(Topics arranged chronologically)

Early Loyalty and Citizenship Requirements for Federal Employees at Gosport and other Naval Shipyards, 1794
Washington Navy Yard Position Descriptions
by Josiah Fox, 1804
Early Apprentices at Gosport Navy Yard, 1807
Regulations re Musters of Civilian Employees Naval Shipyard Gosport, 1821
Employment of enslaved workers in the construction of the Dry Dock 12 October 1831

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Early Loyalty and Citizenship Requirements for Federal Employees at Gosport and other Naval Shipyards.

The loyalty of federal employees has long been a subject of public concern, especially in times of war or threat. The federal government in its early years, however, had only minimal concerns regarding the loyalty of its employees. Only those few employees appointed to annual or salaried positions were required to swear or affirm their loyalty to the United States. The oath below was signed by Josiah Fox (1763-1847) a native of Falmouth, England, prior to taking up his position as Clerk at the Gosport Navy Yard, and is typical of early federal oaths. Fox like many early employees had recently immigrated to the United States. As a Quaker and member of the Society of Friends, Fox chose to affirm his loyalty rather than swear, since his religious convictions prohibited swearing.

War dept July 16, 1794

Mr. Josiah Fox

You are hereby appointed Clerk in the department of war, at the rate of Five hundred dollars per annum, to be appropriated at the present to the assistance of Joshua Humphreys who is constructing the models and draughts for the frigates to be built in the United States, and when that business shall be finished you will be directed to perform - your compensation to commission the 1st instant -

I Josiah Fox appointed as a Clerk in the Department of War of the United States do solemnly affirm that I will support the Constitution of the United States and that I will and faithfully to best of my abilities execute the Trust committed to me in the aforesaid Capacity -
(signed) ''Josiah Fox''

Affirmed the 17th day of
July 1794 before me -
Hilary Baker one of the
aldermen of Philadelphia

In 1817 the Board of Navy Commissioners reacting to rising nationalism and perceived security threats, directed: None but citizens of the U.S. are to be employed in any Situation in the Navy yard under your command. Should there be any such at present employed they are to be discharged. The Board stated: This regulation was founded on the Supposition that Citizens will be less likely to betray secrets, and convey to the Enemy such information that will tend to the disadvantage of the U.S. The Board allowed some shipyard employees to retain employment if they could provide a certificate of naturalization. All shipyard commandants were required to examine the supporting paper work, although it is unclear as to how rigidly this was enforced. While there was opposition from some concerned that many innocent men would be dismissed, the mandate that only citizens be employed remained in effect.

In 1861, the nation found itself deeply divided over the issues of slavery and the right of states to leave the Union. When hostilities got underway three hundred twenty-two naval officers chose to go south, including a significant number from the naval ship yards. With the large number of naval officers going south, officials in the new Lincoln government expressed doubt regarding the loyalty of the remaining officers and workers at the various navy yards. The federal government even began to suspect and later investigate the loyalty of some of its employees at the Washington Navy Yard, Mare Island Navy Yard, and the Navy Department. As a consequence, the federal government required all its federal shipyard employees (annual and per diem mechanics and laborers) to immediately swear or affirm their loyalty. One result of dramatic increase in the federal governments need for manpower was for the first time African Americans and female employees were all required to attest their loyalty to the Union cause.

Michael Shiner, a freeman working at the Washington Navy Yard, recalled in his diary, (spelling and punctuation is that of the original):

on the first Day of June 1861 on Satturday Justice Clark was sent Down to the Washington navy yard For to administer the oath of allegiance to the mechanics and the Labouring Class of working men With out DistincSion of Colour for them to Stand by the Stars and Stripes and defend for the union and Captain Dalgrren Present and I believe at that time I michael Shiner was the first Colered man that had taken the oath in washington DC and that oath Still Remains in my heart and when I had taken that oath I Taken It in the presence of God without prejudice or enmity to any man And I intend to Sustain That oath with The assistance of the Almighty God until I die for when a man takes an oath For a Just cause it is more then taking a Drink of water and Sitting Down to his Breakfast.

At Gosport Navy Yard the over one thousand civilian workers remained mainly Democratic in their politics and southern in sympathy. Gosport Commandant, Captain Charles S. McCauley with a few trusted officers and civilians, unsuccessfully tried to burn the entire shipyard rather than let it fall to Confederate forces. In May of 1862, retreating Confederates again set fire to much of the yard rather than let federal forces have the valuable weapons, munitions and supplies. After the shipyard was again safely in Union hands, the returning civilians of the newly renamed Norfolk Ship Yard swore the following oath:

I _____________ do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign; and that I will bear true faith, allegiance, and loyalty to the same, any ordnance, resolution or law of any State convention or legislature, or order or organization secret or otherwise, to the contrary notwithstanding; and further I do this with a full determination, pledge, and purpose, without mental reservation or evasion whatsoever; and further that I have always been loyal and true to the Government of the United States. So help me God.

Today the requirement that all federal employees be only loyal citizens remains and the oath of 1862 is the basis of our modern pledge now signed by all federal employees.

