Archive for the ‘American’ Category

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These publications form “… a series of twenty-one published and thirteen unpublished Combat Narratives of specific naval campaigns produced by the Publications Branch of the Office of Naval Intelligence during World War II.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 Although superseded by successive tomes that were based on years of scholarly research, these were at the time instructive and informative précis of major battles.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.

China’s Naval Modernization

May 9, 2018

This CRS report details the plans China has to upgrade its naval forces and the implications this has for the United States Navy. Hundreds of references add to the utility of this 100+ page document. Also recommended are Beijing’s Strategy to Build China into a Maritime Great Power,  Naval War College Review, 71(#2, Spring 2018): 17-48;  and China’s Evolving Surface Fleet from the U.S. Naval War College.

Nathaniel Bowditch

May 2, 2018


Nathaniel Bowditch was an accomplished autodidact whose contributions to mathematics were so influential that he was offered a chair at Harvard but he declined. What is of more interest, at least as far as this site goes, are his immense contributions to navigation. His corrections to the standard work at that time – The Practical Navigator (9th ed, 1791) – were so extensive that subsequent editions were labelled New American Practical Navigator (2d ed, 1807). This compendium is still used today and is referred to as Bowditch; it is carried on every American ship. Various volumes from 1822 to 2002 are found here; the 2017 edition, now called American Practical Navigator is also available online.

Here is his chart of the Salem coastline.

A finding aid to some of his papers can also be accessed online as well as his translation of the four volumes of Laplace’s Celestial Mechanics.

His son left us his Memoir of Nathaniel Bowditch.

Also of interest is Eulogy on Nathaniel Bowditch, LL.D., president of the American academy of arts and sciences; including an analysis of his scientific publications. Delivered before the Academy, May 29, 1838.

His house still stands.

“Ships Through the Ages”

April 25, 2018

Is a series of murals that depict the evolution of ships from the sailing era to modern times.

“Maritime Heritage of Massachusetts”

April 18, 2018

This site is one of the wonderful “itineraries” constructed by the National Park Service. It is engagingly presented and features scores of sites with well-informed descriptions/histories. Maps, additional links, and bibliographies accompany this presentation. One can lose oneself in this site; I recommend that you do.