Voyage of Mercy

Voyage of Mercy

The USS Jamestown, the Irish Famine, and the Remarkable Story of America's First Humanitarian Mission

Stephen Puleo

$14.99

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“Puleo has found a new way to tell the story with this well-researched and splendidly written chronicle of the Jamestown, its captain, and an Irish priest who ministered to the starving in Cork city…Puleo’s tale, despite the hardship to come, surely is a tribute to the better angels of America’s nature, and in that sense, it couldn’t be more timely.” The Wall Street Journal

The remarkable story of the mission that inspired a nation to donate massive relief to Ireland during the potato famine and began America's tradition of providing humanitarian aid around the world


More than 5,000 ships left Ireland during the great potato famine in the late 1840s, transporting the starving and the destitute away from their stricken homeland. The first vessel to sail in the other direction, to help the millions unable to escape, was the USS Jamestown, a converted warship, which left Boston in March 1847 loaded with precious food for Ireland.

In an unprecedented move by Congress, the warship had been placed in civilian hands, stripped of its guns, and committed to the peaceful delivery of food, clothing, and supplies in a mission that would launch America’s first full-blown humanitarian relief effort.

Captain Robert Bennet Forbes and the crew of the USS Jamestown embarked on a voyage that began a massive eighteen-month demonstration of soaring goodwill against the backdrop of unfathomable despair—one nation’s struggle to survive, and another’s effort to provide a lifeline. The Jamestown mission captured hearts and minds on both sides of the Atlantic, of the wealthy and the hardscrabble poor, of poets and politicians. Forbes’ undertaking inspired a nationwide outpouring of relief that was unprecedented in size and scope, the first instance of an entire nation extending a hand to a foreign neighbor for purely humanitarian reasons. It showed the world that national generosity and brotherhood were not signs of weakness, but displays of quiet strength and moral certitude.

In Voyage of Mercy, Stephen Puleo tells the incredible story of the famine, the Jamestown voyage, and the commitment of thousands of ordinary Americans to offer relief to Ireland, a groundswell that provided the collaborative blueprint for future relief efforts, and established the United States as the leader in international aid. The USS Jamestown’s heroic voyage showed how the ramifications of a single decision can be measured not in days, but in decades.


Author

Stephen Puleo:
STEPHEN PULEO is a historian, teacher, public speaker, and the author of several books, including Dark Tide: The Great Boston Molasses Flood of 1919, American Treasures: The Secret Efforts to Save the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and the Gettysburg Address, and The Caning: The Assault That Drove America to Civil War. A former award-winning newspaper reporter and contributor to American History magazine, the Boston Globe, and other publications, he holds a master's degree in history and has taught at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and Suffolk University. He and his wife, Kate, reside in the Boston area.

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