Revolution at Sea saga

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The Revolution at Sea Saga is a series of five novels written by James L. Nelson, published from 1997 to 2001.. It encompasses the year 1775 through 1777 during the American Revolution, and focuses on the adventures of smuggler, revolutionary, captain, but most of all sailor Isaac Biddlecomb.[1]


In By Force of Arms, Captain Isaac Biddlecomb's smuggling ship, the Judea, is destroyed by British soldiers, which results eventually in his and his friend Ezra Rumstick's impressment aboard an English man-o-war, HMS Icarus, commanded by the irresponsible and arrogant Lieutenant James Pendexter. Isaac and his friends lead the revolt against the oppressive boatswain and captain of the Icarus.

In The Maddest Idea, Isaac and Rumstick are fitted out with a brand-new, all-American man-o-war: the USS Charlemagne. They're on a mission from George Washington himself to capture a cache of British gunpowder from Bermudian waters. Also a traitor is buried somewhere deep in the American government, who is intent on destroying Isaac Biddlecomb.

In The Continental Risque, Isaac joins a fleet of American revolutionaries to sail to the Bahamas in order to take an island full of British militia members.

In Lords of the Ocean Isaac's mission seems clear: to bring Benjamin Franklin to meet Louis XVI. But nothing is as simple as it seems.

In All the Brave Fellows, Biddlecomb has to take command of the newly built frigate Falmouth and escape with her before she is taken by the British.


The following is an alphabetical list of every character who appears in the series. The main characters and antagonists-Captain Isaac Biddlecomb, Ezra Rumstick, Virginia Stanton, William Stanton and more-have entries linking to their more formal pages.

John Adams[edit]

Redirects to John Adams John Adams also appears in the Revolution at Sea Saga, in The Continental Risque. He is aboard the USS Charlemagne when the H.M.S. Glasgow confronts them. For the rest of his appearances in the book he brags about the part he played in the subsequent battle-namely, firing a pistol once or twice at the opposing crew.


Mr. "Midshipman" Appleby is a midshipman aboard the H.M.S. Icarus. He is described as fourteen years old and having "the maturity of a boy that age." He was one of the few who survived the destruction of the Icarus. He appears only in By Force of Arms, and is like a foreshadowing of Midshipman David Weatherspoon of the other Revolution books.

"Viking" John Biddlecomb[edit]

John Biddlecomb the First is the father of Isaac Biddlecomb. He was married to Sarah Biddlecomb, who died in childbirth with their first daughter, Katlin Biddlecomb, after which he and his son went adventuring with Gorham's Rangers, his old friends from the last war, aboard the Providence, a vessel under the command of William Stanton. John was killed in battle shortly after, leaving Captain Isaac Biddlecomb an orphan.

John "Jack" William Biddlecomb[edit]

John William is the son of Virginia and Isaac Biddlecomb. He was born in the year 1777, in the town of Boston, and in the book By Force of Arms. He gets his first name from his grandfather, and his middle name-something that wasn't a common thing to have in those days-comes from his grandfather.

Katlin Biddlecomb[edit]

Katlin Biddlecomb is the younger sister of Isaac Biddlecomb, who died in the process of being born, which her mother, Sarah Biddlecomb, didn't survive either. It is mentioned in The Maddest Idea that, if Katlin had been a boy, her name would have been Thomas.

Sarah Biddlecomb[edit]

Sarah Biddlecomb was Isaac Biddlecomb's mother. She died in childbirth with Katlin Biddlecomb, after which her husband, John Biddlecomb retreated from the world, only to return to his friends a few weeks later, after which he was killed.

Thomas Biddlecomb[edit]

Thomas Biddlecomb is the hypothetical son of Sarah and John Bioddlecomb. When Sarah was pregnant with her second child, her first being Isaac Biddlecomb, the family decided to name the child Katlin if it was a girl, Thomas if it was a boy. The child turned out to be a girl, and died, along with her mother in childbirth.


The nameless carpenter of the USS Charlemagne.


Dibin is a sailor aboard the H.M.S. Icarus. He appears only in By Force of Arms.

Elisha Faircloth[edit]

Faircloth is the head of the Marines in the new Continental Navy of the United States. He, along with all his green-coated troops, sail to the Bahamas aboard the Charlemagne with Captain Biddlecomb and help storm Fort Nassau. He is one of the few men aboard the Charlemagne who does not turn against Biddlecomb in favour of Roger Tottenhill and Amos Hackett. He survives all the battles with the British and eventually makes it home with Biddlecomb and Rumstick and is praised along with the rest of the Charlemagnes as a hero. He appears in The Continental Risque, Lords of the Ocean, and All the Brave Fellows, in which he is responsible for getting Biddlecomb information about the 'Falmouth', in less than moral ways. Although the spelling would suggest otherwise, his name is pronounced "Elijah."


