DescriptionIllegal American Slave Trade Archive: USS John Adams. Containing eighteen letters and lists regarding the frigate while in duty on the Brazil Station with information on illegal slave trading off the Brazilian coast and details of new guns outfitted on the John Adams. Most items are dated 1849.
The archive includes fifteen letters. One is signed by U.S. Naval Secretary William Ballard Preston ordering the "U.S. Sloop of war 'John Adams' to proceed without delay to the Coast of Africa" (July 28, 1849). The remaining fourteen are from Commander Levin M. Powell to Commodore George W. Storer. All are dated 1849 and most were written from the coast of Rio de Janeiro. In his letters, Powell reports on such issues as the ship's condition and provisions, but in a letter dated September 16, 1849, Powell notifies Storer that he had received his letter "containing 'instructions' for suppressing the Slave Trade." One month later, Powell reports that "a slaver had appeared on the port of the coast [northeast of Rio de Janeiro] a month since, was met by a Steamer which took on board the slaves; and that both had departed. The steamer for Rio and the slaver, probably, for Espirito Santo." Even though the U.S. banned the importation of slaves in 1808, many American slave traders continued their business in the South Atlantic, bringing slaves from Africa to Brazil. Brazil banned slave imports in 1831, but a profitable illegal slave trade continued there with little enforcement by the Brazilian government.
In one letter, Powell acknowledges receipt of "our new model boat gun." Another lengthy communication (twenty-two pages, October 1849), gives details to Storer about those "new guns." "There are three classes of new guns mounted in the three ships of the 'Brazil Squadron' - to wit: 32 pounders - of 32 cwt. class. 32 pounders - of 51 cwt. class. 8 inch shell guns of 53 cwt. class." Powell then gives details about the performance of each, including charges, projectiles, and comparisons, along with handwritten charts of ranges and recoil. This letter is bound in green ribbon.
In addition to the letters are three lists. The first is entitled a "List of the Officers & Crew of the United States Ship John Adams." Seven partially-printed pages, 14" x 19.5", docketed August 1849.
The second is entitled an "Inspection of the Battery of the U.S. Ship John Adams. L. M. Powell Esqr. Commander Made by order of Commd. George W. Storer Commanding U.S. Naval Forces. Coast of Brazil." One page, 16" x 12.25", docketed October 1849.
The final is entitled "List of Officers Attached to the U.S. Ship of war John Adams," docketed June 1842 and listing twenty-six officers, including the commander (Thomas A. Conorer), first lieutenant, surgeons, purser, and midshipmen.
The John Adams was built in 1799. She served in several wars: the Quasi-War with France, the Barbary Wars, the War of 1812, the Mexican War, and the Civil War. The U.S. Navy sold her in 1867. George Washington Storer served a long career of nearly fifty-five years in the U.S. Navy. He commanded such ships as the USS Constellation and the Brandywine until early 1849 when he was given command of the U.S. naval forces off the coast of Brazil. All items have folds and have been well-cared-for.
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