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Bluejackets in the Blubber Room

A Biography of the <i>William Badger,</i> 1828-1865

Peter Kurtz

Publication Year: 2012

Published by: The University of Alabama Press

Title Page, Copyright, Map, Dedication

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pp. vii-viii


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pp. ix-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

Michael Dyer, maritime curator, New Bedford Whaling Museum Research Library, for reviewing the accuracy of my whaling passages, providing insight into the George Bliss journal and Henry M. Bonney logbook, guiding me to the Charles Batchelder file, sharing his sharp analysis of whalers’ appreciation of Moby-Dick, and excavating the only known image of the William Badger. ...

Part I: The Ocean

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1. “The Building of Great Ships”

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pp. 3-6

The state of New Hampshire boasts a mere eighteen miles of Atlantic Ocean coastline. The Piscataqua River separates the state’s southeastern corner from Maine and empties into the Atlantic. On the southwestern corner of this juncture of river and ocean is Portsmouth, New Hampshire. ...

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2. The Master of Badger’s Island

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pp. 7-10

William Badger was born on May 26, 1752, in South Newmarket (now Newfields), New Hampshire. He was the eldest of six children of William Badger, a barber, and Anstisa Emerson Badger, and he descended from Englishman Giles Badger, who had immigrated to Massachusetts in 1634. ...

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3. The Wreck of the William Badger

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pp. 11-22

The maritime service of the William Badger can be easily separated into three phases. The first part of her life—her childhood and adolescence, as it were— comprised her service as a transient merchant ship, transporting raw materials within the “cotton triangle” between Portsmouth, the southern American states, ...

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4. The Town That Made Shoes

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pp. 23-31

Like Portsmouth, to the east of it, Lynn, Massachusetts, was not regarded as a whaling town. Its population in 1845 was approximately ten thousand. Located roughly ten miles north of metropolitan Boston, Lynn was a shoemaking center and transportation hub in the middle years of the nineteenth century. ...

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5. The Bonney Journal

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pp. 32-47

Though Herman Melville may have been exaggerating slightly with the above passage from Moby-Dick, it is true that the continent of Australia, known as New Holland in the 1840s, is inextricably linked with American whaling. U.S. whaleships directly contributed to the growth of Western Australian settlements in the nineteenth century. ...

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6. The Bliss Journal

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pp. 48-56

Andrews Breed and the minority owners were impressed with the Badger’s “catch,” for they appointed Augustus N. Perkins commander of the Badger’s next voyage, once again to the Western Australia grounds. George Bliss—Henry Bonney’s New Bedford neighbor—was promoted from second mate to first mate. ...

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7. Deck Wallopers and Blubber-Room Hands

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pp. 57-64

So goes the traditional sea shanty “Blow Ye Winds in the Morning.” And so went the William Badger, in 1853, to the town that had transformed itself into the ground zero of whaling. By 1853, New Bedford was the busiest whaling port in the world, fitting out nearly a hundred whaleships at a time. ...


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pp. 65-74

Part II: The Harbor

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8. Unfit for Service

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pp. 77-83

While the William Badger cruised for whales during the 1840s and 1850s, naval docks along the U.S. coast were crammed with wooden ships of comparable size, rigging, and structure—but of inferior craftsmanship—and they progressively deteriorated. A peacetime economy made Congress and the U.S. Navy lethargic with regard to the upkeep of naval ships. ...

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9. Hampton Roads Coal Hulk

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pp. 84-91

Her keel repaired and her coppering replaced, the William Badger—transformed sixteen years earlier from a merchant trader to a whaleship—now found herself once again made over, this time as a wartime storeship and coal hulk—the USS William Badger. Her red and white “candy stripes,” described by first mate Bliss as being painted on her hull ...

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10. “Contrabands of War”

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pp. 92-104

On August 5, 1861, Congress established the enlistment term for sailors at three years—the maximum term requested by Lincoln at the start of the war. At that time there were approximately 7,500 recruits already mustered into the navy, an abysmally small number. As late as July 1864 Congress was still struggling to encourage naval enlistment. ...

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11. The Capture of Beaufort

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pp. 105-111

Two hundred miles south of Hampton Roads lay Fort Macon, a Confederate defense works on the tip of the barrier island Bogue Banks, which guarded a series of shoals and channels into North Carolina called Beaufort Harbor. Beaufort Harbor was the state’s only deepwater ocean port.1 Much of the North Carolina coastline is rimmed by a string of barrier islands, ...

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12. “The Sound of the Last Trumpet”

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pp. 112-116

Until the war came to Beaufort, North Carolina, in 1862, the town had acquired a well-deserved reputation as a vacation destination for wealthy Southern planters, landowners, and aristocrats. Boating, bathing, and fishing were the chief activities of these out-of- towners, according to George H. Allen of the Fourth Rhode Island Volunteers, ...

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13. Wartime Storeship

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pp. 117-126

The Beaufort coaling station became much more organized once the permanent storeship William Badger arrived. Each station officer had a specific role in supplying the steamers off Wilmington. Acting Master Carr was responsible for overseeing the safekeeping of all stores in the harbor, inspecting new goods upon arrival, ...

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14. The Scandal

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pp. 127-134

Since its initial occupation by the Fourth Rhode Island Infantry in March 1862, Beaufort provided quarters for a large number of army personnel. A North Carolina company of Union volunteers was organized in Beaufort. Because they wore oversized, dark blue uniforms and moved together “in gangs like herds of buffalo,” ...

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15. The Fort Fisher Campaign

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pp. 135-140

The 132nd anniversary of the birth of George Washington, February 22, 1864, was celebrated in style in Beaufort Harbor. It was a day of shore liberty for bluejackets on the Release. This vessel was now tightly cabled to the other two floating storehouses in the harbor, the William Badger and Arletta, creating one large floating warehouse. ...

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16. The Last Watch

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pp. 141-144

When the port of Wilmington fell into Union hands, the number of vessels refueling at Beaufort dropped precipitously. By late January 1865, many of the colliers previously stationed at Beaufort Naval Station were transferred to Cape Fear, which by that time had become “hermetically sealed,” in the words of Rear Admiral Porter. ...

Appendix: Post–William Badger Profiles

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pp. 145-148


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pp. 149-170


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pp. 171-178


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pp. 179-190

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9780817386450
Print-ISBN-13: 9780817317799

Page Count: 192
Publication Year: 2012

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • William Badger (Ship).
  • Whaling ships -- New England.
  • Whaling -- History -- 19th century.
  • Merchant ships -- United States.
  • United States -- History -- Civil War, 1861-1865 -- Naval operations
  • Beaufort (N.C.) -- History, Naval.
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