tv Naval Warfare in the American Revolution CSPAN October 25, 2014 10:30am-11:36am EDT
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>> good evening. my name is kendall casey and i am the museum education manager for the american revolution institute and i am pleased to welcome you to anderson house. the american revolution institute promotes the knowledge and appreciation of the achievement of american independence, for filling the aim of the continental army officers who founded the society in 1783. the institution supports advanced scholarships, conduct public programs, and makes resources available to teachers and students to enrich the understanding of the war of independence and to the principles of the men and women who secured the liberty of the american people. if you are not out our public program mailing list and would like to be, you can fill out the form you found on your chair. we also have our fall public program out front if you don't have a copy and would like one. tonight i am pleased to introduce dr. dennis conrad, who will speak about the changes to naval warfare during the spring of 1778. dr. conrad as a historian at the naval history and heritage command. as a editor of the naval documents of the american revolution series, and is one of the authors of "sea raiders of the american revolution." he is currently the lead historian for electronic document to him as the spanish-american war. dr. conrad received his
doctorate from the university. [applause] >> my purpose here tonight is to highlight the publication of volume 12 of naval documents of the american revolution. it is a little difficult, hawking a book that even your publisher is less than enthusiastic about. to quote a blurb, "this book is a key scholarly resource for a narrow group, naval and military historians and researchers of early american history and the revolutionary war, who require primary source materials. potentially interested may exist with some military and revolutionary war enthusiast, students studying this war may be interested in the naval
perspective through this comprehensive source." but the president of the united states is very enthusiastic about volume 12 so it balances out. unlike the government printing office, i think volume 12 is an important book that should enjoy a wide audience. i am hoping we will put it up online at the naval history and heritage command website in the not too distant future. you won't have to pay the $99 in costs to buy the letterpress edition. although a period covered by volume 12, april and may of 1778, is a small number of time, a number of changes occurred, changes that would significantly affect how the war was fought and contribute greatly to its outcome. the most important of these developments was the internationalization of the war.
with the dispatch of a french fleet on 13 april bound for american waters. the signing of a treaty was obviously a major event. it was not, however, i guarantee that the french would commit to naval resources to support american independence or to operate in american waters. in fact, the first request made by the american commissioners in france, asking that the french navy convoy attacked american merchants was denied. while the french leadership was unwilling to commit resources to protect american commerce, they were willing to commit their navy to assist the americans. in able to move that was credited to the triumvirate of sartine, his assistant, and the chevalier, the french decided to dispatch the squadron to american waters.
since the british had few ships in the mediterranean, they were free to go on the offensive. at the same time, the presence of a larger french squadron, the threat of a cross channel invasion, and concerns supported by intelligence that was incorrect but on good authority, that the spanish were preparing to enter the war as allies of the french, disquieted the british and forced them to keep significance naval forces in the english channel and to delay sending a reinforcement under admiral john byron to north america. byron first received orders to sail with reinforcements to america on 3 may, but avoidable delays and a decision by the lords of the admiralty,
postponed to the departure of this relieving fleet until the british fleet commander got "good intelligence of the fleet" and "is satisfied it is down to america or the west indies." it did not sail until 7 june. the indecision grew when "foul weather jack," his fleet, encountered horrific weather that to battered and scattered it, according them to arrive well before british reinforcements. the riskiness of the decision to send it to american waters should not be minimized. had the british dispatched quickly, they might have been trapped and lost. french planners understood that the possible benefits outweigh the possible dangers and acted decisively. had to the execution of the strategy than as bold as the
planning, the french navy could well have ended the war in the spring of 1778. vice admiral howtz's fleet was badly scattered and was inferior. moreover the british army abandoned philadelphia on 18 june to move to new york city. while that army marched overland, it shipped the bulk of its stores on merchant men which moved slowly and in a disorganized fashion down the delaware river to delaware bay and then north to new york. haddad arrived earlier, he could have captured this enormous prize, crippled the fleet, and could have blockaded the city. the large british garrison there depended almost entirely on supplies shipped in from elsewhere.
