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Family Letters - William Reynolds

William Reynolds was born in Lancaster the son of John and Lydia Moore Reynolds. In 1831 he was appointed Midshipman/U.S. Navy. From 1838-1842 he served as a naval officer on the U.S. Exploring Expedition and was one of the first North Americans to view Antarctica. He resided for some time in Hawaii; took possession of Midway Island for the U.S.; served as Acting Secretary of the Navy. In 1873 he became a Rear Admiral and later appointed Commander of the naval forces at the "Asiatic Station" (Japan, China, Siam). He died in Washington, D.C. in 1879.

There is a collection of Reynolds Family Papers that can be viewed at the source given below. These few selected ones written by William Reynolds describe his life and experiences as a naval officer.

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U.S. Frigate Potomac

Malta July 23 rd 1835

My dear Sister

I am afraid that you have been censuring me for neglecting to write, but since May last, when I wrote to you from Gibraltar, we have met with but one vessel bound home, she is here now, and will sail in a day or two for Boston. We are off to-morrow for Mahon for provisions, from there to Marseilles, for money: I will send this from the latter place, & it will perhaps reach you sooner than if I put it on board this crazy old Brig, I have been very unfortunate with regard to your letters, Mother's of Nov'r and Sam's of January, are all that have reached me. I know you have written oftener & I hope to find some at Mahon & Marseilles.

From Gibraltar we went to Naples & remained there a month; during which time I visited nearly all of the very many interesting remains of Antiquity, as well as the modern sights & shows, which are so numerous & various in Naples & its vicinity. I explored the hidden depths of Herculaneum & Pompeii, & I trod the burning summit of Mount Vesuvius. I wandered "midst the haunts of old Camaen Sybil, over the Elysian Fields (see Virgil for necessarily I have read him) & over ground where Hercules had fought & conquered and among the ruins of many an ancient temple and Town, my thoughts led me back to the days when they had ranked with the first cities of the Globe, and the fierce inhabitants of whom in their pride of victory & learning styling themselves conquerors of the world, seemed destined forever to flourish and exist; while now their race has become extinct, & their name is not among the nations of the world, that they once were, history testifies, and the deserted and solitary ruins, which are so profusely scattered over Italy, bear ample but melancholy proof to the fact. The Tomb of Virgil, Lave Avernus, (the fabled entrance to the lower regions) The Grotto del Cane (or Dog), (the story of which you have read in the English reader) and many other spots alike remarkable, I saw, wondered at and admired. I took a few notes (merely to refresh my memory) of all the places which I visited, and as I have too much to tell you about it in writing, I will when I get home endeavor to amuse you by some long yarns & curious tales, of men & manners, cities and towns, as they were many thousands of years before our own happy country was settled or discovered.

The Opera and riding (by the way hacks & carriages of all models are more numerous in Naples than in any of our cities) or walking to see the various lions were our amusements while on shore; on the night of the King's & Queen's birthdays, some splendid operas and Balles (ballet) were preformed. The K & Q and all the court being present. There I first saw, what, is called a blaze of diamonds, in the Boxes. The Queen is young & pretty. I with some of my Brother Mids passed her several times while riding & had a nod and smile from her, in return for ours of course, but afterwards had a row as to who she smiled at in particular, each swearing he was the favored one.

We had many visitors off to see the ship, but there were no parties interchanged between the officers and citizens, partly I suppose, because the Commodore & his family, with many of the officers, immediately upon the expiration of our quarantine set out for Rome. I could not go, for want of the needful, after seeing the lions there, Pope included, the Party returned with the exception of the ladies & the sons of the Commod. P-, when or where they will return is not known.

From Naples we cruised off Malta, took on board our Consul & his family (for Tripoli) & proceeded to T., the Shark took the Consul on board & run into the harbor to land him, we stood off and in a few days (4th July included) had no communication with the shore, to save quarantine at Malta, & after sufficient exhibition had been made we sailed away for this place, & here we are. At anchor amidst the British Fleet, they have just come in from the Eastward, to be on the way should they be wanted, & are as yet in Quarantine, so there will be no visiting between us, for which thank God, as there are too many of us, one 3 decker of 120 guns, a huge ship but not near so large as our Pennsylvania, or so good a model, 6 lines of battle ships, two or three frigates, & several sloops of war. Making of the complement, I suspect there are more guns among them than we have afloat altogether.

Malta, under its ancient name of Melita, was the scene of St. Paul's shipwreck, the exact place of where the mishap befel is called St. Paul's bay, a chapel dedicated to him, a statue of him & the fountain at which he baptized are shown to visitors. The Chapel is adorned with several paintings, representing scenes in the life of the Apostle, one in particular, his shaking the viper from his hand, is pointed out, as the occurrence happened near to where the Chapel stands.

