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    Description

    Civil War Archive of Correspondence and Documents Relating to Edwin Augustus Sumner, Yeoman, USS Ino. The archive consists of 8 letters, various sizes, dating from October 30, 1862 to January 8, 1863, including 5 from Sumner (4 to his mother or father), plus 2 documents relating to the USS Ino.

    The earliest letter in the archive, dated October 30, 1862 from the Brooklyn, New York, Navy Yard, is from James M. Williams, Acting Master of the USS Ino, to Sumner, informing the latter that he was "hereby appointed Yeoman on board the U.S. Ship Ino. You will execute the enclosed oath, sign the within agreement, return it to me with you letter of acceptance, and report to me for duty on board the U.S. Ship Ino." Sumner replied in an undated October letter, presumably the same day as Williams' letter, in which he accepts his "appointment as Yeoman" and " return you my oath of allegiance duly executed , and agree to serve faithfully for the cruise, to be amenable to the laws and regulations of the service, and the ship, and to be subject to be discharged, in case of misbehavior in any port, foreign or domestic, without claim for passage money-the fact of misbehavior to be established by a Summary Court appointed by the Senior Commanding Officer present, who shall also approve or disapprove the recommendation of said Court."

    In an October 30 letter from the Brooklyn Navy Yard to his father, Sumner informed him that "I have taken the oath of allegiance to the U.S. and signed all the papers and am now Captain's Clerk and Yeoman of the Ino." He wrote that the ship "is in splendid condition having been just repaired very thoroughly throughout and every thing in sight is painted a dark slate according to a recent order that all the Navy shall be painted that color to make as poor a mark as possible. The Captain has given me one of his state rooms and I am to mess with him and let my ration go right in with his and so I shall live well.... The ship carries nine (9) guns and 140 men besides the officers which make quite a strong concern of it." As for his duties, he stated that he "shall have nothing to do with the men and no watch or any such duty to do, and shall have a share of prizes should any be taken." On November 3 Sumner, still in the Brooklyn Navy Yard, wrote to his mother that the Captain had received his orders "and has given them to me for safe keeping until he comes on board. He also rcd. A photograph of the 290 or [CSS] Alabama, with orders to go direct to the Island of St. Helena and if not allowed to stay in port to cruise about then to protect the commerce in those parts and if any thing reliable is heard of the 290 to follow her, and at the end of six months to return to New York. So now you have the whole story but I wish you would destroy this and tell no one where we are going, but if any one asks you where I am gone you can tell them to the Equator." The Captain's orders Sumner mentioned in his letter to his mother may refer to an undated letter in the archive from James Williams which conveyed orders from "the Secretary of the Navy to notify all homeward bound American Vessels that there is one or more Screw Steamers, Privateers of the Southern Confederacy, praying on the Federal Commerce on our coast, the most conspicuous one is the "Alabama" or 290. She has destroyed a great many Vessels, Merchant Men, and Whalers."

    The USS Ino left New York on November 5 and sailed toward the Island of St. Helena off the South American coast, cruising along the shipping lanes used by U.S. merchantmen and whalers. On November 23, Sumner wrote his father while at sea and described life on board ship, including the strict discipline. " If any one of the crew disobey any of the rules he is immediately triced up or put on the black list. The tricing up is done by putting hand cuffs on the wrists behind the man's back and with a rope fastened to the ceiling raise him so he can just stand on the floor and keep him so an hour or two. It is very painful as you can from by trying it a little while. You would not need shoulder braces after it." The last letter in the archive is from Sumner to his mother, dated December 25, 1862 to January 8, 1863 from on board ship. In the last part of the letter, written on January 8, Sumner reports that the ship had reached St. Helena and "there were no 'secesh' vessels there." Sumner had a low opinion of the island, which he referred to as "such a hole."

    The remaining two documents in the archive are 1) an autograph manuscript, 8" x 12.5", 1 page, signed by James M. Williams of a "List of Whaleships spoken off St. Helena by U.S. Ship 'Ino.'", from February 1, 1863 through March 9, 1863; and 2) an autograph manuscript, 8" x 10.5", 1 page, signed by James M. Williams, of a "List of Ships Spoken by the U.S.S. ' Ino.'", from March 4, [1863] through April 10, [1863].

    An interesting collection that highlights shipboard life in the Union navy during the Civil War.

    Condition: The letters and documents have the usual folds; one letter has three visible stains, with little affect on text, another letter shows considerable dampstains with no affect on text, and one of the documents has tears and tears, with no affect on text. Overall, good condition.


    More Information: Edwin Augustus Sumner (1840-1903) was born Millbury, Massachusetts, the son of Benjamin Clough Sumner and Satira (Lovell) Sumner. After graduating from Millbury High School, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served on the USS Ino, a clipper ship used primarily to destroy Confederate raiders. After the war Sumner supervised mills in Millbury and Stafford Springs, Connecticut. He later moved to Worcester, Massachusetts, where he started a coal business. He married Cleora L. Smith and together they had three children. Sumner died of heart disease and was buried in Worcester.

    The USS Ino was a clipper ship acquired by the U.S. Navy during the American Civil War. She was capable of great speed and distance, and was a formidable warship with powerful guns. USS Ino was purchased by the Navy at Boston, Massachusetts on August 30, 1861 and commissioned at the Boston Navy Yard on September 23. Unusual speed and large storage space suited her ideally for long-range cruising against Confederate raiders, such as the CSS Alabama.


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    November, 2020
    12th Thursday
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