without that resupply it probably could have forced a surrender. however, this did not happen, because the fleet was slow getting to american waters. although it sailed on 13 april, it took more than a month for the spanish fleet to pass the straits of gibraltar. documents published in volume 12 demonstrate that our adverse weather, poor sailing, faulty equipment, the need to go as fast as the slowest chip, and the use of the voyage as a training exercise, caused the squadron to proceed across the atlantic that can only be described as leisurely. one of the most informative documents in the volume is the station bill for the flagship. here it is in the original and our french and english translation.
it demonstrates clearly how they used the voyage to america to train officers. the station bill not only gives the station of every officer during combat that also detailed the instructions regarding their duties, such as -- on the poop deck, [indiscernible] -- as near as possible, will command to the maneuvers and musketry and watch over the rapidity of fire. another place in the station where they say, "every commander of a gun division will have control over the men attached to each gun. he will do his best to become personally acquainted with all his men and notes those who show the most seal and intelligence and those who distinction themselves in combat."
while the french fleet may have been better prepared as a result of this training, its slow progress across the atlantic meant that it did not arrive at the delaware capes until 8 july. by that time the chance to defeat the fleet before could collect and retreated to a strong defensive position in new york or to capture the british army had passed. despite this opportunity, the nature of the naval war had changed dramatically. internationalization of the war meant that no longer could the british assumed they had unchallenged control of american waters or even the english channel. another effect can be gleaned from how will's reports to the
admiral. "service in american waters was hard and british ships and crews suffered accordingly." british commanders in north america were thus put "between a rock and a hard place," as there was no facility to -- the british had plans to establish one. to rotate ships to england for refit and repair left of the american fleet week but to keep those vessels on station, as howe and his successors were often forced to do, reduced their effectiveness. one of the congenital factors in the french naval victory at the battle of the virginia capes in 1781 was the poor condition of the british fleet. the spring of 1778 also saw a dramatic change in british naval strategy. the british deemphasized the war in heartland america. as mentioned, they abandoned philadelphia and consolidated forces in new york and rhode island. they eventually abandoned the latter, as well. under the new strategy, mobile detachments sent by water from
new york to destroy american forces in detail, to rate american seaports to keep down american privateering activity, and to support a british attempt to hold up a self-supporting loyalist base. thus the focus of british efforts would be the west indies and the periphery of the united states. in a letter to lord howe, the lords of the admiralty spelled out the new strategy. to reinforce east and west -- it was a viable strategy. however, fear of invasion caused british leadership to limit reinforcements to its army and navy in america. because of this the british were overextended and outnumbered in the united states and west indies. new york was a difficult position to hold, which limited the troops available for detaching, and as a result of written forfeited naval initiative in the western hemisphere and became increasingly reactionary.
the concentration of royal forces in american waters did open up opportunities for british and loyalist privateers, a trend that would continue until war's end. because howe feared such privateering would result in desertion from royal navy ships and would provide a smaller pool from which to draw sailors, he eventually had to give way. as a result, the royal governor began issuing letters of mark and reprisal in august, 1778. this excessive privateers operating out of bermuda, sent augustine, and especially new york became more and more evident, and they garnered greater official support and had a greater impact on american shipping. the continental navy saw changes
during this period, too. in the period of march to may, 1778, the continental navy had six ships captured and destroyed -- the alfred, the randolph, the columbus, the virginia, the washington, and the effingham. william mallory wrote to a friend, "our little fleet is much thinned." "only one has been captured on the ocean." these losses called into question the competence and character of the continental navy's leadership, particularly its ship commanders, and also forced a changed in the role the continental navy played.
