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Barzillai Pease Journals

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Overview of the Collection

Creator: Pease, Barzillai, 1773-
Title: Barzillai Pease Journals
Inclusive Dates: 1789-1826
Quantity: 0.5 linear ft.
Abstract: American seaman, pilot, ship's captain. Journals combining ship's logs and personal diaries concerning Pease's career as a merchant seaman and tenure as Commander of United States Transports on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812.
Language: English
Repository: Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries
222 Waverly Avenue
Syracuse, NY 13244-2010

Biographical History

Barzillai Pease was an American seaman, pilot, and ship's captain, and Commander of United States Transports on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812.

Pease was born at Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, on July 27, 1773, the son of Barzillai Pease, a seaman who was prize master aboard a privateer during the American Revolution, and Deborah Coffin Pease. When Barzillai was fourteen years old, his family moved to Hudson, New York, in or near which he eventually established his own family of a wife, two sons and two daughters, both sons dying during the period covered by the journals.

In 1789 he made his first voyage, aboard the whaling ship Prudence, and continued his seafaring life at least through 1826 when the journals end. He shipped aboard whalers and sealers chiefly in his earlier years but occasionally on ships carrying cargo, sometimes as a crew member, at least once as mate, and several times as master of his own vessel.

Infrequent visits home were joyful occasions but lasted only as long as it took Pease to find another berth. In 1814 he turned to fresh water navigation when he was appointed commander of United States Transports on Lake Ontario. For eighteen months of the War of 1812 he continued in this service, and after resigning in August, 1815, he continued to sail the lake as captain of a ship carrying passengers and cargo.

Pease spent the winter of 1817-1818 in prison in Cambridge, Massachusetts, for an unidentified reason, perhaps a matter of debt. Whatever the cause, he protests his innocence in Journal 17, written during his incarceration.

The final journal in the collection seems to indicate that Pease, sailing for Bermuda with Anguilla as his ultimate destination, was seeking treasure of which he had some knowledge. However, he found nothing and returned to New York on September 9, 1826, the date of the final entry in the journals.

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

The Barzillai Pease Journals consists of fourteen journals in nine volumes, which recount the adventures and misadventures of the American seaman, pilot, and ship's captain.

The form of the journals varies. Some are composed of daily entries combining ship's log and notations of the nature of a general diary. Others are narrative accounts, apparently written after the voyages they describe were over. Sometimes these forms are combined in a single journal; and in one or two cases, narrative accounts seem to have been written from the daily journals which are included in the collection, thus accounting for some duplication of content.

The journals include accounts of a number of shipwrecks and hardships suffered; detailed descriptions of sealing and whaling procedures, some with ink drawings of whales; and descriptions with several profile drawings and a few maps of West Indian and Falkland Islands. Life aboard schooners, sloops and brigs of the late 18th and early 19th centuries is depicted and includes mutinous behavior and other personnel problems, sometimes involving violence. Destinations include Martinique, the Falkland Islands, the South Seas, Nantucket, New Bedford, Cape Horn, Barbados, Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and various cities on Lake Ontario.

The two journals written while Pease was Commander of United States Transports on Lake Ontario during the War of 1812 describe transportation of soldiers on the lake, and New York towns bordering on the Lake, particularly Sackets Harbor, including their preparations for defense such as the building of forts and raising of militia. Also included are a list of names of all the men employed on the transports with the dates on which they worked and the wages paid, a list of the names and numbers of all United States Transports on Lake Ontario during the war, and a list of passengers and freight carried on the lake from May to December, 1816.

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Arrangement of the Collection

The journals are in chronological order. The first few volumes contain several journals bound together.

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Access Restrictions

The majority of our archival and manuscript collections are housed offsite and require advanced notice for retrieval. Researchers are encouraged to contact us in advance concerning the collection material they wish to access for their research.

Use Restrictions

Written permission must be obtained from SCRC and all relevant rights holders before publishing quotations, excerpts or images from any materials in this collection.

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Related Material

Special Collections Research Center has several other 18th and 19th century ship's logs. Please search the Classic Catalog, for "ship's logs" for a complete listing.

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Subject Headings


Pease, Barzillai, 1773-


Merchant marine -- Officers.
Merchant mariners.
Navigation -- History.
Pilots and pilotage.
Sailors -- United States.
Ship captains -- United States.
Shipwrecks -- Archival resources.
Whaling -- Archival resources.


