1861 Letter - US Navy Lieut Joshua D. Todd: "We Have Been Treated Shamefully" - USS St. Louis

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1861 Letter - US Navy Lieut Joshua D. Todd: "We Have Been Treated Shamefully" - USS St. Louis

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Item No. 1419791

An interesting August 1861 Civil War letter from a disgruntled US Navy officer aboard the USS St. Louis, a sloop of war in the Home Squadron based at Pensacola. The ship had been recalled from Veracruz to stand guard during the turmoil preceding the outbreak of the Civil War. In April, she had aided in the reinforcement of Fort Pickens. She then joined in the massive blockade of southern ports. On September 5, she would assist the Brooklyn in the capture of the Confederate blockade runner Macao at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

The author, Lieutenant Joshua Dawson Todd, was a career Navy officer. He appears to have served on the St. Louis as early as 1850. In this letter he tells his brother that the ship's crew suffered significant illness while on their last cruise and that the ship was lacking critical equipment stating, "we have been treated shamefully." He also expressed concern for his widowed mother who, unbeknownst to him, had already passed away. The letter mentions other ships including the Rhode IslandPreble, and Brooklyn. The Philadelphia Inquirer of December 30, 1861 reported that Lieutenant Todd died on Christmas Day, "at his residence in Brooklyn." The letter reads:

U.S. Ship St. Louis
August 20th 1861

Dear Jim
I wrote you day before yesterday but as the steamer Rhode Island has unexpectedly been detained, I add a few lines to go by the same conveyance. We are all looking anxiously for our relief and suppose we will sail for home as soon as the Preble arrives. She was at Key West when the Rhode Island left there two weeks since, and would sail in a day or two for Fort Pickens. The Flag Officer has orders to land us North as soon as a vessel can be sent to relieve us.

I think we have been treated shamefully. The ship should have been ordered North immediately after the reinforcement of Pickens. She had then been on the station and the worst part of it, two years and three months, and employed on the sickly coast of Nicaragua fifteen months of the time, officers and crew suffering from the effects of climate and long confinement on board ship. As an instance of the effects of climate, we have sent home sick during the cruise at least one third of the ship's company and now have quite a number of men whose term of service has expired and who are fully entitled to their discharges. Besides we have reported months since that the ship was deficient in necessary articles to render her efficient and have made requisitions to supply them but without effect.

I mention the facts to you because many letters have appeared in the papers from other ships complaining when not a line has been written from this ship referring to the subject. As you may well believe, I am much distressed about our dear Mother and look anxiously for your letters.

Your affectionate brother,
Joshua

The letter is written upon four pages of a stationery sheet measuring about 5" x 8" and is in excellent condition, as shown. Minor wear to edges and corners. Little foxing and toning. Creased where originally folded.

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