This day in history, October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the construction and administration of the first American naval force, which was the precursor to the United States Navy.
The Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty. They then sent them out on a cruise for three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew.
A small group of men in Congress had been advocating a Continental Navy from the outset of armed hostilities. Foremost among these men was John Adams, of Massachusetts. For months, he and a few others had been agitating in Congress for the establishment of an American fleet. They argued that a fleet would defend the seacoast towns, protect vital trade, retaliate against British raiders, and make it possible to seek out among neutral nations of the world the arms and stores that would make resistance possible
There were several people that opposed the establishment of a Navy.
On October 5, Congress received intelligence of two English brigs, unarmed and without convoy, laden with munitions, leaving England for Quebec. Congress immediately appointed a committee to consider how to take advantage of the opportunity. Its members were all New Englanders and all ardent supporters of a navy. They recommended first that the governments of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut be asked to dispatch armed vessels to lay in wait to intercept the munitions ships; next they outlined a plan for the equipping by Congress of two armed vessels to sail eastward to intercept any ships bearing supplies to the British army.
On October 13, a letter from General Washington was read in Congress in which he reported that he had taken under his command, at Continental expense, three schooners to cruise off Massachusetts to intercept enemy supply ships. The commander in chief had preempted members of Congress reluctant to take the first step of fitting out warships under Continental authority. Since they already had armed vessels cruising in their name, it was not such a big step to approve two more. The committee’s proposal for an American fleet was adopted.
Congress established a Naval Committee charged with equipping a fleet after just a few days.
In November, the Continental Navy was formally organized, and on December 22, Esek Hopkins was appointed the first commander in chief of the Continental Navy.
The 24-gun frigates Alfred and Columbus, the 14-gun brigs Andrew Doria and Cabot, as well as three schooners, the Hornet, the Wasp and the Fly, became the first ships of the Navy’s fleet.
During the American Revolution, the Continental Navy successfully preyed on British merchant shipping and won several victories over British warships. This first naval force was disbanded after the war. The current United States Navy was formally established with the creation of the federal Department of the Navy in April 1798.