Continental Navy

Last updated

The Continental Navy was the navy of the United States during the American Revolutionary War, and was formed in 1775. The fleet cumulatively became relatively substantial through the efforts of the Continental Navy's patron John Adams and vigorous Congressional support in the face of stiff opposition, when considering the limitations imposed upon the Patriot supply pool.

Navy Military branch of service primarily concerned with naval warfare

A navy or sea force is the branch of a nation's armed forces principally designated for naval and amphibious warfare; namely, lake-borne, riverine, littoral, or ocean-borne combat operations and related functions. It includes anything conducted by surface ships, amphibious ships, submarines, and seaborne aviation, as well as ancillary support, communications, training, and other fields. The strategic offensive role of a navy is projection of force into areas beyond a country's shores. The strategic defensive purpose of a navy is to frustrate seaborne projection-of-force by enemies. The strategic task of the navy also may incorporate nuclear deterrence by use of submarine-launched ballistic missiles. Naval operations can be broadly divided between riverine and littoral applications, open-ocean applications, and something in between, although these distinctions are more about strategic scope than tactical or operational division.

American Revolutionary War War between Great Britain and the Thirteen Colonies, which won independence as the United States of America

The American Revolutionary War (1775–1783), also known as the American War of Independence, was a war between Great Britain and its Thirteen Colonies in North America which declared independence in July 1776 as the United States of America.

John Adams 2nd president of the United States

John Adams was an American statesman, attorney, diplomat, writer, and Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. Before his presidency, he was a leader of the American Revolution that achieved independence from Great Britain and served as the first vice president of the United States. Adams was a dedicated diarist and regularly corresponded with many important figures in early American history, including his wife and adviser, Abigail. His letters and other papers serve as an important source of historical information about the era.


The main goal of the navy was to intercept shipments of British matériel and generally disrupt British maritime commercial operations. The initial fleet consisted of converted merchantmen because of the lack of funding, manpower, and resources, with exclusively designed warships being built later in the conflict. The vessels that successfully made it to sea met with success only rarely, and the effort contributed little to the overall outcome of the war.

Cargo ship ship or vessel that carries cargo, goods, and materials onboard from one port to another

A cargo ship or freighter ship is a merchant ship that carries cargo, goods, and materials from one port to another. Thousands of cargo carriers ply the world's seas and oceans each year, handling the bulk of international trade. Cargo ships are usually specially designed for the task, often being equipped with cranes and other mechanisms to load and unload, and come in all sizes. Today, they are almost always built by welded steel, and with some exceptions generally have a life expectancy of 25 to 30 years before being scrapped.

The fleet did serve to highlight a few examples of Continental resolve, notably launching Captain John Barry into the limelight. It provided needed experience for a generation of officers who went on to command conflicts which involved the early American navy.

John Barry (naval officer) United States admiral

John Barry was an officer in the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War and later in the United States Navy. He has been credited as "The Father of the American Navy" and was appointed a captain in the Continental Navy on December 7, 1775. He was the first captain placed in command of a U.S. warship commissioned for service under the Continental flag.

With the war over and the Federal government in need of all available capital, the final vessel of the Continental Navy, Alliance, was auctioned off in 1785 to a private bidder.

USS <i>Alliance</i> (1778)

The first Alliance of the United States Navy was a 36-gun sailing frigate of the American Revolutionary War.

The Continental Navy is the first establishment of what is now the United States Navy. [1]

United States Navy Naval warfare branch of US Armed Forces

The United States Navy (USN) is the naval warfare service branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is the largest and most capable navy in the world and it has been estimated that in terms of tonnage of its active battle fleet alone, it is larger than the next 13 navies combined, which includes 11 U.S. allies or partner nations. It has the highest combined battle fleet tonnage and the world's largest aircraft carrier fleet, with eleven in service, and two new carriers under construction. With 336,978 personnel on active duty and 101,583 in the Ready Reserve, the U.S. Navy is the third largest of the U.S. military service branches in terms of personnel. It has 290 deployable combat vessels and more than 3,700 operational aircraft as of June 2019, making it the third-largest air force in the world, after the United States Air Force and the United States Army.

