Volume 2: 1775


Only those who have sailed into horizons that ever recede can begin to comprehend the immensity of the sea or its power. That its influence upon history has been vast will not surprise them. A similar realization comes when one explores the oceans of documents we have assembled from throughout this country and overseas covering the influence of the sea in the American Revolution. This second volume of Naval Documents of the American Revolution follows in the wake of Volume1 to make available more of this stirring story.

Those who understand the large role played by the U.S. Navy in the Nation's surge to world leadership of freedom and who see that role dramatically played for us in crises throughout the world today will find especially interesting the beginnings of our deep sea Navy portrayed in this volume. First came "George Washington's Navy" itself of small schooners, launched by John Glover's Hannah with a crew of hard bitten Yankee sailors enlisted in the Army.

A few weeks later Congress acted to establish a "Continental Navy." Be­ginning in October we find an increasing number of documents relating to the authorization and development of the national navy. This significant step was not without opposition as succinctly stated by Samuel Eliot Morison in his superb The Oxford History of the American People: 

Congress, it must be admitted, had nerve to found a navy, as it did on 13 October 1775, not without opposition. Samuel Chase of Maryland said that it was 'the maddest idea in the world to think of building an American fleet'; but a Virginia delegate, Professor George Wythe, silenced him with an appeal to history. The Romans, he observed, built a fleet from scratch and managed to destroy Carthage.

The editor's Preface and the Introduction to Volume 1 explained our program, our catholic search and our editorial methods. These have continued for Volume 2 with few changes, but for convenience of readers we repeat in brief summary the highlights of the policy:

As stated in Volume 1, our editorial policy reveals itself in the text. We have sought to retain the spelling, punctuation and abbreviations of the original writer. Hence the editorial methodology is uncomplicated.

Document headings are our insertion unless quotation marks set off the heading indicating that it has been taken "as is" from the original manuscript.

To save space, superscriptions which repeat information in the heading are omitted or shortened, except in rare instances when the full one adds color or essential data to the document. For brevity we have used fewer of the latter than in Volume 1.

The standard [ ] indicates editorial insertions. On occasion (ordinarily in long entries), for clarity a paragraph break has been added where none existed in the manuscript.

Where only part of a letter has been selected, "[Extract]" appears at the top left of the entry. For continuing items such as legislative journals, ship logs, newspapers, or personal diaries which yield a number of individual items, it is clear that an entry on any given date is an extract from the source, hence we do not note it. Unpublished Crown copyright material in the Public Record Office, London, is reproduced by permission of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office.

A brief highlight chronology for the period covered by Volumes 1 and 2 of this series is an added feature. Of more significance is a pictorial essay, "American Navigation During the Revolution," prepared at our request by an authority, and one of our advisors, Marion V. Brewington, Assistant Director, Peabody Museum, Salem, Massachusetts.

When Volume 1 appeared we had most of the manuscript of Volume 2 assembled by William Bell Clark. Since then the ever continuing search by all hands has uncovered new documents for his basic editing. We have also replaced many transcripts by originals that had made port, slightly modified our editorial policy as in more simplified headings, refined and added moderately to our large and unique collection of photographs of contemporary charts, maps, paintings, prints, cartoons, objects, and other iconographic items. Some of the richest addi­tions have come from France under the able search of Madame Ulane Bonnel. Mr. and Mrs. Edwin A. Howe performed most valuable services in locating materials in the Public Record Office and other London depositories. They are representative of the hundreds of unselfish men and women who have assisted us. Their contributions spring from inherent interest in preserving the truth of the past that we may shape a better future, rather than from financial remuneration which has been mostly A.O.L. This dedication to learning alone, added to Mr. Clark's lifetime efforts, has made it possible for a handful of us in the project to produce this work. They multiply many times our hands and minds. Their contributiqns run through all that follows. We renew our warm appreciation to these helpful and generous friends, most of them named in the Introduction and Preface of Volume 1 and include among them others who have embarked to assist in Volume 2.

