The National Maritime Historical Society

John Barry Book Award for American Maritime Literature

Presented to Professor Robert P. Watson, PhD
for The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn:
An Untold Story of the American Revolution

Fraunces Tavern, 54 Pearl Street, New York, NY
6pm on Wednesday, 6 June 2018


The 2018 Commodore John Barry Book Award for American Maritime Literature will be presented to Professor Robert P. Watson, PhD, for his book The Ghost Ship of Brooklyn: an Untold Story of the American Revolution at Fraunces Tavern on the evening of Wednesday, 6 June, after a 6pm reception in the Flag Gallery.  For additional information and reservations, please contact Jessica Hitchen at the New York Council, Navy League of the United States at (212) 825-7333 or via email at


The most horrific struggle of the American Revolution/War for Independence occurred just 100 yards off New York, where more men died aboard a rotting English prison ship than were lost in the entirety of the war.  Moored in Wallabout Bay, off Brooklyn, until the end of the war, the derelict ship, the HMS Jersey, was a living hell for thousands of Americans, either captured by the British, or accused of disloyalty.  Crammed below decks — a shocking one thousand at a time — without light or fresh air, the prisoners were scarcely fed food and water.  Disease ran rampant and human waste fouled the air as prisoners suffered mightily at the hands of brutal British and Hessian guards.  Throughout the colonies (later States), the mere mention of the ship sparked fear and loathing of British troops.  It also sparked a backlash of outrage as newspapers everywhere described the horrors of the ghostly ship.  This shocking event, much like the better-known Boston Massacre before it, ended up rallying support for Independence, and for the war.  Revealing for the first time hundreds of accounts culled from old newspapers, diaries, and military reports, award-winning historian Robert P. Watson follows the lives and ordeals of the few survivors to tell the astonishing story of the cursed ship that killed thousands of Americans, and yet helped to secure victory in the fight for Independence.  This is a story that must be told.

About the Award:

The inspiration for the Commodore John Barry Book Award for American Maritime Literature is the life and service of Commodore John Barry (1745- 1803) a Continental Navy hero of the American War for Independence, later chosen by President George Washington to build and lead the new United States Navy, successor to the Continental Navy.  Pursuant to a Joint Resolution of Congress, on 22 December 2005, John Barry was formally recognized, in the Public Law of the United States, as the first flag officer of the United States Navy, and similarly in a memorial at the US Naval Academy, 10 May 2014.   Previous recipients of the Commodore John Barry Book Award for American Maritime Literature include James D. Hornfischer for his The Fleet at Flood Tide: America at Total War in the Pacific, 1944 – 1945; Tim McGrath for his Give Me a Fast Ship: The Continental Navy and America’s Revolution at Sea; and Craig L. Simonds for his NEPTUNE: The Allied Invasion of Europe and the D-Day Landings.

Fraunces Tavern is the historic location for the Awards ceremony.  It is here that General George Washington celebrated the evacuation of the last British forces from New York on the last day of the American War for Independence on 25 November 1783, and later resigned his commission, bade farewell to his officers, and returned to his home in Virginia.


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March Seminar: Tugboats Illustrated

The March Installment of the Saturday Seminar Series is

Tugboats Illustrated
The new book from architect Paul Farrell
Saturday, 25 March

At the Peekskill Presbyterian Church, 705 South St, Peekskill, NY 10566

Please join us in welcoming author, architect and tugboat enthusiast Paul Farrell, who will give us an introduction to  his new book. In Tugboats Illustrated, Paul Farrell traces the evolution, design, and role of tugboats, ranging from the first steam-powered tug to today’s hyper-specialized offshore workboats. Through extensive photographs, dynamic drawings, and enlightening diagrams, he explores the development of these hard-working boats, always shaped by the demands of their waterborne environment, by an ever-present element of danger, and by advancements in technology. Whether making impossible turns in small spaces, crashing through huge swells, pushing or pulling or prodding or coaxing or escorting, we come to understand not only what tugs do, but how physics and engineering allow them to do it.

From the deck layout of a nineteenth-century sidewheel tug to the mechanics of barge towing―whether by humans, mules, steam or diesel engines―to the advantages of various types and configurations of propulsion systems, to the operation of an oil rig anchor-handling tug/supply vessel, Tugboats Illustrated is a comprehensive tribute to these beloved workhorses of the sea and their intrepid crews.

Book signing to follow.

The public is invited to attend. Suggested Donation: $5 to $10.
Join us for a lunch with Paul Farrell after the presentation.
Cost: $25 prepaid and cash bar. Reservations are required.
E-mail or call 914-737-7878, ext. 0 to reserve your place.