United States -- History -- Naval, To 1900.
United States -- History -- War of 1812.

Genres and Forms

Ships' logs.


Ship captains.

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

Barzillai Pease Journals,
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Acquisition Information

Purchase, 1969.

Finding Aid Information

Created by: AES
Date: June 1969
Revision history: 3 Nov 2008 - converted to EAD (MRC); 2 Aug 2017 - rehoused (MRC)

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[Volume 1] 1789-1795
Box 1 Journal 1 (pp. 1-54): Ship Prudence, Albertus Swain, Master, to Martinique and other islands; Ship Prudence, Solomon Bunker, Master; Brig Nancy, John Barnard, Master, to the Falkland Islands; Brig Hero, to the "Western Islands" 1789-1790 - narrative account
The first three pages give an account of Barzillai Pease' early life. His first voyage is described beginning on page 4, aboard the whaling ship Prudence in 1789, Albertus Swain, Master. Twelve days out they ran into a violent storm which dismasted the ship. As they headed back, they spotted another wreck but because of the storm they were forced to proceed without offering help. The Prudence landed in Martinique, refitted, and the crew continued Whaling, catching only two whales. Pease describes the poor physical treatment he received from the captain, being struck several times for minor offenses or none at all. The ship returned to Hudson for repairs. Several pages describe his return home and life there before shipping on board the Prudence again, Solomon Bunker, Master, for a whaling voyage of eight months, following which he returned again to Hudson.
In 1790 Pease shipped aboard the Nancy, John Barnard, Master, for a sealing voyage to the Falkland Islands. He describes the voyage and the loss of a man overboard. After carefully avoiding landing on the Barbary Coast because of fears of being taken as slaves if forced to land there, their first stop was the Cape Verde Islands. Pease describes whales sighted along the voyage and landing in the Falklands. He describes the islands, sealing and the methods used, and other animals caught on the islands. On the return voyage he describes a narrow miss from crashing into an iceberg. The Nancy landed in New York nineteen months after starting out on this voyage.
Pease shipped next on the brig Hero, bound for the "Western Islands." He describes the voyage to South Georgia, the difficulty of avoiding icebergs and the landing. The ship was wrecked on the rocks and he describes in detail the efforts to save everything they possibly could. They waited for wreckage to float ashore and built a house from the salvaged wood. There were no provisions and the men were starving; half of them were suffering from dysentery. He describes the capturing and killing of animals for food and the gathering of eggs. Eventually they were able to board an English ship whose captain was both cruel and habitually drunk. After leaving South Georgia, they were attacked by a Spanish ship, the English ship boarded and plundered and its masts badly damaged by the Spanish guns. When stopped by English men-of-war, the English sailors were hidden. Fifteen Americans were taken prisoner and carried to England. Pease gives a brief account of their stay in England until their departure for America in an unidentified ship.
The remaining journals follow the same general pattern of seamanship, description and events, and are described more briefly hereafter.
Box 1 Journal 2 (p. 55-78): Brig Nancy to the Falkland Islands Nov 8, 1792-May 12, 1794 - log; ontains two profile drawings of islands
There are no entries for Dec. 12-23, 1792, Jan. 8-27, 1793, and April 3-March 1, 1793. Pease describes encounters with several whalers and notes a number of sightings of whales. The journal contains two ink drawings of profiles of islands at which they landed, with brief descriptions of the islands.
Box 1 Journal 3 (p. 79-116): Ship Hero to South Georgia Sep 19, 1794-June 12, 1795 - daily entries, combined log and journal
The day-to-day record of the voyage to South Georgia on the ship Hero, which is described in a running narrative at the end of Journal 1. There are no entries for the first part of the voyage, nor for the period Nov. 17-29, 1794. The description of the voyage to South Georgia ends Jan. 1, 1795 and begins again on Jan. 26, after the shipwreck. Four and a half pages of entries in faded pencil apparently were written just after the wreck.
[Volume 2] 1795-1799
Box 1 Journal 4 (p. 1-29): Ship America, Strubel Coffin, Master, London to Boston June 12, 1795-Oct 27, 1795 - daily entries, combined log and journal
Account of the voyage from London, where they were taken by an English ship which picked them up after the shipwreck, to Boston in the ship America. After leaving London, the America was stopped by English men-of-war and searched for Englishmen.
