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Samuel R. Knox (1811-1883) Papers

Samuel R. Knox (1811-1883) Papers

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SAMUEL R. KNOX (1811-1883) PAPERS, 1828-1880

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Knox, Samuel R., 1811-1883
Title:Samuel R. Knox (1811-1883) Papers
Quantity:.5 Linear feet (1 box, 1 flat file)
Abstract:The Samuel R. Knox Papers contain correspondence, orders, and business records from Knox's service in the United States Navy, along with personal letters and papers.
Collection Number:MH 142

Series List

SERIES I. Early Naval Career and Surveying Expeditions
SERIES II. U.S. Exploring Expedition
SERIES III. Mid-period Naval Services
SERIES IV. Late Naval Career
SERIES V. Personal Correspondence and Papers

Scope and Content Note

The Samuel R. Knox Papers contain correspondence, orders, and business records from Knox's service in the United States Navy, along with personal letters and papers.

Series I. Early Naval Career and Surveying Expeditions includes papers from his voyages during this time aboard the U.S. frigate Guerriere (1828-1833), such as personal and naval correspondence and lists of officers. Letters regarding his furlough from the Navy and paid expedition for H. Boardman are included in this series (1835-1836). Documentation of his discharge from and reinstatement into the Navy (1836-1837) is contained in this series, as well as orders to Knox aboard the U.S. schooner Hadassah from Commander Charles Wilkes during the Georges Shoals Expedition (1837).

Series II. U.S. Exploring Expedition includes correspondence during the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-1842) including orders and remonstrations from Commander Charles Wilkes on the brigantine Dolphin, the tender Flying Fish, and U.S. ship Vincennes. Letters to brother Robert Knox, Jr. (1802-circa 1880) include descriptions of many elements of the trip, including the landscapes, weather, wildlife, and indigenous groups Knox encountered.

Series III. Mid-period Naval Services contains miscellaneous orders and lists regarding the U.S. ship Albany and nearby naval vessels and published documents regarding tariffs and trade during the Mexican-American War. Documentation of the U.S. Navy activities and officer opinions of the war can be found in letters (1846-1848) to his father Robert Knox, Sr. (1770-1857) and brother, Robert Knox, Jr. This series also includes orders from Commander Pinkney for the U.S. schooner Flirt (1847) as well as receipts and lists relating to Knox's time on the U.S. ship Cumberland and U.S. schooner Wasp (1848) and postwar correspondence with the U.S. Treasury Department regarding payment (1852-1853).

Series IV. Late Naval Career includes orders, bills, and lists from the U.S. ship Massachusetts (1849-1852) and his detachment from the U.S. receiving ship Ohio (1853). Letters to Robert Knox, Jr. contain family information and document voyages. Papers during his time as a Light House Inspector for the 2nd District in Boston (1853-1855) are mostly made up of bills and receipts for repairs. Of particular interest is correspondence with Hon. Daniel W. Gooch regarding payment for retired naval officers, reflective of promotions, including a potential lawsuit (1856-1867).

Series V. Personal Correspondence and Papers includes personal letters from sisters Helena Augusta Bainbridge Knox (1815-1880) and Elizabeth Barrett Knox (1807-circa 1880), as well as various acquaintances. Also included are mortgage and loan documents, architectural plans, and personal bills and receipts.

Biographical Sketch

Samuel R. Knox was born in 1811 Charlestown, Massachusetts, to Robert and Ann (Richardson) Knox. He was educated at the common and private schools of Boston and entered the United States Navy on April 1, 1828. He had a naval career that involved wartime service, several surveying expeditions, and onshore positions.

Knox initially served on the U.S. frigate Constitution and then was stationed on various ships, including the U.S. frigate Guerriere, in the Pacific until 1833. Knox took a brief furlough from the Navy for a surveying expedition for merchant H. Boardman from 1835 to 1837, which resulted in his discharge. He was reinstated and promoted to Midshipman in 1837, prior to beginning surveying work with Commander Charles Wilkes on the Georges Shoal. Knox then joined the United States Exploring Expedition in 1838. In 1841, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant, and after his return in 1842, was based at the Boston Navy Yard and then in the Mediterranean Sea aboard the U.S. ship Plymouth. From 1846 to 1848, Knox was stationed aboard the U.S. ship Albany near Veracruz, Mexico, where he also commanded smaller vessels during the Mexican-American War. He returned to the Boston Navy Yard in 1848, working on a receiving ship, and then commanded the U.S. steamer Massachusetts from 1849 to 1852, surveying the coasts of California and Oregon. Knox then acted as Lighthouse Inspector in the Boston area before retiring from the Navy in 1855. He returned to active duty during the Civil War, serving on the coasts of Florida and Texas as well as in the recruiting office. He was promoted after retirement to Captain in 1867, though he endured a lengthy legal battle to receive pay that reflected that promotion.

Throughout his onshore life, Knox lived in the Boston area. His family was based largely in Charlestown, and after retirement, he lived with his brother, Robert Knox, and sisters, Elizabeth and Ann Knox, in Everett, Massachusetts. He never married, and died on November 21, 1883.

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Gooch, Daniel W. (Daniel Wheelwright), 1820-1891
Knox, Elizabeth Barrett, 1807-c. 1880
Knox, Helena Augusta Bainbridge, 1815-188
Knox, Robert, 1770-1857
Knox, Robert, Jr., b. 1802
Knox, Samuel R., 1811-1883
Wilkes, Charles, 1798-1877
Albany (United States Ship)
Cumberland (United States Ship)
Dolphin (Ship)
Falmouth (United States Ship)
Flirt (Schooner)
Flying Fish (Tender)
Guerriere (United States Ship)
Hadassah (Schooner)
Massachusetts (United States Ship)
Oreto (CS Cruiser)
Peacock (United States Ship)
Rochambeau (Ship)
South Carolina (Steamer)
St. Louis (United States Ship)
Union (United States Ship)
United States. Navy
Vincennes (United States Ship)
Wasp (Schooner)
Wilkes Exploring Expedition (1838-1842)
Mexican War, 1846-1848--Naval operations
Ship's papers


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Samuel R. Knox (1811-1883) Papers, MH 142, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The material was a gift from the estate of John and James Phelps in 1948 (acc. #11,920).

Processing Information

Collection processed by Elizabeth Coup, October 2014.

Related Material


Hamersly, Lewis R. "Capt. Samuel R. Knox." Records of Living Officers of the U.S. Navy & Marine Corps: With a History of Naval Operations during the Rebellion of 1861-5, and a List of the Ships & Officers Participating in the Great Battles. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippinscott & Co., 1870.

Wilkes, Charles. Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy, 1798-1877. Eds., William James Morgan, David B. Tyler, Joye L. Leonhart and Mary F. Loughlin. Washington: Naval History Division, Dept . of the Navy: U.S. Govt. Print. Off., 1978.

"Capt. Samuel R. Knox, U.S.N." New England Historical & Genealogical Register, vol. 38 (1884). Boston: New England Historical Genealogical Society, 1884.

Related Collections

Knox Family Papers, 1826-1883, MH 143

Robert Knox, Sr. Papers 1837-1838, Acc 11,920

Robert Knox, Sr. Papers 1796-1875, MH 141

Robert Knox, Jr. Papers, 1818-1880, MH 140

Account book of Robert Knox, 1793-1818, MSS 1599

Albany (Ship) Journal, 1846-47; Wasp (Schooner) Logbook, 1848; Plymouth (Sloop of war) Journal and Logbook, 1844; kept by Samuel R. Knox, Log 1864

Flying Fish (Vessel) Logbook, 1840, kept by Samuel R. Knox, Log 1521

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