This Week in Maritime History, August 21-27
August 22, 1776
British Redcoats Arrive at Long Island
On this day in maritime history in the year 1776, nearly 24,000 British men arrived at Long Island with the intent to capture New York and gain control of the Hudson River in the midst of American rebellion. If completed, the Redcoats would divide the American colonies by 50%. Days later after arriving on the Long Island coast, the Redcoats marched against the Patriots in Brooklyn Heights, as well as at Gowanus Pass, killing 1,000+ Americans. General George Washington of the Continental Army ordered a retreat by boat to Manhattan.
The interesting aspect of these days in the American Revolution is that the British had plenty of opportunity to take the Patriot military leadership prisoner and end the rebellion, but didn’t in hopes to be able to convince the Patriots to rejoin the British Empire.
The Redcoats did eventually capture New York City later on September 15th, where it remained in British control until the end of the American Revolution.
August 23, 1966
U.S. Cargo Ship Strikes a Mine Near Saigon
The Victory ship was a type of cargo vessel produced during WWII in large quantities to replace the loss of vessels from German submarines. One of these Victory ships was the Baton Rouge Victory, which lived to serve in the Vietnam War.
PHOTO CAPTION: Construction of the U.S. Victory Ships
On August 23rd, 1966, on the hull of the 8,500-ton Baton Rouge a limpet mine laid down by the Viet Cong exploded on the Long Tao River.
The mine went off 22 miles south of Saigon, ripping through the ship’s belly sending the Baton Rouge half-submerged into the river and blocking the route from South Vietnam’s capital to the sea.
Seven men were killed in the explosion, and it was the first American vessel sunk in the Saigon ship channel.
August 24, 1875
Captain Webb Becomes First Man to Swim English Channel Unassisted
On August 24th, 1875, Great Britain’s Captain Matthew Webb successfully swam the English Channel without any assistance, the first man to do so in history. At the time, there was a failed attempt by a British swimming J.B. Johnson, and when Webb caught wind of his attempt, he set his sights on becoming the first man to do it. His first attempt was on August 12th, 1875 and was stunted by bad weather conditions. Two weeks later, Webb attempted the treacherous channel once more, and this time, weather was on his side.
Captain Webb covered his body in porpoise oil to keep warm, and began the trek through the waterway at Dover’s Admiralty Pier.
Webb was stung by jellyfish 8 hours into the swim, but was unfailing in his efforts. He completed the channel as he swam out toward Cape Gris-Nwz after 21 hours and 45 minutes of swimming against the channel’s tide, roughly 39 miles.
Webb’s feat was celebrated all over the world and garnered him an international celebrity.