through the water at such a rate as to send the water over the bow. Now the waves are rolling about as high as a "mail keg" or a little higher. I stood on deck and looked out the port about 8 o'clock and it looked awful. Away down down we would go nothing but great bodies of water of water all around high as the mast, you would surely think they would rush over you, then up up we'd go until sitting up on a great wave, down again but we are going along nicely now. I have to keep an eye on the inkstand as it does sliding around, everything that is not stationary has to be made so.

Thursday 26, 8:30 AM. Yesterday a sail was reported and we crowded on all sail, overhauled her in the run, fired a shot at her and she bore down for us. From New Orleans loaded with Quartermaster Stores for General Bank's Army. We was sorry to hear it as she would have been quite a valuable prize. We are away out to sea in blue water this morning. Wind light, air cool and pleasant. I should like to have you have such nice warm days, up North this winter as we have down here. I think you would keep your furs in camphor. The moon rose splendid last night, do you know that you never saw it rise nor will unless you go out to sea. 2 PM. Steaming west, wind south east. I would keep a journal if I had a blank book, there is so many things transpiring on board and in cruising around that it would be very interesting as well as laughable - some things that happen are very laughable - I mean trick that are played on the landsmen.


November 28, 1863 - November 28, 1842. 21 years old today, a citizen, a voter, a man, only to think of it. Twenty one years old and away out to sea. Who thought a year ago that I would this day be in the Navy far from home, friends and relatives, cruising around the Gulf for prizes, serving my country, doing my duty, and eating ship's provisions. I did not for one and you at home for another did you. But through it all, jokes aside and comes to the point you will find it quite a solemn thought. What, why that 21 years have passed over my head and I am yet a living being while many long before they have reached that age have died, yet what assurance have I that before my next I will not to be remembered with the dead. No whatever. What a thought to die young, in the promise of life, enjoying my health, it does not look so strange to see an old man with gray hair, tottering steps depart this life, no every one expects him to die, but you never think that a young man is as likely to die as this old one. There is an old proverb that "the old must die and the young can be" but I pray that my life may be spared for years to come and that when I die whether now, this year, next or as soon to come, I will be prepared "having my lamp trimmed and burning." I have passed the bound from youth to manhood and all I can say is

"Nerve, oh nerve my heart for manhood
Keep it firm for manhood's sake
Till at last in bitter anguish
On the bounds of time it break"

and that

"Down the stream of life we glide
born upon its rippling tide"

The air is splendid today, not only in the air but the day itself is lovely, the sea is pretty uneven, up and down - you know how I mean, rolls a little. The man that is making my pants sits a short way off working away like a good fellow, for I want them to wear on Sunday, as those I brought with me are nearly worn out setting around and looking rather gray and old. I wish my box was here as I really need clothes. When was thanksgiving and what did you have for dinner?


November 30, 1863

Last day of the month, cool but not uncomfortable. A severe storm sprung up on Saturday, wind and continued all day yesterday with extreme force and fury, the wing blowing a perfect hurricane, last night a light was seen on our "lee beam" supposed to be a transport, we are about 25 miles from land and are this am about 30. The paymaster is serving out small stores, such as tobacco, thread, needles. We will leave here for Galveston tomorrow or next day, for another stock of provisions and water although there is lots of water around yet as we have to go for it. The other day one of the cooks asked for a pail of water, the man that was to get it for him inquired whether he wanted salt or fresh, said he fresh. I inquired if he could get fresh water at sea. Oh yes, if you go on the right side for it, but he says its very seldom they get it fresh as they don't know the precious spot to throw the bucket.

December 1st, 1863 9 AM- I was up this AM a little before 5:30 and had quite a nice walk on deck in my shirt sleeves, just like a summer morning at home. Light wind. The sailors are painting the vessel on the outside, painted the gun deck last week. The original color was black but now it will be a color like you see on those old farmers nags, kind of a blue, the color that nearly all of our vessels are so as to deceive the blockade runners - not being able to see them as far as if they were black - the Kittatinny was looking for the pirate Taconey when she was destroying so many of our merchant men, that is the reason for painting her black - so as to deceive the pirate. We are heading for Galveston, but the wind is pretty light, no prospect of reaching there before tomorrow. I will finish this with a wish to be remembered to all inquiring or wondering friends and sign myself as your loving brother.



December 2, 1963

We came to anchor yesterday at 2 PM and are now rolling around at a great rate as the wind is blowing quite hard. Last night I received 7 or 8 papers from home - the ones you sent me. Molly Clark observes and 5 from Jonah, there was no letter, sorry to say it. The Journals I was very glad to get - saw an account of the fire of Craneville and the marriage notice of young Phelps. I wonder who would get spliced. I expect Jout will be a goner before long - just as we arrived a mail boat was ready to department and I was behind time with my letters. We have all the crew back that took the prize to N.O. they had a great time, lost their rudder 160 miles from land, got out of water, provisions and had to put in to an island somewhere by Sabine Pass for them, one of the crew (a boy named Marvin) stole 100 dollars from Brown the Captain and then tried to poison all of them by putting Blue Virtial and pounded glass in a lot of "flippus", the cook had [illegible] but he managed to escape after he arrived in N.O. The young rascal was always stealing and fighting on board this ship, but we did not think he was such a wretch as than being only about 12 or 14 years old. I tell you what is is people may talk of putting boys in the Navy to make men of them but since flogging has been abolished I would as soon have one put in a prison or the ground. They can swear and chew as fast as a seaman, who I am sorry to say encourage them in it. We have 5 boys on this vessel, 4 of them are worse than the boys in our place but one from Rhode Island named Jackson is a real nice boy, pleasant and always keeping away from the others. The expedition has been very successful in its march up from the Rio Grande, Matagorda being one of the places taken.

