M739, LETTERS SENT BY THE WAR DEPARTMENT
RELATING TO NAVAL MATTERS,
JANUARY 3, 1794‑JUNE 14, 1798,
IN NATIONAL ARCHIVES (1 ROLL)
Provides an estimate of cost for a 900‑ton frigate. Suggested battery: 30 long 24s, 6 long 9s, and 4 8" howitzers.
Proposed pay scale: Captain, $60; Lieutenant, $30; Master, $25; Chaplain, $25; Master's Mate, $10; Midshipman, $7.50; Schoolmaster, $7.50; Captain's Clerk, $7.50; Quartermaster, $6.50; Boatswain, $11; Boatswain's Mate, $7; Yeoman of the Sheets, $6.50; Coxswain, $6.50; Sailmaker, $8.50; Sailmaker's Mate, $6.50; Sailmaker's Crew, $6; Gunner, $11; Gunner's Mate, $6.50; Yeoman of the Powder Room, $6.50; Quarter Gunner, $6; Armorer, $7; Carpenter, $11; Carpenter's Mate, $8.50; Carpenter's Crew, $6; Purser, $11; Steward, $6; Cook, $6; Surgeon, $25; Surgeon's Mate, $12.50; Master‑at‑Arms, $7.50; Ship's Corporal, $7; Cook's Mate, Yeoman of the Boatswain's Stores, Cooper, and Seaman, $5; Ordinary Seaman, $4; Lieutenant, USMC, $22; Sergeant, $5; Corporal, $4; and Fifer, Drummer, and Private, $3.
To Senator Pierce Butler, 15 Nov 1791:
Submits the foregoing estimate. Another, for a 14‑gun brigantine, to be submitted "tomorrow." [Actually submitted on 17th.]
Submits an estimate for an 800‑ton frigate (like a British 36).
Request you come to
To Secretary of the Treasury, 21 Apr 1794:
"I have the honor to transmit you an estimate of the quantity and quality of Timber, Plank, Scantling, and Copper &c which will be required for each of the four largest frigates contemplated by the Act entitled 'An Act to provide a naval armament' nearly the same quantity will also be wanted for each of the thirty six gun ships mentioned in the said Act.
It has been decided by the President
"It appears to be of indispensible necessity that immediate arrangements should be made to obtain the articles contained in the estimate and to have them transported to the ports before mentioned ‑ excepting such articles, of the timber as may be obtained at, or in the neighborhood of the said places.
"The live oak and red cedar must
principally be obtained from the islands on the coast of
"Different opinions are
entertained as to the most certain, and the most oeconomical [sic] mode of
obtaining the live oak and cedar from
"Some persons recommend that one
or more persons in whom due confidence may be placed, should repair to the
Islands of Georgia, and contract with the proprietors of the timber as it
stands for such parts as will serve the moulds, and that a sufficient number of
axe‑men with their provision, be sent from the northward in order to cut
the same, and transport it to the places where it is to be used. These persons assert that any contract made
"The moulds for the timbers of both sized ships are preparing and nearly finished. These must be transported to the places where the timber is to be cut, otherwise mistakes would arise and disappointment of course ensue.
"Besides the mode before mentioned, there are persons who recommend a contract with some persons, if such could be found, which is said to be the case to procure the timber in Georgia, and transport it to the respective ports or places.
"You will please to judge which of these two modes will be preferable. I have understood that in 1776 or 1777 the frames of two 74 gun ships were cut under the authority of the United States, part at Sunbury and part at a place called Kilkenny near the mouth of the Savannah River, and that as the said timber was very large part of it yet remains it may therefore be proper to look it up, and if it should answer for the frames of the proposed frigates as probable it would be excellent from its long seasoning.
"I have the honor to submit to you a
letter from Mr. Wereat of
"The manner in which these vessels ought to be built has been under consideration, that is whether the hull and other parts susceptible of the measure should be built by a contract or by a capable agent or agents appointed for the purpose of procuring the labor and materials. Upon enquiry however it appears improbably that a contract could be formed with the Shipbuilders in this place for the one directed to be built here. They alledge that if a contract was offered and accepted by two or more it would ecsite [sic] the ill will and envy of those who had no part in it, and as the frigate would require many hands the price of that sort of labor would rise, and that therefore it would be in the power of those not employed to raise the wages of the Journeymen shilling or two per day, which would occasion great embarrassment, if not ruin, to the undertakers. Hence it would appear to follow as a consequence that if the Shipbuilders of Philadelphia, some of whom have considerable capitals, would decline a contract, that it would be almost or quite impracticable to obtain the building by contract elsewhere. If this should be so, then agents respectable for their intelligence, activity, and integrity must be sought in the places in which the said frigates are directed to be built.
