On This Day

Charles Wilkes

Naval Officer and Explorer Charles Wilkes

Profession: Naval Officer and Explorer

United States of America

Biography: Wilkes led the United States Exploring Expedition (1838-42) to the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica.

Wilkes was also a Union naval commander during the American Civil War. In 1861, he commanded the USS San Jacinto when it attacked a Royal Mail Ship carrying two Confederate diplomats which almost caused a war between the US and the UK.

For this he was court-martialed for a second time, the first stemmed from the massacre of almost 80 Fijians on Malolo in 1840.

Born: April 3, 1798
Birthplace: New York City, New York, USA
Star Sign: Aries

Died: February 8, 1877 (aged 78)

Historical Events

  • 1838-08-18 United States Exploring Expedition headed by Charles Wilkes departs for the Pacific Ocean and Antarctica
  • 1840-01-25 American naval expedition under Charles Wilkes is first to identify Antarctica as a new continent
  • 1840-02-16 American Charles Wilkes discovers Shackleton Ice Shelf, Antarctica
  • 1841-05-11 American Charles Wilkes lands at Fort Nisqually in Puget Sound
  • 1861-11-08 USS San Jacinto commanded by Charles Wilkes captures two Confederate diplomats from the British mail steamer Trent, almost causing a war between the US and the UK

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