1839: Philip Falkerson Voorhees to Henry Mason Morfit

Philip F. Voorhees, ca. 1840

This letter was written by Philip Falkerson Voorhees(1792–1862), the son of John Vorrhees and Keziah Falkerson.  Voorhees entered the navy as a midshipman on 15 November 1809, and was engaged in the War of 1812, taking part in the capture of the HMS Macedonian by the USS United States on 25 October 1812. . He was also present at the capture of HMS Epervier by USS Peacock on 28 April 1814 for which he received a silver medal from congress, and promoted to a lieutenant on 9 December 1814.

He was promoted to a commander on 24 April 1828, and to a captain on 28 February 1838. He was assigned to command of the frigate Congress on her first cruise to the Mediterranean Sea in 1842. In December 1843, Voorhees joined Commodore Daniel Turner’s Brazil Squadron blockading Montevideo in safeguarding U.S. trade during Uruguayan Civil War.

The U.S. Navy stayed aloof from lower-South American troubles. On 29 September 1844, however, Voorhees showed himself to be quick-tempered and impulsive. He captured an armed Argentine schooner that delivered a mail to the Argentine commanding officer. This overreaction damaged the US-Argentina relation. He was tried by courts-martial in 1845 but the sentences of these courts were not approved. After a few months’ suspension President Polk, in 1847, restored Voorhees to his full rank in the navy and gave him command of the East India Squadron on the flagship Plymouth. He returned in 1851.

In 1855 Voorhees was placed on the reserved list. At the opening of the American Civil War he urged his assignment to active duty, but, he died a few months afterward on 26 February 1862 in Annapolis, Maryland.

Voorhees wrote the letter to Henry Mason Morfit (1793-1865), the son of Henry Pitner Morfit and Henrietta Hanna Porter. After his capture at sea in 1810 at age 17, Morfit escaped from his French captors and returned to the United States, where he studied law and was admitted to the bar in Virginia. For a while he lived in Missouri and later in Baltimore, Maryland. He married Catharine Campbell in November 1814  in Georgetown. They had sixteen children. He was a U.S. emissary sent to Texas in the summer of 1836 by President Andrew Jackson to gather information about the young Republic of Texas. His report, sent in a series of letters during August and September of 1836, recommended that the U.S. withhold immediate recognition of the Republic.

The war references in this letter refer to recent saber-rattling between the United States and Great Britain concerning boundary disputes in Maine.

Stampless Cover


Addressed to Henry M. Morfit, Esq., Washington D.C.

Annapolis [Maryland]
March 18th 1839

Dear Sir,


I thank you for collecting the debt due me from Capt. A. A. Nicholson. The interest though just was not expected and I have to make to you my acknowledgements for your ability as a financier.

The check was very convenient being cashed by the Bank of this place & my regret is that I had not a million for you to manage. But that day may come in a successful War with England. How would you like a prize agency? I make you the offer in advance should I have the good fortune to command & the country the ill fortune of a war. Think of this & then of your most truly — P. F. Vorhees


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