Early Naval Heroes & the U.S. Naval Academy

Lesser known stories of courage and faith in the navy.

Jordi Farragut Mesquida was born in Menorca, Spain. He went to sea at age 10, and eventually became a Spanish merchant captain.

Crossing to the Caribbean, he commanded a vessel trading goods between Havana, Veracruz, Mexico and New Orleans.

Jordi Farragut Mesquida moved to America in 1766.

He became a patriot and joined in the Revolutionary War against Britain, serving as a lieutenant in the South Carolina Navy and then the Continental Navy.

Jordi, which anglicized is "George," fought the British at Savannah, 1779, the Siege of Charleston, 1780, and the Battle of Cowpens, 1781.

His son would grow up to be the first U.S. Navy Admiral, David Glasgow Farragut.

During the Revolution, the British set up a blockade of the eastern ports of the 13 colonies.

Dutch and French merchants ran risky attempts to smuggle past it.

In the Gulf of Mexico, Bernardo de Gálvez, the Spanish Governor of Louisiana, 1777-1783, used his Spanish ships to smuggle much needed supplies past the British to help the Americans.

In 1777, he sent weapons, cartridge boxes, uniform fabric, and medicine, all valued at over $70,000, up the Mississippi River to the Ohio River to Pittsburgh, and then on to Philadelphia.

In 1779, Spain officially declared war on Britain, as did France and Holland, thus dividing British forces, which greatly helped the American Revolution.

Gálvez and his Spanish sailors and soldiers defeated the British at:

  • Fort Bute, September 7, 1779,

  • Baton Rouge, September 21, 1779, and

  • Natchez, October 5, 1779.

Gálvez captured Mobile from the British in the Battle of Fort Charlotte in 1780, and Pensacola in 1781, leaving the British with no bases on the coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

In 1782, Gálvez's Spanish ships captured Nassau, Bahamas, from the British.

Galvez, Louisiana, and Galveston, Texas, are named after Bernardo de Gálvez.

A statue of Bernardo de Gálvez is in Washington, D.C., near the Department of State, at Virginia Avenue and 22nd Street, N.W.

He was awarded honorary United States citizenship, along with other Revolutionary heroes:

  • Casimir Pulaski, of Poland-Lithuania, "Father of the American Calvary"; and

  • Marquis de Lafayette, of France; Major General in America's Continental Army.

George Washington wrote to Marquis de Lafayette, November 15, 1781:

"It follows then as certain as that night succeeds the day, that without a decisive naval force we can do nothing definitive, and with it, everything honorable and glorious."

Washington wrote to Lafayette, 15 August 1786:

"Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind, or crush them into non-existence."

The birthplace of the American navy was in Marblehead, Massachusetts, where hardy fishermen and sailors formed the Massachusetts Naval Militia.

In 1775, the Continental Navy was formed with 13 frigates, led by notable officers such as John Barry and John Paul Jones.

On March 3, 1776, the U.S. Marine Corps, infantry units aboard naval vessels, carried out America's first amphibious assault by sailing to the Bahamas and capturing Fort Montague, a British ammunition depot, and Fort Nassau, a naval port.

In 1785, the Continental Navy was dissolved, but in 1795, Alexander Hamilton helped create the U.S. Revenue-Marines - the origin of the U.S. Coast Guard.

In response to Muslim Barbary Pirates attacking American maritime merchant ships, Congress passed the Naval Act of 1794, and launched the the first U.S. Navy warships in 1797:

  • USS United States,

  • USS Constellation, and

  • USS Constitution.

President John Adams, who shares the title "Father of the American Navy" with John Barry and John Paul Jones, signed the act establishing the Department of the Navy on April 30, 1798. Adams wrote:

"Naval power ... is the natural defense of the United States,:

In 1798-1799, the U.S. Navy and Marines were involved in a quasi war with France.

In 1801-1805, the Navy and Marines fought the First Barbary War.

In 1812-1815, the Navy and Marines fought the War of 1812.

In 1815, the Navy and Marines fought the Second Barbary War.

The U.S. Navy protected American ships from piracy in the Caribbean, the Mediterranean, off the coasts of South America and Africa, and in the Pacific.

Beginning in 1819, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. Revenue-Marine Cutters suppressed the slave trade by seizing dozens of slave ships.

In 1846-1848, the U.S. Navy blockaded ports during the Mexican-American War, captured California under the command of Commodore Robert Stockton, and landed 12,000 Marine and Army troops in Veracruz.

In 1853, the U.S. Navy and Marines sailed across the Pacific with Commodore Matthew Perry, whose gunboat diplomacy opened trade with Japan.

