The Alfred Agate Collection

 

Most of the artworks used in this exhibition are taken from the “Agate Collection” of drawings at the Navy Art Collection.  Alfred Agate created many of these during his service with the United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842 or in the preparation of the plates for the report of the Expedition.  On his death in 1846 the drawings passed to his widow, Elizabeth Hill Kennedy Agate, who later married Dr. William J. C. Du Hamel of Washington, D.C.  In 1926, one of her daughters from this marriage, Elizabeth A. Du Hamel, sold them to the Naval Historical Foundation.  The Naval Historical Foundation donated them to the Navy Art Collection in 1998.

 

Note that while Agate witnessed many of the scenes included here, some he did not and therefore those images must be based on other eyewitness accounts or sketches.  Also, in referring to the illustration credits as listed in the five volume Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, some of the illustrations in this collection are ascribed to someone other than Alfred Agate.  We accept these attributions, noting that the drawings of this exhibit were included in the Du Hamel sale, and that while his health permitted, Agate participated in working sketches of the expedition into illustrations for the published report.  Many of the drawings have identifications written on them by someone who tried to organize the collection at an unknown later date.  Many of these identifications are wrong and we have endeavored to provide correct identifications in our captions.

 

At some time during its ownership by the Naval Historical Foundation, other artworks came to be included in the collection, known to be of a later date and by artists not associated with the U.S. Ex. Ex.  These items seem to pertain to the naval expeditions that resulted in the Treaties of Wangxia and Kanagawa.  Until their true provenance is known, they are included at the end of this exhibit. 

 

The United States Exploring Expedition, 1838-1842

 

1838

 

On August 18, 1838, six United States Navy ships left Norfolk, Virginia on an expedition to the South Pacific.  On board were 424 officers and crewmen and nine scientists, setting off on a mission to explore and survey the islands of that region, investigate their commercial potential, and assert American power.  The launch happened after ten years of political debate and personal disputes between various factions, but with the departure finally at hand, those on board felt the excitement of knowing they were making history.

 

Lieutenant Charles Wilkes commanded the expedition.  At the time of his appointment he was in charge of the Depot of Charts and Instruments at Washington, D.C., an organization now known as the Naval Observatory.  His experience in coastal surveying and planetary physics made him an ideal candidate for the position, but he was a junior lieutenant in terms of time-in-rank, which in the perquisite-conscious Navy was a serious shortcoming.  Several senior lieutenants had to be passed over in appointing Wilkes, some of whom the Navy now assigned to serve under him.  He also had relatively little sea duty, only about 6 years, less than many junior officers.

 

Being a peaceful expedition of discovery, the ships were stripped of heavy armament and its space was given over to scientific exploration.  The nine civilian scientists, referred to as the “scientifics” by the sailors, were tasked with observing and describing the resources of the various islands.  These men were among the most able in their fields: James D. Dana, Minerologist, Charles Pickering, Naturalist, Joseph P. Couthouy, Conchologist, Horatio C. Hale, Ethnographer, William Rich, Botanist, William D. Brackenridge, Horticulturalist, Titan Ramsay Peale, Naturalist, and Joseph Drayton and Alfred Agate, the two artists, or “draughtsmen.”

 

Alfred Agate was about 23 years old, just beginning a career as an artist and miniaturist when the Navy hired him for the expedition.  He had studied under Samuel F. B. Morse and later under John Rubens Smith, a landscape artist and engraver who made a niche for himself in American art history by traveling throughout the early republic, capturing and publishing images of the developing nation.  Smith was a demanding teacher, as testified to by Charles Wilkes, who had studied with Smith some years earlier than Agate.  In his own landscapes, Smith used a camera lucida for accuracy, something that Agate may have learned from him, as the artists of the expedition used a camera lucida.

 

Little is known of Alfred Agate’s background before the expedition.  He was from Sparta, New York and reportedly first learned to draw from his older brother Frederick, who also studied under Smith.  Several of his shipmates wrote appreciatively of his kind disposition.  His health was fragile and apparently he suffered from bouts of illness during the voyage, though it did not   prevent him from signing on, or from making several strenuous side excursions.  Originally hired as a botanical illustrator, on the first leg of the voyage Wilkes assigned him to the ship Relief with William Rich, but eventually artistic services became so much in demand that Wilkes decreed that all scientists were to share both Agate and Drayton’s time.  In his memoirs, James Dana noted the accuracy of Agate’s portraits.

 

Peacock

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AK

 

Schooner Porpoise and Flying Fish in Heavy Seas

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on board

98-89-FZ (front)

 

Brig Porpoise

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GY

 

During these final days of the Sail Navy it was still regular practice to take advantage of the trade winds and reach South America by first crossing the Atlantic Ocean to the Madeira Islands before turning south.  This was the course used by the six ships of the expedition: Wilkes’ flagship, the sloop-of-war U.S.S. Vincennes, the sloop-of-war U.S.S. Peacock, the brig U.S.S. Porpoise, the storeship U.S.S. Relief, and the two tenders, formerly New York harbor pilot boats, U.S.S. Flying Fish and Sea Gull.  Before a week was out, however, Relief proved to be intolerably slow.  Wilkes ordered it to skip Madeira and head directly for the Cape Verde Islands and then on to Rio de Janeiro to await the arrival of the others.  Later, when the rest of the fleet checked in at Cape Verde after spending a week at Madeira, Relief still had not arrived.  It came a few days later, but the others had departed for South America.  

 

Port Praya, Cape Verde

Original image credited to Charles Wilkes

Engraving

98-89-X

 

Port Praya, Cape Verde (Reverse Image)

Original image credited to Charles Wilkes

Pencil

98-89-Y

 

Port Praya, Cape Verde

Original image credited to Charles Wilkes

Ink

98-89-Z

 

Relief may have been a slow ship, but according to Titian Ramsay Peale, it was the only ship that afforded a comfortable cabin for scientific study, located on its poop deck.  Also, since it spent a good deal of time separated from the rest of the flotilla, the ship’s officers and crew were less subject to Wilkes’ short temper, which was beginning to show.  A proud man from a middle class background, Wilkes had advanced himself through a relentless campaign of self-improvement.  He demanded much of himself and those around him.  He freely expressed his displeasure in severest terms and did not hesitate to use strong discipline.

 

Two Sailors Working on Deck

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GZ

 

Sailor with Bare Feet

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GT

 

Seated Sailor

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink, ink wash, and pencil

98-89-HA

 

After a three-month voyage, the ships arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.  Peacock arrived first on 20 November and Relief arrived last on the 26th.  Immediately Wilkes incurred difficulty with Commodore John B. Nicholson, commander of the United States’ Brazil Squadron, which was in port when Vincennes arrived on the 23rd.  Because of the delicacy of the chronometers on board, Wilkes did not fire the canon salutes customarily given to the flag of a superior officer, though he sent a lieutenant to Nicholson’s ship to explain that their sailing instructions included an order not to fire salutes.  Nonetheless, the Commodore regarded it as a breach of etiquette.

 

Peacock and Sea Gull

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AH

 

While at Rio some of the scientifics took rooms ashore and pursued their studies.  Horatio Hale, the ethnographer, was particularly interested in the physical characteristics of the African tribes represented among the slave population and Alfred Agate assisted his work.  Wilkes established an observatory near the harbor’s mouth for observations of weather and planetary magnetism, a practice that he would continue in ports for the rest of the voyage.

 

Mundjola Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DG

 

Nyambana Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DH

 

Caffre Proper Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DI

 

Kasanji Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DJ

 

Kasanji Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DK

 

Mindful of its shortcomings, Wilkes sent Relief onward to Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego after only three weeks in port.  The rest of the flotilla waited at Rio de Janeiro for two more weeks while Peacock underwent extensive repairs.  It had left Hampton Roads in less than ideal condition and now was in dire need of work to be able to survive the rest of the voyage.

 

1839

 

Finally on 9 January 1839 the rest of the ships set sail southward.  In accordance with their orders, they stopped on the way to survey and investigate the commercial potential of the harbor at Rio Negro, but on 19 February they arrived at Orange Harbor, the first major stop for their exploratory endeavors.  It was late summer in the cold climate.  Commanders issued cold weather clothing to the crews after their departure from Rio, but it was found to be inadequate, a fault attributed to swindling government contractors.

 

Relief arrived on 29 January and began cutting firewood for the other ships.  After a few days they began seeing native people, a sight that amazed them, because in the chilly climate they were almost naked, though for warmth on the water they burned small fires on heaps of stones and ashes in the wet bottoms of their canoes.

 

Orange Harbor, Tierra del Fuego

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-AW

 

Patagonians in a Boat in the Straits of Magellan

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-ES

 

When Wilkes arrived at Orange Harbor, he believed that his instructions to Relief’s commander, Lt. Andrew K. Long to prepare supplies for the other ships had not been followed properly.  It reinforced his belief that Long lacked commitment to the purposes of the expedition.  Careful preparations would be necessary for the survival of the ships in their various assigned tasks over the coming two months, and all the crews spent the next four weeks preparing for it.  Vincennes would remain at Orange Harbor and use its launches to survey Cape Horn.  Relief would go into the Straits of Magellan to survey and describe the harbors there, along with most of the scientists, including Alfred Agate.  The other four ships would go south.  Wilkes in Porpoise with Sea Gull as its tender would head southeast towards Palmer’s Land while Peacock, commanded by Lt. Hudson, with Flying Fish as its tender would go southwest to exceed, if possible, Captain James Cook’s furthest voyage south – the “ne plus ultra” of 1774.  On 22 February the squadron celebrated Washington’s Birthday by flying the flags and issuing an extra ration of rum, a custom called “splicing the main brace,” and on 25 February the ships separated on their various assignments.

 

LCDR Andrew K. Long of the Relief

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BQ

 

Cape Horn

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-CU

 

Sea Anemone from Patagonia

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-Q 

 

Porpoise and Sea Gull had good weather for several days, and then snow and foul weather set in as they explored the northern tip of Palmer’s Land.  The spent several days trying to proceed further south, but ice and bad weather turned them back on 5 March.  Wilkes sent Sea Gull on an ultimately unsuccessful errand to Deception Island to look for a self-registering thermometer left in 1829 while he returned to Orange Harbor.  Porpoise arrived there on Harbor 30 March.

