HISTORICAL SETTING - A TIME OF WARS
This period was a time of war for much of Europe and the Americas, many of them at the same time.
- American Revolution 1776-1783 between the American colonists and Great Britain
- French Revolution 1789-1799 a French civil war
- Haitian Revolution 1791-1804 a Haitian slave uprising against French colonists and France
- French Revolutionary Wars 1792-1802, between France and the rest of Europe and Great Britain
- Quasi-War 1798-1800 between France and the newly formed United States
In Europe, there was a year of peace in 1802, when the Treaty of Amiens was in effect, then war broke out out again between France and Britain in the:
- Napoleonic Wars 1803-1815, during which the United States was neutral and trying to profit from the conflict. In the fight against Napoleonic France, Britain expanded the Royal Navy to an unparalleled naval power, always hungry for men. The constant need for more men lead to the press gangs on shore and impressment at sea. So many Americans were impressed and forced to work on Royal Navy ships that this was one of the main causes of the
- War of 1812, between the United States and Great Britain, which lasted from 1812 to early 1815 and which was overshadowed in Europe by the immense war against Napoleon.
- The South American Wars of Independence 1808-1833, between the colonies in South American and Spain or Portugal, these wars were, in many ways, sparked by the earlier revolutions and by the Napoleonic conquests of the Iberian colonial powers, and were at their peak after the Napoleonic Wars ended.
During all of these wars, American merchant seamen could be found on vessels of all nationalities and types. Merchant ships of all European nations as well as of South American nationalities included Americans on their crew lists. American merchants traded with belligerents on all sides and the merchant fleet grew quite large, sailing to all Atlantic ports, where shipmasters often left seamen stranded, leaving them to seek work on any vessel that would have them. Primarily during the War of 1812, American privateers with mostly American crews attacked merchant vessels of enemy nationalites, e.g. Britain and her allies. American whaling vessels, based not only in Nantucket and Halifax but in Britain and France, operated in Northern and Southern Atlantic whale fishing grounds.
The next post will look at naval and shipping activity a bit more closely, showing where American merchant seamen were active.
©2020 Anne Morddel