' Skip To Content
The Greely Expedition | Primary Source

Journal: First Lt. Greely

First Lieutenant Adolphus Greely

First Lieutenant Adolphus Greely, commander of the Lady Franklin Bay Expedition, kept a journal from the beginning of the expedition in 1881 through his rescue in 1884. Pieced together from diary entries scattered across the country, these matter-of-fact excerpts detail the construction of Fort Conger, the celebration of Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the isolation brought on by the complete darkness between October and February.

In the spring of 1884 Greely records the actions of the men as they steel themselves for death. "It is surprising with what calmness we view death, which, strongly as we hope, now seems inevitable," Greely wrote on March 21st. "We have talked over the matter very calmly and quiet, and I have always exhorted the men to die as men and not as dogs."

St. John's, Newfoundland. July 4, 1881
The day drizzly and foggy until afternoon when it cleared somewhat. At about 11 AM the expeditionary force being all aboard the crew commenced to heave up anchor. About two o'clock we reached anchorage opposite the Queen's wharf. We have thus made a formal start, but are delayed leaving the harbor until our ammunition, photographic materials and some other indispensable items reach us. They leave Halifax today by the steamer Hibernian of the Allen line, which on persuasion finally consented to bring us the stores.

St. John's, Newfoundland, July 6, 1881
The launch was brought alongside about 730 good morning. They commenced hoisting her in at 9 AM, and by 11 had her on board, much to my relief without accident. Passed the greater part of the early day ashore signing papers and settling up the last small bills, and in making a few unimportant changes. Came off aboard ship about 1 PM, and shall not go ashore again unless something important demands it.

Saturday, July 9, 1881
Early this a.m., from 30 to 40 icebergs were passed. Quite a severe Newfoundland gale during the morning. Sick and in my berth all day. Unable to keep any food down.

Monday, July 11, 1881
Somewhat better today but not entirely myself. Saw my first iceberg this forenoon, some miles distant.

Tuesday, July 12, 1881
Continual daylight has commenced. At midnight last night large print could be read on deck. This morning sent Ellis -- who has been able to keep nothing down since leaving St. John's, a glass of Sauterne -- which did him some good. Four icebergs were seen early this afternoon - three large and one small. We should soon pick up the east Greenland pack or land. Considerable sea, beginning to feel uncomfortable again, and to eat nothing at supper.

Sunday, July 31, 1881
Lieut. Kislingbury inspected and then at about 5 PM. Cpl. [illegible] and others complained to me that Lieut. Kislingbury examined their clothes for vermin and made them a laughingstock; also that Lieut. Lockwood was accustomed to show no kindness for consideration in the order given. Told them that Lieut. Kislingbury was ordered to inspect and that whatever he did must be supported. Did not speak of Lieut. Lockwood I said that their complaints would receive due consideration.

Saturday, August 13, 1881
Men working day and night in gangs relieving each other every four hours. I had occasion to reprimand Sgt. Brainard for attempting to take game for the men without any authority. I took him to task very severely think there will be no repetition.

Sunday, August 14, 1881
Lieut. Lockwood told me that the doctor had said he could not remain with the expedition if Mr. Clay did. I had once sought the doctor out and he had a great deal to say and was disposed to make term site… The doctor finally decided that if I send Mr. Clay [illegible] that he would remain too. I afterward told Mr. Clay that I had made up my mind to send Mr. Clay back but that nothing could be said about it. He gives me great pain to find Mr. Pauly such a man as to threaten the abandonment of the party. If he was anything but a doctor I should deal with him very summarily. To relieve him would be most dangerous and unwise but to permit dictation of terms would be equally as dangerous in another direction. Have issued similar on to the men during working hours. I'm doubtful whether it does any physical good but naturally it appeared to alleviate the work.

Thursday, August 18, 1881
Party worked steadily all day unloading coal until about 6 PM, when as there was about 30 tons of coal on shore I agreed to require no more. Succeeded in getting through with my official mail about 6 PM. I thought the captain would leave at once but he said he had decided to remain until 4 AM. It's his affair but it seems to me I should prefer to have the ship near the mouth of the harbor especially as the weather is threatening. Ordered last observation in ship to be taken at midnight, and commenced onshore at 1 AM.

