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Monday 23 September 2013

Camelot - Castles Customs & Kings Blog Hop

'Camelot.... Camelot! A most congenial spot...'

…. Except of course, IF Arthur had existed, and IF he had a headquarters it would not have been a castle with flags waving from the turrets,  a drawbridge and portcullis, a bailey – stone walls, dungeons (and no dragons). The romantic view of King Arthur’s Camelot is a fairy-tale type castle, with knights in armour, swooning ladies with pointy hats, a magician or two stirring potions in a cauldron and jousting in the courtyard – oh and a round table in the magnificent tapestry-adorned Hall.

Cadbury - Camelot!

Sorry to disillusion. Apart from the fact that no one is certain whether Arthur did exist or not, if he had been a bona-fide, genuine, historic character he would have lived in the late fourth or early fifth century Britain, between the going of the Romans and the coming of the Anglo-Saxon English.

His realm would have been Britain – that’s the area we today call England and Wales, possibly the lowlands of Scotland as well.
In Arthur’s time, the Welsh were Britons, the Scots were Irish, the English were German and the Romans were… well, in general, from anywhere apart from Rome! Englalond (England - Angle-land) as a single Kingdom under one King (Athelstan) did not exist until much latter - 927 in fact!

And Arthur’s ‘Castle’? It would have probably been a semi-derelict Roman Fort, or a re-vamped iron-age hillfort.

Cadbury Castle, Somerset
Cadbury Castle in Somerset is a leading contender, and the place I used for Arthur’s main fortress in my Pendragon’s Banner Trilogy. Excavations discovered that the place was indeed occupied in the Arthur’s period (again assuming he did exist!)  Tintagel, in Cornwall is another favoured location, and this, too, was occupied in the ‘Dark Ages’ of the fifth century – but there has never been anything found to prove that the lord who lived there went by the name of Arthur.

Camelot is first mentioned in Chr├ętien de Troyes' poem Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart, dating to the 1170s (and I hate to be the bearer of bad tidings, but Lancelot is an imaginative figure of twelfth century Romantic Fiction – he did not exist in reality.)
The poem does not suggests the high importance that Camelot would have in later tales. Here, Arthur's court was  Caerleon in Wales, cited as the King's primary base in Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia Regum Britanniae. This Arthur is a typical medieval monarch, holding court in a number of castles. Only in the thirteenth century do we see the French romances including Camelot as a grand seat of a noble and just King Arthur.

I doubt that we will ever know the truth, but while there are authors, poets, artists and actors, Arthur – and Camelot - will never be forgotten!

But perhaps the best view of Camelot is this one .... Enjoy!

Click > for more information, excerpts etc about the Pendragon's Banner Trilogy

Giveaway! (competition closed)
The competition winner was Robin Dalton - congratulations! 


The Pendragon's Banner Trilogy
Castles, Customs and Kings Blog Hop!
Be ye Knight, Lady or Squire - travel onward on Progress 
through the Noble Realm of Blog Hop 
to thy next destination 

Castles to visit : 

1. Gillian Bagwell - Castles Customs and Kings Blog Hop
2. Maria Grace - Castles 101
3. Susanna Calkins - Winchester Palace
4. Helena Schrader - Cathars, Castles, and Crusades
5. Grace Elliot - Carisbrooke Castle
6. Linda Root - Ferniehirst
7. Katherine Pym - Whitehall Palace
8. Deborah Swift - Sizergh Castle
9. Teresa Bohannon - Cardiff and Caerphilly Welsh Castles 
10. Scott Higginbotham  - Rhodes Castle
11. Maggi Andersen - Highcliffe Castle
12. Lauren Gilbert - Hampton Court
13. J. A. Beard - Porchester Castle
14. Sandra Byrd - Allington Castle
15. Debra Brown  - Castello di Amorosa
16. Katherine Ashe - Kenilworth Castle
17. Elizabeth Ashworth - Pontefract
18. Nancy Bilyeau - Stafford Castle
19. Peter St. John - Evacuation
20. Helen Hollick - this page

The Castles, Customs, and Kings Blog Hop
 - to celebrate the release of

“...a fountain of knowledge penned by wordsmiths with a passion for the past.”
–Helen Hollick, novelist 

A compilation of essays from the English Historical Fiction Authors blog, this book provides a wealth of historical information from Roman Britain to early twentieth century England. Over fifty different authors share hundreds of real life stories and tantalizing tidbits discovered while doing research for their own historical novels.

From Queen Boadicea’s revolt to Tudor ladies-in-waiting, from Regency dining and dress to Victorian crime and technology, immerse yourself in the lore of Great Britain. Read the history behind the fiction and discover the true tales surrounding England’s castles, customs, and kings!

Buy From:
Amazon: US $19.95
Amazon : UK £13.50

Thursday 12 September 2013

A Word Challenge - the Thursday (Fun) Thought -

Helen's Website
See if you can figure out what these six words have in common...

1. Banana
2. Dresser
3. Grammar
4. Revive
5. Uneven
6. Assess

.. No, it is not that they all have at least two double letters....


scroll down for the answer


If you take the first letter, place it at the end of the word, and then spell the word backwards, it will be the same word!

1. B > ananaB = Banana
2. D > resserD = Dresser
3. G > rammarG = Grammar
4. R > eviveR = Revive
5. U > nevenU = Uneven
6. A > ssessA = Assess

Good eh?

GIVEAWAY PRIZE! (Competition Now Closed)
win any one of my books (your choice) 

"Oi, on deck there" I've picked a winner!"

And the lucky winner is Elizabeth Brown who entered on the Facebook link.
Congratulations Elizabeth!

