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Charles Lacey Papers

Identifier: GTM-GAMMS242

Collection-level Scope and Content Note

The Charles Lacey Papers consist of seven letters dated between 1809 and 1814 received by Charles Lacey, an American naval officer during the War of 1812. Lacey's cash book dating to 1809-1810, which he used as a midshipman on board the U.S.S. "John Adams," is also preserved in this collection. Although they comprise but eight folders, the Charles Lacey Papers document some interesting incidents during the War of 1812, especially its naval aspects. The correspondence in the Lacey Papers contains numerous references to prominent American naval officers who served during the War of 1812. For example, one letter written in January 1814 describes the reception received by Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry (1785-1819) in New York City. That same letter mentions the arrival of Commodore Isaac Chauncey (1772-1840) in that city. News of the exploits of David Porter (1780-1843) and other sailors are reported to Lacey. Ample references to naval actions involving ships such as the U.S.S. "Congress," the U.S.S. "Constitution," the H.M.S. "Epervier," the U.S.S. "Frolic," the H.M.S. "Orpheus," the U.S.S. "Peacock," and the U.S.S. "President" are present. Not only is the domestic side of the war documented by mention of the embargo and economic conditions in Philadelphia and New York, but also war news from places including Fort Niagara is reported. Moreover, overseas fighting by Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington is mentioned. There is a fine commentary comparing the life of a seaman and a land soldier during the War of 1812.

ABBREVIATIONS: AM - Autograph Manuscript. ALS - Autograph Letter Signed.


  • 1809 - 1814

Collection-level Access Restrictions

Most manuscripts collections at the Georgetown University Booth Family Center for Special Collections are open to researchers; however, restrictions may apply to some collections. Collections stored off site require a minimum of three days for retrieval. For use of all manuscripts collections, researchers are advised to contact the Booth Family Center for Special Collections in advance of any visit.

Conditions Governing Use note

Status: Open access. Photocopies permitted. P

Biographical note

There appears to be no published information about Charles Lacey. The documents in this collection shed some light onto the man and sailor he was and the life he led. Lacey's cash book from the U.S.S. "John Adams" lists items he purchased and cities to which he travelled from April 1809 until July 1810. Launched in 1799, the U.S.S. "John Adams," a small frigate, was one of only 14 U.S. vessels ready for sea service at the outbreak of the War of 1812. At least one of the letters retained in this collection was sent to Lacey while he was serving on board that vessel, and references to it are made in several other letters. Lacey served as a midshipman on the "John Adams." Lacey also served as a midshipman on board the U.S.S. "Madison." A 24-gun corvette launched early in the war only 45 days after its keel was laid, the "Madison" was the handiwork of Henry Ecford, a master shipbuilder working out of the American naval base at Sacket's Harbor, New York. The "Madison" took part in the landing of the army of General Zebulon Pike in Upper Canada in 1813. A few of the letters were adressed to Lacey at Sacket's Harbor. Lacey's letters suggest that he battled illnesses, presumably related to his maritime duties. They also suggest that he was a relative of Revolutionary War veteran John Lacey (1755-1814), who died in New Mills, New Jersey. Some of the letters were sent to Lacey from New Mills and provide information about conditions there during the Wa of 1812. It appears John Lacey was Charles Lacey's uncle. The Charles Lacey Papers were donated to Georgetown University by Charles H. Trunnel, a Georgetown resident and the nephew of Charles Lacey. These papers were previously part of the Historical Manuscripts Collection (Box 4 Folder 4) at Georgetown University Library Special Collections Division. Chalres H. Trunnel also donated a minute book of the Columbian Debating Society, a Georgetown citizens group that first met on February 21, 1827. In addition, Trunnel gave the library a large number of books, including the first edition of "The Federalist" (1788). Our Special Collections Division holds a number of other collections related to American naval history. Among them are the Causten Family Papers, the Stephen and Susan Decatur Papers, and letters to John Rodgers (1813-1815); all collections which relate to the War of 1812; and the Jackson McElmell Papers, which pertain to the Civil War. The following book was very helpful in the processing of this collection: Gardiner, Robert, ed. "The Naval War of 1812." London: Chatham (in association with the National Maritime Museum), 1998.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 box)

Language of Materials



Provenance: Gift of Charles H. Trunnel. Processed by Scott S. Taylor, April 2000.

Charles Lacey Papers
Scott S. Taylor. Georgetown University Library Booth Family Center for Special Collections
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Describing Archives: A Content Standard
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Repository Details

Part of the Georgetown University Manuscripts Repository

Lauinger Library, 5th Floor
37th and O Streets, N.W.
Washington DC 20057