Journal of the USS “Ossipee,” the Transfer of Alaska from Russia to the United States


The Ossipee was a United States Navy ship, built by the Portsmouth Navy Yard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, launched on November 16, 1861, and commissioned on November 6, 1862. After service with the Union navy during the Civil War, it was decommissioned in July 1865. The ship was recommissioned in October 1866 under the command of Captain George F. Emmons, and in that month it sailed from Philadelphia into the Atlantic. Presented here is the ship’s log for the period from October 27, 1866 to December 31, 1867. It contains the daily entries, orders, reports, muster rolls, maps, and newspaper articles concerning the voyage and places visited. Beginning on the east coast of the United States, the Ossipee proceeded to the Canary and Cape Verde Islands, from there to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, then southward and through the Straits of Magellan. It then proceeded up the western coast of Chile to Valparaiso, sailed on to Callao, Peru, and then continued to San Francisco. There, in September 1867, it collected the Russian commissioners to be present at the ceremony, held on October 18, 1867, at which Alaska was formally transferred to the United States. The Ossipee left San Francisco on September 27, 1867, and continued on to Vancouver and to Sitka. The ship subsequently remained on duty in Alaskan waters. The pages of the journal are numbered, and the transfer ceremonies at Sitka are described on pages 147‒48. The journal offers numerous insights into life on board a warship in the mid-1800s. The lists of the crew at the beginning of the journal are noteworthy for the large number of desertions and disciplinary actions they record. The volume includes photographs of Emmons and of the Ossipee and several appendices, including one containing the orders from Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles to Rear Admiral H.K. Thatcher regarding the transportation of American and Russian commissioners to Sitka. Another appendix consists of the report made to Emmons by one of his officers concerning the injuries sustained by members of the crew in the gale of Sitka on October 27, 1867.

Last updated: September 5, 2017