Letter Regarding Proposed Armaments for the HMS Barham

Signed by John Franklin

$1250
Item: 771
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FRANKLIN, SIR JOHN. (1786-1847). British Royal Navy officer and Arctic explorer who perished in his attempt to chart the Northwest Passage. ALS. (“John Franklin”). 1p. 4to. London, May 29, 1834. To Mr. Combs.

I saw Capt. Marshall a few days since at Chatham and was rejoiced to learn from him, that he had every reason to be much pleased with the account the officers of the Barham had given him of his guns; which ship you know was entirely fitted with them. The Barham was acknowledged to have been in excellent order, the report therefore from such a ship must have been equally interesting & valuable to him. Marshall wishes his guns to be further tried on the lower deck of a line of battle ship for which situations they seem to be peculiarly suited and I should be very glad if his propositions were adopted. I hope you will be tempted to remain longer in town than you mentioned and at least that I may have the pleasure of meeting you & Mrs. Combs in Somerset Place [Bath] on Monday. Believe me my dear Combs ever most faithfully yours…

Franklin had already made three Arctic expeditions between 1819 and 1823 when, after quitting Tasmania, he set out to travel through a previously un-navigated portion of the long-sought for Northwest Passage. The 59-year-old veteran Arctic explorer assembled a crew and two ships, which became icebound in the Canadian Arctic. The fate of Franklin and his 128-man crew, last sighted at Lancaster Sound near Baffin Island in July 1845. From 1850-1857, his wife, Lady Jane Franklin had outfitted five search teams to locate the crews of these two ships. Her undying loyalty and perseverance, synonymous with the mention of her name, are immortalized in the monument to her and her husband at Westminster Abbey. Franklin’s expedition’s fate was shrouded in mystery until May 1859, when an expedition led by Leopold McClintock discovered some skeletons from the missing crew.

H.M.S. Barham, 1832

James Marshall (?-?) devised an “admirable system of mounting naval ordnance, an invention which, from its importance to H.M. service, cannot be too highly appreciated, [and] led to his promotion to the rank of captain, Nov. 19th, 1932. In 1827, this officer’s new gun-carriage was tried repeatedly on board the Galatea frigate, under the inspection of Rear-Admiral Sir Thomas M. Hardy, and was found greatly superior to common gun-carriage, in facility and rapidity of training and firing, as well as in allowing a greater traversing of about a point each way fore and aft. A series of experiments were subsequently carried on at Portsmouth, under the able management and impartial scrutiny of Captain Thomas Hastings, on board the Excellent 58, giving proof upon proof of the excellencies of the new system, in economy of labour, in time of manoeuvring, in the number of hands to serve the gun, in command of range, elevation, depression, and last, not least, in precision of fire. The breechings, too, underwent the severest tests, establishing facts beyond the power of biassed opinion to controvert. In consequence thereof, a very strong and unqualified report in favour of adopting the plan in our navy was sent by Captain Hastings to the Admiralty; and, in 1833, an order was issued for all ships to have their stern and bow guns mounted upon Marshall’s principle,” (Royal Naval Biography; Or, Memoirs of the Services of All the Flag-officers, Superannuated Rear-Admirals, Retired-Captains, Post-Captains, and Commanders, Marshall). Our letter discusses said implementation aboard the HMS Barham, a “third rate” (the ideal configuration for speed, size and armaments) ship of the line in the Royal Navy named after Admiral Charles Middleton, 1st Baron Barham, which had recently returned from Malta. The letter also refers to Chatham Dockyard, the massive Royal Navy shipyard located on the River Medway in Kent. Gently folded and mounting traces; in very good condition. Annotated in an unidentified hand at the top of the sheet, “North Pole Franklin.”

Letter Regarding Proposed Armaments for the HMS Barham

Signed by John Franklin

$1250 • item #771


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