SAM CHAMBERS 1802 ORIGINAL MANUSCRIPT STAMPLESS FOLDED LETTER HANDWRITTEN BY A VOYAGER ON THE FAMED USS CONSTELLATION DURING THE FIRST BARBARY WAR AND EARLY UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS [USMC] CONTENT
LEGHORN LIVORNO ITALY 1802 Very Good+ Manuscript
On offer is a superb, original folded, stampless letter dated Leghorn Italy October 17, 1802 handwritten by Sam Chambers addressed to Gideon Lamson, Merchant Exeter, New Hampshire. This is a very early United States Marine Corps [USMC] and the First Barbary War related item. The writer describes and makes mention in this excellent letter of the Marine Corps written who were working in Tripoli, war with Tripoli, the ship notes ship the USS Constellation, and a duel, in which the Marine Captain was shot dead a day after Chamber's arrival. Here are some snippets: "I arrived here the 12th after a passage of fifty six days from Gibralter; had to stop in Sardinia for water; the ship leaks, and has done the whole voyage; has made from 15-20 inches of water every 2 hours. We hear of no more captures by the Tripolitans except the Brig Franklin of Phila…" [Research confirms a duel was fought on the 13th between the Captain of Marines, and the 2nd Lieutenant of the Constellation, in which the former Captain Mcknite was shot dead on the spot.] The folded letter has a very fine black New York clam shell, and mss sh42 - 2 x 20 rate, plus 2ct ship Captain's fee. Small loss at opening of the seal. HISTORICAL NOTES: The USS Constellation was one of the original six  frigates of the United States Navy. The Constellation convoyed American merchantmen at the outset (June through August 1798), before sailing for the West Indies to protect United States' commerce in those waters. Under the command of Captain Truxtun, she sailed for the Caribbean in December 1798. Subsequently, on 9 February 1799 she received her baptism of fire in capturing the French 40-gun frigate L'Insurgente in battle off Nevis, West Indies, in a hard fought victory, and bringing her prize into port. In succeeding months, she also encountered and seized two French privateers, Diligent and Union. After a brief voyage under Captain Samuel Barron, Constellation, commanded again by Truxtun, sailed in December 1799 for the West Indies. On the evening of 1 February 1800 she engaged the French 52-gun frigate Vengeance in a lengthy, furious battle. Although Vengeance twice struck her colors and was close to sinking, she was able to utilize the cover of darkness to escape from Constellation which, disabled by the loss of her mainmast, proved unable to pursue. More success came to her in May 1800 when she recaptured three American merchantmen. At the end of the Quasi-War with France, Constellation returned to home waters, where misfortune awaited her. Anchoring in Delaware Bay on 10 April 1801, the ship was caught in winds and an ebb tide that laid her over on her beam ends, occasioning extensive repairs. Sailing with the squadron of Commodore Robert Morris, and later, with that of Commodores Samuel Barron and John Rodgers, Constellation served in the blockade of Tripoli in May 1802. She cruised widely throughout the Mediterranean in 1804 to show the flag in demonstration of United States sea-power; evacuated in June 1805 a contingent of U.S. Marines, as well as diplomatic personages, from Derne at the conclusion of a remarkable fleet-shore operation against Tripoli; and took part in a squadron movement against Tunis that culminated in peace terms in August 1805. Constellation returned to the States in November 1805, mooring at Washington where she later was placed until 1812. Constellation underwent extensive repairs at Washington in 1812-13, and with the advent of war with England, Constellation, commanded by Captain Charles Stewart, was dispatched to Hampton Roads. In January 1813, shortly after her arrival she was effectively blockaded by an imposing British fleet. Unable to reach the open sea, her presence protected fortifications at Craney Island. In the wake of the War of 1812, naval action resumed against the Barbary powers that had enriched themselves considerably during the struggle with England. Constellation, attached to the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Stephen Decatur, sailed from New York on 20 May 1815 and joined in the capture of the Algerian frigate Mashuda on 17 June 1815. Treaties of peace soon ensued Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli. Constellation remained with the squadron under Commodores William Bainbridge, Isaac Chauncey, and John Shaw to enforce the accords, returning to Hampton Roads only in December 1817. VG.