The George Foster Emmons Papers have been organized in five sections. The first section (WA MSS 166) consists of three manuscript journals (931 pages long) which Emmons kept while attached to the U.S. Exploring Expedition under the command of Charles Wilkes. Emmons wrote the journals while on board the U.S. Sloop of War Peacock, W. L. Hudson, Commander, August 12, 1838 to June 10, 1842. The journals contain an account of the expedition with detailed descriptions of the special surveys made by the Peacock, original drawings of the harbors, and a number of small drawings and diagrams. They are further illustrated by the insertion of portraits, engravings, maps, and extracts from Charles Wilkes' Narrative. Journal No. 3 contains a detailed account of the overland expedition that Emmons commanded from Vancouver to San Francisco, August to October, 1841. Emmons' account of the overland expedition is supplemented by that of Henry Eld (WA MSS 161). A number of letters and documents are inserted chronologically in the journals.
The second section of the Emmons Papers (WA MSS 167) consists of two sketchbooks of original drawings made by Emmons while on board the Peacock during the U.S. Exploring Expedition. The thirty-four drawings to be found in the sketchbooks include sketches of icebergs in the Antarctic, harbors entered, incidents of the voyage, pictures of native peoples, etc. A list which provides a brief description of each drawing is appended below.
The third section (WA MSS 168) consists of a scrapbook of official letters received from 1828 to 1850. Other documents and memorabilia, such as military orders, invitations, and calling cards are also included. The scrapbook contains ninety-seven pieces in all and is organized chronologically into three groups: 1828-37; correspondence relative to the U.S. Exploring Expedition, 1836-38; and 1842-48.
The fourth section of the Emmons Papers (WA MSS 169) consists of a single scrapbook (thirty-four pages long) of mounted clippings from the New York Express, reporting the proceedings of the Naval General Court Martial on board the U.S. Ship North Carolina, at New York, July 27 to September 15, 1842. The clippings cover the trial of Charles Wilkes (August 17), who was accused upon his return from the Exploring Expedition of illegally punishing some of his men. The clippings also cover the trials of Midshipman William May, Lieutenant Robert E. Johnson, Surgeon C. F. B. Guillou, and Lieutenant Robert F. Pinkney which preceded the Wilkes trial, as well as a few trials which followed. (Wilkes was publicly reprimanded by the Court Martial.) There are also a few clippings on miscellaneous topics in the volume.
The fifth section (WA MSS S-4386) consists of four scrapbooks of mounted clippings relating to naval history, privateering, naval courts martial, naval appointments and retirements, international navies, and naval actions in the Gulf of Mexico. There are also miscellaneous loose papers relating to George F. Emmons.