Discontinued water temperatures at noon today. All the men's bedding was sent ashore at noon, and everything of the officers at 8 PM. Orders were given that everything should be onshore by 4 AM tomorrow morning so that the ship be delayed no moment by our party. The entire party is to sleep ashore.

Fort Conger, Grinnell Land. Friday, August 19, 1881
Sat up in the cold cabin of the Proteus until about 2 AM when I lay down for a time but after half an hour's uncomfortable sleep -- my own bedding being ashore -- awoke. to I had expected to say goodbye to everyone formally but when I went ashore at 4 AM had to await the captain and also Mr. Clay — the latter came on deck and saw us ashore.

During all last night which was bitter cold I had nothing but the jersey -- not being able to find my coat or overcoat. Was obliged to wait about 20 minutes in a snowstorm seated in a wet boat before I could get ashore. Went to bed at about 5 AM Into my sleeping bag and was up at six. Both lieutenants Kislingbury and Lockwood slept until noon and left their post all the afternoon. Men worked from 7 AM until 10 PM except time absolutely requisite for eating their food. Cooking stove set up out outdoors. Proteus got away only a mile or two. Lieut. Lockwood tried to follow the Proteus with the launch "Lady Greely" but had to give up the attempt.

Saturday, August 20, 1881
Worked until after 10 PM, as did all the men, so as to get matters in such shape as to rest tomorrow. Officers slept very late - their actions much the same as yesterday. Dr. Pavy very busy through it all. Proteus is still in harbor about halfway from camp to Dutch island. Mr. Norman (the mate) as well as Capt. Starr were over from the ship. This evening the house is entirely covered sides and all, and has a couple of doors and a few window shutters up.

Sunday, August 21, 1881
Lieut. Kislingbury rose to breakfast at a very late and then went to bed until dinner. Lieut. Lockwood remained in bed until dinner; in the afternoon they both went to Moscow today shooting. As the men had worked very hard and the weather was good I concluded to do no unnecessary work today. Cpl. Alice and Pvt. Whistler worked some on doors and windows. So snowing when I got up that day turned out a very pleasant one. Took a long walk this evening going to hear watercourse Bay and to the crown of the hills east of the camp. Returning to met Mr. Morrison Capt. Starr and Taylor (one of the crew). Mr. Norman was after 5 gallons of lime juice which I let him have Proteus attempted to leave harbor was obliged to return to her old anchorage.

Monday, August 22, 1881
About 1 PM today sent for the Lieutenants Kislingbury and Lockwood separately (neither having arisen at that time) and reprimanded them for remaining in bed such hours at a time when men were working from 12 to 14 hours daily to get matters in shape. Lieut. Lockwood said he regretted it and had previously intended changing his habits in that respect. Lieutenant Kislingbury took the reproof in a very bad part and said he thought he'd been working as hard as anyone in his tramps over the hills. I did not agree as he has been out but twice and then for pleasure as far as I could gauge. Lieut. Kislingbury complained that he thought himself in the way and that I was inclined to ignore his advice. I disclaimed any such intention and said that his advice had always been listened to but the commanding officer had to consider many things, and mainly the proper means of attaining success. I told both officers that I could not personally call them but that I would or had already done, see that they were called by one of the men. Pvt. Ryan had an epileptic fit and was sent aboard Proteus at once with orders to return to Washington.

Friday, August 26, 1881
Rose quite reluctantly at 7 A.M., having worked hard the day before and being very tired and sleepy Lt. Kislingbury was up soon after but Lt. Lockwood was not until 7:40. Breakfast was delayed over half an hour and considering that the officers had been repeatedly requested to be up to breakfast at the same hour as the men 7 A.M. Washington mean time (or 7:50 local time) Lt. Kislingbury surprised me by saying that he would not get up at such an hour but would remain in bed and do without his breakfast. I said promptly that in the future he would get up whether he chose to eat or not…that it was a regulation of the expedition and must be complied with. He said that he would do so if it was insisted on. I said to him that this was no place for an officer to say that he would obey an order only if it was insisted on, that cheerful compliance was expected and when an officer could not yield it usefulness as a member of the expedition was destroyed. He commenced discussing the question and I was twice compelled to say that I proposed having no arguments regarding it.

