1832: Andrew Allen Harwood to Sarah (Wood) Harwood

Andrew A. Harwood sits with his son, West Point Cadet Frank Harwood (1859)

The following letter was written by Andrew Allen Harwood, the son of John Edmund Harwood and Elizabeth Franklin Bache of Settle Farm, Bucks county, Pennsylvania. His maternal grandparents were Sarah Franklin Bache and Richard Bache. He was a great-grandson of Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States, and Deborah Read. He had his early education in local schools.

At the age of 16, Harwood was appointed a Midshipman in the Navy in 1818. From 1819 till 1821 he served in the West Indies on the sloop-of-war “Hornet” in the suppression of the African slave-trade. He was commissioned lieutenant in 1827 serving in the Mediterranean, and at the Philadelphia Navy Yard before being promoted to lieutenant in 1827 when he was appointed to USS Sea Gull, which was the receiving ship at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was detached as special messenger to bring home the ratified treaty with Naples, and from 1835 till 1837 served in the Mediterranean squadron. Two decades of further duty afloat and ashore, including a long assignment with the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography, were recognized with Commander’s rank in 1848. During 1852-1855 he made a Mediterranean deployment on the frigate Cumberland.

After 1855 Captain Harwood served in shore posts, among them a tour as Chief of the Bureau of Ordnance and Hydrography in 1858-1862. Promoted to Commodore in mid-1862, he was in charge of the Washington Navy Yard and the Potomac Flotilla until December 1863.

Commodore Harwood subsequently was appointed as a member of the Board of Examiners and Secretary of the Light House Board, remaining on the job in retired status from October 1864 onward. Beginning in 1869, when he was promoted to Rear Admiral on the Retired List, he held legal positions, concluding with a year as the Navy’s Judge Advocate in 1870-1871. During retirement he served as secretary of the light house board, and a member of the examining board from 1864 till 1869, when he was made rear-admiral on the retired list. During the civil war he prepared a work on “Summary Courts-Martial,” and published the “Law and Practice of United States Navy Courts-Martial” (1867).

Harwood wrote this 1832 letter to his first wife, Sarah Anne Wood (1801-1843), the mother of his children. Harwood’s children (still living in the 1850s) included Henry Wood Harwood (1829-1879), Elizabeth (“Bessie”) Franklin Harwood (1831-1892), Franklin (“Frank”) Harwood (1838-1883), and Sarah (“Sally”) Anne Harwood (1843-1911).

[See also—1853-54: Margaret (Luce) Harwood to Andrew Allen Harwood on Spared & Shared 11]

Painted by G.H. Preble who was midshipman aboard the United States. He wrote the following on the back of this watercolor, ‘U.S. Frigate, United States, in a gale of wind, 1832, called par excellence the Mycona Gale, being the heaviest gale of wind known in the Mediterranean the last 30 years and causing a rise of tide within the straits of several feet. The French line of battle ship Superbe was lost in endeavoring to weather the gale not having room to wear. The United States escaped the same fate by having room to wear and standing out between the islands of Andrea and Tino.’ (Maine Historical Society)


Stampless Cover bearing address: Mrs. Andrew A. Harwood, Care of Henry Wood, Esqr., Newport, United States of America

Frigate United States
Tunis Bay
December 14th 1832

My dear Sarah,

I am exceedingly well pleased to have any opportunity, however indirect, to write to you, for we have been so constantly on the go for the last two or three months that the chances of communication with home have indeed been few and far between. At present I am told there is a vessel about to sail for Marseilles and I am in hopes this will reach you in time to receive your answer at Mahon before we sail for the Archipelego in the spring.

After leaving Naples, we sailed for Messina (of which you have heard me say so much) and spent a week there very pleasantly—the inhabitants receiving us with much attention and the Consul and his lady opening their doors to us at all hours. From Messina we went to Syracuse where I had an opportunity of revisiting the antiquities which interested me so much in my former cruise and the pleasure of officiating as guide to my fiend Jones and some others who had not been there before.

After a weeks stay at this place we ran over to Malta where we were received with unbounded hospitality and had invitations to dine and for evening parties almost every evening we were there. It would require a special letter for each post were I to attempt to enter into any particulars so that I shall defer a more minute account of our movements from our sailing from New York until our arrival at winter quarters (which I hope will be in a week or two) until the sailing of one our own ships for home when I can may my budget as large as I please.

