Union’s first naval victory of the Civil War

Did you know the first African-American hero of the Civil War was both cook and steward? Now that is a sea story.

His name was William Tillman, and his story has only been recently told. I discovered him by accident when buying at auction what may be his only known photograph. He is known as the “Union’s First Black Hero.”…

The Civil War began in April 1861. Tillman was serving as cook aboard the American schooner S.J. Waring. It was en route to a Confederate port when the ship was captured at sea off the U.S. East Coast on July 7, 1861 by a five man prize crew from the Confederate privateer Jefferson Davis.

Tillman had every reason to fear for his future in Southern hands. At first Tillman was treated well, but it did not take long for him to discover a plan for him to be sold into slavery. He would have none of it. Tillman used a hatchet to kill three of the five confederates, threw their bodies into the sea, and recaptured the vessel.

Tillman sailed the S.J. Waring successfully back north, arriving first to Sandy Hook, New Jersey and then New York. First placed in custody as a witness, Tillman soon became an instant celebrity and, to many, a hero…

Article originally written by Rear Admiral Daniel W. McKinnon, Jr.

First Arctic Navigation in February


Alexander Ryumin/TASS

A tanker sailed through Arctic sea ice in February for the first time, the latest sign of how quickly the pace of climate change is accelerating in the Earth’s northernmost regions.

The Christophe de Margerie was accompanied by the nuclear-powered 50 Let Pobedy icebreaker as it sailed back to Russia this month after carrying liquified natural gas to China through the Northern Sea Route in January. Both trips broke navigation records…

The experimental voyage happened after a year of extraordinarily warm conditions in the Arctic that have sent shockwaves across the world, from the snowstorm that blanketed Spain in January to the blast of cold air that swept through Canada in mid-February, moving deep into the South as far as Texas.

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