Bluejacket Community Discoveries: An International Navy

A number of our previous posts have examined the international aspects of the wartime U.S. Navy, demonstrating just how cosmopolitan ships’ crews could be (e.g. see here). Recently one of our Zooniverse Community members @KaiserSnowse has been keeping an eagle-eye out for interesting nativities among the muster rolls, identifying a range of examples that serve to illustrate just how global the Civil War Navy could be. We thought we would share some of @KaiserSnowse’s hard work as part of our ongoing Bluejacket Community Discoveries Series. Below you will find details of some of these international Bluejackets, men drawn from all across the globe; from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean and from to Africa and the Indian Subcontinent.

Seaman Lawrence Snyder, Australia, USS Avenger. Recorded as a 19-year-old farmer. Lawrence had signed up on 5th January 1864 for one year in Cincinnati, and was described as 5 feet 11 1/2 inches tall, with blue eyes, light brown hair and a fair complexion.

Captain of the Forecastle John Beverly, New South Wales, Australia, USS Adela. John enlisted in New York for one year on 3rd June 1863. The 23-year-old was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall, with hazel eyes, brown hair and a fair complexion.

The USS Adela appears to have had a particularly international crew. A former Blockade Runner, the side-wheel steamer was captured and entered U.S. Blockading duty in the summer of 1863. This depiction was drawn by one of her crew (Naval History & Heritage Command).

Landsman Jules Girolet (also spelled Cirolet), Jersey, Channel Islands, USS Aroostook. Jules had enlisted for three-years on 24th February 1862 when a 23-year-old cook. He was described as 5 feet 5 inche in height, with hazel eyes, light brown hair and a light complexion.

Landsman Charles Lee, Mexico, USS Adela. Enlisting on 12th January 1864, Charles was 22-years-old. He was described as 5 feet 7 inches tall with grey eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. Charles is one of the very few of these men who we have a pension record for. Specifically, it relates to an 1890s claim by his widow, Refugio, in La Bahía, Goliad County, Texas. Like Charles, Refugio had been born in Mexico, though the 1880 Census reveals that both she and Charles’s had one parent born in Texas (in the 1880s Charles was recorded as a farmer). It is evident from the pension claim that those closest to the family were likely native Spanish speakers.

Presidio La Bahía, Goliad County, Texas. A familiar sight to Mexican Charles Lee who made his home here after the Civil War. It had achieved fame during the war between Mexico and Texas, when Texan prisoners were executed here in 1836. (Ernest Mettendorf)

Landsman John Wilson, Cuba, USS Adela. John had enlisted in New York on 14th February 1863. Recorded as a 38-year-old cook, his personal description was given as 5 feet 4 inches in height, while all that was entered in the eyes, hair and complexion columns was “negro.”

Ordinary Seaman John Dobson, Cuba, USS Adolph Hugel. Another Cuban native, John was 24-years-old when he enlisted in Baltimore on 26th July 1864. Some 5 feet 6 1/2 inches in height, John was recorded as having black hair, black eyes and under complexion was listed as “negro.”

First Class Boy Edward Yerby, Haiti, USS Augusta. 18-year-old shoemaker Edward had enlisted in New York on 3rd April 1864 for three-years. Just 5 feet 1 1/2 inches tall, Edward was recorded as having black eyes, with “colored” all that was recorded under his hair and complexion entries. Edward later sought a pension based on his service (which records his birthplace as Saint-Domingue) but his application was unsuccessful.

The side-wheel steamer USS Augusta, on board which Haitian Edward Yerby served during the Civil War (Naval History & Heritage Command).

Landsman William H. Fields, Jamaica, USS Adolph Hugel. William enlisted in Baltimore on 31st May 1864 at the age of 22. He was 5 feet 10 1/2 inches tall, and was described as having black hair and under complexion was listed as “negro.”

Seaman Samuel Moses, Tobago, West Indies, USS Antona. Samuel had enlisted on 28th September 1864 for two-years. A 34-year-old with no recorded occupation, Samuel was described as 5 feet 7 1/2 inches tall, with black eyes, black hair and his complexion marked as “negro”.

First Class Boy Christopher Hodge, Saint Thomas (Virgin Islands), West Indies, USS Antona. Another West Indies native on the Antona crew, Christopher had enlisted in New Orleans in July 1863. He was 19-years-old and was described as having black hair, black eyes and a black complexion. Christopher later received a pension based on his time in the Navy, and described the circumstances by which he joined up:

I was born in Danish West Indies Island of St Thomas…I left St Thomas in 1859 and I arrived in New Orleans about in 1862 on a French War Ship, and joined the American Navy in 1863 and was discharged in 1864 from the United States Steamer Antoine [sic.]… I shipped on the U.S. Steamer Pensacola as a Landsman and was transfer from the Pensacola to the U.S. Steamer Antoine [sic.] as a Steward… I enlisted aboard U.S. Sluperwar [Sloop of War] Portsmith [sic.] about in September or October 1864 and ship on board as Steward, and transferred to the U.S. moneter Osage said vessel was blowed up in Mobile by a torpedo then I was transferred to the U.S. Steamer Nianger [sic.] from her to the U.S. Steamer Imeader [sic.] as Steward and I taken sick in New Orleans with Small Pox and when I got well Mr. Young the Paymaster Clerk told me that they were paying off the crew and he was working then in the Custom House the marbile [sic.] building he was attending to my case to get me my discharge and he [was] taken sick here and died before he could accomplish his promises…

Christopher eventually did manage to prove his service and began to receive a U.S. pension. He made his home in New Orleans after the war, where he worked as a porter. Christopher passed away aged there aged 72, succumbing to Bright’s Disease on 18th November 1916.

