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Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James Grant Wilson, John Fiske and Stanley L. Klos. Six volumes, New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1887-1889 and 1999. Virtualology.com warns that these 19th Century biographies contain errors and bias. We rely on volunteers to edit the historic biographies on a continual basis. If you would like to edit this biography please submit a rewritten biography in text form . If acceptable, the new biography will be published above the 19th Century Appleton's Cyclopedia Biography citing the volunteer editor





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Charles Francis Hall

HALL, Charles Francis, explorer, born in Rochester, New Hampshire, in 1821; died in the arctic regions, 8 November, 1871. His early education was acquired in the common school and the local academy. He was blacksmith, journalist, stationer, and engraver in turn. In 1850, while living in Cincinnati, Ohio, he became interested in the fate of Sir John Franklin, and for nine years improved every opportunity to increase his knowledge of Arctic America, and especially of the Franklin search. Despite the admirable and convincing report in 1859 by Captain Leopold McClintock, R. N., of the death of Franklin and the fate of his companions, Hall believed that some members of that expedition still survived and that they and their records could be found. His enthusiasm enlisted the interest of Henry Grinnell and other friends of arctic research, and by aid of public subscriptions his journey was rendered possible. On 29 May, 1860, Hall sailed from New London on the whaler "George Henry," which, commanded by Captain S. O. Buddington, was bound for Cumberland gulf. Hall returned to New London, 13 September, 1862, having been unsuccessful in his search, but he had acquired much knowledge of Esquimau life, speech, and habits, and had discovered relics of Frobisher's expedition of 1577-'8. The country was in the midst of a great civil war, and he failed, by lecturing or by personal appeals, to obtain sufficient means for a special expedition. Undismayed, he sailed again, 1 July, 1864, sparsely fitted out by private subscription, and in August was landed on Depot island, 64. N., 90. W., with boat and provisions. Hall became thoroughly domesticated with the Esquimaux, among whom he passed five years, receiving occasional supplies from whalers. In May, 1869, he reached the southeastern coast of King William's Land, but passed only four days there, as his native companions would stay no longer. Hall gathered up many relics of the Franklin expedition and brought back a skeleton, supposed to be that of an officer of the "Erebus." The Esquimaux informed him of their finding a large tent near Terror bay, with remains of many men, and said that one of the Franklin ships, after being abandoned, made the northwest passage by drifting. After his return in 1869 Hall succeeded in engaging the attention of congress, which authorized "An Expedition to the North Pole," the only one in the history of the nation; $50,000 was appropriated for the expedition, and a vessel selected from the navy was thoroughly fitted out at an expense of $90,000. The "Polaris" sailed from New London, 3 July, 1871, Hall commanding, with S. O. Buddington as sailing master, Dr. Emil Bessels as chief of scientific work, and twenty-four others. The "Congress" accompanied them as tender to Godhavn, Greenland. There is no doubt that Hall was uncertain as to his route, whether via Jones sound or Smith sound, but he decided on the latter. Favored by a sea unusually free of ice, the "Polaris" passed without difficulty through Smith sound into Kane sea, and thence through Kennedy and Robeson channels to the polar sea, where heavy ice was met with. On 29 August the "Polaris" was in latitude 82º 11' N., the highest point at that time ever attained by any vessel. Returning southward, she went into winter quarters in 81. 38' N., at Thank God harbor, Greenland. Hall left the ship on 10 October on a sledge journey, during which he reached Cape Brevoort, 82. N. Returning on 24 October, he was immediately taken sick and soon died of apoplexy. He was buried near by, in the most northern grave of that time. The death of Hall insured the failure of geographical work. The only extended sledge journey was to the south under Dr. Bessels. A boat journey in 1872, attempted by Mr. Chester, reached Newman bay only, but Meyer and Lynn on foot reached 82. 09' N., near Repulse bay, the most northerly land that had been attained up to that time. Captain Buddington. attempting to return home, left Thank God harbor, 13 August, 1872. The "Polaris," beset in Kennedy channel, drifted steadily southward with the pack, and on 13 October was near Littleton island. The ship was so badly nipped during a gale on 15 October that preparations were made to abandon her, and a large quantity of stores were thrown upon the ice, when her ice-anchor slipped, leaving nineteen men on the floe. The floe party, after drifting nearly 2,000 miles and subsisting largely on sea-game, were all rescued by the sealer "Tigress," 30 April, 1872, off the coast of Labrador. Captain Buddington beached the leaking and damaged "Polaris" near Life Boat cove, where a comfortable house was built of the vessel for winter. In the spring of 1873 two boats were constructed. On 3 June the party set out for Upernavik, and after a journey of about two hundred miles were picked up near Cape York by the Scotch whaler "Ravenscraig." The Roquette medal for 1875 was awarded to Hall by the Society de geographie of Paris. Hall's arctic work has stood the test of criticism and verification, and the incorrect, misleading charts of the "Polaris" expedition are not chargeable to him. The exploration of the west Greenland channel, the discovery of the frozen sea, and the extension of Greenland and Grinnell Land a degree and a half of latitude toward the pole, are results that attest the capacity of Hall and justify the epitaph placed by the British polar expedition of 1876 over his grave, as one "who sacrificed his life in the advancement of science," and who had by his experience benefited them, his followers. Hall published "Arctic Researches" and "Life among the Esquimaux" (New York, 1864). His unique experiences during his second expedition have been compiled, under the title of "Narrative of the Second Arctic Expedition" (Washington, 1879), from his manuscripts, purchased by congress for $15,000 after his death. See also "Arctic Experiences," edited by E. V. Blake (New York, 1874).

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