Volume 6: 1776


Naval power at sea and on inland waters played key roles in the period of the Revolutionary War covered by this volume of documents. 

British transports and the convoying fleet, commanded by Admiral Lord Howe, had sailed through the Narrows of New York in July. General Clinton and Commodore Sir Peter Parker joined the forces of the Howe brothers by sea after the failure to capture Charleston, South Carolina. Then, the British launched their attack across the bay on 22 August 1776, projecting troops ashore on Long Island and providing gunfire support from ships of the fleet. Had the American army been trapped on Long Island, as very nearly happened, the cause of independence would probably have been lost then and there.

Supported and sustained by sea power, New York would thereafter be the main base for British operations. This gave them an excellent harbor and central location for naval operations along the Eastern seaboard, and provided flexibility for deployments of army forces to any location that could be reached by water—far more rapidly than Washington's troops could move by land.

Had the forces of Sir Guy Carleton, coming down the waterways from Canada, been able to link up with the forces stationed at New York, the result might have been eventually decisive in favor of the British. This time it was the fresh water navy of Benedict Arnold that, despite the bad beating on Lake Champlain, so delayed the advance south that the British effort was given up for that year.

Thus it was that the use of British sea power was very nearly decisive in the summer of 1776, and that naval operations on inland waters in the fall frustrated actions that would have cut the states in two.

The Depository Location pages in this volume list some eighty activities from Venice, Italy, to San Majino, California, from which manuscripts have been selected for inclusion herein. This list bears witness to a fact which cannot be overly emphasized, namely that the success and continued progress of the Naval Documents of the American Revolution series is dependent upon the resources, the knowledge and generous cooperation of numerous individuals, libraries, historical societies, archives and museums in the United States and abroad. Unpublished Crown copyright material in the Public Record Office, London, is reproduced by permission of Her Majesty's Stationery Office.

Dr. Maurice Bear Gordon, a physician with a keen feeling for history, has taken time from a busy medical practice to prepare the fine pictorial essay, "Naval and Maritime Medicine During the Revolution," which enriches this volume.

Within the Naval History Division, the editor, William James Morgan, is strongly supported by dedicated and extremely competent associates in the Historical Research Branch—Mr. Robert L. Scheina, Mr. and Mrs. Henry J. Scheffenacker, Mr. Robert I. Campbell, Mr. E. Gordon Bowen-Hassell, Lieutenant (junior grade) Kristin G. Tryon, relieved by Ensign Mary L. Greeves, Chief Yeoman Lenzie D. Crosby, Mrs. Carolyn Ransdell, and on summer Naval Reserve duty, Master Chief Petty Officer George K. McCuistion.

Mr. W. Bart Greenwood, Navy Department Librarian, assisted by Miss Mary Pickens of the Library staff, has once again searched out and collected appropriate maps and charts. Lieutenant Commander Richard M. Gannaway, while on temporary Naval Reserve duty, joined with Mr. Charles R. Haberlein, Jr. of the Naval History Division's Curator Branch to collect, select, and identify the many contemporary illustrations to be found in the volume.

Commander W. E. May, RN (Ret.) , undertook indispensable research in the Public Record Office and other United Kingdom depositories. Sound and valuable translation services, from several languages, have been provided by Commander Canio Di Cairano, USNR (Ret.), and personnel of the Naval Reserve translator program in the Office of Naval Intelligence.

To all, named and unnamed, who have contributed to the work and thus have made it possible, our debt is great, our gratitude boundless.

Edwin B. Hooper

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