Wednesday 11 September 2013

The Founding of the U.S. Continental Navy: Tuesday Talk Part Two

(click for Part One here)
The Founding of the U.S. Continental Navy, 1775 by John Fitzhugh Millar

The Frigate Rose has arrived at Rhode Island....

.... and in a few weeks the rum industry died. Thousands of people who had become unemployed had to pack up and move to Connecticut to look for a new job. Rose ventured as far from Newport as Long Island Sound, but generally she remained close to Newport, which meant that the smuggling industry could not be revived.

Rose (the present day replica)
While she was there, she was assigned additional duties by the admiral. British troops in Boston were mostly under embargo by the Rebels against buying food in Massachusetts, so ships like Rose in the rest of the northeast were expected to purchase food in their area and send it by sea to Boston. Captain James Wallace on Rose was given large amounts of gold coins with which to buy the necessary cattle, sheep, hogs, poultry and grain, but frequently he found that Rebels had visited the farms shortly before his arrival and removed the stock – after he had paid for it in full. Soon, other ships arrived to assist Wallace in his duties, the 24-gun frigates Glasgow and Scarborough, and the 16-gun corvettes Swan, Nautilus and Kingsfisher, as well as the bomb-brig Bolton and several small smuggling vessels Wallace had confiscated. In order to meet his quota of food for Boston, the now Commodore Wallace was obliged to apply more pressure.

The Rhode Island General Assembly reacted to Wallace’s pressure by re-establishing the long-dormant Rhode Island Colonial Navy on 12 June 1775, the first navy of any colony in the Revolution. Three days later, that navy’s two sloops, the 10-gun Katy commanded by Abraham Whipple under charter from Providence merchant John Brown and the smaller vessel called Washington, engaged and captured the armed sloop Diana, which was being used by Wallace to assist him in patrolling Narragansett Bay. This was the first capture by any official American navy in the Revolution, but it was by no stretch a continental navy. Eventually, other Colonies established their own navies, except for New Jersey; in the case of Delaware, Sussex County briefly established its own navy. The various state navies achieved little, except the Pennsylvania Navy under Commodore John Hazelwood, and the Massachusetts Navy. The South Carolina Navy had the largest ships, the most impressive being the 44-gun frigate South Carolina, a forerunner of the 1797 Constitution.

In the mean ime, young men led by Jeremiah O’Brien at Machias in northeastern Maine (then a colony of Massachusetts) were so incensed by the news of the recent battles of Concord and Lexington and the seizure that same week of Virginia gunpowder at Williamsburg by sailors from the small British schooner Magdalen that they decided to take action. Magdalen’s sister ship Margaretta happened to be in the Machias area making measurements for coastal charts, collecting timber, and generally keeping the peace in the region, so these brave men, armed with little more than pitchforks, took two local sloops, Polly and Unity, on 12 June and captured the schooner. A few days later, they captured two other small survey vessels. That was of course not a continental navy.

A month earlier than the Maine incident, Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold and their men captured Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain, New York. The cannons taken from the fort were laboriously hauled under the leadership of Henry Knox to Boston, where they were able to convert the embargo of the British into an actual siege. Benedict Arnold rightly suspected that the British would want to cut New England off from the rest of the Colonies by bringing an army down Lake Champlain, so he formed a plan to acquire a fleet of armed ships on the lake to resist and delay the British move. A few days before the fort was taken, Benedict Arnold and a few followers captured the ketch-rigged yacht Katharine from its Loyalist owner, Philip Skene, outfitted her with eight cannons, renamed her Liberty, and sailed her to the northern part of the lake. There they captured two small British warships without a shot being fired, the 10-gun sloop George (renamed Enterprise) and the still unlaunched 12-gun schooner Royal Savage, as well as a partly-constructed 8-gun cutter (later named Lee). Arnold also destroyed other vessels that could have been useful to the British. He was working with men from Connecticut, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire, but this significant achievement, which took place on 18 May 1775, was not an official continental navy.

Benedict Arnold

George Washington was commander-in-chief of the Continental Army encamped near Boston. His biggest obstacle was that British troops occupying Boston were receiving all the food and other supplies they needed by sea – such as those sent by Wallace from Rhode Island – so Washington’s siege of the city was very porous. Congress had given Washington no authority to take any action except on land. He knew that if he asked for permission to arm some ships he would either be turned down or Congress would take months to deliberate about it. Therefore, on 2 September 1775, the Continental Army chartered the first of seven Marblehead fishing schooners, Hannah, and outfitted her with four cannons under the command of Nicholas Broughton. Hannah and her armed fishing-boat consorts Lynch, Franklin, Lee, Warren, Washington, and Harrison captured many British supply ships in the following year until Congress ordered the fleet disbanded, but that was still not a continental navy.

George Washington
On 26 August 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly, realizing that it would take more naval power than one colony could muster to dislodge Wallace and his fleet from Rhode Island, passed a resolution urging Congress to establish a national navy. Congress was not in session until the fall, but as soon as sessions resumed Stephen Hopkins introduced a bill to create a Continental Navy of two ships. Hopkins in the mean time had talked to many members of the Congress, and they had told him that if he expected to obtain passage of his bill he had better make the navy as small as possible. With strong support from Silas Deane of Connecticut and John Adams and John Hancock (himself a notorious smuggler) of Massachusetts, but opposed by the powerful Samuel Chase of Maryland, the bill passed on 13 October 1775, and the Continental Navy was at last born.
John Adams
 According to Deane, the two vessels mentioned in the bill were the Rhode Island sloop Katy and the 14-gun Connecticut brig Minerva. However, both vessels had problems. The officers and crew of Minerva unanimously refused to enter Continental service, so she had to be dropped, and it turned out that Katy was not immediately available because she was off on a long voyage on Washington’s behalf. Washington had asked Rhode Island authorities if they would send her to Bermuda to take the island’s gunpowder before the British could remove it, so she had departed on 12 September, encountered a serious hurricane, found that the British had already removed the Bermuda powder, and returned home by 20 October. At that point, she was fitted with two additional cannons, for a total of 12, and at some other date she was fitted for a time with 14 (Hopkins and his business associates had developed a cannon foundry just outside Providence), and she was renamed Providence before being turned over to Continental service.