On June 10, 1854, the United States Naval Academy graduated its first class at Annapolis, Maryland.

The Naval Academy was established by Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft under President James K. Polk, 1845-46.

Bancroft also established the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.

He is the namesake of the Naval Academy's "Bancroft Hall," the largest single dormitory in the world.

George Bancroft published a ten-volume History of the United States, the first comprehensive history of America.

In it, Bancroft described what made America great was that people get to rule themselves, an idea held by the Puritans who founded Annapolis, Maryland:

"Puritanism had exalted the laity ...

For him the wonderful counsels of the Almighty had appointed a Savior;

for him the laws of nature had been compelled and consulted, the heavens had opened, the earth had quaked, the Sun had veiled his face, and Christ had died and risen again."

Puritans comprised about 600,000 of the 3 million Americans at the time of the Revolution.

Puritans were influenced by Reformer John Calvin, as were most other colonists, such as the:

  • 900,000 Scotch and Scotch-Irish Presbyterians;

  • 400,000 German or Dutch Reformed; Protestant French Huguenots and Episcopalians, who had a Calvinistic confession in their 39 Articles.

George Bancroft wrote:

"He who will not honor the memory and respect the influence of Calvin knows little of the origin of American liberty."

George Bancroft wrote in 'The Progress of Mankind', published in Literary and Historical Miscellanies:

"For the regeneration of the world it was requisite that the Divine Being should enter the ... hearts of men and dwell there ...

That He should be known, not as a distant Providence of boundless power and uncertain and inactive will, but as God present in the flesh ...

The consciousness of an incarnate God carried peace into the bosom of humanity. This doctrine once communicated to man, was not to be eradicated ...

The idea of GOD WITH US ... dwells ... in every soul that sighs for redemption."

On June 16, 1845, Secretary of the Navy George Bancroft received Order 27 from President James K. Polk:

"The President ... with heartfelt sorrow announces to the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps the death of Andrew Jackson ... He resigned his spirit to his Heavenly Father ...

He believed the liberties of his country imperishable and ... departed from this life in a full hope of a blessed immortality through the merits and atonement of the Redeemer.

Officers of the Army, the Navy, and the Marine Corps will wear crape on the left arm and on their swords, and the colors of the several regiments will be put in mourning for the period of six months."

The U.S. Naval Academy has a St. Andrew's Chapel with a stained glass window picturing Irish Saint Brendan of Clonfert (c.484-c.577), called "the Navigator" or "the Voyager" for his seven year voyage across the Atlantic.

St. Brendan told of discovering the "The Land of the Promised Saints which God will give us on the last day," also called "The Isle of the Blessed," making his band of monks possibly the first Europeans to reach America.

The U.S. Naval Academy has the oldest military monument in the United States - the Tripoli Monument, dedicated to the heroes who fought the Muslim Barbary pirates during the First Barbary War.

One of those heroes was Edward Preble. "Preble Hall" was named for him, which houses the U.S. Naval Academy Museum.

John Paul Jones is buried under the crypt in the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel.

Jones had fought during the Revolutionary War and afterwards fought Muslim Turks on the Black Sea for Catherine the Great of Russia.

Jefferson wrote to General Washington, 1788:

"The war between the Russians and the Turks has made an opening for our Commodore Paul Jones. The Empress has invited him into her service."

Uriah P. Levy was the first Jewish Commodore in the U.S. Navy.

Levy fought in the War of 1812 and commanded the Mediterranean squadron against Muslim Barbary pirates.

He was responsible for ending the practice of flogging in the Navy.

Levy bought Jefferson's decaying Monticello home in 1836, repaired it and opened it to the public.

He commissioned the Jefferson statue which is in the U.S. Capitol rotunda.

A chapel at Annapolis was named after Uriah P. Levy, as well as a WWII destroyer.

The U.S. Naval Academy's "Maury Hall" is named for Matthew Fontaine Maury, the first superintendent of the U.S. Naval Observatory.

Known as the "Pathfinder of the Seas" for pioneering the charting sea and wind currents, Matthew Fontaine Maury wrote in Physical Geography of the Sea, 1855:

"I have always found in my scientific studies, that, when I could get the Bible to say anything on the subject it afforded me a firm platform to stand upon, and a round in the ladder by which I could safely ascend.

As our knowledge of nature and her laws has increased, so has our knowledge of many passages of the Bible improved.

The Bible called the earth 'the round world,' yet for ages it was the most damnable heresy for Christian men to say that the world is round; and, finally, sailors circumnavigated the globe, and proved the Bible to be right, and saved Christian men of science from the stake.

