1866: Hiram Parker, Jr. to Hiram Parker

How Hiram Parker, Jr. might have looked
How Hiram Parker, Jr. might have looked

This letter was written by Hiram Parker, Jr.(1841-1918), the son of Hiram Parker (1805-1891) and Sarah Parsons Crafts (1804-1876) of Pottsville, Schuylkill, Pennsylvania. Hiram married first in 1873 to Mary E. Sparks, daughter of Jabez and Leoma (Russell) Sparks. He married second Mary’s sister, Julia Frances Sparks, in 1883. Hiram mentions his brother, Charles Henry Parker (1844-1905), in this letter. Charles was married 26 December 1866 to Sarah Jane Wagner.

Hiram Parker was educated in the public schools of Pottsville. He was employed as a clerk in a store for a year or two after leaving school, and then he became an apprentice to the machinist’s trade at the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad shops.

He then “spent more than twelve years in the United States navy, covering the entire period of the Civil War. His duties led him to nearly every port of the civilized world, and thus he rounded out an experience enjoyed by comparatively few men. He enlisted in 1861 as assistant engineer, and was assigned to duty on the gunboat Kanawha, in the Gulf Squadron, under command of Admirals Farragut and Porter. After a year of active service in this capacity he was detailed to take a prize vessel [Planter] from Mobile bay to New York, and while in the city on this mission, he was examined and promoted, and was then assigned to duty on the gunboat Louisiana, in the North Atlantic Squadron, with headquarters at New Bern, N. C.

USS Tacony (far left) attacking Plymouth, North Carolina
USS Tacony (far left) attacking Plymouth, N.C.

“Just prior to the battle of Fort Fisher, Mr. Parker was detailed to the gunboat Tacony, on board of which vessel he completed his Civil War service. He participated in a number of naval battles, notably the bombardment of Fort Fisher, and the second battle at that point, which resulted in the capture of that Confederate stronghold. He was with the blockading squadron off Mobile, and in the historic maneuvers of the Gulf and the lower Mississippi. After the close of the Civil War he was with the South Pacific Squadron for three years, and spent a like period with the South Atlantic Squadron, principally on South American coasts, being first assistant engineer on board the Lancaster. He was acting chief engineer on the Powhatan during the Cuban filibustering troubles following the close of the Civil War. One year was spent on shore duty, thus rounding out a continuous service of twelve years.” ¹ [Source: History of Schuykill County, Pennsylvania (1907)]

Hiram kept a diary while serving aboard the U.S. Dacotah which is available for sale on the internet.


U.S Steamer Dacotah
Callao, Peru
December 14, 1866

Dear Father,

I received your letter of the 2d November on the 1st December. I have also received one from Charles of the 9th and mother’s of 14th. It takes a letter about 20 days to reach me. Mails leave New York on the 31st or 1st, 14th, or 15th, and 21st or 22d of every month and arrive here 15 or 20 days afterwards. You speak in your letter of the draft I sent you, that it will have to go to Liverpool to be collected. I think you must be mistaken on this point. Merchants in New York or Philadelphia doing business in Europe are always glad to buy sterling drafts as it saves the trouble of sending specie to England. You will see in the papers that drafts on England always command a premium. Drafts of 60 & 90 days are worth 4 & 5 percent premium so that my draft ought to be sold very readily in New York. I guess before this reaches you, you will have received the money for it. I have also received a Journal & Independent. The Journal published about the first of January containing the coal statistics I wish you would send me. Also send me an occasional one every week or two. The daily papers we receive every mail and can be purchased on shore.

Admiral John A. Dahlgren
Admiral John A. Dahlgren

There has been nothing of importance transpiring here since my last letter. The Flag Ship has gone to Panama to meet Admiral [John Adolphus] Dahlgren. He was expected to arrive there on the 8th of this month. He will soon be here to take up his quarters in Lima. As rumor says, he intends to be on shore. His family I hear are coming with him. ² Some of the officers of the fleet have their wives with them — or rather they are living ashore. It makes it pleasant for the rest as we have places to go and spend the evenings.

Last evening I visited the U. States Counsel and family. He is from Philadelphia and his name is Mr. [James H.] McColley. ‡ Potts was with me last evening & we had a very pleasant visit. Our Minister General [Alvin Peterson] Hovey resides in Lima. He is not very well liked by Americans here as he is a man of very little principle — somewhat like [Hugh Judson] Kilpatrick, our minister at Valparaiso.

We are having quite warm weather. The bathing season will commence in a month and then Callao will be more lively.

“Handsome Jack” Tucker

We have had a little dispute between our Squadron and the Peruvian Squadron. It arose from the Capt. of the Tuscarora at Valparaiso refusing to salute the Peruvian Admiral. Now the Peruvian Admiral is an American citizen from the Southern States — a rebel [Tucker] who fought against us during our recent war. As he is still an unpardoned rebel, the Capt. of the Tuscarora refused to salute him. The matter was referred to our Admiral and he has referred it to the Navy Department at Washington. ³

Rumor says the Spaniards intend to bombard Callao. Callao Bay is now strongly fortified and the Spaniards will fare worse than they did the last time should thy return. † The Peruvians have quite a number of English cannon mounted in their fortifications and are now putting in some of our Parrott Rifles. They expect soon to have 80 of them in readiness. They are all large guns — 200 & 300 pounders.

I am glad to see you all well. Hope Charles will get a good wife and that they may live happy together. I think it will do him good to get married. If I was living ashore I think I would get married also — that is, if I could find someone to have me.

In your letter telling me of your visit East, you did not tell me how your brothers & sisters were getting along, nor of Ruth Jennings.

This ought to reach you about the 1st of January so I will bid you all good bye with much love and a Happy New Years wish for you all. Kind remembrances to all enquiring friends. How is Mr. McC___ & family getting along? Also Mr. Riley. — Hiram

The Steamer Lancaster has not arrived in the States yet. She is not expected before the first of January. There was a rumor here that she had met with an accident off Cape Horn but there is no truth in the rumor. In the box I sent you there is a writing desk I bought in Madeira. Also some lace work made by the nuns of one of the convents I visited. There is also a card basket made of tortoise shell that I got on board of a ship that came from China. There is also some photographs from Rio & this place. I found after sending the box that I had left out my Madeira pictures. When the box arrives you can — or mother can — appropriate the contents for her own use until my return.

When you write, tell me what has become of Mr. Graham & family and whether Mr. Cherry has left the Navy. We are expecting the arrival of some more vessels to join this and the North Pacific Squadron. They are Pensacola, Lacawanna, Mohican, and Resaca. We will have quite a fleet on this coast when they arrive. A few days ago the Wateree arrived from Panama and intermediate ports. So there are three of us here at present. We are anxious to go to Valparaiso. The people there are much more sociable and also more civilized than here. They are not so bigoted and ground down by the priests. There are some Catholic Missionaries now in Callao who are creating quite a stir among the people. They hold crowded meetings every night in the churches. The English Chapel is usually well represented there. The service is the Church of England service — very similar to our Episcopal. The minister is supported by the Church in London. He is not a very brilliant man and has very liberal views. his sermons are quite similar to Bible Class lessons. When not on duty, I always go and hear him. I will say good bye to you all for the present. — Hiram

¹ Sometime after 1875, Hiram wrote the following record of his years of service in the U.S. Navy:

Crest designed by Parker
Crest designed by Parker

3d Asst Engineer U.S. Navy
Appointed from Penna
Nov. 16, 1861

Ordered to Bridgeport, Conn
Nove. 26, 1861
Joined U.S. Steamer Kanawha
4 guns, 507 tons
Dec. 3, 1861