"The President of the
"I suppose however if you should find it practicable to build them by contract, that the subject will still be reconsidered by him, and as for myself I should find great satisfaction in a contract, if one on solid principles could be obtained."
Request your opinion of Mr. Humphreys model of a 44‑gun frigate as regards
"1. Whether long ships require their extreme breadth as far forward in proportion as shorter vessels and where is the proper place in long ships for the dead flat to be placed?
"2. Whether the model has too much or too little raising, and whether it is too sharp or full forward & abaft?
“3. In Mr. Fox's draft he has laid his wales above the lower deck, and Mr. Humphreys has laid his lower deck at the upper edge of the lower wale. Mr. Fox's plan will make the ship look the best, but will not Mr. Humphreys' method be the strongest?
"4. Whether the proportion of the depth of hold to the breadth of beam, is just?
"5. What is your opinion as to the length of the ship? ‑‑ and what are the advantages and disadvantages of such a length? Some persons are of the opinion she would be better with fourteen guns on each side instead of fifteen, the number proposed.
"6. Whether the fore body and after body of the model are proportionable to each other?
"7. And whether the ship would not sail much faster without a round house, and if all other advantages that would result from one ought not to be sacrificed for the qualification of fast sailing?"
[Humphrey's "proportions are 147 feet keel ‑‑ 43 feet beam ‑‑ 14 feet hold ‑‑ 7 feet between decks and 7 feet waist, 3 feet dead rising at 2/5 of the floor."]
Expedite erection of the building for making the moulds.
To Secretary of the Treasury, 25 Jun 1794:
Reports immediate appointment of Naval
Appoints him "the Constructor or
master builder" of the 44 at
Length and size of Beams for each Frigate of 44 Guns.
Orlop Beams of best pitch pine
Lower Deck Beams of best white oak
Gun Deck Beams of best white oak
Upper Deck Beams of best pitch pine
The longest Beams to spring 6 inches of the rest by the same mould.
The sizes of the above mentioned beams will be sufficient of oak.
Joshua Humphreys Approved HKnox
Wants James Hacket as the Constructor
To Secretary of the Treasury, 14 Jul 1794:
Mentions Gurney & Smith as Naval
To Tench Coxe, 14 Jul 1794:
Reports William Pennock as Naval
Appointed Clerk in the War Department
at $500/yr "to be appropriated at present to the assistance of Joshua
Humphreys who is constructing the models and draughts for the frigates to be
built in the
Requests moulds be prepared ASAP and
delivered to Naval Agents at the building cities. [
James Hacket has been appointed
Constructor of the
Requests he make another "model" of the kentledge for the frigates.
Forwards instructions for George Claghorne as Constructor. The drafts of the ships are not yet completed.
Live oak is to be purchased for floor and rising timbers as it is now known that trees of the proper size are available. Moulds will be forwarded immediately to Mr. Morgan.
Naval Agents at
Forwards drafts for the 44s. [Drafts for the 36 at
"Altho' the draft is a little different from the Mould yet I request that the former may be adhered to ‑‑ The following will explain the difference ‑‑
"The Height of the Wing Transom & all the others placed as on the Staff sent forward with the moulds, ‑‑ The Wing Transom instead of rounding up six inches to be made as straight as the peice [sic] will admit of on the upper side the aft side of the mould [sic].
"The distance & place of the afterport as placed on the draft, and all the others of the distance & size as before directed.
"Length of the Keel taken from the Draft."
Appointed Clerk of the Yard at that place.
To Tench Francis, 17 Jan 1795:
"Common oak" is to be used in the deadwood. "...let the direct salting of the timber be effectually performed."
"With all deference the folg names for the Frigates are Submitted ----
Circular to Naval Agents, 6 Mar 1795:
It is understood now that live oak of the necessary dimension is available, so use live oak for the deadwood. Put the white oak aside.
To Christopher Richmond, 16 Mar 1795:
Acknowledges receipt of a 2‑volume set of David Steele's 1794 "Elements and Practice of Rigging and Seamanship." Calls its arrival "opportune," and after showing it to the President, will "place it in hands capable of using it to advantage." [Passed it to Captain Thomas Truxtun prior to 31 Mar, who requested his fellow Captains send him their comments on his own recently distributed work on the subject of masting for comparative study.]
From Joshua Humphreys to Secretary of War, 18 Apr 1795:
Dimensions of kentledge as follows:
"Two feet six inches on one side & five & a half inches wide.
"Two feet five & 3/4 inches on the other do. & five & one quarter inches do.