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In the Pages of Sea History 158

Sea History
158 is in the mail and on the newsstands. Just look at what’s in this issue:

USCG photo by PA1 Kurt Fredrickson

Storis’s Legacy: How a Decommissioned Ship Inspired a Movement, by K. Denise Rucker Krepp
The fate of the historic Coast Guard Cutter Storis, scrapped overseas despite a bid from a museum group to offer her a new home, serves as a cautionary tale for us and for our fellow advocates to ensure that future vessels are again recycled responsibly in the US, with the proceeds funding vital maritime heritage programs.

Restored! America’s Maritime Heritage Grant Program, by Timothy J. Runyan
With the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act last December, full funding for the Maritime Heritage Grants program has been restored, after a seven-year battle. Dr. Tim Runyan, chair of the National Maritime Alliance, explains the process and who supported it.

Confederate Submarine H. L. Hunley: First in History to Sink an Enemy Ship in Wartime, by Mark K. Ragan
Designing and fabricating an underwater vessel for naval warfare in the mid 19th century presented a host of challenges, and lives were lost in its development. The historic Confederate submarine H. L. Hunley, the result of this remarkable project led by three men of vision, was recovered in 2000, a technological marvel of its time.

The America’s Cup: Personalities, Passion, and Privilege, by Russ Kramer
Reaching back to 1851, the history of this most famous of sailing regattas is replete with larger-than-life personalities, big money, and fantastic yachts. Artist Russ Kramer recreates the scenes and faces of this history in this exciting curated collection.

Tidal Wave: The Greatest Ship Launch in History, by Donald G. Shomette
Tucked in a bay off the Potomac River is a ship graveyard like no other. More than half of the 200 ships abandoned there were products of the great shipbuilding effort of World War I. Today, the site has been nominated as a National Marine Sanctuary. Don Shomette brings the story of the mad-paced launch schedule in 1918 that created a “tidal wave of ships.”

National Maritime Awards Dinner, and the 2017 NMHS Annual Meeting
We hope you will join us for two exciting events: April’s annual National Maritime Awards Dinner in the nation’s capital and our Annual Meeting in May, in historic Charleston, SC.

Coastal Defenses—Strategies and Innovation in Peace and War, by Dr. Louis A. Norton
Coastal towns, cities, and countries have used a variety of means to protect themselves from hostile forces on the water, from utilizing a site’s natural physical geography to inventing clever—and deadly—fortifications and weaponry. Dr. Louis Norton traces some of the more successful and innovative of these defenses.

Plus, you’ll find the regular features you look forward to in every issue:

Deck Log
NMHS: A Cause in Motion
Marine Art News
Sea History for Kids
Ship Notes, Seaport & Museum News
Maritime History on the Internet
Book Reviews

On our cover this issue: Onboard Puritan, 1885, by Russ Kramer, oil on canvas, 30 x 40 inches.

Click here to learn more about Sea History magazine.

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Fiddlers’ Green, Peter Stanford

January 16, 1927–March 24, 2016 …
The trustees and staff of the National Maritime Historical Society mourn the loss of Peter Stanford, NMHS president emeritus, longtime friend, and generous benefactor. We extend our deepest condolences to his wife, Norma, and to all the members of the Stanford family. We are truly thankful for his extraordinary contributions to preserve the maritime heritage of the United States. Peter Stanford was a national treasure—and will be greatly missed.
Fair winds, Peter.

NMHS PS_1Fiddlers Green…

Peter Stanford, President Emeritus, National Maritime Historical Society

Peter Stanford, the founding president of South Street Seaport Museum in New York, founding chair emeritus of the Working Harbor Committee, and the long-time president of the National Maritime Historical Society, passed away on Thursday, 24 March 2016, at the age of 89. Born in Brooklyn, NY, in 1927, he served in the US Navy in World War II as a radioman third class. After the war, he earned a bachelor of arts degree from Harvard in 1949 and a master’s degree from King’s College, Cambridge, England, in 1951. He then worked for a year and a half at the Economists’ Book Shop in London, while pursuing naval research at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich.

On return to the United States in 1952, he went to work as a copy editor at the publishing firm of Alfred A. Knopf before moving to Alfred Politz Research in 1954. From there he went to McCann-Erickson Advertising, then to Ogilvy & Mather, Hicks & Geist and Compton Advertising. As a copy supervisor, he achieved notoriety with his advertising campaigns for Beefeater Gin and International Paper, including Beefeater’s “Grownups’ Hour” ads.

