Sea History 103 - Winter 2002-2003

Page 10

The American Achievement by Sea Seafaring launched America's involvement in the world and sustains it today. Now, when America's role is challenged, it seems well to look at what American intervention by sea has meant to the world-and to America. by Peter Stanford


he im porrance of seafaring in American life becomes violem suppression of dissent. T h e message we're looking apparent to mosr cirizens when rhe narion 's interesrs for is not chiseled into stone, it is a live, organic, evolvin g and co mmirments are rhrearened overseas. We be- message, which will be seen differen tly by differem peo ple and must always celebrate variery camevividlyaware of rhose commirand rise to challenge, welcoming ments in rhe grear wars of rhe cenchange. mry jusr ended, and in rhe Cold War T h e seafaring experience permeended rhirreen years ago . U nderates the great achievements that make srandin g how rhose involvements up the burden of this message. Felipe rook shape becomes virally imporFern a ndez-Arm es to said in th e ranr in rhe era we' re livin g in, when W orld Marine Millennial C onferrhe narion, and all ir srands for, is ence, which our Sociery co-sponchal lenged by a worldwide terrorist sored wirh the Peabody Essex Mum ovem en t. Ques ti ons like wh y seum in 2000: "M aritime hi sto ry is Am eri cans took to the sea in the first world histo ry. " It is wirh this breadrh place, how we fared, and whar were of vision char we should pursue our the outcomes ca n reveal a !or abour ques t, embracing purposes and prothe American role in the wo rld , and cess as well as omcomes-above all whar mighr be called rhe Am eri can in the rich learning gen erated in the message. encounter of varied cultures. W e T hat message exisrs and ir has had T111·_ 01.1>1-s1 S1111• 11' lilt' HMS a definire impacr on rhe world. In put this m essage across in should Bo:-.10"1 H·\IUJOR TLG TIU I \'>T Al\TIC.)tl rRt:IC.lfll RS academi a, where it h as becom e fas hseeking to get a broad picm re of rhar Hl1W Wt ('10:-.u 1111. Por.ro1 N1.w Yow.K ionable to foc us on rhe fa ilures and message, we need to look at how ir crimes of the American pas t, which was developed across a goodly stretch USS Co nsrirn rion puts to sea in 1803 to fight of rime. W e should nor be distracred may be fo und in any story invol ving Barbary pirates in the Mediterranean. hum anity. T hi s cramped and sterile by noisy windsqualls chasing each Painting by Michel Felice Corne other across the face of rime's ocean; approach burkes and discourages the we should seek out rhose deeper, slower-moving groundswell learning to be got from the positive achievemem s. So let us developments, which profoundly affecr rhe movement of take a positive tack to see what the nation, and the world, might learn from the American experience by sea. history. H ere, then are some of the great th emes or areas of W e need to pursue such giam ques ti ons as how slavery came to be abolished in rhe las t few hundred years, after achievement whi ch we have found over the years in the pages rhousands of years of rhis universal evil, and how parliamen- of Sea H istory. W e take up rhe US N avy first, because tary democracies arose aro und the wo rld, replacing seem- without the US Navy rh ere wo uld be no story- or not one ingly more effi ciem desporic regimes imposed by force and to change rhe world as America has. NAf!ONAI M.\Rnl .. IEHI

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The Navy of Old Ironsides T he US Navy has been viral to rh e defense o f Am eri can inreres rs since rh e first irregular fo rces rook to sea to harry British bl ockaders and caprnre suppli es fo r Ge neral Washingto n's army. H ow its miss ion grew and changed is o ne fo r the books-rhar is, any boo k that seeks ro get at Ame ri ca's ro le in th e world . But the naval sto ry has been neglected in much maritime histo ry and for yea rs ir was excluded fr om most mari time museums. Perhaps this sprang from a


benign emphas is on the an s o f peace rather than the horrors of war- bur rece nr hard experience shows this neglect is a Iuxury we ca nno t afford. T he Navy carri ed o u t its changing mission driven by sheer necess ity, and then by st rategic vision. A t first we see rh e naval fo rces of the Co ntin ental Co ngress ac ting as auxiliaries to the armi es fightin g asho re, wagin g d es perate los in g battles which slowed down the British plan o f co nques t, keeping the Revolutio n alive until France

jo in ed the wa r, ass uring Am erican victo ry. Am eri can p ri va teers raiding British shipping p rov ided supply fo r ragtag Ame ri can armi es, and mad e a costly and unp opular wa r still mo re cos dy ro Bri rain . And Jo hn Paul Jo nes wro te an imperishab le chapter in naval histo ry by bea rin g British wa rships in their ho me wa ters-fo undi ng a tradi tio n of the o ffensive which is ar rhe co re of US Navy doctrine today. A curious and wo nderfu l thin g happened as the Am erican Revolutio n wo und


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