Box 1 Journal 5 (p. 30-115): Ship Oswego, George Clark, Master, to Cape of Good Hope Dec 22, 1795-July 1, 1797 - daily entries, combined log and journal; contains 42 drawings of whales
Nearly the entire journal is concerned with whaling and includes sightings, chases, the overturning of boats by whales and the sinking of several, harpooning, and encounters and conversations with whalers from Nantucket and New Bedford, describing their successes and the amount of oil secured. He describes the cutting up and boiling down of the whales for oil. The journal has 42 whales drawn in.
Box 1 Journal 6 (p. 116-206): Brig Rebecca, Urial Coffin, Master, around Cape Horn, with some time spent on the Falkland Islands Dec 18, 1797-Nov 12, 1799 - daily entries, combined log and journal; contains profile drawings of several islands and a map of Juan Fernandez drawn by Pease
Shortly after leaving on this voyage, one of the crew died of smallpox. The first stop was the Cape Verde Islands, for supplies; from there they continued toward the Falkland Islands. During this part of the voyage a large comet was sighted and was visible for ten or fifteen minutes. In May, 1798, they landed in the Falklands. Pease describes the islands and the sealing process on them. Rounding Cape Horn, they landed on the island of Mocha, sighting many whales along the way. There they built a house for processing the seals and further descriptions of sealing on Mocha follow. He gives a lengthy account of a boat in which he and others were trying to land being wrecked on the rocks, and continues with descriptions of skinning operations and a violent argument between the captain and a crew member. The ship sailed from Mocha, met a Nantucket whaler who gave them wood with which to rebuild their boat, and returned to Mocha to pick up their skins. The Rebecca then sailed to several other islands. Pease drew a map of Juan Fernandez and profiles of several other islands in the journal. They met and boarded a number of other ships, mostly whalers and sealers, and were told that three captains and twenty-seven crewmen had been taken by the Spanish and it was thought they had been shot immediately. As they met various whalers and their captains went aboard the Rebecca, he describes each ship and records the amount of oil she carried.
[Volume 3] 1802-1812
Box 1 Journal 7 (p. 1-39): Schooner John, B. Pease, Master, to Cape Horn and Grand Turk Island; Schooner John for Barbados; Sloop Polly[?] to Nova Scotia 1802-1803 - daily entries, combined log and journal
The first journal containing accounts of voyages with Barzillai Pease himself as Master. The journal includes three voyages, the first begun on Aug. 15, 1802, the second on Dec. 24, 1802, and the third on Aug. 21, 1803. The first two were made in the schooner John. On Aug. 15, 1802, the John started from New York for the Cape with a cargo of sheep, but many of the animals perished on the voyage and it was terminated at Grand Turk Island, the schooner returning to New York. On Dec. 24 they left New York for Barbados. The ship leaked and the crew were ill; one man died. Eighteen days out they landed at Guadalupe, where they sold their cargo and bought cargo for the return trip. They then stopped at several West Indian islands to purchase more cargo but found none to buy. Pease gives advice on how to approach the islands. Pease set out on a fishing voyage along the Northeast coast to Nova Scotia on Aug. 31, 1803, but was badly damaged by a storm and arrived back at New York Nov. 7. This voyage may have been made in the sloop Polly.
Box 1 Journal 8 (p. 39-53): Sloop Polly, B. Pease, Master, to Newfoundland 1803-1806 - running account
A running narrative from the spring of 1803 to May of 1806, beginning with a description of the fitting out of the Polly for a fishing voyage. After stopping at Edgartown, they proceeded to the coast of Newfoundland. Boarding what they thought was an American ship, they discovered it was an English man-of-war disguised as American to lure French ships into capture. The English had caught many French ships in this way and had unloaded them before burning them. They advised Pease and the crew to go into port and take all the fish they wanted from the supply taken from the French. However, the Polly lost all her fish during a hurricane off the coast. After this voyage, Pease was charged with smuggling, but the charges were dropped. He then bought his own ship, went on another fishing voyage along the coast and then to the West Indies.
Box 1 Journal 9 (p. 59-81): Sloop Polly, B. Pease, Master June 9, 1803-Nov. 9, 1803 - daily entries, log and journal; ship's log for voyages described in Journals 7 and 8
Aboard the sloop Polly on a fishing voyage to the Straights, , B. Pease, Master. This journal includes two voyages, the first already described in Journal 8 and the second in Journal 7.
Box 1 Journal 10 (p. 85-143): Schooner Olive Branch, B. Pease, Master, to West Indies; Robert Fulton's steamboat on the Hudson River, with B. Pease signed on as pilot; Ship Delight (voyage not described); Voyage to West Indies 1806-1812 - running account
Pease describes the voyage to the Indies aboard the schooner Olive Branch and trading there. There was trouble getting out to sea at the start as the ship stuck on a sand bar. On the return voyage the Olive Branch was struck by a hurricane and on pages 8-15 he describes the wreck of his ship in detail. The Olive Branch turned over and Pease was trapped in the cabin but finally managed to get out of the ship and swim to the surface. Climbing onto the ship's mast to stay afloat, he saw one member of his crew, a Long Island Indian, swim to the surface. Pease threw him a rope and they lashed themselves to the mast. Only he and the Indian survived the storm, four other crew members drowning. They made nooses for catching sharks and retrieved floating oranges from the wreckage. They climbed atop the ship's hull and Pease suffered a severe sunburn. Finally making a sail to attract a ship, they were picked up and on the way to port saw the wreckage of many ships. Pease was badly bruised and had a number of injuries.
After recovering, Pease took the ship George to North Carolina and Jamaica. He describes in detail a dead mermaid which had floated ashore and claims he had seen many of them in the past, but continues to discuss the "mermaid mistake," indicating that he believes them to be a form of sea mammal similar to the seal. The boat being badly damaged, he sold it in sections when they reached St. Ann's and went on to Jamaica, returning to New York aboard the sloop Polly.
For a while Pease worked as a pilot at Nantucket but the local pilots gave him some trouble. He then returned home and signed on as a pilot for Robert Fulton to pilot his steamboat up the Hudson River early in 1808. On pages 39-46 he describes the journey up the Hudson, including his disagreements with the captain, whose poor judgment ran the ship aground and caused it to ram into a sloop, a dock and sandbars. He returned to Hudson and left on Feb. 27, 1809 in the Delight for a voyage which is not described. In 1811 Pease shipped on a voyage to the West Indies and was shipwrecked again, a hurricane wrecking his ship and many others. The final pages of the journal are concerned with this event, the last page containing his contract for a voyage to the Falkland Islands in 1812.
Box 1 Journal 11 (p. 145-163): Schooner Delight, B. Pease, Master, to West Indies Feb 27, 1810-July 20, 1810 - daily entries, combined log and journal
From New York to St. Bartholomew's on the schooner Delight. Pease describes the various islands which they touched and relates being stopped by English men-of-war but not harassed. There is a full page account of a Fourth of July celebration aboard ship. This is possibly the same voyage noted but not described in volume 10, although dates differ
Box 1 Journal 12 (p. 164-191): Schooner Governor Richardson to St. Martins Aug 27, 1810-Dec 25, 1810 - daily entries, combined log and journal; contains six profile drawings of islands in the West Indies and drawing of a map of the harbor of St. Martins
[Volume 4] 1812-1816
Box 1 Journal 13 (p. 1-46): Brig Nanina, Valentine Barnard, Master, to South Seas; return home on Bingham of Philadelphia March 12, 1812-Dec 11, 1813 - daily entries, combined log and journal; also a narrative account of parts of the voyage
Four men, including Pease, undertook to make the voyage on the brig Nanina as joint backers, Valentine Barnard being appointed Master by the others. They had a little trouble getting out of their American port because of the Embargo. Pease provides long descriptions of islands where they landed for supplies and includes a drawing of one. After landing in the Falklands, Pease describes their sealing activities. There is serious trouble with a crew member who seemed to go berserk and had a violent quarrel with the captain, threatening them all with a pistol. The ship received news that America and England were at war, but picked up the crew of the wrecked English ship Isabelle. There are no entries for the month of May.
Captain Barnard was not in the main boat when the English crew was picked up. The others agreed to take the English to a South American port, but the English took Over the ship and refused to pick up Captain Barnard. Pease describes their poor treatment at the hands of the English but they were set free finally and put on an English ship for Rio de Janeiro where his crew was ordered to work on the ship. Pease provides a lengthy account of prison life aboard the ship. Arriving in Rio, he protested to both the English and American ministers but received no aid. After several more unhappy encounters with the English, he managed to get home on the ship Bingham of Philadelphia. Included with this journal are twenty copies of protests about their treatment at the hands of the English. There is some duplication of entries for the same days and periods but they are not identical.