unable to contest british dominance in the bays and sees a surrounding the major cities of the united states, american seamen were pushed to the peripheries were they enjoyed some success. in north america, there were two areas, nova scotia and east florida, where american vessels dominated in the spring of 1778, and a third, the mississippi river, where they could realistically hope to contest a british dominance. in nova scotia, privateers from new england so invested, the term used by contemporary, the residents of liverpool voted to dismantle the town's fort and to inform american privateers men that "if they attempted to land under arms we should oppose them, but if they did not, they are offered to take a vessel out
of the river and we shall not molest them." in georgia, gunboats, manned in large part by continental soldiers, scored a dramatic victory over the royal navy. to check an invasion of east florida by the southern continental army, captain thomas jordan led a force of three vessels to save simon's inlet in georgia, destroying three galleys. instead, the british squadron was soundly defeated in two of the vessels and it were captured. it was a germanic victory and gave the americans control of the inner coaster waters all the way from charleston to saint augustine, thus threatening the very existence of british east florida. well in active -- they were able to coddle together a naval defensive force, thus mitigating the damage and unrelated issues halted the american advance toward saint augustine.
it was nonetheless an important victory and established at least for a very short time american dominance in those water, and could have changed the course of the war and the american deep south. then i wouldn't have had a career because there would have been no nathanael greene. another success was on the periphery and early 1778, occurring along the mississippi river. the origins of the expeditions to conquer west florida go back to the summer of 1777, when the governor of louisiana received a letter from colonel george morgan. it proposed a 1000 man american expedition against pensacola. galvez would provide intelligence and transport and
artillery powder and provision. his response was equivocal but probably more convincing was the fact that the flotilla returned laden with arms and ammunition and provisions. after much debate, american leaders decided to dispatch a much scaled-down expedition. james welling, a captain, and 1029 man went in a boat, arriving unmolested into the heart of english territory, his party captured and ravaged a number of british settlements. they also captured several vessels, one of which was later turned into an american warship. at natches, they convinced the inhabitants to sign of oath of neutrality. he might have successfully captured west florida, however the americans began plundering those not considered friends, thus creating a pool of
disaffected who were instrumental in helping the british to reestablish authority. one result of the willing expedition was that it almost sparked a war between england and spain. welling's party was too small to be viable without the help of galvez, who helped extend american raters "the the sacred right of neutrality." the english saw him as aiding and assisting and abetting his majesty's rebellion, looking upon them as separate and distinct powers. galvez also disposed of plunder accumulated by the raiders. in a letter to lord's george germane, peter chester, argued that "the only effectual method
to truly address our injuries after all other methods have been tried would be to make reprisals and detain spanish property until ample restitution was made." therefore it was not a paranoid rant but an appreciation of the situation that led a beleaguered yet to determine galvez to write his superior on 14 april, "it seems the english are plotting an attack on the city," new orleans. "although the reception given to set americans is the same as in ports of europe and the islands of america, against which the english take no revenge, they see the town as defenseless. i already have two frigates in front of the city and according to this, an additional two or three are expected. one is at the mouth of the
river. they cannot have any other object but this town and no business to attend to in natches. i have been informed that the commander of these frigates is a brutal man, willing to commit any kind of transgression without regard for consequences. it appears he intends to demand i turn over the americans, especially the commander in his party, and opened fire and destroy the city if i do not cecede. his lordship knows i cannot accept such a demand, and that i should be determined to defend said americans and their prizes and use all forces at my disposal although they are few for this purpose." it was a testament to the strength of galvez and to his friendship toward the united states that he was not cowed into submission by british divination. as oliver pollock reported to congress in a letter, "i cannot
include this important subject without giving the greatest applause to governor galvez for his noble spirit and behavior on this occasion. though he had no batteries erected or men to defend the place against the two ships of war, with a hundred men all coming against him, and he laughed at their haughtiness and despised their attempts and in short they returned." what then ensued was an elaborate game of chicken which went on for several months and was not resolved until chester received a letter from lord george germane on 5 august, forbidding him from taking the "rash step" of "seizing spanish property." by then the material willing had exhausted the patience of both galvez and pollock so that both were dedicated to getting him out as quickly as possible. galvez went so far as to allow
pollock to put out an armored vessel. even so, it was november before welling departed against a privately owned sloop. the sloop was captured at sea dwelling was taken prisoner. welling languished in british custody for almost two years before his captors permitted his exchange in late 1781. while the welling expedition boosted galvez's reputation, it was a failure for the americans. contrary to expectations, it did not permanently open the mississippi river to american commerce. in fact, the river was less available for american youth after the raid. it also hardened sentiment in british west florida in joining the american cause. clark's assessment of the exhibition is spot on --
"plunder is the prevailing passion and the country can expect little service." therefore, and west florida as in georgia and nova scotia, the americans were unable to transform temporary advantage into long-term success. in afghanistan and i had a thousand 50 eight, the british had reinforced with the nova scotia's and had undertaken an offensive against georgia. however, the idea that the continental navy cannot stand to protect the heartland prevailed. americans who attacked the british english scientist is not expected in european waters in 1778. an example of the latter was an activity of the rhode island privateer marlborough on the coast of africa.
