Archive for the 'War of 1812' Category

Oct 2

Washington Navy Yard: A Celebrated Legacy of Service to the Fleet

Thursday, October 2, 2014 2:15 PM

From Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

The Washington Navy Yard was established 215 years ago today, Oct. 2, 1799, the Navy’s first and oldest shore base. At first it was built as a shipyard, under the careful guidance of its first commandant, Capt. Thomas Tingey. And then during the War of 1812 we famously burned it down (not the British) and then our neighbors looted it (again, not the British).

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

060701-N-ZZ999-111 WASHINGTON (July 2006) An aerial photograph taken in July 2006 of the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The base was back running again by 1816, although it never quite came back as a shipbuilding yard due to the shallowness of the Anacostia River. Its mission changed with the establishment of the Bureau of Ordnance at the Washington Navy Yard in the late 1880s and the building of a large gun factory. The yard then evolved into a place to test the most scientific, technologically advanced naval weaponry in the nation. By the end of World War II, when the yard was renamed the U.S. Naval Gun Factory in Dec. 1945, it had become the largest naval ordnance plant in the world, peaking at 188 buildings on 126 acres of landing and employing nearly 25,000 people.

But during the 1950s, as fewer weapons were needed, the Navy Yard began to phase out its ordnance factories. On July 1, 1964, the property was re-designated the Washington Navy Yard and unused factory buildings were converted to office use. The yard is now home to the Chief of Naval Operations (living in the same house as the yard’s original commandant) and is also headquarters for the Naval History and Heritage Command, the National Museum of the U.S. Navy and numerous other commands.

Just as captivating as the Yard’s transition from shipbuilding to ordnance technology to host of various command headquarters, are the hints of the macabre that lurk among the centuries-old brick and mortar of the Washington Navy Yard.

Which takes us back to Commodore Thomas Tingey. The plump commodore lovingly nurtured his navy yard through its first construction, then had suffer the horrible orders to burn it in August 1814 during the War of 1812. And he did, waiting until he could almost see the British before finally ordering it set ablaze. He returned the next day overjoyed to find the two housing quarters – A and B – unburned, along with the massive gate designed by Benjamin Latrobe.

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard -- Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

Long-time superintendent of the Washington Navy Yard — Commodore Thomas Tingey. His ghost has been rumored to haunt Quarters A, also known as the Tingey House. NHHC photo

But after all that, Commandant Tingey got the Navy Yard back running again building ships by 1816. In 1829, Commandant Tingey, still running the place and living in his beloved Quarters A at the top of the hill, reported he was tired and wanted to work half days. He died five days later. He was so attached to the home he lived in for nearly 30 years that people have claimed to see a rotund apparition roaming the halls in his nightshirt while wearing his sword. In 1886, the shipyard changed direction to become the Naval Gun Factory, thanks to the technological advances by Capt. John A. Dahlgren. Rumor has it Tingey’s ghost gave out a loud cry at the indignity of it.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

This plaque, on Bldg. 28 parking garage, explains why the leg of Col. Ulrich Dahlgren happened to be buried at the Washington Navy Yard. Alas, Col. Dahlgren soon followed his leg in the ground after he was killed in 1864 during a raid on Richmond.

And speaking of the Civil War, Capt. Dahlgren served as the commandant of the base in 1861-62 and again in 1869-70. But it was Army Col. Ulrich Dahgren who would leave a lasting legacy: His leg. After the battle of Gettysburg, Col. Dahlgren had his leg amputated at the navy yard in 1863. It was buried amid new construction at the shipyard. He would lose the rest of him (minus an eye) when his men were ambushed in 1864 while attempting to take Richmond. Papers found on his body, thereafter called the “Dahlgren Papers,” outlined a planned assassination attempt on Confederate President Jefferson Davis. Outrage from Southerners over that plan has been speculated to have fueled the plot to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln, a close friend of Capt. Dahlgren.

