Manuscripts Division
William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan

Finding aid for
Jacob Nagle Journal, 1840

Finding aid created by
Meg Hixon, October 2011

Summary Information
Title: Jacob Nagle journal
Creator: Nagle, Jacob, 1762-1841
Inclusive dates: 1840
Extent: 1 volume
The Jacob Nagle journal pertains to the life and adventures of the Revolutionary War veteran, who sailed in both the American and British navies between 1775 and 1824.
Language: The material is in English
Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Phone: 734-764-2347
Web Site:

Access and Use
Acquisition Information:

1982. M-2016.

Access Restrictions:

The collection is open for research.


Copyright status is unknown

Processing Information:

Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.

Alternate Format:

The journal has been published by the William L. Clements Library.

Preferred Citation:

Jacob Nagle Journal, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan


Jacob Nagle was born in Reading, Pennsylvania, on September 15, 1761, and in 1777 he joined his father, a German immigrant named George Nagle, as a soldier in the Revolutionary War. After participating in the Battle of Brandywine and encamping at Valley Forge, Nagle joined the navy. He served on several ships before being captured in October 1781. Facing impressment, Nagle then served in the Royal Navy, spending time in places such as Sydney and New South Wales, Australia; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; the Canary Islands; Martinique; and Calcutta, India, before marrying in 1795. Nagle returned to the United States in 1802 but remained primarily at sea; he also lived in Brazil from 1811-1821. Following his retirement in 1824, Nagle moved to Canton, Ohio, where he died on February 17, 1841.

Collection Scope and Content Note

The Jacob Nagle journal pertains to the life and adventures of the Revolutionary War veteran, who sailed in both the American and British navies between 1775 and 1824. Nagle wrote the 161-page document, entitled "A Sketch or Journal of Jacob Nagle from the Year 1775," on July 22, 1840, near the end of his life. He began the journal with a brief history of his family, mentioning his father's commissions in the Continental Army during the American Revolution. Just sixteen when he joined his father in various Pennsylvania regiments, Nagle served with the artillery and encamped at Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-1778; this portion of the journal includes illustrations depictions of several military actions from the viewpoint of an ordinary soldier. Following his infantry service, Nagle entered the navy and spent most of the rest of his life at sea, serving in the American and British military and merchant navies over the course of several decades. The majority of the journal describes Nagle's adventures both at sea and on land, which included encounters with fellow seamen and with prostitutes. During his long naval career, Nagle saw much of the world, including the Caribbean, Asia, and Australia. His account provides a rare firsthand glimpse into the life of an everyday sailor during the late 18th and early 19th centuries.

Subject Terms

    • Great Britain. Royal Navy.
    • Sailors--Great Britain--Biography.
    • Sailors--United States--Biography.
    • Seafaring life.
    • United States. Continental Army.
    • United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    • United States. Navy--History--Revolution, 1775-1783.
    Genre Terms:
    • Autobiographies.
    Contents List
    Container / Location Title
    Volume   1  
    Jacob Nagle journal,  July 22, 1840 [series]
    Additional Descriptive Data
    Related Materials

    The Clements holds the published version of this journal: Nagle, Jacob. The Nagle Journal: a Diary of the Life of Jacob Nagle, Sailor, From the Year 1775 to 1841. New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 1988.

    The State Library of New South Wales has a second manuscript copy of the Jacob Nagle journal.


    Frost, Alan. "Nagle, Jacob (1761-1841)." Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Online edition. Oxford University Press, 2004.