Archive for May, 2016

Dudley Pope, 1925-1997

May 30, 2016

I do not know if everyone is familiar with Dudley Pope, but he was one of my favorite authors of both naval fiction and non-fiction. His Ramage books rank as one of the best series of British naval fiction taking place during the Napoleonic Wars; I am proud to say I own the entire collection in hardcover. An example of his non-fiction writing is his well-received 1981 book – Life in Nelson’s Navy. Description of his works can be found here. Biographical information is available at: Naval Marine Archive, Kay Pope (his wife), and The New York Times.



Journals and Logbooks of 19th Century American Sailing Ships

May 27, 2016

Within the G.W. Blunt White Library of Mystic Seaport is a digital library that contains, inter alia, selected journals and logbooks from a variety of ships. You can peruse the journal of the United States from 1843-45 or the 1815 logbook of the brig James Monroe. Depending on the condition of the original and the penmanship of the author, you can actually glean details of ships’ lives and activities. If you are looking for glimpses into the past, this is definitely worth a look-see.

The Royal Navy in Political Pamphlets

May 25, 2016

The 18th Century British Political Pamphlets Collection contains over 2200 titles, and more than a few of them pertain to some aspect of the Royal Navy. Do not be put off by the term “pamphlets”; I have found some of these to be more than 70 pages long, not some  short scribblings. For example, here is one from 1815 addressed to Lord Melville offering an alternative to impressment; and here is A letter to a member of parliament in the country from his friend in London, relative to the case of Admiral Byng (1756) containing additional material on that unfortunate event. From insuring ships of adversaries to Considerations on the bill for the better government of the Navy by Edward Vernon, these writings deserve to be explored when doing research on those parlous times.

The Spanish Armada That Succeeded

May 23, 2016

Many people think that the Spanish Armada of 1588 was the only fleet sent to harass England; it was one of more than a few, especially during the period of the First Anglo-Spanish War, a twenty-year conflict (1585-1604). In 1601, a Spanish armada landed a contingent of troops in Ireland both to support the Irish against the English and also to drain off the English troops fighting in the Netherlands, then a part of the Spanish empire. The Spanish quickly invested the town of Kinsale and underwent a three-months long siege by English troops rushed in to quell this invasion/uprising. The Battle of Kinsale was a pivotal moment in Irish history. Here are some primary sources on this event:

Annals of the Four Masters (n.d., translated 1856, 7 vols.)

Calendar of Manuscript Material Relating to Ireland, 1580-1602 (n.d.)

Calendar of State Papers Relating To English Affairs in the Archives of Venice, Volume 9, 1592-1603.

Calendar of State Papers Relating to Ireland (especially volume 11)

 Calendar of State Papers, Spain (Simancas), Volume 4, 1587-1603

Calendar of the Carew manuscripts (6 vols., 1867-73; see especially vol.4).

Calendar of the Cecil Papers (especially volumes 11 and 12).

Letter Book of Florence Mac Carthy Reagh, Tanist of Carbery, Mac Carthy Mór (1640?).

Letters from Sir Robert Cecil to Sir George Carew (1864).

Pacata Hibernia; or, A history of the wars in Ireland, during the reign of Queen Elizabeth (1633; repr., 2vols., 1820).

The Largest Royal Navy Ship – HMS Queen Elizabeth

May 20, 2016

This aircraft carrier will undergo sea trials next year. It weights 72,000 tons and is over 900 feet long. The link above directs you to photos as well as a directory of locations on this ship. Here is the Royal Navy’s site on her.

Royal Navy Despatches – World War 1

May 13, 2016

This site reproduces naval despatches as mentioned in the London Gazette.; they deal mostly with commendations, salvage, and bounty. However, here you will find official reports on the main battles of the Royal Navy during the World War 1 as published in the London Gazette. For those who want to see ALL the despatches from the Gazette for World War 1, this publication has listed them for you.

Online Primary Sources:The American Revolution on Water

May 9, 2016

Before there was a U.S. Navy, before there was a United States, there was the Continental Navy (additional information here). What initially passed for a navy then were thirteen lightly armed frigates, along with various other classes of ships. They were outclassed by their British counterparts, and none of them survived beyond 1781 having been captured or destroyed, some of them by American hands. The story of the beginning of the Continental Navy, the role John Adams played in its development, the naval conflicts that took place in upstate New York, the appearance of John Paul Jones, the role of France, Spain, and Holland, all of these events are chronicled in the Naval Documents of the American Revolution. This massive collection of primary sources in twelve volumes totaling over 10,000 pages covers the years 1774-1778. It is the product of the efforts of hundreds of scholars from dozens of repositories both here and abroad. Each volume is divided into the American theater and the European theater and is accompanied by numerous contemporary illustrations, extensive bibliographies, informative appendices, and a detailed index. Volume 1 appeared in 1964 with a foreword by President Kennedy, and volume 12 made its appearance in 2013; it is an ongoing project.

Additional primary sources can be consulted: The correspondence of Esek Hopkins, commander-in-chief of the United States navy; Letters and papers relating to the cruises of Gustavus Conyngham, a captain of the continental navy, 1777-1779; The journal of Gideon Olmstead: adventures of a sea captain during the American Revolution; Out-letters of the Continental Marine Committee and Board of Admiralty, August, 1776-September, 1780; Papers of William Vernon and the Navy Board, 1776-1794; The despatches of Molyneux Shuldham, vice-admiral of the Blue and commander-in-chief of His Britannic Majesty’s ships in North America, January-July, 1776;  Letter-books and order-book of George, lord Rodney, admiral of the White squadron, 1780-1782A detail of some particular services performed in America, during the years 1776, 1777, 1778, and 1779.  Compiled from journals and original papers [British]; Connecticut’s Naval office at New London during the war of the American revolution,  including the mercantile letter book of Nathaniel Shaw, jr.,; Life of Rear-Admiral John Paul Jones compiled from his original journals and correspondence: including an account of his services in the American Revolution and in the war between the Russians and Turks in the Black sea [autobiography]; The life and letters of John Paul Jones; Paul Jones : his exploits in English seas during 1778-1780, contemporary accounts collected from English newspapers, with a complete bibliography; The log of the Bon Homme Richard; Diary of Ezra Green, M. D., surgeon on board the continental ship-of-war “Ranger,” under John Paul Jones, from November 1, 1777, to September 27, 1778 ; Journal of the Commissioners of the navy of South Carolina October 9, 1776-March 1, 1779, July 22, 1779-March 23, 1780; Memoirs of Andrew Sherburne: a pensioner of the navy of the revolution ; and The Operations of the French fleet under the Count de Grasse in 1781-2, as described in two contemporaneous journals .

Some good secondary sources:  Naval records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788.  Prepared from the originals in the Library of Congress [A calendar]; The war at sea :  France and the American Revolution : a bibliography; Biographical sketches of distinguished American naval heroes in the war of the revolution, between the American Republic and the Kingdom of Great Britain; Sea raiders of the American Revolution : the Continental Navy in European waters; and United States Naval History: A Bibliography. And we should not forget Mahan’s 1913 work The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence.