Archive for the 'Commemorations' Category

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.

 
Oct 7

U.S. Naval Institute Birthday: October 9,1873

Thursday, October 7, 2010 8:19 AM

Congratulations to the U.S. Naval Institute on reaching its 137th year!

Read what Rear Admiral Bradley A. Fiske had to say about the Naval Institute in Proceedings, Vol. 45 No. 192, February 1919:

Without some such stimulus as the Institute, the navy would be less like a pro­fession and more like a trade; we would be less like artists, and more like artisans; we would become too practical and narrow; we would have no broad vision of the navy as a whole.

Each one of us would regard his own special task as the only thing that concerned him, and would lose that sympathetic touch with his brother officers which all of us now enjoy.

The Naval Institute is a club at once social and professional, which is not restricted to any club-house on any avenue in any city, but which spreads over all the oceans to all of our ships and stations, down even into the depths of the sea where our submarines lie, and ten thousand feet into the air where our aeroplanes fly. It is the embodiment of the thought of the navy. It is the unofficial custodian of the navy’s professional hopes and fears. It looks ahead into the future, and back into the past, and keeps track of the happenings of the present.

During the forty-five years that have elapsed since Admiral Luce wrote the first article in the first number of the Naval In­stitute, the Naval Institute has been the most stimulating single agency that has existed for the development of an American navy; for, while the official publications of governments, and the official reports concerning their activities, are our surest sources of information as to what other navies are doing, yet their only usefulness to us, is in showing us what foreign ideas we should adopt; whereas the Naval Institute enables officers to look into the great beyond, and discuss and perhaps develop ideas of their own on original American lines. Officers are officially responsi­ble for the discharge of their official tasks, and are of necessity compelled to strict reticence concerning them; but the Naval Institute, by reason of its unofficial character, enables them to get out of the rut of the actual sometimes, and soar among the glories of the possible.

In the early days of the Naval Institute, it was ridiculed by a large class of naval officers, who called themselves “practical.” They were practical, but that was all. To them, the whole of the naval profession was comprehended in the practice of the various drills and exercises in gunnery, seamanship, navigation, etc., which they saw in any ship. Their highest ideal of an offi­cer was a man who performed those duties well. Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 5

David Takes On Goliath: 5 October 1863

Tuesday, October 5, 2010 7:27 AM

On the night of 5 October 1863, David faced Goliath. It would not be the epic showdown of biblical times during the American Civil War, but one of explosions, iron, and rushing water under the moonlight of Charleston.

USS New Ironsides, a casemate ironclad steamer boasting fourteen eleven-inch smoothbores, was at the time considered the most formidable warship in the world. It proved to be nearly impenetrable to the Charleston harbor defenses. The Union “Goliath” and its Captain, S.C. Rowan, waited for any answer the Confederates had to test the mighty ship. Little did they know its “Davidian” foe would pack such a punch given its comparable size.

The Confederate semi-submersible ship David did not have rocks and slings. Instead, its armament consisted of a single spar torpedo attached to its bow. As the cigar-shaped vessel was designed to operate in shallow water, its five foot draft allowed her to sneak up on enemies seemingly undetected. Around 9 p.m. on the 5th, CSS David slipped into Charleston Harbor unnoticed, avoiding the blockading monitors as it sailed toward the pride of the Union fleet. It was not until the David was 50 yards from the Union ship that a sailor spotted her. David successfully rammed its spar torpedo into the starboard quarter of the New Ironsides, exploding seven feet below the water line. From the account of New Ironsides Captain S.C. Rowan:

“At 9 p.m. discovered a very peculiar looking steamer which at first appeared like a boat standing toward our starboard beam from seaward; hailed her rapidly four times, and she making no reply, fired into her with musketry; she returned fire, dangerously wounding Ensign C.W. Howard in charge of the deck [. . .] the steamer struck us near No. 6 port, starboard side, exploding a large torpedo, shaking the vessel and throwing up an immense column of water, part of which fell on our decks.”

The blast threw water on the deck and the smokestack of the David, which put out a fire in the engine. The explosion knocked down armory bulkhead and store rooms aboard the New Ironsides in the wake of the torpedo’s explosion. Amidst the confusion, David floated attached by her spar, unable to reverse without steam power. As a result, Union sailors rained down rifle and pistol fire onto their aggressor. The Captain of the David ordered to abandon ship, and the crew set out swimming for nearby Morris Island. As they headed toward the shore, Assistant Engineer J.H. Tomb swam back to the wounded ship and got its engine working again. David limped back to safety in Charleston, picking up her remaining crew along the way.

Although the attack caused a large fissure into the side of the New Ironsides, the damage was superficial. One Union sailor died, and two others suffered minor injuries. Two of David’s crew were captured from the attack. Yet if it wasn’t for the quick thinking of Tomb, David’s story would begin and end in 1863. Remarkably, New Ironsides left the blockade for Philadelphia for repairs. Its damages were superficial. CSS David went on to unsuccessfully attack USS Memphis in March 1864 in the North Edisto River and the USS Wabash the following month. Although the ultimate fate of the David is uncertain, several similar vessels were captured in Charleston after its capture in February 1865.

Today marks the 147th anniversary of the event.

 
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