Malta is very strongly fortified, a second Gibraltar in strength, you have read of the gallant and protracted defense made by the Knights of Malta, under their Grand Master, Valette, against the assaults of the Turks, & Italians in the 16th century, also of Bonaparte's besieging the town, and his exclamation on entering it, when through treachery he effected that entrance; that had not the keys of the place been put into his hand, all the force which he could have employed against it would have been of no avail. Its strength & importance you may be sure have not diminished since it has had the English for its possessors.

The Armoury, St. John's Church, and the excavations (communicating with the various forts & affording subterraneous passages to different parts of the Island) are the only objects worth noticing, in the armoury there are besides the modern implements of warfare, a great number of suits of ancient armour with the various weapons used in older times, by different nations; a number of wooden figures of men, clad in complete armour with lance in hand and sword by side, are disposed with great taste & effect around the hall, and give one a complete idea of the appearance of a knight of old, when he was ready to do battle against all comers, for the sake of his lady love, for his pure love of fight, or for any of the numerous causes Which led to strife in the days of chivalry. St. John's Church contains the tombs of the Knights of Malta & a number of valuable gold & silver ornaments. Ice is brought here from Etna and of course is a great luxury, fruits are good, pears, apples, apricots, jazz melons & nearly all of our summer delicacies.

  Mahon August 6th, 1835

A few days after our arrival here, the store ship Julia arrived, & by her I had the pleasure to receive yours & Sams letters of 8th June. I need not tell you how happy I was, for to receive a letter only two months old, was a blessing which had never fallen to my lot before, i.e. while absent from the U.S. Yours was very communicative, & Sam's very facetious, I thank you both sincerely. Kiss the new comer for me, I was not aware of the addition until I rec'd yours, wherein one corner you mentioned that she had been named. I hope Sam has success on his tour, & congratulate him on his promotion. He must have been bewildered at his rapid rise, if he made all of the laughable bulls of which James accuses him. I am very glad that Miss Summer has paid you a visit, but tell Father my letters are generally written in haste, & I do not think it is fair to show them to "all hands", I hope you will take a trip somewhere, I think you deserve one, & just whisper into Mothers ear, that I advise you to pass part of the coming winter in Philadelphia. I am in excellent health, but as yet undetermined whether I shall return in the Delaware or stay out, I wish to remain in this ship, when I am receiving such important instruction in my profession, & also I should like to see more of the Medeteranean than I have as yet, the difficulty is this, that after the Delaware and Shark return home, which will be sometime this winter, there will be no other man of war going to the U.S. until after the period of examination. I could scarcaly expect orders to return in a merchantman, but might procure leave to do so at my own expense, which I could not afford, although we do get $40 a month & by staying out, I might lose my chance to be examined until a year after my date had passed, an occurance which would not be at all agreeable to me or to you at home either, when the Constitution arrives, I shall be able to decide.

I regret very much that Mr. Buchanan thinks the pay of Midshipmen is too great, and that it leaves them a surplus to expend in scenes of dissipation. I speak from sad experience and say truly, that, by proner economy it is now 490 dollars a year, just sufficient to clothe him as an officer should be clothed, and to cover the necessary expenses to which all officers are liable abroad, but which are so little known, & thought of by persons at home. A Midshipmen of $19 & 1 (I speak for the whole class) was always in misery & distress, scarcely ever able to make two ends meet, and most generally debarred from any enjoyment on shore, or not able to make an appearance tho suitable to his character or station, always in perplexity as to where & how to get a new jacket when his old one was worn out, always anxiously wishing for the happy moment, when he was to sail for home, but dreading lest he should be in debt to the Purser, and politely required to remain in the station a year or two longer, be put in the salt grub mess, and pass through again the like trials and mortifications. Now, I rejoice to say, much anxiety is taken off our minds, we live better, are out of debt to the Purser, & are happier in all respects than ever we were before, it would be a terrible visitation to be reduced again in our finances, & I sincerely hope our felicity may not be marred by any such transaction, do not think I am jesting; for to me the subject is no justing one.

  Marseilles Roads, August 20

We arrived here this morning, just 10 months have passed since we left Boston, & to me they have passed quickly. Our boat has gone in for the quarterly allowance of money for the squadron, and the letters, they will be transmitted through the Patrique officer, and we will hold no other communication with the town, in order to save ourselves a long Quarantine at the next port to which we may go, & which I believe will be Naples. I hope to find there Sam's letter of June, we sail tomorrow morning at daylight & I will conclude my somewhat lengthy letter. Remember me to all the young ladies & all else who do not forget me, and with my love to all of you

I am your affectionate brother Wm Reynolds



Aunt writes long letters when she writes at all I hope she will favour me with an epistle and when you write to Frederic remember me to all of Aunt Elinor's family.