let's consider european waters. while a number of continental vessels were dispatched to european waters, including two continental frigates, the activities of which are covered extensively in volume 12, there were two continental navy captains who did the most. cunningham and jones. between may, 1777 and may, 1778, cunningham and the continental navy captured 24 british vessels, including six in the months of the spring of 1778 and they are detailed in volume 12. thanks to the onslaught of british commerce by cunningham and others in european waters, british maritime insurance increased to 28% of the value of the cargo, higher than they had been at any time during the seven years war.
it is little wonder that the pirate cunningham became a hated man in england. another, probably more famous, captain who brought the fight to the british was john paul jones. while the battle between his command and the british ship is the one americans know best, jones's 28 day voyage into the sloop of spring of 1778 probably had more impact on british public opinion and the conduct of the war. sailing -- they captured and destroyed british merchant men and a british navy ship, and most notably executed a land rate against the northern british coastal town of
whitehaven and an estate, which is right on the border between england and scotland. at the former, jones tried unsuccessfully to burn some 200 merchant vessels lying aground. he attempted to capture the earl of silk or who jones believed could be exchanged for a great number of american seamen. while the attempted arson was thwarted and the earl was away from home and really wasn't important enough to command the kind of exchange jones envisioned, the fact that jones and his crew landed on british soil twice and escaped demonstrated the vulnerability of english coastal towns, 4s jones put it in his report, "what was done is sufficient to show that not all their bolster navy can protect their own coast and that the seams of distress
which they have occasion in america may soon be brought home to their own." it provoked a firestorm of criticism of the admiralty. "it is something strange and worthy of particular note is that at a time when the ministry are boasting of an invincible fleet which they have fitted out which is now writing it to spit head, that a little american privateer should not only ravage the coast of the kingdom but fight and take his majesty's sloops of war. it is the particular plague of the present times to rely upon appearances and neglect realities, to put the nation to a vast expanse and do little or nothing for it." that was a london newspaper. such fears concerning the vulnerability of england strengthened the hand of those
who argued that greater resources should be committed to the defense of the island, which was the goal of american planners when they committed the continental may be to this risky strategy. finally, the rate strengthened the perception in europe that the younger public might actually survive as a nation. according to a neutral italian observer in the french court, it vigorous. thus, i think it can be safely argued the actions of cunningham, and especially jones, when paired with the entry of the french into the war, was a game changer. the coast of west africa was another area where they enjoyed
success in early 1778. the cruise documented inviting 12 -- demonstrated how american privateers fared in those waters. testimony in 1778 included volume 11, analyzing the effect of the war on african trade did before the war, 200 ships engaged in the trade. by 1778, that number had been reduced to 40 and 15 of those were taken by american privateers. most american privateers cruised for slave ships near barbados, which meant complete cargoes of slaves and because of its proximity to the coast, which lessened the danger of capture, if you operated directly on the african coast, which should come as knows prize that a rhode island privateer would operate in those waters, since rhode islanders actively engaged in the african slave trade before and were familiar with those
waters. there was no record captain babcock sailed on slaving voyages. certainly, john brown of providence had been involved in the slave trade all his life. marlborough was a 250-ton ship navigated by a crew of 125. it sailed from new bedford before the new year. volume 12 picks up its story off the cape verdean islands. the crew sailed east and then southward along the guinea coast towards the english trading settlement. and route -- en route, marlborough captured five vessels, persuaded a british master to act as a pilot for
them, negotiated a mutually-beneficial deal with a local tribal leader, and then burned his settlement when the british factors refused to surrender the property they held. the climax of the cruise came off cape messer auto -- "there came a canoe from shore with a black king named robin gray. steering from mesorado, when we hear of a slave ship ready to sail for the west indies. all sales set running with our fleet after us. at 2:00 p.m., we made the anchor, all hands getting ready to engage as needed. at 5:00 p.m., we came up with the ship and anchor. the captain ordered them to strike their colors, which they immediately did. at the same time, running under their stern. the prize proved to be captain william allinson mounting 16