From Malta we sailed for Tripoli where the ship stood off and on the land until we could settle the differences between our Consul and the Pasha which occupied several days. The people of the town and its neighborhood are at war & the situation of Mr. [Daniel Smith] McCauley and his family has been very unsafe—several shot having passed directly through his house perforating both parlor and bedrooms and scattering the plaster and brick in every direction. I could hardly realize that he had been the husband of your old Philadelphia acquaintance, had so soon got a new wife [Frances Ann Jones, daughter of Hugh Jones of North Carolina] and strayed away with his little flock to so far a country. They were all sent to Malta in the Brandywine where they will stay until the spring at least or perhaps until the war between the Pasha and his rebellious relatives is concluded. You may expect a long account of the various audiences with the great mussulman [Muslims] when I can find leisure for the task.

From Tripoli we had quite a boisterous passage until our arrival at the island of Sicily under the lee of which we found smooth water and better weather for four or five days, when catching a fair breeze we made all sail again and arrived here on the 10th, glad enough to get clear of the pelting of the elements for a few days at least.

Streets of Tunisia

I have just returned from a visit to Tunis where I had the honor to shake hands with the Bey [of Tunis] & the pleasure of stepping from streets inconceivably filthy, dark, and shabby into the American consulate where we were entertained with a sumptuous dinner and found a delightful evening party of ladies to remind us of home and its much regretted comforts. The transition from the elegances to a wretched Italian inn was somewhat hard to realize. Fortunately we had fed well beforehand since we at least escaped a supper which if we may reason by analogy would have been terrific. Four were put to bed in a billiard table. The remaining seven and youre unfortunate husband among the number laid upon lumpy cotton mattresses and between damp sheets in the attic story. I began to wheeze forthwith and would have given a dollar for a bottle of Coxe’s Hive Syrup [for hives or croup], but fortunately my enemy—the asthma—did not make as heavy an attack upon me as I anticipated.

On my return to the ship, we had to cross the salt lake before we came to the Goletta as the castle is called which is situated at the bottom of the bay. We were overtaken by a sudden squall and although the water is not deep, the mud is and we were much indebted to our Genoese watermen who with considerable vociferation shortened sail and at length brought us safe to the castle but refused to carry us off to the ship for her value in gold & so we were obliged to take up our quarters for the night where we could. I was berthed in an improvised bed in the recess in the side of a room as large as a market, having a door towards the street like that of a barn. Boatmen were drinking & gaming at a small table opposite to where we had stretched our tired limbs and two infamous disciples of Orpheus were making war upon those of Morpheus by some obscene attempts at Hail Columbia & Yankee Doodle. Finding, however, we gave neither money or praise, they desisted and towards 10 o’clock to our great delight, all was quiet.

As usual I have attempted to write you an outline of our proceedings and have been betrayed into detail. I shall take a hint, however, from the smallness of my paper to squeeze as much of my important matter as I can in the remaining space. I employ almost all my intervals of leisure in studying Greek and am in hopes to prepare myself nearly for that change of profession which we have both desired so much by the time we return. At the same time, I leave it to the all wise disposition of Providence which has protected me and mine with continual blessing whether I shall leave my present state of life for one more congenial to my altered feelings and views. Pray with me, beloved Sarah, that all things which concern us may be ordered by His governance and righteous in His sight and that our private wishes may not interfere too much in my decision. Jones is assisting me and does not now oppose my views as at first he seemed inclined to do upon the score of my being of greater use in the Navy.

Remember, dear wife, to keep all my plans between ourselves as in all cases it is better to do when they do not concern others who may think me vacillating. For my own part I never felt half so inclined to be energetic in my life. Write by the Havre packet & direct to us. I told you in my last letter by the Concord, to the care of the American consul at Marseilles. Do not neglect any good opportunities which may offer by the Gibraltar vessels. We shall go, if nothing happens to Smyrna in the spring where you may remember excellent carpets are to be had. Mr. Todd, our purser, who is an old housekeeper tells me they are invaluable in nurseries and sitting rooms and wear better than any others. Shall I buy one large or two small ones? I think we can get one the size of our old carpet for about 30 dollars. Rugs which answer for table or sofa covers are also cheap. Let me know the state of our finances. What will be their probable state as I am too poor to purchase anything out of my economy. I shall not be fairly out of debt with great pain for two years at least. But I really believe a good carpet and a quarter cask of good Madeira wine would prove a profitable investment…Kiss our dear children many many times for me. Do not let them forget their Heavenly Father in your endeavors to remind them of their earthly one. In a few days I expect to hear from you for the first time. I trust God has blessed you and yours with health and you with fortitude. I pray He may ever continue to bless you.

— [Andrew A. Harewood]

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