Archive for Nautical

Online Primary Sources for American History: The Nimitz Graybook

So named for its gray covers, this “operational diary” of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz is comprised of daily summaries by his staff of all aspects of the American naval presence in the Pacific during World War II. It is the only source of its kind, and is considered an authoritative source on World War II for that theater of operations. Any new histories being written about the Pacific war will now have immediate access to this most important source.

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Online Primary Sources for American History: The Continental Navy

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 eleven 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 11 made its appearance in 2005; 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.

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Naval Chronology of the American Civil War

As we remember the American Civil War, we should not lose sight of the fact that this struggle was not just confined to land battles; many conflicts took place either in bays, rivers, or the ocean. In the early to mid-1960s, the Naval History Division of the Navy published the six-volume Civil War Naval Chronology, 1861-1865. It is a day-by-day exposition on what occurred in maritime settings, from raids on Southern coastal ports to Mississippi River operations. In addition, excerpts from participants’ accounts add to the utility of this work. Volume 6 contains a cumulative index along with many special studies such as : “The Navy in Defense of Washington,” “Shipboard Life in the Civil War” and “Naval Sheet Music of the Civil War” among others. Needless to say, this work focuses on the Union exploits afloat. The Confederate perspective can be seen in this 1887 work:  History of the Confederate States navy from its organization to the surrender of its last vessel. Its stupendous struggle with the great navy of the United States; the engagements fought in the rivers and harbors of the South, and upon the high seas; blockade-running, first use of iron-clads and torpedoes, and privateer history. This thirty-volume series,  Official records of the Union and Confederate in the war of the rebellion (1894-1922) might prove beneficial as well.

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Online Primary Sources for American Naval History

On this very special day in England, we thought it appropriate to mention some outstanding sources for naval history, primarily American. What we call the United States Navy ( a brief, scholarly history)  was established in 1794 by An Act to provide a Naval Armament that called for the building of six heavily armed frigates; one of this group, the USS Constitution, is still afloat (selected sources here). Collections of primary sources include:  Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships that includes every ship’s history from the Revolutionary War onward; Naval Records of the American Revolution, 1775-1788, a calendar of documents; Out-letters of the Continental Marine Committee and the Board of  admiralty; the seven-volume Naval Documents related to the Quasi-War between the United States and France; the six-volume Naval Documents related to the United States Wars with The Barbary Pirates; the three-volume The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History; and The American State Papers: Naval Affairs covering the period 1794 to 1836.  Biographies in Naval History leads to primary sources while Westward by Sea: A Maritime Perspective on American Expansion,1820-189o contains diaries, logbook, narratives, and business records. Numerous biographies can be found at HathiTrust; here are a few on the “Father of the American Navy,” and it is not John Paul Jones. We will follow with an entry on primary sources for English naval history.

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