The Museum of the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis contains a beautiful, large-scale model (with spars and sails that were added much later) of a jaunty 14-gun brig, Fair American. Researchers believe that, of all the vessels of that popular name, this one represents one built in Bermuda about 1776, using the long-life red juniper or cedar that grows there. She may have been employed for a time in the sugar, molasses, rum, coffee, and chocolate trade in the Caribbean. By at least early 1778, she was a privateer out of Charleston, SC (sometimes under charter to the South Carolina Navy), commanded by Charles Morgan, and was present when the 32-gun Continental Navy frigate Randolph tragically blew up in a night battle. For a time, she was a successful American privateer based in Philadelphia, but she was later captured, and sold to be a Loyalist privateer out of New York. The Naval Academy owns a painting of her stuck on a sandbar during a battle in the Delaware River in 1782. The Academy’s model, which now appears to be wildly inaccurate regarding the height of her quarterdeck, was presumably constructed in England from sketches but no real plans, to the order of the 1782 owner. The brig continues to be a popular subject for modern model-builders.
Although only one eye-witness painting survives of the Continental Brig Andrew Doria (third vessel of the Continental Navy) and that is an interior view of the Great Cabin, yet there is a strong possibility that she and Fair American were sister-ships; she could easily have been built in Bermuda. Andrew Doria (named after the Genoese Admiral Andrea Doria, 1466-1560, who won Genoa’s independence from France) became the first vessel of the American Navy to be saluted by a foreign government entity, when she was saluted on 16 November 1776 by the Dutch fort at Sint Eustatius (Statia) in the Caribbean; she flew the Grand Union Ensign, which had the British Union in the canton and some arrangement of stripes in the fly (probably red, white & blue stripes). This was taken by Americans to mean the first recognition by a foreign government of the American flag and American independence, but the Dutch quickly claimed it had been a mistake. Formerly the merchant brig Defiance, she was first commanded in the Navy by Captain Nicholas Biddle (a former mess-mate of Horatio Nelson), and later by Captain Isaiah Robinson. She was sunk to avoid capture by the British in the Delaware late in November 1777.
Colonial Navy Inc.’s historic ship line-up: ships Batchelors Delight, General Pickering; barque Surprise; brigs Tartar, Cabot, Andrew Doria; schooner* Royal Savage; ketch Thunder;* sloop Enterprise; cutter Dolphin.