Archive for the 'Age of Sail' Category

Jan 21

The Heroic James Barron

Tuesday, January 21, 2020 12:01 AM

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Before the animosity between Commodores James Barron and Stephen Decatur culminated in their fatal (for Decatur) duel, the two served together on board one of the U.S. Navy’s first warships, the frigate United States. The nation almost lost the frigate during the Quasi-War with France (1798–1800), and with her, a young wardroom and midshipmen mess that would define the U.S. Navy for the next half century. Barron would take Decatur’s life in 1820, but first he saved him and others of the pantheon of early American naval heroes. Captain John Barry commanded the United States during the Quasi-War. The conflict… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Dec 10

The U.S. Navy's 'Smashers'

Tuesday, December 10, 2019 12:01 AM

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Introduced in the U.S. Navy at the beginning of the 19th century, the carronade saw extensive service in American warships during the War of 1812. The Carron Company in Scotland had produced a prototype of the weapon, designed for the protection of merchantmen, in 1776. The success of early carronades resulted in the Royal Navy placing large orders for the guns, and other naval powers soon copied the basic design. Henry Foxall, superintendent of the Eagle Foundry on the Schuylkill River at Philadelphia, cast the first American versions, but probably not until 1799. Certainly he cast the majority of the… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 13

U.S. Revenue Marine to Coast Guard (1790-1915)

Tuesday, August 13, 2019 12:01 AM

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As George Washington left his retreat in Mount Vernon to enter the office of the presidency, the newly established United States faced a myriad of issues. A new government was formed, and the people hoped this would not mirror the recent failure of the Articles of Confederation. Great Britain and Spain still occupied U.S. territory. Secession loomed in the West. The Army was inadequate, the Navy nonexistent, and the Treasury exhausted. After the war, the new government of the United States had accumulated an impressive amount of debt to both its citizens and foreign countries. While Congress attempted to alleviate… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Feb 5

What to do when your commander burns his own perfectly good fleet?

Tuesday, February 5, 2019 12:01 AM

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If you ever find yourself in command of an invading army that is surrounded by a numerically superior enemy hell-bent on your destruction, it is probably not a good idea to intentionally eliminate your only means of retreat. Yet that is what the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés did in 1519 when he sunk his own naval fleet to keep his men from deserting during his campaign to conquer the Aztec Empire. It was one of the biggest gambles in military history. He conquered the Aztecs two years later, but things could have easily gone the other way. If Cortés had been… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Oct 31

Naval Superstitions – A Sailor's Antiquated Guide to Avoiding Bad Luck

Wednesday, October 31, 2018 9:55 AM

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It’s that time of year once again! Where children and adults alike dress up, go to fun parties, and probably eat far too much candy. It’s also a time of spooky stories and superstitions, which is what I decided to research for my dive into naval history this month. Growing up in Wisconsin, sailors and maritime life was not something familiar to me. Most of my impressions of sailors came from movies, television, and books, and one theme always stuck out more than any other: they were just a little bit spooky! There always seemed to be an air of… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Sep 5

On This Day-September 5th

Wednesday, September 5, 2018 12:01 AM

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On this day in 1776 the Navy adopts uniforms for officers. Enjoy this look back through naval history and the evolution of the uniform.                                            

 
Aug 14

Today in Naval History: The Capture of the U.S. Brig Argus by H.M Brig Pelican

Tuesday, August 14, 2018 10:15 AM

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Kimball Argus Burning commerce

Two hundred and five years ago today, on 14 August 1813, the U.S. Brig Argus, under command of Captain William H. Allen, fought her final battle with the HMS Pelican off the coast of England during the War of 1812. During the early-morning battle, Allen’s right leg was shot off, but he remained on station until fainting from a loss of blood. As Pelican‘s men boarded, Argus struck her colors. Allen died four days later. Writing about the incident in the May 1939 issue of Proceedings, Prof. Wilbur E. Apgar gave a thorough summary of the events. His summary is excerpted here. The amazing lack of concern… Read the rest of this entry »

 
Aug 7

Ticonderoga: The Almost-First Steam-Powered Warship

Tuesday, August 7, 2018 12:01 AM

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The Demologos, launched in 1815 and later renamed the Fulton after her creator, Robert Fulton, was the first steam-powered vessel in the U.S. Navy. The unique floating battery almost did not receive that distinction. Only a matter of months earlier, Master Commandant Thomas Macdonough came close to bringing a steam-powered warship to the most decisive battle of the War of 1812. The United States and Great Britain had been at war since June 1812, and Napoleon’s defeat in April 1814 brought thousands of experienced soldiers to Canada. The War of 1812 began as a sideshow to the British government, but now it… Read the rest of this entry »

 
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