St. Eustatius is famous for the ‘First Salute’. This historic event happened on November 16th, 1776. On this fateful day an unfamiliar ship entered the waters of St. Eustatius.
The Dutch Governor, Johannes de Graaff, gave the order to return a salute of 11 shots to the brig, Andrew Doria which had fired an initial salute of 13 shots. This vessel was actually an American merchant ship that had been upgraded into a ‘man of war’ ship by the Continental Navy (later to become the US Navy). Some historians argue that this ship only received shots to recognize it as a merchant ship, the flag it was flying may have been unknown to the Commander of Fort Oranje (Abraham Ravené).
But for the British ships in the harbor, who reported it to the garrison in St. Cristopher’s and on to the government of Great Britain, it was seen as intolerable, leading to devastating reprisals later on.
Whether this was done intentionally to recognize the Andrew Doria as a merchant ship or to recognize the colors of the new nation, is irrelevant. Accidentally or on purpose the ‘First Salute’ to recognize the future United States of America was fired from Fort Oranje in St. Eustatius!
It is a moment which Statian’s remember with pride and rightly so. This occasion is marked every November 16th with the “National Statia Day” also known as “Statia America Day”.