Just a few days after his second inauguration, President Lincoln would indeed be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. The actor’s body – along with suspected cohorts – was brought to the Washington Navy Yard where an autopsy was performed onboard the monitor USS Montauk.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

The leg of Army Col. Ulrich Dalhgren was buried amid construction of a building at the Washington Navy Yard in 1863. A plaque marks the spot.

Which brings us back to the Navy Yard, which was known to have a special place in the heart of Lincoln. The yard bade its final farewell to the slain president by firing guns every half hour from noon until sundown on May 4, 1865, the day the president was buried at Springfield, Ill.

A more complete history of the Washington Navy Yard may be found here.

 

 
Sep 13

Through “Rocket’s Red Glare” Flotilla Sailors Stand Strong

Saturday, September 13, 2014 7:00 AM
A painting by Thomas Moran shows Francis Scott Key watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the Dawn's early light of September 14, 1814. Key, a lawyer, was part of a delegation negotiating the release of American prisoners and was compelled to remain on board a Royal Navy warship. It was viewing the battle from warship that inspired him write the poem which became the American National Anthem. Artwork courtesy Library of Congress

A painting by Thomas Moran shows Francis Scott Key watching the bombardment of Fort McHenry by the Dawn’s early light of September 14, 1814. Key, a lawyer, was part of a delegation negotiating the release of American prisoners and was compelled to remain on board a Royal Navy warship. It was viewing the battle from warship that inspired him write the poem which became the American National Anthem.
Artwork courtesy Library of Congress

 

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Tim Comerford, Naval History and Heritage Command Communication and Outreach Division

 

It was arguably one of the most famous battles on American soil and is still sung of today. It was a failed attempt by the British to invade one of America’s largest cities during the War of 1812, a battle that inspired the anthem of the American people. When Francis Scott Key witnessed a battered American flag still waving “at dawn’s early light,” he was seeing it not from Ft. McHenry, but from a British ship.

Key, a lawyer, was on a British ship, HMS Tonnant, to negotiate the release of a prisoner. After having dinner with British military leaders, Vice Adm. Alexander Cochrane, Rear Adm. George Cockburn, and Maj. Gen. Robert Ross, the American was told he could not leave because he knew the British location and number of units for the planned Sept. 13, 1814 attack.

After 25 hours of constant bombardment, the British turned away from Baltimore in defeat, unable to take Baltimore as it had so easily taken Washington, D.C a few weeks earlier. After the assault, Key was released from the British ship, where his pen had given birth to what is now our national anthem.

Life was not quite as easy on the American side for those 25 hours. Before the bombardment, soldiers and militiamen stood awash with the familiar emotions for the oncoming Battle of Baltimore – fear, anger and excitement – they were not alone. Alongside the soldiers that night stood local Sailors including Sailors of Commodore Joshua Barney’s Flotilla. They would prove to be an invaluable asset.

Barney, a privateer and patriot, had set a defense for the Chesapeake with his flotilla – a mosquito fleet of small ships, lightly armed — that harried the British through the war until he was blockaded and forced to scuttle them. Even ship-less, he used his Sailors to stall the 4,000-strong British forces at Bladensburg. Even the British praised Barney’s Sailors, saying the only opposition they faced came from the Sailors.

Ultimately, the Americans lost the battle and Barney was wounded and captured, but his men escaped. When war loomed over Baltimore, the Sailors came north to defend that harbor city along with the regular Army and militia. The flotilla men joined with other Sailors already in Baltimore to defend the city.

Eighty flotilla Sailors and one officer were given the duty of manning an artillery defense protecting the city from the South, taking control of a battery of three long 18-pounders at the Lazaretto, a point of land across from Fort McHenry at the entrance to the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River. An additional 50 flotilla seamen manned Fort McHenry’s water battery. West of Fort McHenry, flotilla seamen manned batteries at Fort Babcock and Fort Covington. Forts Babcock and Covington were active participants in the repulse of a British effort to flank Fort McHenry during the bombardment. More than 300 Sailors worked on gun barges protecting the harbor.

