1829: Zebulon Pike Wardell to Sarah Gage Wardell

This letter was written by 19 year-old Zebulon Pike Wardell (1810-1847) while serving aboard the the U.S. Java in the Mediterranean. He was the son of Thomas Wardell and Maria Herriot Pike of Lawrenceburg, Dearborn County, Indiana. After her first husband died, Maria married Anderson Gage.

Zebulon was named after his uncle, Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813), the famous explorer after whom Pike’s Peak is named.

Zebulon wrote the letter to his sister, Sarah Gage Wardell (1814-1919), who married Rev. Charles B. Sturdevant (1807-1886) in 1836. Also mentioned in the letter is their younger sister, Clarissa (“Clara”) Wardell (b. about 1817).

Zebulon mentions writing to “Mrs. Harrison” of Vincennes whom he calls a cousin. I believe this was Zebulon Montgomery Pike’s daughter, Clarissa Brown Pike, who married John Cleves Symmes Harrison — the son of William Henry Harrison.

Stampless Letter


Addressed to Miss Sarah Wardell, Lawrenceburgh, Dearborn County, Indiana, U.S.

U.S. Ship Java
P. _____
September 16, 1829

Page 1

Dear Sister Sarah,

I wrote to you from Gibraltar on the first of this month and write to you this soon again on account of having a very good opportunity of sending my letter. We sailed from Gibraltar for Malaga on the 10th of this month and arrived there the same day. We only lay there long enough for getting on board some raisons when we sailed for this place. While at Malaga, I saw an American Merchant Captain who had boarded with me at Philadelphia. I learned from him that all my acquaintances were well.

Page 2

We arrived here yesterday and found here the U.S. Ship’s Delaware, Warren, & Fairchild. The Delaware, Lexington & Schooner Porpoise are going to return to the United States this fall. We will remain up here for one year more. As for myself, I do not know when I shall return to my dear Mother, Sister & friends. It is to my interest to remain up here until my examination comes on. You must not think, my dear Sarah, that it is not a great disappointment to me. I would not miss going home for my life if I did not know that all my future hopes depend on my remaining.

I find my friend McCracken in very bad spirits. He has just received the news of the death of a beloved brother — one he has often spoken of to me when I lived on shore with him. He intends remaining out here & will try and get on board the Constellation with me when she arrives. I have seen my little (little do I call him. He is larger than I am now. He was when at Philadelphia with me nothing but a child. I have grown nothing at all) friend William C. Farrar. He is much attached to me as ever. As for L.P.W., he loves him as he would a younger brother.

Page 3

Now Sarah, I must return to things that interest me more than any thing else in this world — that is my home & relations. My dear grandpa, I hope he still enjoys his health & is in good spirits. It is the warmest wish of my heart to see him once more in this world. Oh that I were with him now to support him on my arm when he wished to walk out or to amuse him with anecdotes of my cruise in the Mediterranean. My mother, she will see her son in the course of time. I hope something better than when he left home. But be sure to remember me to all my friends of Lawrenceburgh. One in particular I need not mention her name. Tell her that am the same as I was when I left home, that none but a girl of my own country can fix my affections.

Page 4

I wrote to Mrs. Harrison of Vincennes from Gibraltar. I expect she will design to answer her cousin. If she does not, I am done with the family. Tell little George that I expect him to write to me, and also my sisters Marie & Clara I wish very much to hear from. If you would allow M. L. to write a few lines in your letters, you will oblige me. Clara must write herself as it will be of service to her. Kiss my dearest Marie Lorrick for me. Tell her that her brother thinks of her every day and wishes to see his little play fellow.

Zebuline, I expect, remembers her cousin. Farewell, dear Sally. My respects to Mr. Gage, the Brandons, & Uncle’s family.

Your affectionate brother, — Zebulon Pike Wardell


“USS Java was a wooden-hulled, sailing frigate in the United States Navy, bearing 44 guns. She was named for the American victory over HMS Java off the coast of Brazil in 29 December 1812, captured by the Constitution under the command of William Bainbridge. HMS Java had suffered severe damage during the engagement and being far from home port was ordered burned.

Java was a built at Baltimore, Maryland in 1814 and 1815 by Flannigan & Parsons. Not completed until after the end of the War of 1812, Java, Captain Oliver Hazard Perry in command, got underway from Baltimore 5 August 1815, picked up spare rigging at Hampton Roads and New York, and sailed to Newport, Rhode Island, to fill out her crew. Ordered to the Mediterranean to serve in the Second Barbary War, the new frigate departed from Newport 22 January 1816 in the face of a bitter gale. At sea one of her masts snapped with ten men upon the yards, killing five.

Java was off Algiers in April where Perry went ashore under a flag of truce and persuaded the Dey of Algiers to honor the treaty which he had signed the previous summer but had been ignoring. Next she sailed for Tripoli with Constellation, Ontario, and Erie to show the strength and resolve of the United States. Then, after a cruise in the Mediterranean stopping at Syracuse, Messina, Palermo, Tunis Gibraltar, and Naples, the frigate returned to Newport early in 1817 and was laid up at Boston, Massachusetts.

Java returned to active service in 1827 under Captain William M. Crane for a second deployment in the Mediterranean. There she protected American citizens and commerce and performed diplomatic duties. Toward the end of the cruise she served as flagship of Commodore James Biddle.

After returning to the United States in 1831, Java became receiving ship at Norfolk, where she was broken up in 1842.” Source: — Wikipedia


2 responses to “1829: Zebulon Pike Wardell to Sarah Gage Wardell

  • Brian

    Hi. Is this letter for sale? I collect Zebulon Pike related material and this would be a nice addition to my collection. Thanks.
    Brian Murphy
    Santa Fe, NM

  • Brian

    I believe “grandpa” mentioned in the letter was Zebulon Pike (b.1751), the father of Zebulon Montgomery Pike (1779-1813) the explorer and Brigadier General. He lived at Lawrenceburgh and died there in 1834.

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