Ferguson is a Charlemagne, who acts as helmsman and saves the ship during a storm in The Continental Risque, acting against the orders of Lieutenant Roger Tottenhill. He stayed loyal to Biddlecomb during the shipboard civil war in The Continental Risque. Biddlecomb also saves him from drowning in The Maddest Idea.

Major Edward Fitzgerald[edit]

Edward Fitzgerald is George Washington's advisor in The Maddest Idea. Although his personality and character traits were created by James L. Nelson, it is a historic fact that the first president of the United States had a right-hand man by the same name. In The Maddest Idea, he is assigned with the job of flushing out the traitor who turned Biddlecomb over to the British. He does this by telling the three men suspected of the traitourous deeds three different places that the captain was heading, then paying the British commander's underling to be allowed to read the mail sent to him, which reveals to Fitzgerald who the real traitor is. Fitzgerald was also known in the second Revolution book for having romantic feelings toward Virginia Stanton, who was beginning to doubt her affections for Isaac, especially after he sent her a letter telling of their upcoming wedding, even though they weren't engaged. But directly after she decides to love Isaac as a brother and nothing more, she discovers a hint in the letter that explains that he really loved her after all. Major Edward Fitzgerald appears in The Maddest Idea and Lords of the Ocean, in which he off-handedly mentions Virginia Stanton, to which Biddlecomb replies "...I fear you mistake her name. She is no longer Virginia Stanton. She now goes by the name Virginia Biddlecomb."

Benjamin Franklin[edit]

See Benjamin Franklin Benjamin Franklin also appears in the Revolution at Sea Saga, in the fourth book, Lords of the Ocean, in which it is Isaac Biddlecomb's job to take the famous scientist to France.

John Haliburton[edit]

John Haliburton is the carpenter aboard the William B. Adams, the merchantman on which Biddlecomb and Rumstick signed on before they were pressed into work aboard the Icarus. He was actually pressed alongside them, but when he tried to escape by jumping overboard and swimming to Barbados he was shot and killed by John Smeaton, which further darkened Rumstick's foul mood.

Edward Longbottom[edit]

Longbottom is the boatswain's mate aboard the Icarus. He is a small man, and loves brutalising Ezra Rumstick. But when the American revolutionary loses control and attacks the British crew, Longbottom is tossed overboard. He is brought back on the ship, but is killed by the crew after they mutiny.

Boatswain McDuff[edit]

McDuff is the boatswain aboard the H.M.S. Icarus. He is a brutal man, and loves beating up on the crew members for sport. He can make the captain, James Pendexter, do nearly anything, because of his long history of naval service and Pendexter's lack thereof. It was during one of his "torture the innocent" sessions that Ezra Rumstick finally lost his self-control and attacked him, resulting in the mutiny of the Icarus's crew and subsequently, McDuff's death.

Joseph Page[edit]

Joseph Page is a shipwright in By Force of Arms. He was named after James L. Nelson's father-in-law.

Thomas Page[edit]

Thomas Page appears only in The Continental Risque. he is in a bar, being bored by Lieutenant Roger Tottenhill.

Fletcher Page[edit]

Fletcher Page appears in All the Brave Fellows. He was named after the author's sister-in-law's parrot.

Lieutenant James Pendexter[edit]

James Pendexter is the nephew of a very influential naval man. He was given charge of the H.M.S. Icarus because of filial relationship, not in any way because of experience, which he lacks. When he arrives at the longboat that will take him to the ship, the midshipman acting as a ferrier asks which one it is. He is suddenly scared for himself and his reputation, because he had never before seen the Icarus. So he tells the midshipman to try to find it without his help, which he eventually does. Pendexter is frequently used by his first lieutenant John Smeaton and his less intelligence boatswain Mr. McDuff for their own needs, which, for McDuff, is brutalising and torturing the rest of the crew. Pendexter was the one responsible for Biddlecomb's and Rumstick's impressment aboard the Icarus. He was last seen when he and Smeaton are flung off the ship, now in the hands of the mutineers, with only a wooden grate to cling to. They were picked up a few minutes later by the British frigate Cerberus. Pendexter appears only in By Force of Arms.