Congressional oversight of construction

John Adams took an active role in the formation of the navy and the drafting of suitable operational regulations. Painting by John Trumbull, c. 1792-93. Adamstrumbull.jpg
John Adams took an active role in the formation of the navy and the drafting of suitable operational regulations. Painting by John Trumbull, c. 1792–93.

The original intent was to intercept the supply of arms and provisions to British soldiers, who had placed Boston under martial law. George Washington had already informed Congress that he had assumed command of several ships for this purpose, and individual governments of various colonies had outfitted their own warships. The first formal movement for a navy came from Rhode Island, whose State Assembly passed a resolution on August 26, 1775 instructing its delegates to Congress to introduce legislation calling "for building at the Continental expense a fleet of sufficient force, for the protection of these colonies, and for employing them in such a manner and places as will most effectively annoy our enemies...." The measure in the Continental Congress was met with much derision, especially on the part of Maryland delegate Samuel Chase who exclaimed it to be "the maddest idea in the world." John Adams later recalled, "The opposition... was very loud and vehement. It was... represented as the most wild, visionary, mad project that had ever been imagined. It was an infant taking a mad bull by his horns."

Boston State capital of Massachusetts, U.S.

Boston is the capital and most populous city of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts in the United States, and the 21st most populous city in the United States. The city proper covers 48 square miles (124 km2) with an estimated population of 694,583 in 2018, making it also the most populous city in New England. Boston is the seat of Suffolk County as well, although the county government was disbanded on July 1, 1999. The city is the economic and cultural anchor of a substantially larger metropolitan area known as Greater Boston, a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) home to a census-estimated 4.8 million people in 2016 and ranking as the tenth-largest such area in the country. As a combined statistical area (CSA), this wider commuting region is home to some 8.2 million people, making it the sixth most populous in the United States.

Martial law temporary state of government typically involving curfews; the suspension of civil law, civil rights, and habeas corpus; and the application of military law to civilians

Martial law is the imposition of direct military control of normal civilian functions by a government, especially in response to a temporary emergency such as invasion or major disaster, or in an occupied territory.

George Washington American politician and military leader

George Washington was an American political leader, military general, statesman, and Founding Father who served as the first president of the United States from 1789 to 1797. Previously, he led Patriot forces to victory in the nation's War for Independence. He presided at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which established the U.S. Constitution and a federal government. Washington has been called the "Father of His Country" for his manifold leadership in the formative days of the new nation.

During this time, however, the issue arose of Quebec-bound British supply ships carrying desperately needed provisions that could otherwise benefit the Continental Army. The Continental Congress appointed Silas Deane and John Langdon to draft a plan to seize ships from the convoy in question.


Continental ship Columbus with captured British brig Lord Lifford, 1776 ContinentalNavyShipColumbus.jpg
Continental ship Columbus with captured British brig Lord Lifford, 1776

On June 12, 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly, meeting at East Greenwich, passed a resolution creating a navy for the colony of Rhode Island. The same day, Governor Nicholas Cooke signed orders addressed to Captain Abraham Whipple, commander of the sloop Katy and commodore of the armed vessels employed by the government. [2]

The first formal movement for the creation of a Continental navy came from Rhode Island because its merchants' widespread shipping activities had been severely harassed by British frigates. On August 26, 1775, Rhode Island General Assembly passed a resolution that there be a single Continental fleet funded by the Continental Congress. [3] The resolution was introduced in the Continental Congress on October 3, 1775, but was tabled. In the meantime, George Washington had begun to acquire ships, starting with the schooner Hannah which was chartered by Washington [2] from merchant and Continental Army Lt. Colonel John Glover of Marblehead, Massachusetts. [4] Hannah was commissioned and launched on September 5, 1775 from the port of Beverly, Massachusetts.

Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.
That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.
Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence.

