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Impress cutters patrolled harbors and coastal areas searching for ships returning from voyages with men who might be pressed into service.

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Any officer of the Royal Navy could, when in need of men, stop English vessels on the high seas and press crewmen into service. Legally, foreigners were protected from the press, but this legality was often ignored, and the practice of pressing men at sea became common.

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In the eyes of the Royal Navy, all Englishmen were available for service even if they were on the ship of a foreign nation. Therefore, it was not uncommon for British naval vessels to stop American ships searching for English crewmen. A letter of Impressment Protection. During these searches, American sailors who could not prove their citizenship were often pressed.

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During the latter part of the eighteenth century, as England slugged its way through prolonged wars with France, the need for able seamen grew dramatically. During the peacetime that preceded the Napoleonic Wars, the Royal Navy had about 10, men; by the War of , the number had risen to , The overwhelming majority of these men came from the press.


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  • American Merchant Ships and Sailors.

To maintain the navy's strength, the press gangs were constantly at work. Not only did they have to replace men who were killed or died in service, but they also had to replace the countless vacancies created by desertion. Lord Nelson estimated that between and perhaps as many as 40, men deserted the navy.

Catalog Record: American merchant ships, | HathiTrust Digital Library

With demand for sailors always high and supply sometimes lacking, it is not surprising that the press gangs preyed from time to time on protected men, including Americans. Impressment of American Sailors.

Petersen who was born in in North Dakota, the son of Danish immigrant parents. In , Adolf joined the Army and reported for active service at Ellington Field in Texas and arrived there with his wife Marie Larsen on December 5, two days before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

An American merchant sailor remembers the Arctic convoys during World War II

Petersen served onboard ships and in India. Honor roll. This quilt was made to honor the maker's son Vernon Beck. The quilt contains 99 names - nine names has gold stars stitched next to them, denoting that they were killed in action. Caspar H.

Danish seamen As a seafaring nation, many Danish ships and sailors were located away from Denmark when the Germans invaded Denmark in April Two Danish-Americans who served in the U.