William Francis Lynch (1801-1865)
William Francis Lynch was born April 1, 1801 in Norfolk Virginia. He describes his early childhood in, Naval Life, Observations Afloat and on Shore the Midshipman, as " A motherless child, with a father who, though not devoid of affection, was engrossed by the care of his property." Perhaps due to his father's love of material possessions Lynch was drawn to the Christian faith, which preaches against the love of material items. For example, Luke 12:15 of the Christian Bible states, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses." Spurred on by his Christian faith, Lynch left home and "embraced the roving stirring, homeless, comfortless, but attractive life of a sailor."
At the age of 16, in the year 1817, Lynch was appointed midshipman of the Congress, a Naval vessel under Commander Anderson. During his tour of duty with the Congress he was involved in an expedition to establish relations and explore the areas of Brazil, Manila, Java, Rio De Janeiro and China. Several key experiences impacted Lynch during his time on the Congress. It was during this expedition that he showed interest in recording scientific and biological data from each place that the ship visited. This basic knowledge served him well throughout his illustrious naval career and especially on his voyage to Jerusalem, where he took extensive biological data from the areas that he visited. It was also during this voyage on the Congress that Lynch expressed his deeply embedded Christian convictions. "The unbeliever may ascribe to chance this great disparity of condition; but the Christian, with the eye of faith, recognizes the hand, and in submissive piety, bows to the dispensations of Providence. He feels, he knows, for the records of a Savior's life confirm it, that each state has its trials and its solace." He was also introduced to the catastrophic affects of diseases like cholera and small pox, which reinforce his religious convictions. He witnessed one of his shipmates battle the dreaded disease while docked outside of Rio De Janeiro. "Impelled by the fear of death, he called upon God to forgive and spare him, promising if his prayers were heard, to lead a different life." The violent and sometimes short life of a sailor had left their impressions, reaffirming Lynch's Christian convictions.
In the spring of 1826, Lynch and the Congress, after achieving their objective, arrived in New York. During his time off, Lynch took a trip to Maryland and experienced a somewhat prophetic depiction of the Judgment Day via a dream. The dream involved Lynch sitting at the feet of Jesus. He witnessed the entire Judgment of human beings from the time of Adam and Eve throughout the history of the world. It is quite possible that this vision along with experiences upon the Congress, played a large role in Lynch's decision to evaluate the biblically significant area around Jerusalem, where many Christian's believed the final judgment would take place.
After returning from Maryland, Lynch was quickly assigned to the schooner called the Shark. Focused primarily on the illegal slave trade, the Shark incarcerated several slave ships around the West African Coast. During his adventures on the Shark, Lynch learned several important observational techniques, such as sounding, or measuring the various depths of the ocean with a weighted string and gauging the temperature and currents of the sea. Lynch extensively used these various procedures during his Naval career and especially on his expedition to the Dead Sea. After two years on the Shark, Lynch returned to the United States. On May 17, 1829 the Shark returned to the United States, and William Francis Lynch was promoted to the status of Captain in the U.S. Navy.
Between 1829 and 1846 Lynch's expedition would undergo a variety of complications. In 1836, because of an unspecified illness that involved extensive treatments Lynch was kept out of Naval action for two years. Four years later in 1840, reports show that the Secretary of the Navy James K. Paulding ordered Lynch out of Washington after Lynch had approached him with several proposed reforms for the Navy. Six years later, on December 30, 1846, Maryland State Archives show that William F. Lynch filed for divorce from his wife Virginia Lynch, the daughter of Commodore John Shaw.
However, after ten years of disappointment and despair, Lynch's luck changed. He once again sustained the health necessary to serve the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Mexico during the Mexican American War in 1847. While there he joined a small number of naval men (1100) that were involved in the war. On May 8, 1847 after the town and castle of Vera Cruz surrendered, Lynch sent off an application to John Y. Mason, head of the Department of the Navy, for permission to organize an expedition to the Dead Sea.