 

Porpoise and Sea Gull Parting Company

Original image attributed to Charles Wilkes

Ink and pencil

98-89-AA

 

Porpoise and Sea Gull Parting Company

Original image attributed to Wilkes

Engraving with inked changes

98-89-AB

 

Peacock and Flying Fish encountered squalls on their first day out and constantly throughout their voyage south.  On the second day, the ships became separated.  The expedition sustained its first fatality on 11 March when a sailor who fell from the maintopsail yard of Peacock into the sea two days earlier succumbed to his injuries.  On the same day the Peacock sighted its first iceberg.  By the 19th the ship was surrounded by them.  On 25 March Flying Fish reappeared, and its commander, Lt. William Walker reported that they had been encircled by icebergs twice and finally stopped by them at 70° 14’ latitiude, 105° W longitude, just short of Captain Cook’s record.  The commanders of the two ships consulted and reluctantly decided to head northward.  Hudson took the battered Peacock to their next rendezvous point at Valpariso, Chile and sent word of his intentions with Walker to Orange Harbor.

 

View of Peacock In Ice Flows

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GC

 

View of Peacock In Ice Flows

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GD

 

Flying Fish in a Gale

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-CV (front)

 

Relief on its foray into the Straits of Magellan encountered harsh weather as soon as it left Orange Harbor.  Wilkes claimed in his memoirs that he had instructed Lt. Long to hug the coast to be sheltered from the weather, but Long feared being driven onto rocks and headed for deep water.  Whatever the case, storms soon forced him to seek shelter at Noir Island.  There the crew spent a terror-filled night narrowly avoiding wrecking on the rocks.  The ship lost its anchors in the fray and Long decided to discontinue his mission and head directly for Valpariso instead of returning, as ordered, to Orange Harbor.  He attempted to send word to the Vincennes via a passing whaling ship, but his message failed to reach its destination.

 

Relief at Noir Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-GU

 

Lt. Commandant Andrew K. Long of U.S.S. Relief

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GV

 

After returning from his southward voyage Wilkes waited for two weeks for the return of the other ships.  Flying Fish brought word of Peacock’s whereabouts in the first week of April, but they had no information of Relief.  Wilkes became worried, particularly for the well-being of the scientists on board.  Still, there was no other reason to stay at Orange Harbor, so he left Sea Gull and Flying Fish to wait there for a few more days before joining him at Valpariso.

 

The two tenders waited until 28 April before deciding to move on.  The fall season was far advanced and the inhospitable weather was worsening.  The ships departed together, but encountered a storm on leaving Cape Horn.  Flying Fish returned to the harbor for shelter, but Sea Gull sailed on.  Flying Fish lost sight of Sea Gull near midnight.  Sea Gull was never seen again and eventually it was presumed lost in the storm with its commander, Passed Midshipman James W. E. Reid, two other officers, and fifteen men.

 

Sea Gull in Heavy Seas

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-O 

 

Sea Gull in Heavy Seas

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-P 

 

The Schooner Flying Fish

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-T 

 

Wilkes in Vincennes arrived at Valpariso on 15 May to find Relief and Peacock waiting for him.  He knew of Peacock’s intentions, but was furious to find Lt. Long in Relief had acted contrary to orders.  Long had won the admiration of his crew for his calm manner and excellent ship handling in saving his ship from the rocks at Noir Island, but on hearing the story Wilkes faulted him for neglect and abandoning orders, and determined to return him to the United States as soon as possible.  As soon as Relief was repaired, Wilkes sent it north to Callao, Peru to have it fumigated to destroy the rats that were eating away at the supplies it carried.  He also continued a reorganization of officers that he had begun at Orange Harbor, transfering those he wished to be rid of to Relief.  Meanwhile, the crew received shore leave and some of the officers and scientists made an inland excursion to Santiago.

 

As soon as they were able, the other ships moved up the coast to Callao, the port city for Lima.  Anxious over the absence of Sea Gull, Wilkes left Lt. Thomas T. Craven at Valpariso to take command of it, or failing its return, to take passage for the United States.  He also sent notice to Commodore Nicholson at Rio to make a search for the vessel. 

 

While the squadron spent a month at Callao completing preparations for their venture to the Pacific islands, a group of scientists explored the surrounding terrain and Wilkes took the opportunity to implement his reorganization.  He placed on Relief some officers and men who he believed were impediments to the mission or personally opposed to him.  He then detached the ship and sent it home via Honolulu, Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) and Sydney, New Holland (Australia) where it was to leave caches of supplies for the expedition.  Feeling lightened of a burden, Wilkes looked forward to more timely progress.  In his reorganization, he placed the scientifics Agate and Rich on board Peacock.

 

La Vinda, Peru

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-BU 

 

La Vinda, Peru

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BV 

 

Gateway to Lima, Peru

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-CB

 

Andes Mountains

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BM (back)

 

The remaining four ships left Callao on 13 July, finally beginning their primary mission of charting and describing the little-known islands of the Pacific.  Remaining below the equator, their first destination was the Paumotu Group (Tuamotu Archipelago, French Polynesia).  On 13 August, just five days short of the one year anniversary of their Norfolk departure, they arrived at Clermont de Tonnere Island (Reao Island).  The next day the squadron began surveying the island, triangulating between pairs of ships and fixed points on shore.  They calculated distances by having the primary ship fire a cannon and the secondary crews noted the time between seeing the flash and hearing the sound.  The following day a party went ashore to collect specimens and to try to communicate with the islanders.  The latter effort failed.  The islanders tried to drive the strangers off by brandishing spears and clubs and hurling stones.  Finally feeling the need to show force, Wilkes sent them fleeing by having his men fire mustard seed shot at them.  They later learned that hostility shown was due to the islanders having been fired on by pearl fishermen in the past.

 

Over the next month the ships surveyed sixteen islands.  Because of his fear of the hostility of the islanders, Wilkes only occasionally allowed scientifics to go ashore, a restriction that quickly resulted in their discontent.  One day Lt. Hudson of Peacock allowed the scientists on his ship to land and after their return in the evening Wilkes sent a Hudson a severe note.  Afterwards such trips were more tightly controlled.  Wilkes always considered the scientific mission secondary to the military mission of surveying and acquiring astronomical data.  After weeks of notations in his log about islands being surveyed but few opportunities for naturalists to go ashore, Titian Ramsay Peale exclaimed in his diary in large letters, “What was a scientific corps sent for?”  The next day they reached Raraka Atoll and were allowed ashore to explore it on that and the following day.  There they met about 40 peaceful islanders, who had native-born missionary among them.  Their chief was missing his left hand, it having been bitten off by a shark.  At Honden Island (Pukapuka) Wilkes made a careful study of the structure of the coral island.  He commented that such an island may seem beautiful from a distance, but landing on one revealed only sparse and stunted vegetation. 

 

Islanders of Wytoohee (Wutoohee, Disappointment Islands)

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-AX

 

Islanders of Wytoohee

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-AY

 

Minerva Island, Paumotu Group

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-BI

 

Minerva Island, Paumotu Group

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-BJ 

 

Chief of Raraka Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CW 

 

A Woman of Motia Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-BD

 

A Woman of Motia Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-BE 

 

A Woman of Motia Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BF 

 

Section of Coral Island

Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes

Ink

98-89-DW (front)

 

The ships methodically worked their way west through French Polynesia, arriving at Tahiti in mid-September.  There the islanders were deemed to be more friendly and seemed to the explorers to be more advanced in civilization, a condition ascribed to the unification of local tribes under a monarch, Queen Pomare, and the presence of missionaries.  Wilkes permitted more explorations ashore.  The islanders, in turn, clamored for trade.  Peacock and Flying Fish remained at Tahiti for a time and the scientifics were afforded several opportunities to make expeditions into the interior of the island and to make ascents of its mountains.  Wilkes described the islands, their features, imports and products with his usual carefulness.  He noted that previous accounts of the islands had described the islanders as dressed in tapa cloth fabric made from the paper mulberry tree (Broussonetia papyrifera), but he found no trees extant on his visit.  The islanders now preferred cotton cloth, for which they traded with visiting ships.  The women, however, still preferred to wear a traditional headdress, a rim of woven leaves which shaded their faces, called a hau.

 

Tahitian Trading Double Canoe

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-R 

 

Tahitian Trading Double Canoe

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-S 

 

Two Tahitian Men in a Canoe

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-FL 

 

Tahitian Man in His Trading Canoe

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-U 

 

Polynesian Women Beating Tapa Cloth

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AD 

 

Tahitian Girl with Hau

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-V 

 

Desertions occurred at almost every port beginning with Rio de Janeiro, usually with sailors failing to return from shore leave.  The squadron commanders made efforts to recapture the errant sailors, with good success.  Tahiti had attracted a large population of deserters from other ships and runaways from British penal colonies, which in Wilkes’ estimation was the main source of any disorders on the island.  The islands also proved an attraction for some of the expedition’s sailors, but the Tahitians themselves assisted in their capture, eager for the $10 bounty for each one apprehended.  The punishment for desertion was flogging.

 

Always conscious of his schedule, Wilkes did not linger in French Polynesia.  The Tahitian Islands were beautiful, but they were of little commercial value as they were out of the way of commercial ship routes, he wrote.  Immediately on arrival he established his observatory and commenced surveying and scientific expeditions at Eimeo Island.  Peacock and Flying Fish remained behind at Papeete for repairs and observations for two more weeks, but within a month all the ships had moved on to Samoa.

 

Eimeo (Moorea Island)

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-GI

 

Eimeo (Moorea Island)

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-CK 

 

The squadron rendezvoused at Pago Pago on the island of Tutuila in mid-October.  The Samoan Islands were of particular interest to the expedition because they were a major stopping place for traders and whalers, but their reefs were poorly charted and the islanders had a reputation for hostility.  As Wilkes soon learned, the various settlements of the islands were not united as in the Tahitian group, and he believed this to be the reason why Christian missionaries had made only limited inroads in making converts.  The settlements with missionaries tended to be friendly to outsiders while those still following traditional beliefs were less welcoming.  Squadron commanders tried to apply some American power to the situation.  Lt. Hudson tried an islander who murdered a New England whaling ship sailor and managed to have him banished to another island, and at the request of one of the missionaries, Wilkes attempted to remove one of the most influential unfriendly leaders, Chief Opotuno of Savaii Island.  Opotuno and his band allegedly murdered of a number of seamen from whaling ships and actively obstructed missionary work.  Wilkes called together a local council and offered a reward for his capture.  He could not wait for his effort to have an effect, but he arranged to have a ship return to Samoa later in the expedition to collect the captive, should he be caught.