1. Josiah Fox immigrated to Philadelphia in 1793, see, Westlake, Merle, Josiah Fox 1763-1847, Xlibris Corp. 2003, p.23.
2. NARA RG 45 Requisitions of the Secretary of the Treasury
3. NARA RG 45BNC Circular to Commandants E 307 v 1 April 1817
4. NARA RG 45 BNC Journal E303 v 1 1 April 1817
5. The Gazette of Washington, May 17, 1817
It may be said that to discharge a parcel of mechanics from public employment is a matter of no moment, is a subject of no interest but this is the language of torpor and indifference, The rights of the mechanic are as precious as those of a president and in this country to violate those of one is politically and morally a great offense. By presumptuous order they discharge from public service men guilty of no offence but that of having been born in foreign country. Those poor men thus shut out from public employment will be obligated to make monstrous sacrifices in the sale of the little property they possess. A Citizen
6. William S. Dudley, Going South: U.S. Navy Officer Resignations & Dismissal on the Eve of the Civil War. Washington: Naval Historical Foundation, see http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/going_south.htm
7. Reports of Committees of the House of Representatives Made During the Second Session of the Thirty -Seventh Congress 1861 -62, Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1862, p.48.
8. Female employees during the Civil War are well documented as horse and cart drivers and as seamstresses at the Washington Navy Yard. There is good circumstantial reason to believe they were employed in similar positions at Gosport/ Norfolk Navy Yard. The loyalty oaths of Almira Virginia Brown and Annie Beck both seamstresses, are the only such affidavits, known to have survived, see NARA RG 45,Department of the Navy, Affidavits of Loyalty 1862 -1865.
9. The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869.Transcribed With Introduction and Notes by John G. Sharp, p178.
10. Dexter, David, Dissonance: The turbulent Days Between Fort Sumter and Bull Run, Mariner Books, 2007 , 170-197. Harper, Raymond L,. A History of Chesapeake Virginia,2008, p.32 The exact number of civilian workers is 1000 - 1500 given, by Dexter and Harper reflects difficulty of calculating the per diem workforce
11. NARA RG 45:175.

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Position Descriptions


Josiah Fox (1763-1847) wrote these proto - position description (Josiah Fox never labeled his efforts but affixed the current job titles below which are his creation) about 1804 when he first went to work at WNY. As the new Naval Constructor he tried to bring order and method to the chaotic world of the early ship construction. These attempts to list duties and responsibilities of his new subordinates were part of his effort. It is unclear to what extent he was able to implement these changes. As the manager of a large workforce of over 100 men one of the first obstacles he faced was the prevailing naval custom of drinking rum or grog on the job during breaks and at meals. In the early nineteenth century, drinking beer and stronger spirits in the workplace was an accepted practice and very common (Rum Rations on U.S. Navy Ships were only abolished in 1852 and all alcohol aboard USN ships in 1914.).

In an age when potable water was often foul and noxious tasting, mechanics and laborers often preferred their libations mixed with whiskey or rum. Management attitude to employee drinking varied the main concerns were safety and good order. As early as 1805, Naval Constructor Josiah Fox (a Quaker) warned his Carpenter Quarterman and Foreman to, "[t]ake care that none of his company get intoxicated and discourage use of spirituous liquors among them during hours of work." Supervisory personnel were further enjoined "…not to suffer any person to bring such liquor to his company unless necessity may require it" As a Naval Constructors a civilian positions comparable to naval architect's or engineer's Fox often had different view or conflicting agenda's with Commandant Thomas Tingey the son of an Episcopal clergyman . In 1806 Fox a member of the Society of Friends or Quakesr sent his request for furlough to the Secretary of the Navy and in doing so by passed Commandant Thomas Tingey. Tingey considered Fox's failure to address his request to him insubordinate. The result was as the Yard's first historian noted "He and the Commandant seem not at all times or indeed any time to have been in hearty accord (Henry Hibben, 43)".

The real problem appears that Josiah Fox wanted a streamlined organization and had shown little in the way of deference to military officers. Fox insisted he should report to the Secretary of the Navy who had hired him and who provided for his salary. In addition, the Department of the Navy accorded Fox a large workforce of mechanics for ship design and repair and a separate budget and as a consequence he and his successors were often able to set their own agenda and work schedules which led to repeated conflicts. These positions descriptions were most likely poorly received by Commandant Tingey and there is no record of what Fox's workforce thought. What is certain is that Josiah Fox was discharged in 1808 for refusing to cut his workforce in compliance with a reduced Congressional appropriation.

Below are three of Fox's early "position descriptions". They have been transcribed as Josiah Fox wrote them with his spelling and punctuation unaltered lines crossed out are shown with overstrikes and illegible words or sentences are so noted.

PL Washington Navy Yd - Circa 1804

Ship Carpenters

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The Ship Carpenters, their assistants and Apprentices being arranged under the directions of a Quarterman they or Quartermen will apply to him to direct them in their Work, from whose orders they are not to deviate, but to use their utmost endeavor to execute the same, with diligence Oconomy and dispatch

As each good Workman will have placed with him as a Mate, an apprentice or such other person as circumstances dictate, he will endeavor to have aid such apprentices in his applications to attain a knowledge of Works and he will not permit to idle away his time but will check him whenever he may discover improper conduct-

He is not to absent himself- from his Duty in the Yard unless by Sickness or Accident, and should he unnecessarily absent himself more than days at one time without leave he will be considered as having relinquished his situation therein -

It is strictly forbidden expected that the Workmen from one Company do not intermeddle with the Work which may be assigned to those of another Company, unless particularly ordered by their Officer, The Implements, Tools, Ramstaves, Ring and Silt bolts, Wedges he will Refrain from using without leave -

It is desirable also; that a good understanding may generally prevail among the Workmen of each company and that they will conduct themselves with propriety in the discharge of their several duties- [end page one]

Ship Carpenters... Do .

The Ship Carpenters already employed in the Navy Yard will be arranged as soon as it can be conveniently done into Companies and placed under the Command of such Quartermen as shall be judged expedient, other Carpenters as well as those attached to them will be placed inlike manner and also all such as may from time to time be admitted into the Yard – They will apply to him for directions respecting their work from those orders they are not to deviate, but execute the same with diligence, Care, Fidelity Oconomy and dispatch – To enable each Carpenter to perform his work with promptitude, he will provide himself with the following Tools, which he will take care to keep in good working order: Therefore no plea will be admitted that any deficiency [illegible] in his work arises from want of the necessary Tools or that they were in bad order – Vizt

1 Broad axe } 1 Foreplane } 3 Spike gimblets/ sizes/
1 adze } 1 large Bevel } 1 Chalk line
1 Handsaw } 1 Pocket do } 1 pan of Compasses
1 Venmaul } 1 Square - } 1 2 feet rule-
3 Chisels 1 Gauge –