When a British assault force in boats slipped by Fort McHenry unnoticed, they were sighted by the flotilla men manning Forts Babcock and Covington. These forts immediately engaged the assault force and drove it off before troops could be landed. Meanwhile the Navy manned the fort’s guns at the Lazaretto, and the water batteries actively engaged the bomb ships bombarding Fort McHenry.

A small part of the Sailors sacrifice was recorded by the Niles Register on Sept. 24, 1814:

“Aided by the darkness of the night and screened by a flame they had kindled, one or two rocket or bomb vessels and many barges, manned with 1,200 chosen British troops, passed Fort McHenry and proceeded to assail the town and fort in the rear, and, perhaps, effect a landing. The weak sighted mortals now thought the great deed was done — they gave three cheers, and began to throw their massive weapons. But, alas! their cheering was quickly turned to groaning, and the cries and screams of their wounded and drowning people soon reached the shore, for Forts McHenry and Covington with the City Battery and the Lazaretto and barges vomited an iron fire upon them, heated balls, and a storm of heavy bullets flew upon them from the great semi-circle of large guns and gallant hearts.”

So when you celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Battle of Fort McHenry, remember the Sailors and Soldiers who made possible the sight on the morning of Sept. 14, as the smoke cleared, of the giant flag flying over the fort inspiring the following poem:

An etching shows the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. U.S. Sailors played a part in the defense of the city by manning both cannon batteries and gun barges to protecyt the city's waterways and harbor. Artwork courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

An etching shows the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the Battle of Baltimore. U.S. Sailors played a part in the defense of the city by manning both cannon batteries and gun barges to protecyt the city’s waterways and harbor.
Artwork courtesy Naval History and Heritage Command

 

O say, can you see by the dawn’s early light,

What so proudly we hailed at the twilight’s last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O’er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming!
And the rocket’s red glare, the bomb’s bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say, does that star spangled banner yet wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

On that shore dimly seen through the mists of the deep,

Where the foe’s haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o’er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, now conceals, now discloses?
Now it catches the beam, of the morning’s first beam,
In full glory reflected, now shines on the stream;
‘Tis the star-spangled banner! O, long may it wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore

That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps’ pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

O, thus be it ever where freemen shall stand

Between their loved homes and the war’s desolation!
Blest with victory and peace, may the heaven rescued land
Praise the power that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto, “In God is our trust”;
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

 

WarOf1812infograph_JPEG

 
Sep 9

National Museum of the US Navy to host Battle of Lake Erie Commemoration

Monday, September 9, 2013 1:58 PM

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Join us at 9:00 am on Tuesday, 10 Sept. 2013 at the National Museum of the United States Navy for a day of activities including exhibit tours, demonstrations, first person interpretation, period music, and a lecture at noon.

Schedule of events:

9:05 Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

10:00-10:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit with Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

10:30-11:00 Welcoming Mix and Mingle with Mrs. Madison who will be meandering around the museum telling visitors about living in DC in 1813.

11:00-11:30 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

11:30-12:00 Ships Company will perform before the lecture

12:00- Lecture by historian Charles Brodine

1:00-1:30 Post lecture performance by Ships Company

1:30-1:45 Working the Great Guns Naval gun drill by Ship’s Company

1:50- Mrs. Madison will make formal remarks

4:00-4:30 Tour of “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” exhibit by Curator Dr. Edward M. Furgol

4:05- Showing of WGTE’s documentary “The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest” in the MEC

Visit the “1813 Don’t Give up the Ship exhibit” event details page on Facebook: www.facebook.com/events/517696241644780

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Can’t make it? Read up on the Battle with two recently published essays related to
the War of 1812 and the Battle of Lake Erie:

“Constitution Sailors in the Battle of Lake Erie” – By Marc Collins -
“On the morning of September 10, 1813, after a lookout had spotted the British fleet in the distance on Lake Erie, Master Commandant Oliver Hazard Perry made the decision to finally engage the British after months of preparations. The British had no choice but to launch an attack, having lost their supply route from Fort Malden to Port Dover; it was either fight or continue to go hungry…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/0Nv5o6
[PDF]
Mark Collins completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2012,
during his fourth year at Aberdeen University.
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And…

“Precisely Appropriate for the Purpose”: A Hero, a Motto, a Flag, and the American Character”
- By Zachary Kopin -

“When America went to war in 1812, it did so to protect its maritime trade. For the young country, this cause was not new. The international relationships and entanglements of the previous quarter century had, for the most part, been contested on the high seas. The United States fought both the Quasi-War with France (1797–1801) and the war with Tripoli (1801–1805) for the right to sail and trade freely without harassment. From those wars emerged naval heroes, such as Thomas Truxtun, Edward Preble, and Stephen Decatur, whose exploits a patriotic nation would avidly follow in the newspapers…”
Continue reading the full Essay: http://goo.gl/M79aXP
[PDF]
Zachary Kopin completed an internship at the Naval History and Heritage Command in 2013, before entering his third year at American University.
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Other news from around the NHHC Museum Network:

MuseumLogo


War of 1812 news from Naval Station Great Lakes,

the Quarterdeck of the Navy.
From the Great lakes Naval Museum:
Great Lakes Naval Museum Hosts Exhibit on the War of 1812
In honor of the bicentennial of the War of 1812, the Great Lakes Naval Museum will be featuring an exhibit on the War of 1812. Included in this display are historic artifacts from the conflict that are on loan from the Naval History and Heritage Command, including pieces of the USS Niagara and USS Constitution and a sword belonging to the commander of the Constitution, Captain Isaac Hull. As an official department of the Navy Museum, the Great Lakes Naval Museum’s mission is to select, collect, preserve, and interpret the history of the United States Navy with particular emphasis on the Navy’s only “boot camp” at Naval Station Great Lakes. The Museum is located at the Naval Station by the Main Gate. Admission and parking are free.
Please call 847-688-3154 or e-mail glnm (at) navy.mil for more information about this event.
For additional information about the Great Lakes Naval Museum,
visit www.history.navy.mil/glnm …or
www.facebook.com/greatlakesnavalmuseum

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View the National Museum of the US Navy September events schedule.

RSD

 

 
Jul 5

John Paul Jones’s 266th Birthday

Friday, July 5, 2013 3:27 PM
jones_por

John Paul Jones, Father of the U.S. Navy
Born 6 July 1747

As an officer of the Continental Navy of the American Revolution, John Paul Jones, born July 6, 1747, helped establish the traditions of courage and professionalism that today’s Sailors of the United States Navy proudly maintain. John Paul was born in a humble gardener’s cottage in Kirkbean, Kirkcudbrightshire, Scotland, went to sea as a youth, and was a merchant shipmaster by the age of 21. Having taken up residence in Virginia, he volunteered early in the War of Independence to serve in his adopted country’s young navy and raised with his own hands the Continental ensign on board the flagship of the Navy’s first fleet. He took the war to the enemy’s homeland with daring raids along the British coast and the famous victory of the Bonhomme Richard over HMS Serapis. After the Bonhomme Richard began taking on water and fires broke out on board, the British commander asked Jones if he had struck his flag. Jones replied, “I have not yet begun to fight!” In the end, it was the British commander who surrendered.

Jones is remembered for his indomitable will and his unwillingness to consider surrender when the slightest hope of victory still burned. Throughout his naval career, Jones promoted professional standards and training. Sailors of the United States Navy can do no better than to emulate the spirit behind John Paul Jones’s stirring declaration: “I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast for I intend to go in harm’s way.”