Box 1 Journal 14 (p. 46-69): Command of U. S. Transports on Lake Ontario; Packet Oswego, B. Pease, Captain, on Lake Ontario 1814-1816 - running narrative
Pease was appointed Commander of United States Transports on Lake Ontario on Sept. 6, 1814. On page 47 he describes fitting out an expedition for an unknown destination. After the Battle of Lake Champlain, General Izard's 5000-man army arrived and Pease was told to be ready to transport them in four days. He sailed with Commodore Chauncey's fleet, unloaded the troops who marched to Black Rock, and returned. Events related to the war and his post as Commander of Transports continue on page 48, where he describes the New York towns bordering on Lake Ontario, particularly Sackets Harbor, in their preparations for defense, including the building of forts and raising of militia. He took charge of moving all the wounded and sick to Brownville for safety, saw two deserters shot, and gives an account of a spy who starved himself to death to forestall hanging. On Aug. 19, 1815, Pease resigned his post. He then worked for one summer on the packet Oswego, sailing from Oswego to Niagara. The final part of the journal describes small trips on the waterways and overland travel in upper New York State.
[Volume 5] 1814-1815
Box 1 Journal 15 (52 p.): Command of U. S. Transports on Lake Ontario Sep 13, 1814-Oct 25, 1815 - daily entries, combined log and journal
This journal covers a period also reported in Journal 14, but includes in addition the names of the crew from Sackets Harbor under Pease as Commander of United States Transports, a list of the names and numbers of all transports from Sackets Harbor on Lake Ontario, and a list of names of men employed on the transports with the dates they worked and wages paid. The list of transports appears on page 9, with lists of hands employed on pages 1-2 and 16-17. There are no entries from Jan. 1 to April 10, 1815.
[Volume 6] 1816
Box 1 Journal 16 (62 p.): Ship Oswego, B. Pease, Master, on Lake Ontario May 22, 1816-Dec 23, 1816 - daily entries
Aboard the ship Oswego of Oswego, New York, B. Pease, Master, carrying passengers and cargo on Lake Ontario. Description of trips on Lake Ontario, many of them from Oswego to Fort Niagara and Sackets Harbor, and on rivers of upstate New York. Pages 49-64 list passengers and freight carried, with dates and charges.
[Volume 7] 1817-1818
Box 1 Journal 17 (30 p.): Written in prison in Cambridge, Mass. Nov 20, 1817-Jan 30, 1818 - daily entries
This journal was written while Pease was in prison in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and describes his life as a prisoner. There is no indication of the reason for his incarceration, but possibly it was a matter of debt. Whatever the cause, he protests his innocence.
]Volume 8] 1825-1826
Box 1 Journal 18 (46 p.): To Boston, B. Pease, Master; Schooner Margaret to St. Mary's, Georgia; Working at various shipping jobs in New York City and living aboard the ships; Fishing cruise July 16, 1825 to April 29, 1826 - daily entries
This journal includes a number of brief voyages. The first was a voyage with cargo from Hudson around Cape Cod to Boston and back, stopping at Edgartown on the return trip, followed by various trips up and down the Hudson River. On Oct. 17, 1825, Pease shipped aboard the schooner Margaret of Newport, Rhode Island, bound for St. Mary's, Georgia, with cargo. He refers to "my low bred and mean captain," with whom the entire crew was unhappy. After this voyage, Pease worked at various shipping jobs in New York City, living aboard ship.
[Volume 9] 1826
Box 1 Journal 19 (26 p.): Schooner Margaret, Darius D. Dennis, Mister, to Bermuda and Guadalupe June 3, 1826-Sep 9, 1826 - daily entries
Pease comments on the very poor crew of the Margaret. After arriving at Bermuda on June 22, the ship caught fire in the harbor and sank. The captain was robbed so he could not pay Pease his wages. He describes the island of Bermuda before leaving it to sail 16 days to St. Martin's in Anguilla. In Bermuda Pease had been offered $5000 for a sworn statement of the location of treasure he apparently was seeking: he says he would accept $10,000. He offered the captain $5000 to $10,000 to take him to St. Martin's. When Pease found no treasure, the captain was very angry so that Pease records that he wishes he were off the ship. At Dominique he found a ship bound for Providence and took passage, arriving in New York Sept. 9, 1826.

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