Self Defence on the Deep Blue Sea

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The mail steamer Pembroke. From The Mariners' Museum collection.

Hello again readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. In maritime news today, the USNS Rappahannock opened fire on a small motorized vessel after the vessel repeated ignored warnings to stop approaching her. Since the attack on the USS Cole, ships have been exceedingly wary of small boats approaching them for fear of suffering the same fate. The matter is currently under investigation, and further information can be had here.

This incident comes almost exactly 149 years after a similar violent episode in the world of maritime commerce. In 1863, the unarmed American mail steamer Pembroke was not only approached but fired upon by an armed Japanese gunboat in the Shimonoseki straits. The Japanese gunboat was under the command of the rebellious Choshu clan that controlled the land on the northern bank of the strait, and the internal political tensions of the time lead the Choshu to disregard the laws of neutrality and directly attack foreign ships trying to use the straits, including the Pembroke.  On July 16th 1863, the USS Wyoming arrived at the straits and quickly destroyed the Choshu forts and ships there, making the way temporarily safe for commercial traffic.   Read more

Happy 4th!

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"My dear Taylor, present my friendly greeting to your sons, and give them the enclosed $10, to purchase materials for a glorious noise. Your friend, John Ericsson." Recieved July 4th, 1887. From The Mariners' Museum Collection.

Hello everyone, and welcome back to the library blog. The 4th of July is a special day for all Americans: young and old, immigrant or native born, we can all share in the love of liberty that our Independence Day celebrates. John Ericsson, a Swedish immigrant and inventor of the USS Monitor, was no different. Although he was seen as by the public as veing arrogant, cold, hard edged and antisocial, Ericsson had a softer side as well. In a letter to his friend and personal secretary Samuel Taylor, Ericsson includes a gift to help Taylor’s family enjoy the festivities.

Ericsson’s letter means more than just entertainment for Taylor’s children. His kind gift and thoughtful gesture shows just that Ericsson was not the cold, haughty engineer that everyone thought him to be. He was also a man who could open his heart to others, and who felt how special our Independence Day can be. Perhaps we can take inspiration from his letter as we gather with friends and family this 4th of July to celebrate what it means to be an American. After all, what could be more American than helping kids launch fireworks?   Read more