A letter suggesting uniform improvements from a famous U.S. Navy explorer after his return to duty following a period of "insanity" Captain Cadwalader Ringgold.

A letter suggesting uniform improvements from a famous U.S. Navy explorer after his return to duty following a period of "insanity"

Washington, D.C. 1858. Unbound. In this letter, measuring 5” x 8” and dated “29th Dec’r 1858,” Ringgold provides suggestions to Ames, a major arms manufacturer, regarding the details of eagle devices, signifying the rank of captain, that attach to a naval officer’s epaulettes along with a promise to aggressively market the new devices to his fellow officers if they were produced.

The letter reads in part:

“I received your last furn. . . . containing the ornaments. They were improved, and I have but a single suggestion to offer and I am supported in this by Captain Golarburgh (probably Golarborough), a man of taste, that is to fan a little or spread the feathers of the tail to make the engraving of the feathers on it a little bolder. I applied the ornaments to my epaulettes, and they look first rate. . . . After I hear from you . . . I propose to submit the ornaments to the inspection of my friends among the Captains in each station inviting orders for them.”.

Very good. Item #008917

Between 1838 and 1842, Ringgold commanded the USS Porpoise and served as the third in command of the U. S. Exploring Expedition that explored and surveyed parts of Antarctica, the South American coast, the Tuamotu Islands, Tonga, New Zealand and the Northwest Pacific coast of North America.

During the expedition, the ships anchored of Fiji to arrest a local chief who had, several years prior, led his people in butchering and feasting upon the crew of a visiting American vessel. While there, two naval officers were murdered when bartering for food, and Ringgold led a reprisal raid that killed 80 Fijian warriors and razed two villages.

Despite the violence, the expedition was a resounding success and instrumental in the growth of American science; 280 islands were explored, over 800 miles of Oregon were mapped, more than 60,000 plant and bird specimen were collected, and 254 live plants were placed in a special greenhouse that later became the U.S. Botanic Garden.

Subsequently, Ringgold was promoted and in 1849 deployed to complete a definitive survey of San Francisco Bay just as the Gold Rush began. In 1853, he was placed in command of the Northern Pacific Exploring Expedition, and began to exhibit strange behavior while his five vessels were in China, and reports referencing his “insanity” reached Commodore Perry who convened a board of medical officers that found Ringgold “unfit for duty” and removed him from active duty.

Surprisingly, Ringgold recovered and, after a long procedural fight, was reinstated and stationed in Washington in 1858 where he was tasked with refining surveys from both the Exploring and Western Expeditions into usable navigation charts. He later served afloat and distinguished himself during the Civil War.

James T. Ames was the president of the Ames Manufacturing Company in Chicopee, Massachusetts, a giant arms manufacturer that produced artillery pieces, carbines, side arms, munitions, and, most famously, swords. Apparently, it also produced metal uniform accessories, possibly commercially or perhaps only as a favor for this distinguished officer.

Price: $200.00

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