Future Confederate Naval Commander
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Three months before his home state of Virginia seceded, U.S. Naval Commander Arthur Sinclair writes to a Commander in the Navy. ARTHUR SINCLAIR.
Autograph Letter Signed to unknown. U.S.S. Pennsylvania
, Norfolk, January 22, 1861. 1 p., 7⅞ x 9¾ in.
U.S. Ship Pennsylvania
Norfolk Jany 22. 1861.
My dear Sir.
I have nothing of any importance to communicate – only feel a desire to know how my esteemed Commander is getting on & whether your health has been entirely restored. Please inform me at your earliest convenience all about you & yours. As you will perceive I am in command of this ship, having been orderd at my own request, on the 15th. inst – I have just returned from Washington, whither I went in charge of the new steam sloop Pensacola. The Secretary received me with great kindness & was very complimentary. Poindexter is here with me as my executive - & desires to be remembered. Should you write Hitchcock present my regards. God bless you
Yours truly as ever ---
Arthur Sinclair (1810-1865) was a Virginia native whose father served in the U.S. Navy during the Barbary Wars and the War of 1812, retiring as a Commodore. Sinclair was dismissed (effectually resigning) from the U.S. Navy on April 18, a day after Virginia seceded from the Union. He was then appointed a commander in the Confederate Navy on June 10, 1861. He commanded the C.S.S. Winslow during the Battle of Hatteras Inlet in August, 1861, and drowned during the foundering of the blockade runner Leila on January 14, 1865.
Arthur’s future grandson, Upton Sinclair, was a famous radical activist and writer of such books as The Jungle, an expose on the meatpacking industry. His biographer notes an old “favorite story in the Sinclair collection of traditional family tales … Lieutenant Commander Arthur Sinclair, and his old friend, fellow Virginian, and shipmate Captain David Farragut had stayed up and argued all night long in Sinclair’s study, the day after Virginia had seceded. The next morning, Farragut had gone north, loyal to the Union. Sinclair, like [Robert E.] Lee, had been loyal to Virginia and the lost cause.”
Harris, Leon. Upton Sinclair: American Rebel (New York, 1975), p. 15.