Title: Cap Device, Captain, Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright, USS Harriet Lane (1857)
Accession #: NHHC 2009-12-66
Size: 3 x 1.75
Medium: Fabric, Metal
Location: Headquarters Artifact Collection, Naval History and Heritage Command
One Civil War-era Captain cap device. The back is dark blue wool cut into a rounded rectangle. The device has one silver embroidered eagle above a foul anchor, surrounded by a gold embroidered wreath of oak leaf.
This cap device adheres to the regulations stipulated in the Navy Uniform Regulations of 1852. It purportedly belonged to Commander Jonathan Mayhew Wainwright II, Commanding Officer of the Union side-wheel steamer USS Harriet Lane.
In October 1862, the city of Galveston, TX fell to Union forces. Union ships, including Harriet Lane, anchored in Galveston Harbor as part of a blockade fleet. On 1 January 1863, Texas militia recaptured Galveston and turned the guns of the nearby forts on the Union fleet. Two Confederate ships arrived to harass the Union fleet. Though the Confederate ships were outnumbered, the CSS Bayou City managed to capture Harriet Lane. Commander Wainwright was killed during the fight. One Union ship was grounded and subsequently destroyed by the crew to prevent it falling into the enemy’s hands. The rest of the Union fleet survived and retreated to New Orleans.
This cap device was donated by the Wainwright family. According to family lore, this device was taken by a crewmember prior to abandoning ship and eventually returned to the family. If the family lore is true, it is unknown why a cap device for a Navy Captain was found on Commander Wainwright.