guns with a cargo of 300 slaves as well as ivory and rice, a very lucrative prize." after missing a second slaver that he had intelligence of, babcock decided to return to north america. obviously, not before having dealt a heavy blow to the english-african slave trade. finally, and while this is not unique for the spring of 1770 eight, volume 12 demonstrates that attitudes among sailors in the continental navy were becoming more volatile and they were exercising more agency in their own situation. by law, a naval captains authority was awesome and the tools he could wield to enforce his will aboard ship were
formidable. but documentation in volume 12 illustrates the other side of the coin, that sailors were not powerless and they could influence matters far more than one would think even the imbalance of power, at least on paper, between captains and the enlisted. recruiting skilled sailors was such a struggle that officers had to accept cemented -- seamen of dubious loyalty and chose to accommodate the wishes of their group in order to keep them content and dissuade them from desertion and mutiny. john paul jones gave into the demands of his men and allowed actions that neither officer believed was legitimate. when jones discovered that the earl was not home, he wanted to leave the estate unmolested but capitulated to his men's
assistance that they repay the british for the destructive raids they were conducting on american port towns by allowing his crew to loot the estate. in the end, he got his men to agree to take the family silver. this cost jones personally since he later helped it necessary for his honor to purchase the silver from his men and return it. similarly, cunningham allowed his men to seize british goods bound in a neutral vessel even though the continental congress had determined the practice by france that free ships make free goods.
the capture cause major problems for cunningham and angered america's allies. they also put their enterprises at risk by signing on seamen whose loyalty was neither to them or the united states. in going 12, when he came into conflict with his principal lieutenant, thomas simpson, john paul jones found that most of his crew, recruited from simpson's hometown, cited with simpson. in another instance, a member of the party sent to burn the shipping in whitehaven decided that this was his chance to return home early and he deserted and alerted the townspeople, limiting the damage done by the raiders. in another instance recounted in volume 12, captain samuel tucker of the continental frigate boston, narrowly escaped death
by the timely discovery and suppression of a plot aboard his vessel. as boston was completing its refit in france, two or three englishmen in that city hatched a plot to seize the frigate and sale it to england. plan was for them to sign on as seamen and join disaffected crewmen and if you'd deserter's -- and a few deserters. they would seize the ship to ensure the success of the mutiny and neutralize the ships marines. this they sought to do by embezzling a marine sergeant. he played a long and then informed tucker. the plan was diabolical and included adding opium to the drinking water water of the officers, the latter of which were to be murdered. he denounced the schemers and the ringleaders escaped. ironically, he himself later successfully petitioned french authorities for relief, claiming ill-treatment. this very brief summary of events from the spring of 1778 demonstrates that it truly was a time of seachange in which the naval war of the american revolution was conducted. thank you. [applause] questions. uh-oh. >> i was struck by your comment from the writings of john paul jones that the british navy was a boasting navy. i was also struck by the fact
that the british navy had a very small presence in the mediterranean, so small that it could not protect the things it wanted to. further struck the fact that, in the americas, they could not repair any ships. they had to be rotated back. >> they could do some repairs. they could go up to halifax or down to bermuda. they had some facilities down there. the plan was to possibly make new york into a refit center. that was never finalized and one of the reasons why the british end up in north town in 1871 -- i do not know if you are a sailor, but to get by the sandy hook, the bar, is very difficult. that is why they did not attack the british in new york harbor. he sat out almost three weeks
because he was trying to get over the bar, but his ships were too big and he was afraid he would have to take all of the cannons out, which would make them vulnerable, obviously. the reason they went down to the virginia capes or why cornwallis was sent there was to create a more modern port that the british would use and the idea was that they would set up some sort of facility there to refit or ships. but you are right. it was difficult because they were constantly cruising, patrolling, looking for american commerce, which was a lucrative for the captains also. this was the day of prizes. if you captured a full american vessel, and you are a captain, you got most of the take and the crew got a piece of it as well. so they could do minor, but in order to really refit a ship and repair it, you had to go back to england, to the shipyards there. like i said, that was the case.