"Deep four inches & three eighths of an inch.
"One hole at each end on the flat and at opposite sides."
Captain James Sever,
Mr. Humphreys recommends boring the
ends of beams "and for a certain part run a whip saw through the center,"
then fill these openings with salt to prevent rotting. Copper (bolts and sheets) has arrived at
It is now reported another year will
be required to get all the live oak wanted for the 6 frigates. Only sufficient quantities can be produced to
sustain normal employment at 2 sites. I
intend to suspend operations on 4 of the ships and dismiss those work forces,
Send sail duck to
Orders work stopped and work force discharged when "the Keel is properly cover'd from the weather."
A True Statement of the total lengths of the Masts and Yards for the Frigates of 44 Guns, calculated from the proportions laid down by the following Gentlemen:
Note:‑ In Captain Truxtun's proportions there is no Mizen Royal Yard, or Mizen Royal Mast included.
Captain Thomas Truxtun,
Mr. Humphreys' measurements for masts and spars "all exceed your dimensions."
Circular letter to Naval Constructors, 16 Nov 1795:
"Inclosed [sic] is a statement of the 3rd Futtocks that lengthen and shorten to give Scarph to the Gunports and to provide for the scuppers and Airports by which you will be enabled to appropriate the timbers to advantage, and prevent the frame from being cut after it is all raised, though giving the timbers the best possible shifts but when the 3rd Futtocks are shortened more than two feet it will be necessary to shorten the 2nd Futtocks in proportion to regulate the Scarphs ‑ and I have no doubt but you will approve of this method.
"The short toptimbers that are to be of Cedar are also inserted in the same statement. It is thought advisable to run the 2nd Futtocks (X) and (43) to the Airports instead of cutting the 3rd Futtocks as the heads of the second Futtocks comes [sic] nearest to those Airports, therefore second Futtocks X will lengthen 2 ft 2 In and second Futtock 43 will lengthen 2 ft 9 In.
"Forty Four Gun Frigates"
"The Heels of the facing timbers to the Ports, are to run two feet below the upper edge of the Gun deck Beams, and ought to receive one bolt of the Gundeck Knees through each of their Heels for their better security, for which reason the 3rd Futtock heads are shortened agreeable to the annexed table ‑ but forwards [sic] and aft those timbers if shortened, not having sufficient Scarphs ‑ the 3rd futtocks that will make facing timbers are to run up to the top of the side if possible ‑ which will make better work ‑ but if those timbers are not procured of sufficient length, then the 3rd Futtocks must be cutt [sic] agreeable to the others, in which case the 2nd Futtocks of those frames will require to be shortened in proportion to regulate the Scarphs. It will be necessary frame those short toptimbers only that make facing timbers, and where the short toptimbers form Stansions [sic] and timberheads they had better be left untill [sic] the frame is all raised, when they may be stationed agreeable to the Draught. All the short toptimbers that Stand on the port Cills are to be of Cedar, except those over the three foremost ports, which on account of their making timber heads for Securing the Anchors must be of live Oak. The Cills of the ports are also to be of live Oak, the Upper ones sufficiently deep to receive the Gudgeons of the Ports."
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
Claghorne errs in believing the deadwood is to be of white oak. Such wood is to be used only for the two midship pieces. Make it so.
From Joshua Humphreys to the Secretary of War, 1 Jan 1796:
A knee, which may be of white oak, should be put to scarph on the keelson at the mizzen step and to run in the throats of the transoms to the lower deck, and another knee of the same wood to frame on the lower deck over the lower deck beams as far forward as the Mizzen [obscured] and to run up in the throats of the transoms to the tiller port.
Chain pumps to be placed fore and aft of the Main Mast.
Circular letter to Constructors and Superintendents, 25 Jan 1796:
You are at liberty to determine mast and spar specifications for your respective ships, and inform me of dimensions.
Circular letter to Naval Constructors, 12 Feb 1796:
Lower futtocks are to be secured to floor timbers with copper bolts instead of iron as formerly ordered. The lower bolt in each middle futtock also should be of copper. Do not, however, redo any already installed. The copper bolts should be close to the size of the iron ones previously ordered and "are to be applied from Timber X in the fore body to timber 34 in the Afterbody, inclusively."
Circular letter to Naval Constructors, 15 Feb 1796:
The copper bolts in the heels of the lower futtocks are to be applied from Timber X in the forebody to Timber 34 in the Afterbody. The middle bolt to be from T to 30 the upper one in the Floor head from P to 25 and the bolt in the middle futtock heels from M to 21. All other bolts in the frames to be iron as before ordered. Again, do not rework any of the above if already done in iron.