Christopher Hodge from the Danish West Indies island of St Thomas (now part of the U.S. Virgin Islands) gives some of the circumstances of his life to the U.S. Pension Bureau (NARA).

Gunner’s Mate John Hannibal, Montevideo, Uruguay, USS Adela. John had enlisted on 22nd November 1861 for three-years. A 24-year-old with no recorded occupation, he was 5 feet 5 inches tall with hazel eyes, black hair and a florid complexion.

Seaman Michael Goss, Malta, USS Agawam. Michael signed on in New York on 11th October 1864 for two years. A cooper by trade, he was recorded as 28-years-old and 5 feet 6 1/4 inches tall with hazel eyes, dark hair and a dark complexion. Michael’s real name was actually Michael Cassar. He would rise to the rating of Carpenter’s Mate on the Agawam. Michael had first married on the island of Malta in 1851, but later abandoned his wife Rosa to leave for the United States, where he subsequently joined the Navy. He later remarried in San Francisco, claiming his first wife was dead (she wasn’t) and started a new family. Years later, in 1901, Rosa, who had never left Malta, told of her marriage and Michael’s departure from Malta:

My name is Rosa Cassar and I am about 77 years of age. I reside at Strada Due Porte, Number 147, Senglea, Malta. I was married about 56 years ago to Guitano Longobardo. He died of yellow fever in the year 1850 while employed as a seaman on board a vessel called the Diligent. The death occurred either at New Orleans or at some port in South America…In the year 1851 I was married to Michael Cassar. The ceremony was performed January 5 of that year [at Cospicua, Malta]. We lived together at Senglea for 13 years when he went away for a year. Upon his return we lived together for about a year when he again went away and remained for about 18 months. When he again returned we lived together for about two months when he went to America and I have never since seen him. My husband Michael Cassar was born at Valletta, Malta. I do not know how old he was when he enlisted in the United States Navy. At the time he was by trade a cooper and he also went to sea in merchant ships…My husband, Michael Cassar, left me about 41 years ago. He went to the United States in search of work. Just before the war I received two letters from him in which he said that if I did not hear from him for six months to consider that he had been killed. I did not hear from him again for a period of 15 years and then only when a man named Joseph Manjou, who returned from America, called upon me and said that my husband had asked him to see if I was yet alive and to let him know. Joseph Manjou wrote my husband and I then and afterwards received letters from my husband at different times up to the time almost of his death. I received the last letter from him about a month before he died. Some of the letters contained money. This was sent and used for my support and that of the children.

Although Michael never returned to Malta, his son Guiseppe from his first marriage did come to stay with him in San Francisco, apparently living for a time in the home with his father’s second family. Before long father and son had a falling out, and Guiseppe ultimately returned to Malta. Michael died in San Francisco in 1898- Rosa would ultimately succeed in her pension application based on his service, receiving it in her Maltese home until her death.

One of the Maltese documents submitted in the pension case relating to the U.S. Navy’s Michael Cassar in 1901 (NARA).

Ordinary Seaman Charles Dick, Africa, USS Aroostook. A shipmate of Jersey Islander Jules Girolet, Charles’s record does not state where on the continent of Africa he came from. He had enlisted in Boston on 6th August 1862 for three-years, and was described as a farmer. Charles was recorded as 23-years-old, with black hair, black eyes and a “negro” complexion.

Officer’s Steward Sake Asgur, Kolkata (Calcutta), India, USS Arizona. Sake had enlisted on 9th February 1863 at the age of 20. His occupation was given as farmer, and he was described as having black eyes, black hair and a dark complexion. In the remarks column it is stated that Sake was later discharged by the order of the commanding officer.

Kolkata, India as it appeared in the 1860s, as Sake Asgur of USS Arizona would have known it (Wikipedia).

First Class Fireman George Morgan, East Indies (South-East Asia), USS Agamenticus. George enlisted on 30th August 1864, initially as a Second Class Fireman. He joined up in New York for a three-year term. A 32-year-old spring maker, he was described as 5 feet 9 inches tall, with dark hair, dark eyes and a “speckled” complexion. George also sported tattoos- he had two female figures inked on the left side of his chest.

The great work that @KaiserSnowse and others have undertaken on the nativity workflow is demonstrating that the Civil War U.S. Navy was made up of much more than just American and European-born men. Sailors from all over the globe entered the conflict, and it is also interesting to note the prominence of black Caribbean men in a number of crews. We are excited to see what other nationalities might emerge as the project continues- and to learn just how many of them there are. Remember, if you want to join @KaiserSnowse and the rest of our growing Civil War Bluejackets community, why not come check us out over at our Zooniverse Civil War Bluejackets Page!

One response to “Bluejacket Community Discoveries: An International Navy”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: