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John S. Sewall Ship's Log

An inventory of his item at Syracuse University

Finding aid created by: LDC
Date: 21 Jan 2009

Biographical History

John Smith Sewall (1830-1911) was an American sailor, minister, and professor who is best known for his book The Ship's Log of the Captain's Clerk: Adventures in the China Seas, which tells of his experiences aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga.

Sewall was born in 1830. After graduating from Bowdoin College in Portland, Maine in 1850, Sewall enlisted in the United States Navy. His first assignment was to the U.S.S. Saratoga as a captain's clerk. This ship accompanied Commodore Matthew C. Perry to Japan from 1853-1854.

Once back in the United States, Sewall was ordained a Congregational minister. He worked as a pastor in Wenham, Massachusetts from 1859-1867. Sewall then served as Chaplain to the 8th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War in 1864.

In 1875, Sewall accepted a professorship position at Bowdoin College, where he remained until 1903. Two years later, Sewall wrote a book, The Ship's Log of the Captain's Clerk: Adventures in the China Seas, about his experiences aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. He died in 1911.

Scope and Contents of the Collection

The John S. Sewall Ship's Log is a day book maintained by Sewall during his time as captain's clerk aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga. In addition to recording the daily activities of the ship from 1850-1854, the logbook contains newspaper clippings, handwritten notes, lists of officers and death notices dating from 1850-1903. These additional pieces of information relate to the story of the U.S.S. Saratoga as told through the logbook.

Arrangement of the Collection

The collection contains one series, Ship's log, which consists of a single-bound volume. Within the volume are various loose items such as newspaper clippings and handwritten notes.


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.

Subject Headings


Sewall, John S. (John Smith), 1830-1911.

Corporate Bodies

United States. Navy -- History -- Sources.
United States. Navy -- Officers.


East Asia -- Description and travel.
United States -- History, Military -- To 1900 -- Sources.

Genres and Forms

Ships' logs.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Preferred citation for this material is as follows:

John S. Sewall Ship's Log
Special Collections Research Center,
Syracuse University Libraries

Table of Contents

Ship's log