Wednesday, December 8, 2010

American Revolution's O'Brien Brothers: the real story

It's belatedly come to my attention that my feature on the famous O'Brien brothers of Revolutionary War fame appeared in the Summer issue of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History. (I'd also written the cover story on the history of wartime plunder.)

You may recall that the O'Briens have been celebrated for their role in capturing a British revenue cutter, HMS. Margaretta, off Machias, Maine in 1775, and event often touted as the "first naval battle of the American Revolution" or even the "birth event of the American Navy." Jeremiah and his younger brothers have had numerous ships named after them, including a Liberty Ship and a series of destroyers, most recently the USS. O'Brien (DD-975), decommissioned in 2004.

As my piece shows, it's ironic that the Navy has been honoring the O'Briens, given that they were relieved of their duties during the Revolution for embezzlement, illegal seizures of shipping, and lack of initiative at a time when the Continental Army, Navy, and Congress were in a desperate condition. The historical record shows clan leader Jermemiah O'Brien to be colorful and courageous, but also self-serving and corrupt. Trenchant reading for the historically inclined.

Unfortunately, the piece isn't currently available online, so you may have to grab this one on the news stand or library.

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