1802 Gibraltar letter American sailor (USS Essex?) to RI, Barbary War

$225.00 CAD

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Letter written at Gibraltar by Thomas Robinson an American sailor, to his dear friend back home Nathaniel Dana, a watchmaker in Providence Rhode Island. Thomas is very unhappy with his situation in life.

There is mention of a common acquaintance Acting Lieut. on the USS Essex, was this his ship?

American ships were at Gibraltar during the  First Barbary War (1801–1805), also known as the Tripolitan War and the Barbary Coast War, was the first of two Barbary Wars, in which the United States and Sweden fought against the four North African states known collectively as the "Barbary States". The cause of the U.S. participation was pirates from the Barbary States seizing American merchant ships and holding the crews for ransom, demanding the U.S. pay tribute to the Barbary rulers. United States President Thomas Jefferson refused to pay this tribute.

Gibraltar 5th June 1802
Dr Nat,
how often do I reflect my hard fate when I think how many happy hours I have spent in the bosom of friendship & now to torn from all I hold dear, & kept from ani part of the world to another. To undergo hardship & bear insults in every part, had I been brought up in lower situation of life from my infancy I should not have felt the – of fortune so keenly, or if I had you my Dr friend to unbosome my sorrows too it would have eased my heart of many burthens that I was forsed to smuther on my Own Breast for want of a Sincear Friend like you....
For I could do much better on show if I could conquer my dispositon for seeing all parts of world but I will --- your patience no longer though it is this consolation I am …..you will be surprised to hear that Bill Smith is now Acting Lieut. On board the Essex,  but did not know me (or would not) I know not which & I was too proud to court him to it. As I have sent particulars in my Brothers letter I think it --- hear. I am sorry we can’t corespond more regular but it must be so. I believe I shall never find any Friend like you who knows my heart & can make Allowances for my faults.  Oh that I was as happy as you are, you are blest with a sensible & agreeable partner who sooths all your Cares away & healthy children playing about you. With all your kindred & friends about you. But you don’t know the – you enjoy nor ever will till like me you have lost all & felt the – of fortune....Continue yr friendship with Jenny for my sake & give her yr advice in all things for she deserves your friendship & I hope she always will. Comfort my mother & her as well as you can till my return. Give my love & respects to poley & tell her I hope to see a young namesake& drink her & his & yours health in some --- at --- house in a few months from --- Give love to your Father Mother & sisters.... yr Sinre friend
Thomas  - Robinson

Addressed to:

Nath. Dana Jur
Watch maker
Providence RI
Fav’d by Mr Spellman

4 pages, 3 with text & 1 for address.

Toned, folds, tears. hole where seal was.

7 ¾"  x 6 ¼"



NATHANIEL DANA ( 1779-1830)

Married Providence, R. I., Apr.18, 1798, MARY BROWN. Silversmith and watchmaker He was a partner in 1803-1805 with Payton Dana in Providence RI as PAYTON & NATHAN DANA.



The first USS Essex of the United States Navy was a 36-gun or 32-gun sailing frigate that participated in the Quasi-War with France, the First Barbary War, and in the War of 1812.

Essex was armed with mostly short-range carronades that could not hope to match the range of 18- and 24-pounder naval guns. She was launched on 30 September 1799. 

With the United States involved in naval action against France on 6 January 1800, Essex, under the command of Captain Preble, departed Newport, Rhode Island, in company with Congress to rendezvous with a convoy of merchant ships returning from Batavia, Dutch East Indies. Shortly after commencement of her journey, Essex became the first US Naval ship to cross the Equator. Congress was dismasted only a few days out, and Essex was obliged to continue her voyage alone, making her mark as the first US man-of-war to double the Cape of Good Hope, both in March and in August 1800 prior to successfully completing her convoy mission in November.

Captain William Bainbridge commanded Essex on her second cruise, whereon she sailed to the Mediterranean with the squadron of Commodore Richard Dale. Dispatched to protect American trade and seamen against depredations by the Barbary pirates, the squadron arrived at Gibraltar on 1 July 1801 and spent the ensuing year convoying American merchantmen and blockading Tripolitan ships in their ports. Following repairs at the Washington Navy Yard in 1802, Essex resumed her duties in the Mediterranean under Captain James Barron in August 1804.