Now, if you recall from the last post, we were talking about the birthplace of the U.S. Navy, and I told you that the town of Whitehall, NY claimed the title. Don't remember that? OK, go and have a look back at that post and I will wait right here. Go ahead, it's ok!
So, ready now? I am sure some of you wondered why a little town at the foot of Lake Champlain could get away with that, Benedict Arnold's fleet of gunboats notwithstanding. And then, at the end, I mentioned that Marblehead MA also laid claim to the title.
Well, let's find out, and then you can make up your own mind which you prefer!
Whitehall's claim dates to summer, 1776, when General Arnold was ordered by the federal government to build a fleet of gunboats for use on Lake Champlain. He did build the first fleet of vessels as instructed. He fought the British (the outcome of that is not important to the argument), and Whitehall went into the history books as the site of the first American fleet. But, here's the rub: in September of 1775, the first ship outfitted with funds from the Continental Congress was in Marblehead. General John Glover (army, again! What's with that? More on that in a moment!) took command of Hannah, and was commissioned to find and capture British supply ships. On 6 September, he captured the provisions sloop Unity and in November, another Marblehead ship, Lee, captured the British brig Nancy, filled to the gun'ls with munitions. So that should do it, right? Not so fast, my friend.
General John Glover and his schooner,
Hannah - they actually sailed from Beverly, just across the harbor. So does that give Beverly right to claim the title too?
Further, to add to the confusion, most of the prizes sent in went to Beverly, not Marblehead. So maybe Beverly does have a legitimate claim. But wait a moment! We're talking about the birthplace of the U.S. NAVY, right? Remember, I mentioned that John Glover was an Army general? And who did he report to? General George Washington! General in the ARMY. It should be noted also that Benedict Arnold was also a general in the ARMY. In fact, there was NO Navy yet and at this point, all the ships came under the control of the army. And Machias, ME would like a nod of participation here because in June of 1775, a small sloop manned by woodsmen, captured a British Warship in their waters. That vessel didn't fall under the aegis of the Army or anyone else! And let us not forget Providence, RI from whence originated the first calls to the Continental Congress to establish a Navy! Everyone wants a piece of the action! But back for a moment to Marblehead.
It's is a wonderful town, with a fabulous harbor and, during the War of 1812, provided a safe refuge for USS Constitution when she was being chased by the British. Look at this chart:
So there you have it, friends. I will leave it at that and you can pick whichever one suits you. And thanks to HGG for starting this whole imbroglio! It was fun to write these posts and I hope you enjoyed reading them!
PS - I almost forgot: I promised a bit more on General Glover. It was he and his "Marblehead boatmen" who manned the boats that took George Washington and his army across the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1776, en route to attack the Hessians in Trenton, NJ. (And no, Trenton does not have a claim to birthplace fame!)
"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious." G. Washington in letter to Lafayette