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Admiral John Randolph Tucker Papers

Collection ID: MG 40

Scope and Contents

The John Randolph Tucker papers, many of which are in Spanish, deal primarily with his service as President of the Peruvian Hydrographical Commission of the Amazon. Included in the collection are letters describing the expedition of the steamer Tambo and the difficulties encountered by Tucker and the Commission. These include hostile indigenous people, as well as financial and other problems in their dealings with the Peruvian government. Papers related to John Randolph Tucker, the lawyer, are available in the Special Collections Research Center at William & Mary.


  • 1865-1897, undated
  • Other: Date acquired: 01/08/1980



0.40 Linear Feet

Conditions Governing Access

Open to researchers without restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Before publishing quotations or excerpts from any materials, permission must be obtained from Special Collections and University Archives, and the holder of the copyright, if not Old Dominion University Libraries.

Biographical or Historical Information

John Randolph Tucker was born January 31, 1812 in Alexandria, Virginia. His parents were John Tucker, originally from Bermuda, and Sara Douglas, daughter of Dr. Charles Douglas, a physician who came to America after the Revolution. The Tucker family, some of whom had been in Virginia since before the Revolution, produced a number of prominent men in Virginia's political and social life. After attending private schools in Alexandria, Tucker entered the U.S. Navy as a midshipman on June 1, 1826. Although six years later he passed the examination for advancement, there were no vacancies at that time and he had to wait until December 20, 1837 to be promoted to Lieutenant. As Lieutenant Commander he commanded the Stromboli during the Mexican War. Tucker received his commission as Commander on September 14, 1855 when he took over the command of the Pennsylvania. His last duty in the U.S. Navy was as Ordnance Officer of the Norfolk Navy Yard, from which he resigned due to the secession of Virginia. Tucker was appointed Commander, first of the Virginia Navy and then the Confederate States Navy, at which time he assumed command of the Patrick Henry, formerly a U.S. Navy Steamer which was seized and converted into a Confederate man-of-war. As commander of the Patrick Henry, Tucker participated in battles with the Union Navy at Hampton Roads and Drewry's Bluff. In August of 1862, Tucker took over command of the Chicora at Charleston, South Carolina. Following Tucker's surrender in April 1865 at the Battle of Saylor's Creek, he was sent North as a prisoner of war. After his release July 24, 1865, he returned to the South to work as an agent of the Southern Express Company of Raleigh, North Carolina. While Tucker was in Raleigh, the Peruvian Minister to the United States contacted him to arrange an interview in Washington. Peru, which was at war with Spain, invited Tucker to join their Navy as a Rear Admiral, bringing with him two staff officers. Tucker accepted and went to Peru with Captain David Porter McCorkle and Commander Walter Raleigh Butt. Although some Peruvian Naval Officers objected to a foreigner in command of their fleet, Tucker distinguished himself in battle with Spain. Following his resignation in 1871 from the Peruvian Navy, Tucker was appointed President of the Peruvian Hydrographical Commission of the Amazon. This Commission, which explored and surveyed the Upper Amazon River and its tributaries, discovered two new rivers, the Trinidad and the Herrera- yacu. Upon completion of the expedition, Tucker traveled to New York to meet with engravers to make maps and atlases from the Commission's findings. Tucker retired to Petersburg, Virginia, until his sudden death on June 12, 1883. He was buried in Norfolk next to his wife, the former Virginia Webb, whom he married June 7, 1838, and who died in 1858. Their children were Randolph Tucker, Tarleton Webb Tucker, and Virginius Tucker.

Note written by Ellen Emser

Language of Materials


Spanish; Castilian


Commander in the United States, Confederate States and Peruvian Navy. Papers deal primarily with his service as President of the Peruvian Hydrographical Commission of the Amazon. Spanish language materials predominate.

Arrangement Note

The collection is organized into four series: Series I: Correspondence; Series II: Legal and Business Papers; Series III: Publications and Newspaper Clippings; and Series IV: Miscellaneous.

Source of Acquisition

Commander Douglas Tucker, USN

Method of Acquisition

Gift. Accession #A80-4

A Guide to the Admiral John Randolph Tucker Papers
Ellen Emser
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the ODU Community Collections Repository

3000 Perry Library
4427 Hampton Blvd.
Norfolk VA 23529 US