Officers of Peculiar Skill: Petty and Forward Officers of the U.S. Navy, 1797–1860
Michael J. Crawford, 2017, ISBN 978-1-943604-23-4
Available for free: 508-compliant PDF (6.8 MB)
Ships, arms, facilities, regulations, and administrative structures, however necessary, do not make an effective navy. A navy needs able officers and skilled seamen. What is more, to function effectively, a naval vessel in the age of sail required not merely boatswains, gunners, carpenters, sail makers, coopers, armorers, and like artisans who were familiar with the operations of a merchant vessel, but such specialists who also understood a warship’s operations. Although America’s maritime settlements boasted skilled seafaring men, the infant navies of the American Revolution lacked personnel—not just commanding officers, but also warrant and petty officers—with the experience and habits, found in long-established navies, required to keep a warship in fighting trim. Studies of the American naval tradition have generally neglected these lesser officers. Operational and biographical studies focus on commanding officers, while studies of life before the mast tend to look at the common sailor. The monograph analyzes the careers of the U.S. Navy’s petty and forward officers in the sea service from its founding to the eve of the Civil War.