Volume 4: 1776


"No man is an island unto himself" in this age of satellite communication, jet aircraft and intercontinental missiles. Yet even in the 18th century, as the documents in this volume point up, the far reaching sea made the affairs of the small emerging American nation in some ways the affairs of all. The spark of liberty could not have survived in America without extensive aid from overseas. Among the many significant events in these nautical pages, none had greater impact than France's secret policy to prolong the war through undercover aid that could come only by sea and would eventually involve her powerful fleets to bring victory.

It is interesting that at the outset Bourbon autocracy promoted American freedom—fanning the fires that would spread to France and destroy the monarchy. Surely Providence works in mysterious and unforeseen waysas America experienced often during the Revolution and in the stirring years to come when this land of freedom has become a beacon of hope to all men.

The initial decision to include foreign documents relating to the war at sea seems more than ever justified as we get deeper into the years of conflict. They bring breadth of perspective, significance and deeper meaning. At the same time the growing sea of documents has vastly increased our task of selection. It has taken four broad-beamed volumes to reach to the first months of the second year of the Revolution. Documents printed in the volumes contain the principal, but by no means all the large holdings collected in the Naval History Division for this period. Through drastic editorial review, extracting or eliminating material, and footnote references, we have been able to extend the time span of Volume 4 over that covered in Volume 3. We will hold this course of selection even more closelv in subsequent volumes.

The wholehearted support of libraries, historical societies, museums, archives, other depositories, and private collectors and researchers in the United States and abroad continues to make this work a reality. Unpublished Crown copyright material in the public Record Office is reproduced by permission of the Controller of H.M. Stationery Office.

We were able to get this great editorial project underway a decade ago because of the knowledge and dedication of William Bell Clark. In his heart was an abiding love for the American Revolution as affected by naval events. In his mind he had stored information from a lifetime of research and reading. In his library he had tens of thousands of pages of transcripts relating to the Revolution. Therefore, when he quietly sailed on into vaster seas we suffered a grievous loss indeed in a splendid American, an esteemed friend, and an editor whose knowledge can not be fully replaced by any man alive. We will carry on this series but will not cease to think of him and miss him.

Within the Naval History Division the key to this project's success and steady progress continues to be the intelIigent know-how, intense interest, and hard work of Dr. William James Morgan and his devoted crew in our Historical Research Section-Lieutenant Patrick A. Lyons, Mr. Robert I. Campbell, Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Scheffenacker, Mrs. Eleanor Roll, Yeoman First Class Joseph V. Eckert, Miss Anne Kenenski, and a talented part time worker in our vineyard, Mr. Martin Petersilia.

Lieutenant Raymond P. Schmidt and Chief Personnelman George K. McCuistion, on summer Naval Reserve duty with us, made significant contributions. Mr. W. Bart Greenwood, Navy Department Librarian, and Miss Mary Pickens did a fine job with the maps as did Mr. Charles R. Haberlein Jr., of the Curator's Branch, with other illustrations.

France's secret decisions that highlight the importance of the sea for the future of America represent only a small portion of the material in Volume 4 that points up this unchanging verity in history of the sea's mighty role. For example, on one day in 1776, 19 April, the first anniversary of the embattled patriots' stand at Lexington and Concord, we find these wide spread indications:

a. Virginia newspaper reported that two British tenders sailed up the James River and captured a vessel "with about 200 barreIs of flour on board."

b. Pennsylvania decided to build an additional Aoating battery to cover the water approaches to Philadelphia.

c. New York directed her sloop Montgomery to hasten to sea to "act against the enemies of the United Colonies."

d. Massachusetts named "five armed Vessels now building"—Independence, Rising Empire, Republic, Freedom, and Tyrannicide.

e. Halifax, Nova Scotia. Vice Admiral Shuldham wrote an urgent dispatch to the Admiralty. H.M.S. Glasgow had arrived much "shattered" having "off Rhode Island fallen in with and been attack'd by several Armed Vessels of the Rebels."

f. London. Admiralty Secretary Philip Stephens had no way of knowing that Boston was recently evacuated as he addressed an order to Shuldham. He urged extreme vigilance in protecting homeward-bound West Indies trade, and that British Captains "take or destroy any Rebell Cruizers they may happen to meet with."

Throughout the volume these, and many other documents, as President Kennedy wrote in the Foreword to Volume 1, "make amply clear the critical role played by sea power in the achievement of American independence." E. M. Eller

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