Other Persons attached to each Company to provide such Tools as the Quarterman placed over them may think necessary for their several occupations – It is expected that he shall pay due attention to the objects of his employment and will not absent himself from his work without leave, unless prevented by sickness or other unavoidable causes, and prevented in case of absenting himself more then four days at one time without leave being first obtained, he is to will be considered as having withdrawn himself as discharged from the Yard - He is not to use the Tools belonging to another Workmen without his leave, neither is he to injure or destroy them He is forbidden to quarrel in the Yards, or give abusive Language to any Officer of the Yards, Workmen or other [end page] person whatever and if at any time he feels he finds himself agrieved, he is make a report thereof to his Quarterman who will acquaint the Constructor with the Circumstances that suitable redress may be obtained - When working afloat he is not on any aut[hority ] whatever to throw over board into the River any Stage Plank & Spauls, or other useful materials, neither is he to throw any rotten stuff that will sink to the injury of the river, nor to cut up ropes of any kind – He is not Wantonly to destroy or injure any other materials or Implements belonging to the public, nor suffer it to be done by others . When working by Candle light he will be careful of his candle, and then his Services are required from his place of Work, he will take care that no risk of Fire be incurred thereby - When a Vessel on which he is employed is on a deep carreen, or Hove down, he will not leave his Works at Breakfast and Dinner times, without consent of his officer who will keep account thereof that he may be remunerated for the same, either by extra pay or an equal allowance of time, as may be judged most expedient - [end page]


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Each Quarterman will have placed under him from time to time such Workman and other Persons, as the Constructor may deem necessary that he will form into a regular Company over whom having control will be answerable for the successful performance of their several duties

An he is to direct them in the execution of their work he will take special care that whatever may be assigned them to perform shall be mounted with care, oconomy, and dispatch

He will plan with each of his best Workmen, as a Mate, an Apprentice or such, other Person, as circumstances may dictate and will endeavor to have all Apprentices that may be attached to his company, instructed in the best manner he can, in all parts of his Business, and he will be careful that they be kept constantly at their work and do not trifle away their time etc -

He is to make a daily return to the Constructors Office of his Company noting the absences /and if to be obtained the cause of absences in which return he will also state the Works they may be employed on and the of the Ship etc attached to, And whomever any of them shall be required to perform Work or any Services for another Department, he will notify the same on said return Specifying the department and Works shall be required to perform Work or any Services for another Department, he will notify the same on said return Specifying the department and the Works –

He will not suffer any of his Company to intermeddle with the Work assigned to those of another Company,/unless previously directed so to do, by the constructor or his Foremen/ Neither shall he suffer them to use their implements, Tools, Ranstaves, Ring or Stilt bolts, Wedges etc etc without first Obtaining leave of the Quarterman to whom they may belong and will cause them to be returned when demanded –

He will endeavor to promote agood understanding among the persons composing his company, and will not suffer them to Quarrel with those of another Company, nor to give abusive language to any person whatever; nor to introduce Idle or improper conversation during hours of Work –

Whenever it may be necessary to detach six or more of his Company to a distance to Work, and able Man – is to be placed with those, and who shall have the same power and control over them, as a Quarterman commanding a Company but who shall nevertheless be still under his direction–

He will take care, that none of his Company get intoxicated and will discourage, the too free use of Spirituous Liquors during the Hours of Work– 

He will carefully gauge all Bolts before they be driven that they may be properly sized; and if any defects appear in the metal, he is to return them to the Blacksmith and require others in Stead –

For all Timber Materials he may want, he will apply to the Foreman or his Assistant, and he is charged to be particularly careful in keeping account of all such as may be furnished him, designating the dimensions and marks, together with the Species, and for what objects refunded; which he will return unto the Constructors office, as often as may be required –

To enable his Workmen to perform their Work with promptitude and dispatch, he will see that each one furnished himself with such Tools as may be suitable and fitting for his occupation and which are to be kept in good Working order –

When repairing a Vessel afloat he will not suffer any of his Company to Start out any bolts or Trennails, nor make any openings in the Plank or seams under or near the surface of the Water, without his order s being first given, and he will be held responsible for any accident, that may happen in the consequence of inattention to those circumstances. He will be careful that Trenanil and the Holes near the surface of the Water from whence danger may arise are kept constantly plugged up, and will examine at proper times, such places himself to ascertain her safety and will moreover take every precaution to guard against accident –

When a Ship is on a deep Careen or at any other time when it may be found necessary, he will return such numbers of his Company during the time allowed for Breakfast and dinner as may be deemed necessary, and if it should be found expedient necessary to shift Planks, etc or cut out any pieces of her bottom, he will not suffer his Workmen to leave Work until it be safely secured –

In Opening a Vessel for repairs he will be attentive to prevent Knees and other useful pieces that are sound / when necessary to be removed, from being destoyed unless it cannot be otherwise effected. All Copper, Iron and Lead which may be taken off, must be carefully preserved and sent to the Store-Keeper that the Ship may be credited therefore

He will also be careful of the Candles assigned to him for the use of the Workmen on internal repair, that no more be made use of than are absolutely necessary and he will use his utmost endeavors to prevent accident from Fire, he will therefore see that all lights are properly extinguished before the People quit their Work –

For all Nails and other Articles he may want from the Stores he will make requisition on the Constructor, who will furnish him with sufficient Orders therefore –

It is expected that he will conduct himself with becoming respect, toward his Superiors Officers, and other Officers of the yard and Navy – and also that he will by his respectful behavior and faithful discharge of his Duty, set a proper example to his Company –

Should he observe any deviations from the Rules established for the Regulation of the Workmen and others of his Company, he is commanded to report to the Constructor, the Delinquents –

Foreman of Ship Carpenters

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The Foreman of the Ship Carpenters, will be charged by the Constructor with the immediate Superintendence of all Workmen in the Ship Carpenters Department under the direction of the Constructor works of every description for which purposes he will have control over the Assistant Foreman Afloat, Quartermen, Foreman of Caulkers, Sawyers,- together with all Workmen and other Persons who may be placed under them respectfully – He will be furnished from time to time with such orders by the Constructor, as he may think necessary for the benefit of the service, which he will cause to be placed immediately under him executed in the most prompt and efficeint manner and with as little expense to the United States as possible