Ebenezer Rogers[edit]

Sergeant Ebenezer Rogers is the loyal butler of William Stanton. He took care of William's daughter Virginia since the death of her mother, and extends his care to any guests of the Stanton household, especially Captain Isaac Biddlecomb. In The Maddest Idea he is the one who rides to warn George Washington and Major Edward Fitzgerald of the traitorous deeds of one of three specific persons, which had resulted in the capture of Biddlecomb and his crew by the H.M.S. Glasgow, under command of Captain William Maltby. Rogers appears in By Force of Arms and The Maddest Idea.

Nathaniel Sprout[edit]

Nathaniel Sprout is the boatswain aboard the USS Charlemagne. He first appears in The Maddest Idea and is featured in the next three books. He is one of the few of Biddlecomb's Northerners who stay aboard the Charlemagne and begin to take orders from Roger Tottenhill, though never losing their faithfullness to their captain. Sprout sent Midshipman Weatherspoon to convince Ezra Rumstick and Roger Tottenhill to stop their duel and return to the ship immediately.

Lieutenant Roger Tottenhill[edit]

Roger Tottenhill is the man who is elected by the Continental Congress in The Continental Risque to replace Ezra Rumstick as first lieutenant aboard the USS Charlemagne. He is used, just as Lieutenant James Pendexter was in the first book, by Amos Hackett, a fellow North Carolina-man, who is intent on dividing the crew of the Charlemagne. They first became allies when Hackett, in a fit of anger, knocked the lieutenant to the deck and Tottenhill has him lashed twenty-four times with the cat o' nine tales, then realises he has made a mistake in turning against another Southerner and brings the suffering Hackett a bottle of whisky to ease his sufferings. Lieutenant Tottenhill, after unconsciously undermining Captain Biddlecomb's authority and dueling Ezra Rumstick to see who was better suited to be first lieutenant aboard the Charlemagne, finally met his end at the hands of his "ally," Amos Hackett, who, after leading a semi-mutiny aboard the American man-o-war, climbs up into the rigging and shoots the lieutenant before himself being shot by Elisha Faircloth. He appears only in The Continental Risque.

George Washington[edit]

See George Washington. George Washington, best known for being the first president of the United States, appears in The Maddest Idea, and is the one who assigns Major Edward Fitzgerald to the job of flushing out the traitor.

David Weatherspoon[edit]

David Weatherspoon is a fifteen-year-old sailor aboard the USS Charlemagne. He doesn't appear in By Force of Arms. He has a moderately sized role to play in The Maddest Idea, and finally gets his five minutes in The Continental Risque, in which he stops the riot that has broken out aboard the Charlemagne from escalating by firing a few pistols over the heads of the sailors, who are fighting an all-out civil war skirmish; Northerner verses Southerner. And before that, when Ezra Rumstick and Roger Tottenhill are engaged in a swordfight-style duel on a small island in order to determine which of them is better suited to be the first lieutenant of the Charlemagne, the bosun sends Mr. Weatherspoon to break them up, which he does with the words, "Sirs,...damn it all to Hell! They are getting away with the stores! Now please get into the God-damned boat!" David Weatherspoon is promoted to lieutenant in the space between the third and fourth books. He is killed in the fifth book by John Smeaton, taking a bullet intended for Captain Isaac Biddlecomb.


One of the Charlemagnes who stays loyal to Biddlecomb during the events of The Continental Risque. He takes a beating from Amos Hackett and his men on account of his obedience to the Northerners aboard.


Publishers Weekly has praised The Continental Risque and By Force of Arms,[2] calling the first book an "engaging start to what promises to be a fine adventure series in a neglected milieu".[3] The Bangor Daily News reviewed Lords of the Ocean, writing that the series would appeal to "anyone who likes fast-paced stories of battles, boats and heroes".[4] A reviewer for the Lodi News-Sentinel praised All The Brave Fellows, saying it gave a fresh outlook to familiar material.[5]

Patrick O'Brian said of the first book in the Revolution at Sea Saga "Authenticity runs throughout the book, carrying total conviction," and of the author, "...Nelson writes with the eagerness of a young man sailing his first command." He has also been called "one of today's most gifted historical novelists."


  1. ^ Folsom, Chandra Niles. Revolution at Sea. The Hour, August 20, 1999, p B2.
  2. ^ Review: The Continental Risque Publishers Weekly
  3. ^ Review: By Force of Arms Publishers Weekly
  4. ^ Wilde, Diana. Revolution sea story charged with energy, action, history. Bangor Daily News, April 7, 2000, p G2.
  5. ^ Smith, Sandy. U.S. Navy saga has wide appeal. Lodi News-Sentinel, December 1st 2001, p 3.