And as for the general system of circulation which I have been so long endeavoring to describe, the Bible tells it all in a single sentence: 'The wind goeth toward the South and returneth again to his circuits.'"

Maury's tombstone at the U.S. Naval Academy has engraved the Bible verse, Psalm 8:8, which had inspired him, "Whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas."

In front of Maury Hall is a Japanese Bell, commemorating Commodore Matthew Perry opening trade with Japan in 1855.

Matthew Perry stated:

"I have just finished the Bible; I make it a point to read it through every cruise. It is certainly a wonderful Book-a most wonderful Book ...

From boyhood I have taken a deep interest in Christianizing the heathen, and in imparting a knowledge of God's revealed truth everywhere."

Commodore Perry, on a Sunday in 1853, while sailing to Japan, set his Bible on the capstan and read Psalm 100, then sang:

"Before Jehovah's awful throne

Ye nations bow with sacred joy."

Civil War hero, Admiral David Dixon Porter, became superintendent of U.S. Naval Academy. He wrote:

"When one sees how much has been done for the world by the disciples of Christ and those professing the Christian religion,

he must be astonished to find anyone who hesitates to believe in the Divine origin of Jesus and the wonderful works He performed, all of which are so beautifully portrayed by the author of the work under consideration;

and no man or woman of real intelligence would hesitate to believe that it is only through Christ that sinners can be saved, unless their vanity is so great that they are capable of saving themselves without an intermediary."

The U.S. Naval Academy's "Luce Hall" was named after Rear Admiral Stephen Bleecker Luce, who was a hero of the Civil War and founder of the U.S. Naval War College at Newport, Rhode Island.

When asked to write a comment in Stephen A. Northrop's book A Cloud of Witnesses in 1884, Stephen Bleecker Luce wrote:

"Surely seamen are worthy to appear in your Cloud of Witnesses.

Not only did our Savior consort with the seamen of Galilee, but there are many examples in history of noted naval heroes who exhibited the highest Christian virtues.

I wish to be counted among this great company of believers in the divinity of Christ, and in the inspiration of all Scripture."

The U.S. Naval Academy's "Mahan Hall" is named after Rear Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, whose books on naval strategy influenced President Theodore Roosevelt to increase U.S. Naval strength.

Alfred Thayer Mahan stated:

"Upon the Bible my life rests for whatsoever is good and strong.

Convinced that Christ is the Son of God, in the deepest sense attributed to those words, I not only find in this belief all the power of my life, but, in the account of His personality, an intellectual satisfaction that surpasses any other in its inexhaustible freshness, daily renewing my strength, and throwing an ever-increasing light upon the problems and difficulties of life.

It is this intellectual satisfaction that most impresses me; that the teachings of Jesus Christ contains a philosophy of life in fullest accord with experience, and also inexhaustible, in that its revelation is continuous.

While the faith in His teachings thus meet all my mental exigencies, I in no way derogate from its supernatural sanctions. He is to me one who speaks with authority no less than Divine, to whom I submit where I do not understand."

Addressing the U.S. Naval Academy's graduating class at Annapolis, June 5, 1914, President Woodrow Wilson stated:

"The idea of America is to serve humanity ... I know something of the history of the struggle of mankind for liberty.

When I look at that flag it seems to me as if the white stripes were strips of parchment upon which are written the rights of man, and the red stripes the streams of blood by which those rights have been made good ...

It is, as it were, a sort of floating charter that has come down to us from Runnymede, when men said, 'We will not have masters... we will seek our own liberty ...'"

Wilson continued:

"You are champions of your fellow men, particularly of that great body one hundred million strong whom you represent in the United States ...

Things that show the moral compulsions of the human conscience, those are the things by which we have been building up civilization."

President Wilson gave an Executive Order to the Army and Navy, January 20, 1918:

"The importance ... the prescribed weekly rest, the sacred rights of Christian soldiers and sailors, a becoming deference to the best sentiment of a Christian people, and a due regard for the Divine Will demand that Sunday labor in the Army and Navy be reduced to the measure of strict necessity."

President Calvin Coolidge addressed the graduating class of the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, June 3, 1925:

"Not long ago I heard a Navy chaplain refer to the sage advice of the Apostle to put first things first ...

If we are to heed the admonition to put first things first ... one of the main essentials which lies at the very beginning of civilization is that of security.

It is only when people can feel that their lives and the property which their industry has produced today will continue to be safe on the morrow that there can be that stability of value and that economic progress on which human development has always rested ...

Unless we lay our course in accordance with this principle, the great power for good in the world with which we have been intrusted by a Divine Providence will be turned to a power for evil."

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