University of Delaware Library

Special Collections Department

Letters Written
During A
South American Cruise

1826 - 1827, 1832


Manuscript Collection Number: 460
Extent: 1 volume (178 pps.)
Content: Letterbook
Access: The collection is open for research.
Processed: December 2002 - March 2003 by Carrie E. Foley

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Special Collections, University of Delaware Library
Newark, Delaware 19717-5267
(302) 831-2229

Table of Contents

Descriptive Note

This collection consists of one letterbook containing ten long letters from an anonymous Philadelphian to his friend, Ned, written between 1826-1827. The author, a crew member on the frigate Brandywine, vividly and poetically describes life on board the ship and ashore in South America. He includes excerpts from his journal, as well as quotes from poets and other authors, essentially turning this letterbook into a rich and eloquent travel narrative. The leather-bound volume includes 178 pages of autograph writing, as well as two watercolor illustrations. The title page of the volume reads, “Letters Written during a Cruise in the Pacific In the years 1826-7-8 and 9,” but this somewhat misleading – the author spends much of his cruise on the Atlantic coast of South America, and the letters do not date past September of 1827. The volume also contains marginalia written in 1832.



Historical Note

The author of these letters is an educated young man, presumably from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In the summer of 1826, citing a lifelong yearning to travel, he joined the crew of the U.S.S. Brandywine, apparently as a commissioned officer. The planned tour was a three-year cruise in the Pacific, but did not last that long. The author left the Brandywine in January of 1827, spent nine months ashore in Chile, and rejoined the Brandywine in September of 1827, apparently on its way back to the United States.

The letterbook serves as a rich travel narrative that will be extremely useful to scholars studying nineteenth-century American impressions of South America. The author provides vivid descriptions of the cities and villages he visited along the South American coast, including Rio de Janiero, Praia Grande, and Juruba in Argentina; Cape Horn; Valparaiso, Santiago, and Quillota in Chile; and, in the final leg of his trip, Calloa and Lima in Peru. His writing is filled with details of local news, events, celebrations, and history. He includes observations on the native culture and colorful anecdotes about encounters with local residents. During his nine-month stay in Chile, the author seems to have been involved in the community of European and American residents of Valparaiso, which may also be of interest to historians.

The descriptions in this volume also offer many details about life on board a nineteenth-century naval vessel, from the perspective of a well-educated commissioned officer with no prior experience at sea. In that sense, the letterbook is also contributing to the richly-documented history of the U.S.S. Brandywine. Several logbooks and other records kept by sailors and officers of the Brandywine can be found at repositories around the country. The Brandywine is perhaps best-known for transporting the Marquis de Lafayette home to France in 1825, at the conclusion of his celebrated tour of the United States. That important voyage occurred just prior to the cruise to South America described in this journal.



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