5 Things You Should Know About California’s 19th Century Maritime History

California is my home state. (Ironic, that I study the history of Virginia for Civil War studies, eh?) California played a significant role in 19th Century American Maritime History. Part of California’s role had to do with its location.

West Coast of the United States, bordered by the Pacific Ocean.

When California was a Mexican province, its people started welcoming the American merchant ships. When California became a state in 1850, the gold rush brought thousands to the west coast. California’s location also made it a gateway state for immigrants and a last port before a ship set off across the Pacific Ocean.

Today we’ve rounded up five important aspects of California’s maritime history of the 19th Century. We’re keeping it simple for the sake of time, but feel free to add comments if you have more information to contribute. Continue reading

Commodore Perry & Japan

We’ve been talking about American trade, and last week we discussed the international aspects. One important and defining moment in American and World History is directly linked to the U.S. Navy and maritime trade interests.

It wasn’t a war or even a battle. Instead, an American fleet broke through the isolationist “walls” surrounding Japan, opening opportunity for the Asian country and establishing firm diplomatic relationships between the countries. Taking place in 1853 and 1854, it signaled a positive beginning of maritime trade with Japan – an arrangement which could benefit both countries.

Understanding this event is a key foundation to examining the history of American roles, influences, and diplomacy with Asia. Today, we present some overview history of the American commodore, the Japanese shogun, the first American ships to enter Japanese harbors, and the first treaty between the countries.  Continue reading

American International Trade

19th-century-american-maritimeTrade – a rather nebulous word has been used frequently in the last few weeks’ blog posts. The U.S. Navy was established to protect trade. The Barbary Pirates were disrupting trade. So…what’s so important about “trade”? Where did trade happen? What did they trade for?

Today’s article addresses some pretty amazing facts about early 19th Century maritime trade and its role in the United States’ international, interstate, investments, and infrastructure goals and opportunities. We can’t really do the topic justice in a short article, but we’ll give an overview. Continue reading

The Top 10 Things You Should Know About The Barbary Wars

19th-century-american-maritimeSo, America built six frigates, but those weren’t the only warships in the fledging navy. The Barbary Wars tend to be forgotten conflicts in overview studies of U.S. History, but they are incredibly important for understanding diplomacy and America’s earliest national interactions with Islamic countries.

They are particularly interesting to our study of 19th Century maritime for two reasons. 1) They take place at the very beginning of the 19th Century 2) They are fought to protect American maritime commerce in the Mediterranean.

Here are the top 10 things you should know about the First & Second Barbary Wars:

(And just to be clear, here are the conflict dates. First – 1801 to 1805. Second – 1815 to 1816.) Continue reading

Why Create A Navy?

19th-century-american-maritimeIt was a debate that continually divided the two political parties in the early days of United States history. Was it proper to have a standing army and navy? Or was it better to call out the militia and arm a few privateers in the event of war or rebellion? The arguments and decisions regarding American military were passionate from both sides. Understanding the political conflict and its resolution is key to knowledge about the early American navy and its role as “protector” of maritime interests¬†in the 19th Century.

The American War For Independence concluded with the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Four years later the U.S. Constitution was written. In 1789, George Washington became the first president. An ocean away from the new country, Britain frowned at the colonial loss and tried to restrict American trade. The French Revolution did not ease the tensions over trade and the American interest in the European “republicanism” drama.

George Washington tried to navigate uncharted waters regarding diplomacy, government, and international relations. While he held a view of neutrality, future presidents argued in his cabinet and in congress – seeking ways to strength the new nation and enforce respect. With maritime trade still a key part of the country’s wealth, protecting American interests on the high seas seemed imperative to some, impossible to others. Continue reading