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Welcome Remarks for The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Marines Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington

Greetings from the National Archives’ flagship building in Washington, DC, which sits on the ancestral lands of the Nacotchtank peoples. I’m David Ferriero, Archivist of the United States, and it's my pleasure to welcome you to today’s virtual author lecture with Patrick K. O’Donnell about his new book, The Indispensables, which tells the story of the Marblehead Regiment during the American Revolution.

Before we begin, though, I’d like to tell you about two upcoming programs you can view on our YouTube channel.

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On Tuesday, June 29, at noon, we will bring you John Ferling, author of Winning Independence, which describes the events of the underexplored, but decisive, years of the second half of the Revolutionary War.

And on Tuesday, July 6, at noon, Zachary M. Schrag will tell us about his new book, The Fires of Philadelphia, a study of anti-immigrant riots in 1844 Philadelphia.

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Marblehead, Massachusetts, is my hometown of Beverly’s rival for the title of birthplace of the U.S. Navy. Even so, I won’t dispute the Headers’ well-earned place in American history. As Patrick O’Donnell recounts in The Indispensables, the men of the Marblehead Regiment—White, Black, Hispanic, and Native American—made up of men from Boston, Beverly, and Marblehead---played a crucial role in the nation’s fight for independence.

We’re familiar with the famous painting of “Washington Crossing the Delaware” but may not have thought to ask who was doing the rowing. It was the Marblehead Regiment. The dangerous crossing of the ice-filled Delaware River on Christmas 1776 led to a successful surprise attack on Trenton.

Earlier that same year, the Continental Army was backed up against the East River after losing the Battle of Brooklyn. Washington was able to save his army by evacuating them across the East River to Manhattan—thanks to those same soldier-mariners.

In his book review for the Wall Street Journal, Mark G. Spencer declared that “those seeking a detailed, reliable account of the War for American Independence’s earliest years—one that embraces its nautical dimensions—will find it here.”

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Patrick O’Donnell is a best-selling, critically acclaimed military historian and an expert on elite units. The author of 12 books, including The Unknowns and Washington’s Immortals, he is the recipient of numerous national awards. O’Donnell served as a combat historian in a Marine rifle platoon during the Battle of Fallujah and is a professional speaker on America’s conflicts, espionage, special operations, and counterinsurgency. He has provided historical consulting for DreamWorks’ award-winning miniseries Band of Brothers and for documentaries produced by the BBC, the History Channel, and Discovery. He is a scholar and fellow at Mount Vernon’s Fred W. Smith Library for the Study of George Washington.

Now let’s hear from Patrick O’Donnell. Thank you for joining us.