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Two Lives Aboard the USS Nantucket

Join us at the Library next Wednesday May 4, 2011 at noon for our next Secrets in the Stacks. This month’s presentation will feature two journals kept by sailors who served on the ironclad monitor Nantucket during the Civil War.

First we will look at the journal of Walter Jacobs, a Union sailor during the Civil War. A recent acquisition, Jacobs’ journal covers the time period of August 1863 to December 1864, during which he served on two ships: the screw steamer Flambeau and the Passaic-class monitorNantucket. Jacobs served on the ironclad from February 1864 to December 1864. Besides accounts of naval action, Jacobs offers rich detail on life aboard Civil War ships and ironclads, as well as a sailor’s opinion on everything from the Union war effort to politics to African Americans serving in the Union navy and army.

Paired with Jacobs’ journal, will be the journal of John C. Beaumont, who was commander of the Nantucket from May 1863 to November 1863. A highlight of this journal are Beaumont’s entries during the bombardment of Battery Wagner on Morris Island outside Charleston Harbor in July 1863. Under his command, the Nantucket attempted to silence the guns at Wagner leading up to the famous assault by the 54th Massachusetts, seen famously in the movie Glory.

Beaumont’s journal offers a unique comparison with that of Jacobs. Besides one being from a career naval officer and the other from a volunteer enlisted man, the journals present a stark contrast in style and content. Whereas Jacobs writes very personal accounts rich with detail and often humorous anecdotes, Beaumont writes detailed,but very concise, business-like entries. While the journals do not overlap in time period, they do provide a fairly continuous account of the service of the Nantucket from May 1863 to December 1864. Paired side-by-side, both complement each other and offer a unique look at life on a Civil War ironclad. See you at the Library!

USS Nantucket in a post-Civil War image.

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