a couple of the ships on the line were practically sinking. they were staying afloat because they were constantly using their pops and -- pumps but that did not make a difference because they could not keep up and it slowed the process exponentially. yes, ma'am? >> at the beginning of the revolution, the colonies had been in agreement with britain and britain would defend them so we did not have a navy. >> yes. the united states navy goes back to 1775. it was debated. there were congressman, delegates to congress, that argued that it was a waste of time. there is a modern hiss dorian who -- a modern historian who is an expert on the french navy in the american revolution and said the same thing, the americans wasted a lot of money trying to
build these ships because he did not do them any good. the people at heritage command wrote back and say, that is not true. they did prey on british commerce and create issues in european waters. they did bring about -- you could argue that some of the incidents in europe helped bring the french and spanish into the war. so they did play a role. but yes, you are right. the early american navy was a lot of merchant ships that had been transformed into naval ships. and then we started building frigates. some of those frigates were the ones that were captured. two of them were -- had been built up the delaware river. the british led a raid up the delaware and they got those ships. they should have been sunk -- that is what washington said --
i mean, sent underwater so they could not get at them. the virginia, a brand-new american frigate, was sailing out to the chesapeake bay, lost its way, broke its rudder, and the british captured it. we were building some quality ships. another one that they built, they handed over to the french because they could not afford to keep it in action because it was too expensive. yes, it was a real burden and there was a big debate. what should be the role of the continental navy? when i talk about moving away from the heartland, that hurts a lot because you are talking about chesapeake bay, charleston. they wanted protection of some sort of navy and they wanted to keep the british privateers or the loyalist privateers off their trade. they wanted to enact a continental navy, but they could not do it because the british
would hunt them down and if he them. that is why they kind of scattered. >> on this side of the atlantic, from 1778, does he go back? >> he stays until the end of 1779. he goes to north america and then down into the west and backup to north america. 1779 is the famous assault on savannah. and then he went back to france. but they kept a fleet in american waters, especially after the british evacuated newport. that became the center of the french fleet in america. it was a battle of the capes. it was a small fleet at newport that came down and, at the same time, you had a bigger fleet come from the west indies and they connected to surprise the british, who did not expect that to happen. that is one of the reasons why cornwallis was trapped. they did not expect the french navy to combine as successfully as they had. after the peace treaty, it was
only a matter of time before the french got a temporary naval advantage and defeated the british fleet. the british were lucky a lot of of the time. as i said here, it could have been a disaster. they are gotten over here a little bit faster, he could have destroyed the fleet and captured all of the army's baggage and ended the war. >> both england and france have forts in the caribbean. >> yes. if you know anything about mercantilism, the point of mercantilism is you produce products you cannot produce in your homeland. so the west indies, because of their ability to produce sugar and sugar cane, were valuable. valuable. that is why, in 1778, when the british made that readjustment in their strategy, they decided they were going to emphasize and put more resources into the west
indies. matter of fact, he had gotten clinton had orders after he evacuated philadelphia to send his force of 6000 down to capture st. lucia in the west indies. so there were a number of battles down there. the big naval battle, the battle of the saints, the americans thought that would reopen the war. which was a british victory, by the way. rodney won that, and you can argue -- i do not think there is any argument -- that the british second empire was created during the american revolution. they were able to win in the west indian islands and their successes in the indian subcontinent. they had some luck over there as well. that is the basis for the great british empire where the sun never sets.