Photo: Us Navy, R. Koteff

Photo: Us Navy, R. Koteff

In autumn of 1966, Peter and his wife, Norma, established the Friends of the South Street Maritime Museum, a citizen committee to organize a maritime museum in Manhattan’s historic waterfront neighborhood. The little group was launched with a fee of just one dollar for new members; the now-famous dollar memberships made it easy to join, and encouraged a sense of having a stake in the cause. This drive to get people personally involved would be a recurring theme in Peter’s projects, motivating people to participate in letter-writing campaigns, to volunteer to work on historic vessels, to found organizations where, before, there had been none. Dedicated to recreating the “Street of Ships” that played such a key role in New York’s emergence as a business capital, in the spring of 1967 they founded the South Street Seaport Museum in a warehouse space on Fulton Street. The Stanfords guided the museum through its early years, and Peter remained president of the museum until the spring of 1976, when he resigned to take up full-time work with the National Maritime Historical Society, growing the Society’s nascent quarterly magazine, Sea History, and pursuing several important ship-saving efforts. He lent his considerable energy and voice to the efforts to save the schooner Ernestina (now Ernestina-Morrissey), the barque Elissa, the Liberty ship John W. Brown, the lightship Ambrose, the brigantine Black Pearl, the fishing schooner Lettie G. Howard, and the great sailing ship Wavertree. 1967.04.03.NSPS desk Retouched copyHe was also instrumental in the founding of the World Ship Trust, and he co-founded and organized Operation Sail 76, a national tall ship event that caught the country’s imagination as we marked our bicentennial, and the Statue of Liberty Parade of Sail in 1986.

NMHS PS_SHcoverPeter Stanford’s profound contributions to the maritime heritage community spanning more than fifty years have been recognized with awards from Mystic Seaport, American Merchant Mariners Museum, India House, Working Waterfront Alliance, the USS Constitution Museum, the National Park Service Foundation, the Municipal Art Society, the Parks Council and the Port Promotion Association; and he was awarded an honorary doctor of letters from the State University of New York Maritime College at Fort Schuyler. He was the author of hundreds of magazine articles and a number of museum books; Peter and Norma Stanford published their last book, A Dream of Tall Ships—How New Yorkers came together to save the city’s sailing-ship waterfront, with Sea History Press in 2013.

He is survived by his wife, Norma, five children and their children. The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be sent to the National Maritime Historical Society and South Street Seaport.

In lieu of flowers, Stanford family requests donations be made to the National Maritime Historical Society and the South Street Seaport Museum.

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South Street Receives $4.84 Million for Community Education Space

The Lower Manhattan Development Corporation (LMDC) and the South Street Seaport Museum (SSSM) have announced $4.8 million in federal funds for the renovation of SSSM’s Water Street properties as an education and community space. The proposed allocation is made possible by a grant from LMDC, which is funded through Community Development Block Grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development. These funds are being obtained through a $50 million legal settlement reached with Lend Lease Construction LMB Inc. (formerly Bovis Lend Lease LMB Inc.). LMDC formed a working group of state and city officials that conducted extensive reviews of the proposals, including site visits and interviews, and oversaw a public information session, during which dozens of community members presented and discussed various proposals.

Photo courtesy South Street Seaport Museum

Photo courtesy South Street Seaport Museum

“The South Street Seaport is where New York City began,” said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. “These funds will be significant in ensuring the museum’s long-term vitality and ability to provide appropriate space for its extraordinary programming that documents that history.”

“We are thrilled that LMDC has once again moved to support the Seaport Museum,” said Captain Jonathan Boulware, the museum’s executive director. “This grant will support the renovation and activation of the Seaport Museum’s historic buildings in support of its education and community programs. Together with significant restorations of our ships, these new spaces will form the basis for outstanding programming.”

Notable recent achievements in the last year include revitalized education programming (with tripled attendance over last year), increased membership and public programs (more than doubled), installation of a new exhibit at 12 Fulton Street, and the reactivation of the 1893 schooner Lettie G. Howard as a sailing school vessel. In addition, the museum is nearing completion of a $13 million city-funded restoration of the 1885 ship Wavertree, which will return to the museum’s piers this summer.

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NOAA Announces Discovery of USS Conestoga

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the US Navy have announced the discovery of the wreck of USS Conestoga (AT-54), lost in 1921 en route to Pearl Harbor.

USS Conestoga at San Diego, California, January 1921. (Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 71299)

USS Conestoga at San Diego, California, January 1921. (Naval Historical Center Photograph NH 71299)

Launched in 1903 from Baltimore’s Sparrows Point shipyard, Conestoga towed coal barges for the Philadelphia & Reading Railroad Co., until America’s entry into WWI; in 1917 the US Navy purchased the tug, commissioned as a minesweeper. After the war, she was eventually assigned to service in the Pacific. Conestoga departed San Francisco Bay bound for Pearl Harbor, to eventually go on to American Samoa. The tug never arrived at her destination, and the subsequent search provided no clues to her fate.

The wreck was discovered when NOAA researchers were mapping the Greater Farallones National Marine Sanctuary, off the California coast.

Read more about this story at the NOAA website.

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Charles Point Council Seminar: Lafayette!