 

Samoan House

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-FE 

 

Samoan House

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-FF 

 

Wherever Vincennes anchored for more than a day or two, Wilkes set up an observatory.  Staffed by a single man, usually Passed Midshipman Henry Eld, one of the few officers that Wilkes deemed reliable enough for accurate observations, it was lonely duty.  At the village of Apia, Upolu Island, Samoa, however, Chief Pea, who was also known as Tarpoo, or Great Chief, visited him frequently.  The members of the squadron also met Chief Malietoa and his beautiful daughter Emma.  The villagers of Apia took the explorers into the nearby forest to see a large model of a sailing ship that they had made.  The “Papalangi Ship” had a tree with most of its branches cut off for a mast and vines for rigging, while a wooden framework had been constructed around the tree secured together with braided organic cords. 

 

Harbor of Pago-Pago Tutuila, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-GF 

 

Samoan Girl

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-W

 

Apolima Island, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-DM 

 

Apolima Island, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DN 

 

Papalangi Ship, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EV

 

Chief Malietoa of Upolu

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DD 

 

Chief Malietoa of Upolu

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DD 

 

Chief Malietoa of Upolu

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-DE 

 

Chief Malietoa of Upolu

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor, chalk, and pencil

98-89-DE 

 

Emma Malietoa of Upolu

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving with inked changes

98-89-CI 

 

Wilkes’ orders would have made the Fiji Island survey the next item on his agenda, but as exploration of Antarctica could only be carried out in the southern hemisphere’s summer, he modified his itinerary.  The expedition sailed south from Samoa on 11 November for Sydney, New Holland (Australia) to prepare.  On 14 November Wilkes deemed that the International Date Line had been crossed and ordered that 14th be dropped from all orders, journals, and reports and the 15th be substituted.

 

When the ships arrived in Sydney in late November, the American consul informed them that Relief had departed for the United States about ten days before after depositing supply caches there and at Honolulu as ordered.  The crews immediately began re-supplying and making repairs at Fort Jackson in anticipation of another difficult foray southward.  While there, the ships were open to visits from the local population.  Being familiar with other voyages to the Antarctic Circle, the residents were amazed that such a trip would be attempted in such flimsy and ill-equipped vessels.  Wilkes reply was that such were their orders and they would obey.  Visitors particularly commented on the tender Flying Fish, predicting that its fate would be to freeze among the icebergs.

 

Sydney

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor, ink and pencil

98-89-FV

 

Sydney

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-GB

 

The men of the squadron took every opportunity to enjoy the sights of Sydney, delighted to be in a port of their own culture, where their language was spoken.  Wilkes described the town as riotous, but was pleased to note that no complaints of his crew’s behavior returned to the ship.  With a population of 24,000, Wilkes figured that there was a tavern for every 100 inhabitants.  He also noted with disapproval that public drunkenness was not uncommon, even among women.  He ascribed these cultural phenomena to the fact that the rum trade was important in the early development of New South Wales, and for a period of time rum was a medium of exchange in the colony.  In his diary, Titian Peale noted the large number of policemen, saying that they were seldom out of sight, a reminder of the penal colony origins of the settlement.

 

Soon after their arrival, Wilkes suggested to the scientifics that he would receive any requests they might make about a leave of absence from the squadron while the ships were in the Antarctic.  As in the first foray to the south, he was reluctant to endanger their lives and there would be no opportunities to go ashore.  Thus, it seemed pointless to him to have them suffer through the experience.  The scientifics understood the invitation and submitted their requests to study in Australia while the ships explored to the south.  Wilkes offered to reimburse expenses for scientific excursions and their passages to the Bay of Islands, New Zealand, where they were to be ready by 1 March to rejoin the squadron.  With these instructions, the scientists divided into small groups and headed in different directions.  Alfred Agate participated in several excursions into the interior of Australia.  With Joseph Hale, he went to Newcastle and the Hunter River, 80 miles north of Sydney.  There they documented the aboriginal culture, including a night spent witnessing an aboriginal dance called a corrobory.  He also traveled with William Rich and Joseph Drayton to the Illawarra region, south of Sydney, an area that Wilkes described as the “bread basket” of Australia.  While he described the majority of New South Wales as subject to extremes of moisture, mountains protected this narrow strip of land below Sydney causing its climate to be more tropical.

 

Cungura, Wife of Charispl, Illawarra

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-CM 

 

Aborigines of New Holland

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AQ

 

Aborigines of New Holland 

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AR

 

Aborigines of New Holland 

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AS

 

Shingleman Yan of Lake Macquarie

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-GR

 

Bamboo Kain of the Newcastle Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-GJ

 

Bamboo Kain of the Newcastle Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CX 

 

Bamboo Kain of the Newcastle Tribe

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-CY 

 

Weapons of New Holland 

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-C 

 

Corrobory, New South Wales

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on board

98-89-HB (front) 

 

Pleading illness, Richard Couthouy, the conchologist, left the expedition and departed for home.  Added to the expedition through the recommendation of former President Andrew Jackson, Wilkes would have preferred another scientist and was suspicious of Couthouy from the outset.  He soon proved to be an active promoter of discontent among his messmates, so much so that one of the enlisted men on Vincennes reported it to the commander while they were sailing between Samoa and Sydney.  Wilkes summoned a meeting of the junior officers and confronted Couthouy directly.  Wilkes called his conduct mutinous and threatened to maroon him on a desert island if he persisted.  Couthouy stood discredited.  Wilkes believed that the incident led to his request for detachment at Sydney, a request that the commander was pleased to grant.  As events later transpired, Couthouy went only as far as Honolulu before deciding to try to rejoin the expedition, but Wilkes was determined that he had seen the last of the troublemaker and accused him of concocting the ploy to avoid work on the next leg of the expedition.

 

After enjoying Christmas Day in Sydney, the squadron departed on 26 December for Antarctic waters at the height of the summer season.  They were stocked with ten months’ provisions for their three-month voyage in case they became trapped in the ice and special care had been taken to make sure the ships were well caulked against leaks.  Crewmen made hurricane shelters for themselves over their berthing for extra comfort from the weather and Wilkes performed inspections of the crew’s uniforms twice a day in order to make sure they were dressed properly for the weather conditions.

 

1840

 

The squadron enjoyed pleasant weather through 31 December, but on 1 January, at 48°S latitude, a heavy fog arose.  Flying Fish fell behind and out of sight, so the other three ships headed for Macquarie Island, which had been designated as a rendezvous in event of separation.  On 3 January, Vincennes and Porpoise lost sight of Peacock, but presumably all four ships were still headed for the pre-arranged meeting.  Though they tried to make Macquarie Island on 7 January, Vincennes and Porpoise found that they had carried 20 miles too far in the night and Wilkes decided to by-pass the meeting altogether.  As it happened, both Flying Fish and Peacock reached the island around 10 January, but Flying Fish anchored off the north side of the island and Peacock the south, so the ships did not meet.  They waited the required 48 hours and then continued on their missions separately.  Within a few days, Peacock caught up Vincennes and Porpoise, but the crews of these ships feared the worst for Flying Fish.

 

Porpoise in a Gale

Original image attributed to G. M. Totten

Ink wash

98-89-AC

 

Vincennes and Porpoise first saw icebergs on 10 January at 61° 08’ S latitude and 162°32’ E longitude.  They became more numerous and soon formed a barrier preventing passage further south.  The ships followed the barrier to the west, looking for an opening.  Because of Wilkes’ desire to be the first to confirm the existence of an Antarctic continent and the punctiliousness that he practiced and demanded of his officers, some events of the next few days later became controversial.  The published narrative of the expedition asserted that on 15 January Lieutenant Ringgold of Porpoise first claimed to see mountains in the distance.  The next day all three ships reported that land was visible, and so Wilkes dated the discovery of Antarctica from that date.  Eager to maximize the opportunity for gathering information, two days later Wilkes told the other ships that they no longer needed to remain in company and should rendezvous at the Bay of Islands, New Zealand in March.  On the morning of 19 January he asserted land was most certainly visible.

 

The dates of these sightings became controversial after the completion of the expedition because of the manner in which they were recorded, or not recorded, in the ships’ logbooks and the fact that a French expedition under Dumont D’Urville was also in the same waters and recorded discovery of land on the afternoon of the 19th.  Who was first is still a point of dispute.  On the afternoon of 19 January, D’Urville in his ship Astrolabe had sighted an explosed rock on an island, and in a style worthy of the great explorers of centuries before, landed on it with a French flag and claimed the continent for France, naming it Adelie in honor of his wife.  They then sailed on, like the Exploring Expedition, seeking a way to it through the ice barrier.  On 30 January at 135°E longitude, Astrolabe and Peacock sighted each other.  After weeks of sailing in the desolate climate, the sight of another ship was a welcome one – at least at first.  The two tried to come within hailing distance, but through a misinterpretation of each other’s maneuvers both commanders came to the conclusion that the other wished to avoid contact.  They sailed on, each convinced of the other’s rudeness.

 

View of Peacock in Ice

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GC 

 

View of Peacock in Ice

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-GD  

 

By the end of January, bitter cold and rain had sapped the health of officers and crew on all the ships.  On the 24 January, Peacock almost met its end in calm, iceberg-laden waters.  Too close to maneuver safely, first the bow, then the stern, hit large blocks.  The rudder became useless.  It was brought on board while the exhausted crew worked furiously to keep the ship from sliding into a nearby ice table whose walls were taller than their masts.  During the night, which at that season was only about four hours long, its anchors did not hold and it crashed into the island, sustaining more serious damage, but none that affected its buoyancy.  The crew worked the ship into open water by steering with its sails while the ship’s carpenters made as good a repair as possible on the rudder.  They then turned northward and returned to Sydney, arriving 22 February in serious need of an overhaul.

 

Peacock Drifting Among the Ice Flows

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on board

98-89-FX 

 

Porpoise and Vincennes continued exploring separately until 14 and 21 February, respectively.  Vincennes pushed farther in spite of the crews diminishing health, including that of Wilkes himself.  On 14 February crewmen went ashore on an ice island and were able to replenish their fresh water supply by cutting ice from a frozen pond.  Turning north, Vincennes made for Sydney and arrived on 11 March.  Porpoise arrived at the Bay of Islands on 26 March and waited for the others.

