Wednesday, January 19, 2000

Washington Cruisers...

Dear Gary,

Your question causes me to think on a connected tangent.

I have read this claim that Washington personally funded the first Navy ships, called the Washington Cruisers.

Washington was meticulous in his financial record keeping.

I know one scholar has analyzed Washington's expense account to reveal how he funded his intelligence operations, and keep them secret. Some shallow so-called scholars accuse Washington of "padding his expense account" and getting far more money than if he had taken a salary.

Bunk trying to debunk a true man of integrity, a true American hero.

I will try to learn what his ledgers say about his Navy expenditures in the fall of 1775. But with all he was doing that will be like searching for a needle in a barn of haystacks. Got a magnet?

Historian Barbara Tuchman did something like this in looking at the ship's records for the Alfred in December 1775 or early 1776 to determine the colors of cloth that the ship purchased, presumably as raw materials from which to construct a flag, that gives some support to the claim that John Paul Jones raised the Grand Union Flag on the ship.

I add the head of the Early History branch of the Naval Historical Center, Dr. Michael Crawford.

I just recently learned that a leading patriot, in the league of John Hancock, was Jeremiah Lee of Marblehead, Massachusetts. The Lee that was commissioned and commanded by Captain John Manley whose many successes made him the favorite of John Adams, may have been named for that Marblehead Lee rather than one of the many Virginia Lees, or the later traitor, General Charles Lee.

Dr. Crawford, do you know if any records indicate for which Lee the Lee was named?

Dr. Crawford is the scholar who pointed me to the Library of Congress for the Colonel Joseph Reed description of the "tree" flag in the letter dated 20 October 1775, before Rhode Island Militia Artillery General Esek Hopkins was named as the first Commodore for the American Navy.

The week before, 13 October, is when the Maritime Committee of the Continental Congress received the letter of 5 October from Commander in Chief Washington asking how they wished him to dispose of the British ship captured by one of his Washington Cruisers, effectively eliminating their ongoing debate on whether they should risk the wrath of the British Navy by forming an American Navy.

Washington formed the Navy, captured a British ship, and THEN asked questions, which of course were now moot. RADM Grace Hopper had a Maxim, "It is easier to apologize than to ask permission." and a corollary, "If you do not wish to accept the answer NO, don't ask the question." Long before Admiral Hopper verbalized those Naval Maxims, Naval strategist Washington had implemented them.

Other folks at the Naval Historical Center told me about NAVA president Peter Ansoff's very detailed article in the 2004 Raven journal that virtually eliminates any real possibility that the Snake Over Stripes flag EVER flew during the Revolution, much less was the "First Navy Jack" as now advertised widely on the web, and by the Navy.

I think that the choice of the first Navy flag was based on the tradition of the Navy flag being the canton of the national flag, and there are some accounts that say that the Continental flag had the tree (of whatever shape seems a major question) in the canton field.

The addition by Washington's aide Colonel Joseph Reed of the motto "Appeal to Heaven" is likely related to either or both Locke's Second Treatise on Government or a Massachusetts document of earlier in 1775 that used those words or similar.

That is about all I can dredge from the void between the ears...

In GW,


On AD 2008 January 19 Day:019, at 8:03 PM, Gary Laube wrote:

Washington's Cruisers

George Washington owned his own private navy with six schooners outfitted at his personal expense in the autumn of 1775. Ever the diplomat, Washington chose the New England pine tree motif as a gesture of solidarity and friendship between the northern and southern colonies.

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