Screening of the Play Lafayette, with Guest Speaker Marc Jensen

Saturday, 19 March 2016
Hendrick Hudson Library – 25 Kings Ferry Road, Montrose, NY 10548
Continental breakfast is at 10:30 AM. Presentation is at 11:00 AM.

Please join us for the screening of a play woven from the letters between Gilbert du Motier Marquis de Lafayette, “teen hero” of the American Revolution, and his young wife, Adrienne de Noailles from 1777 to 1780. Written by noted British dramatist Ian Curteis, Lafayette is the story of an eccentric young man who L1100177operated against family and class to become the first ally of the upstart American nation; turning the tide of the War of Independence by securing full French support from his reluctant king, Louis XVI. But it is also the story of a young couple, just out of their teens, struggling across an ocean with separation, love, abandonment, and child loss, reuniting in political brinksmanship to save the American Revolution. The play ends with the Marquis de Lafayette boarding his famous “freedom frigate,” Hermione, to America.

The film, a recording of the play’s 2015 world premiere performance at New York’s Florence Gould Hall, will be followed by commentary from Marc Jensen about the extensive project of building, outfitting, training crew and sailing  the replica frigate Hermione on a voyage commemorating the one that the Marquis de Lafayette undertook in 1780. Mr. Jensen is an experienced sailor who went to sea aboard Hermione and will recount the challenges of reconstructing an authentic reproduction with 15.5 miles of rigging, 44 tons of ironwork, and 23,680 sq. feet of linen sail cloth.

Marc Jensen

Marc Jensen

Marc Jensen has a love for teaching about the marine world. He created four webinars conducted during the voyage last summer; hundreds of schoolchildren in France and the US participated to learn about life aboard the ship, navigation, our environment and climate, and sail and power propulsion. He hopes to continue to build on these topics with new ships as they cross the world’s oceans. Marc is presently supporting the crossing of a 115-foot Viking ship that will visit New York in the fall of this year.

The public is invited. Please contact the National Maritime Historical Society at 914 737-7878, ext. 0, or email if you plan to attend. A $5 to $10 donation is appreciated. If you would also like to join NMHS and the speaker for lunch following the presentation, it is $25 prepaid, with cash bar. Reservations required.

For more information on the complete lineup of seminars as it is finalized, please check back with the Charles Point Council page for ongoing updates.

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San Salvador Launch Postponed

_JGS4420-4Update: Citing technical and logistical difficulties, the Maritime Museum of San Diego has cancelled the April 19th launch. A new launch date has not been announced.
The Maritime Museum of San Diego has announced an April 19 launch date for San Salvador. The ship is a historically accurate replica of the ship which explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo sailed into what is now San Diego Bay on 28 September 1542, the first recorded European vessel to sail along Southern California, and survey its coastlines. The keel for the replica ship was laid in 2011; the museum has invited the public to observe its construction from the beginning, either in person at the site or via the museum’s website.


DSC_2893 smallSan Salvador will join the museum’s fleet of ships, including the sailing ships Star of India, Surprise, and Californian, as well as serving as a floating educational platform. For more information email the museum at Photos courtesy Jerry Soto

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Worldwide Ferry Safety Association Conference

2015 Ferry Safety and Technology Conference
16–17 April
Alexander Hamilton US Custom House, New York, New York

The Worldwide Ferry Safety Association is presenting its first conference for the promotion of global ferry safety. The theme: Ferry Safety and Technology: Design and Operations. Ferry owners and operators; naval architects and marine engineers; and new technology developers and providers will come together to improve efficiency and safety here and around the world.

Ferry conference bannerThe Worldwide Ferry Safety Association is a not-for-profit dedicated to bringing innovation in training methods, as well as use of technology to provide notification for sudden hazardous weather, curb overloading, and enhance marine rescue technology.

More information can be found on their website, or emailing

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USS Constellation is Back in the Inner Harbor

16086588257_a7fec18572_zUSS Constellation spent the winter in Baltimore’s Coast Guard Yard, so that a dedicated crew could replace rotted planking. The Living Classrooms Foundation, Constellation‘s steward, is also the parent organization for Project SERVE (Service- Empowerment- Revitalization- Volunteerism- Employment Training), a  job-training program for ex-offenders and disadvantaged youth; LCF saw the undertaking as an excellent opportunity to benefit both programs. Project SERVE participants got the opportunity to work on a one-of-a-kind vessel, and Constellation‘s shipwrights had the help of an enthusiastic crew.

16173409864_7e6676ec4c_zThe repairs concluded in February, but the return trip was postponed due to winter ice. By this week, however, the waterway had cleared. With the aid of McAllister Towing and Transportation, Constellation has made her way back to Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, ready to greet visitors with renewed strength. (Photos courtesy Living Classrooms Foundation)



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