I stated that I remembered no such words and that when I want an officer to go I should plainly say so, but I added that possibly it was a mere choice of words and I acknowledge having said his that usefulness was impaired and destroyed when he rebelled against my orders, and if he thought them (the orders) unreasonable I still thought so. He said that he did think the orders unreasonable and I then said "I will put it stronger than the language you said I used this morning and now say not that any officer so thinking and acting had better go but that he must go." I said moreover that I would prefer losing every officer and remain to do my work with enlisted men alone rather than be surrounded by men disposed to question orders given. I then asked Lt. K. if he wanted to go on such a basis. He said, "Yes since matters have gone thus far." I at once issued the order gave him all commissary supplies and arranged by letter for his return, but the steamship by that time had commenced running and by the time Lieut. Kislingbury said goodbye and walked to the point he had to come back, and so is to remain with us.

Proteus got out of harbor about 6 PM: she was obliged to run eastward some distance and was last seen about 5 miles to East of [illegible]. Opened a bottle of Virginia, over the Proteus's departure, but only half was drank.

Saturday, August 27, 1881
Heavy snow falling with winds from northeast to southeast since 3 AM. Issued order number six modifying provisions of order number five so as to direct Lieut. Kislingbury to proceed to St. John's Newfoundland by the first visiting steamship and in the meantime to be considered here as awaiting orders. This defines his status and makes Lieut. Lockwood my successor in case of my death or permanent disability. Lieut. Kislingbury went out in the storm about 8 PM for a tramp over the hills. Pvt. Ellis went shortly after. The last of the outside windows was put in today and the cook's range permanently located. The partitions separating our room from the kitchen was finished today and a door put in so that now we have some privacy. Three sets of iron bunks were brought in. I take the northwest corner, Lieut. Kislingbury (given second choice) the southwest; Lieut. Lockwood the Northeast, and the doctor takes the Southeast. Had my desk moved in as now begin to feel like home, that is at my Arctic home. It seems such a long time to wait for true home once more. I am glad the ship has gone, not only that it settles the party down to its legitimate work but that it in a measure takes away my intense longing to go back to wife and children.

Saturday, August 28, 1881
Snow ceased sometime this forenoon. At 10 AM assembled men and officers and told them I thought although separated from all the rest of the world there should be an observance of Sunday and that games of all kinds were prohibited and unless some men had scruples against listening they would be present while a selection from the Psalms was read each Sunday. The collection for the morning prayer 28th day was then red. The only comment I offered was inviting their attention to the first which notes how delightful a thing it is for brethren to dwell together in unity. Lieut. Kislingbury returned about 1 AM.

October 1881
Mr. Sun has not put in an appearance since Oct. 14 although he did not go below the horizon until Oct. 16. He reddens yet the southern sky, painting the clouds with the loveliest reds and yellows you can imagine. At the same time, or shortly after, we have in the northern heavens the most exquisite tints of violet running into the deepest blue, such as give character and, as it were, personality to Arctic scenery.

October to November 1881
Up to the present time, although we have had a day whose mean temperature was more than 25 degrees below zero, we have not suffered from cold in any way. The temperature in the enlisted men's room, about 20 feet from the stove, generally ranges from 55 to60 degrees and at times reaches 75 degrees.

Thanksgiving day, November 24, 1881
At 9:30 AM, read the 9th selection of psalms, viz. the VIII, XXXIII, CXIVII and IVII psalms. At 10 AM came the snowshoe race: 200 yards and return, in which Sgt. Brainard, Cross, Gardiner, Jewel, Ralston, Privates Bender, Connell and Henry contested. Sgt. Brainard was first, Ralston second, and Gardiner third. First prize bottle peach preserves, one gill rum, towel and fancy soap, second the same as first except peaches. At 1030 Sgts. Frederick and Jens started in sledge race with seven dogs each to Dutch island and return. Frederick was first in, winning 1/2 pound of tobacco. The dinner was an excellent one and was highly enjoyed by the men. A couple of bottles of Sauterne was the only difference between the table of the men of the officers. At 7:30 PM, after a few words by me the prizes were distributed by Sgt. Rice.

Christmas Sunday, December 25, 1881
Read at 10 AM the Psalms for Christmas and also the second selection. 2 quarts of rum were issued in the evening. Offered a glass of wine to Sergeants Israel, Cross, Rice and Gardiner.