 

On arriving at Sydney, Wilkes heard of D’Urville’s claim to discovering Antarctica.  He immediately brought together all available log books from his ships in order to examine them for information to support of the Exploring Expedition’s claim.  At the time, he decided to report his discovery as being on the morning of 19 January, just hours before D’Urville’s claim.  It was only after the Expedition returned to the United States, that he clarified his position to cite 16 January.  Still, he knew there would be controversy.  In a generous act, and perhaps to underscore his primacy to a forthcoming British Antarctic expedition, he left its commander, Captain James Clark Ross, a note describing his findings with a map.  On receiving the note, Ross would discount it.

 

Since 1 January, none of the squadron had seen or heard from Flying Fish.  The crews of the other ships quickly became convinced that it had met the fate of Sea Gull.  On arriving at the Bay of Islands, the crew of Porpoise was the first to discover, to their joy, that the ship had not perished.  But it had faced the worst perils of all the ships.

 

After leaving Macquarie Island, the ship’s commander, Lieutenant Pinkney, an officer whom Wilkes deemed incompetent, continued to sail south in accordance with his orders.  The weather was foul and foggy, and this ship with the smallest complement soon felt its ill effects.  It arrived at the Antarctic ice pack in late January and followed its edge, floating among bergs for more than a week in various kinds of weather while the members of the eight man crew became sicker and sicker.  Eventually all enlisted and officers moved into the officers’ small cabin, cooking on its tiny stove.  Responding to the pleas of his crew, Pinkney turned the ship northward on 5 February and arrived at the Bay of Islands on 10 March.  He set about repairing the ship, but when Wilkes arrived in New Zealand after making his stopover at Sydney, he found several reasons to berate the officer and finally replaced him with Lieutenant George T. Sinclair.

 

Flying Fish

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-T 

 

Study of Sailors Gathered Around a Stove

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EA

 

The scientifics arrived in New Zealand on 24 February.  They had difficulty securing passage there, and as a result, did not spend as much time exploring the interior of Australia as they hoped, and their time in New Zealand was similarly limited.  The scientists had arrived just in time to witness the signing of a “treaty” between Maori chiefs and the British Government.  Not a treaty at all, Wilkes believed, but a wholesale cession of the lands of the north island to the protection of Great Britain, which would quickly force a lifestyle on the Maoris that they did not desire.  Wilkes was particularly sorry that the gentleman holding the title of American Consul, who was in fact an Englishman, had used his influence to induce the chiefs to accept the treaty.  Wilkes cited it as evidence that officials of the United States government in foreign places needed to be United States citizens.

 

Auckland Islands

Original image attributed to G. M. Totten

Engraving

98-89-DL 

 

A View of New Zealand

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-D 

 

A View of New Zealand

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-E 

 

A New Zealand Girl

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FH 

 

Travels inland included a visit home by an expedition crewman who was Maori, John Sac, and some of the scientifics who ventured a short distance along the coast to a place called Wangara.  The explorers also prepared a shipment of specimens and letters home to travel with the ship Lydia, which was bound for Salem, Massachusetts.  Peacock being under repair at Sydney, the scientifics assigned to it, Alfred Agate included, temporarily boarded Vincennes for the voyage to Tonga.  The ships departed New Zealand on 6 April.

 

They arrived at the islands of Eooa (Eua) and Tongataboo (Tongatapu) on the 24th.  The area was poorly charted and had many shoals, so Wilkes immediately sent Porpoise and Flying Fish to the eastern islands for survey duty.  Vincennes entered Tonga harbor just as a council of Christianized chiefs was meeting to plan a retaliatory attack against non-Christian cannibal chiefs.  War seemed imminent, so Wilkes offered his assistance as mediator.  His efforts failed.  As details appeared, it became clear that, like most wars, the conflict was over power rather than religion or morality.  Neither side could be dissuaded from its ambition.

 

Tonga Gateway

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-M 

 

While at Tonga, the expeditionaries encountered people visiting from other islands and took note of the differences in physical characteristics.  These included men from the islands of Rotuma and Erromango.

 

Chief of the Island of Rotuma

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CQ 

 

Erromango Islander

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-BA 

 

Peacock arrived on 1 May and the scientists assigned to it, including Agate, returned to their assigned berthing.  Three days later the squadron left for the Fiji Islands.  On arriving at Ovalu Island they were met by David Whippy, a Nantucket sailor who had settled there.  Whippy proved himself useful, acting as interpreter and advisor on local customs.  An important piece of advice he offered was to never completely trust the Fijians.  Both Whippy and the local missionaries told stories of treachery and murder among the island’s cannibal population.  In response, Wilkes issued orders for extra care when in contact with the islanders.  Landing parties could only leave the ships when absolutely necessary and officers should be armed.

 

Fiji Man

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BG

 

Wild Feejee Man

By Alfred T. Agate

Woodcut

98-89-AP

 

One of Wilkes’ first acts in the Fijis was to send a summons to a local great chief, Tanoa.  In local custom, compliance would be an acknowledgement of Wilkes’ dominance, and Whippy, the local chiefs, and settlers wondered what the response would be.  On 12 May King Tanoa arrived from his home on Ambau Island and took up residence in the mbure, or council house.  Eager for trade, he gladly signed an agreement for the future safety of United States ships in Fiji.  In spite of the treaty, Wilkes was not entirely convinced they would be safe.  In setting up his observatory at Levuka, Ovalu, he assigned Marines to it for protection, and on Whippy’s advice he hired spies in the king’s retinue to keep him informed of any contemplated mischief.

 

Mbure House

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CL

 

Mbure House

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-HF (back)

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-CV (back)

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CZ

 

Canoe of Tanoa, King of Ambau Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on board

98-89-HB (back)

 

Tanoa, King of Ambau Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DC

 

Tanoa, King of Ambau Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-GA

 

Observatory Peak, Fiji

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-FU

 

Observatory Peak Fiji

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-AG

 

Peacock went to the nearby large island of Viti Levu in order to survey and secure trading agreements with the chiefs there, particularly at the town of Rewa, which had an anchorage.  Two days after its departure, Patrick Connell, an Irishman who had settled on Viti Levu came to Wilkes and told him of a particularly treacherous incident that occurred at Rewa in 1834.  The American merchant ship Charles Doggett had hired some islanders to help in harvesting and curing biche-de-mer when a rumor began circulating among them that the ship contained valuable objects.  In order to obtain them, the local great chief, Vendovi, executed a plot against the ship’s crewmen working at the drying house, which resulted in the death of 8 men.  The ship’s captain forced the return of seven uneaten bodies, but was too late to prevent the consumption of the eighth.  On hearing Connell’s story, Wilkes sent him to Rewa with a message for Captain Hudson to capture Vendovi.  By coincidence, at that time Hudson was conducting a scientific expedition to the interior of Viti Levu, but Alfred Agate, who remained at the shore, was asked by a local chief to paint his portrait.  The chief was Vendovi.

 

Mode of Sitting by a Young Girl

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-BB

 

Mode of Sitting

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FN

 

Biche-de-Mer House, Fiji

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-BN

 

Henrietta’s House in Muthuata, Fiji Islands

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-BX

 

Fiji Woman Carrying Water

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-CD

 

Fiji Woman Carrying Water

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-FP

 

Woman Braiding

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FM

 

Fiji Drummer

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Engraving

98-89-CE

 

Study for Fiji Drummer

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-CF

 

Study for Fiji Drummer

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-CG

 

View of Wailevu, Venus, Fiji Islands (on Vanua Levu)

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FJ

 

View From the Pass to the Upper Town, Somu-Somu (Somo-Somo)

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-GE 

 

Town of Rewa 

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-J 

 

House in Rewa

By Alfred T. Agate

ink and ink wash

98-89-K (front)

 

Fiji Drummer

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-K (back)

 

Vendovi, Brother of the King

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-B 

 

Vendovi, Brother of the King

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-HF (front)

 

Fiji Cooking Pot

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink drawing

98-89-DW (back)

 

After he completed the required survey work at Rewa, Hudson decided to lure Vendovi onto his ship with some other dignitaries, including his brother the king, by offering presents.  When Vendovi did not appear, Hudson regretfully informed the king and his suite that they would not be allowed to return to shore until Vendovi was produced.  After overcoming some initial alarm, the king agreed, saying that Vendovi terrorized his people as well as white men.  Another of the king’s brothers and another chief, great rivals of Vendovi, offered to make the trip to Rewa, and the next day they returned with him.  Hudson placed Vendovi in chains pending his return to the United States for trial.  In spite of their professed need to be rid of him, the king and others wept bitterly in taking leave of Vendovi.  Wilkes took it as another of many incongruities of Fijian behavior. 

 

Word of Vendovi’s capture reached Wilkes and the town of Levuka within hours.  Already, Connell warned him, some islanders were planning to kidnap him to force an exchange of prisoners.  Wilkes began carrying pistols and kept armed guards and his faithful dog Sydney nearby.

 

The surveys continued rapidly.  Wilkes method for accomplishing them was to send the various ships out for about ten days at a time with a list of tasks that would take longer than the allotted time.  When they reported back to the squadron, he noted what remained undone and re-sent ships out for the remaining items.  This way, he felt satisfied that no time was spent in idleness. 

 

When dealing with “savages,” Wilkes generally believed that minor crimes committed by them should be ignored, but significant offenses should be punished in accordance with local custom, so that the guilty could fully understand the gravity of their wrongs.  As the expedition finished its surveys in the Fijis, he felt compelled to take action twice.  First, on 12 July a survey crew lost its boat to an attack of islanders of Vanua Levu.  The loss of the boat would seriously hamper surveying, so Wilkes immediately called together a party of men from his and Captain Hudson’s ships and rowed more than 60 miles in the evening to the site of the theft.  On Wilkes’ appearance the next morning, the islanders abandoned the boat, but its contents were gone.  In retaliation, Wilkes ordered Hudson to burn the thieves’ village.  He then again demanded return of the boat’s contents and some was returned.  Having thus demonstrated the power of his anger, Wilkes released two hostage chiefs from nearby friendly towns and sent them off with valuable presents, demonstrating the power of his friendship.  Word of the incident spread rapidly through the islands.

