Escaping Today On The USS Iroquois
Around the World With the Blue Jackets
A welcoming voice floats across one hundred and eighteen years, transporting my sometimes over-burdened modern mind on a voyage of new discovery. This glimpse into the male mind of yesteryear, is a 360 degree change from the newest popular chick lit, I was reading just the day before.
Around the World with the Blue Jackets, is an antique book that was languishing on my bookshelves, waiting for me to take pity upon it, and discover for myself what it had to offer.
As a book collector and sometimes book seller, it had a lot of company while queuing up in a bid for my time. It's an autobiography of one former naval officer, Lieutenant Henry Eckford Rhoades, of the United States Navy's Engineer Corps.
It's as far of a journey from Stephanie Meyer's The Host, (the book I read the day before) as anyone could read. Although, the main character in The Host, probably visited as many new lands, as Lieutenant Rhoades did on the USS Iroquois. Both books are not on my usual menu of what I choose to read -- and that is what I liked about them.
Both books got me to thinking about authors then and now, and books then and now, and publishing then and now. Far too often, we get comfortable and stuck in reading only one or two genres of books. Sometimes it is just nice to escape today by stepping back.
If you'd like to read this wonderful book online, there is a website where it is available, at Internet Archive: American Libraries -- where you can view in a flip book style, PDF, or several other ways -- all for free.
So Who Was Lieutenant Henry E. Rhoades?
I stare at his black and white drawing found in that well illustrated book, and wonder who was Lieutenant Henry E. Rhoades?
Looks like he wants everyone to know that he served in the Civil War. Well, clearly he was an author, albeit apparently not a hugely successful one, as a background search on him, reveals only a few references to him, or his published book: Keep in mind, that the book is published almost seventeen years after the events that span from 1864 to 1873.
Around The World With The Blue Jackets (or How We Displayed The American Flag in Foreign Waters) by Lieutenant Henry E. Rhoades, Engineer Corps U.S.N., D. Lothrop Company, Washington Street opposite Bromfield, Boston, USA. Copyright 1890.
Yet, a closer look indicates that Lieutenant Rhoades came from a well-to-do family and may have been related to the ship building families of Eckford and Rhoades. While not high ranking at the time of his stories, he lived the privileged life of a naval officer.
Later, once his military career was over, there were a number of high society social references to him in the company of notable people of his day, such as Horace Greely.
Inside This Antique Book
With no mention of specific dates in terms of what year, he largely only talks of the ports that they travelled to, what they saw on land, and the routes that they took. However, his book clearly spans the period of time from when C.R.P. Rogers took command of the USS Iroquois (1864), followed by Commander Earl English.
At sometime in 1868 while in Japan, he is transferred off the Iroquois ordering him home for other duty. Once in the states, he is sent southbound on-board the sloop-of-war USS Ossipee, and around the Cape of Horn, and back to New York. Combined, this was a total of three years at sea.
Then, the author concludes his adventures when he volunteers to be assigned on board the wooden steamer sloop-of-war USS Juniata, in the spring of 1873 to go north in search of nineteen missing people, from the ill fated expedition of Captain Hall, and the USS Polaris. The Juniata was assisting the USS Tigress in trying to find the survivors and went as far north as Upernavik, above Godhaven, Greenland.
Under the command of Captain D. L. Braine, he was so excited about this endeavor, that the book concludes with him immediately volunteering for other thrill seeking north pole adventures when they returned on November 1, 1873.
This leaves you wondering -- if there was a sequel to the book, and what other adventures did he have in the next fifty-nine years of his life?
Books in the 1890s
Peeking back in time, I was struck by the fact that many were looking for a media to tell their stories, like the Lieutenant. Books like his -- gave others a glimpse into worlds, they couldn't even begin to imagine. Some of what he wrote of:
- The sultan's harem
- Dancing girls
- Hindu women
- Hashish smokers
- The Chinese theater
- Customs of the various ports he visited
- Japanese gardens
- Inca ruins
Moreover, in a time before photographs were common place, his book was heavily illustrated in expertly drawn illustrations. There is no mention of who the artist was (though I doubt it may have him).