The evening passed off very pleasantly. I doubt not though that amid the merriment it was with some others as with me, that their hearts and minds were far away across the barren wastes of snow and ice, far beyond the rolling waves and dark forests, among the dear ones who were making merry in their own land and by their own firesides.

March 1882
At 7:30 the breakfast comes on the table. I am (except perhaps once a month when five minutes lat) ready but no one else is. The Dr. is ready twice a week, and five times a week say five minutes late. We two sit down. Lt. K., after being very deliberate in his dressing and brushing out his whiskers &c. sits down regularly 10 to 15 minutes late -- just late enough to annoy me but not late enough for me to make trouble about it.

Lt. Lockwood is called the 2nd or 3d time by the cook at 7:30 or 7:35 after everything is on the table and hurrying his toilet is regularly 15 to 20 minutes late, always when taxed with it pleading inability to wake up and get up. However, I have some consideration for him as I know that he lies in his bed for hours every night before he can get to sleep.

Lt. K. has hardly been at the table two minutes when he gets up, goes and changes the calendar and winds up the clock. That Procedure is gone through six times a week and occasional weeks seven times…. Lt. K. having finished breakfast washes and then brushes his whiskers with great care. They are his pride and I have known him to brush them six times in a single day.

March 9, 1882
I have not quite as much fate in the Doctor as formerly. I am satisfied that he has deceived me in many things and that he is an arrant mischief-maker. He has, I understand, been sowing seeds of dissension and discontent among the men, to no avail, however. I have been too just and fair to the men and they are too intelligent to be easily affected. I have no positive proof of it and possibly may never have, but I am morally satisfied it is so, and Lt. Lockwood has been so informed….

I think that Dr. P. has done much to put Lt. K. in his present unenviable frame of mind…. Although I know he has done everything he can to destroy Lockwood's chances and work, and is eaten up with jealousy, yet he goes out to do important work. While despising the man and his methods I most heartily wish him all luck and a safe and speedy return.

April 1882
Lt. K. behaves like a spoiled schoolboy, and I hardly exchange 50 words a day with him. I treat him with the most uniform civility and have tried to make his stay here endurable. He has low tastes, however, and has for months spent hours daily playing cards with the enlisted men, whom he treats as equals in every way, putting himself exactly on their footing…

I should be tempted to quit this world at once were I doomed to pass my life under such conditions and with so small-minded a man as my only companion. The doctor too is the same -- a tricky, double-faced man, idle, unfit for any Arctic work except doctoring & sledge travel & not first class in the latter. He is certainly an excellent doctor so you may rest easy on that score. He is too much a Frenchman to be uncivil or impolite to his commanding officer…. He and Lt K. consort entirely together -- when not with enlisted men -- united by the common wish and desire to break down the commander but not daring to openly act to that effect.

June 1, 1882
I write you a line to say that Lockwood returned at 2 p.m. having reached a point about 70 miles NE of cape Britannia. He beat the latitude of Markham (and the world) on land by two miles or more. He could have gone a few miles north on ice but it was not needful. Land still ran on 15 miles to the NE and how much farther no one knows.

I am of course delighted beyond measure at this result, which places our expedition at the head of all others as regards the highest latitude and the discovery of the most northerly land known on the globe.

Tomorrow is dear Toinette's birthday and is was her sled that made the wonderful journey. Your flag, too, beats all others which will more than repay you for the work bestowed on it. The men all come in with excellent health. Three lives paid for the English discoveries. We beat them and lose none.

December 25, 1882
I trust we shall be happy enough in the Christmas of 1883. It is a long time to look ahead. The New Year comes in a week, and our darkest day -- Dec. 21 the sun was farthest from us -- has already passed 4 days since. In a few days we will be studying the face of the southern horizon watching for the gradual brightening arch of noonday twilight. With the sun there will come to us new life and strength. Courage will always have here. I have never yet been inclined to look on other then the bright side of matters here and while providing for the worst as far as practicable, feeling assured of a happy issue.

February 1, 1883
It appears to me to be a continual effort to "make a record," as the soldier says, on me. I have exercised all patience and perhaps have been too lenient, but I have thought it more dignified and better to avoid quarrels, bickerings and squabbles. I deem this work and the success and lives of this party too valuable to be induced to endanger either by harsh, violent or unjust words or measures. Indeed, my experiences here have been, as I doubt not have those of most Arctic commanders, a veritable network of anxieties, annoyances and vexations. Naturally of a somewhat irritable disposition I have carefully restrained myself and cannot recall an instance in which I have not so done. I have mentioned a number of these matters to Lt. Lockwood, who naturally and by instruction succeeds me in command, that he may be informed as to them in case of injury or disability to me.

