Previous issues of Cook’s Log contained articles on the search for Endeavour in the waters of Naragansett Bay, at Newport, Rhode Island. The Rhode Island Marine Archaeology Project (RIMAP) conducts the research.1 Boston Rare Maps, a company specialising in antique American maps and prints, recently offered for sale a 1776 map of Newport, for US$19,500.2 The original drawing was by the British military surveyor Charles Blaskowitz (c. 1743-1823).
In 1778, fourteen British transport ships were sunk in Narragansett Bay, to prevent the French fleet from accessing the area. One of the ships was Lord Sandwich. Previously, she was Captain Cook’s Bark Endeavour and before then was Earl of Pembroke (launched in 1764). She was converted to a supply and transport vessel after Cook’s First Voyage to the Pacific, completing trips to the Falkland Islands. She also transported Hessisan troops to the Colonies during the American War of Independence.
The map is the earliest printed plan of Newport. In 1774, when Charles Blaskowitz surveyed Newport, it was the largest town in Rhode Island province, with a population of over 7,000. It was a thriving commercial port, and the centre for manufacture of, for example, sperm oil and spermaceti candles. Therefore, Newport had similarities to other whaling centres such as New Bedford and Nantucket, both in Massachusetts Bay Colony. The many wharves and streets are laid out in considerable detail on the map, as are gardens, and the low hills to the east of the town. Other details include at least six churches and the oldest synogogue (1763) in America.
An atlas of North American waters, Atlantic Neptume, published the original map, a publication used by British navigators. Information supplied by Boston Rare Maps states “The charts were of an extraordinarily high quality, remained the standard for decades, and were often copied and reissued by American and European engravers and publishers”.
Of Prussian birth, a young Blaskowitz entered the British Army, and served with the Royal American Regiment during the Seven Year’s War (termed French & Indian War in the Colonies). He assisted in the mapping of the St. Lawrence River prior to the capture of Quebec (1759).
At the same time, James Cook charted St. Lawrence River’s tides and other navigational data for the Royal Navy, which led to the landing of troops for the assault on the Plains of Abraham.
An intriguing question arises: did Cook (Navy) and Blaskowitz (Army) ever meet or share information? The reason for this speculation is that surveyor-engineer Samuel Holland (1728-1801) was in charge of Blaskowitz’s work. Holland instructed Cook in the use of the plane table and surveying techniques,3 which he was to use in charting in North America as well as during his three voyages.
After service in Quebec Blaskowitz completed his survey of Newport, in great part to assess its location as a base for the Royal Navy. Boston Rare Maps concludes, the map is “the most historically significant and attractive Revolutionary-era plan of one of the most important towns in Colonial America”.3
In addition to reproduction of the Plan for Newport, I have included an outline map of the State of Rhode Island,4 edited to show the approximate location of the ships scuttled in 1778, as well as the location of the harbour area at Newport displayed on the 1776 map. The orientation of Blaskowitz’s map is toward one of the penuinsulas in Newport County with Goat Island in the foreground. Therefore the top of the 1776 map is positioned in an easterly direction.
Newport was founded in 1639 and served as the provincial capital during the colonial era. Its historic Old Town is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Several of the 17th century structures remain in place today. The area is laid out similar to an English town with a public square, then termed The Parade. After the American War, Newport continued to serve as a naval base. Today, the Naval War College and other facilities are located on the west shore of Aquidneck Island in Naragansett Bay.
My thanks to Michael Buehler, Boston Rare Maps, for permission to use the image and information.
James C. Hamilton
Originally published in Cook's Log, page 48, volume 43, number 1 (2020).
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