The Two New Londoners Who Made it Happen: Moses and Stevens Rogers
Who was this pioneering sea captain, and how did he carry out an audacious feat that led directly to the age of steam-powered ocean-going ships, forever changing the ways nations engaged in commerce, maintained coastal defenses, or conducted wars?
His name was Moses Rogers (1779-1821), and his hometown was New London, Connecticut, a seaport founded by John Winthrop, Jr. in 1645, where a deep tidal estuary meets the waters of Long Island Sound.
The other New London mariner was Moses’s second in command, First Mate Stevens Rogers (1789-1868). Distant cousins as well as brothers-in-law, they were descended from James Rogers, an English immigrant who in about 1660 moved to New London at the invitation of John Winthrop.
Moses and Stevens had been associated in “the management of sailing vessels and steamboats" before Moses became involved with the Savannah venture in 1818, as recorded in the James Rogers genealogy cited here. As ship's master, Stevens Rogers kept the Savannah's logbook, a priceless manuscript now in the National Museum of American History, a unit of the Smithsonian Institution.
Like many early representations of the Savannah, the image used in the 1902 Rogers genealogy is inaccurate, as indeed is the one shown on the cover of the 1988 Dover Publications reprint of Frank Braynard's S.S. Savannah - The Elegant Steam Ship. Ultimately, these misrepresentations of the ship's appearance are part of her history, and must be acknowledged.