He will observe that none but the soundest and best seasoned Materials be made use of in Building and repairing the Ships of War and he will be careful to prevent the Timber Materials and other of the Public property in the Carpenters Department from being improperly expended, Wantonly destroyed, Wasted, Injured or pillaged – He will not permit any alteration whatever to be made in any part of the Ships whilst under repair without expressed orders being given for that purpose – He will take care that no Fire be made by the Carpenters and others attached to them to Bend their planks & etc but at such places as may be figured {two words crossed out and illegible] deemed made safe and proper for that careful purpose and he is charged to see them all extinguished by Sun out [end page]

PL Washington Navy yd Circa 1804 -

General Regulations of the Carpenters Department

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Foreman of Ship Carpenters

The Foremen of the Ship Carpenters will have control over the Assistant Foreman, Foreman Afloat, Quartemen, Foreman of Caulkers together with all Workmen and other persons who only be placed under them respectively – He will also have the general Superintendency under the Constructor of all the Ship Carpenters work, of whatsoever nature it may be. He will be furnished from time to time with such orders by the Constructor as he may think necessary for the benefit of the service from which he will in no wise deviate, but will on the same executed in most prompt and efficient manner and with as little expense to the United States as possible he will be careful to see that none but the best and sound materials be made use of in Building or repairing ships of War, Carpenter department from being injured Wasted wantonly destroyed or improperly expanded. [Three lines deleted] together with the Species, to who delivered, and for what object expanded and he is to see that no alterations whatever are made in the Ships whilst under repair without express orders being given for that purpose.

Assistant Foreman

Is to assist the Foreman of the Carpenters in executing the duties assigned to him and in case of his absence from the Yard by business or other he is to perform all the duties of the Foreman when no work in hand he will apply himself particularly thereto and also to the work generally in the Yard It will also as apart of his Duty to attend to the Sawyers, that they may perform their work with promptitude and that they take no more time to alter and wet their saws He will see that no Fires be made by the Carpenters and others attached to them to bend their planks &c but at such place as may be ordered, and is charged to see them all extinguished by sunset - It will moreover be his particular duty to attend to the materials deposited in the Docks and see they are not lost –

To Have make frequent verbal communication with reports to the Constructor of the State and progress of the Work & as the maintenance of good order among the officers and Workmen are especially necessary in performing the various duties assigned them he will use his utmost endeavors to cultivate it to the utmost and when he may observe any deviations from the general established regulations for the Carpenters & he report delinquents

Washington Navy Yd Circa 1804

Fore-man of Ship Carpenters

The Foreman of the Ship Carpenters, will be charged of the Constructors with the immediate Superintendence of all Work in the Ship Carpenters work of every description Department, under the direction of the Constructor for which purpose he will have control of the Assistant Foreman – Foreman afloat, Quartermen, Foreman of Caulkers – Sawyers- together with all Workmen and other persons who may be placed under them respectively - He will be furnished from time to time with such orders by the Constructors, as he may think necessary for the benefit of the service which he will cause to executed placed immediately under him in the most prompt and efficient manner and with as little expense to the United States, as possible.

He will observe that none but the soundest and best seasoned materials be made use of in Building and repairing. the Ships of War and he will be careful to prevent the Timber Materials and other of the Public property in the Timber Materials and other of the Public property in the Carpenters Department from being improperly expended, Wantonly destroyed, Wasted, Injured or pillaged - He will not permitted any alteration whatever to be made in any part of the Ships whilst under repair with out express orders being given for that purpose – He will take care that no Fires be made by the Carpenters and others attach3ed to them to Bend their planks &c &c but at such places as may be deemed to be most proper for that careful purpose, and he is charged to see them all extinguished by Sun - set.

Source: National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), Washington DC, Record Group 45.

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Today Norfolk Navy Yard apprentices are hired through a very centralized merit system which is highly regulated, the actual hiring process usually involves the HRO, the shipyard departments, etc., but in the early nineteenth century all shipyard apprentices were hired directly by master mechanics not the yard. Each apprentice signed a formal indenture or contract, which bound him, legally to the master, not the yard or the navy! Since I was unable to find an example directly from Gosport, I have transcribed a 1807 apprentice indenture signed by master blacksmith, Benjamin King (attached). King worked at Gosport Navy Yard, briefly after the war of 1812. King had moved to Gosport after WNY was burned in 1814 and was there about two years. I have attached an early portrait from the Library of Congress (public domain). One of the reasons King was was able to secure a job at Gosport was his close relationship to CO Captain John Cassin and his excellant reputation as a master craftsman. King knew Thomas Jefferson and installed much of the early ironwork at the White House and its first water closets (toilets).

Introduction. In the early nineteen century the presence of numerous young apprentices at Gosport Navy Yard was a common sight and important to the overall shipyard economy. All shipyard apprentices were hired privately, that is, they signed indentures, which were written formal contracts between the young trainees, typically age fourteen, seeking valuable trade or craft knowledge and the master mechanics. These contracts employed formal language, with some phraseology dating back to the late middle ages. The agreement language contained clauses which placed heavy legal burdens on the young apprentice. For both parties a failure to fulfill the terms of an indenture could result in legal action. But it was the apprentice who remained most vulnerable. Apprentices who ran away were subject to arrest, and numerous reward notices from the early nineteen century reflect the efforts made by master mechanics to recover their investment. Most indentures bound the young apprentice to the master mechanic, usually for four to seven years depending on the trade. In the indenture neither the shipyard nor the federal government are mentioned nor were they legally in any way parties to these agreements. All indentures were heavily weighted toward protecting the interests of the master mechanics. For the master having a large group of apprentices was both prestigious and lucrative. Since some trade apprenticeships led to well-paying occupations they were much sought after, especially in trades such as shipwright, ship carpenter, and instrument maker. Families often were willing to pay a master mechanic a financial gratuity for agreeing to accept their son as a trainee. An additional custom allowed the master mechanic was to sign for their apprentices pay and retained a fixed percentage of the apprentice's wages.

