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"Captain Septimus Noel: Ordnance Fleet Commodore" Topic

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Tango0110 Apr 2019 8:45 p.m. PST

"History occasionally provides a pleasant surprise by revealing the record of an ordinary person who, thrust into a unique role, performed extraordinary services for his country. In researching the movement of American ordinance from the Hudson River and Philadelphia to Yorktown in 1781, this author discovered that the commodore appointed to lead the ordnance fleet, Capt. Septimus Noel, was such a man. An unheralded, though experienced, Chesapeake Bay ship captain, he was quite unexpectedly placed in command of a disparate collection of vessels and tasked with transporting down the Chesapeake Bay the only siege guns and related supplies possessed by the Continental Army, and he completed that assignment promptly and efficiently.[1] The circumstances that resulted in that contribution are worth exploring.

Gen. George Washington decided on August 14, 1781, to march the Continental and French armies to Virginia, after learning that a French fleet under Adm. Francois Joseph Paul, comte de Grasse-Tilly was on its way to the Chesapeake Bay to isolate the British force at Yorktown under Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis. Gen. Henry Knox was one of his earliest confidants in this decision, since he had to obtain the siege ordnance, ammunition, and supplies that would be required for the Continental Army's use. Knox made the necessary arrangements for that materiel to be provided from the army's artillery park at New Windsor, New York, the Department of Military Stores in Philadelphia. His 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment provided the leadership and much of the manpower to move it to Head of Elk, Maryland. Washington preceded the army to that port at the head of the Chesapeake Bay to oversee arrangements to ship both men and materiel directly to the James River. At his request numerous private sloops and schooners were gathering at Elk Landing, near Head of Elk, and while their capacity proved inadequate to transport the entire Continental-French force, it was sufficient to haul about 2,000 men and the 545 tons of ordnance materiel.[2] Washington realized he needed an effective leader to ensure that the required fleet of fifty-plus vessels delivered its essential cargo expeditiously and issued orders for the appointment of a fleet commodore…."
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