Volume 3: 1775 - 1776


Volume 3 of our series opens at a critical stage in the affairs of America. At Boston General Washington perennially short of munitions besieges the British in a stalemate while his little Navy contributes importantly in slowing British supply by sea—the artery of life for the foe as well as for America.

At Philadelphia the Continental Navy, authorized by Congress in October, prepares for its first operation; appropriately it would become an amphibious landing designed to bring in munitions across the sea highways. Meanwhile, Congress took step after step which led to the fateful 4 July 1776 that would influence the course of the world forever after.

The flow of events hinged in large degree upon seapower. Britain had far too few warships on the American coast. Most were small, and, except for the concentration at Boston, they were thinly spread down the long seaboard to Florida. They afforded little offensive punch to support the strong Tory sentiment in every colony or to suppress the "liberty men." Had the British government promptly appreciated the true situation and poured in powerful reinforcements afloat and ashore, events in the New World would have taken a different course.

They would have taken a different course, too, in the Old World. England's ancient rivals—Spain, Holland, France—watched developments overseas with acute interest. While professing neutrality, as documents in this volume show, under the table they fed the fires of revolution—at this stage principally by closing official eyes to the clandestine flow of munitions. It would be too much of a gamble now to support the rebellion openly; but if it should grow, what opportunity that might bring to injure the Mistress of the Seas.

In this volume, therefore, events steadily mount in intensity. Like a rising gale, the sea's influence pervades all that happens ashore. Hence, the number of documents multiplies and the time span covered within this stout hull shrinks even though we have purposely restricted selections.

From the start, our interpretation of "naval" has included the full scope of events on the sea, and those political, mercantile and military affairs that fleeted events there. In this framework, we have of necessity had to eliminate certain fringe documents. As the density of our document holdings increases, Volume 3 expands this screening policy.

We have reduced the number of the purely mercantile documents which received adequate coverage in earlier volumes. We have also omitted more of those repetitious naval items that cover the same event in similar words—for example, the many similar work vouchers for the Maryland Navy's ship Defence for which we have enough records to list the Pentagon. We do not heave these naval ones overboard without due process, retaining unique and pertinent extracts, referringto others in notes. Future volumes will adhere to this policy even more closely. As Mr. Clark mentions hereafter, those interested in reviewing our complete editorial sailing directions for this series will find them in Volume 1 with some slight modifications in Volume 2.

Most of those who made possible the first two ships of the battle line of our growing fleet still serve. Volume 3, like its predecessors, builds on the solid foundation of Mr. William Bell Clark's unique knowledge and tireless application. The end product is the result of the work, scholarship, cooperation, interest, and contributions, large and small, of scores of people in the United States and abroad. Ever helpful staffs in libraries, archives, and historical societies have continually assisted. To each of you we send warm appreciation. Numerous private individuals have given of themselves and, not infrequently, their personal collections without stint. Unpublished Crown copyright material in the Public Record Office, London, is reproduced by permission of the Controller of H. M. Stationery Office. 

The great burden of this effort, including both bookmaking and infinite labors to make the series as accurate and useful as possible, falls upon the shoulders of Dr. William James Morgan and his section—Lieutenant (junior-grade) Patrick A. Lyons, Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Scheffenacker, Mr. Robert Campbell, Mrs. Eleanor Roll, Chief Yeoman Frederick S. Coward, and Yeomen Second Class Thomas E. Culbert and Joseph V. Eckert. Mr. W. Bart Greenwood, Navy Depart­ment Librarian, and Miss Mary Pickens, together with Commander V. James Robison, Assistant Navy Department Curator, and Lieutenant (junior-grade) J. D. Bogart of his office, have rendered skillful aid and guidance with charts and illustrations. Mr. Marko Zlatich prepared the index.

Rear Admiral F. Kent Loomis continues to play a wise and knowledgeable role in this as in all other of the Division projects. Chief Yeoman Morris Randolph has handled those American Revolution matters that have come his way amongst much other work with skill and dispatch.

Fortunately, as noted, we have been able to call upon most of those who made their talents available for the first two volumes, including the distinguished mem­ bers of the Se retary of the Navy's Advisory Committee on Naval History and the Special Consultants who are listed on a fore page. We likewise welcome several new spare time members to the "team." Professor Kendall E. Lappin of the U.S. Naval Academy, Mr. William H. Beach, Colonel G. Edward Borst, and Commander Canio J. Di Cairano have provided able translations of documents from European archives. In London, Commander W. B. Rowbotham, Royal Navy (Retired), is doing essential research of great importance. Whenever needed, U.S. naval commands in the United States and overseas have responded to our requests for assistance with traditional "can do'' results.

We gratefully acknowledge our indebtedness to all, old hands and new alike. Without you, an undertaking of this magnitude would be impossible.

Volume 1 Introduction gave special note to the excellent work of Lieutenant David Patterson of the Naval History Division. Upon returning to civilian life, he continued the study of history as a doctoral candidate at Northwestern University. An automobile accident on February 18, 1967 took Lieutenant Patterson's life. We mourn the loss of a fine colleague and scholar of high promise.

Americans, being people, have difficulty learning from the past, justifying the statement that "history repeats itself because people won't listen the first time." A special difficulty has been learning the lessons of the fundamental importance of the sea to our destiny.

We can understand this difficulty since most of us know thoroughly only what we see, feel, and experience. Living on land, we can understand the meaning of land power and today of air power in planes that we see taking off and flying overhead. Seapower still remains a mystery as its ships disappear beyond the horizon into the unknown.

We can understand the difficulty but history does not forgive it. This failure to understand the importance of necessary power on the sea has brought us many sorrows and encouraged aggression by tyrants like today's communists, who do not comprehend that this is defective vision, not decadence.

Our failure to understand reaches back to the American Revolution, a vast maritime war that developed into the fourth world war of the eighteenth century. It extends today into Southeast Asia where the United States can project its total strength in the defense of man's freedom only by control of and power on the sea. May you who use these documents see this truth that George Washington in the end saw so clearly. May you come to realize with him that in the American Revolution, seapower was "the pivot upon which everything turned"—a truth as gravely true to day as ever in the past.

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