St. Eustatius and the First Salute Story

Saint Eustatius. affectionately known as Statia is a small island of 11 square miles located within the leeward islands group in the Caribbean Sea. It is one of the three islands in the northern part of the Netherlands Antilles. Statia has a population of less than 3,000 people who welcome visitors but it is not a major tourist mecca.

This small tropical paradise is an archaeological treasure and attracts considerable professional investigators through the center known by its initials: S.E.C.A.R.

The Past

The impact of Saint Eustatius on the American Revolution was brought to the public's attention by the writings of Barbara Tuchman when she published "The First Salute in in 1988.

The NY Times reviewed this classic book.. Click for the Times review. Tuchman's book is still in print and available at major booksellers.

HISTORICAL SUMMARY

"Statia was discovered in 1493 by Christopher Columbus. Throughout a swaggering colonial era that followed, the island had changed hands at least 22 times.

In 1636, near the close of the 80 year war between Holland and Spain, the Dutch took possession. During the 17th and 18th century, Statia was a major trading center with some 20,000 inhabitants and thousands of ships calling at her shores.

It is hard for present day visitors to imagine that this tiny island once had one of the busiest ports in the region.

During the latter part of the 18th century, St. Eustatius was the major supplier of arms and ammunition to the rebellious British Colonies in North America and the subject of conflict among the most powerful seafaring nations of the time.

For a while, Statia was the only link between Europe and fledgling American colonies. Even Benjamin Franklin had his mail routed through Statia to ensure its safe arrival. Statia remembered as the emporium of the Caribbean, was nicknamed "The Golden Rock", reflecting its former prosperous trading days and wealthy residents.

On November 16, 1776 the American Brig-of-War, the "Andrew Doria", sailed into the harbor of Statia firing its 13-gun salute indicating America's long sought independence. The 11-gun salute reply, roaring from the canons at Fort Oranje under the command of Governor Johannes de Graaff, established Statia as the first foreign nation to officially recognize the newly formed United States of America.

Each year, thousands of ships anchored on the roadstead of Oranjestad and the shore of the Bay was lined with hundreds of warehouses packed with goods. More trade (both legal and illegal) transpired here after the end of the American Revolution than on any other Caribbean island until Statia reached its economic peak around 1795."St. Eustatius Tourist Office

Statia's FlagThe Present

"Statia Day or Statia-America Day is a national holiday on the island.

  • It is celebrated annually on November 16th. This is a day to reflect on Statia's role in America's history. But for most it is a day to celebrate the culture and heritage of Statia.
  • The week leading up to Statia Day is a week full of celebrations and parties. Sing along, enjoy the island and commemorate the year 1776, in which St. Eustatius was the first country which recognized the independence of America.
  • Uniformed groups parade through the streets. Sports and games are organized for children. And nightly performances are colorful, humorous and dynamic. St. Eustatius Tourist Office

 

The Future

The Island Government of Statia wishes Statia Day or Statia-America Day to be recognized more widely. In 20006 the Governor asked wooden shipbuilder Allen Rawl to bring the Andrew Doria back to life.

  • Allen Rawl designed a model of the Brigantine and had it built by Greg McKay. The model was unveiled by Her Majesty Queen Beatrix on November 16, 2006 when she visited Statia.
  • Soon a small non-profit company, Andrew Doria - The First Salute, Inc. was organized in Maryland to fund, build and operate the ship as an education platform and good-will ambassador. This organization sealed an agreement to work with the Island Government on November 16, 2007. View the signing and handshake between ADTFS and the Governor of the Island of Statia.

    It is known as the "Declaration of Interdependence."

  • All partners in this program look forward to the day when once more the Brigantine Andrew Doria sails into the harbor firing its cannons at Fort Oranjestad and once more receiving the First Salute on November 16 each and every year.

Funding is critical for the Andrew Doria to sail once more. Your financial support can help make it happen!

Last update: 10/21/2014