In a typical apprentice indenture the master mechanic, in return for a specified period of service, formally agreed to provide tutelage to the young worker in his art or craft. Since these were contracts that were legally enforceable, apprentice indentures were signed by all parties, witnessed and notarized, and dated and filed with the county clerk. In a typical apprentice indenture, both parties signed binding promises. Each indenture stated the parties to the agreement and had entered into the indenture of their own free will. Each indenture further specified a start and an end date. Indentures typically lasted four to six years. While indentures for Gosport apprentices have yet to be found, we are fortunate to have one by master blacksmith Benjamin King. King worked at Gosport Navy Yard for a brief time after the burning of the Washington Navy Yard in August 1814. King's indenture with Hamilton Perry, dated August 4, 1807 is representative of the genre.

District of Columbia County of Washington to wit

This Indenture Witnesseth that Hamilton Perry son of Zadock Perry by the advice and consent of his said Guardian & brother Elisha Perry hath put himself apprentice to Benjamin King of the said District to learn the art and trade or mystery of a Blacksmith plumber & founder, and after the manner of an apprentice to serve from the day of the date hereof for and during the full term of six years and on month next ensuing during all which time he the said apprentice his master faithfully shall secure his secrets keep, his lawful commands every where gladly obey. He shall do no damage to his master, nor see it done by others without letting or giving notice thereof to his said master. He shall not waste his said masters goods, nor lend them unlawfully to any others. He shall not commit fornication nor contract matrimony within the said term. At cards, dice or any other unlawful games he shall not play. he shall not absent himself day or night from his said masters business without his said master'sleave, nor visit ale houses; nor haunt, taverns, or play – houses; but in all things behave himself as a faithful apprentice ought to do, during said term. And the said master shall use the utmost of his endeavors to teach or cause to be taught or instructed the said apprentice in the trade or mystery of Blacksmith &c &c and procure and provide for him the said apprentice sufficient meat, drink, and working apparel, lodging and washing, fitting for an apprentice during the said term of six years and one month. And for the true performance of all and every of the said covenants and agreements to either of the said parties bind themselves unto the other by these presents. In Witness thereof they have interchangeably put their hands and seals this fourth day of August in the year one thousand eight hundred and seven - .

Signed sealed & delivered in presence of Sam N Smallwood & Robt Alexander:

Benj King {SEAL}
Robt Alexander } Hamilton X Perry {SEAL}
Joseph Cassin } mark Elisha Perry {SEAL}

District of Columbia Washington County to wit:
We the Subscribers two Justices of the peace in & for the said County having seen the within Indenture – and do approve thereof to law this seventh day of August 1807.

Recorded the 11th Day of August 1807

[End document]

Apprentice indentures typically included language stating:
· The apprentice "faithfully" serve his master
· The apprentice keep the master mechanic's trade "secrets and obey his commands."
· The apprentice is bound to do no "damage” to his master or allow others to damage his master's property."
· The apprentice is not to waste the master's goods or lend them to others.

Those unable to write their names like Hamilton Perry and his father Elisha Perry, made their "X", which was duly witnessed by the court clerk. In return for Perry's service, master blacksmith King, promised to teach his young apprentice the skills of the blacksmith trade, and provided "meat, drink, lodging, and washing." Many apprentice indentures provide, at the end of the term, that the apprentice was to receive a new suit of clothes or the equivalent amount of money. In some cases apprentices are promised a new set of trade tools; this was particularly so for skilled trades such as shipwright or carpenter, where tools were expensive. Many masters promised to allow the young apprentice a few months of formal schooling during the winter season when shipyard work was slower. Reading and basic math skills were important skills in trades like shipwright, carpenter, and instruments maker. Apprentices often lived with the master's family and were typically expected to attend church services with the master's family, as well as to abstain from drinking, frequenting taverns, and attending theatre or shows. They were also allowed to "absent" themselves day or night only with their master's permission. Most indentures prohibited the apprentice from marriage during the term of service. After the young apprentice completed his apprenticeship he could then strike out on his own and with a certificate of completion and hopefully earn a journeymen wage.

Gosport, like the other federal shipyards developed its own regulations and pay scales for apprentice workers. However, the creation of the Board of Navy Commissioners in 1815, led to a gradual standardization of apprentice regulations. One of the most perplexing problems the BNC faced was the number of apprentices each shipyard trade was to be allocated. This circular letter dated 1 May 1817 to all naval shipyards set forth the following numerical restrictions.

"When Master Workmen shall be attached to the Navy Yard under your command, they are to be allowed under restrictions, the number of apprentices as follows.
Master Carpenter ................ Three
Mast Maker ..............Two
Sail Maker.................Two
Boat Builder .............Two
Blockmaker ..............Two Apprentices are not allowed to be taken into the yard unless they shall, be bound for seven years, and shall have attained the age of fourteen - For the first two years of their apprenticeship, they shall be allowed one fourth the pay allowed to a mechanic of the trade at which they are serving , for the third & fourth years, one half , for the fifth & sixth two thirds, and for the Seventh three fourths the pay allowed to a mechanic of the trade at which they are serving."

[End document]

On 2 July 1817 the BNC clarified their previous order with the following regulation mandating a uniform pay scale for apprentices linked to a fixed percentage of the rate of the journeymen wage for each trade.

"From the reports received by Several experienced respectable mechanics employed in some of our Navy Yards, the Commissioners of the Navy are moved to believe that rate of wages fixed on for compensation of apprentices, commencing on the 1st day of the previous month the following rates of pay, instead of those directed by our Circular of the 1st May last, for the first year of their apprenticeship, they shall be allowed, one third of the pay allowed to mechanics of the trade at which they may be serving: for the second at the third years, one half: for the fourth year two thirds; & for the fifth years three fourths. With respect to the ages and terms of Service of apprentices its understood that five years will be sufficient to make them workmen, provided they are intelligent and are 16 years of age at the time they are bound. No apprentices except of such character & age, as is before mentioned are hereafter to be received into the navy yard under your command. Those apprentices who are at presently employed in the yard & bound under different Circumstances may receive the same rates of pay according to merit & terms of service, as they would be entitled to, if they would be entitled to, if they had been 16 years of age at the time of being bound."