 

Valley of Voona

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-F 

 

Valley of Voona

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-G 

 

Attack on Sualib, Malolo Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-GO 

 

The second incidence of retaliation took place two weeks later.  The survey of the Fiji Islands was nearing completion when Wilkes sent Vincennes and Peacock to Muthuata Island on the north side of Vanua Levu under the command of Captain Hudson, while he took Flying Fish and Porpoise to the western islands of the group.  Then, on 24 July, the thing Wilkes dreaded most happened.  Islanders killed Lieutenant Joseph Underwood and Midshipman Wilkes Henry as they negotiated for food on the island of Malolo, off the western end of Viti Levu.  Their comrades rescued their bodies and brought them to where Flying Fish and Porpoise awaited their rendezvous.  Wilkes Henry was Charles Wilkes’ nephew, the only child of his sister, and the loss shattered him.  He wept openly and it was some days before he could again fully concentrate on his duties.  The next day the men were buried on a nearby small deserted island in graves that remained unmarked to prevent the bodies being dug up and eaten.  Alfred Agate read the burial service.  The day after, a group of sixty crewmen burned the towns of Sualib and Arro and destroyed all the crops and huts between them.  A search of Sualib produced some personal property from Underwood and Henry.  On the 27 a small group of chiefs led by a woman came asking for peace, but in keeping with Fiji custom, Wilkes rejected it and demanded that all islanders appear before him.  When they came, the commander agreed to peace on condition that they bring provisions to Porpoise on the next day, which they did.  In his later accounts of the voyage, Wilkes blamed Lieutenant James Alden, commander of the party with not taking proper precautions and even for pursuing the trade, which Wilkes believed was unnecessary. 

 

Their present work completed, Porpoise and Flying Fish joined the other ships at Mathauata and related the sad news.  Wilkes then dispatched the squadron on various final tasks, after the completion of which they all rejoined at the same place.  Wilkes then made assignments for the next leg of the voyage, which would end with a rendezvous at Honolulu in the Sandwich Islands.  The squadron departed the Fiji Islands on 11 August.

 

The stop in the Hawaiian, or Sandwich, Islands was a welcome one.  The islands had a far more advanced civilization, in western terms, than the other Pacific islands, and had more experience in welcoming foreign ships, though foreign customs, habits, and diseases were taking their toll on the morals and health of the local population.  They had been united under a monarch for twenty years, and within days of the squadron’s arrival, the king’s government completed instituting a constitution.  A colony of British, French, and American settlers centered on Honolulu, but there were missionary outposts throughout the archipelago.

 

King Kamehamea III had left instructions with his officials that he should be sent for at Maui as soon as the expedition arrived.  He arrived at Oahu on 29 September and made a formal welcome.  Three days later the king informally sent for Wilkes and the two spent three hours discussing the history and political affairs of the islands, of which both Great Britain and France were seeking domination.  The king also assisted the scientific mission of the expedition in allowing the use of his palace at Honolulu as the site for the temporary observatory, instrument repair shops, and workrooms for the calculation and drawing of charts.  He also sent word to his officials on the other islands to provide assistance to the explorers.

 

Scene at Oahu

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-FY 

 

View in Honolulu

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-FY 

 

The ships immediately underwent repairs on arrival, and Wilkes allowed the officers and scientifics to take quarters ashore in order to give them better access to their assigned tasks.  The officers assisted with the preparing the charts while the scientifics assembled many of their findings and collections to that date and sent them back to the United States.  They also began exploring Oahu.  Flying Fish was soon ready, so Wilkes sent it off with the scientifics on board to survey the other islands.  Alfred Agate accompanied a two week excursion to Kauai where he teamed with James Dana to observe geology, land formations, and “scenery.”  Sites visited included Waimea and Hanapepe.  Agate then remained at Honolulu while some of the scientists visited the island of Hawaii. 

 

Hanapepe Valley

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-GH 

 

Pali, Oahu

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-AL

 

On Flying Fish’s return from island of Hawaii, Wilkes issued orders for it and Peacock to survey islands in the western end of the Pacific whaling grounds.  Additional orders sent them back to Samoa to correct some of the surveys made by Porpoise, which Wilkes considered incomplete.   He also gave Captain Hudson a list of hostile acts and “rascals” that he wanted him to investigate and, if necessary, punish.  First among these was an order to make another attempt to capture Chief Opotuno at Savaii Island, Samoa.  Again, Wilkes assigned more tasks than could possibly accomplished in the allotted time.  Hudson was to bring the ships to meet the others at the Columbia River no later than 1 May 1840.  As members of the ship’s complement, the scientifics assigned to these ships, which included Alfred Agate, also accompanied the excursion.  They left Hawaii on 2 December.

 

Crater of Moku-A-Weo-Weo, Mauna Loa

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving with inked changes

98-89-CN 

 

Crater of Moku-A-Weo-Weo, Mauna Loa

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-GW 

 

Vincennes departed the next day for the island of Hawaii and an expedition to the top of Mauna Loa.  Along the way to the summit, they encountered one of Mauna Loa’s lower volcanic craters, Kilauea.  Purser R. R. Waldron and Joseph Drayton ventured inside the crater and walked on the dome’s hot surface until lava oozed through cracks that formed within fifteen feet of them.  Wilkes’ dog Sydney accompanied them down and scorched his paws on the surface.  The train then continued on for the summit.  The party swelled to over three hundred with more than two hundred hired porters and the family members who insisted on accompanying them, and food and water supplies soon ran critically low.  The guides they brought were not as familiar with the territory as they purported and did not know where water supplies lay.  Soon a supply party Wilkes sent back returned with two other guides who knew the area well, one of whom was Keaweehu.  He told Wilkes that the path his original guides had chosen was not near regular water supplies and that the nearest regular source was ten miles distant.  Wilkes had hoped to encounter snow at a higher elevation to solve the problem, but Keaweehu told him that sufficient snow on the mountain was not to be depended upon.  Because of the shortage, and because many of the porters were lightly dressed and the temperature was falling as they ascended, and some were beginning to suffer from altitude sickness, Wilkes established a base camp at about 9000 feet and took forward only enough men and provisions to reach the summit.  As he neared it, they were caught in high winds and snow, though the snow never supplied ample water.  Wilkes spent three weeks, including Christmas, at the summit surveying its volcanic crater, Moku-a-Weo-Weo, and making geologic and meteorologic observations.  Finally, on 13 January 1841 they broke camp at the summit and returned to the sea, stopping to study the Kilauea crater and others as they descended. 

 

Pandanus Tree

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink, ink wash, and pencil

98-89-GS 

 

Keaweehu Wrapped in His Tapa

Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes

Pencil

98-89-BO 

 

Keaweehu Wrapped in His Tapa

Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes

Pencil

98-89-BP 

 

1841

 

Deciding that he did not have enough time to explore the Marquesas Islands, on 5 March Wilkes left the island of Hawaii for two weeks of surveying at Maui and the other smaller islands of the archipelago.  They arrived at Honolulu on 19 March and met Porpoise, which arrived from an excursion to Penrhyn Island on the 23rd.  On 5 April the pair left the Hawaiian Islands for the Columbia River on the northwest coast of North America.

 

Their passage was rapid.  Vincennes and Porpoise arrived off Cape Disappointment two weeks later and met their next peril, the crossing of the bar that lay across the mouth of the harbor.  In the Sandwich Islands Wilkes had taken on board a man who claimed to be a Columbia River pilot, but it quickly became clear that he had exaggerated his abilities.  Unwilling to risk his ship in dangerous waters, Wilkes sailed northward and sought anchorage at Port Discovery just inside the Straits of Juan de Fuca.  Another two weeks later, with the aid of a pilot supplied by the Hudson Bay Company, Vincennes and Porpoise moved further into Puget Sound to Fort Nisqually.  There he formed parties to survey the sound and two overland parties to explore the interior of the territory.  He appointed Lieutenant R. E. Johnson to conduct a team to traverse most of what is now Washington State, west to Fort Colville, south to the Snake River, and returning via the Columbia River.  Wilkes himself joined the other overland party bound for the settlements of Astoria, Fort Vancouver, Willamette, and Wallawalla.  While surveying in Puget Sound, Wilkes met Chief George of the Tatouche Tribe and took an image of him using the camera lucida.

 

Chief George of the Tatouche Tribe

Original image attributed to Charles W. Wilkes

Pencil

98-89-CS 

 

Chief George of the Tatouche Tribe

Original image attributed Charles W. Wilkes

Engraving

98-89-CT 

 

The territory was still jointly occupied by the United States and Great Britain, but tension was building that would soon force the British out.  They still had a stronger economic presence, though, in the Hudson Bay Company.  Wilkes decided that his orders gave him complete authority to do whatever exploration he wished, but he shared his information with the local representatives of the Company, who were generous with their support of the expedition. 

 

On 17 May, the day that Lieutenant Johnson’s party left on its adventure into the American northwest, the crews of Peacock and Flying Fish were on half rations in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.  They had been unable to complete all the tasks allotted by Wilkes and were now sailing for Oahu to re-supply, not having encountered an island capable of provisioning them. 

 

Peacock and Flying Fish had left Hawaii with a number of tasks to complete in the Western Pacific Ocean.  Typical of his pattern, Wilkes allotted Captain Hudson six months, but gave him far more tasks to complete than what would be possible in the time period.  In his memoirs, Wilkes maintained that Hudson did not use his time judiciously.  Complain as he did, history has borne out the validity of the work done by Peacock and Flying Fish on this leg of the journey.  The surveys made of the Islands of Tarawa, Makin, and others were important sources of information used for the capture of those islands by Allied forces in World War II, one hundred years later. 

 

War Chief Matetau of Manono Island, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DA 

 

War Chief Matetau of Manono Island, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DB 

 

Trading Scene at Apia, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-H 

 

Trading Scene at Apia, Samoa

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-I 

 

Hudson worked to complete his tasks, the main part of which took them back to the Samoan Islands, which was about a month’s sail.  They proceeded due south from Hawaii and then swung through the Phoenix, Bowditch (Tokelau), Samoan, Ellice (Tuvalu), and Kingsmill island groups.  They charted new islands, corrected positions for known islands, disproved reports of some others, and continued scientific studies.  At Savaii, Opotuno was still too careful to be captured.  At each island group, they questioned the islanders to discover commonalities in language, gods, and knowledge of other islands, in order to hypothesize about how each group came to be inhabited.