Our Schoolmaster and Parson, both write letters to some of the Boston editors, I think the Boston Traveler is the name of one of the Papers, perhaps some of the letters would give you some information & amusement. I hope you wrote a second time by the Constitution, and continue to do so as often as possible, I shall always be happy to hear from Jim and John, from Sam also.


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U.S. Ship Pennsylvania
Chester December 2'd 1837

My dear Sister,

Wednesday morning we left our moorings off the Navy Yard & were turned down by two steamboats, without touching or any accident occurring we had waited some days for a wind to show the ship under the canvass, but we were afraid to delay longer.

The visitors did not desert us until the last moment, a whole troop of Pawnee Indians came on board, while we were getting underweigh. I enjoyed myself very much among the ladies who came to look at the big ship, or as the folks said on shore, to see the officers. Many invited me to their houses, but I did not have time to continue the acquaintances, for the moment, however, the delight was inexpressible. "twas something in the line of adventure, and just suited me. The weather has been mild, unusually unexpectedly so. I have enjoyed living on board exceedingly, the bay is always enlivened by passing vessels of all kinds, & "once more upon the waters" I am myself again. I hope you have not missed the Sun's setting & his rising lately, for this has been of perfect beauty.

I have not kept watch for a week past, I am Master's Mate on the Lower Gun Deck, orlass deck, Holes & Spirit room how many capitals would that give me after my name? & have been too busy to go to town. The night we came down 300 men from Boston were brought alongside in a Steam boat & we had quite a time getting them regulated. 12 or 13 Midshipmen were with the draft most of whom I knew & a very gladsome meeting it was, old messmates, but a few minutes to be together to talk over old times, & future prospects. It was one of those rare & unlooked for flashes that light up the gloom of every day life & add more zest to it.

A Major Reynolds on shore here has claimed distant relationship with me, he says he knows Father & saw him in Lancaster some time ago, he has been very kind & attentive to the Officers & so have all the inhabitants here. We were invited to a Public Dinner, but could not accept it. Yesterday I was to go to Mr. Lispers to a dinner part but, duty before decency, or pleasure either, so I stayed on board. Tomorrow it will be slack water, in the way of work, & I shall take a look about in Chester and go up to Philadelphia for the last time.

Sunday morning - at 9 last night I was obliged to knock off & this day we have been as busy as ever. I am going on shore directly & will carry this letter with me.

I do not know when we will leave here next week some time, or the beginning of the following. I hope you have written to me. I may write again before we sail & certainly as soon as we arrive at Norfolk.

If Aunt is coming in a few days, I wish you would find the plate for my visiting cards & send it with her, carefully wrapped in cotton, if not, take great care of it. I have not time to add more & with a great deal of love & remembrance to all

  I am your most affectionate brother  
  Wm. Reynolds  

I have now met Mr. Fleming, from Lycoming, but not Mr. Barister or any of our Convention acquaintances.


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  Norfolk August 12th 1838  

My dear Sister,

Your letter came to me yesterday; I was very happy to receive it, Father's has not found me yet, & I thought you had forgotten me already, I hope Grandmother is again in health and do say to her, that I regret very much, my search for Mrs. Gordon was in vain.

To Beccy Myers, I am much indebted for her postscript, and shall endeavor to repay her kindness when I am far away.

The Ships are down at Hampton Roads, all of them, the first move of the Exploring Expedition has at length been made, the Squadron is increased by the addition of two Pilot Boats purchased at New York. __________ will command them; I wish my rank would entitle me to one, "tis something to be a Captain, and those boats are large, beautiful & swift - perhaps I may return Captain Reynolds. I have not slept on board yet, having been most busily and arduously engaged in Expending $1000 for the Mess & $600 for myself; we have a great many stores, and I flatter myself, that the mess over which I preside will be the most respectable, tasty, and somewhat stylish. When I get my room arranged, it will be carpeted, cushioned, curtained (one set crimson damask, one white) mirrored, silver candlesticks &c &c &c a little bouders (?), most exquisitely luxurious in its arrangement. I like the associates we shall have during the cruise, these enthusiastic artists, and those headlong, indefatiguable pursuers & slayers of birds, beasts & fishes & the gatherers of shells, rocks, insects, &c &c they are leaving their comfortable homes, to follow the strong bent of their minds, to garner up strange things of strange lands; which proves that the ruling passion is strong in life.

