1877 ORIGINAL PAIR  OF MANUSCRIPT LETTERS HANDWRITTEN BY AN 'OLD SALT' MIDSHIPMAN WHO WILL SERVE HIS COUNTRY AT SEA WITH DISTINCTION AND ONE DAY EARN HIGH PRAISE FROM THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES2390
On offer is a wonderful pair  of original manuscript letters handwritten by Midshipman Alexander Sharp, Jr., he of a storied career having served as an aide to Assistant Secretary of the Navy, Theodore Roosevelt and also commanded the U.S.S. VIXEN during the Spanish American War. He took part in the Battle of Santiago, the largest battle of the Spanish-American War. Sharp, born in Missouri in 1855, was the nephew of Civil War general and president Ulysses S. Grant. He entered the Naval Academy at Annapolis in June 1870 during the low point when the Navy was nearly out of existence. Ships were antiquated; promotion slow and the majority of the ship's crews were made up of people who were not U.S. citizens. On May 11, 1873, Sharp was promoted to midshipman, to ensign on July 18, 1877 and then to master on April 8, 1882. On March 3, 1883, he was promoted to lieutenant, junior grade, having been in the navy for over 13 years. This was the rank he would still hold at the time of the Spanish American War. On October 29, 1884, Sharp married Miss Josephine "Josie" Hand in Yankton, South Dakota. Sharp was assigned to the office of the assistant secretary of the navy, Theodore Roosevelt, who described him in his autobiography as being a "first-class fellow." Roosevelt had Sharp appointed to the command of the U.S.S. VIXEN. Later, when Roosevelt's Rough Riders approached the shore at the Daiquiri landing point aboard the Army transport YUCATAN, the VIXEN was present. Sharp provided the YUCATAN with a pilot that got the ship close into shore, unlike many of the other transports who had no pilots. Very shortly after the war's fighting ended and armistice was agreed to between the U.S. and Spain, Sharp was promoted to lieutenant in August of 1898. Following the war, Sharp, promoted to lieutenant commander, served aboard the venerable U.S.S. HARTFORD of Civil War fame. Later, he was called to testify at the investigation into the actions of Winfield Scott Schley at Santiago. Sharp died on February 9, 1910. The 22 year old Ensign Sharp, already an 'old salt' writes very chatty, chock full of sea faring narrative relating to his ship and others and the many common individuals in the service they know to his friend "Old Goat" [a much later hand has written in pencil that the letter is to Hunter C. White] the first letter written aboard the USS Marion [a blockade ship during the Civil War] is 12 pages 5" x 8" dated January 16, 1877, USS Marion, At Sea from Nice France. Sharp does a superb job detailing his life in the Navy: "…After graduation had a splendid time - was ordered on the 1 December, 1875 to the Marion at Portsmouth, NH…Our Miss[ion] composed of Carter, Sharp, Doyle, Worcester, Howe, King, Eldridge, deRuiz. We met all the girls in Portsmouth. Had a splendid time - Left Portsmouth on 20 January 1876…We got off without any danger to the ship. I came damned near to getting killed. Topmast went down…From Norfolk we went to Port Royal, SC. Were there about two weeks. There were about twelve men of war there and there were nineteen of our class on the different ships. From there we went to Key West, Fla. Were there a few days and sailed for Porrazos de Santiago…There we anchored about five miles from the shore and rolled so that the 'dead-lights' had to be kept closed. Damned hot with heavy dew. Stayed there a month. Some of our fellows went ashore and up to Brownsville where some of our troops are… From there, the ship sailed to…Mexico. We were there about a week and got our orders for Europe…Started for Lisbon, Portugal. Every man…had a good supply of whiskey and cigars…Took the deck in the day time…I had her in a squall and got her through…The only squall of any size we have had since we have been on her. Well we went to Lisbon - had quite a nice time, stayed two weeks and sailed for Leghorn, Italy. Went through the straits of Gibraltar, got to Leghorn, found the Franklin (Flagship)…Went to…Turkey…from there Constantinople…Were there about ten days. Received orders to return to Villefranche, France…Relieved the Franklin. She went home and we are [on the] Flagship…Went to Spezia, Italy to have some repairs to engines. Saw the 100 ton gun. Dam big thing…Went to Genoa, Italy. Were there two months. Met lots of splendid girls. I got spoony on a married lady. She ditto on me. Had a bally time. We correspond now. We had dances on board and the people had dances ashore…Was sorry to leave… Everybody in Nice in the Winter is rich and money is nothing…When we sailed, the Nice papers came out with a long article expressing great regret at our leaving…Some of us Mr. Were invited to a big 'German' the last night we were in Nice. All of us went that could leave the ship. Had a bally time and Champagne was like water but I am afraid it will be our last dance for some time. We are now at sea on our way to Messina Sicily. We are to be there three days, then go to Beirut in Palestine… "We all expect to go home in about September or October for examination for Ensigns. No one has looked at a book yet. "We keep a journal and put as much or as little as we please in it, work something in navigation at sea if we want to. Are in five watches on the forecastle and take one watch on the deck in place of forecastle during the day at sea…We are quite comfortable, have an Italian cook and steward…We all drink brandy. Hard to get any good whiskey…All their fellows wish me to give their best love to old Goat and say Bah! Bah! Sly Billy 'Section de bois' is well represented over here but you should hear us talk so much. Now old fellow, write soon and address, U.S.S. Marine Corps…I have so many things to tell you about…Lovingly your 'Other half'" The second letter is 2 pages, 5" x 8" dated Port Said, Egypt, March 4, 1877, Sharp writes to "Goat" "…We are as you can see by the heading at Port Said, Egypt…We are anchored in the [Suez] Canal which is about four or five hundred feet wide at this place and about eight-six miles long. There are always a large number of Steamers in this port. Now there are ten. I go to Tunis, Algiers. We expect our orders every day. Do you remember where we were this time four years ago? I do! Well old man, I am not engaged yet and what is more don't intend to be for some time yet. "I can live splendidly on my pay and save something. We receive one pay in gold…and things are quite cheap out here. We have an Italian Cook and Steward and two boys (colored) that we brought from the U.S. Our mess bill is 120 francs or about $24 a month (in gold). "By the way, an old school mate of mine is from Norwalk. His name is Walter B. Hogt. He went to school in Stamford with me…Well Old Goat, I must congratulate you on your charming marriage…Alex Sharp." Small fold tears reinforced with archival tape.
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