At the time that his book came out, he was competing with the newly released:
- Poems by Emily Dickinson
- A Hazard of New Fortunes
- How the Other Half Lives
- Tales of New England
It was also a time period in American publishing where travelogues and war stories from those who survived "The Great Rebellion" as he referred to the Civil War, were hugely popular.
Naval Ship Commanders of the USS Iroquois
- J. S. Palmer (1859 to 1862)
- Henry Roland (1863)
- Christopher Raymond Perry Rodgers (1864 - 1865)
- Earl English (1867-1870)
- H.A. Adams (1871-1874)
- J. H. Sands (1874-1892)
- Charles Pond (1898 -1899)
The USS Iroquois
Most of the book centers around Lieutenant Henry Rhoades' experiences as an officer on-board the USS Iroquois, a United States steam sloop-of-war (the first ship with that name). A sloop-of-war is a small sailing warship that typically escorts larger warships, with a single gun deck, housing a number of cannons up to eighteen guns.
Her first Commander, J. S. Palmer took first her into naval ship history during a time of great political unrest in Europe, in the winter of 1859. Soon, though the ship was on it's way back, as the impending Civil War dictated the ship's need here in America.
She was an important naval ship tool for the North throughout the Civil War. The USS Iroquois aided in the attacks made in the surrender of New Orleans and subsequently, Baton Rouge. The Iroquois and her crew also participated in the siege and blockade of Vicksburg,
Amazingly, the USS Iroquois survived the action effectively untouched, and shortly later, would return to the Gulf of Mexico to assist in further blockades of needed Southern supplies. Unfortunately, the sloop-of-war developed problems with her boiler. She was forced to return to New York for repairs, and ended up being decommissioned in October 1862.
Three months later, with a new Commander, Henry Roland -- she went back into naval ship action in the blockading of North Carolina waters. Afterwards, the USS Iroquois again needed to be decommissioned for repairs in Baltimore.
After another four months, with still another new Commander, C.R.P. Rodgers -- the Iroquois searched voyaged from the Mediterranean to Singapore, around South America and across the Pacific and back again to New York, all within the span of sixteen months.
Under Commander Earl English, the Iroquois took part in a rescue operation in 1868 after Rear Admiral Henry H. Bell's boat overturned and twelve men drowned.
The next Commander was H. A. Adams. The USS Iroquois operated on both on the East Coast and with the Asiatic Fleet before she was decommissioned for repairs in 1874.
Following a long time in harbor, the Iroquois was next under command of J. H. Sands and patrolled South America, Hawaii, Australia, and the Pacific Islands and later part of the naval presence in Panama landing Marines.
In 1892 this sloop-of-war was decommissioned in 1892, then transferred to the Marine Hospital Service until 1898 under the command of Lt. Charles Pond. For a final brief six months she cruised the Pacific, then transferred back to the Marine Hospital Service.
In the end, her name was changed to the IONIC in 1904, and she was struck from the Navy's list of ships in August 1910, after fifty-one years of naval ship service.
Historic Photos U.S. Naval Academy
There's A Lot to Be Said For Collecting Old Books
I generally buy books at auctions and a host of other ways. If you are lucky enough to go to a lot of estate auctions, very often boxes of old books are inexpensive and a wonderful find. Many older books, and even some of the newer ones, can bring you a good profit in reselling them. The book in this hub, despite being old and worn has an approximate minimum value of $45.00. It came in a pallet of auctioned books (127 books in total) that I paid a total of $10.00 for.
Culling these books, for the ones that I wanted to keep for various reasons, I sold the remaining one hundred and two of them, for a profit of $600. The unsold books, like Around the World With the Blue Jackets, are both nice literary escapes and treasures from the past to be savored and learned from.