On 23 September 1779 off Flamborough Head, England, during the Revolutionary War, Continental Navy frigate Bonhomme Richard, under the command of John Paul Jones, captured HMS Serapis. When asked to surrender his ship during the battle, Jones replied “I have not yet begun to fight!” This painting by Anton O. Fischer depicts the battle at sea. NHHC image NH 56467-KN.

BOOK REVIEW – War on the Waters: The Union and Confederate Navies, 1861-1865

By James M. McPherson, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill NC, (2012).

Reviewed by Kenneth J. Blume, Ph.D.

Do we need yet another book about the naval side of the Civil War? When the book has been written by the nation’s preeminent scholar of the Civil War, the answer is certainly yes. James M. McPherson, well known for such works as Battle Cry of Freedom, For Cause and Comrades, and Tried by War, now offers War on the Waters, a volume that compresses a complex topic into 226 pages of text and skillfully merges the “big picture” with specific themes, colorful quotations, and powerful vignettes.

(read the full review)

On 5 August 1864 during the American Civil War, a Union squadron commanded by Rear Admiral David G. Farragut was victorious at the Battle of Mobile Bay, sealing off the last Confederate port on the Gulf Coast. This is the battle in which Farragut uttered his famous quote, “Damn the Torpedoes, Full speed ahead!” This oil painting by by Xanthus Smith (circa 1890) depicts the surrender of CSS Tennessee to the Union squadron. Identifiable U.S. Navy ships present include: Winnebago (monitor in the left distance), Chickasaw (monitor in the foreground) and Hartford (Farragut’s flagship, in the right center, painted light gray). NHHC image KN-843.

During the “Six-Day War” between Israel and several Arab nations, USS Liberty (AGTR 5), a technical research ship, was sent to collect electronic intelligence in the eastern Mediterranean. On the afternoon of 8 June 1967, while in international waters off the Sinai Peninsula, despite being clearly marked as a U.S. Navy ship, Liberty was struck by Israeli aircraft. After suffering damage and many personnel casualties from gunfire, rockets and bombs, she was further attacked by three Israeli Navy motor torpedo boats. One torpedo hit her on the starboard side, forward of the superstructure, opening a large hole in her hull. In all, thirty-four men were killed in the attacks and nearly 170 wounded. Israel subsequently apologized for the incident, explaining that its air and naval forces had mistaken the Liberty for a much smaller Egyptian Navy ship. This image (NHHC image K-39927) shows Liberty underway the following month in Chesapeake Bay.

On 31 May 1918, the transport USS President Lincoln was torpedoed and sunk by German submarine U-90 while steaming from France back to the United States. Twenty-six lives were lost, and one officer was soon taken prisoner by U-90, but nearly 700 safely escaped in life rafts and were rescued. This was the largest US Navy vessel to be lost in World War I. Painting by Fred Dana Marsh, 1920, courtesy of the U.S. Navy Art Collection, Washington, DC, image NH 86494-KN.

On 12 May 1986 U.S. Navy destroyer USS David R. Ray (DD 971) deterred an Iranian Navy attempt to board American merchant ship President McKinley in the Gulf of Oman. David R. Ray is shown here underway circa 1985. US Navy photo DN-SC-86-00173.

On 29 April 1814, during the War of 1812, United States Sloop-of-War Peacock captured the British Brig Epervier off Florida.This oil on canvas by Tomiro depicts the battle. NHHC image NH 83139-KN.

On 24 April 1778, during the American Revolution, Continental Navy sloop-of-war Ranger, commanded by John Paul Jones, captured British HMS Drake, off Carrickfergus, Ireland. This painting is by Arthur N. Disney, Sr. NHHC image NH 48548-KN.

Seawolf: Maritime Strategy Covered In Sub History Seminar

With the Covert Submarine Operations exhibit in the National Museum of the U.S. Navy’s Cold War Gallery serving as a backdrop, a large crowd filled the Gallery’s North Hall on the evening of 11 April 2013 (coinciding with the Submarine Force’s 113th Birthday) to witness and participate in a program titled “Seawolf and The Maritime Strategy: Examining the Relationships of Policy, Strategy, Technology, Tactics and Acquisition.“

In what has become a fixture on the April calendar for over a decade, the joint Naval Submarine League – Naval Historical Foundation Submarine History Seminar reviewed how the U.S. Navy’s posture changed from the Carter years of being a reactionary one that assumed the Soviet Navy would replay the role of the Germans in fighting a Battle of the Atlantic III, to a proactive strategy during the Reagan years that aimed at attacking Soviet ballistic missile submarines at the onset of war. A key was a realization by American Navy leaders that the Soviets had little interest in using their submarine forces to interdict allied operations in the North Atlantic. This shift in American thinking on how to employ forces in a general war with the Soviet Union became known as “The Maritime Strategy” and the Seawolf submarine, of which only three were built, was designed as a big, fast, quiet, torpedo-laden weapon system that could effectively operate in hostile waters.

(read more about the seminar)

On 20 April 1861 during the American Civil War, Norfolk Navy Yard was abandoned and burned by Union forces. This line engraving was published in “Harper’s Weekly”, 1861, providing two scenes of the burning of Norfolk Navy Yard and the destruction of ships located there. NHHC image NH 59179.