March 1883
If no vessel comes I consider our chances desperate -- God help us. If one does come, we cannot well miss reaching it. With provisions at Craycroft, Carl Ritter Bay, Cape Collinson & Cape Hawks we must be able to make Cape Isabella. Whale boats and small depots should be there now on this western coast.

July 1883
Ship or no ship, retreat or no, you joined this expedition under a moral obligation to serve during its continuance, and you well know that the Surgeon General never would have sanctioned your contract had he surmised even the possibility of your quitting, under any circumstances, a command situated without the confines of the civilized world.

July 28, 1883
In case of the non-arrival of a vessel by August 9, this station will be abandoned and a retreat southward by boats to Littleton Island will be attempted. Sixteen pounds of personal baggage will be allowed each officer and eight pounds to each man.

October 1883
My own party will first put up an ice house, and then construct a stone one inside. The other parties have decided to build stone houses first, and then surround them with ice. Our house will be eight feet by eighteen... The boat, with two oars, rudder and boathook, was disposed of by lot, and fell to Sergeant Brainard's party. I ordered that it should be so used in constructing the houses that its future serviceability should not be impaired. Everybody worked very hard and cheerfully during the day.

October 6, 1883
It is his first indiscretion since his service with me, and can readily be attributed to his nervous frame of mind, growing out of hard work, insufficient food and severe exposure, which affects him, the youngest and weakest of the party, more than any other.

October 1883
This news makes our future somewhat brighter, and the party are in very high spirits over them, feeling certain we can get through.

I, however, am fully aware of the very dangerous situation we are yet in, and foresee a winter of starvation diet and probably deaths. Our fuel is so scanty that we are in danger of perishing on that score alone. Am determined to make our food last until April 1, and shall so divide it, supplementing it from any game killed.

Late October 1883
In order to insure the safety of the records, I sent them and the pendulum, with orders to cache them in a prominent cairn on the south side of Payer Harbor. I know that point will certainly be visited, and that possibly our present camp might be missed by a relief expedition, and all the records lost if it left here. I am determined that our work shall not perish with us.

January 18, 1884
I am the resurrection and the life, saith the Lord: He that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live; and whosoever liveth and believeth in me, shall never die. Man, that is born of woman, hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery. He cometh up and is cut down, like a flower.

February 12, 1884
Dr. Pavy was accused openly, by Jewell, of selecting the heaviest dish of those issued out, and in consequence of the fact being established by other testimony, I directed that in Lieutenant Kislingbury's mess hereafter the name of the man for whom any dish was intended should be designated as it was handed out by the cook. Our own mess have escaped any such condition of affairs, and have trusted implicitly in the honor of the cook... Both Long and Frederick, in addition to their self-sacrificing duties as cooks, have repeatedly asked that a second man should divide the food and that they might be allowed to take the dish rejected.

February 13, 1884
I thought it best today to turn over to Lieutenant Lockwood a favorite pistol of his, which I brought down on my person at his personal request, and which he spoke of yesterday. His mention of it gave me an unpleasant feeling, for it looked as if he was putting his house in order.

February 17, 1884
We have used the last of our seal-meat in a fine stew, and also the last of onion-powder, peas, beans, carrots, corned beef, and on Wednesday used the last of our English beef. In consequence, we have for future use the strongest and best food in the shape of boiled bacon and pemmican.

The sun was above the horizon today for the first time in one hundred and fifteen days.

February 22, 1884
Received this evening from Lieutenant Kislingsbury a communication recommending that as soon as Smith Sound freezes over, he, with a party of the strongest men, be allowed to cross to Littleton Island for game or assistance. He based his recommendation on the ground that we cannot cross as a party. This proposal strikes me in no other light than an abandonment to their fate of the weak of the party.

February 23, 1884
This morning I brought to the attention of the party Lieutenant Kislingsbury's recommendation... I told them that the party cannot be divided with my consent; that whether we can cross as a party or not could be determined only by trial; and, until we had exhausted all efforts no man, as long as my authority remained, should be deserted or abandoned. If any messenger for a forlorn hope was needed, it should be the strongest and fittest man at that time.