Resolution of the Continental Congress that marked the establishment of what is now the United States Navy. [5]

The United States Navy recognizes October 13, 1775 as the date of its official establishment, [1] the passage of the resolution of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia that created the Continental Navy. [5] On this day, Congress authorized the purchase of two vessels to be armed for a cruise against British merchant ships; these ships became Andrew Doria and Cabot. [1] The first ship in commission was the USS Alfred which was purchased on November 4 and commissioned on December 3 by Captain Dudley Saltonstall. [6] On November 10, 1775, the Continental Congress passed a resolution calling for two battalions of Marines to be raised for service with the fleet. [7] John Adams drafted its first governing regulations, which were adopted by Congress on November 28, 1775 and remained in effect throughout the Revolutionary War. The Rhode Island resolution was reconsidered by the Continental Congress and was passed on December 13, 1775, authorizing the building of thirteen frigates within the next three months: five ships of 32 guns, five with 28 guns, and three with 24 guns. [8]

Abraham Whipple painting by Edward Savage AbrahamWhippleColorPortrait.jpg
Abraham Whipple painting by Edward Savage
The official Navy officer uniform of 1776 had red lapels and a red waistcoat. The unofficial uniform of 1777, worn by many officers, had white lapels and a white waistcoat, and in addition non-regulation epaulets. Continental Navy, 1776-1777.jpg
The official Navy officer uniform of 1776 had red lapels and a red waistcoat. The unofficial uniform of 1777, worn by many officers, had white lapels and a white waistcoat, and in addition non-regulation epaulets.

When it came to selecting commanders for ships, Congress tended to be split evenly between merit and patronage.[ citation needed ] Among those who were selected for political reasons were Esek Hopkins, Dudley Saltonstall, and Esek Hopkins' son John Burroughs Hopkins. However, Abraham Whipple, Nicholas Biddle, and John Paul Jones managed to be appointed with backgrounds in marine warfare. On December 22, 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the naval commander-in-chief, and officers of the navy were commissioned. Saltonstall, Biddle, Hopkins, and Whipple were commissioned as captains of the Alfred, Andrew Doria, Cabot, and Columbus, respectively.

Hopkins led the first major naval action of the Continental Navy in early March 1776 with this small fleet, complemented by the Providence (12), Wasp (8), and Hornet (10). The battle occurred at Nassau, Bahamas where stores of much-needed gunpowder were seized for the use of the Continental Army. However, success was diluted with the appearance of disease spreading from ship to ship.

On April 6, 1776, the squadron, with the addition of the Fly (8), unsuccessfully encountered the 20-gun HMS Glasgow in the first major sea battle of the Continental Navy. Hopkins failed to give any substantive orders other than to recall the fleet from the engagement, a move which Captain Nicholas Biddle described: "away we all went helter, skelter, one flying here, another there."

On Lake Champlain, Benedict Arnold ordered the construction of 12 war vessels to slow down the British fleet that was invading New York from Canada. The British fleet destroyed Arnold's fleet, but the US fleet managed to slow down the British after a two-day battle, known as the Battle of Valcour Island, and managed to slow the progression of the British Army. [10]

As the war progressed, states began directing more resources toward naval pursuits. During the inaugural session of the Virginia General Assembly, the senate began acquiring lands for naval manufacturing. Charles O. Paullin states that "no other state owned as much land, properties, and manufactories devoted to naval purposes as Virginia. [11] Sampson Mathews oversaw the operation stationed at Warwick on the James River, the most important of the works, which produced much sail material from flax grown in his home county of Augusta, as there was no money available to buy linen cloth for sails. [12]

The Thirteen Frigates

Continental frigates Hancock and Boston capturing British frigate Fox, June 7, 1777 Hancock Boston Fox.jpg
Continental frigates Hancock and Boston capturing British frigate Fox, June 7, 1777

By December 13, 1775, Congress had authorized the construction of 13 new frigates, rather than refitting merchantmen to increase the fleet. Five ships (Hancock, Raleigh, Randolph, Warren, and Washington) were to be rated 32 guns, five (Effingham, Montgomery, Providence, Trumble, and Virginia) 28 guns, and three (Boston, Congress, and Delaware) 24 guns. Only eight frigates made it to sea and their effectiveness was limited; they were completely outmatched by the mighty Royal Navy, and nearly all were captured or sunk by 1781. [13]

Washington, Effingham, Congress, and Montgomery were scuttled or burned in October and November 1777 before going to sea to prevent their capture by the British. USS Virginia, commanded by Captain James Nicholson, made a number of unsuccessful attempts to break through the blockade of Chesapeake Bay. On March 31, 1778, in another attempt, she ran aground near Hampton Roads, where her captain went ashore. Shortly after, HMS Emerald and Conqueror appeared on the scene to accept her surrender.