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By the 1830's, Gosport and other naval yards began to experience difficulties securing qualified ship caulkers. In the letter below, Captain Louis Warrington writing to the Board of Navy Commissioners, acknowledged qualified ship caulkers were essential and in short supply at Gosport and requested to hire caulker apprentices. While not stated in Captain Warrington's message, ship caulking was now a trade predominately associated with African Americans. By the 1840's there were fifteen black caulkers and five white caulkers at the shipyard. George Teamoth (1818-1883), a former slave wrote, "By the time I was of age – 21 – and had learned a branch of mechanics known as ( caulking- ship work) …when I took a "job" of caulking at the same place on one of the government flats."

Teamoth learned his trade at Norfolk with master ship caulker, Peter Tebo. Teamoth's master was paid about a dollar and sixty two cents a day. Teamoth noted white caulkers were typically paid two dollars a day. Still Teamoth was able to save some money and finally was able to purchase his manumission. He continued to work at the Gosport for many years.

United States Navy Yard
Gosport July 13th 1831
As good Caulking is essential to the preservation and safety of our ships, and great complaints have been frequently made, of the negligent or unskillful manner in which the Caulkers have performed their duty; I have supposed that apprentices to the Master Caulkers, in the two principal Yards, at least, might be found serviceable. Being accustomed to no other work than that of the public and brought up at its expense, in its establishments, they would look necessarily to the Yard for their support and promotion, and thus have an additional inducement to the faithful performance. I made this suggestion because I have been lately reviewing the regulations, allowing apprentices to the Workmen, and find that some are entitled to them.

I am Very respectfully
Your Obedient Servant
L.W. Warrington

To: Commd. John Rodgers
President of the Board of Commissioners of the Navy Washington

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Tuesday 8 July 1817
Circular to Commandants of Navy Yards Relating to Apprentices
Addressed to:
       Commandt Murray Phila
       Commandt Tingey Wash
       Capt Hull Boston
       Capt Cassin Norfolk
       Capt Mc Donought, Portsmouth N H

From the 1 July 1817 - the following rates of pay to be allowed for Apprentices

Their pay : For the 1st year of their apprenticeship ½
                  : For the 2nd & 3rdyear of their apprenticeship ½ - of the pay allowed for Journey
                  : For the 4rd Year of their apprenticeship ¾ - men mechanics
                  : For the 5th Year of their apprenticeship ¾

Time required to make them workmwen: Five Years considered sufficient to make apprentices workmen, provided they are intelligent & not less than 16 years of age at the time they of being bound.

Their age &c when of being bound: No apprentice, unless he is intelligent & 16 years of age at the time of being bound, to be hereafter employed in the yards.

Those already bound under other circumstances: Apprentices at present in the yards & bound under other under other circumstances, may receive the same rates of pay according to terms of service, as they would be entitled to if they had been 16 years of age at the time of their being bound.

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1. Daily National Intelligencer and Washington Advertiser, March 30, 1810. From the subscriber on the 20th inst an apprentice by the name of William Addrey about 20 years of age any person return said to the subscriber shall receive a reward of six cents from Benjamin King Navy Yard Washington.
2. Joseph Cassin was the brother of Gosport Navy Yard Commandant, John Cassin
3. Records Relating to the District of Columbia, Indentures of Apprenticeship, vol. 1, p.146, National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, DC.
4. Board of Navy Commissioners to Captain John Cassin 1 May 1817, NARA RG 45, entry 307.
5. BNC to John Cassin 2 July 1817, NARA RG 45 entry 307.
6. Caulking is defined as "Forcing a quantity of oakum, or old ropes untwisted and drawn asunder, into the seams of the planks, or into the intervals where the planks are joined together in the ship's decks or sides, or rends in the planks, in order to prevent the entrance of water. After the oakum is driven in very hard, hot melted pitch or rosin is poured into the groove, to keep the water from rotting it". The Sailors Word Book an Alphabetical Digest of Nautical Terms, including Some More Especially Military and Scientific, but Useful to Seamen; W. H. Smyth, p.173.
7. Teamoh, George, God Made Man, Man Made the Slave: the Autobiography of George Teamoh [edited by] F. N. Boney, Richard L. Hume, and Rafia Zafar, Mercer Press: Macon, Georgia, 1990, p.75, 82 ,90, & 105-106.
8. Louis W. Warrington to BNC 13 July 1831, NARA RG 45, entry 314.
9. NARA RG 45, Board of Navy Commissioners Journal Entry E 303.

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Regulations re Musters of Civilian Employees Naval Shipyard Gosport 1821


Naval regulations required a daily muster of all Gosport Navy Yard employees. At musters employees were required to state their names as present for work to the Clerk of the Check. The Clerk of the Check was required to record each name present and absent on the daily muster rolls for pay purposes. Shipyard musters were usually conducted in the early morning and afternoon. For shipyard employees a failure to attend a muster was serious offense which could result in loss of pay or discharge. These 1821 regulation was sent by the Board of Navy Commissioners to the Commandant of Gosport Navy Yard John Cassin.

