The Continental Navy was authorized by the Continental Congress on October 13, 1775. The original intent was to intercept the supply of arms and provisions to British soldiers, who had placed Boston under martial law. Gen. 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. By the end of October, Congress authorized the purchase and outfitting of 4 armed vessels. Although the Navy was to play only a minor role in the war, the success of American privateers in interrupting British trade was an important factor aiding the patriot cause.
On December 3, the USS Alfred, USS Andrew USS Doria, USS Cabot, and USS Columbus. On December 22, 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the naval commander-in-chief, and officers of the navy were commissioned. With this small fleet, complemented by the USS Providence, and USS Wasp, Hopkins led the first major Naval action of the Continental Navy, in early March 1776, against Nassau, Bahamas, where stores of much-needed gunpowder were seized for the use of the Continental Army. On April 6, 1776 the squadron, with the addition of the USS Fly unsuccessfully encountered the 20-gun HMS Glasgow in the first major sea battle of the Continental Navy.
By this time, Congress had authorized the addition of 13 frigates to the fleet, which were contructed as warships, rather than refitted merchantmen. Some among these vessels would fight in the Battle of Valcour Island.
Guarding American commerce and raiding British commerce and supply were the principal duties of Continental Navy. Much of its accomplishments is recorded as prizes taken in commerce raiding, which, as was the practice of the time, brought personal gain to officers and crew. The one ship of the line built for service in the Continental Navy, the 74-gun USS America, was instead offered to France as compensation for the loss of its Magnifique, lost in service to the American Revolution.
The Continental Marines were the colonial Marine force of the Revolutionary War. The corps was formed by the Continental Congress in November 10, 1775 and was disbanded in 1783. Their mission was multi-purpose, but their most important duty was to serve as on-board security forces, protecting the Captain of a ship and his officers. During naval engagements Marine sharpshooters were stationed in the fighting tops of the ships' masts, and were supposed to shoot the opponent's officers, naval gunners, and helmsmen.
The Marines were used to conduct 2 amphibious landings during the Revolutionary War . They landed twice in Nassau, in the Bahamas, to seize naval stores from the British. The first landing, led by a Capt. Nicholas, consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence, in the Bahamas; there they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores. The second landing, led by a Lt. Trevet, landed at night and captured several ships along with the naval stores. A Marine battalion also fought alongside the Continental Army in the Battle of Princeton. The Continental Marines' first and only Commandant was Maj. Samuel Nicholas and the first Marine Barracks were located in Philadelphia. The first recruiting station was a bar called Tun's Tavern. Four additional Marine Security Companies were also raised and helped Gen. George Washington defend Philadelphia.
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