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Young Men and the Sea

Young Men and the Sea: Yankee Seafarers in the Age of Sail

Copyright Date: 2005
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 352
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  • Book Info
    Young Men and the Sea
    Book Description:

    Two centuries of American maritime history, in which the Atlantic Ocean remained the great frontier Westward expansion has been the great narrative of the first two centuries of American history, but as historian Daniel Vickers demonstrates here, the horizon extended in all directions. For those who lived along the Atlantic coast, it was the East-and the Atlantic Ocean-that beckoned. While historical and fictional accounts have tended to stress the exceptional circumstances or psychological compulsions that drove men to sea, this book shows how normal a part of life seafaring was for those living near a coast before the mid-nineteenth century.Drawing on records of several thousand seamen and their voyages from Salem, Massachusetts,Young Men and the Seaoffers a social history of seafaring in the colonial and early national period. In what sort of families were sailors raised? When did they go to sea? What were their chances of death? Whom did they marry, and how did their wives operate households in their absence? Answering these and many other questions, this book is destined to become a classic of American social and maritime history.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15026-1
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-VI)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. VII-VIII)
    (pp. IX-X)
    (pp. XI-XIV)
    Daniel Vickers
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    The ocean is a hostile environment, and the decision to live and work upon it strikes most of us as something that ought to be explained.Moby-Dickbegins with an apology; Ishmael goes whaling, Melville tells us, penniless and bored, as a way “of driving off the spleen.” John Masefield in “Sea Fever” justifies his compulsion to go “down to the seas again” by declaring that “the call of the running tide / Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied.” In a poem by Rudyard Kipling, laboring men facing the prospect of a winter’s...

  6. CHAPTER ONE Landsmen on the Water: NEW ENGLAND, 1620–1645
    (pp. 7-24)

    All of the north american colonies were originally maritime colonies. By the nature of things, Europeans had to arrive by water, and invariably they sought out places to settle by nosing around the harbors and estuaries of the new land. They constructed their first rude homes along the coast or by the shores of navigable rivers, not only because these were the first lands they found, but also because they wished to communicate easily with home and with one another. Few of them were trained mariners, but during the hungry years that followed settlement they learned to row and sail...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Salem’s First Mariners, 1645–1690
    (pp. 25-60)

    On june 24, 1629, after a “long and tedious journey through the greatest sea in the world,” Francis Higginson and his companions on board theTalbotsailed up the North Shore from Cape Ann and “passed the curious and difficult entrance into the large, spacious harbor of Naimkecke,” an Algonkian term meaning comfortable haven. Although none of them could do more than guess at what lay behind the “thick wood and high trees” that lined the shore, the sight of sheltered water must have been a welcome one. Another vessel, theGeorge,was already moored in the bay; Governor Endicott’s...

  8. CHAPTER THREE The Eighteenth Century: SAILORS AT SEA
    (pp. 61-95)

    The image of life at sea that has come down to us through literature and popular history is informed overwhelmingly by the experience of the long-distance trades. Lengthy voyages took sailors into distant and exotic climes and made excellent stories. From Richard Hakluyt to Richard Henry Dana and beyond, sailor-journalists and their editors have recognized this and put onto paper and into print the tales of travel and adventure that seafaring to remote parts of the world generated and that the reading public still loves to consume. A great many of these have survived, and today they occupy shelves and...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR The Eighteenth Century: SAILORS’ CAREERS
    (pp. 96-130)

    The only colonial american sailor who left behind an account of his life in whole was Ashley Bowen, who grew up not in Salem but across the harbor in the “cragy and crasey” fishing port of Marblehead. Here was a different sort of town—tougher, less orderly, and more plainly stratified by wealth. The same travelers who complimented Salem on its “neat” and “pritty” appearance found in Marblehead only a “dirty, erregular, stincking place” with a few grand houses but many more cabins and crowded tenements jumbled in among the rocks.¹ Still, the two towns were less than half an...

    (pp. 131-162)

    Most sailors who shipped out of Salem in the colonial period spent a great deal of their time—not only at the beginning and end of their lives but even in the prime of their laboring years—not at sea but ashore. They may have earned their livings on the deep, but a host of other factors—family duties, the lure of landward employment, the pleasures of the harbor, physical infirmity and the inefficiencies of the maritime labor market—conspired to ground them in port throughout much of the year. Some of the time, these shoreside stints unfolded abroad—in...

  11. CHAPTER SIX The Nineteenth Century
    (pp. 163-213)

    On the first of June, 1774, Captain Francis Boardman of Salem was cruising through the West Indies when he spoke with a brig from New London and learned that a small fleet of transports carrying British regulars and accompanied by several men-of-war were bound for Boston to shut down the port in reaction to the Tea Party of the previous winter. “Trouble a nough gods Noes,” he wrote. Back home, another mariner, Ashley Bowen, now retired and plying his trade as a ship rigger in Marblehead, witnessed the impact of the Coercive Acts firsthand. As the port of Boston was...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Mastery and the Maritime Law
    (pp. 214-247)

    Nothing argues more strongly for the distinctiveness of the seafaring life than the persistence of the maritime law. From ancient times through the end of the age of sail, jurists recognized that the civil and criminal codes operating on land simply did not work in the fluid context of seaborne activity. Accordingly, in seafaring cases they dispensed a particular brand of customary, international justice called maritime or admiralty law. At the hub of the maritime law stood the captain. Agent of the owner and master of the crew, he possessed a range of powers and responsibilities unusual and extensive enough...

  13. Conclusion
    (pp. 248-252)

    On a present-day map of the United States, Salem sits at the far northeastern corner—truly on the geographic periphery of the nation. This is no coincidence. Modern American atlases are designed to portray the land, and on any regional map—say, of New England or the Pacific Northwest—seaports are always sited on the edge, surrounded only by their hinterlands. How these coastlines related to other shores within the United States or overseas such maps do not reveal. Yet they suit the present day, for Americans possess a national identity that for the better part of two centuries has...

  14. APPENDIX A: Primary Sources
    (pp. 253-258)
  15. APPENDIX B: Graphs
    (pp. 259-271)
  16. APPENDIX C: Ship’s Logs
    (pp. 272-274)
  17. NOTES
    (pp. 275-318)
  18. INDEX
    (pp. 319-336)