Archive for the ‘American’ Category

Holiday Menus From USN Ships

March 20, 2017

There are various sites that offer menus from hotels and the like; this site offers holiday menus from USN ships. Peruse menus from 1905 through the 1950s. As the introduction to this feature states: “Holiday dinners are important memories and experiences for past and present Sailors, with many remembering these special times away from home and with their fellow shipmates. Even in wartime, traditional holiday dinners, like Thanksgiving and Christmas, are served to our nation’s Sailors deployed off foreign shores or in combat theaters. “

Online Primary Sources: The United States Navy in World War 1

March 17, 2017

These documents range from personal narratives to official compilations of naval laws and resolutions. It is by no means complete, but the list does offer good examples of the literature associated with the maritime aspects of the Great War.

Our navy at war (1916); United States submarine chasers in the Mediterranean, Adriatic and the attack on Durazzo (1920); The war with Germany; a statistical summary (1919, although this work is from the American perspective, beginning on page 137 are “international comparisons”); Beatty, Jellicoe, Sims and Rodman; Yankee Gobs and British Tars as seen by an “Anglomanic,” (1919); The victory at sea (1920, written by the commander of American naval forces in Europe); Being the “Log” of the U.S.S. Maui in the World War (1919?, written by some of the crew of this troopship); 70,000 miles on a submarine destroyer; or, The Reid boat in the world war (1919, written by a crew member); The cruise of the U. S. S. Sacramento  (1919, written by crew members); History of the U.S.S. Leviathan, Cruiser and Transport Forces, United States Atlantic Fleet (1919?, the ship’s “History Committee”); A history of the transport service; adventures and experiences of United States transports and cruisers in the World War (1921, by the admiral in charge of transport operations); German submarine activities on the Atlantic coast of the United States and Canada (1920, official US SecNav report); Queenstown Patrol, 1917: A Diary… (1996); Account of the Operations of the American Navy in France During the War With Germany (1920, by the commander of naval forces in France); Digest Catalogue of Laws and Joint Resolutions: The Navy and the World War 1920); Lieutenant Picking’s Diary, May – June 1918 While Observing English and French Submarine Operations in the War Zone ; and World War I British and German Naval Messages (1920, deals with the armistice).

Some unique secondary sources: US Naval Forces in Northern Russia (Archangel and Murmansk), 1918-1919 (1943); US Naval Detachment in Turkish Waters, 1919-1924 (1943); US Naval Port Officers in the Bordeaux Region, 1917-1919 (1943);  American Naval Mission in the Adriatic, 1918-1921 (1943); and American Naval Participation in the Great War With Special Reference to the European Theater of Operations (1928, written by the pre-eminent naval historian Dudley Knox).

Annual Reports of the [U.S.] Secretary of the Navy

March 3, 2017

There are selected runs of this title (what adds to the confusion is that the title varies) that allow us to glimpse the workings of the US Navy from the early part of the 19th century into the 20th. The Annual reports of the Secretary of the Navy contains the volumes for 1821-1843; the Annual Reports of the Naval Department run from 1855 to 1932; and the Annual reports of the Navy Department. Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Miscellaneous reports covers the same time period. They are not just dry recitations but hold fascinating historical value; for example, the volume for 1823 details the Navy’s involvement in the suppression of the slave trade in Africa along with letters recounting the Navy’s role; the 1851 volume has a passing mention of the “disastrous” invasion of Cuba; and the 1917 tome discusses the Navy’s anti-submarine efforts.

Each volume is a goldmine of information: personnel statistics; funding; reports of the various departments within the Navy, including the Marines; and contemporary primary source documents, such as reports and letters.

Newspaper Accounts of American Maritime Events

September 16, 2016

In Chronicling America, the Library of Congress is assembling a vast digital treasure trove of newspapers from every state in the Union. Ranging from 1789 to 1922, the millions of pages of newspapers form an inestimable resource of primary research material. A featured portion of this site is the Topics section, a selected listing of important events in American history that can be searched alphabetically, by date or by subject.  Each topic has a brief summary of the event, a timeline, suggested search terms, and a linked list of articles relevant to the historical occurrence. As far as maritime subjects go, the following are now available (the dates indicate the year range of article coverage): Blockade Runners in the Civil War (1862-1904); Ironclads (1861-1931); Sinking of the SS Sultana (1865-1898); Submarines (1864-1918); The Sinking of the Maine (1898); Battleships. Pre-World War I naval arms race. (1906-1910); Slocum Steamboat Tragedy (1904-1906); Theodore Roosevelt’s Great White Fleet (1907-1909); The Sinking of the Lusitania (1915); and Titanic, Sinking of (1912).

Sailing Cards

July 26, 2016

Sailing cards are significant and distinctive maritime documents. Agents or owners commonly advertised the availability and loading of their vessels in the local newspapers, but by the mid-1850’s the colorful sailing cards began to appear in the windows of shipping firms, banks, and public shops along the waterfronts in ports like New York and Boston. These cards might be printed several days prior to the anticipated departure, in order to secure last-minute cargo or passengers.” (from inventory description). Fully 200 of these cards from the 1850s to the 1870s can be perused online.


American Shipping Forms and Documents, 1776-1860

July 25, 2016

American Maritime Documents, 1776-1860 is a work that explores the various forms and records that were an integral part of American shipping. It defines and, in some instances, gives examples of such items as pilot licenses, abstract logs, oaths, etc. It is a very informative guide to the vast engine of paperwork that grew and developed as the maritime trade of the United States became evermore global.

United States Exploring Expedition

June 9, 2016

This six-ship squadron sailed around the world between 1838 and 1842 collecting innumerable artifacts and measurements. A wonderful overview of this voyage is by Nathaniel Philbrick. (He wrote the Sea of Glory that deals with the U.S. Ex Ex. I recommend it most highly.)

Primary source material abounds:

Narrative texts, scientific texts, and atlases are fully accessible online.

Cultural artifacts have their own separate database.

The commander of this record-breaking endeavor was Charles Wilkes; here is his Autobiography of Rear Admiral Charles Wilkes, U.S. Navy, 1798-1877.

An officer in the expedition, George Colvocoresses published Four years in the government exploring expedition; commanded by Captain Charles Wilkes….


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.

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.

Documentary Naval History of the Spanish-American War

April 20, 2016

Hundreds of transcribed documents including command diaries, squadron bulletins, messages to and from Theodore Roosevelt, then Secretary of the Navy, and naval reports are presented in this feature from Naval History and Heritage Command. This site is broken down into small sections, each introduced by an informed discussion of the contents. The site also includes an explanation of editorial methods, a  bibliography of primary and secondary sources (though not linked, most of the primary sources are available online), as well as lists of both American (with DANFS histories) and Spanish ships with their captains.