Sailed with West Gulf Squadron and employed in Gulf Service
Sailed for New York in prize vessel Planter
Detached from Planter August 8, 1863 and ordered to report for examination for promotion

2d Asst. Engineer U.S.N.
warrant dated August 25, 1863
commission dated July 25, 1866

Ordered to join U.S. Steamer Louisiana Sept. 7, 1863
Joined Louisiana, 5 guns, 395 tons at Little Washington, N.C. Sept. 15, 1863
On duty with North Atlantic Squadron

Order to join U.S. Steamer Tacony Dec. 3, 1864
Joined Tacony, 10 guns, 974 tons at Beaufort, S.C. Dec. 7, 1864
On duty with North Atlantic Squadron
Attacks on Fort Fisher N.C., Dec. 25, 1864, Jany. 13-15, 1865
Detached from Tacony June 10, 1865
Waiting orders at Navy Yard, Boston, Mass.

Ordered to join U.S. Steamer Dacotah, 7 guns, 996 tons, Nov. 21, 1865
Sailed with Pacific Squadron
1st Asst. Engineer, U.S.N. Oct. 11, 1866
Ordered to New York from Valparaiso.
Arrived in New York Oct. 29, 1868

Ordered to join U.S. steamer Lancaster April 22, 1869
Joined Lancaster June 15, 1869, 22 guns, 2362 tons
flag ship South American fleet.

On temporary duty in U.S. Steamer Wasp, 1 gun, 365 tons, April 12-26, 1870

Left Lancaster at Rio Janiero and joined U.S. Sloop Portsmouth, 15 guns, 846 tons for passage home

Arrived in New York Aug. 13, 1872
Ordered to Washington D.C. Sept. 7, 1872
On duty in Bureau of Steam Engineering
Waiting orders Sept. 28, 1872

Ordered to Navy Yard and ordered to Monitor Manhattan, 2 guns, 550 tons Nov. 15, 1873
Sailed with North Atlantic Squadron
Left Manhattan June 25, 1874
Waiting orders

Ordered home from Pensacola, Fla. July 10, 1874
Resigned Feby 18, 1875

A Confederate silk flag given to John Randolph Tucker by the ladies of Charleston, SC
A Confederate silk flag given to John Randolph Tucker by the ladies of Charleston, SC

² Dahlgren married Mary Bunker in 1839, and they had seven children before her death in 1855. Dahlgren married his second wife, Madeleine Vinton in 1865. They had three children. She wrote a biography of her husband, Memoir of John A. Dahlgren, after his death, as well as a number of other books. In her later years, Madeleine Vinton Dahlgren was a prominent figure in Washington literary circles.

³ In the biography of her husband that Madeline Dahlgren published, she wrote that “one of the first difficulties to arise was to decide as to the recognition which it would be proper to give the Admiral-in-Chief of the little Navy of Peru. [John Randolph “Handsome Jack”] Tucker, whom Peru had invested with this rank, had been formerly of the United States Navy, and had left the service and give over to the Confederates during the war.” Ultimately  the Secretary of the Navy advised Dahlgren they would support him if he chose to “take no notice of the cuss.”

The Spanish attack Peru in Bay of Callao, May 1866
The Spanish attack Peru in Bay of Callao, May 1866

† The Battle of Callao (in Spanish, called Combate del Dos de Mayo mainly in South America ) occurred on May 2, 1866 between a Spanish fleet under the command of Admiral Casto Méndez Núñez and the fortified battery emplacements of the Peruvian port city of Callao during the Chincha Islands War. The Spanish fleet bombarded the port of Callao (or El Callao), and eventually withdrew without any notable damage to the city structures, according to the Peruvian and American sources; or after having silenced almost all the guns of the coastal defenses, according to the Spanish accounts and French observers.

‡ James H. McColley (d. 1869) — of Pennsylvania. U.S. Consul in Callao, 1864-69, died in office 1869. Died, of yellow fever, in Lima, Peru, April 17, 1869.

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