America's Naval Heritage
A Catalog of Early Imprints from the Navy Department Library
Founding, Organization, and Rebirth
First United States Navy Signals Book
Author's Copy with Important Manuscript Notes
Truxtun, Thomas (1755-1822).
"[W]ritten primarily for
the conduct of a squadron of eight frigates and two sloops."
-Robison. This, the first United States Navy signals book, is
a work of great rarity. The copy in the Navy Department Library
belonged to the author, Commodore Thomas Truxtun. During the
Revolutionary War, Truxtun in the privateer St. James,
20 guns, had "brought back the most valuable cargo entered
at Philadelphia during the Revolution, and Washington at a dinner
in Truxtun's honor, declared his services worth a regiment."
-DAB. The Dictionary of American Biography further notes that
in "June 1794 he was made a captain in the new American
navy" and that during the Quasi-War with France (1798-1801),
"in popular regard he became unquestionably the hero of
the war. . . . His fighting spirit and rigid discipline . . .
set excellent standards for the young navy." The Navy Department
Library copy is truly remarkable. On page 38, there appears,
as the last printed line, the statement: "Given from under
my hand on board the United States ship." Truxtun has completed
that printed line with the manuscript entry "Constellation
this 3d day of April 1797." He has then added his signature.
It is possible that this copy of the first United States Navy
signals book is one Truxtun had on board USS Constellation
during preparation for launch and later gave to his wife before
he departed for the West Indies, where he fought and won the
major naval engagements of the Quasi-War with France (French
frigates L'Insurgente on February 9, 1799, and La Vengeance
on February 2, 1800). The foregoing statement is based on manuscript
entries made by Truxtun on the verso of the title page, where
he has also penned, and signed with his initials, a patriotic
Niles, John M[ilton]
Pages 362-76 are caption-titled: "A View of the Present Naval Force of the United States; Its Increase, and Future Prospects."
Stipple engraved portrait of Oliver Hazard Perry