Hopkins was very clever. He knew that Congress was terrified of taking on a naval commitment beyond their ability to finance it, so he started small, and every few days he was able to persuade them to vote for a few more ships. On 30 October, four additional vessels were added, the 24-gun ship Alfred (formerly the Philadelphia merchant ship Black Prince), the 20-gun ship Columbus (formerly the Philadelphia merchant ship Sally, unusual for her size in that she had no head), and the 14-gun brigs Cabot (formerly a Baltimore merchant vessel also named Sally) and Andrew Doria (ex-Defiance), all renamed in honor of famous maritime heroes of the past. Shortly afterward, the 8-gun schooner Wasp (previously named Scorpion) was added, along with the 10-gun sloops Hornet (ex-Falcon), and Fly. The ship Reprisal (formerly Molly) – first American ship to take the war to British home waters late in 1776 -- and two other brigs, Lexington (formerly Wild Duck) and Hampden, and the sloop Mosquito were also added, but were not made part of the first squadron planned for a big joint operation. 

 On 25 November, Congress established the Marine Committee (one member from each state) to direct naval policy and operations. On 13 December, Congress was persuaded to start construction on 13 new frigates, a massive undertaking. The Marine Committee decided that naval officers should wear blue breeches, blue coats with red facings, and red waistcoats (later in the war, some officers unilaterally replaced the red with white and added white breeches, so as to appear more like their British counterparts), and that marines should wear green coats with white facings and white small-clothes (this was changed to red facings later in the war).

By Christmas, Stephen Hopkins had about thirty ships authorized through using his incremental method; if he had introduced a bill in the beginning for thirty ships it would have gone down in flames. The first vessels were obviously existing merchant ships that merely had to be modified, but almost twenty would be genuine warships that had to be built from scratch, and they would take a long time to build. On 10 November, thanks again to Hopkins’ initiative, Congress also authorized two battalions of a Marine Corps to serve on the ships, commanded by Samuel Nicholas.

Congress moved surprisingly fast to get the first fleet ready for sea. In many cases, they had to have gunports cut and reinforced in the sides of the ships, and they had to find the necessary cannons (usually all the same size on any given ship, so that they could use interchangeable cannonballs); many of those cannons came from the foundry established by Stephen Hopkins and the Brown brothers at Scituate, Rhode Island. But, what about sailors? In peacetime, Providence had a crew of five men, one boy, and a Newfoundland dog (the dog was to rescue anyone who fell overboard, a plan that normally worked quite well), but in wartime the sloop had a crew of 80 men, including marines (but no dog). She was so small that not all 80 had room to sleep at the same time. Luckily, Rhode Island had huge numbers of unemployed sailors, with the result that tiny Rhode Island supplied roughly half of the seamen, officers and captains for the Continental Navy. By 10 January 1776, less than three months after the first bill passed, the first small fleet of eight ships was ready for sea in the Delaware. But then it appeared that Congress had made a big mistake.

Providence (present day replica)

Congress considered that when it had established the Continental Army a few months earlier on 14 June 1775, it had appointed George Washington to command it and had given him almost the powers of a dictator (he did not see it that way, of course). He had not yet abused those powers, but that could be only a matter of time, they thought. Therefore, since they had a small amount of time before the ships were ready for sea, they wrote a different job description for the head of the navy with the rank of commodore. This man would have almost no power at all. All he could do was convene meetings of the captains, and the captains would vote what their strategy and tactics would be! Fortunately, that policy was soon scrapped, but not before it had ruined the career of the first man in charge of the navy.

Congress reinforced their lack of confidence in their head of the navy by giving him the rank of Commodore, which is normally a temporary and honorary rank, meaning no more than “first among the captains.” That meant that he was equivalent to no higher in the army than a colonel, even though he could theoretically have had up to 4000 men under his command. Similarly, the commandant of the Marine Corps had no higher a rank than Major, even though he could have had up to 1000 men under his command.

Hopkins was given the task of finding the right man to head the navy. According to the [British] Dictionary of National Biography, Hopkins selected Jahleel Brenton (1729-1802) of Newport, the highest-ranking American lieutenant in the Royal Navy, who later went on to become an admiral. Not surprisingly, Brenton politely declined. Then Hopkins turned to his own brother Esek, an experienced merchant ship captain with some military experience on land and command of privateer ships in the French & Indians War.

The first captains and commanders of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ fleet were Dudley Saltonstall of Connecticut (Alfred), Abraham Whipple of Rhode Island (Columbus), John Burroughs Hopkins of Rhode Island (Cabot), Nicholas Biddle of Philadelphia (Andrew Doria), John Hazard of Rhode Island (Providence), William Stone of Maryland (Hornet), Hoysted Hacker of Rhode Island (Fly), and Charles Alexander of Philadelphia (Wasp). Other captains outside the fleet were John Barry of Philadelphia (Lexington) and Lambert Wickes of Maryland (Reprisal). Scotsman John Paul Jones, incidentally, then a resident of Fredericksburg, Virginia, started out as a lieutenant aboard the flagship Alfred; his first naval command would be the “lucky” sloop Providence in May 1776.
Commodore Esek Hopkins called a meeting aboard his flagship Alfred on 10 January in the frigid Delaware, and told the captains that Congress would like them to go to the Chesapeake Bay to dislodge former Governor Lord Dunmore and his flotilla of dormitory ships containing thousands of slaves that Dunmore had freed from outraged planters, led by the 24-gun frigate Fowey, or go to South Carolina to see that the waters around Charleston were safe from British warships, or go to Rhode Island to attack Rose and whichever consorts remained there (usually Glasgow and Scarborough, 20-24; Swan and Kingsfisher, each 14). Rumor held that the British had sent powerful reinforcements to the Chesapeake, exceeding the strength of the American fleet, and the fleet had no charts or pilots for Charleston; in fact, General Clinton and his troops spent a week in February in the Chesapeake aboard the frigate Mercury (another sister of Rose) and several transports, but he was on his way to an unsuccessful invasion of Charleston in June. Virginia had founded its own navy in December 1775, authorizing five ships, of which the most prominent was the 14-gun brig Liberty (almost identical to Cabot), commanded by James Barron I. South Carolina had founded its own navy in the summer of 1775 with at least four vessels, Commerce, Defence, Comet, and the bigger ship Prosper

