Friday, October 13, 2017

OCTOBER 13 = The U.S. Navy is Born

The United States Navy was given it's "birth certificate" on today's date, October 13 in 1775 by an act of the Continental Congress. Thus, today is the official birthday of the U.S. Navy.

The Need For a Navy

Commerce was a matter of prime importance to Americans who resided and made their living off of the coastal waterways of New England in the fall of 1775.  The fortunes and livelihoods of these men were tied directly to the sea. And thus the idea of a war with the most powerful fleet in the world (the British Navy) must have filled them with dread. So the matter of naval defense was naturally uppermost in their minds when the Continental Congress met in Philadelphia in the fall of 1775 (above). Afterall, Congress had created an army to fight the Red Coated British Army.  Why not a naval force of some kind?

The Continental Congress Debates the Idea

The proposal was introduced on October 3, and found many influential Congressmen very strongly opposed to the idea.  Edward Rutledge of
South Carolina (right) denounced the proposal as "the most wild, visionary mad project that ever had been imagined." Mr. Rutledge was further convinced that this idea would warp the minds of the sailors, essentially turning them into a pack of  Buccaneers: "it would ruin the character, and corrupt the morals of all our Seamen . . . [making] them selfish, piratical, mercenary, [and] bent wholly on plunder." Samuel Chase of Maryland was certain that the construction of a Navy would bring financial ruin and bankrupt the continent.  it was "the maddest idea in the world," But the navy was supported by one of the most
most effective speakers in the Congress: John Adams. Adams (below)
and his fellow "navalists" centered in on the possible benefits of having a navy "distressing the enemy" as well as creating a  "a system of maritime and naval operations" to defend the American ports against wholesale British Naval attacks at will. In the end Adams and his allies won the argument, and on this day of October 13 passed the following resolution:

 "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."

Thus with the navy formally organized on Dec. 22, one Esek Hopkins was named the first Commander in Chief of the Continental Navy.
Hopkins didn't prove to be a very good C. in C.; "a strawman admiral" in the words of some of his contemporaries.  But there were other stronger and substantial men waiting in the wings to take the lead when there was real fighting to be done; men such as Capt. John Barry, and Lt. John Paul Jones. It was a small group of twenty or so ships, mostly converted from merchant service.  But they did their jobs
bravely (see "I HAVE NOT YET BEGUN TO FIGHT!!"
And thus from such humble beginnings arose what would eventually become the most powerful navy in the world.

Sources =

"Picture History of the United States Navy" by Theodore Roscoe
& Fred Freeman Bonanza Books, New York, 1956.

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