 

Tattooed Native, Ellice Islands

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-N 

 

Sketch of Lead Line

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-N (reverse)

 

Costume, Ellice’s Group

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-FW

 

Inhabitant of Makin Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Charcoal, ink, and pencil

98-89-BC

 

Inhabitant of Makin Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FI

 

Bowditch Islanders

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-AT

 

Bowditch Islanders

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AU

 

Near the end of their assignment they stopped at Drummond’s Island (Tabiteuea) in the Kingsmill group.  Like some of the other islands, these islanders had a unique type of headdress, in this case a high, coned construction, woven of a pandanus leaf.  They also displayed a disconcerting desire to be physically close to the explorers, and as it turned out, they required careful watching because they were consummate pickpockets, with tobacco as their favorite quarry.  Some also displayed a seeming contempt for the explorers, which finally came to hostility.  On 7 April at the end of a busy day at the town of Utiroa, Captain Hudson called for all men to return to the boats, but one sailor, Seaman John Anderson failed to appear.  A search was made, but finally Hudson ordered all his men to return to the ships.  After he made more inquiries and searches the next day, he came to the conclusion that Anderson had been murdered.  In order to exact retribution and discourage future treachery, he sent an armed expedition against the town.  The islanders put up a brave fight, but in the end twelve were killed and their town was burned.

 

Drummond Islander

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FG

 

Drummond’s Island Warrior

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FO 

 

Chief Toaromaroa of the Town of Eta, Drummond Island

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-CR 

 

Kingsmill Island Idol

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FK 

 

On leaving the Kingsmill Group, Hudson had to put his crews on reduced rations because they were running low on supplies.  After surveying a few more islands in what is now called the Marshall Islands, he decided that time was too short to continue and turned the ships toward the Columbia River, stopping at Honolulu to replenish supplies.  They only stayed a week and continued to the northwest coast, arriving 16 July, a month and half late for their rendezvous.

 

When he arrived at the mouth of Columbia, Hudson had with him the instructions for navigating the bar that Wilkes had obtained from the master of a merchant ship he had met at Honolulu.  As that ship had just come from the Columbia, he had no reason to doubt his instructions and he was not surprised to find treacherous conditions.  These waters had a reputation for shipwrecks.  While Wilkes had given up trying to cross when he arrived in boisterous weather, Hudson arrived in clear weather and had as good conditions as a captain of that era might expect in the unimproved channel.  He also knew that his arrival was very late and he had experienced Wilkes’ wrath when he tried to second-guess the commander’s specific instructions on other occasions.  On the 18th, following the Sunday morning service, he tried to guide Peacock through the bar.

 

Ft. Wallawalla

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-CC (front)

 

Ft Wallawalla

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-CC (back)

 

After breaking off his first attempt to enter, Hudson steered the ship towards a portion of the water that appeared clear and smooth.  The water was too shallow and the keel hit bottom and stuck.  The current and tides then began to force the ship onto a shoal.  Hudson ordered the sails taken in and prepared to drag the ship off by kedging – towing the ship’s anchors out a distance and then pulling the ship towards them by winding the chains on the capstan.  The weather in the sound defeated him before he could complete the plan.  The sea began to lift and drop ship, causing leaks.  The crew manned the pumps.  They fought to save the ship all day and night, and at dawn the tide receded so much that a canoe manned by Chinook Indians and carrying a pilot was able to come on board.  Peacock launched it boats and filled them with as much as they could of the ships charts, books and papers.  The boats made two trips between ship and shore, but eventually the scientific specimens on board had to be abandoned.  Because of their survival, Alfred Agate presumably carried off some of his sketches.  The surging currents rose again towards noon and overwhelmed the ship.  Captain Hudson and some of crew remained on board during the evacuation, trying to save as much as he could, even by throwing light items overboard to be carried ashore by the tide.  Finally at 5 pm Hudson was the last to leave the ship.  By the next day it had broken into pieces.

 

Peacock In Heavy Seas Off the Coast of Oregon

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-AE

 

Wreck of the Peacock and Abandonment

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-AF

 

Wreck of the Peacock

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AI

 

Wreck of the Peacock

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AJ

 

Peacock Drifting Hopelessly

By Alfred T. Agate

Crayon

98-89-AN

 

Loss of the Peacock

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on board

98-89-GL

 

Peacock Drifting Hopelessly

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-GM

 

While Wilkes was supportive of Hudson’s actions in his official account of the expedition, when he wrote his autobiography thirty years later he criticized him severely.  Wilkes cited assumptions that Hudson made which he should not have and said that he was “entirely wanting in prudence and caution.”  On the expedition’s return, Hudson would suffer a great deal of public criticism for the loss.

 

Captain Hudson of the Peacock

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-GN 

 

No lives had been lost in the wreck of Peacock, but some men had sustained significant injuries, including broken bones, and now they had no quarters.  On shore, some people of the Methodist mission at Astoria brought them tents and supplies to make them comfortable.  The sailors dubbed their little tent city “Peacockville.”

 

Astoria on the Columbia River

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-GK

 

In spite of the loss, the injuries sustained, and the hardship suffered by the shipless crew, everyone still pressed on with their assignments.  The scientifics went into the field immediately and began making collections.  Alfred Agate made some drawings of the local Chinook Indians and the tomb of Concomely (Concomly), a Chinook chief who had welcomed the explorers Lewis and Clark (who spelled his name Com-com-moly) and helped settlers build Astoria.  Wilkes gave up his idea of exploring inland as far as the Yellowstone River and decided to concentrate on the little-known area of southern Oregon and northern California.  He made up an exploratory group from the crew of Peacock and included the scientifics Peale, Rich, and Agate, as well as a few local trappers, and placed them under the command of Lieutenant Emmons.  Their mission was to march south, surveying and describing the land as much as possible and join up with boats from the expedition at the most inland point of navigation of the Sacramento River.  The rest of the expedition would meanwhile complete their own surveys and travel around by water to meet them. 

 

The Dalles

Original image attributed to Joseph Drayton

Pencil

98-89-BY

 

Concomely’s Tomb Astoria

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-GX 

 

Chinook Lodge

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BW

 

To replace Peacock in the survey work, Wilkes purchased the brig Thomas Perkins from the Hudson Bay Company and renamed it Oregon.  Wilkes gave Hudson the task of outfitting it, but when it was ready, Hudson suggested that command be given to another.  He may have done this after sensing Wilkes’ displeasure, but also, command of a ship as small as a brig usually went to an officer of lower rank and experience than he.  Wilkes was only too happy to oblige Hudson and gave command of Oregon to Lieutenant Overton Carr, who had been serving as his executive officer on Vincennes.  Oregon was then sent off to survey the coastline and Hudson became a supernumerary officer on Vincennes.

 

Lieutenant Emmons’ party started south through Oregon along the banks of the Willamette River.  They had hardly begun when they were forced to camp for almost five weeks as almost every member of the party, including the scientifics, became ill with “ague and fever.”  Ague in modern terms is seen as a catchall reference for a wide range of conditions, including malaria, but in medical terms of the day it meant a fever with chills.  It delayed them until the first week in September.  By that time Lieutenant Johnson’s party had arrived from the east and Wilkes sent the scientifics Dana and Brackenridge to join Emmons, along with Midshipment Eld and Colvocoressis to carry out meterological observations.

 

When they finally returned to the trail they made good time, though repeated bouts of ague and their inexperience in wilderness ways caused them a few delays.  Considerable time was spent on any number of mornings recapturing their horses.  From the back of his horse, Agate drew constantly.  They passed through the lands of various Indian tribes, the Callapuya of the Willamette Valley, the Umpqua of the Elk Mountains, and the Shasta and the Klamet (Klamath) of southern Oregon, the Sacramento of northern California.  The Oregon tribes had reputations for being particularly hostile to whites; the agent at Fort Umpqua told the party that word had spread through the region of their approach and bands had collected to annihilate them.  In the end, however, Wilkes noted they and other whites met with little hostility and postulated that the native peoples desired the trade that white men brought. 

 

Sacramento Indian

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FS

 

Sacramento Indian

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-FT

 

Umpqua Indian

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BR

 

Umpqua Indian

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-BS

 

Oregon Indians

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-AO

(see caption attached to 98-89-ET)

 

Throughout the journey, the scientifics made new discoveries.  One of the most significant botanical collections of the expedition was made by William Brackenridge on this part of the journey, near Mount Shasta: Darlingtonia californica, or the cobra lily.  On 30 September they reached the ridge of the boundary mountains between Oregon and Mexico and saw Mount Shasta in the distance.

 

Shasty Peak

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-GQ

 

On emerging from the mountains they encountered Shaste (Shasta) Indians, who were friendly and eager for trade.  When Alfred Agate tried to draw portraits of them, they believed him to be a medicine man trying to place a charm on them.  The party soon reached the head of the Dangerous River, which fed into the Sacramento River, which they generally followed south to their rendezvous point, going east of it when the terrain was easier.  They arrived at John Sutter’s “New Helvetia” settlement on 19 October.  At this time it was a thriving agricultural settlement, a few years before of the discovery of gold, which would change its history forever.  Later, surveying data gathered by the party would be useful to prospectors making their way to the California central valley.  At this point, the party split.  A launch from Vincennes took the sickest, including Lieutenant Emmons and Alfred Agate, from a nearby point on the Sacramento River to the ship in San Francisco harbor, making the journey in five days.  The rest of the party continued on foot under Midshipman Eld’s leadership and arrived at Yerba Buena (the early name for the city of San Francisco) on 28 October.  They had not shaved in many days and were dirty and clad in buckskins, giving everyone the impression that they were a party of trappers.  Eld recorded how one man there persisted in speaking Spanish to him, refusing to believe he was an American.  Their faithful horses were sold at a public auction – a painful scene to the travelers – and then the explorers re-embarked on their ships.

 

The expedition set off from San Francisco Harbor on 31 October.  The loss of Peacock and the addition of Oregon necessitated a reorganization of the officers, crewmen, and scientifics.  Alfred Agate found himself assigned to Vincennes.  They sailed quickly for Hawaii in order to acquire replacement supplies for the things they had lost on Peacock, arriving on 17 November and staying only a brief ten days.  There they saw their first Japanese and Agate made sketches of them.  On leaving Hawaii, Vincennes and Flying Fish went in search of Strong’s and Ascension Islands, which Wilkes believed it was particularly important to locate accurately, and he sent Porpoise and Oregon to investigate the currents off the coast of Japan, which he believed would be similar to the Gulf Stream in the Atlantic.  Their rendezvous point would be Singapore.