Guarding American commerce and raiding British commerce and supply were the principal duties of the Continental Navy. Privateers had some success, with 1,697 letters of marque being issued by Congress. Individual states, American agents in Europe and in the Caribbean also issued commissions; taking duplications into account more than 2,000 commissions were issued by the various authorities. Lloyd's of London estimated that 2,208 British ships were taken by Yankee privateers, amounting to almost $66 million, a significant sum at the time. [14]

Most of the eight frigates that went to sea took multiple prizes and had semi-successful cruises before their captures, however, there were exceptions. On September 27, 1777, Delaware participated in a delaying action on the Delaware River against the British army pursuing George Washington's forces. The ebb tide arrived and left the Delaware stranded, leading to her capture. Warren was blockaded in Providence, Rhode Island, shortly after her completion, and did not break out of the blockade until March 8, 1778. After a successful cruise under Captain John Burroughs Hopkins, she was assigned to the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition under Captain Dudley Saltonstall, where she was trapped by the British and burned on August 15, 1779, to prevent her capture. Hancock, captained by John Manley, managed to capture two merchantmen as well as the Royal Navy vessel HMS Fox. Later on July 8, 1777, however, the Hancock was captured by HMS Rainbow of a pursuing squadron, and became the British man of war Iris.

Randolph took five prizes in her early cruises. On March 7, 1778, she was escorting a convoy of merchantmen when the British 64-gun ship HMS Yarmouth bore down on the convoy. Randolph, under the command of Captain Nicholas Biddle came to the defense of the merchantmen and engaged the heavily superior foe. In the ensuing engagement, the two ships were both severely manhandled but in the course of the action, the magazine of the Randolph exploded causing the destruction of the entire vessel and all but four of her crew. The falling debris from the explosion severely damaged the Yarmouth enough that she could no longer pursue the American ships.

Continental Navy Jack US Naval Jack 13 stripes.svg
Continental Navy Jack

Raleigh, under the command of Captain John Barry, captured three prizes before being run aground in action on September 27, 1778. Her crew scuttled her, but she was raised by the British who refloated her for further use in the name of the Crown.

Boston, under the command of Captains Hector McNeill and Samuel Tucker, had captured 17 prizes in earlier cruises and had carried John Adams to France in February and March 1778. She was captured (along with the frigate Providence who had taken 14 prizes in her own service under Captain Abraham Whipple) in the fall of Charleston, South Carolina on May 12, 1780.

The final frigate to meet her end of Continental service was the Trumbull. Trumbull, which had not gone to sea until September 1779 under James Nicholson, had gained acclaim in bloody action against the Letter of Marque Watt. On August 28, 1781, she met HMS Iris and General Monk and engaged. In the action, Trumbull was forced to surrender to the former American naval vessels (the General Monk was the captured Rhode Island privateer General Washington, itself recaptured in April 1782 and placed in service with the Continental Navy).

French naval collaboration

John Paul Jones, the Continental Navy's first seaman to be appointed the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Oil painting by George Bagby Matthews, c. 1890. Cpt John Paul Jones.jpg
John Paul Jones, the Continental Navy's first seaman to be appointed the rank of 1st Lieutenant. Oil painting by George Bagby Matthews, c. 1890.

Before the Franco-American Alliance, the royalist French government attempted to maintain a state of respectful neutrality during the Revolutionary War. That being said, the nation maintained neutrality at face value, often openly harboring Continental vessels and supplying their needs.

With the presence of American diplomats Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, the Continental Navy gained a permanent link to French affairs. Through Franklin and like-minded agents, Continental officers were afforded the ability to receive commissions and to survey and purchase prospective ships for military use.