>> i was wondering if you could talk a bit about your documentary editing project. i think it is remarkable that this single fat volume covers only a couple of months. a couple of key months. [laughter] i am interested in how many volumes are projected in the process of hunting and gathering material. >> this is what she is talking about. this is two months work of work -- worth of work. we have volume 13 teed up. we thought we would get four months into it. we had been getting three or four months usually into a volume. this one was particularly rich. june and july and part of august. that is the battle of rhode island. hopefully, it will be out in the
very near future. in the future, the chances are you will not see this in book form. we are going to probably do them as digital editions. you will probably see them online primarily. the idea is maybe, down the line, we will put them into letterpress because we give away a lot of these volumes to research libraries. did you get one? >> i hope. >> yes, ok, so the reason why -- we don't just do the continental navy. we do documents that relate to all kinds of things. social history, as you can see when i was talking about the agency for the continental sale, we do a lot for british law. i quoted one law from the marlborough, but we have others where they capture vessels. we have official documents, unofficial documents, newspaper reports, people's letters, memoirs, all kinds of things. it is chock full of good stuff. if you are a member here, come over and pull it out sometime.
it is a wonderful series. the expectation is that it is not something like david mcculloch would do. the expectation is that david mcculloch will use this someday to write books. if you follow the naval history and heritage command, they have done a series on the war of 1812. the number of books have been published about that. and a couple of books have just come out about the continental navy, one by george don and another by tim -- i am having a senior moment, excuse me. but anyway, both of those made extensive use of our volumes. they were able to shorten their research process significantly by using these volumes. so that is what we do. >> the sources for the documents, obviously, you have a
lot of american sources. but what sources are you using from great britain, france, spain? >> in england, we got a lot of our documents from the national archives. the greenwich maritime museum has a bunch. plus, bryn mawr university contributes him because one of the admirals had history papers there. so a variety of places. the french, the same kind of thing. we get them from their national archives and also from the city archives, those kinds of places. spanish, we do not have as much. the spanish have done a pretty good job. they have published some of their documents. so we have been able to get some from them. a lot of this was on a long time ago and some of these documents have been microfilmed.
we do not have the originals because it would be to pricey -- too pricey for us to acquire. we have a few. the french document, this station bill, that came from the french archives and we have a copy of it. >> you mentioned governor gonzales -- >> galvez? >> galvez. >> one of the great unsung heroes of the american revolution. we have an hispanic population here. we have one of the great heroes. why don't they make a big deal about it? >> my question may go in that general direction. if he had wrote to his superior saying we may be attacked by the british and he described the british fleet in north america and the caribbean and a french
fleet also in the caribbean, i am assuming the governor of new orleans was writing to someone who had a spanish fleet somewhere. >> not yet. the spanish were spending their time escorting treasure ships back to spain. that is one of the reasons why they did not want to declare war at this time. they are still coming back from mexico and peru, that kind of thing. when the spanish coming to the war, they spend most of their time -- the spanish were most interested in capturing gibraltar and protecting their american empire. and the quality of the spanish ships is not very good. really, they are not that offensive. having said that, galvez does launch a very active campaign. he captures or recaptures everything that willing had captured and then he moves along
the gulf coast, captures mobile, and the center of florida was pensacola and he captured it. the american commander in the south wrote to galvez and said, why don't we come together in saint augustine? by then, the war was over. galvez was very active. after the war, he was a young man appointed viceroy for mexico and he died. some people say he was poisoned. other people say it was something but -- something like yellow fever. they are not sure. but his after action report after pensacola, he wrote -- the i alone -- navy officers were afraid to sail into the bay because they thought they would get blasted by british artillery.
he wrote, "i did it." they were shooting over the ship because they did not depress it long enough to hit them. i guess he was a bit of an egomaniac. they are actually building a replica of him in spain right now. someday, i think they are going to try to come over here and celebrate galvez by sailing around the united states, particularly the southern portion. >> put on hold due to lack of funds. however, lafayette's hermoine granger is currently doing sea trials off of lower shelf -- lla -- la rouchelle. they are short about $.5 million euros. they are looking for support.