Titian Rembrandt, Peale, the great naturalist is with us; he is most devoted to his favorite pursuit, and has passed the greatest part of his lifetime in hunting subjects to preserve; he was with Major Long over the Rocky Mountains, has been in Canada after the moose, &c &c to South America after other things, he is perhaps the most scientific slaughterer of living animals, now existing. The other scientists are said to possess talents & much zeal, in their respective pursuits; we, the ignoramuses, will no doubt take great interest in learning the origin, nature & history of many things, which we have before regarded with curious and admiring eyes.

I see before us an intensely interesting cruise and a career of wild and exciting adventures; may we go safely through all dangers and return with knowledge that will be useful to the world, and that will, gratify those who we love best, at home.

I have purchased two Journals of 5 quires each if I fill them, I trust I shall make a perusal interesting; and by the way when Mr. Well's book is published I hope Father will buy it; he was school master in the Potomac & returned in the Constitution. I was his companion in all his cruising on shore until I left the Squadron & I think his book will be good. I regret that non of you could come to see the Ships, but will depend on Father of some one else, or two, or three of you to be the first on board when we return; then those who come, will see the men who ship & everything on board just as they were during the cruise.

I have written to John and before we sail I shall give you a few lines to direct you how to forward letters to me, we go to sea on Tuesday.

  Sunday evening  


Father's letter has just come. The Captain, Mr. May and Mr. Carr arrived this morning, I am on shore for the last time, settling the mess accounts, today we had the first meal on board in the Stearage, all hands have been living together previously. Tuesday night or Wednesday morning we go to sea.

I am perfectly charmed with everything on board, & have the most glorious hopes of a most glorious cruise, nothing could tempt me to withdraw, I am wedded to the Expedition and its fate, sink or swim.

I am glad to hear of Grandmother's good fortune & hope (letter torn) will use her treasure to journey about a little; if (I were) at home I should like to make a tour with her.

We have a gardener on board, as well as a Botanist, I shall procure Thomas a variety seeds & trust we may all live to enjoy the fruit.

Amos Rendall's abuse of the Navy, is as false as it is scurrillous, that published in the Globe I mean, read a paragraph which I published in the Intellegence while in Wash'n; alluding to the Navy Ration, you will find it in my Journal. My statement was denied most emphatically, the very next day in the Globe, & I doubt not, that my piece has roused Amos' ire, & led him to retaliate, but the scamp has not told the truth: Navy officers are like other men, they are not cast iron, neither can they live without money, certainly they never get more than the law allows them and often not that:they are to work forever, & poor fellows it is rank heresy for them to attempt to resuscitate their battered frames, by the sojourn of a week or two at the springs. The excuse for Mr. Dickenson was contemptible, if they knew he was too excessively amiable, so much so, as to ruin the services, why was he not turned out?? Amos I should like to choke you.

Give my most affectionate love to everyone at home and remember me most kindly, to those who may enquire about me, when you write your letters must be very lengthy and always send newspapers with them; Good bye & do not let Elly forget her brother.



Daniel Ferree (1646-?) m: Marie Warenbauer (1653-1716)
Cath. Ferree (1679-1749)m: Isaac LeFevre (1669-1751)   Daniel Ferree (1676-17620) m: Anna Leininger (1678-?)
Samuel LeFevre (1719-1789)   Andrew Ferree (1701-1735) m: Mary Reed (1701-?)
    Lydia Ferree (1731-1778)
Samuel LeFevre (1719-1789) m: Lydia Ferree (1731-1778)
Catherine Ferree LeFevre (1753-1882) m: William Reynolds (1744-1801)
John Reynolds (1787-1853) m: Lydia Moore (1792-1843)
  Samuel Moore Reynolds (1814-1888)
  William Reynolds (1815-1879) Will)
  Jane Moore Reynolds (1817-1817)
  Lydia Moore Reynolds (1818-1896)
  John Fulton Reynolds (1820-1863)
  James LeFevre Reynolds (1822-1888)
  Mary Jane Reynolds (1824-1901) (Jane)
  Catharine Ferree LeFevre Reynolds (1825-1900) (Kate)
  Edward Coleman Reynolds (1827-1828)
  Anne Elizabeth Reynolds (1827-?)
  Edward B. Reynolds (1829-1829)
  Harriet Summers Reynolds (1832-1898) (Hal)
  Eleanor Reynolds (1835-1923) (Elly)
Note: Dates are believed to be correct, however, accuracy of all dates cannot be guaranteed.