 

Japanese Man

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-FQ

 

Japanese Man

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-FR

 

Flying Fish, which had greatly deteriorated through the voyage, was almost to the point of being unable to continue.  To continue his explorations at an expeditious pace, Wilkes gave the ship the task of surveying Strong’s and Ascension Islands while he pressed on with the rest of his agenda.  He surveyed several other western Pacific islands, including Wake and the Marianas, and rejoined with Flying Fish at Manila on 13 December.

 

Wake Island, 20 December 1841

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-A (front)

 

Wake Island, 20 December 1841

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-A (back)

 

Wilkes made an extended study at Manila, even sending scientific parties inland.  The islands had great potential for trade in a variety of goods: abaca hemp, indigo, cotton, coffee, sugar cane, and tobacco.  For the latter, Wilkes noticed the enjoyment of cigars was so great that joss sticks were kept burning in many rooms just to light them.  Still a Spanish colony, the government kept a tight control on local affairs, though there seemed to be constant revolts in the countryside among the several groups of native peoples.

 

Islanders of Luzon

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-AV

 

Manila Philippine Islands

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-BK 

 

Manila Cottage

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-BL 

 

1842

 

 

Vincennes and Flying Fish left Manila on 21 January in order to chart as much of the Sooloo (Sulu) Sea and its islands as possible.  Time was running out for the expedition.  At their stop in the Hawaiian Islands in the fall of 1840, Wilkes had promised his crew to return to the United States by 31 May 1842.  The scientifics went ashore on several islands, including Panay, Mindanao, and Sooloo, but surveying was again the primary interest.  The Sultan of Sooloo had sent word to the United States that he was interested in a closer trading relationship, so Wilkes made a particular study of its economic potential.  Sultan Mohamed Damaliel Kisand (Jamal ul-Kiram I) and Wilkes signed a trade treaty on 5 February guaranteeing protection for American ships.  Vincennes then departed to investigate other islands on its way to Singapore, which it reached on 19 February to find the other ships of the squadron waiting.  Oregon and Porpoise had arrived on 19 January to find U.S.S. Constellation and Boston there on station as the East India squadron.

 

Sooloo Islander, Philippine Islands

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-AZ 

 

Sooloo Town

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-GP 

 

Singapore was the major port at the gateway between what was deemed to be between east and west, open to all commerce without tariff, and governed by the East India Company.  The city teemed with people from a variety of cultures, religions, and languages, who lived together, for the most part, in peace.  The United States Consul was Mr. Joseph Balestier, an acquaintance of Wilkes, having met him in Washington prior to his posting.  Wilkes had assisted Balestier with all the information he had on the region, including a copy of the best map he had at the time.  Balestier now repaid Wilkes’ kindness by introducing him to the cultures of Singapore.  Wilkes recorded his impressions of the culture and practices of the Chinese, Shiite and Sunni Moslems of eastern and western rites, Africans, Armenians, and “Hindoos” – a term which Wilkes used to denote a native of India.  For the faith of Hinduism, Wilkes used a common term of the era, “Gentoo.”  Among the many sights of the city, Wilkes observed what he believed was one of the most disgusting scenes of the entire voyage, an opium den.  After describing the horrific effects the drug had on its users, he insightfully noted how some of those who knew its effects and condemned its use engaged in and defended its trade.

 

A Man from Singapore

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-BM (front) 

 

A Man From Singapore

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-BM (front)

 

Gentoo (Hindu) Monument, or

Monument In the Shape Of a Lotus Blossom In a Hindu Cemetery Outside Singapore

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-EY

 

Flying Fish had been experiencing worsening structural trouble since its departure from San Francisco, and Wilkes had determined to sell it at Singapore, after it had completed its use to him as a survey vessel.  The men of the squadron viewed service on it as a hardship, though they retained a sentimental attachment to it.  Wilkes formed an inspection team, which reported that it would not withstand the final leg of the homeward voyage, so he reluctantly asked Mr. Balestier to advertise it for sale.  It brought three thousand seven hundred dollars and Wilkes distributed its crew among the remaining ships. 

 

Wilkes notes on the culture of Singapore are so extensive and perceptive that it is hard to believe that Vincennes was in the port only a week.  Three years of exploration seems to have only sharpened his perception.  After departure from the city, the primary survey work of the expedition was completed and the ships were homeward bound, making only the surveys and stops that were convenient or necessary for re-supply.  The crewmen pursued their duties with zeal, wanting to return home as fast as wind and current could carry them.  The men of Porpoise and Oregon, however, had their cheer lessened when Wilkes ordered that they would proceed to Rio de Janeiro after leaving the Cape of Good Hope and St. Helena Island, in order to make some final experiments there.  The men resented this, considering it a fool’s errand that would allow Wilkes to arrive home first and receive the accolades that should be shared by all.

 

On 23 March, at sea in the Indian Ocean, Master’s Mate Benjamin Vanderford died.  Having had merchant ship experience in the Samoan Islands and some residence there before joining the Navy, he was the only man who could converse with Vendovi.  Afterwards, Vendovi’s health began to fail him.

 

Vincennes arrived at Cape Town on 13 April in order to buy bread, which was unavailable at Singapore.  Wheat was one of the main exports of the Cape of Good Hope colony, along with wines, fruit, vegetable oils, and other foodstuffs.  Here the expeditionaries were able to see Africans who had not abducted from their homeland, and as usual, Wilkes made notes on the various tribes, including Hottentots and Caffres.  They had seen enslaved Caffres at the beginning of their voyage in Rio de Janeiro.

 

Hottentot from Capetown

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-BZ

 

Hottentot from Capetown

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink and pencil

98-89-CA 

 

Capetown Cart

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil and watercolor

98-89-AM

 

As Vincennes departed Cape Town on the 17th, the crew saw a mirage of a sailing ship in the distance, refracted horizontally and vertically, which was caused by a temperature inversion.  At the time Wilkes noted that the temperature was 59°F on the deck and 73°F aloft in the mainmast.  They had observed a similar phenomena when near Cape Horn, but not as distinct.

 

Mirage of sailing ship off Cape Town

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-BH 

 

Vincennes spent 30 April at St. Helena, arriving and departing the same day, and found that Porpoise and Oregon had already come and gone.  There were, however, other Navy ships in the harbor that gave them news from home.  Expecting to be more impressed with the island that had imprisoned Emperor Napoleon, Wilkes was disappointed with its barrenness.  He and a party ventured out to see Napoleon’s house, Longwood, and his tomb, the site of which had been selected by the Emperor himself, but had been emptied two years before when the French took him for re-interment in Paris.

 

The day of water replenishment at St. Helena was Vincennes’ last sight of land before crossing the Atlantic.  It arrived at New York on 10 June 1842 in the afternoon.  Wilkes called his crew together, thanked them for their service, and then hauled down his pennant and turned command of the ship over to Captain Hudson, who took the ship to Brooklyn Navy Yard and dismissed the crew.  Oregon arrived on 29 June and Porpoise on 2 July, when their crews were similarly dismissed.

 

Wilkes hoped that the voyage would bring accolades to him and his men, but through news and communications received from the United States knew that he might have difficulty on his return.  The government administration had changed hands from the Democratic to the Whig Party in the last election, and the Whigs were indifferent to the expedition.  Also, those who returned early from the expedition – the crew of Relief, Joseph Couthouy, Horatio Hale and others – told harrowing tales of Wilkes’ tyrannical temper.  Wilkes received a cool reception when he presented himself to Secretary of the Navy Abel Upshur and President John Tyler, but the tenacious spirit that brought him through four years of leading the expedition now turned to the task of fighting for its just recognition.  Wilkes soon received an order from the Secretary to turn in all specimens and records, but believing it to be a sure consignment to oblivion, took the order to acquaintances in Congress who established a Joint Committee of the Library, which oversaw what is now known as the Library of Congress.  The Joint Committee charged Wilkes with overseeing the writing and publication of the narrative of the expedition and its scientific reports.  Wilkes was also brought before a court martial to answer charges of illegal punishment and scandalous conduct relating specifically to assuming the uniform and style of captain without a promotion and changing the Antarctic discovery logs to be able to supersede the French claim to discovery.  The trial was more of an opportunity for revenge by the discontents of the voyage, by being able to tell tales of Wilkes’ temper in a public forum.  But Wilkes also had defenders who attested to his hard work and zeal for the success of the expedition.  In the end he was convicted of two charges of improper punishment and sentenced to a public reprimand by the Secretary of the Navy.  It was a light sentence, but it wounded Wilkes’ pride.

 

Wilkes now set to work writing the narrative of the voyage, a task in which he drove himself as hard as when at sea.  It was published in five volumes in 1844, less than two years after the expedition’s return.  To illustrate it, he had the assistance of Joseph Drayton and Alfred Agate, who settled in Washington.  Agate also contributed some drawings to a book called “Thulia,” an epic poem which was based on the adventures of the Flying Fish on the first Antarctic voyage.  The book also contained a poem called “The Bridal Rose,” which was based on some adventures of Peacock.  Both were written by James Croxall Palmer, an acting surgeon on the expedition who had served on the same ships on which Agate had, and probably tended him through some of his bouts of sickness.  Following the publication of the expedition report, some of the incidental drawings were returned to Agate, but some, especially scientific drawings of specimens became property of the U.S. government or went to other repositories of the expedition’s collections.  Those returned to Agate are the source of this exhibition.

 

Flying Fish

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-EQ 

 

Agate’s health continued to decline after his return from the expedition, but it did not prevent his marriage in September1845 to Miss Elizabeth Hill Kennedy.  The marriage was short-lived, however.  Agate died of consumption in January 1846 just a month short of his 34th birthday.

 

Charles Wilkes remained in the Navy, working in Washington on the publication of the scientific reports of the Expedition.  By 1861, when he was detached from that duty to serve in the Union Navy in the Civil War, 18 volumes, including the five-volume narrative of the expedition, had been published.  An additional five scientific volumes were never completed, including Wilkes’ volume on Physics.  During those years he received two promotions, first to commander in 1843 and then captain in 1855.  His activities during the Civil War were both famous and infamous and he ended his Naval career in 1864 after being convicted of insubordination in another court martial following his publication of derogatory remarks about Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles.  After a year’s suspension he was promoted to Rear Admiral on the retired list.  He spent most of his remaining years trying to get the final volumes of the United States Exploration Expedition’s report published, but failed.  He died in 1877.

