The journal is hand-written, in both ink and pencil and, rather than a personal diary, it is a working journal filled with official material: copies of verbatim orders; requisitions; lists of equipment, accoutrements & uniform items; copies of official letters to and from various officers; Quarter Master receipts, vouchers & letters of transmittal; muster rolls, rolls of Marines on particular details; also logs recording individual Marines' absences, sicknesses, infractions of the law, confinements & fines, dates of leaves & returns, dates of inspections, instructions to the guard for particular days, and so forth.|
One major portion of the journal contains material pertaining to the ships Alliance and Ohio. These entries are dated 1877 and 1878, many of them being from July 1877 when the ships were off Smyrna, Asia Minor. Another set of records appears to be from the USS Pensacola, from 1885 when the ship was off Smryna, Asia Minor. Another set of records stems from 1893 to 1895, though from where and from what ship is not clear.
By and large, officers are referred to only by their initials. However in one instance an officer is named without direct reference to a ship: "Capt. Geo. Dewey", and in another instance an officer and ship are named together: "Louis J. Gulick, 2d Lt. U.S.M.C. Commdg. Guard" of the USS Alliance at Havre, France on July 31st, 1878.
The journal itself is a standard black ledger, 6 x 8.5, and is rather the worse for wear, being in a battered condition, with some loose pages, and the front cover detached. A label on the front cover is mostly torn away. One of the initial pages, a requisition sheet, is mostly torn away, and several of the opening pages have been partially pasted over with newspaper recipies, which we hope to be able to remove. About 98%of the journal, however, is intact and clearly legible. There are approximately 125 pages, not counting blank pages and few pages torn out.
The keeper of the journal appears to have been a 1st Sergeant Duncan Gillis, who is also listed on many of the lists & rosters, and in the logs. We reached this conclusion because of a number of entries in the rear of the journal, of a more personal nature, showing addresses and birth dates of several Gillis family members. However, it also appears that the journal was written by two distinctly different hands: one a rather rough scrawl, and the other an elegant, very legible script. Our suppostion is that the scrawl belonged to the owner of the journal, 1st Sgt Gillis, and that the elegant hand belonged, perhaps, to a Navy clerk, who appears to have copied official letters and orders into the journal so that the 1st Sgt might have them always at hand, to refer to in the course of his duties. One aspect of the journal which throws doubt on the theory that it belonged to Gillis is that he is referred to in the logs in the third person and, on several occasions, when Gillis was reported absent due to sickness, the logs continued in his absence. It may be, though, that referring to oneself in the third person was standard practice in logs of this nature, and that, after his return, he recorded the events which had occured in his absence.
The different sections are listed in the order of their position within the journal, an order which is not always chronological. Thus, when references are made to "a first log", "a second log", "a third log", and so forth, the numerical designations refer not to the order in which the logs were composed, but simply to their relative positions within the pages of the journal.
We invite your comments on this journal, especially if you can provide any further information on the ships or individuals mentioned. We have found a fair number of references to both the Alliance and the Pensacola, as both ships participated in different actions around the globe in the second half of the nineteenth century, but it appears that when our journal-keeper was aboard either ship, little of note occured. The journal's chief value, therefore, is to be found in the light it sheds on the life and duties of shipboard
Marines on the latter nineteenth century, rather than in any new
information one might expect to find regarding significant naval
engagements. Of the latter category, it contains nothing.
Of the obscure details of the lives of shipboard Marines in the
last century, however, it contains a treasure trove.