Born on April 3rd, 1798, in New York City, he went on to be a U.S. Naval officer and explorer. From 1838 to 1842 he led a government expedition to Antarctica, exploring a region that now bears his name. In addition to writing a Narrative of the United States Exploring Expedition, he edited the scientific reports of the expedition and contributed the volumes on meteorology and hydrography himself.
As commander of the U.S.S. San Jacinto during the Civil War, he sparked the heated Trent Affair, by seizing the British Mail Vessle, the Trent, and taking into custody the two Confederate official aboard. Later in the war he angered foreign governments in the West Indies over violations of neutrality and was court-martialed and suspended from duty in 1864. He was commissioned a rear admiral, and retired in 1866.
Bibliography: Henderson, David, The Hidden Coasts: A Biography of Admiral Charles Wilkes (1953; repr. 1971); Silverberg, Robert, Stormy Voyager: The Story of Charles Wilkes (1968).