Commodore Hopkins looked around the table. Between them, Rhode Island and Connecticut captains held a majority, so surely they would vote to make the attack on the British ships in Rhode Island? But they replied that Rhode Island was too cold in the middle of the winter, and they would rather sail somewhere warm, like the Bahamas! As an excuse, it was known that the substantial supply of gunpowder at Fort Nassau on New Providence was only lightly guarded, and Congress was always short of gunpowder, so they sailed to Nassau, a destination not even contemplated by Congress. 

The ensign that they flew on all Continental Navy vessels from late 1775 onwards was that known as the Grand Union. It consisted of the British Union in the canton (not of course the modern British Union, which has an additional red diagonal cross representing Ireland; until 1801, Ireland was considered a Colony and was therefore not part of the United Kingdom), and thirteen stripes in the fly, sometimes red and white stripes, and sometimes red, white, and blue stripes. This flag was the official flag of the United States until Congress passed a flag resolution in the middle of June 1777, whereby the British Union was replaced by a field strewn with thirteen stars. Those stars, usually white on a blue field, but occasionally blue stars on a white field, were arranged in various ways, with perhaps the majority in rows of 3-2-3-2-3. The “jack” (flag flown in the bow of warships) was simply thirteen stripes (whether red & white, red & blue, or red, white & blue) containing a lengthwise rattlesnake and the legend “Don’t tread on me.”

After the middle of 1777, the jack often became a simple blue flag with thirteen stars, although the rattlesnake version is also known to have continued. Other flags sometimes associated with Continental Navy ships (but probably never authorized) included a yellow flag with a coiled rattlesnake and the legend “Don’t tread on me,” and white flags with a green and black tree and the legend “An appeal to God,” or “An appeal to Heaven.”

First official salute to the American flag on board
an American warship
in a foreign port, at St. Eustatius
in the West Indies,
on November 16, 1776
Fifty seamen and 270 marines under the command of Captain Samuel Nicholas were landed just over two miles north of the fort. Fort Nassau was guarded by four mere militiamen, who had one telescope between them, and when they saw the force of over 300 armed men about to attack they knew they would have no chance of holding the fort. Therefore, they asked townsfolk to help them roll the fort’s barrels of powder down to the pier and put them aboard the same schooner Saint John (commanded this time by Lieutenant William Grant) that had plagued Newport some twelve years earlier. Saint John and a chartered sloop Mississippi Packet were ordered by Governor Montfort Browne to take the 162 barrels of powder to the fort at Saint Augustine, Florida, where it was quite safe. When the American troops reached Fort Nassau, they found the door wide open, no guards inside – and no powder. Next, they scrounged around the island in search of anything that could justify the expedition. They found a small amount of powder, 68 large, ancient, rusty cannons, and a substantial supply of balls, which they loaded aboard the ships, along with an important prisoner, British Governor Montfort Browne.

 It was now springtime, and presumably warmer in Rhode Island, so the captains voted to set sail for Newport and bring Rose to battle. They reached the Newport area on 8 April 1776, unaware of other developments in New England. Heavy cannons dragged from Lake Champlain by General Knox’s troops had begun to bombard British troops in Boston. The British had therefore evacuated Boston on Saint Patrick’s Day (17 March) 1776, so they no longer needed the small fleet in Rhode Island to purchase supplies for them. The Rhode Island smuggling industry was completely dead, so there was no further reason for the fleet to remain. Therefore, Rose had just departed for Halifax on 7 April and missed the Americans by only a few hours. Glasgow took a few additional hours getting under way, so the fleet fought a poorly coordinated battle with her in the dead of night, with no significant damage. However, the American fleet, which was severely weakened by disease, managed to capture the  British schooner Hawke commanded by Wallace’s nephew, the first capture by the Continental Navy fleet. The very same day, John Barry and the Lexington captured a similar British vessel, Edward, off the Delaware, and she was taken into the Continental Navy as the sloop Sachem.

The Rhode Island General Assembly then made a courageous decision. No British ships remained in the Colony, and an American fleet (really rather a paper tiger) was anchored nearby in case help was needed. In order to give the British warships no legal reason to return, tiny Rhode Island, which had been mostly independent from the beginning, officially declared its independence from Great Britain on 4 May 1776, two months ahead of the rest of the country, and hurriedly sent a message to Congress urging them to do the same, which Stephen Hopkins also urged them to do. Hopkins, who was stricken by Parkinson’s disease, eagerly signed the national Declaration of Independence in his unsteady handwriting before retiring from Congress. Rhode Island Independence Day is still a state holiday with speeches, flags, and parades.