December 3, 1864 - We are still laying at anchor, take in stores and water today. This morning the dew was very heavy, everything being wet with it. There is a very heavy sea rolling.

December 4, 1863 - Still lying here and rolling around. I received my medicines yesterday. They are all stowed away nicely. Rumors are as thick as snow flakes, about our destination. I think we will go down the coast again, perhaps go in Matagorda bay as a guard ship. We have received from the brig about 5 months provisions and are now taking in water. Some day the Doctor that is on her will be transfered to this one - only rumor. The air is splendid, in short it is a lovely day - exactly lke a day in September at home. Warm yes, not uncomfortable. Thermometer 80.

December 5, 10 AM - Saturday baking day at home. I was going to say baking day here as it is quite warm, warmer than yesterday, but I think I can stand it. This morning I gave the Captain a receipt for the medicines on hand and from this day am responsible for everything I can (when a man is sick) let him go to work or not and the Captain can't make him work if I say no! "Some pumpkins" don't you think so - my pay is advanced to 40 dollars per month instead of 25, which it was - the bark Anderson which has been laying here 2 days got up anchor this am and stood down the coast. The steamer Antona arrived a few moments ago. I suppose she has the other letters that I forwarded 2 or 3 weeks ago - a sail has just been reported - suppose it is a steamer from down the coast - perhaps it is a mail steamer, hope so, want a few postage stamps but can get along very well without them if I only get about, well I'll be modest say 50 letters and papers - very modest if it isn't its from your modest brother - Whit


USS Kittatinny
Pensacola Bay
April 3rd, 1864

Dear Father,

This is the first time that I have written you a letter, but if I have not don't think that I have not thought of you, and mother also.

Yes I have thought of you when the storms were raging and winds blowing, when we were in danger of destruction and when we were apparently safe, even now while laying here where storms can not injure.

This quiet Sunday afternoon, my thoughts fly back to the day I left home. How tear crossed down kind mothers cheek, and although you must write again, but I expect a longer letter.



USS Kittatinny
Pensacola Bay
June 17th (1864)

Dear Father

I have been waiting patiently to get an answer to my letter, but have not as yet. Still I hope to before long. I know very well that you can write nothing more than Mary does, but for all that, I would like very much to hear from you.

It is not the news I came for, no, I like to know whether you are all well and think of me.

It is real dull down here, and nothing occurring worth mentioning - we are not up at the Yard getting in water, coal and wood, so that we won't be troubled in the summer, if the yellow fever should be around, altho I think there is very little danger, unless if is brought here by the shipping, for the air is not warm. Yes it is warm, but I have not seen a warm day yet, as we had in Elizabeth last summer. There is always a good breeze blowing from some point, or other, sometimes right off land, sometimes right from the sea, for Santa Rosa Island is very low and it does not prevent the air from having a clean sweep. The Island is nothing but sand and a few trees. The westward end is a little high and it seems to be solid earth, for there is a very strong fort, Fort Pickens. If the Rebels had ever got possession of it, I think they would have had it until this day for it would be impossible to take it without a tremendous loss. Right opposite is Fort McRae, an old Spanish building, not very strong, for it is filled with holes made by the guns of Fort Pickens - on the main land bearing about north west from Pickens is Fort Barrancas, another very strong fort, but not able to stand as much hammering as Pickens because it is higher and is a better target, yet I should hate to go by it, if an enemy held it, unless in an Iron Clad.

This Bay and Navy Yard are of more importance to the Government than any other in the Gulf. They could not be as active unless they had this this place, for anything that requires fixing can be mended here - otherwise they would have to go to New Orleans or perhaps New York and then they can keep stores and coal here - which would have to be kept at Key West or afloat in vessels.

There is a large blacksmith and machine shop in the Yard. The men are busy getting rams ready to be put on some of our sloops of war now laying off Mobile.

I don't suppose you ever saw a Sloop of War and I am not able to describe and so if you can imagine - the reason they are called "sloops" is this, they carry but one row of guns on a side, a Frigate has two and a line of battle ship has three. Our fleet off Mobile is variously estimated, but I heard yesterday that it had been increased wonderfully, and now numbers about thirty vessels, thirteen of them being sloops of war. All of the vessels combined carry about 350 guns of differing weights and size.

The above information is contraband news, it is not allowed to give the numbers of our forces publicly, that is to publish it in the papers, but of course, the men who are on those vessels will write it home. We are up at the Yard now for the last time this summer, unless we come up in a small rate, we will go back to our old place, within tomorrow or Monday, and I hate to back, for it is so dull down there, still there is a rumor going around that we will go to Ship Island and relive a ship that has been stationed there some time. I don't know how true it is, but I rather doubt it.

Now I must close, and if you can read one half this letter, I will be satisfied, for I had a very poor pen when I commenced and was too lazy to change it, until I was nearly done - not exactly lazy, but I thought it was the best one I had.

Father, mother, pray for your affectionate son
Geo. Drake

PS If any asks you when I'll be home, tell them you don't know, nor I don't either but think it about a year from now, if this vessels does not leave here this summer, it is not likely she will before next.

G. W. D.


Evergreen Cemetery, Hillside, New Jersey


None. Despite the family links on his Find-A-Grave page linked above, according to Navy records Drake never married and his parents names were Ezra and Mary Drake. His mother applied for a pension as a dependent survivor of George Drake after the death of Ezra.

Awards and Memorials



[1] Hospital Tickets and Case Papers, compiled 1825-1889. ARC ID: 2694723. Department of the Navy, Records of the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery, Record Group 52. National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

[2] Case Files of Approved Pension Applications of Widows and Other Dependents of Civil War and Later Navy Veterans ("Navy Widows' Certificates"), 1861-1910