THROUGH purchase in England the Naval Historical Foundation has recently acquired a United States naval letter-book which is labeled as having been “Taken from the War Office at Washington, August 14, 1814.”
The book comprises “Orders on service, from Commanding Officers” received by Lieutenant John H. Dent between December 19, 1803, and December 29, 1810. Only a small proportion of the letters contained in the book are of record in the Navy Department archives.
The first entry is a copy of an order for Lieutenant Dent to “go on board the Enterprise, proceed to and land at Malta, wait on the Governor, acquaint him with my object in coming off the Island,” etc. These instructions were issued and signed by Commodore Preble on board the U.S.S. Constitution.
The next letter from the commodore includes an order to “keep a good lookout on the Tripoline prize and take care that the prisoners do not make their escape.” This “prize” was renamed the U.S.S. Intrepid, and subsequently used by Decatur in his spectacular burning of the Philadelphia, which had fallen into hostile possession through accidental grounding near the harbor of Tripoli.