Sea History 147 - Summer 2014

Page 8

"A Marblehead Seam an fro m the War of 1812." The Continental Navy had to be fo unded by Congress, and Cong ress did not get aro und to doing that until 13 October 1775; w ritten into the ac t was the provision that th e Rhode Island armed sloop Katy (ren am ed Providence fo r the occasion) was to be the navy's first vessel. H annah was chartered and commissioned by General George Was hington as a vessel temporari ly serving the Continental Army, no t the navy. This is somewhat analogous to the fact that today's US A rmy, Navy, M arine C orps, and Coast G uard all operate aircraft that are n ot part of the A ir Fo rce . Even H annah was possibly no t the first vessel in Continental serv ice. Fo ur months earlier in late April 1775, Colonel Benedict A rnold captured Philip Skene's ketch yacht Katharine a t Skenes boro/ W hitehall on Lake Ch amplain, renamed her Liberty, and armed her with eight ca nno ns. H e boldly sailed to the no rthern end of the lake, where he ma naged to capture th ree purpose-built British warships. A rnold, of course, although an extremely co mpetent sailor, held a rmy commissions, so Liberty was the fi rst army vessel, although the Continental A rmy itself was not fo unded until 14 June 1775. A rnold held a rmy commissions from at least two colonies, which leave the ketch in some sort of limbo of being in army service to two or m ore colonies at the same time! N one of the colonies had a n avy at that time, Rhode Island being the first on 12 June 1775. J o H N FITZH UGH M I LLAR

W illiam sburg, Virginia Unexpected Encounter with

Sea History I received, unsolicited, your las t issue of Sea History. There is absolutely no reason that yo u should send that m agazine to me. The closest I get to the water is the horse's drin king tank. H owever, I find myself reading the magazine cover to cover. Ir is scholarly and covers inte resting pieces of h istory. I appreciate h aving received it very much . Yours is a ma rvelo us organization . Th ank yo u very much . M AUR I W ILLIAMSON

W est Lafaye tte, Indiana


Fair Winds, Pete Seeger (1919-2014) In January of this yea r our nation lost a great man, and N MHS lost a good friend. The legendary fo lksinger entertained the crowds at South Street Seaport Museum in its early years, and he and the C learwater organi zation- Peter Stanford called Clearwater "surely the bes t-loved sloop in A m erica"-lent their support to both that wonderful institution and to the Na tional M aritime Historical Society over the years. In support of the July 2000 Ships to Save the Waters Conference in New Jersey's Liberty State Park, Pete wro te of his faith in the endurin g power of the sailboat to reach out to new generations: A century ago m ost people ass umed that future centuries would only know big sailboats through pictures in history books. They reckoned without thinking of Admirals who realized that cadets could bes t learn about wind and wave from working on sailboats. They reckoned without wealthy people who would spend money for large yachts and sailboat races. They reckoned w ithout environmental types who discovered 30 yea rs ago that beautiful ships, large or sm all, could be classroom s o n the waves . Thirty-two yea rs ago a Long Island Sound scientist asked m e "Why are yo u building a sailboat? You need a research boat w ith a labo ratory." H e w as w ron g. W e h ave proven that a glimpse into the past is good for trying to save the future, a nd that wind, wa ter, and wood (and beautiful cur ves) can powerfully impress yo ung students, even though in a few hours they can only get an introductory lesson in the big job ahead . We are profo undly grateful to have been able to work with Pete in the mission that we share. Our president emeritus Peter Stanfo rd remembers:

Pete Seeger, politicians, and schoolchildren gathered on the deck of the sloop C learwater in New York City to celebrate its inclusion in the National Register ofH istoric Places in 2 004.

Pete Seeger-what li fe, purpose and enlightenment he gave our wo rk fo r the seafa ring heritage! Above all I believe he gave people a strong sense of belonging in New York. Among other scenes I cherish: a rainy, blustery day, when a sm all gro up gathered under ponchos on the NMHS pier in Brooklyn to join Pete in singing "Oh, W hat a Beautiful C ity!" The warmth and solidarity they brought to this simple tune still echo in my mind. And I think, too, of an upper-crust supporter of our work who called one day to ask if we really thought it right to have Pete's sloop Clearwater moored at our pier, in view of Pete's advanced political views. I told him that while crowds raging at the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King were threatening to tear the city apart, Pete was helping hold things together. After a pause, the caller said, "Now, I understand." And I believe he did.


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