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On This Day in History -
November 11, 1779

Joseph Hewes funeral at Christ Church

On this day in history, November 11, 1779, the funeral for Joseph Hewes, signer of the Declaration of Independence from Georgia and "Father of the US Navy," was held at Christ Church in Philadelphia. Hewes was a very successful shipping magnate with a fleet of his own ships from Edenton, North Carolina. He was only 44 years old when he was first elected to the Continental Congress.

Because of his shipping experience, Hewes was appointed as head of the Naval Committee by Congress. His first responsibility was to oversee the arming of four ships Congress voted to arm. Hewes turned his own ships over for the Navy's use and also helped General George Washington draw up his initial plans for the war.

Joseph Hewes

Joseph Hewes

Hewes served as Secretary of the Navy (not a given title at the time) until his death in 1779. He worked relentlessly, often for 12-14 hours a day to ensure the Navy's success, often without eating, until his health began to deteriorate. John Adams said Joseph Hewes "laid the foundation, the cornerstone of the American Navy." Hewes also appointed America's first naval hero, John Paul Jones, as the First Lieutenant on the Navy's first commissioned ship.

Hewes began the term in Congress in September of 1779, but collapsed in October and never recovered. Some believe he worked himself to death for the cause of independence. Hewes passed away on November 10th and his funeral was held the next day. His funeral was held at Christ Church in Philadelphia and was attended by George Washington and the entire Congress.

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This Week in History

Published 11/20/12

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