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Barzillai Pease Journals

An inventory of his papers at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: AES
Date: June 1969

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.

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.

Arrangement of the Collection

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


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.

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.

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.

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.

Table of Contents

[Volume 1] 1789-1795

[Volume 2] 1795-1799

[Volume 3] 1802-1812

[Volume 4] 1812-1816

[Volume 5] 1814-1815

[Volume 6] 1816

[Volume 7] 1817-1818

]Volume 8] 1825-1826

[Volume 9] 1826