On 1 December 2008 the Naval Historical Center was officially renamed the Naval History and Heritage Command. The name change reflects a transformation in function. The Naval History and Heritage Command is not a history center located in the nation’s capital. Rather, headquartered in the Washington Navy Yard, we are a nationwide organization with facilities, including Navy museums, artifact warehouses, and the USS Constitution’s maintenance and repair detachment, in a number of states. With archival records and libraries in several locations and thousands of historical artifacts and pieces of naval art on loan and on display, we have a presence in every part of the country.
Naval history is important to the Navy, for good naval history makes for a better Navy. Employed in training and education, naval history improves the ability of naval personnel to understand the current world and how it came to be, and to think critically about contingencies that affect the future and the possibilities for influencing the course of events. Naval history is a crucial component of the Navy’s strategic planning: Sound history is essential to sound decision making. As heritage, naval history motivates and inspires sailors. Ultimately, a nation that is familiar with the Navy’s history will understand and support the Navy’s mission.
Without naval documents there can be no naval history from which the Fleet can benefit. Naval documents are necessary to the writing of naval history, and naval documentary editions facilitate the use of those documents. Documentary editions identify the more important among the sea of naval records. These editions transmit accurate texts from one generation to the next. And they provide context to make the texts meaningful.
Documentary editions of naval records promote the writing of both academic naval history, from which the Navy draws to inform decision making, and popular naval history that spreads understanding of the Navy’s role in national defense among the citizenry. Every serious naval history of the Civil War relies heavily on the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Navies, just as studies of the Navy’s role in early wars rely on editions of naval documents on the Quasi-War with France and on the Barbary Wars. The Naval War of 1812: A Documentary History (three volumes to date) is both a part of, and an impetus to, a burgeoning interest in America’s second war with Great Britain. Numerous writers on naval aspects of the War of Independence have declared the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series “indispensable.”
Senior Historian Dr. Michael J. Crawford and fellow editors Dr. Dennis M. Conrad, Mr. E. Gordon Bowen-Hassell, and Mr. Mark L. Hayes, whose recent death is greatly lamented, have produced a volume in the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series that will be of continuing value to scholars, students, naval personnel, the Navy, and the United States. I commend them for their good work and give them joy on the completion of this important volume.
Jay A. DeLoach
Rear Admiral, USN (Ret.)
Director of Naval History