John Tyler photo

Executive Order

February 29, 1844


*Sent to all diplomatic and consular officers of the United States.

DEPARTMENT OF STATE, Washington, February 29, 1844.

SIR: It has become my most painful duty to announce to you the sudden and violent death of the Hon. Abel P. Upshur, late Secretary of State of the United States. This afflicting dispensation occurred on the afternoon of yesterday, from the bursting of one of the great guns on board the Government steamship Princeton , near Alexandria, on her return from an excursion of pleasure down the river Potomac. By this most unfortunate accident several of our distinguished citizens, amongst whom were the Secretaries of State and of the Navy, were immediately killed, and many other persons mortally wounded or severely injured. It is the wish of the President that the diplomatic and consular agents of the United States, and all other officers connected with the State Department, either at home or abroad, shall wear the usual badge of mourning, in token of their grief and of respect for the memory of Mr. Upshur, during thirty days from the time of receiving this order.

In consequence of this event, the President has been pleased to charge me ad interim with the direction of the Department of State, and I have accordingly this day entered upon the duties of this appointment.

I have the honor to be, with great respect, sir, your obedient servant,



WAR DEPARTMENT, February 29, 1844.

In the deepest grief the President of the United States has instructed the undersigned to announce to the Army that from the accidental explosion of a gun yesterday on board the United States steamship Princeton the country and its Government lost at the same moment the Secretary of State, the Hon. A. P. Upshur, and the Secretary of the Navy, the Hon. T. W. Gilmer.

Called but a few days since to preside over the administration of the War Department, it is peculiarly painful to the undersigned that his first official communication to the Army should be the announcement of a calamity depriving the country of the public services of two of our most accomplished statesmen and popular and deeply esteemed fellow-citizens. Their virtues, talents, and patriotic services will ever be retained in the grateful recollection of their countrymen and perpetuated upon the pages of the history of our common country.

Deep as may be the gloom which spreads over the community, it has pleased the Almighty Disposer of Events to add another shade to it by blending in this melancholy catastrophe the deaths of an eminent citizen, Virgil Maxcy, esq., lately charge' d'affaires to Belgium; a gallant and meritorious officer of the Navy, a chief of a bureau, Captain B. Kennon, and a private citizen of New York of high and estimable character, besides others, citizens and sailors, either killed or wounded.

As appropriate honors to the memory of these distinguished Secretaries, half-hour guns will be fired at every military post furnished with the proper ordnance the day after the receipt of this order from sunrise to sunset. The national flag will be displayed at half-staff during the same time. And all officers Of the Army will wear for three months the customary badge of mourning.


Secretary of War.

NAVY DEPARTMENT, February 29, 1844.

As a mark of respect to the memory of the late Hon. Thomas W. Gilmer, Secretary of the Navy, whose career at his entrance upon the duties of his office, would have been nobly maintained by that ability and vigor of which his whole previous life had been the guaranty, the flags of all vessels in commission, navy-yards, and stations are to be hoisted at half-mast on the day after the receipt of this order, minute guns to the number of seventeen are to be fired between sunrise and sunset, and crape is to be worn on the left arm and upon the sword for the space of three months.

By command of the President:


Secretary of the Navy ad interim.

John Tyler, Executive Order Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

Simple Search of Our Archives