When the Revolution was over, the other States had the same freedom to elect their own public officials, so they no longer needed Rhode Island to provide leadership. Rhode Island merchants hoped that they could return to their old smuggling industry, but it soon became obvious that Congress was no friendlier to smugglers than the British had been. Newport, which had once been almost on a level economic footing with Boston and New York, never recovered. It is today a small city with the largest collection of Colonial buildings still standing. Rhode Island took time to adjust to its changed circumstances, and so the State that was first to declare independence was also the last to ratify the constitution on 29 May 1790.

By the end of the war, a total of about 83 vessels had been in continental service, if you include Washington’s fishing-schooners in Massachusetts and Arnold’s fleet on Lake Champlain. They ranged from 3-gun gondolas to a 74-gun battleship. As the war ended, the Continental Navy was in desperate straits; it possessed only three warships (Alliance, 36 guns; General Washington, 20 guns; and Le Duc de Lauzun, 18 guns) and not enough sailors to man even one of them. Le Duc de Lauzun was sold in France later in 1783, leaving only two ships at Philadelphia. Consequently, when George III (at the urging of Benedict Arnold) generously offered US Ambassador John Adams that the Royal Navy could guard American merchant ships in the North Atlantic and the Mediterranean from the depredations of the plentiful North African Arab pirates at no charge, Congress gratefully put the navy out of business, dismissed its few sailors, and sold its last ships. The United States was thus without a navy from 1785 until 1797, a welcome respite from having to pay for protection at a time when saving that money was critical to the successful launch of the new nation.

My thanks to John for this extremely interesting article - I, along with many others here in the UK, always assumed that the American War of Independence started with the famous Boston Tea Party.... just shows that assumed history is not always accurate!

John & wife Cathy
About John

John and his wife Cathy run a superb B & B establishment Newport House in Colonial Williamsburg - highly recommended! He built the 24-gun Revolutionary War frigate Rose in 1969-70, which had a 15-year career of successful adventure/sail-training on the East Coast into the Great Lakes, and the Caribbean, as well as one glorious Summer in Europe, educating up to 31 subscribed trainees per week ranging in  ages from 8 to 80..until she sailed to the West Coast to co-star with Russell Crowe in Master & Commander: to the Far Side of the World. She is now permanently on display as Surprise at the Maritime Museum of San Diego.
In addition he built the 12-gun sloop Providence (first vessel of the Continental Navy in October 1775) in 1974-76, which had a successful sail-training career, starred in Pirates of the Caribbean II and III, until she was bought by the City of Providence to remain on their waterfront and is currently in service in Providence, RI working with day sails for school children.

He also designed the brig Lady Washington (copy of the first American vessel to reach the West Coast in 1787) in the 1980s for the non-profit organization in Aberdeen, Washington that uses her for port visits and adventure/sail training cruises. She has starred in Star Trek Generations and the original Pirates of the Caribbean. Now named "The Official Ship of the State of Washington," She was recognized for 16 years of service as a goodwill ambassador to the nation and the world and as a floating classroom for young people from across the country. The State of Washington was named after the ship, not after George.

Lady Washington

the Colonial Navy web-site:

If you found this article engrossing do call back next week to my article in the Weigh Anchor for a Nautical Blog Hop - which will be more about Rose aka HMS Surprise - aka my own Sea Witch

Tuesday 10 September 2013

The Founding of the U.S. Continental Navy, 1775

Tuesday Talk - by John Fitzhugh Millar
Part One

If you lived in the colonial period, one thing would worry you more than anything else: how would you preserve your food? You could smoke things, dry things, and salt things, but those are not satisfactory – you have to add so much salt to cure a piece of meat that the microbes won’t want to eat it, and if they will not eat it, you will not want to eat it. That means you have to run fresh water over it for hours to get the salt out again – rather a nuisance.

However, there was another way: strong alcohol. Anything you needed to preserve you could submerge in alcohol for days or decades. In Scotland, they used whiskey, in France brandy, in the Netherlands gin, and in America...rum. Rum is distilled from molasses, and molasses is the by-product you get, whether you want it or not, when you refine sugar cane-juice into sugar. 

 Even a poor man’s house contained at least five barrels of rum, one for chunks of meat, one for chunks of fish, one for fruit, one for vegetables, and one for flour. If you go to the supermarket today and buy a bag of flour, it went through a radiation chamber before it got to the market, which killed the bugs that otherwise would have infested it. If you submerge a cloth bag of flour in rum, that will similarly inhibit the wildlife. The flour will get soggy, but you are going to make it soggy in the recipe anyway. It will develop a rum taste, but most people in the Colonial period thought that was a plus. In Scotland, the breakfast dish, “Athol Bros,” is oatmeal preserved in whiskey and garnished with honey, and it is still popular today.

   Researchers at Colonial Williamsburg came to me in puzzlement years ago. Virginia, they said, imported every year enough rum from Rhode Island – where they do not even grow sugarcane – that every man, woman and child, including blacks and Indians could have a whole bottle a day. What were they doing with it? Preserving food, of course, but that does not explain the Rhode Island connection.

   The English passed various mercantilist laws in the seventeenth century, saying essentially that English Colonists could buy sugar, rum and molasses only from another English Colony, and not from the French, Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, or Danish. These laws were summed up in the Sugar Act of 1733, which was to remain in force for thirty years. Meanwhile, the French passed a very different law concerning their Colonial sugar enterprises. The French law encouraged the shipment of as much sugar as possible to France, but absolutely forbade the French Colonies (like Haiti) from making rum out of the molasses they collected as a by-product of the sugar production. The French did not want cheap rum flooding into France, where it would undercut the famous cognac brandy industry .