 

Miscellaneous additional artworks in the Agate Collection:

 

Mountain Sunset

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-DO

 

Unidentified Men

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-DP 

 

Study of a Person Reading

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-DQ 

 

Portrait of a Young Woman

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-DR 

 

Well House

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-DS 

 

Boat in the Surf

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor, ink, and pencil

98-89-DT 

 

Landscape of a Ranch

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-DU 

 

Female Nude

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DV 

 

Man Standing on River Edge in Woods

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-DX

 

Still Life of Flowers

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil and ink

98-89-DY

 

Domed Structure

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-DZ

 

Landscape of a Big Rock

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EB

 

Portrait of a Girl

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-ED

 

Portrait of a Woman

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EE

 

Two Men Looking at the Sea

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-EF

 

Old Tree

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-EG (front)

 

Man Seated at Table, Another Man Standing in Front of Him

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink

98-89-EG (reverse)

 

Portrait of an Old Woman

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-EH

 

Village on the Sea Shore

By Alfred T. Agate

Engraving

98-89-EI (front)

 

Sketches including a Tent Camp and Men on Horseback

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EI (back)

 

Red House

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on paper

98-89-EK

 

Male Nude

By Alfred T. Agate

Charcoal

98-89-EN (front)

 

Seated Male Nude

By Alfred T. Agate

Charcoal and pencil

98-89-EN (back)

 

Three Portraits

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-EO

 

Study of a Fisherman in a Landscape

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EP

 

Study of a Landscape with Trees

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-ER

 

Storming a Fort

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EC

 

Storming a Fort

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EL

 

Two similar images of what appear to be Spanish conquistadors storming a breach in a stockade wall.

 

Study of a Mass

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-ET (front)

 

Priest and Native Americans

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-ET (back)

 

This is a harsh allegory depicting the subduing of Native Americans by a religious.  Agate may not have intended this as a positive image, as the explorers witnessed on several occasions the oppression of native peoples by missionaries.  In his narrative, Wilkes frequently criticized missionaries’ behavior, particularly where Catholic and Protestant missionaries clashed.  It is also possible that this image is related to a painting by Agate’s brother Frederick.  Frederick Agate was working in Rome in 1844 on an allegory of Jesuit missionary work in the American west when he was stricken with an illness that eventually resulted in his death.  

 

Male Nude and Classical Masks

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and ink

98-89-EU

 

Landscape of a Tree and Rock Formation

By Alfred T. Agate

Pencil

98-89-EW

 

Landscape with a White House

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-EX

 

Ship and Church

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor

98-89-EZ

 

Landscape of Mountains

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash and pencil

98-89-FA

 

Nude

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and ink

98-89-FC

 

Sketch Based on Portrait of Cardinal Bentivoglio by Anthony Van Dyck

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-FD

 

Untitled or Graveyard Over a Harbor

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-GG

 

The Beach

By Alfred T. Agate

Ink wash

98-89-HC

 

Double Portrait of a Man and a Woman

By Alfred T. Agate

Watercolor and pencil

98-89-HD

 

Seascape

By Alfred T. Agate

Oil on paper

98-89-HG 

 

Landscape of a Sailboat and House

By Watt

Pencil

98-89-FB

 

The Source of this drawing is unknown.

 

 

Treaty of Wanghsia (Wangxia)

First Treaty Between United States and China

 

Macau was the first Chinese port with a permanent western settlement, established in the mid-16th century.  Until the mid-20th century, Portugal claimed the island as an overseas colony, but during the centuries of occupation it remained an important contact point for western diplomats and the Chinese government.  In 1842, Great Britain acquired the colony of Hong Kong and trading privileges in five other ports on the coast of China in the Treaty of Nanking (Nanjing) following the Opium War.  In 1844, U.S. President John Tyler sent a mission under Caleb Cushing to negotiate for similar trading privileges, though not territory.  Cushing succeeded, concluding the Treaty of Wanghsia (Wangxia) at Macau on 3 July.

 

Chinese Graveyard on the Banks of Ningpo, October 2d, 1944

by Julius O. Montalant, 1844

Pencil

98-89-CO 

 

This cemetery is on level ground and has a few scrub trees scattered among the buildings, vaults, mounds, stone sacarphagi, and monuments.  It appears to be a more windswept location and less aesthetically organized than the cemetery depicted along the Canton River.

 

Chinese Graveyard (Canton River)

by Julius O. Montalant, 1844

Pencil

98-89-CP 

 

This burial ground along the Canton River consists of terraced hillsides and occasional structures that appear to be vaults dug into the slopes.  Montalant seems to have included a self portrait with a comrade at the right side.  He sits on a low stump or monument, head bent over his sketchpad.

 

Cameen’s Cave, Macao (Camoes Grotto, Macau)

by Julius O. Montalant, circa 1844

Pencil

98-89-DF 

 

This site is named for Luis Vaz de Comoes (1528-1580), a Portuguese adventurer and poet.  For a time during his tempestuous career he lived in Macau, reportedly in this cave.  During his stay he penned his epic poem, “Os Lusiadas,” a pre-eminent classic of Portuguese literature.

 

Temple of A-Ma, Macao

by Julius O. Montalant, 1844

Pencil98-89-L 

 

This is a depiction of the temple of A-Ma in Macao, more than 500 years old and the oldest temple in the city.  It is for this goddess that the city of Macau is named, originally derived from the phrase “A Ma Gau,” or A-Ma Bay.  The boat model is an emblem of the goddess as the patroness of sailors.  The source for the penciled title “Thos House” is unknown and is deemed to be an error.

 

Falls of Wai Tanga (Bay of Islands), The Weeping Water

by Julius O. Montalant, 9 March 1945

Pencil

98-89-CH 

 

This is a waterfall at the Bay of Islands at the north end of the North Island of New Zealand.  The modern name for these falls is Haruru, which means “big roar” in Maori.  The European colonists called them and the surrounding area Waitangi, which is Maori for “weeping water.”  That name survives as the name of the river that feeds the falls.

 

Julius O. Montalant (1823-1878) A native of Norfolk, Virginia, Montalant served as a non-combatant clerk on board U.S.S. St. Louis some time between 1841 and 1845.  His time with the ship corresponds to its deployment to the East India Squadron, stationed at Macau.  The ship was present in that place at the time of the signing of the Treaty of Wangxia.  He traveled extensively during his lifetime, making many sketches of the places he visited.  In his later years he lived in Rome, where he died in 1878.

 

 

 

Treaty of Kanagawa

First Treaty Between United States and Japan

 

Having acquired west coast territory and ports in the aftermath of the War with Mexico in 1848, the United States wanted to expand trade in the Pacific rim.  Stories of the wealth of Japan had always attracted merchants of the west, who in the late 18th and early 19th centuries had unsuccessfully tried to force their ways into Japanese ports.  In 1853, the United States mounted an effort under Commodore Matthew Calbraith Perry.  Perry sailed into Tokyo Bay in July 1853 and presented a message from President John Tyler requesting trade relations.  He then withdrew for six months, returning the following January for an answer.  Recognizing that they could not maintain their separation, the Japanese government agreed to a treaty, which was signed at Kanagawa on 31 March 1854.    

 

Loo Rock, Madeira

by Wilhelm Heine

Watercolor

98-89-EJ 

 

The name Loo Rock was given to the islet on which the fort protecting Funchal port stood by Captain James Cook on his visit to Madeira in 1768.  It is a probably a misunderstanding of the Portuguese word for island, which is “ilheu.”  The proper name of islet is Ilheu Nossa Senhora da Conceicao.  In the foreground and to the left is the town of Funchal.  The town is connected to the fort by a causeway across lower rock formations that lead to a gateway.  At the far right, just beyond the rocks, Perry’s ships are anchored, Funchal being their first port after departing the United States.

 

Peter Bernard Wilhelm Heine (1827-1885)  Born in Dresden, Germany, Heine received his training at the Dresden Academy.  He emigrated   Between 1853 and 1854 he served as an artist on the Naval Expedition to Japan led by Matthew Calbraith Perry.

 

Family at Honolulu, Oahu, Sandwich Islands

By W. T. Peters

Watercolor

98-89-BT 

 

Following the signing of the Treaty of Kanagawa, Matthew Perry returned to Washington by an overland route to the west, leaving his men and the ships of his squadron to sail east across the Pacific and around Cape Horn to return home.  This drawing is probably a result of the stop for re-supply at Honolulu.  A man leans against a fence while a woman holds a child.  In the background is a house with a thatched roof.

 

W. T. Peters (active second half 19th century)  In his introduction to the edited version of “The Personal Journal of Commodore Matthew C. Perry,” naval historian Samuel Elliot Morrison cites W. T. Peters as a “rather obscure” New York artist who was contracted to make drawings from daugerrotypes taken by Eliphalet Brown, Jr., an artist and photographer who accompanied the Perry Expedition to Japan.  Peters is credited on some of the lithographs published depicting the expedition, and the name also appears on illustrations in popular magazines of the late 19th century.

 

 

Japanese Chess (Shogi)

by William Speiden, Jr.

Ink

98-89-HE

 

A single lined sheet of paper (light blue in color) folded leaflet style on which is handwritten the instructions for a game.  The leaflet is titled “Japanese Game of Shahogi” and is signed “Wm Speiden Jr”, though its text is copied from information acquired Dr. D. S. Green, the ship’s surgeon.  The members of Perry’s expedition eagerly sought information on Japanese science, government, and culture.

 

William Speiden, Jr. was an assistant purser on Perry’s mission to Japan.  He kept a journal of the voyage, which is now preserved in the Library of Congress.

 

Reproduction of Japanese Print, or, Ancient Legerdemain

Unknown artist

Engraving

98-89-EM

 

On the return of Perry’s expedition to the United States and following the conclusion of similar treaties by Great Britain and other western nations over the next few years, westerners became fascinated by all aspects of Japanese culture.  This a reproduction of a Japanese woodblock print that was published in a book of the late 19th century.  The man in the picture appears to be performing magic in front of two men, one of whom is seated on the floor and the other seems to have his outstretched arms tied to a crossbeam.  Besides referring to the image as legerdemain, the added pencil note calls the picture “flower seed raising.”  This source of this inference is unknown.