• Commander Of USS Morning Light Took Graft; Court Martial To Follow; Acting Master Advises Wife About Ways He Punishes Men

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    4 pp, 7 ¾ x 9 ¾, July 27th, 1862, AL, aboard the USS Morning Light, Acting Master Henry W. Washburn reports to his wife that the Lt. Commander took graft and a court martial will follow.  He also suggests punishment to their son similar to the way he punishes the men aboard his ship.  His ship was part of David G. Farragut’s West Coast Blockading Squadron.In part, “...Lt Moore has resigned and gone home. Left Mr. Spear in charge...Before he left he made a bargain with an owner of a ship to get the ship off and ready for sea [releasing a ship from being grounded with naval equipment]...H e was to receive $6,000 for which was to be divided up among the crew [as prize money was]. We thought it was all right until he divided up the money. I finding it wrong with two more officers wrote the senior officer stating the case as it was. I wanted an investigation into the affair. It was wrong and against the law. I want money as much as anyone but I will not take money earned illegally. I want my children to say their Father always set them a good example and never be ashamed of anything he ever done.  I expect a court martial to be held soon on the officers who received any money for the ship and if Mr. Spear don’t look out he will be started out of the Navy. I hope he will for he is a mean, dirty contemptible man who used to keep a grog shop down home in the state of Maine...I think he will come out right in the affair and hope to be a gainer by it when the whole is known. I get along with all the rest of the officers of the Ship but Spear, he knows I am smarter in every respect than he is...Moore was Sesech and as Spear always agreed with him...Moore favored him...”

    He provides advice to his wife regarding the rearing and disciplining of their children.  “If he [son Fred] uses [slang] in the house, punish him by tying him up and not let him go out...I don’t think a whipping does much good...I have some 110 men to help keep in order and some will do wrong, then they must be punished. The law don’t allow flogging. So we tie some up one one way, others in another...It succeeds as well or better than whipping. Some of the boys I make stand in one place, and soon the rest laugh at them which does more good than anything else...”

    The USS Morning Light (1853) was a sailing ship acquired by the Union Navy in September 1861 during the Civil War and was used to patrol navigable waterways of the Confederacy to prevent the South from trading with other countries.  After fitting out for combat, Morning Light sailed from New York to cruise the lower U.S. East Coast in search of Confederate privateers and blockade runners. She returned to New York on February 28, 1862, assigned to Flag Officer David G. Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron. She departed New York in March with provisions for ships in the Mississippi Sound area.  On April 15, Farragut ordered her to remain with bark USS J.C. Kuhn off Ship Island, Mississippi, as protection for the Army command of Maj. Gen. Benjamin Butler. Ultimately, Morning Light was captured by the Confederates and was burned.

    Letter is very readable, on blue-lined paper. Unsigned, possibly indicating his haste to get the letter mailed. He wrote, “I send this letter by mail because I could not get aboard Mr. Williams Ship in time.” Still, apparently complete. Cover, addressed to his wife, Mrs. H.W. Washburn, included with stamp removed.

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