First Salute

St.‌ ‌Eustatius‌ ‌is‌ ‌famous‌ ‌for‌ ‌the‌ ‌‘First‌ ‌Salute’.‌ ‌This‌ ‌historic‌ ‌event‌ ‌happened‌ ‌on‌ ‌November‌ ‌16‌th‌,‌ ‌1776.‌
On this fateful day an unfamiliar ship entered the waters of St. Eustatius.

©Government of St. Eustatius / Brian Littlewood’s Estate
“The First Salute” Reproduced with permission of the Artist, Brian Littlewood’s Estate. Original in the possession of His Majesty King Willem Alexander.

Eleven salutes

What actually happened on November 16th, 1776? That day the commander of the fort, Abraham Ravené, saw an unknown brig approaching. As was the rule, the ship carried the Dutch flag on the main mast. But from which country was the flag waving from the foremast and the stern? From a distance it looked like the ‘red ensign’, the flag all British ships carried, but on this one the red plane was divided in thirteen stripes. And was the brig a man-of-war or a merchantman?

Before anchoring the ship discharged eleven salutes, forcing the commander to decide with how many salutes he would answer: with two less, as was the rule when greeting a merchantman, or with an equal number, confirming the ships status as a war vessel – and by implication recognizing the country it represented? He asked the governor, Johannes de Graaff, for advice. Without knowing the status of the ship either he ordered: answer with two shots less.

It turned out, however, that the brig, named Andrew Doria, was a converted merchantman now in the service of the recently founded Continental – later US – Navy. It bore the new flag of the United States of America. The consequences of De Graaff’s order, therefore, were far-reaching. The governor’s defense that the salute from the island’s fort proved he was convinced that he was dealing with a merchantman, made no impression on the British government. In Britain’s view this was the utterly unjust recognition of a bunch of rebels – a hostile act Great Britain could not accept.

First Salute Golden Rock

Hidden treasure in the Caribbean. USA – Dutch story lines come together.

Sint Eustatius

Christopher Columbus (1451- 1506) was an Italian explorer and navigator who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean sponsored by the Catholic Monarchs of Spain, opening the way for the widespread European exploration and colonization of the Americas. Columbus was the first to put St. Eustatius on the map in 1493.
His expeditions were the first known European contact with the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

Golden Rock.

After the discovery of Sint Eustatius in 1493 by the Europeans lost interest in settling here due to the lack of natural fresh water sources.
In 1636, the Dutch built cisterns on the island, and it soon became permanently inhabited.
Fort Oranje was built and Sint Eustatius became a transit port for sugar, molasses, gin, rum, cotton, and other products.
The island’s activities were an important source of income for the Dutch West India Company.
Trade blossomed with the constant flow of ships in and out of the harbor, making Sint Eustatius a wealthy trading outpost and filling the warehouses in Oranjestad with luxury products.
The “Golden Rock” was born!

Fort Oranje Sint Eustatius – Statia – Remembrance
1776 First Salute Johannes de Graaff governor & Abraham Ravené commander Fort Oranje
1939 President F.D. Roosevelt
“Here the sovereignty of the United States of America was first formally acknowledged to a national vessel by a foreign official.”

Agenda: Statia official events and remembrance
February 8th 2023: Visit Dutch Royal family
November 16th 2026 Statia day: Remembrance 250 year aniversary

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