Nobody seemed to indorse Lieutenant Kislingbury's plan. Dr. Pavy spoke to me most strongly against it in French, although he refrained from expressing his opinion publicly. Lieutenant Lockwood was very much affected by the proposition and called our prospects exceedingly dismal, but gave no opinion regarding it. Indeed, we have not been able to obtain one from him for several weeks; and, in view of his willingness to sacrifice himself, as shown by his proposition of a month since, it cannot be expected that he would urge the strongest of the party to pursue any course which would show consideration for him.

March 7, 1884
Bender in a fit of passion again. I cannot endure this state of affairs much longer, I am afraid.

March 9, 1884
Heavy gale again today... Such violent storms must break up all the ice in the channel, and I think our chances of crossing are about gone. Unless the mercury freezes, I shall send Long and Christiansen to Alexandra Harbor on Tuesday, and have given orders to prepare their outfit for the trip. Brainard is anxious to go but I cannot spare him.

Rice and Frederick offered their services as volunteers to attempt recovering the hundred pounds of English meat abandoned in the Baird Inlet last November, which I declined, thinking it too hazardous a journey for so little food.

March 11, 1884
I gave Long and Christiansen an extra ounce of bead and two ounces of bacon at breakfast. Rice and Ellis who went out to give them a lift got off with the sledge at eight o'clock, followed at 9 a.m. by Long and Christiansen. Our hopes and good wishes are so much bound up in this important trip that we can scarcely wait the week to know what will come of it… I am sanguine of success, owing to the many signs of game seen in Alexandra Harbor by Nares and Feilden in 1875… The variability of spirits is shown by a little incident today. Jewell has such faith in Long's success that he already imagines us supplied with game, and in consequence requested that I would permit him to go into Hayes Sound with the party that I have talked of sending for geographical purposes in May. This visionary trip I have talked of more to encourage the men than anything else.

March 13, 1884
Long returned unexpectedly, at 7:15 p. m., from Alexandra Harbor. Both he and Christiansen very much exhausted. They saw no game and no tracks, except of a single fox… The party traveled nearly seventy miles during their absence, and their sleeping bags having been frozen up, they were unable to get into them farther than the hips, and were compelled to get what rest they could alternately, one resting while the other walked…

The fates seem to be against us -- an open channel, no game, no food, and apparently no hopes from Littleton Island. We have been lured here to our destruction.

If we were now the strong, active men of last autumn, we could cross Smith Sound where there is much open water; but we are a party of twenty-four starved men, of whom two cannot walk and a half dozen cannot haul a pound. We have done all we can to help ourselves, and shall ever struggle on, but it drives me almost insane to face the future. It is not the end that affrights anyone, but the road to be traveled to reach that goal. To die is easy; very easy; it is only hard to strive, to endure, to live.

March 14, 1884
Elison, who is in wonderfully good sprits, says that Brainard has broken our evil spell. It certainly encourages us to get up a little additional food at this critical season.

March 21, 1884
It is surprising with what calmness we view death, which, strongly as we hope, now seems inevitable. Only game can save us. We have talked over the matter very calmly and quiet, and I have always exhorted the men to die as men and not as dogs. There is little danger of these men failing in the dire extremity, for the manly fortitude and strength of the many compel respect and imitation from the few. Other than Henry's blasphemous remarks, I have heard none speak of our coming fate other than with decency and respect.

I have instanced, as a fine example of the spirit with which men should meet death, the English troop-ship Birkenhead, when the men, drawn up at parade-rest, went to the bottom of the sea without murmur, while their wives and daughters filled the boats. One supreme effort is easier far than this long-drawn-out agony, when, too, it is easier to think of death than to dare to live.

April 22, 1884
Dr. Pavy says that Sgts. Israel and Gardiner are doing the poorest and that I am at a standstill. My heart gives me trouble. I had a terrible passages this A.M. weakening me terribly

I gave Sgt. Brainard instructions about my effects &c. if anything should happen to me. I want Brainard commissioned, my daughters raised as analytical chemists and that all that can be done be done pecuniarily for Mrs. Greely by Generals. Hazen & Ruggles in the way of a special pension.

