Archive for the 'Commemorations' Category

Jul 4

John Paul Jones Hoists First Stars and Stripes Flag 4 July 1777

Monday, July 4, 2011 12:01 AM

Standing at attention during the playing of The Star Spangled Banner, saluting the national ensign, and reciting the “Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag” are all acts performed occasionally by most Americans and regularly by the men and women who wear the uniforms of the armed services. These acts have meaning because of the flag’s symbolic significance. The stars and stripes represent the nation’s independence, the sacrifices that established and have maintained our freedom, and our national values embodied in the Declaration of Independence. This is why the displaying of a large stars and stripes flag on a building opposite the site of the Twin Towers had such a powerfully emotional impact on 11 September 2001.

From the very beginnings of the United States, the flag has played a role in the careers of all naval personnel. Perhaps in no Sailor’s story, however, has the country’s flag figured more prominently than in that of the Revolutionary War naval hero John Paul Jones. Jones is remembered for bringing America’s fight for liberty to the shores of the enemy—the Ranger’s capture of HMS Drake in the Irish Sea, the raid on Whitehaven, Scotland, and especially the Bonhomme Richard ’s capture of HMS Serapis in the Battle off Flamborough Head, within site of the English shore. As proud as he was of these accomplishments at the birth of the nation, John Paul Jones boasted as well of his association with the birth of the flag.

Even before the American colonies were independent or had adopted a national ensign to symbolize their rights as a free and equal people, John Paul Jones understood the power of a flag to embody the aspirations of a nation and to inspire loyalty. On 6 December 1775, as the Continental Navy ship Alfred’s newly commissioned first lieutenant, Jones hoisted the Grand Union flag of the thirteen united colonies. Recalling this event four years later, he wrote, “I hoisted with my own hands the flag of freedom the first time it was displayed on board the Alfred in the Delaware.”

On 4 July 1777, the first anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, Captain John Paul Jones hoisted the stars and stripes flag on board his own command, the Continental Navy ship Ranger, then in Boston Harbor fitting out for a cruise against the enemies of the Scottish born Jones’s adopted country. Just a few weeks earlier, on 14 June 1777, meeting in Philadelphia’s Independence Hall, the Continental Congress decreed the design for the new nation’s national ensign. Congress resolved “that the flag of the United States be thirteen stripes, alternate red and white; that the union be thirteen stars, white in a blue field, representing a new constellation.” Later that same day, Congress appointed Jones commander of the Ranger, the ship in which he would make the enemy taste the bitter draft of war in their home waters.

On 14 February 1778, seven months after first hoisting the stars and stripes aboard Ranger, Jones exchanged salutes with a French fleet’s flagship in Quiberon Bay, France. On 6 February the French king had secretly signed treaties of commerce and of alliance with the United States. The exchange of salutes in Quiberon Bay was the first official public act of recognition of the flag of the United States as an independent nation by another sovereign country.

On this Fourth of July, aware of the place of the flag in the career and in the heart of John Paul Jones, one of the founders of the Navy’s proud heritage, we might consider what the flag means to us.

 
Jun 27

USS SCORPION Project: Phase II Begins!

Monday, June 27, 2011 9:41 AM

This bend of the Patuxent River near Upper Marlboro, MD (above) is where UAB archaeologists believe the remains of USS Scorpion, along with several other ships in the flotilla, have settled, virtually undisturbed for nearly 200 years.

 

After months of careful planning and preparation, the NHHC Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB), in conjunction with Maryland Historical Trust (MHT) and the Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), initiated the second phase of the archaeological investigation of what is believed to be the wreck of USS Scorpion. Captained by US Navy hero Joshua Barney, Scorpion served as flagship in the famous Chesapeake Bay Flotilla, which endeavored to defend Washington, D.C. from the British during the War of 1812. On August 21st, 1814, British forces chased the Flotilla up a narrow bend of the Patuxent River where Barney then evacuated his men and ordered the ships scuttled to prevent their capture. The wreck site was discovered by Donald Shomette and Ralph Eshelman in the late 1970s and they conducted an archaeologial investigation in 1980.

UAB archaeologist uses a hydroprobe to determine the location of the wreck beneath the sediment.

 

Starting on June 13th, the UAB team, along with MHT and MSHA, successfully relocated the wreck using precise coordinates via a GPS system and completed an underwater mapping process called “hydroprobing” which helped archaeologists find the orientation and position of the wreck beneath approximately six feet of river sediment and debris. MHT also drilled several core samples near the site to conduct sediment and riverbed stratification analysis. The hydroprobe and core sample data gathered this year is essential for the plans to construct a coffer dam around the site for the third and final phase of the project during the War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemoration in 2012. The coffer dam will allow archaeologists to conduct a dry excavation of the wreck, and visitors to the site will be able to observe the process. This year, limited excavation of the site is expected to start soon after July 4th, so stay tuned for more USS Scorpion Project updates! 

