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Continental Navy and Naval Operations

Continental Navy Jack

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.

Continental Navy Ships:

Ship Name No. Guns Ship Type Year Aquired Year Outcome
Alfred 24 ship 1775-purchased 1778-captured
Columbus 20 ship 1775-purchased 1778-destroyed
Andrew Doria 14 brig 1775-purchased 1777-destroyed
Cabot 14 brig 1775-purchased 1777-captured
Providence 12 sloop 1775-purchased 1779-destroyed
Hornet 10 sloop 1775-purchased 1777-destroyed
Wasp 8 schooner 1775-purchased 1777-destroyed
Fly 8 schooner 1775-purchased 1777-destroyed
Lexington 16 brig 1776-purchased 1777-captured
Reprisal 16 brig 1776-purchased 1777-lost at sea
Hampden 14 brig 1776-purchased 1777-sold
Independence 10 sloop 1776-purchased 1778-wrecked
Sachem 10 sloop 1776-purchased 1777-destroyed
Mosquito 4 sloop 1776-purchased 1777-destroyed
Raliegh 32 frigate 1776-launched 1778-captured
Hancock 32 frigate 1776-launched 1777-captured
Warren 32 frigate 1776-launched 1779-destroyed
Washington 32 frigate 1776-launched 1777-destroyed
Randolph 32 frigate 1776-launched 1778-lost in action
Providence 28 frigate 1776-launched 1780-captured
Trumbull 28 frigate 1776-launched 1781-captured
Congress 28 frigate 1776-launched 1777-destroyed
Virginia 28 frigate 1776-launched 1778-captured
Effingham 28 frigate 1776-launched  1777-destroyed
Boston 24 frigate 1776-launched 1780-captured
Montgomery 24 frigate 1776-launched 1777-destroyed
Delaware 24 frigate 1776-launched 1777-destroyed
Ranger 18 ship 1777-launched 1780-captured
Resistance 10 brig 1777-launched 1778-captured
Surprise - sloop 1777-purchased unknown
Racehorse 12 xebec 1776-captured ? -destoyed
Repulse 8 xebec 1777-borrowed 1777-destroyed
Champion 10 xebec 1777-borrowed 1777-destroyed
L'Indien 40 frigate 1777-launched 1782-captured
Deane (Hague) 32 frigate 1777-purchased 1783-sold
Queen of France 28 frigate 1777-purchased 1780-sunk
Dolphin 10 cutter 1777-purchased unknown
Surprise 10 lugger 1777-purchased seized by France
Revenge 14 cutter 1777-purchased 1779-sold
Alliance 32 frigate 1778-launched 1785-sold
General Gates 18 ship 1778-purchased 1779-sold
Retaliation - brig 1778-purchased unknown
Pigot 8 schooner 1778-captured unknown
Confederacy 32 frigate 1779-launched 1781-captured
Argo 12 sloop 1779-purchased 1779-sold
Diligent 12 brig 1779-captured 1779-destroyed
Bonhomme Richard 42 ship 1779-purchased 1779-lost in action
Pallas 32 frigate 1779-borrowed returned to France
Cerf 18 cutter 1779-borrowed returned to France
Vengeance 12 brig 1779-borrowed returned to France
Serapis 44 frigate 1779-captured 1779-sold
Ariel 20 ship 1780-borrowed 1781-returned to France
Saratoga 18 ship 1780-launched 1781-lost at sea
America 44 ship 1782-launched given to France
Gen'l Washington 20 ship 1782-captured 1784-sold
Duc de Lauzun 20 ship 1781-purchased 1783-sold
Bourbon   36 frigate 1783-launched 1783-sold

Packet Ships: Active Baltimore Despatch Enterprise Fame Georgia Packet Horn Snake Mercury Phoenix

Pay Scale for Sailors:

The pay of the officers and men per calendar months:

  • Captain or commander, $32
  • Lieutenants, $20
  • Master, $20
  • Mates, $15
  • Boatswain, $15
  • Boatswain's first mate, $9.50
  • Boatswain's second mate, $8
  • Gunner, $15
  • Gunner's mate, $10.66
  • Surgeon, $21.33
  • Surgeon's mate, $13.33
  • Carpenter, $15
  • Carpenter's mate, $10.66
  • Cooper, $15
  • Captain's or Commander's clerk, $15
  • Steward, $13.33
  • Chaplain, $20
  • Able seamen, $6.66
  • Captain of marines, $26.66
  • Lieutenants, $18
  • Serjeants, $8
  • Corporals, $7.33
  • Fifer, $7.33
  • Drummer, $7.33
  • Privates [of] marines, $6.75
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