>> i was there when they started developing it. i am sorry to hear that they have stopped in the short-term. let's hope they are able to resurrect that project. >> you just mentioned cannon fire. how did captain tucker's frigate compare with english frigates and armament? >> americans were pretty good at cannon fire. in a situation where they were not overwhelmed, they could hold their own. in the world 1812, you know that there is a string of american victories because we could work the guns as fast or faster as the british navy. the british navy was known for rapidity of cannon fire. they would aim low and try to
blast behold of the other ship. -- the hull of the other ship. the french did it differently. they would try to de-mast. they would aim for the rigging. think about what you are trying to hit. they had a different approach. so the british were able to get a lot more follies -- volleys in a shorter space of time then the french were. also, the french did not have as experienced and dedicated of seamen. they were somewhat new to the game, if you will. as to america versus britain, the americans could hold their own. a good american privateer could slug it out till to tell -- toe-to-toe with a british naval vessel.
>> i ask that because the army forces were notoriously short of artillery in the early part of the war. there were no forges. very difficult for them to go toe to toe. when compared to the navy and state, whatever the term is for their navies, did they manufacture their cannons? how did that happen? >> john brown, who i talked about, had a foundry in rhode island. he manufactured the cannons, some of which were not as good as others. there was also manufacturing going on in some mid-atlantic states.
virginia had a foundry as well. so that was part of it. another would be go to france. tucker, when he was in france, got a few guns. one of the things that the american commissioners in france -- they would commission for guns, cannon ordinance, small guns, and they would be shipped over to america. naval cannons as well. a lot of times, it was just artillery. sometimes you see letters where they will lend it to the army and the army will lend it back to them as this kind of ordinance or you see privateers will go to the state and say, we have a ship ready to go out. you see this in baltimore a whole lot. they will go to the state council and say, we have a privateer ready to go. this happened a couple of times. there are a couple of letters in here. they say, we have it ready to go, but we cannot find our armament. you have an old, decrepit ship that used to be in the navy. can we have the guns? they would say, sure, but you have to replace them six weeks
out. i am sorry that it one last question and then we will call it. >> let me ask you about the state navies. the continental navy only commissioned and built less than a dozen frigates. they issued over 1000 letters of borrowing. what and where did the state navies contribute? >> they were designed to protect state waters, so they are smaller. during the war, they would try to protect themselves. the georgia state navy were gunboats. they would grow and sale at the same time. they were not good enough to go out into the ocean. south carolina had a state navy that they go into the ocean. as a matter of fact, the frigate randolph led a flotilla which included a number of state navy vessels from south carolina when it was destroyed in the battle with yarmouth. the state navy vessel got away.
the state navies of virginia and maryland were designed to stay mostly in the chesapeake and protect it from raiders and privateers. and gunboats -- >> no ship of the line. >> no ship of the line. we were building one ship of the line at the time, and when we finished it, we gave it to france. it was only going to be a 50-gunner, not a big one. we bought frigates. as a matter of fact, there were those advocating, let's not even go for frigates, that's -- let's go for frigs, sloops, fast things that can go in shallow water. the reason they could operate is because it was very shallow and the british could not go in with their navies ships. if you know anything about little egg harbor, it is south toward philadelphia, so you could go to new york and slip
back in and the british could not get at you. that is the kind of thing. the georgia state navy, that is the kind of thing they did. there were some -- you get to know when when, some of their ships actually were not sailing. they captured a couple down off of charleston. they went down to the west indies, looking for prizes. they would get supplies. they would love for, and they would take -- look for, and they would take -- action, even trade for on occasion. the united states navy had some blue water ships that could go out and that was more aggressive. they played a variety of roles.
there are interesting studies done on the state navy. as a matter of fact, there is one about the georgia state navy is going to be published soon. watch for it. it is a good one. i can guarantee you. ok, i am sorry. [applause] [captions copyright national cable satellite corp. 2014] [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org] >> thank you, dr. conrad. our next public program is an myerss talk with discussing his novel "revolutionary" on deborah samson. he will discuss the process of writing historical fiction and we hope to see you there. these enjoy some light refreshments in the winter garden. thank you all for coming. [applause] >> with live coverage of the u.s. house on c-span, and the
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