 
May 30

Our Oldest Naval Memorial: The Tripoli Monument

Monday, May 30, 2011 1:00 AM

” ….may the inspiring memorial reign long and peacefully, honoring the ‘heroes that fell before Tripoli’ during that early but very important period of American and naval history”

 

The Tripoli Monument by DodyW. Smith: 

For 112 years, the Tripoli Monument has stood on the grounds of the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, but its unique and tumultuous history began long before 1860. Originally erected at the Washington Navy Yard in 1808, it was the Federal capital’s first monument and for a period of 35 years the only monument in the District of Columbia. It witnessed and weathered the War of 1812; the building, burning, and rebuilding of the Capitol, and the slow establishment of the city itself. For 52 years, its existence was plagued with uncertainties and agitations. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 7

Pearl Harbor Day – Navy TV

Tuesday, December 7, 2010 9:23 PM

Now on Navy TV

Navy TV has been granted permission by Periscope Films to air their newly restored HD-BluRay version of “Victory at Sea”‘s episode on Pearl Harbor: “The Pacific Boils Over.” Using captured Japanese footage and material from John Ford’s “December 7th,” viewers see the planning, execution and, ultimately, the celebration of the surprise attack on Hawaii. All 26 episodes are available for sale through the Navy Memorial’s Ship’s Store.

 
Nov 16

OpSail 2012

Tuesday, November 16, 2010 10:09 AM

This 2012, Operation Sail and the US. Navy will once again bring the glory of tall ships to the American seaboard to celebrate the bicentennial of our national anthem, The Star-Spangled Banner.

A parade of magnificent tall ships and warships, from over 25 nations, will sail to five historic ports: New Orleans, Norfolk, Boston, Baltimore, and New York City and join America in commemoration of this national milestone.

Operation Sail, (OpSail), a national non-profit organization dedicated to promoting goodwill among nations, and the development of youth through sail training, was conceived in 1961 by Frank Braynard and Nils Hansell. Following the endorsement of President John F. Kennedy, OpSail came to life in 1964 by successfully bringing the remaining tall ships of the world to New York City in conjunction with the 64’ World’s Fair.

Since then, OpSail events have taken place in 1976 for the Bicentennial, 1986 for Lady Liberties 100th, 1992 for the Columbus 500th, and 2000 for the Millennium—and each event has been larger than the last.

 
Nov 10

Happy 235th Birthday to the U.S. Marine Corps!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010 3:09 PM

 
Nov 8

Captain Charles Wilkes Reports on the Trent Affair, 8 November 1861

Monday, November 8, 2010 3:49 PM

On November 8, 1861, USS San Jacinto Captain Charles Wilkes set out towards the Bahama Channel near Havana to intercept Confederate commissioners James M. Mason and John Slidell. The man who led the controversial U.S. Exploring Expedition two decades previous found himself leaving scientific endeavors for the new prospect of war. Mason and Slidell were heading to Europe to arbitrate agreements with nations for their support in the Confederate war effort, stopping for transport in Havana. During his search for the elusive CSS Sumter, Wilkes heard of the breakout of Mason and Slidell from Charleston and decided to take action. The USS San Jacinto intercepted the two on board the British mail steamer Trent under threat of cannon fire, taking Mason, Slidell, and their secretaries back to Boston. Although heroic, Captain Wilkes’ seizure of diplomats aboard a neutral ship almost fanned the flames of war between the United States and Great Britain, as they claimed that Wilkes clearly violated international law. After a swift apology for the event by Secretary of State William H. Seward, Mason and Slidell were released in January 1862, nearly two months after their capture.

Reproduced below is Captain Charles Wilkes’ report to Union Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles seven days after the event unfolded. You can read more about Captain Wilkes and the Trent Affair at the Library of Congress website here or find out more about Charles Wilkes here from the Naval History and Heritage Command.

U. S. S. SAN JACINTO, November 15, 1861.

SIR: I have written to you relative to the movements of this ship from Cienfuegos, on the south coast of Cuba.

There I learned that Messrs. Slidell and Mason had landed on Cuba, and had reached the Havana from Charleston. I took in some 60 tons of coal and left with all dispatch on the 26th October to intercept the return of the Theodora, but on my arrival at The Havannah on the 31st I found she had departed on her return, and that Messrs. Slidell and Mason, with their secretaries and families, were there and would depart on the 7th of the month in the English steamer Trent for St. Thomas, on their way to England.

I made up my mind to fill up with coal and leave the port as soon as possible, to await at a suitable position on the route of the steamer to St. Thomas to intercept her and take them out.