Early in the conflict, Captains Lambert Wickes and Gustavus Conyngham operated out of various French ports for the purpose of commerce raiding. The French did attempt to enforce their neutrality by seizing Dolphin and Surprise of the Continental Navy. However, with the commencement of the official alliance in 1778, ports were officially open to Continental ships.

The most prominent Continental officer to operate out of France was Captain John Paul Jones. Jones had been preying upon British commerce aboard the Ranger but only now saw the opportunity for higher command. The French loaned Jones the merchantman Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted and renamed Bonhomme Richard as a more powerful replacement for the Ranger. In August 1779, Jones was given command of a squadron of vessels of both American and French ownership. The goal was not only to harass British commerce but also to prospectively land 1,500 French regulars in the lightly guarded western regions of Britain. Unfortunately for the ambitious Jones, the French pulled out of the agreement pertaining to an invasion force, but the French did manage to uphold the plan regarding his command of the naval squadron. Sailing in a clockwise fashion around Ireland and down the east coast of Britain, the squadron captured a number of merchantmen. French commander Landais decided early on in the expedition to retain control of the French ships, thereby often leaving and rejoining the effort when he felt that it was fortuitous.

The Franco-American squadron closely engages the pair of British frigates on September 23, 1779. Serapis and Bonhomme Richard.jpg
The Franco-American squadron closely engages the pair of British frigates on September 23, 1779.

On September 23, 1779, Jones' squadron was off Flamborough Head when the British man-of-war HMS Serapis and HM hired armed ship Countess of Scarborough bore down on the Franco-American force. The lone Continental frigate Bonhomme Richard engaged Serapis. The rigging of the two ships became entangled during the combat, and several guns of Jones' ship had been taken out of action. The captain of Serapis asked Jones if he had struck his colors, to which Jones has been quoted as replying, "I have not yet begun to fight!" [15] Upon raking the Serapis, the crew of the Bonhomme Richard led by Jones boarded the British ship and captured her. Likewise, the French frigate Pallas captured Countess of Scarborough. Two days later, Bonhomme Richard sank from the overwhelming amount of damage that she had sustained. The action was an embarrassing defeat for the Royal Navy. [15]

The French also loaned the Continental Navy the use of the corvette Ariel. The one ship of the line built for service in the Continental Navy was the 74-gun America, but it was offered as a gift to France on September 3, 1782, in compensation for the loss of Le Magnifique in service to the American Revolution.

France officially entered the war on June 17, 1778. Still, the ships that the French sent to the Western Hemisphere spent most of the year in the West Indies and only sailed near the Thirteen Colonies during the Caribbean hurricane season from July until November. The first French fleet attempted landings in New York and Rhode Island, but ultimately failed to engage British forces during 1778. [16] In 1779, a fleet commanded by Vice Admiral Charles Henri, comte d'Estaing assisted American forces attempting to recapture Savannah, Georgia. [17]

In 1780, a fleet with 6,000 troops commanded by Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste, comte de Rochambeau landed at Newport, Rhode Island; shortly afterward, the British blockaded the fleet. In early 1781, Washington and de Rochambeau planned an attack against the British in the Chesapeake Bay area to coordinate with the arrival of a large fleet under Vice Admiral François, comte de Grasse. Washington and de Rochambeau marched to Virginia after successfully deceiving the British that an attack was planned in New York, and de Grasse began landing forces near Yorktown, Virginia. On September 5, 1781 de Grasse and the British met in the Battle of the Virginia Capes, which ended with the French fleet in control of Chesapeake Bay. Protected from the sea by the French fleet, American and French forces surrounded, besieged, and forced the surrender of the British forces under Lord Corwallis, effectively winning the war and leading to peace two years later. [18]

End of the Continental Navy

Alliance at sail USSAlliance.png
Alliance at sail

Of the approximately 65 vessels (new, converted, chartered, loaned, and captured) that served at one time or another with the Continental Navy, only 11 survived the war. The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended the Revolutionary War and, by 1785, Congress had disbanded the Continental Navy and sold the remaining ships.

