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.”