April 23,1884
Sgt. Elison reported to me this A.M. that Dr. Pavy while feeding him last evening stole part of his bacon, taking and dropping pieces into the sleeping bag. He requested me to make a note of it. This A.M. Dr. Pavy requested on the ground of smoke that Ralston feed Elison, and I have so agreed. I presume now that Sgt. Elison can handle his own bread and can watch his own stew, that Dr. Pavy no longer finds it profitable to do the work. No food has reached Elison for all these months which has not in some way paid toll to Dr. Pavy.

Late April 1884
A sharp and bitter discussion ensued between Dr. P. and myself, regrettable, but the man is so double-faced and unreliable. Pvt. Connell made remark that somebody would be held responsible before God for the graves on the hill. I told him that such language would be followed if repeated by summary punishment. Any such attempts to incite mutiny must meet death in our trying circumstances — there can be nothing but death for all in division.

Pvt. Henry took advantage of my illness & others being in the bag to arrange for the "moonshine" & took extra alcohol & so got himself drunk. The disgust of everyone over such baseness is excessive. I suppose I should be justified in killing the man for certainly his thefts imperil our safety.

May 1884
Taking dictation from Sgt Elison: "I shall die quiet and content. I lost my feet and hands doing my duty, in a manner of which you need never feel ashamed."

May 12, 1884
Issued last rations today — They cover two days — the 13th & 14th — which two ounces of tallow for two stews of sea kelp & shrimps on the 15th. Our hunters are indefatigable but there are few chances of seal on ice owing to the very backward stage of the season. Of course I think very much of you all these times. The whole party are prepared to die, and I feel certain that they will face death quietly and decently when it comes as have those who have passed. My will is strong as ever and my health is wonderfully good. I have suffered very little in the way of physical pain. I froze my hands badly on Mch 24 when the whole party nearly perished from asphyxiation from alcohol fumes in cooking caused by ventilator being closed but lost no joints & they are now quite well.

May 16, 1884
Our last regular rations -- 4 oz bacon, 4 oz. Tallow -- given out today. We have 1 1/2 oz. bacon & 2 oz. tallow for tomorrow, with a small supply of wretched kelp (seaweed) and shrimps. Our chance of seaweed & shrimps decreases daily. I think but one or two have any confidence in surviving. My heart troubles me & grows worse so my chances are very slim. As regards your future residence I trust to your own good judgment. I have no wish to constrain you but Newburyport has many advantages -- cheap, good society, excellent schools, widows House not taxes &c &c. Eventually in case of Mother's death you could hardly do better I think but I trusted to you. Maj. Appleby has a hunt Atlas for you. I would like some book from my library to go to Lucius, one to Riss & one to Meade Emory as keepsakes. As to my watch I should like to have one of the twins wear it with the understanding that it goes on his 21st birthday in perfect condition to the first male-born of either daughter. There is a man in N.Y. who for about $4.00 make a carbon picture about 2' X 1' on canvas on a stretcher. It seems to me that a dozen such negatives of the most striking photographs would be a good investment. You can finish them up and sell for from $50 to $100 or more according to your talent. Try it. Gen. H. will undoubtedly allow you to use the negatives. There are 48 in all. The musk ox head would be very effective as would others as you can see. A.W.G.

May 21, 1884
Gen. Hazen: I send through this way a triplicate of the account of Dr. Pavy. He is our strongest man and will probably survive. Every man is at the point of death by starvation and the greater part utterly helpless. In this condition while trating medically every man & having all at his mercy he has written out and had copied by Sgt. Israel a certificate as to his medical skills &c during winter. No one can refuse to sign such a document as you can well understand. A similar certificate was extracted from me May 13th—given in the interests of the party. I have had five sworn statements of Dr. Pavy's stealing bread from Sgt. Elison, his crippled patient, & other evidence of his stealing the extract of beef from medical stores, meat from Sgt. Elison & whiskey from Schneider. I myself detected him stealing bread from Sgt. Elison. I have taken every precaution to have this statement reach you. A similar statement will be found in a little book containing many notes to you and entrusted to Sgt. Bainard to be sent to you. This for fear that the records will be tampered with. Dr. Pavy's record, except as a medical skill, has been thoroughly bad. I say all this as a matter of duty to you, as I feel myself on the edge of the grave & above all private animosity or hard feeling. A.W. Greely, 1st Lt. 5 Cav. A.S.O. & Asst. Comdg. L.F.B. Exped.