The frigate Alliance fired the final shots of the American Revolutionary War; it was also the last ship in the Navy. A faction within Congress wanted to keep her, but the new nation did not have the funds to keep her in service, and she was auctioned off for $26,000. Factors leading to the dissolution of the Navy included a general lack of money, the loose confederation of the states, a change of goals from war to peace, and more domestic and fewer foreign interests. [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

USS <i>Confederacy</i> (1778)

USS Confederacy was a 36-gun sailing frigate of the Continental Navy in the American Revolutionary War. The British Royal Navy captured her in March 1781, took her into service for about half-a-year as HMS Confederate, and broke her up in 1782.

Abraham Whipple Continental Navy officer, pioneer to the Ohio Country

Abraham Whipple was an American Revolutionary War commander in the Continental Navy, and later one of the founders of Marietta, Ohio. Born near Providence, Colony of Rhode Island, Whipple chose to be a seafarer early in his life and embarked on a career in the lucrative West Indies trade, working for Moses and John Brown. In the French and Indian War period, he became a privateersman and commanded privateer Game Cock from 1759 to 1760. In one six-month cruise, he captured 23 French ships.

Silas Talbot American politician and naval officer

Silas Talbot was an officer in the Continental Army and in the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. Talbot is most famous for commanding USS Constitution from 1799 to 1801.

Naval battles of the American Revolutionary War

The War of the American Independence saw a series of military manoeuvres and battles involving naval forces of the British Royal Navy and the Continental Navy from 1775, and of the French Navy from 1778 onwards. While the British enjoyed more numerical victories these battles culminated in the surrender of the British Army force of Lieutenant-General Earl Charles Cornwallis, an event that led directly to the beginning of serious peace negotiations and the eventual end of the war. From the start of the hostilities, the British North American station under Vice-Admiral Samuel Graves blockaded the major colonial ports and carried raids against patriot communities. Colonial forces could do little to stop these developments due to British naval supremacy. In 1777, colonial privateers made raids into British waters capturing merchant ships, which they took into French and Spanish ports, although both were officially neutral. Seeking to challenge Britain, France signed two treaties with America in February 1778, but stopped short of declaring war on Britain. The risk of a French invasion forced the British to concentrate its forces in the English Channel, leaving its forces in North America vulnerable to attacks.

Esek Hopkins Continental Navy officer

Commodore Esek Hopkins was the only Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy during the American Revolutionary War. He was also an accomplished merchant captain and privateer. He is noted for his successful raid on the British port of Providence, in the Bahamas, and capturing large stores of military supplies.

USS <i>Providence</i> (1775)

USS Providence was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy, originally chartered by the Rhode Island General Assembly as Katy. The ship took part in a number of campaigns during the first half of the American Revolutionary War before being destroyed by her own crew in 1779 to prevent her falling into the hands of the British after the failed Penobscot Expedition.

USS <i>Alfred</i>

Alfred was the merchant vessel Black Prince, named for Edward, the Black Prince, and launched in 1774. The Continental Navy of what would become the United States acquired her in 1775, renamed her Alfred after 9th century English monarch Alfred the Great, and commissioned her as a warship. She participated in two major actions, the battle of Nassau, and the action of 6 April 1776. The Royal Navy captured her in 1778, took her into service as HMS Alfred, and sold her in 1782. She then became the merchantman Alfred, and sailed between London and Jamaica.

Nicholas Biddle (naval officer) Royal Navy officer

Nicholas Biddle was one of the first five captains of the Continental Navy, which was raised by the Continental Congress during the American Revolutionary War. Biddle was born in Philadelphia in 1750. He began sailing at the age of 13 and joined the Royal Navy when he was 20. In 1773, he sailed the Arctic with Constantine Phipps and Horatio Nelson. When the Revolutionary War began in 1775, Biddle joined the Continental Navy and commanded several ships. In 1778 off the coast of Barbados, Biddle confronted HMS Yarmouth, a 64-gun British warship. After a twenty-minute battle, Biddle's ship Randolph suddenly exploded, killing him and most of his men. Four ships of the U.S. Navy have been named in his honor.

South Carolina Navy

A South Carolina Navy has been formed twice by the State of South Carolina. The first time was during the American Revolutionary War, in which the state purchased and outfitted armed vessels independent of the Continental Navy. The second time was during the American Civil War, when its navy was also distinct from the Confederate States Navy.

