Tuesday, December 29, 2009

1861 Officer Commission Document

All officers of the United States Armed Forces have a clause in their commissioning papers that they "serve at the pleasure of the President of the United States" (as opposed to enlisted sailors who serve according to terms set forth in an enlistment contract). Back in the 19th century, U.S. Naval officers got their commission paper personally signed by the President. Every time a new Administration took over, an officer would get a new document, hand signed by the new President.

In the museum's collections are the commission papers of Rear Admiral William Talbot Truxtun, grandson of the famous Commodore Thomas Truxtun.  This special collection includes his papers with the signature of every President  from John Tyler to Chester Arthur. 

William was one of eight grandsons who followed in their grandfather's career steps and among them, he had among the more distinguished careers. He served in the Navy, mainly in Hampton Roads, from 1841 until his death in 1885 and saw frequent combat during the American Civil War. Shown here is Truxtun's commission signed by Abraham Lincoln.

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