Therefore, the planters in Haiti were accumulating more and more molasses, and did not know what to do with it. They were not permitted to refine it into rum. They could not throw it in the sea, as that would kill the fish, so they dug huge pits to fill with molasses. One day, a brilliant Haitian planter found a possible solution: the people of British America were not allowed to buy the molasses, but perhaps they could receive it as a gift, with mahogany barrels thrown in for free. American merchants rushed back home to ask their governors for approval, but they were told that such a gift would be merely making an end-run around the law, and would not be tolerated. However, the governor of Rhode Island was different from the others: he was elected, whereas they were appointed (actually, the Connecticut Governor was elected, too, but with a great many restrictions on his activities). The Governor of Rhode Island encouraged his merchants to import as much molasses as they wanted. British officials could see what Rhode Island was doing, but since it was not hurting anyone they pretended not to see it.

Rhode Island had been founded in 1636 as an experiment to see if religious freedom, which had never been tried anywhere in the world, would actually work. When Rhode Island officials applied to Charles II for a charter in 1662, they pointed out that if he appointed a governor over them who did not believe in the experiment, then that could ruin the experiment. Charles II happily wrote into the irrevocable charter that Rhode Island could elect all its public officials; this was such a liberal document that Rhode Island maintained it as her instrument of government well into the nineteenth century, and even Virginia after passing its own Bill of Rights (George Mason) in May 1776 and its Statute for Religious Liberty (Thomas Jefferson) after the Revolution had fewer guaranteed freedoms. At first, Rhode Island officials abused their power by becoming too closely allied with pirates, but when the molasses situation presented itself the future of that trade appeared far more lucrative than piracy, and much more reliable. Rum distilleries appeared on the waterfronts of Newport and Providence, and Newport blossomed from a wide place in the road to the fifth-largest city in Colonial America, accompanied by distinguished artists, architects, furniture-makers, silversmiths, music composers, writers and scientists, along with a substantial college in Providence. Rhode Island also had a law giving freedom to all slaves after seven years of servitude, which means that when Rhode Island outlawed the importation of slaves in 1774 there would be no more slaves there from 1781 on – the first place in the New World to do so.

Newport exported its rum to all the Colonies in North America (after all, Rhode Island was a British Colony, so it was legal to import from Newport), and handily undercut the price of Jamaica rum. This was all very well, but what would Rhode Island do in wartime, when Haiti was enemy territory?

 Luckily, Rhode Island found a loophole in the law. If you captured more enemy prisoners of war than you could afford to feed or house, you were permitted by international agreement to ship them back to their home country in a special ship, known as a “cartel,” which flew special flags, and no one was allowed to interfere with cartels. Since it was expensive to operate a cartel, cartels were also licensed to pick up a cargo in the enemy’s port. Some cartels may have carried as many as 200 prisoners, but Rhode Island cartels often carried only a single prisoner. While some Rhode Island ships were picking up Haitian molasses, others were out scouring the seas for French sailors to exchange, and British officials cited Rhode Island for prosecuting the war at sea more vigorously than any other colony! The Haitians fell into the game, too, as the Rhode Island Historical Society Library contains a letter from a Haitian governor in wartime, placing a huge order of Rhode Island-made furniture for his mansion.

 When war against France and Spain ended in 1763, a new king was on the throne: the young George III. His grandfather George II and great-grandfather George I were Germans first and British second (it is said, for example, that when George I asked someone what was the name of the river at London, he answered Thames – pronouncing it as written – but the German king could not handle “th”, so he pronounced it “Tems” and Tems it has remained ever since). George III, on the other hand, was completely English. He saw how his two predecessors had been exceptionally permissive (which actually resulted in Britain’s most economically productive period ever), but he felt that it was his duty to tighten up the reins.

 Therefore, since it was time to renew the Sugar Act of 1733 (which otherwise was due to expire), George III saw that it was rewritten to make it more difficult for Rhode Island to continue smuggling. The 20-gun frigate Squirrel arrived in December 1763 to enforce the Sugar Act, and she quickly arrested and confiscated the Rhode Island merchant ship Rhoda for smuggling. As soon as the Squirrel moved on in January 1764, the mob seized the Rhoda and returned her to her owner. This first act foreshadowed more trouble to come.

 To make sure that Rhode Island received the message and obeyed the new rules, the Royal Navy was ordered to send a warship permanently on station at Newport. They could have sent a battleship, which would have been the end of the story, but instead they sent one of the smallest vessels they had, the 6-gun, American-built schooner Saint John, which arrived late in the spring of 1764. The Saint John was about 65 feet long on deck and 20 feet wide. She had a crew of about 50 men, and was commanded by 19-year-old Lieutenant Thomas Hill. 

Coincidentally, the incident involving the schooner Saint John occurred at the same time as the conclusion of Pontiac’s Rebellion, whereby American Indians forced the British to sign a treaty excluding the Midwest from settlement by the British; opposition to that “Proclamation Line” was the major reason that the other nine Colonies agreed to join New England in the struggle for independence. Thus, two key incidents of about 1764 started the inexorable march to American independence. 

 The Saint John apprehended all the smugglers that came into Newport (which means virtually every ship that arrived), confiscated both ships and cargoes, arrested the captains, and put the crews ashore (at least, those whom they had not coerced into enlisting in the Royal Navy). The Rhode Island economy could not withstand such an assault for long. But the Saint John also indulged in another unfriendly activity: impressment. Landing parties would roam the streets of Newport kidnapping strapping young men and forcing them to join the navy. In spite of the passage of the Habeas Corpus law in 1679 and the English Bill of Rights of 1689, this activity was legal in Britain, but Parliament had passed a law in 1707 in the reign of Queen Anne, exempting Americans from the navy’s press, in the interest of encouraging emigration to colonies in America. Hardly anyone remembered that law from almost 60 years before, but Rhode Island’s elected Governor, Stephen Hopkins, a self-taught lawyer, knew it well.

