Fire Island is a novel in the genre of historical fiction, written by first-time author John J. Stevens. The story takes place from November 1857 to November 1858 on Fire Island, a barrier beach off the coast of Long Island, New York, and in lower Manhattan.

A 10-mile stretch of ocean just off Fire Island became known as Wreck Valley because of the frequency of shipwrecks that occurred there. Numerous lives, ships and cargo were lost in these wrecks so close to shore.

Volunteer humanitarian societies were formed to rescue and comfort survivors of shipwrecks, and the families of those who were lost. Out of those societies grew the United States Lifesaving Service, an early federal effort to formalize these volunteers into a type of civil service, much like today's fire-fighting companies. The "surfmen" were employed from October to May each year, the storm season. They performed drills, walked a "beach watch" at night, and, when called upon, executed dramatic rescues of shipwreck survivors, often in the midst of the most ferocious storms.

Click here to read about Frederick Saunders, one of surfmen who responded to the wreck of the Louis V Place 

In 1915, the United States Lifesaving Service merged with the Revenue Cutter Service to become the United States Coast Guard.

Fire Island is a story about the origins of the United States Lifesaving Service. It is a dramatic and well-written tale from the Age of Sail that artfully portrays the character of people who helped to make America what it was then, and what it is today. It is action-packed, and true in detail as it presents an epic panorama of life in pre-Civil War America - featuring dramatic near-shore rescues, and an unlikely but passionate love shared between two of the leading figures in the drama.

United States Lifesaving Service Historic Article Collection

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Scribners Monthly - The United States Life-Saving Service (1880)
Harper's Magazine - Francis's Life-Boats and Life-Cars (1851)
Harper's Magazine - Policemen of the Sea (1869)
Harper's Magazine - The American Life-saving Service (1882)
Harper's Magazine - Life-savers on Old Malabar (1908)
Fire Island Sample Chapter

Five rare and historic articles about the United States Lifesaving Service (the Surfmen) are gathered together here in this eBook. These articles are in .pdf format and can be read on your computer with Adobe Reader which you are likley to already have installed on your computer.

These are some of the best articles ever written about the surfmen during the surfmen's time, including perhaps the most famous and informative "The United States Life-Saving Service" written by J.H. Merryman for Scribner's Monthly in 1880.

They are full of detail and beautifully created "engraved" line art images that were popular for published illustrations of the day.

All of these articles are in the public domain, and were first published in popular periodicals of the day including Harper's Weekly and Scribner's