From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Frederick Wheelock '46

Date of birth: unknown

Date of death: April 11, 1848

Age: unknown


William died by suicide on April 11, 1848, while aboard the Brig Porpoise, of the African Squadron. (Information from a letter from his commanding officer, LT Alex Gordon, dated April 15, 1848.)

He was born in Virginia but was appointed from, and was a resident of, New York.

From researcher Kathy Franz:

In January 1847 on the St. Mary’s, Frederick was quite ill, unhappy with his treatment, and wanted to resign. He was severely reprimanded for this but restored to duty. In early January 1848, Frederick declined the position of Master of the Porpoise. In his letter, he stated: “My eyes are sufficiently good for all the ordinary uses … but I am afraid that if I attempt the use of quadrant or sextant at present that they will be severely injured … I am obliged to decline from present imperfection of eyesight attempting the duties of master for the time being.” The Porpoise took on Passed Midshipman James Somerville '47 as an acting master, and after 37 stormy days, she came to Porto Praya on February 24. James was recommended to be appointed Master.

Frederick died on April 11, and Lieutenant A. G. Gordon wrote that his remains were buried in the Dutch cemetery on St. George de Elmina, Ghana, with full military honors and funeral rites of the Episcopal Church. He also wrote that “…for some time previous to his demise, he was, by the most evident proof laboring under mental derangement.” In a letter to Frederick’s mother, he wrote that Frederick was beloved and respected by his brother officers and had never before attempted his life. On March 20 and August 17, letters were waiting for Frederick in the New York City post office.


From the Naval History and Heritage Command:

Midshipman, 10 March, 1840. Passed Midshipman, 11 July, 1846. Died 11 April, 1848.

From "Letters to the Secretary of the Navy":

From Acting Midshipman Y. Philipse Wheelock, USS CONSTITUTION, 1 Nov 1841: On passage from USS MARION on the Brazil Station, wishes to withdraw his resignation. [Annotated that it has not yet reached the Department.]

There are no other "Wheelock"s on record during this period; suspect the "Y" first initial above is a typo. On November 2, 1841 Captain Daniel Turner (of Constitution) "Reports having permitted Acting Midshipman Wheelock to return home after so short a time because the young man convinced him he was not fitted for the service and wished to be allowed to resign."

In November 1841 F.P. Wheelock is listed as a midshipman aboard the frigate Constitution; this ship had just returned from Brazil to Hampton Roads, Virginia. He had joined the ship on station at some point earlier that year.

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

September 1842

Midshipman, Sloop Ontario

January 1843

Midshipman, on leave

October 1843

Midshipman, waiting orders, Baltimore

January 1844

Midshipman, Frigate Potomac

January 1847

resigned, December 16, 1846

January 1848

Passed Midshipman, waiting orders


A special thank you to historian Kathy Franz for locating Horatio's cause of death.

Class of 1846

Frederick is one of 13 members of the Class of 1846 on Virtual Memorial Hall.

The "category" links below lead to lists of related Honorees; use them to explore further the service and sacrifice of the alumni in Memorial Hall.