The first USS Hancock was an armed schooner under the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War. Congress returned her to her owner in 1777.

USS <i>Hancock</i> (1776) 1776 frigate of the Continental Navy

The second Hancock was one of the first 13 frigates of the Continental Navy. A resolution of the Continental Congress of British North America 13 December 1775 authorized her construction; she was named for John Hancock. In her career she served under the American, British and French flags.

USS <i>Randolph</i> (1776)

The first USS Randolph was a 32-gun frigate in the Continental Navy named for Peyton Randolph.

Raid of Nassau 1776 American naval assault

The Raid of Nassau was a naval operation and amphibious assault by Colonial forces against the British port of Nassau, Bahamas, during the American Revolutionary War. The battle is considered one of the first engagements of the newly established Continental Navy and the Continental Marines, the respective progenitors of the United States Navy and Marine Corps. The action was also the Marines' first amphibious landing. It is sometimes known as the "Battle of Nassau".

Massachusetts Naval Militia maritime warfare branch of Massachusetts militia forces

The Massachusetts Naval Militia, was a naval militia active during the American Revolutionary War. It was founded December 29, 1775, to defend the interests of Massachusetts from Great Britain's forces.

The second Providence, a 28-gun frigate, built by Silvester Bowes at Providence, Rhode Island, by order of the Continental Congress, was launched in May 1776.

USS <i>Fly</i> (1776)

USS Fly was an eight-gun sloop in the Continental Navy. She was part of a squadron that raided the port of Nassau and engaged the 20-gun HMS Glasgow.

USS Warren was one of the 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on 13 December 1775. With half her main armament being 18-pounders, Warren was more heavily armed than a typical 32-gun frigate of the period. She was named for Joseph Warren on 6 June 1776. Warren was burned to prevent capture in the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition in 1779.

HMS Ariel was a 20-gun Sphinx-class sixth-rate post ship of the Royal Navy. The French captured her in 1779, and she served during the American Revolutionary War for them, and later for the Americans, before reverting to French control. as well as the British. Her French crew scuttled Ariel in 1793 to prevent the British from recapturing her.

American colonial marines

The historical battles of Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts sparked the beginning of the American War for Independence on 19 April 1775; soon after, the rest of the thirteen American colonies were pulled into the conflict. Many of the leaders in the rebellion recognized that a naval engagement against the British was the primary option to prevent the British from restoring Crown rule by military occupation.


  1. 1 2 3 Miller 1997 , p. 16
  2. 1 2 Miller 1997 , p. 15
  3. Howarth 1991 , p. 6
  4. Westfield, Duane and Bill Purdin. "The Birthplace of the American Navy". Marblehead Magazine. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  5. 1 2 "Establishment of the Navy, 13 October 1775". United States Navy. Retrieved November 5, 2009.
  6. Sweetman 2002 , p. 1
  7. Journal of the Continental Congress (November 10, 1775). "Resolution Establishing the Continental Marines". United States Marine Corps History Division. Archived from the original on October 7, 2010. Retrieved April 26, 2011.
  8. Miller 1997 , p. 17
  9. Perrenot 2010, p. 4.
  10. Miller 1997 , pp. 21–22
  11. Paullin, Charles O. (1906). The Navy of the American Revolution (dissertation). The University of Chicago. Retrieved online April 21, 2014 from
  12. . Stewart, Robert A. (1934). The History of Virginia's Navy of the Revolution. The University of Virginia: Mitchell & Hotchkiss, p. 136. Retrieved April 21, 2014 from;id=uc1.%24b727189;view=1up;seq=140;start=1;size=10;page=search;num=136#view=1up;seq=140
  13. Miller 1997 , p. 19
  14. Howarth 1991 , p. 16
  15. 1 2 Howarth 1991 , p. 39
  16. Sweetman 2002 , p. 8
  17. Sweetman 2002 , p. 9
  18. Sweetman 2002 , pp. 11–12
  19. "USS Alliance (1778)". Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. United States Navy. Retrieved November 23, 2009.
  20. Miller 1997 , pp. 33–35


Further reading