You are directed to secure the floor timbers with 2 of the 1 3/8" bolts in each, one of which must be drove through the lower keelson, and the other through the upper keelson, both bolts are to go through the deadwood and keel. The cross chocks to be bolted with one 1 1/8" bolt drove through the lower keelson, one of the lower futtock heels, and keel. All bolts to be well clinched on rings let up into the keel. The cross chocks are not to be bolted further forward than timber T or aft than timber 27.
Your is one of the three frigates to be
completed. Make use of timber that
arrived in schooner RACHELL last December [once destined for
Forwards drawing of a machine used by Joshua Humphreys to drive large copper bolts through the deadwood and keel.
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
Hire competent people to begin making rigging. The draught for the "inboard work" is nearly ready and will be forwarded ASAP.
Square bolts were ordered for the frames to save money.
The "in and out" bolts of the lower deck and the orlop should be of copper. If you need more of the smaller size for the orlop knees, reduce any larger ones remaining on hand.
To the Secretary of the Treasury, 20 Sep 1796:
John Skillen of
Forwards drawing of Mr. Rush's figurehead for CONSTITUTION.
Captain Thomas Truxtun,
European frigates generally are without riders, and most hog. I wish you would "retain two thirds of the riders originally proposed, which may, perhaps, be sufficient to guard against the apprehended inconvenience, while it will encrease [sic] your room for stowage."
Captain Thomas Truxtun,
"At your instance and resting entirely on your experience I consent that the Diagonal riders be omitted."
To Secretary of the Treasury, 17 Dec 1796:
Order Barker patent pumps instead of chain pumps for each frigate.
To the Honorable Josiah Parker, 12 Jan 1797:
Proposed pay scales: Captain, $75; Lieutenant, $40; Lieutenant, USMC, $26; Chaplain, $40; Master, $40; Surgeon, $50; Surgeon's Mate, $30; Purser, $40; Boatswain, $18; Gunner, $18; Sailmaker, $18; Carpenter, $18; Boatswain's Mate, Gunner's Mate, Sailmaker's Mate, Midshipman, Master's Mate, Captain's Clerk, Coxswain, Yeoman of the Gun Room, Quarter Gunner, Carpenter's Mate, Armorer, Steward, Cooper, Master‑at‑Arms, and Cook, $13; Seaman, $11; Ordinary Seaman, $9; Sergeant and Corporal, $10; Drummer, Fifer, and Private, $9.
Ship 1400 sheets of copper and 1680# of
sheathing nails to
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
Forwards his commission as "Captain and Commander of the Frigate Constitution."
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
The 24‑pdrs cast at Furnace Hope
"for your Ship" are ready for proving. I have ordered shot to
I understand the pitch pine wanted for the upper deck beams has not arrived. Use oak beams.
I am sending more kentledge to you, as well as copper for pintles and braces, 2 fire engines for the ship, 4 copper patent pumps; those of wood can be made there.
To the Secretary of the Treasury, 24 May 1797:
Please order 5 tons of copper, 1 large and
1 small fire engine to
Send 1200 pigs of kentledge, weighing about
106 tons, to
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
"I have paid attention to your Communication respecting the Howitzers, and am of the opinion that unless you can apply them to advantage, without cutting the Ports larger, it will be best to reland them."
To Captain Samuel Nicholson, 30 May 1797:
Tells him 12‑pounders cannot be gotten in time and that the Secretary of War has written to the Governor of Massachusetts for the loan of 12‑ or 18‑pounder guns.
CONSTITUTION to be coppered "as high as light water mark" prior to launch.
No fire engines from
To Captain Samuel Nicholson, 7 Dec 1797:
The Poop, Top, and Magazine Lanthorns have
not been forwarded due to a shortage of isinglass. Get what you need made in
To Henry Jackson, 20 Jan 1798:
Provide only the following cabin furniture
at government expense: dining tables,
Captain Samuel Nicholson,
You may not have more than the 140 tons of kentledge you already have. UNITED STATES is using only 100 tons and CONSTELLATION 75. Use shingle if you really need more ballast.
Find out how many howitzers Nicholson wants
and send the rest to
To Captain Samuel Nicholson, USS CONSTITUTION, 17 May 1798:
"I have paid attention to your communication respecting the howitzers, and am of the opinion that unless you can apply them to advantage, without cutting the Ports larger, it will be best to reland them."
Your employment terminated as of 1 Apr 1798.
To Captain Samuel Nicholson, USS CONSTITUTION, 30 May 1798:
Reports that 12-pounders cannot be gotten in time and that he has written the Governor of Massachusetts for al loan of 12 or 18 pounders.
The Captain's Clerk