(Images will enlarge in browser)

Circular Navy Comm. - Office

Sir 31st Jany 1821

The Commissioners of the Navy have found it expedient to adopt the following additional regulations with regard to the Musters &c of the different Navy Yards –

1st – A Lieutenant, if there be one attached to the Yard, or if not, the Sailing Master, is to be present at all Musters of the Mechanics and Laborers, which Lieutenant or Master is keep a regular Book or Roll, in addition to that kept by the Clerk of the
Yard –

2nd To prevent Mistakes or fraud the Order of Muster must be as follows –

The rolls of the Lieutenants or Master, are to be made out in the same order as those of the clerk - The clerk is to call over the name of each Mechanic, Laborer, and other person employed by the day, in the order in which they stand on the rolls – and as they are so called, they are to pass in rotation in the presence of the said Lieutenant or Master, whose duty it will be to check any omissions or correct any mistakes, which may accidentally or otherwise be made by the Clerk

The roll being called [word crossed out illegible] The Lieutenant or Master is immediately afterwards to compare his Roll with that of the Clerk, in order to ascertain if they agree –

3.rd At the end of each week the Clerk is to deposit his Roll signed by himself in the hands of the purser and Lieutenant or Master is in the like manner, to deposit his in the hands of the Commandant of the Yard, who before signing the general Monthly pay Roll( by which alone the purser will be authorized to pay the mechanics laborers, and others belonging to the yard & paid by the day) is to compare the rolls so kept by the Lieutenant or Master, with the monthly Pay roll made out by the purser, in order to satisfy himself, that their respective Rolls agree, before he the Commandant puts his Signature to that, by which the purser pays the Men –

4th – The originals rolls kept by the Clerk, are on the settlement of the Pursers accounts with the 4th Auditor to be sent with such accounts as indispensable vouchers establishing the correctness of the Sums respectively paid to the mechanics, laborers and others employed by the day –

5th The Rolls kept by the Lieutenant or master, and deposited in the hands of the commandant of the yard, are those by which the Commandant is to make out the monthly rolls required to be sent to the Navy Commissioners Office, shewing the sums expended for labor on each and every object, whether for Navy Yards – repairs, Ordnance or gradual increase, or whatever object it may be; and in order to multiply the number of checks the commandant is to file and preserve all weekly rolls from which he makes out - the before mentioned monthly Rolls –

6th. – Some one day in every Week the Commandant will in person attend the Musters of the Yard and see that they are Conducted in manner herein prescribed –

Jno Rodgers – Pres

Murray, Evans, Hull, Morris, Tingey, Cassin

Transcription: This transcription was transcribed from digital images I made at the National Archives Records Administration, Washington D.C. I have striven to adhere as closely as possible to the original in spelling, capitalization, punctuation and abbreviation (e.g. "…. , " , Do" or "do" for ditto or same as above) including the retention of dashes, ampersands and overstrikes. Where I was unable to discern word or sentence or where it was not possible to determine what was written, I have so noted in brackets. Where possible, I have attempted to arrange the transcribed material in a similar manner to that found in the letters and enclosures. John G. Sharp, Concord CA

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Washington DC, Records of the Department of the Navy Record Group 45.3 Records of the Board of Navy Commissioners, Letters Sent 1815 -1842 p. 21.

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Commodore Lewis Warrington writes to the Board of Navy Commissioners on the employment of enslaved workers in the construction of Stone Dock, 12 October 1831

Introduction: Commodore Lewis Warrington's letter to the Board of Navy Commissioners dated 2 October 1831 is an important source for the history and demography of Gosport Navy Yard. Warrington's letter transcribed below was written in response to BNC questions on the three petitions dated 6 January, 3 April, and August 1830 from the Gosport Navy Yard, Dry Dock workers and many local residents, regarding their fears of enslaved labor. The Dry Dock's white stone masons had quit their positions and accused project chief engineer, Loammi Baldwin of the unfair hiring of enslaved labor in their stead. In their 6 January 1830 petition they wrote:

"' On application severally by us for employment we were refused, in consequence of the subordinate officers hiring negroes by the year under the immediate cognizance of the chief Engineer, and placing them at stone cutting for which they are incompetent to the injury of we the undersigned who are men of families – and placed in the peculiar circumstance in which we stand, we view it as a most grievous imposition, detrimental to the laboring interests of the community and subversive to every principal of equality. We respectfully ask your interposition.”

For the Dry Dock workers and other whites, fear of enslaved labor was intensified by the failed slave rebellion led by Nat Turner. Turner's revolt began on 22 August 1831 with the killing of 55 whites, quickly followed by widespread destruction and chaos as numerous militias organized in retaliation against the slaves. The State of Virginia hurriedly executed 56 slaves accused of being part of the rebellion. In this frenzied aftermath, many innocent enslaved people were punished. Scholars content at least 100 blacks, and possibly up to 200, were killed by militias and mobs. Commodore Warrington's response reviewed and endorsed the information provided by Chief Engineer Baldwin which stressed the perceived economic benefits to the government as well as the overall efficiency to the project as justification for continuation of enslaved labor in the building of the Dry Dock. The BNC supported Commodore Warrington's decision and denied the stone cutters petition. Fear of a large scale servile rebellion ultimately subsided, but chattel labor continued at Gosport and other naval ship yards until the coming of the Civil War.

Source: National Archives and Records Administration, Records of Board and Commissions, Record Group 45 Records of the Board and Commissions 1819-90. Commissioners Letters Proposals Reports and Estimates Received from the Commandants of Navy Yard and Naval Stations March1814 –July 1842, Entry -314, Gosport Navy Yard.

Transcription: This transcription was made from digital images I filmed at the National Archives Records Administration, Washington D.C. I have striven to adhere as closely as possible to the original in spelling, capitalization, punctuation and abbreviation (e.g. "…. , "' , Do" or "do" for ditto or same as above) including the retention of dashes, ampersands and overstrikes. Where possible, I have attempted to arrange the transcribed material in a similar manner to that found in the letters and enclosures. John G. Sharp 2 August 2011 Concord CA

United States Navy Yard
Gosport October 12th 1831


Your letter of the 3rd instant has been received, and agreeably to your directives, I furnish the information required - There are about, two hundred and thirty six of the petitioners employed in the Yard, and thirty six employed in the Dock, as well be seen by the letters affixed in pencil, to their respective names, "'N Y” designating those of the Yard , and "' D” those of the Dock – Their petition referred to the consequence of the late alarm, occasioned by the insurrection of the blacks, in Southampton, and seems to have been seized upon by a few, opposed to the species of labor complained of, as a proper time to effect the discharge of all slaves from the works here. – I am induced to believe thus its origin with the Stone Cutters at the Dock, who during the height of the alarm, gave notice to the Superintendent, that they should quit work on Saturday evening , if the blacks were not dismissed, adding they would not work by their sides in the day, and guard them at night; the language of a part of the petition, nearly verbatim – This was made know to me at the time when my advice was asked I at once told him to let them quit, and by no means to suffer their threats to produce an effect , which his judgment disapproved - Many who signed were induced to do so , because it was easier to follow them than to resist - the current of importunity, momentarily swelling with apprehension and fear –

