The papers of Charles Wilkes (1798-1877) span the years 1607-1959, with the bulk of the material dated between 1841 and 1865. The collection contains family, official, and general correspondence of Charles Wilkes, letterbooks of Wilkes and another United States naval officer, journals and diaries, a draft autobiography, scientific tracts and notes detailing weather and tidal observations, genealogical charts, newspaper clippings, Confederate currency, and printed matter. There are also marriage and building contracts, leases, inventories, promissory notes, trust agreements, and debt records dating from the seventeenth century that relate to the Wilkes family in England and America. The papers illustrate much of Wilkes's career, including his command of an expedition of 1838-1842, which engaged in surveys and exploration of the Antarctic, islands in the Pacific Ocean, and the northwest coast of the United States. The collection also covers Wilkes's seizure of Confederate commissioners J. M. Mason and John Slidell aboard the British mail steamer Trent in 1861. Notebooks, observation records, and correspondence relate to the expedition, but most of the material relates to his special duty in Washington, D.C., in the period 1843-1861, when Wilkes consolidated the scientific data gathered on the mission and prepared his narrative of the voyage together with other scientific volumes for publication. With these publications came a measure of fame and recognition, not only as an explorer but also as a nautical scientist. Wilkes's capture of the Trent is chiefly reflected in his correspondence for the period 1861-1862, which contains letters from committees honoring him and letters indicating favorable public reaction. More vividly portrayed are Wilkes's commands in 1862 of the James and Potomac River flotillas and of the West India Squadron operating near the Bahamas against Confederate commerce destroyers. The General Correspondence and Letterbooks series contain an exchange of letters between GideonWelles, George Brinton McClellan, and Wilkes touching upon the military operations of the 1862 Peninsula Campaign. Scattered references throughout the papers relate to Wilkes's business interests in the South, especially in North Carolina. Correspondence in the papers also pertains to the Wilkes family. Included in the Family Correspondence series are letters of Charles Wilkes, his son John, daughters Jane and Eliza, his wives, Jane Renwick and Mary Lynch Bolton, and cousins and other family members. Their letters chronicle the family's celebrations and tragedies as well as their activities and interests prior to the Civil War. Wilkes's daily records in the Journals and Diaries series record events of special interest and supplement those periods lacking in correspondence. His autobiography provides information relating to his career and personal life. The Miscellany series includes three official letterbooks of William Compton Bolton, a United States naval officer and the first husband of Wilkes's second wife, Mary Lynch Bolton. Prior to his death in 1848, Bolton and his wife were close companions of the Wilkeses in Washington society. Originally named William Compton Bolton Finch, his name was changed in 1833. The name Finch appears on the first two volumes. Frequent correspondents in the papers include Louis Agassiz, James Dana, Joseph Drayton, Asa Gray, George Brinton McClellan, Fred D. Stuart, and Gideon Welles. The collection is arranged in thirteen series: Journals and Diaries, 1841-1875; Letterbooks, 1841-1863; Family Correspondence, 1836-1915, n.d.; General Correspondence, 1835-1876, n.d.; Official Correspondence, 1862-1863, n.d.; Expedition File, 1828-1863, 1940, n.d.; Autobiography and Other Writings, 1855-1877, n.d.; Financial and Business Papers, 1833-1876, n.d.; and Miscellany, 1817-1921, n.d.