Although John Paul Jones is often credited with being the “father” of the U.S. Navy, there are many men who are responsible for the Navy’s establishment. Naval records show that the Continental Congress created the Navy in the resolution in Philadelphia on Oct. 13, 1775, a date now recognized as the Navy’s birthday, so members of Congress must collectively receive credit for the creation of the Continental Navy, the forerunner of the modern U.S. Navy.

The importance of the sea as a highway, a source of food, or a battlefield, if necessary, was well understood by the American colonists. When the American Revolution came, there were many who played prominent roles in the founding of the U.S. Navy, including George Washington, John Barry, John Paul Jones, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and many others.

Should John Paul Jones be considered the “Father” of the U.S. Navy? If not, who do you believe earns this title?

CAPTION: Battle between Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis. Painting by Thomas Mitchell

CAPTION: Battle between Bonhomme Richard and HMS Serapis. Painting by Thomas Mitchell

The next time you are in Annapolis, MD, stop by the US Naval Academy to view the corporal remains of John Paul Jones which were interred into the crypt beneath the Naval Academy Chapel in 1906 in a ceremony presided over by President Theodore Roosevelt. From the point of his death in 1792 until then, John Paul Jones’ remains had been in a grave in France, where he died.

 

 
Jun 14

1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship Exhibit opens at the National Museum of the US Navy

Friday, June 14, 2013 7:23 AM

A new exhibit, “1813 Don’t Give Up the Ship” opens at the National Museum of the United States Navy at the Washington Navy Yard, on June 17. The exhibit will be on display until mid-October 2013 .

130612-N-CS953-004

During the War of 1812, the Navy’s primary responsibility was providing indirect and direct support to the Army on inland waters. These actions included Oliver Hazard Perry’s victory on Lake Erie which altered the strategic situation in the Midwest, reversing the year-long British tide of victories in that theater of operations. This victory allowed US Army General William Henry Harrison to launch an offensive that recaptured Detroit and shattered the British-Canadian-Indian army at the battle of the Thames in Ontario. Perry’s victory shares the stage with the strategic naval victories at Baltimore, Lake Champlain and New Orleans. The Navy defended the nation, laid the basis for the recovery of eastern Michigan and the successful invasion of Ontario, and raised national morale, which had declined following the capture of the frigate USS CHESAPEAKE and the death of her captain James Lawrence.

130612-N-CS953-005 

This new temporary exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Navy features a newly acquired model of Oliver Hazard Perry’s flagship NIAGARA along with an array of remarkable artifacts from state and private collectors, including the only surviving intact example of the “secret weapon” of the War of 1812 – the Navy’s seven barreled “Chambers Gun.” One of the centerpieces of the exhibit, the Chambers Gun, was a multi-barrelled gun that was developed for the US Navy during the War of 1812 and patented by its creator gunsmith Joseph Chambers in 1814. The shots came out of the seven barrels in sequence, so that the gun could be mounted on a frigate’s fighting top and swept along the decks. Once the museum takes down the exhibition it may never come back because a lot of the armaments are on loan.

130612-N-CS953-014

All the more reason to come visit the “1813 Don’t Give Up The Ship” Exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Navy from mid-June to mid-October 2013 at the Washington Navy Yard, DC.

For more information please visit: http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org8-1.htm

 
Feb 20

February 20, 1815: The Capture of HMS Cyane and Levant by the USS Constitution uder Captain Charles Stewart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 AM

This article, written by Naval Constructor C. W. Fisher, U. S. Navy was published in the February 1917 issue of Proceedings magazine, entitled “The Log of the Constitution, Feb. 21-24, 1815: The Capture of the Cyane and the Levant .