White laborers cannot, be readily I apprehend obtained, and when obtained, will not certainly be procured "'on terms as advantageous to the public, as those now given to blacks” – The price of white laborers is from 75/ 100 to 87/100 and that of the blacks 62 ½ /100 - white laborers do not perform more labor then the blacks per day - So far from it, that in my opinion the latter , in this climate, perform the most - of course as there is no except of work on the part of the former, to compensate except of wages –

The blacks are not difficult to govern in the Yard, and I have heard of no "'insurrectionary” "'disorderly or refractory” spirits exhibited by them -

There are about two hundred and forty six blacks employed in the Yard and Dock altogether; of whom one hundred and thirty six are in the former and one hundred ten in the latter – We shall in the Course of this day or tomorrow discharge twenty which will leave but one hundred and twenty six on our roll – The evil of employing blacks, if it be one, is in a fair and rapid course of diminution, as our whole number, after the timber , now in the water is stowed, will not exceed sixty ; and those employed at the Dock will be discharged from time to time, as their services can be dispensed with – when it is finished , there will be no, occasion for the employment of any –

I am very respectfully
Your Obedient Servant

[Signed] L. W. Warrington

1. Tomlins, Christopher L.(1992) "'In Nat Turner's shadow: Reflections on the Norfolk dry dock affair of 1830 -1831”,Labor History, 33:4, p.498.
2. Frederic D. Schwarz "1831: Nat Turner's Rebellion," American Heritage, Aug./Sept. 2006.
3. Enslaved Labor was extensively employed at Gosport, Pensacola and Washington, Navy Yard's For Gosport Navy Yard later known as Norfolk Navy Yard, see Upham –Bornstein, Linda, "'Men of Families”: The intersection of Labor Conflict and Race in the Norfolk Dry Dock Affair, 1829 -1831Labor Studies in Working – Class History of Americas, Volume 4, issue , 2007.Mellinger, Caroline Lynne, Public slaves and federal largesse: opportunity, privilege, and mechanic opposition at the Norfolk Navy Yard. Madison: University of Wisconsin, 2000, and Tomlins, Christopher L.(1992) "'In Nat Turner's shadow: Reflections on the Norfolk dry dock affair of 1830 -1831”,Labor History, 33:4, 494 -518. For Pensacola Navy Yard, see Dibble, Ernest F., Antebellum Pensacola and the Military Presence. Pensacola Series Commemorating the American Revolution Bicentennial 3,(Pensacola, FL: Pensacola/Escambia Development Commission, 1974), and Hulse, Thomas, "'Military Slave Rentals, the Construction of Army Fortifications, and the Navy Yard in Pensacola, Florida, 1824–1863,” Florida Historical Quarterly, 88 (Spring 2010), 497–539. For the role of the Army Corps of Engineers in using slave labor for military construction projects see Smith Mark A. Engineering Slavery; "'The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Slavery at Key West,” Florida Historical Quarterly, 88 (Spring 2008), 498–526. For enslaved labor at Washington Navy Yard see History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799-1962. Stockton, CA: Vindolanda Press, 2005. [http://www.history.navy.mil/books/sharp/WNY_History.pdf] and The Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869, Transcribed With Introduction and Notes by John G. Sharp.DON, Naval History and Heritage Command, http://www.history.navy.mil/library/online/shinerdiary.html accessed by the author 3 January 2010.
4. Commodore Lewis Warrington was born at Williamsburg, Virginia on November 3, 1782. He attended the College of William and Mary. Warrington was appointed midshipman in the Navy on January 6, 1800. He fought in the war with the Barbary pirates. Warrington performed distinguished service during the War of 1812. He was promoted to master commandant in 1813. Warrington was given the command of the USS Peacock. He engaged and defeated the British brig Epervier off Cape Canaveral on April 29, 1814. Warrington captured the cruiser Nautilus on June 30, 1815. He was a member of the Board of Navy Commissioners from 1826 to 1830 and again from 1840 to 1842. Warrington commanded at the Gosport Navy Yard from June, 1821 to December 1824 and again from May, 1831 to October, 1840. He was appointed Secretary of the Navy in 1844. Warrington was married to Margaret King. He died on October 12, 1851.

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John G. “Jack” Sharp resides in Concord, California. He worked for the United States Navy for thirty years as a civilian personnel officer. Among his many assignments were positions in Berlin, Germany, where in 1989 he was in East Berlin, the day the infamous wall was opened. He later served as Human Resources Officer, South West Asia (Bahrain). He returned to the United States in 2001 and was on duty at the Naval District of Washington on 9/11. He has a lifelong interest in history and has written extensively on the Washington, Norfolk, and Pensacola Navy Yards, labor history and the history of African Americans. His previous books include African Americans in Slavery and Freedom on the Washington Navy Yard 1799 -1865, Morgan Hannah Press 2011. History of the Washington Navy Yard Civilian Workforce 1799-1962,  2004. 
and the first complete transcription of the Diary of Michael Shiner Relating to the History of the Washington Navy Yard 1813-1869, 2007/2015 online:
His most recent work  includes Register of Patients at Naval Hospital Washington DC 1814 With The Names of American Wounded From The Battle of Bladensburg 2018,
The last three works were all published by the Naval History and Heritage Command. John served on active duty in the United States Navy, including Viet Nam service. He received his BA and MA in History from San Francisco State University. He can be reached at sharpjg@yahoo.com




Norfolk Navy Yard Table of Contents

Birth of the Gosport Yard & into the 19th Century

 Battle of the Hampton Roads Ironclads

The Norfolk Navy Yard into the 20th Century

Image Index