On the afternoon of the 2d I left The Havannah, in continuation of my cruise after the Sumter on the north side of Cuba. The next day, when about to board a French brig, she ran into us on the starboard side at the main chains and carried away her bowsprit and foretopmast, and suffered other damages. I inclose you herewith the reports of the officers who witnessed the accident. I do not feel that any blame is due to the officer in charge of this ship at the time the ship was run into, and the brig was so close when it was seen probable she would do so that even with the power of steam, lying motionless as we were, we could not avoid it; it seemed as if designed.

I at once took her in tow, and put an officer on board with a party to repair her damages. This was effected before night, but I kept her in tow till we were up with The Havannah and ran within about 8 miles of the light, the wind blowing directly fair for her to reach port.

I then went over to Key West in hopes of finding the Powhatan or some other steamer to accompany me to the Bahama Channel, to make it impossible for the steamer in which Messrs. Slidell and Mason were to embark to escape either in the night or day. The Powhatan had left but the day before, and I was therefore disappointed and obliged to rely upon the vigilance of the officers and crew of this ship, and proceeded the next morning to the north side of the island of Cuba, communicated with Sagua la Grande on the 4th, hoping to receive a telegraphic communication from Mr. Shufeldt, our consul-general, giving me the time of the departure of the steamer.

In this, also, I was disappointed, and ran to the eastward some 90 miles, where the old Bahama Channel contracts to the width of 15 miles, some 240 miles from The Havannah, and in sight of the Paredon Grande light-house. There we cruised until the morning of the 8th, awaiting the steamer, believing that if she left at the usual time she must pass us about noon of the 8th, and we could not possibly miss her. At 11:40 a.m., on the 8th, her smoke was first seen; at 12 m. our position was to the westward of the entrance into the narrowest part of the channel and about 9 miles northeast from the light-house of Paredon Grande, the nearest point of Cuba to us.

We were all prepared for her, beat to quarters, and orders were given to Lieutenant D. M. Fairfax to have two boats manned and armed to board her and make Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and Macfarland prisoners, and send them immediately on board. (A copy of this order to him is herewith enclosed.)

The steamer approached and hoisted English colors. Our ensign was hoisted, and a shot was fired across her bow; she maintained her speed and showed no disposition to heave to; then a shell was fired across her bow, which brought her to. I hailed that I intended to send a boat on board, and Lieutenant Fairfax with the second cutter of this ship was dispatched. He met with some difficulty, and remaining on board the steamer with a part of the boat’s crew, sent her back to request more assistance. The captain of the steamer having declined to show his papers and passenger list, a force became necessary to search her. Lieutenant James A. Greer was at once dispatched in the third cutter, also manned and armed.

Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and Macfarland were recognized and told they were required to go on board this ship; this they objected to, until an overpowering force compelled them. Much persuasion was used and a little force, and at about 2 o’clock they were brought on board this ship and received by me. Two other boats were then sent to expedite the removal of their baggage and some stores, when the steamer, which proved to be the Trent, was suffered to proceed on her route to the eastward, and at 3:30 p.m. we bore away to the northward and westward. The whole time employed was two hours thirteen minutes. I enclose you the statements of such officers who boarded the Trent relative to the facts, and also an extract from the log book of this ship.

It was my determination to have taken possession of the Trent and sent her to Key West as a prize, for resisting the search and carrying these passengers, whose character and objects were well known to the captain, but the reduced number of my officers and crew, and the large number of passengers on board bound to Europe who would be put to great inconvenience, decided me to allow them to proceed.

Finding the families of Messrs. Slidell and Eustis on board, I tendered them the offer of my cabin for their accommodation to accompany their husbands; this they declined, however, and proceeded in the Trent.

Before closing this dispatch I would bring to your notice the notorious action of her Britannic Majesty’s subjects, the consul-general of Cuba and those on board the Trent, in doing everything to aid and abet the escape of these four persons and endeavoring, to conceal their persons on board. No passports or papers or any description were in possession of them from the Federal Government, and for this and other reasons which will readily occur to you I made them my prisoners, and shall retain them on board here until I hear from you what disposition is to be made of them.

I can not close this report without bearing testimony to the admirable manner in which all the officers and men of this ship ‘performed their duties, and the cordial manner in which they carried out my orders. To Lieutenant Fairfax I beg leave to call your particular attention for the praiseworthy manner in which he executed the delicate duties with which he was intrusted; it met and has received my warmest thanks.

After leaving the north side of Cuba I ran through the Santaren Passage and up the coast from off St. Augustine to Charleston, and regretted being too late to take a part in the expedition to Port Royal.

I enclose herewith a communication I received from Messrs. Slidell, Mason, Eustis, and Mcfarland, with my answer.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
CHARLES WILKES,Captain.

Hon. GIDEON WELLES,
Secretary of the Navy.

 
Oct 8

Trailer to “Wings for the Navy…the Birth of Naval Aviation”

Friday, October 8, 2010 12:27 PM

This is a trailer for the 25 minute video “Wings for the Navy …the Birth of Naval Aviation” which is being prepared for next year’s Centennial of Naval Aviation.

 
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