J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Thursday, February 12, 2009

Nelson on Washington’s Navy in Boston, 18 Feb

Last year James L. Nelson of Maine published George Washington’s Secret Navy: How the American Revolution Went to Sea, which offers a detailed account of the first American navy, launched shortly before independence.

After overseeing the siege of Boston for a few months, Gen. George Washington realized that, although the provincial troops had trapped nearly the entire British army in North America inside Boston, they’d also left the back door open. The Royal Navy had the run of the seas to the east, so its ships were bringing in food, firewood, ordnance, and other necessary supplies.

The Continental Congress hadn’t authorized the creation of an American navy, which would be a big financial undertaking. Some New England states were licensing privateers—basically, privatized warships. Washington took a further step by authorizing Col. John Glover of Marblehead to take his soldiers, many of them experienced fishermen and sailors, and launch ships out of Beverly to hinder Britain’s supply effort. Only afterwards did Washington ask Congress to authorize this.

Nelson will speak about this story on Wednesday, 18 February, at 6:00 P.M. at the invitation of the Shirley-Eustis House Association, dedicated to preserving Gov. William Shirley’s mansion in Roxbury. The Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati is supporting this event as well. It will take place at the William Hickling Prescott House at 55 Beacon Street in Boston, local headquarters of the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America. R.S.V.P. to the Shirley-Eustis House.


Vern said...

So was Beverly or Marblehead the true birthplace of the American Navy?

J. L. Bell said...

Depends on whether you’re from Beverly or Marblehead. Or East Greenwich, Rhode Island. Or Whitehall, New York. Or Machias, Maine.

The U.S. Navy actually dates itself from October 1775, when it was authorized by the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

This talk might make the case that the birthplace was the Vassall house in Cambridge.

J. L. Bell said...

By “this talk” I meant this talk.

Vern said...

Well, my wife is from Marblehead, but we lived in Cambridge for 10 years - so maybe it's both of them :)

Thanks for the link!