William L. Clements Library
University of Michigan
Finding aid for
Finding aid created by
Richard Howe, Signal and Instruction Book, ca. 1776
Shannon Wait, June 2011, and Meg Hixon, June 2012
Richard Howe, Signal and Instruction Book
Great Britain. Royal Navy
This volume contains 44 pages of signals and roughly 46 pages of instructions and explanatory information pertaining to the Royal Navy's operations under Richard Howe around the time of the American Revolution. The book provides details about signals to be used while sailing by day, in fog, in battle, and at night, and it includes color illustrations of signal flags and lantern configurations. The binder's title is "Ld Howes Instructions."
The material is in English
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave.
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190
Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC). This collection has been processed according to minimal processing procedures and may be revised, expanded, or updated in the future.
Richard Howe, Signal and Instruction Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
Richard Howe, Earl Howe, was born in London, England, on March 19, 1726, the son of Emanuel Scrope Howe (1699-1735) and Mary Sophia Charlotte von Kielmansegg (1703-1782). Around 1735, he joined the crew of the merchant ship Thames , and in July 1739 he joined the 40-gun Royal Navy ship Pearl . Howe then served on several ships in the Caribbean and off the South American coast. After being promoted to lieutenant in 1744 and post captain in 1746, he continued his military service in the Americas, Scotland, and Africa. During the Seven Years' War, he served primarily in the Channel Fleet and assisted in raids along the French coast. Howe held several public offices during and after the war: member of Parliament (1757-1799), member of the Board of Admiralty (1763-1765), and treasurer of the navy (1765-1770).
Howe continued to advance his naval and political careers in the following decade, and he received promotions to rear admiral (October 1770) and vice admiral (December 1775). He served as commander-in-chief of the Mediterranean in the early 1770s, and in February 1776, he received an appointment as commander-in-chief of North America. He sailed for North America soon thereafter, and played a prominent role during the first years of the American Revolution. He arrived in New York in July 1776 and took part in the failed peace conference at Staten Island, New York, which occurred in September of that year. He provided naval support during the New York campaign and was ordered to blockade the American coastline, but complained that he lacked enough ships to prevent French vessels from reaching the northern colonies. In 1777, he assisted in the British occupation of Philadelphia, particularly focusing on the capture of forts in the Delaware River. Deeply offended at the appointment of the Carlisle Peace Commission in 1778, Howe attempted to resign his station, but his resignation was refused until November of that year; in the meantime, he successfully defended Newport, Rhode Island, from comte d'Estaing's large fleet. Postwar, he served as the first lord of the admiralty (1783-1788) and in 1790, he took command of the Channel Fleet during a dispute with Spain. He commanded the same fleet with great success during the French Revolution at the age of nearly 70. In 1797, he was made a Knight of the Garter. He died on August 5, 1799.
In 1758, Howe married Mary Hartopp, with whom he had three daughters: Sophia Charlotte (b. 1762; m. Penn Assheton Curzon, 1787), Mary Juliana (b. 1765; m. Edward Furse, 1800), and Louisa Catherine (b. 1767; m. John Denis Browne, 1787).
Collection Scope and Content Note
This volume contains 44 pages of signals and roughly 46 pages of instructions and explanatory information pertaining to the Royal Navy's operations under Richard Howe during the American Revolution. The book provides details about signals to be used while sailing by day, in fog, in battle, and at night, and it includes color illustrations of signal flags and lantern configurations. The binder's title is "Ld Howes Instructions."
The first 6 pages are comprised of instructions ("Explanatory Observations") for making and using naval signals and an index to the signals in the volume. The following 44 pages hold information about specific signals. Color illustrations of flags are drawn along the margins, and some lantern configurations are illustrated with ink drawings. Accompanying explanations include details about the meanings of each signal and appropriate places of deployment.
The second section of the book contains "Instructions for the Conduct of the Ships of war explanatory of, and relative to the Signals contained in the Signal-Book" (46 pages). These instructions provide information on the conduct of British ships while in full sail, during engagements with the enemy, and in limited sight conditions such as fog and darkness. The night instructions refer to signals that are explained elsewhere within the volume.
This volume contains the bookplates of W. T. H. Howe (1920) and Edith Barbara Tranter.
- Great Britain. Royal Navy--Communication systems.
- Great Britain. Royal Navy--Flags.
- Great Britain. Royal Navy--History--18th century.
- Sailing ships.
- Signals and signaling--Early works to 1800.
- United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Naval operations.
- Great Britain. Royal Navy--Flags.
- Signals and signaling.
- Signal flags.
- Howe, Richard Howe, Earl, 1726-1799.
- Ciphers (codes)
- Manuals (instructional materials)
Additional Descriptive Data
The Clements Library holds many additional manuscripts, books, maps, and graphic materials related to Richard Howe, including the Richard and William Howe collection.