May 22, 1884
It is now eight days since the last regular food was issued. It is astonishing to me how the party holds out. I have been obliged to feed Ralston for a couple of days past. About 2 p.m. he succeeded in eating part of his dinner, but the rest he could not force down. When tea came, about 3:30 p.m., I asked him if he wanted it and he said yes. I raised him up but he became unconscious in my arms, and was unable to drink it.

The strength of the party has been devoted today to pitching the wall-tent some three hundred yards southeast of the present hut, on a level, gravelly spot in the sun's rays. The Doctor says that the party will all die in a few days without we succeed in moving from this wretched hut. The melting snow rains down such a quantity of water upon us that we are saturated to the skin and are in a wretched condition.

May 23, 1884
Ralston died about 1 a.m. Israel left the bag before his death, but I remained until driven out about 5 a.m., chilled through by contact with the dead. I read the burial service over him, and ordered him to be buried in the ice-foot northwest of the camp, if the party were unable to haul him to the hill. The weakest of the party moved to the tent upon the hill this afternoon. Whisler managed to get up the hill alone; he became weaker, however, in the afternoon and is unconscious this evening. Israel was able to walk half way, but the strongest had to haul him the rest of the distance. I succeeded in getting to the tent with great difficulty, carrying the afghan in which I have been sleeping, using it as an inner bag.

May 27, 1884
Everyone was his friend. He had no enemies. His frankness, his honesty, and his noble generosity of nature had the won the hearts of all his companions. His unswerving integrity during these months of agony has been a shining example; and although his sacrifices were lost to a few, still the effect has produced good fruit. For lack of strength we could not bury him today.

June 4, 1884
To Sergeants Brainard, Frederick, and Long,
Private Henry having been repeatedly guilty of stealing the provisions of this party, which is now perishing slowly by starvation, has so far been condoned and pardoned. It is, however, imperatively ordered that if this man be detected either eating food of any kind not issued him regularly, or making caches, or appropriating any article of provisions, you will at once shoot him and report the matter to me. Any other course would be fatal leniency, the man being able to overpower any two of our present force. A.W. Greely, 1st Lieut., 5th Cav., A.S.O. & Asst. Comdng., Lady Franklin Bay Expedition

June 13, 1884
Formally discharged Biederbick today, his term of service having expired. Having no regular blanks, I gave him a written certificate of discharge, to be replaced by a regular one. Was unable to give him "final statements."

Next day the dischargee joined the Army again: Re-enlisted Biederbick as a hospital steward of the first class, subject to approval.

St John’s, Newfoundland. July 17, 1884
Mrs. A. W. Greely, San Diego, Cal.-- Perfectly well but weak. Five men only survive, no officers. Remain here four days. Lockwood beat Markham latitude. Suit your convenience East. Shall take long sick leave. A. W. Greely

Mid August, 1884
I say that it is news, and horrible news to me. All these later disclosures and terrible charges come upon me with awful suddenness. I can truthfully say that I have suffered more mental anguish these last few days than I did in all my sojourn in the North...

I can but repeat that if there was any cannibalism, and there now seems to be no doubt about it, the man-eating was done in secrecy and entirely without my knowledge and contrary to discipline. I can give no stronger denial...

The body of the last man dead, Schneider, was not mutilated in any way, and the fact that we kept Elison alive in the hopeless state we were in ought to convince anybody that we were not cannibals...

Every man of the survivors has called upon me. They came in a body, and assured me separately that they knew nothing about the condition of the bodies of their fallen comrades, and each man solemnly swore that he was innocent of the deed. I cannot tell whether they told the truth or not, and I doubt if an investigation will reveal who are the cannibals. Perhaps those who died last fed upon the bodies of those who died before; but all this is supposition. I can but answer for myself and for my orders to the party.

Late 1885
As to other matters which have engaged an undue share of public attention, while having no official knowledge of the facts of the case, yet the responsibility for all action in connection with such an expedition rightly and properly rests on the commanding officer. I know of no law, human or divine, which was broken at Sabine, and do not feel called on as an officer or as a man to dwell longer on such a painful topic.

Support Provided by: Learn More