 

025 Capture of Cyane and Levant NH 86692-KN

The Capture of the Cyane and Levant by U.S. frigate Constitution

 

Enclosed herewith is a blueprint of an extract from the log of the U. S. frigate Constitution, dated February 21 to February 24, 1815. This brief extract includes a description of the action between the Constitution and British vessels Cyane and Levant. As an example of most admirable seamanship, excellent control, fine tactics, and a happy as well as forceful style of recording important events, I consider this brief extract to be of sufficient value to warrant its being published for the “information and guidance” of the navy to-day. It would be hard to find a better model than this modest record of a most unusual and courageous action.

 

Log of the Constitution001

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution002

Remarks &c. continued, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution003

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Wednesday February 22, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution004

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Thursday February 23, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution005

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Friday, February 24, 1815

 
Jun 26

U.S.S. Scorpion Artifact Vignette: Surgical Scissors

Tuesday, June 26, 2012 8:49 AM

“It is no small presumption to dismember the image of God.”

-John Woodall (1556-1643)

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) has been conducting a multi-year investigation of a shipwreck in the Patuxent River believed to be War of 1812 vessel USS Scorpion. During the 2011 field season, several artifacts were recovered from the vessel’s hold including a pair of surgical scissors, SCORP-2011-53 (Figure 2). Previous investigation of the shipwreck in 1979 yielded another pair of surgical scissors, 99-69-AE (Figure 1). UAB has been conducting ongoing research to better understand the specific medical uses of these artifacts.

Figure 1: A range of artifacts collected from the suspected USS Scorpion site.

Although both scissors are made of iron, the design of each blade is rather different. The first scissor found in 1979 is a small instrument, measuring 13.2 cm. The blades are short and slender accounting for 5.5 cm of the total length. Each blade terminates in sharp points; they meet the base of the handle at a slight angle. The second pair found in 2011 is a more familiar shape. This scissor is slightly longer, measuring 13.4 cm. The blades of this instrument also terminate in a sharp point, but unlike 99-69-AE, the blade to handle ratio is skewed in favor of the blades as the blades account for 7.5 cm of the total length. Both pairs of surgical scissors (Figure 2) bear the maker’s mark “Nowill”.

Figure 2: 99-69-AE (Left) and SCORP-2011-53 (Right)

In one irony of the war, the marker’s mark on the scissors indicates they were manufactured by Haugue & Nowill, of Sheffeild England. This suggests that Dr. Thomas Hamilton, the assigned surgeon aboard U.S.S. Scorpion, purchased at least part of his naval kit from an English firm. Unfortunately, research on the manufacturer revealed little information related to the specific functions of the scissors. This may be due to the fact that in the 1800s firms did not specifically associate themselves with the production of surgical instruments; instead they were silver firms etc.

 Much information can be learned about the intended use of surgical scissors by analyzing variations in their point, blade length, or angulation. Although there appears to be no recorded medical standard that dictates the specific correlation between scissor dimensions and function, a 1952 inventory compiled by Down Bros. and Mayer & Phelps LTD allows for some clarification. The inventory catalogued 104 pairs of historical scissors of varying types providing detailed measurements, scale drawings, and specific functions. It also suggested that the function of an instrument can possibly be determined by analyzing the percentage of blade length compared to the total length of the scissors. Scissors with a smaller percentage of blade length were typically used to make small controlled incisions while instruments with a higher percentage were used for post-mortem operations.

Based on the Down Bros and Mayer & Phelps LTD inventory, it is possible to posit the function of both pairs of recovered scissors. The total length of SCORP-2011-53 measures 13.4 cm while the length of the blade measures 7.5 cm (i.e. the blade composes approximately 55% of the instrument). An instrument with such a high blade percentage may have been used for post-mortem procedures such as cutting open large lengths of bowel for examination. A pair of scissors with identical shape and blade percentage can be found at the Musée de Histoire de la Médecine in Paris (Figure 3). This particular pair is part of a kit used by Dr. François Carlo Antonmarchi in 1821 during the autopsy of Napoleon Bonaparte. 

