A bit of North of Boston military history

July 11, 2014

For today’s “Fun Fact Friday” on our Facebook page, we asked our followers if they knew the National Guard originated in Salem, MA. Indeed, last year, President Obama signed a bill naming Salem as the official birthplace of the National Guard.  In 1636, the North, South, and East Regiments of the Massachusetts Bay Colony was formed – these three regiments first convened on Salem Common (a meeting celebrated by National Guard members every April on the Common).

But did you know that two other military branches also trace their roots back to the North of Boston region?

In 1791, the Massachusetts, a vessel built in Newburyport, was launched into service under the U.S. Revenue Cutter Service – a group that later evolved into the US Coast Guard.  That, coupled with Newburyport’s other notable maritime endeavors and bustling 18th century port, has given the city much reason to be proclaimed the birthplace of the Coast Guard.  This title, despite the historical evidence to back it up, is not “official.”  The Massachusetts was just one of seven vessels launched in 1791 – three of which may have launched before Newburyport’s cutter.

While Newburyport does have a very strong claim to the title of being the birthplace of the US Coast Guard (along with a signed 1965 proclamation by then-President Johnson), the Coast Guard itself does not name any one location as it’s official birthplace.  Instead, in 2012, Newburyport was honored by the Coast Guard’s Commandment’s Proclamation declaring the city “A Coast Guard City” during the celebration of the Coast Guard’s 222nd anniversary at the Custom House Maritime Museum.  Newburyport was the 14th city to be bestowed this honor, but, in our opinion, if any one of these cities were to be declared the birthplace, it would be Newburyport.

So, what about the third military branch with regional roots?  That would be the US Navy.  And for naval, military, and local history buffs, the distinction of being called the birthplace of the Navy is a tough battle with 5 (5!) cities laying strong claims to the title; 2 of which are neighbors within the North of Boston region.  We will delve right into that sticky situation in Part 2 of this blog series.