Professor Bernard P. Lebeau, U.S. Naval Academy, continued to render outstanding translations from the French. Additional welcome translation help came from the Office of Naval Intelligence where, through the fine cooperation of Miss Tatiana Sciugam, the following Naval Reserve, officers, with recognized language ability, are doing excellent work for the project: Lieutenant Commander V.C.Guercio; Lieutenants Alfred Boulos, Russell Holmes, and Roland Reboussin; Lieutenant (junior grade) Jonathan Flowers.

Happily, we still have the same sound advice from our distinguished Advisory Committee whose names appear ahead of the Foreword. Also, our senior Edi­torial Staff has remained the same and fortunately only slight changes have occurred in the small group of devoted workers with us.

The following under the able direction of Dr. William J. Morgan have han­dled the search for original documents to replace transcripts and printed versions, the myriad editorial and composition details required to transfer an initial manu­script into the printed book, the painstaking reading and rereading of documents for textual accuracy, the selection and placement of illustrations, the processing of new materials, and shepherding the large work through the always helpful Government Printing Office: the very capable Lieutenant Richard H. Webber, his successor, Ensign Patrick A. Lyons; Chief Yeoman Frederick S. Coward; Yeoman Second Class Thomas E. Culbert; Frederick S. Hicks; Robert I. Campbell; and the uniquely devoted team, Mr. and Mrs. Henry J.Scheffenacker. In his brief tour of reserve duty we gained special profit from the perception and knowledge of Captain Francis L. Berkeley, Jr., USNR, one of our advisors.

Mr. W. Bart Greenwood with the charts and Commander Dermott V. Hickey and Lieutenant William F. Rope with the other illustrations have devoted a con­siderable portion of their busy hours to the project. Among their assistants the following have diverted hours from their normal duties to assist in an important way: Mr. Fred Meigs, Miss Mary F. Pickens, and Mr. Charles Weaver.

William Bell Clark steaming at flank speed has continued his phenomenal output, made possible only by his assiduous application, his skill and his uniquely prodigious knowledge of seagoing events of the American Revolution. Like others of us periodically he has found time to research for new documents with fruitful results. Primarily, however, he has worked indefatigably on the manu­script. Steadily as we send documents to him from collections long in hand, or from new ones uncovered, he has returned to us a flow of inserts for the basic manuscripts of Volumes 2 through 7 which we now hold. Ever forging ahead, he is an inspiration to the rest of us.

After reviewing part of the galleys of Volume 2, President Johnson has kindly taken time in his large and grave responsibilities to provide the Foreword as President Kennedy did for Volume 1. Conning the mighty Ship of State through the reefs and shoals and typhoons of our time, he must perceive daily the ceaseless influence of the sea interwoven through America's many other strengths and needs. As he said in the Spring of 1965:

The sea and ships are an integral part·of this country's past, present, and future.

His perception, like that of President Kennedy, follows in straight course that of the Father of our Country. And in perceiving the far reaching power of the sea, like President George Washington, he has understood its benefits as extending not solely to the United States but to all men.

In 1780 Washington said: 

In any operation and under all circumstances a decisive Naval superiority is to be considered as a fundamental principle—and the basis upon which every hope of success Must ultimately depend.

Much earlier, however, as readers will see in this volume, on 6 September 1775, writing to the "Inhabitants of Bermuda," George Washington stated the even broader meaning for mankind in words that ring with the true spirit of America and with the gales that sweep across the free unchained sea which knows no iron curtain nor imprisoning walls:

As Descendants of Freemen and Heirs with us of the same Glorious Inheritance, we flatter ourselves that tho' divided by our Situation, we are firmly united in Sentiment; the Cause of Virtue and Liberty is Con­fined to no Continent or Climate, it comprehends within its capacious Limits, the Wise and good, however dispersed and separated in Space or distacnce.

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