Figure 3: Surgical instruments used by Doctor Antommarchi for the dissection of Emperor Napoleon I (1769-1821). Musee d'Histoire de la Medecine, Paris, France / Archives Charmet / The Bridgeman Art Library

The total length of 99-69-AE measures 13.2 cm while the length of the blade measures 5.5 cm, (i.e. the blade composes approximately 42% of the instrument). Based upon this percentage and the angulation of the blade, it is likely that this instrument was used to cut bandages. However, the ends of the instrument terminate into sharp points which would also allow the scissor to enter tight spaces and perform more delicate procedures such as suture removal.

Naval surgeons were outfitted with a standard set of equipment that would allow them to fulfill any possible medical demands that could occur on board. This ranged from amputation blades to apothecary bottles, and would also include several different types of scissors. Although individual surgeons would be given a medical kit upon boarding a ship, it was expected that these supplies would stay with the ship. In the case of U.S.S. Scorpion, the assigned surgeon, Dr. Hamilton, may have not been present at the scuttling of the ship but all of his supplies remained on board. Many of the recovered artifacts at UAB would have been used by Scorpion’s surgeon to treat the men of the Chesapeake Flotilla. The range of artifacts recovered shed further light on the activities of a naval surgeon during the War of 1812. Although these instruments were designed with a particular function in mind, it is likely that the demands of the ship outweighed decorum and were used for a wide range of activities. 

Further Reading:

1. Bennion, Elisabeth. “Surgical Scissors.” In Antique Medical Instruments. London: Sotheby Parke Bernet Publications, 1979. 73.

2. Kirkup, John. “Scissors and Related Pivot-Controlled Cutting Instruments.” In The Evolution of Surgical Instruments: An Illustrated History From Ancient Times to The Twentieth Century. California: Norman Publishing, 2006. 247-260.

 
Jun 18

U.S. Declared War on Great Britain on June 18, 1812

Monday, June 18, 2012 1:00 AM

Today is the 200th anniversary of the U.S. declaration of war on Great Britain. Later known as the War of 1812, it began because of tension between the two nations over commerce restrictions and the impressment of American Sailors into the British Royal Navy. The war was concluded on February 18, 1815 with the Treaty of Ghent, which restored relations between the two nations with no territory loss for either. The following article, originally published in the November 1939 issue of Proceedings, shows the United States’ struggle with Great Britain over the issue of impressment.

An Old French Map of Martinique, Dated 1763

A Chapter From Genesis Of The War Of 1812
By Commander Lucius C. Dunn, U.S. Navy (Retired)

In the long and troubled history of the United States Merchant Marine, no period proved more critical in respect to the demoralization of personnel and devastating losses in ships and cargoes­principally through capture and confiscation-than the two decades immediately preceding the War of 1812.In fact, the war resulted largely from injuries to American shipping in that period, chief among which in point of damaging influence upon personnel was impressment.
Although the United States declared war on Great Britain on June 18, 1812, the outstanding cause of the war-impressment-dates much earlier. Indeed, its genealogy may even be traced to the Anglo-French warfare in the immediate wake of the French Revolution.
Less than three weeks after January 21, 1793-when the Revolution’s bloodstained knife fell in execution of Louis XVI, ­France declared war on Great Britain. Whereupon began in earnest King George III’s maritime campaign of achieving and consolidating Britannia’s power at sea. And while a decade of peace with the United States lay behind her-following the American Revolution-yet there still remained to be gathered the fruits of victory at St. Vincent, Camperdown, the Nile, Copenhagen, and also that exemplifying Nelson’s genius at Trafalgar. In the prosecution of this eminently successful campaign on the sea, however, Britannia was impelled to resort to the highly questionable expedient of impressment in order to man her fleets.
The following paragraphs relating to impressment are extracted from President James Madison’s confidential message to Congress of June 1, 1812, in which he detailed the maritime grievances then current against Great Britain: Read the rest of this entry »

 
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