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New Naval Records Added to Fold3!

Fold3 Image - Letter from Captain Stephen Decatur to Secretary of Navy Paul Hamilton requesting a court martial for seaman Daniel Dailey after he murdered fellow seaman William Brown.
This month, Fold3 is pleased to highlight two new collections of naval records we’ve added to our archives. The first collection is Letters Received by the Secretary of Navy (“Captains’ Letters”) dated 1805-1885. The second collection is Letters Received by the Secretary of the Navy from Commanding Officers of Squadrons between 1841-1886. These letters are in original manuscript form.

The Captains’ Letters collection is organized by year and contains correspondence from captains at sea to the Secretary of the Navy related to a variety of issues, including shipboard discipline, repairs of vessels, and conflicts with foreign governments. For example, this letter is from Captain Stephen Decatur. He was the youngest man to reach the rank of captain in the US Navy. In January 1812 he wrote to Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton requesting a court-martial for seaman Daniel Dailey. Dailey had strangled his fellow seaman, William Brown.

Another example is this letter from Captain Sam Evans. He informed Secretary of Navy Benjamin W. Crowninshield about a duel that had taken place in 1817 between Lt. Richard S. Heath of the USS Saranac and midshipman John D. Hopkins of the USS Enterprise, that resulted in the death of Heath.

In addition to captains’ letters, there are letters from the commandants of navy yards and shore facilities like this letter from Thomas Tingey of the Washington Navy Yard. It’s dated July 1805, and was sent to Congressman Charles W. Goldsborough to inform him that the heavy canvas needed to make sails for the brigs USS Hornet and USS Wasp was available.

Our second new collection contains correspondence from commanding officers of squadrons. This collection is organized by squadron location; date; and finally alphabetized by the author of the letter. In this letter from the James River Flotilla during the Civil War, Commander Maxwell Woodhull wrote to Commodore Charles Wilkes commending a gunner’s mate named John Merrett. Merrett was sick during an engagement at Harrison’s Landing, but managed to get out of bed and report to his station. There he bravely engaged and repelled the enemy, then collapsed from exhaustion and had to be carried to his hammock, where he almost died.

In 1864, the steamship USS Connecticut was part of the North Atlantic Blockade Squadron. In this letter to Rear Admiral Samuel P. Lee from May 1864, Captain John J. Almy described a dramatic four-hour chase to capture the English Steamer Minnie. To avoid capture, the Minnie dumped 40 bales of cotton, but she was still taken. She contained 540 bales of cotton, 25 tons of tobacco, 12 barrels of turpentine and $10,000 in gold, and was one of the most valuable prizes taken during the war. On board, they discovered Lt. Lincoln C. Leftwich of the Confederate Army. He was taken prisoner.

Come search these historic naval correspondence collections and other naval records, on Fold3!


  1. Bob Tinnell says:

    Does this content include Union Navy documents only, or are there some covering Confederate Navy documents as well? My ggf was the subject of communications between the Confederate Secretary of the Navy and his local commanding officer.

  2. anna says:

    I am trying to post a comment, but it says i am posting to quickly. Then it deletes my comment.

  3. anna says:

    Trying again.
    Is the material you are.posting different from that in the ORN?
    Thank you.

  4. Brionne says:

    WOW. So excited about these records! My (African American) 3rd great-uncle was in the Navy prior to the Civil War, so my fingers are crossed; just hoping to find something in the Captain’s Letters regarding his service

    • Monique Harris says:

      Is this from ancestry. Com I just signed up and this was sent to me , not sure why is it because of my background history

  5. Sylvia Morgan Auten says:

    Can I as the daughter of a CB in Okinawa request his miliary record??

    • Nichole Basham says:

      You are entitled as “next of kin” and as genealogist to request and receive miltary records.
      I was able to request my Father-in-law’s military records and received them, quite promptly.
      I use Snail Mail, and a written form. But you can also do your requests online.

  6. I am looking for info on people from Great Britain – Kelly, O’Neill, Collins, Rice, Kearney. Some records could be from Ireland or Scotland. Possibly Wales.

  7. Gloria Lamm says:

    Does Fold3 have deck logs for Naval ships stationed off the coast of VietNam in 1972? I am interested in the Eversole, DD789, for June-July, 1972.

  8. George Fassler Jr. says:

    Does Fold3 have a record of when a Japanese submarine surfaced and shot 25 shells at the oil refinery in Elwood California on February 23, 1942? One of the shells failed to explode. My Dad (George Fassler) was chosen as the best qualified to disarm it. I would like to find out more information about this day in History. There was an article in Life Magazine on March 9, 1942 that covered the shelling by the Japanese.
    My father was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Metal of Bravery by Frank Knox on behalf of the President on October 27, 1942.

  9. Looking for my ancestry. William Gray. Or his father Laurence Gray

  10. Jonathan Stockley says:

    I’m confused…
    Is Fold 3 all about military records from the USA or does it cover all countries? I want to research British and New Zealand records and can’t see whether or not Fold 3 will give me what I want.
    I receive regular promotional emails that always seem totally USA-centric. A couple of examples would be:
    – the above “New Naval Records Added to Fold3!” – these seem to be American records.
    – “The Civil War Home Front” – this refers to the American Civil War.
    Please stop assuming all your readers are from the USA and make your headlines and information clearer.
    Thank you.

    • Jonathan Stockley says:

      It’s 20 days since the first comment was left here and nobody has received a reply. This is not good enough.
      A simple answer to a simple question please Fold 3.

    • Wendy Andberg says:

      Take a look around, Jonathan. Go to: and select a war (icons are people’s heads) and then look at the list of records. You will see UK/British, New Zealand, Australia, Native American, and others.

      Alternatively, go to: Scroll down on the home page and you will see military records by war. Then look for what you want. The links are deep and rich–keep clicking on links.

  11. Don A. farrell says:

    I am an historian of the Mariana Islands. Do you have U.S. Naval communications with the Naval Commandant of Guam between 1899 and 1950, the years of naval administration?

  12. Jonathan Stockley says:

    Thank you Wendy. I have tried this but still can’t really understand to focus of Fold 3. It does seem largely USA focused. As an example of my clicks as you suggest, if I choose “Army Registers 1798 – 1969” the heading doesn’t say whether this is American Army or what it refers to. If I then choose 1918 I can’t view anything to know what I might find without Premium Membership. I guess I’ll just keep managing without Fold 3 and make do with what I can find.
    All I really needed to know is whether the focus of Fold 3 is American military records. If it is, I can give it a miss without being concerned I am missing out on a valuable resource.
    Thanks again.

    • Wendy says:

      Hi. Thanks for your note. I’m not a member, but here is what I think. Its wars in which the U..S. partipated, with additional records of allied service people from other countries. Its such a wonderful resource.

      Good luck with your sleuthing. Wendy