Archive for the ‘American’ Category

Sailing Directions/Pilots

July 16, 2019

These comprehensive compendiums of local coasts offer far more information/detail that what is available on a sea chart. As of this writing, the British Library has 271 of these available online, the earliest one I can find dating from 1803. They range from a few dozen pages to hundreds of pages. “These were originally compiled from first-hand reports and descriptions of the coasts primarily from British ships, but also used data from foreign charts and publications where British sailors had not yet navigated.” (source) They make for fascinating reading: this 1864 sailing direction for the Gulf of St Lawrence includes a quotation from one Captain Bayfield concerning the swift currents on entering the Gulf; it also includes warnings about icebergs coming down the river even in the summer and the danger of dense fog.(13-14)

For the United States, NOAA hosts Historical Map & Chart Collection featuring hundreds of coast pilots. The earliest one I can find here is the 9th edition (1817) of the American Coast Pilot; it is over 400 pages long. NOAA also offers free current coast pilots that are updated on a regular basis. Here is one for New Jersey where I now reside; some of the New Jersey harbors and ports are also discussed in this pilot.

HathiTrust offers over 400 full-text sailing directions from both American and British hydrographic offices. Using the term “American coast pilot” yields almost 2000 volumes.


U.S. Navy Communiques, 1941-1945

June 13, 2019

Communiques and various press releases dated December 10, 1941 through May 24, 1945 are available online. One can trace the westward progress of U.S. forces by these tersely written memos. The first volume covers December 10, 1941 through March 5, 1943; the second volume contains messages from March 6, 1943 through May 24, 1945.

Volumes on United States Naval History

February 27, 2019

Dozens and dozens of monographs are freely available online; this list is certainly worth a perusal.

Dudley Knox Library of the Naval Postgraduate School

February 22, 2019

More than 18,000 volumes from this special library have been made available online; they cover the technical aspects of the modern navy from management to aeronautics.

Late 19th Century American Naval Fiction

October 23, 2018

The Wright American Fiction collection contains 2,887 novels published between 1851 – 1875. Keyword and title searching, as well as author searching, turn up a surprising number of works that have the sea as their background. For example, using the keyword “navy”, one has hundreds of novels with that term in it. One can relish the thrilling exploits in Five years before the mast, or, Life in the forecastle aboard of a whaler and man-of-war (1854) or Nautilus, or, Cruising under canvas (1871). The results are arranged so that those novels with the greatest number of “hits” top the list.

You can use whatever nautical term you are interested in; typing in “sea” pulls up Moby-Dick, or, The Whale (1851) among others.


An Evacuation Larger Than Dunkirk

September 11, 2018

On this date seventeen years ago when the towers fell, 300,000 to 500,000 people were evacuated from lower Manhattan by a rag-tag assemblage of boats, fishing vessels, Coast Guard cutters,  and ferries. The brotherhood of mariners is real. Please view this wonderful documentary on these events.

China’s Maritime Ambitions

August 8, 2018

This updated CRS report, almost 100 pages long, provides a great deal of information – China’s Actions in South and East China Seas: Implications for U.S. Interests—Background and Issues for Congress.

U.S. Navy WW II Combat Narratives

July 11, 2018

These publications form “… a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II. Selected volumes in this series are being republished by the Naval Historical Center as part of the Navy’s commemoration of the 50th anniversary of World War II.”

Originally printed in 1942-43, these slim volumes relied on available primary source materials augmented with selected interviews of the main participants. Although superseded by successive tomes that were based on years of scholarly research, these were at the time instructive and informative précis of major battles. The reprinted titles mostly deal with the Pacific war; a couple are in the ETO.

Trails West: Primary and Secondary Sources

June 20, 2018

Across the Plains, Mountains and Desert is a bibliography of almost 4500 items of primary and secondary sources dealing with the overland trails from 1812 to 1912. (Where available, links are provided to the full text document.) As is stated in the preface “This bibliography does not discriminate against fur traders, Frenchmen,soldiers, expressmen, merchants, miners bound for Pikes Peak or Montana, or Mormons bound for Utah. If a man, woman, or child left an account of their experiences crossing the northern overland route across the Great Plains, whether going of east or west, I hope it appears here.” (8) Other more specialized sites include Mormon Pioneer Overland Travel, Travels in America, 1750 to 1920, Mountain Men and the Fur TradeThe Gold Rush of California: A Bibliography of Periodical Articles, “California As I Saw It”: First-Person Narratives of Early California, 1849-1900, Oregon Trail Emigrant Resources, and the Merrill J Mattes Collection (trail diaries).

The Latest National Maritime Heritage Grant Recipients Announced

May 24, 2018

The National Park Service has recently posted the latest beneficiaries of its re-vitalized National Maritime Heritage awards program. More than $2.6 million will be disbursed in this go-round to dozens of worthy projects. Many do not realize that the NPS also preserves and promotes maritime locations; it is simply not the custodian of land-based sites. An extensive listing of maritime-related national parks is available. Program background is here; you might be interested in how funding for this program is generated.