Stephen Hopkins
Hopkins had himself rowed out to where the Saint John was at anchor, climbed up the side, and introduced himself to the young captain. He told the captain that since the Rhode Island charter gave him authority over all military forces within the Colony, and since the Saint John was in violation of the law, he was ordering the ship to depart by sunset, and never to return. Lieutenant Hill, who assumed that he had almost limitless authority, rudely replied to Hopkins that any orders binding him came exclusively from his admiral, and if Hopkins did not leave the schooner by the count of five he would order the crew to throw him in the harbor.

Hopkins was rowed ashore, and he immediately entered the fort on Goat Island that guarded the harbor. (No sign of Fort George remains today, and Goat Island is now covered with condominiums, time-shares, and a resort hotel.) Hopkins ordered the master gunner to sink the Saint John. The master gunner, who must have assumed that Hopkins was drunk, questioned the order to attack a unit of their own navy, but Hopkins coolly explained the situation. As a result, the gunner had all the fort’s massive 18-pounder cannons loaded and he opened fire on the hapless schooner. Two shots hit her and turned big chunks into splinters, so the young lieutenant had a brilliant idea: he would take his ax, cut the anchor cable and sail away, never to return. These were the first shots of resistance fired against British authority in America, 9 July 1764, twelve years before the Declaration of Independence.

The following year, the British sent another small vessel, known as Maidstone’s Tender to continue the pressure. This time, the people of Newport did not wait for the Governor to decide what to do. They rowed out in the middle of the night, took the crew off, and burned the vessel. The next British ship, the sloop Liberty (an ironic name for a ship involved in oppression; she had previously been a Boston smuggler, owned by John Hancock, before she had been confiscated), arrived in 1769, and the people burned her as well. The next British ship, the schooner Gaspee, arrived in 1772, and when she ran aground on a chase up Narragansett Bay in June she was burned in the middle of the night by a large group of men from the Providence area (many dressed as Mohawk Indians), led by Abraham Whipple. Her captain, Lieutenant William Duddingston, was wounded.
Abraham Whipple
 Each time these incidents occurred, the British would learn about it months later because of bad communications. They would write a blistering letter to the Rhode Island Governor, and he would receive it several months later. He would be able to reply that he knew nothing about the incident because he had not been Governor at the time – he had just been elected in the past few weeks. He would appoint a commission, which would report back in due course. The commission always reported back brazenly that persons unknown, believed to have come from Connecticut had done the deed. After Gaspee was burned, the British decided they had had enough of persons unknown from Connecticut, so they sent their own commission to investigate, and gave over $2.5 million in today’s money for a reward for information leading to the arrest and conviction of anyone involved in burning the Gaspee. Almost 300 people had been involved in burning the schooner, so there was practically no one in tiny Rhode Island who did not know at least one person involved. In spite of that, no one came forward to claim the reward, and the commission had to return to England empty-handed.

However, before they left, Stephen Hopkins came into the story again. He was no longer Governor, but he was now Chief Justice. Hopkins appeared before the Gaspee Commission and told them that even though Parliament had established the commission the enquiry was illegal on two counts: first, the English Bill of Rights of 1689 guaranteed any accused the right of a trial by jury, but anyone indicted by the commission would face only a judge. Second, Englishmen had a right of being tried in the courthouse closest to the crime, which in this case meant in Rhode Island, but anyone indicted by the commission was to be taken to England for trial. Those two points, said Hopkins, meant that the commission’s work was unconstitutional. They replied that he could jump in the harbor with the constitution.

 Hopkins took matters into his own hands again. This time, he wrote letters to legislators he knew in all the other Colonies, proposing that they should join together in a series of Committees of Correspondence. The British, he wrote, were trampling over the constitution in dealing with Rhode Island, and next time they may do so with other Colonies, it was therefore important to develop a joint response. The idea fell on fertile ground, and Virginia was the first to reply to Hopkins’ suggestion. The Committees of Correspondence of 1773 marked a major step on the road to independence, but they did not work very well because in the days before the Internet communications between the Colonies were tenuous at best.

After a few months of watching the committees not functioning as well as he had hoped, Hopkins circulated his next idea. The members of the committees should meet face-to-face for a discussion of this and other related matters. He selected Philadelphia as the location, September 1774 as the date, and he called it a Continental Congress. Most history books say that the Continental Congress was founded as a result of the Boston Tea Party. No doubt the Tea Party was one of the factors that made the idea more attractive, but the Continental Congress was Hopkins’ idea. He had previously served in the Albany Congress in the French & Indians War, and had been responsible for founding the Stamp Act Congress of 1765, so he had an idea about what he was doing. Off went Hopkins to Philadelphia, sharing a carriage with his Rhode Island former arch-rival, Samuel Ward.

A few months after the Continental Congress assembled, the British increased the pressure in Rhode Island. On 12 December, 1774, the 24-gun frigate Rose (her present day replica-built ship is now known as Surprise from the movie Master & Commander) arrived to clamp down on the smuggling industry...

Click Here for Part Two

the Colonial Navy web-site

Tuesday 3 September 2013

Eavesdropping on Jane Austen's England :

Tuesday Talk Guest Post by Roy and Lesley Adkins

Many thanks to Helen for inviting us as guests on her blog to talk about our latest book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England (or Jane Austen’s England if you are reading this in the US). 

First, we should introduce ourselves:

We have had a varied career working together as field archaeologists before sliding sideways into history, but we have always written books about archaeology and history, and we now write non-fiction history books full-time.

For several years, we have been researching and writing about naval history, with three books published – Trafalgar (called Nelson’s Trafalgar in the US), The War for All the Oceans and Jack Tar: Life in Nelson’s Navy (though you may see a different subtitle on the paperback version!). These naval books are all set within the lifetime of Jane Austen (1775–1817), who herself had two brothers in the Royal Navy – Frank and Charles. When we started work on our latest book, Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England, about the real way of life on land, we were therefore building on the research we had already accumulated.