On July 31, 1847, his application was approved, and he was ordered to commence the necessary preparations for the expedition for which he would become most well-known. On October 2, 1847 Lynch received orders from Mason to take command of the U.S. Storeship Supply, which was formerly called the Crusader. November 1, 1847 Lynch received orders to Smyrna. On Nov 26, 1847, Lynch left New York Bay for Smyrna. On April 1, 1848, Lynch's 47th birthday, the expedition disembarked from "De Acre" to the River Jordan, dragging overland three specially made boats, two of which were made of iron and the third made of wood. The boats were part of Lynch's dream to navigate down the Biblically significant Jordan River and into the Dead Sea. His dream reached culmination on April 10th when the three boats, the Fanny Skinner, Fanny Mason, and the Uncle Sam started down the River Jordan. Finally on April 19, 1848, Lynch and his crew arrived at their destination, the Dead Sea, where they spent three weeks sketching, taking specimens, looking for biblical evidence and sounding the Dead Sea.
On May 18th, Lynch arrived at the holy city of Jerusalem. He introduced the city by quoting from a diary kept by the youngest member of the party. While in Jerusalem, the expedition party visited several biblically significant areas. On Monday, May 22, Lynch and the party left Jerusalem and on June the 10 arrived in Nazareth, the place of the young adulthood of Jesus. After revisiting the source of the Jordan, Lynch and his party arrived in Malta where they set sail on the Supply, for home. The party arrived in New York in early December of 1848.
Shortly after returning to New York, Lynch was promoted to Commander in the United States Navy. He shortly thereafter wrote several books. In 1849, Lynch's Narrative of the US Expedition to the River Jordan and the Dead Sea was published. In 1851, he published, Naval Live, Observations Afloat and on Shore, which told of his adventures while in the Navy before 1848. In 1852, Lynch's report entitled, The Official Report of the US Expedition to Explore the Dead Sea and River Jordan was published by the U.S. Navy.
On October 25, 1852, Lynch received orders from Secretary of the Navy, J.C. Dobbin to embark upon an expedition to the West African Coast, the primary objective being to discover and describe commerce in the region. However, once again Lynch had difficulty separating his religious convictions from the objective of the mission. "Now, however, that the horrible slave trade is, or seems to be extirpated from these latitudes, the present population will, day by day, yield their prejudices and propensities to the influences of Christianity and civilization." Lynch went on to explain how the African people needed more than anything to find the saving graces of Christianity. He returned to America on October 17, 1853. His adventures on the trip are documented in his Report In Relation To the Coast of Africa, submitted to the U.S. Navy on October 17, 1853.
On April 21, 1861 with the initial signs of a Civil War, Lynch a devoted Southerner, resigned as Commander in the U.S. Navy and quickly joined the Confederate forces in Virginia. He commanded the Aquia Creek Batteries on the Potomac, May 30 and June 1, 1861, when Union gunboats attacked the Confederate naval forces.
Lynch next commanded nine small gunboats that opposed the Union expedition against Roanoke Island, on Feb. 6, 1862. Lynch and the Confederate forces retreated to Elizabeth City, where on the 10th Union forces smashed them.
However, Lynch escaped and assumed the role of commander in charge of the Confederate naval forces at Vicksburg from March to October 1862.
One of his fellow officers in this battle mentioned Lynch's popularity and the successes of his book, Expedition to the Dead Sea and the Jordan. Captain. W. H. Parker described Lynch in his book, Recollections of a Naval Officer, as, "a cultivated man and a most agreeable talker, who had made some reputation in the navy by his book upon the Dead Sea exploration." Parker goes on to describe Lynch, as a commander who showed more regard for his men than any that Parker had served under.
Next, from 1862-1864 Lynch commanded the North Carolina and the ironclad, Raleigh. Lynch's career as a writer and explorer led to further opportunities in the winter of 1864. Because of his popularity as a writer, the Confederate Navy Department and Hon. A.H. Stephens, asked Lynch to write a report on the battles and combats from a Confederate stand point.
Finally in 1864, Lynch commanded the forces at Ft. Fisher, in Wilmington, N.C. It was at that point the only Confederate port unaffected by the Union blockade. However, by 1865 the Union forces had captured the fort, cutting off the South entirely from the imports it needed to survive.
William Francis Lynch died six months after the Civil War ended, on October 17, 1865 at the age of 64. He was survived by the two children who he had with Virginia Shaw.
(from Jaxon B. Autry, Lynch's Holy Expedition to the Dead Sea And the Surrounding Area)