It would be easy to get carried away with descriptions of our latest book, but having discovered Helen’s interest in horses, we thought we would offer a few words on that topic. People are often surprised to learn that warships smelled and sounded like farmyards, owing to the number of animals kept on board, such as pigs, cows and bullocks. Because horses were not eaten, they were rarely encountered on board, unless being transported for the army. On land, the situation was very different – horses were everywhere. They are known to have been used in Britain as a means of transport since the Bronze Age, but the manufacture of iron tools and fittings from the subsequent Iron Age and then the Roman period enabled horses to be be adopted widely for riding, pulling carts and chariots and ploughing.

The Celtic goddess Epona was worshipped across Europe, including in Britain, and she was so important that her cult continued after the Roman conquest – she even had her own festival at Rome on 18th December. The goddess was depicted in sculptures as a woman, but always with horses, and sometimes she holds a cloth (mappa) that was used to start Roman horse races. Horses themselves seem to have been ritually sacrificed – complete horse skeletons and sometimes just the skulls have been discovered in archaeological excavations of Iron Age and Roman sites in Britain. Although the Romans had a formidable army, it relied mainly on foot soldiers – the legionary infantrymen. The army did recruit specialist, auxiliary troops from other nations, including cavalrymen, but it was only in the late Roman period that the cavalry came into its own in western Europe. The Roman conquest of Britannia was done mainly by infantrymen marching from place to place.

From at least the Norman conquest in England, horses were the preserve of the wealthy as a means of transport, while the ox was more often used for pulling ploughs and waggons, and this was certainly still the case in the 18th century. Nowadays, communications are so fast that it still comes as a shock to realise that in the time of Jane Austen, only two centuries ago, nothing moved faster than a galloping horse – the same speed of transport as the Romans! Jane Austen was always concerned about accuracy in her own novels, and she pointed out the problems of transport in a story that her niece Anna had written: “They must be two days going from Dawlish to Bath. They are nearly 100 miles apart.” A journey from Dawlish in south Devon to Bath then involved an overnight stop at an inn. Today, it is a drive lasting two or three hours by car.

The well-off in Jane Austen’s era would own horses to ride or to pull their carriages, while the not-so-well-off could hire horses from stables, which were usually attached to inns. Poor servants (mostly male servants) might get a chance to ride errands for their master, although they were not always reliable riders, as William Holland found. He was vicar of Over Stowey in Somerset and was annoyed to discover how his servant had treated his horse: “Mr Robert among his other excellencies has been in the habit of wearing my spurs. I have once or twice had a hint of his riding hard and now I have found out the method he takes to get his horse on.” Across the other side of England, at Weston Longville in Norfolk, the Reverend James Woodforde also had problems with his servant: “Ben went yesterday afternoon with a Mr. Watson, steward to Sr. John Woodhouse to Kimberley Hall, where having made too free with the Baronets strong beer, fell off his horse coming home and lost her, so that he walked about all night after her and did not find her till about noon.”

Transport was dominated by the horse and rider, just as it is by the car today. Stagecoaches ran on regular routes, like trains and buses today, but private carriages with horses and a driver could also be hired – at a price! The roads were so bad that the veteran tourist John Byng firmly believed that riding on horseback was the only viable method of travelling: “Whoever speaks of touring in chaises or phaetons, (as many ignorants will,) let him attempt to travel thro’ these grass farms and rough roads; and then he will recant and say with me, – there is no touring, but on horseback.” In the West Country the roads were so bad, and sometimes so narrow, that carriages and carts were not used as much as elsewhere. Instead, goods were carried in panniers on the backs of ponies or mules, or even dragged on sledges. This has left its mark on the region, with narrow packhorse bridges surviving in many places and town markets often being called ‘Pannier Markets’.
Pack Horse Bridge, Bruton, Somerset
The main roads themselves have left their distinctive mark on the landscape, with the various tollhouses and milestones that are dotted along many minor roads. Such survivals show that these were the motorways of their era – privatised toll roads that were relatively well maintained and provided the best routes between major towns. Jane Austen herself is often portrayed as writing in a peaceful country cottage, but the room where she wrote in her house at Chawton in Hampshire directly faced the London to Winchester turnpike, a few yards from where it joined the turnpike to the teeming naval base of Gosport and Portsmouth. 
The house had been an inn for a few years, taking advantage of the passing trade, and when Jane Austen lived there, all kinds of civilian and military traffic went by on its way to and from the capital. Passengers riding on the top of stagecoaches could look down into the front windows, and the thunder of traffic shook the beds at night. Jane only had to look up from her writing to see all life passing outside her window.

Jane Austen
Horses were an integral part of everyday life in England 200 years ago, but they are only one of many aspects of the period that which we researched for our book. We could go on to talk about how quill pens were made from feathers plucked from live geese or how toothache might be treated by the local blacksmith, but that would take up too much of Helen’s blog. You can find out more about us and all our books, or sign up for our free email newsletter, on our website but if you really want to know about the England in which Jane Austen wrote her classic novels two centuries ago, you will just have to read the book!
Roy and Lesley Adkins’s website is

Their latest book is Eavesdropping on Jane Austen’s England: How Our Ancestors Lived Two Centuries Ago published May 1st 2014 in Paperback
hardcover, ISBN 978-1-4087-0396-0, and in all e-book formats).

available from (paperback) (hardback) (Kindle)    (paperback)  (hardcover)   (Kindle)
In the US, the same book is called Jane Austen’s England 

See the Huffington Post slideshow called ‘13 Reasons You Wouldn’t Want to Live in Jane Austen’s England’

Helen says: Thank you Roy and Lesley - I have a copy and it is wonderful! Expect lots of gleaned information to appear in my Sea Witch Voyages!