User:RekonDog/Definitive History of the United States Marine Corps/Institutions/Colonial Era
"No Taxation without Representation"
Ever since the end of the French and Indian War [Seven Years' War] (1754–1763), the relationship between the loyal citizens of British America and the Parliament of Great Britain began to slowly but steadily worsen. The war had plunged Great Britain so deep into debt that it convinced the British Parliament to enact subsequent actions by increasing the tax revenues from the American colonies; they greatly felt assured these astringent of revenue acts justified their reasons that the colonies should contribute in maintaining the financial stability of the British Empire. However, many American colonies held a huge margin of discontent, arguing that they were not directly and legitimately represented in Parliament, which an elected official should be representing the colonies in their stead; the British Constitution prescribed: "a British subject's property in the form of taxes could not be taken from him "without his consent" in the form of representation in government." They concluded that the British government had no right to levy taxes upon them, declaring it unconstitutional. The inquiry stood on controversial grounds if whether the extent of Parliament's sovereignty in the colonies had any legitimate jurisdiction whatsoever. Albeit, Parliament firmly certain their position in possessing the power to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever", as cited in the Declaratory Act of 1766. The laws of Great Britain naturally caused unsettling discern from the American colonies, just as the strict enforcement over the imposing laws, which altogether eventually lead to the proliferation of the American Revolution.
One of the earliest revenue acts, the Molasses Act (1733), effected the fulcrum of the mercantile trade in the American colonies, in which it imposed and enforced excises on the molasses trade from non-British colonies of the United Kingdom. However, raising revenue was not its sole purpose, but rather to monitor and regulate the molasses trade by making sugar, rum and molasses more cheaper than those from the occidental islands in the West Indies possessed by the French, Netherlands, Spanish, Portuguese, nor Danish. This act was to remain in force for thirty years and was apparently provoked by persisting plantation owners of the British West Indies. However, the laws passed by the French government encouraged the sugar and molasses enterprises—trade and shipment—but it forbade the French colonies (such as Haïti, Saint-Domingue, Martinique, the Grenadines) from producing cheap rum, which would be sold throughout France and undermine the prices of brandy, an important commodity to the French trade. Also, other foreign colonies in the Caribbean were primarily the source of specie for the American colonies.
To enforce the imposition of the new customs laws in the American colonies, the British Parliament appointed government officials as Commissioners of Customs to collect the revenues. The American colonists however potentially bypassed the customs officials and found other avenues of approach in importing and exporting taxed trade goods and merchandise—in the feat of smuggling. The colonists would regularly coaxed British revenue officials with bribes, or just simply outsmart them. The Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations's main industry was producing rum from molasses—Newport distilleries consumed 12,000 hogsheads of molasses (the equivalent of about 54 gallons), only 2,500 of which had arrived legitimately from the islands of British West India—the Narragansett Bay, of the colony of Rhode Island, was ideally perfect for smuggling. To put a stop to smuggling, the British Parliament authorized the British Royal Navy to execute its vessels in Narragansett Bay as a "show-of-force"; and subsequently along the coast of North America, from Casco Bay, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, to Cape Henlopen, in the Delaware Colony of the Province of Pennsylvania.
Such British presence however, was not taken lightly. In January of 1764, John Temple, the customs official responsible for enforcing the customs laws, traveled from his headquarters in Boston, to the Colony of Rhode Island, with intention to enforce the newer, indirect Sugar Act (1764); by which two months earlier he had implied he would "turn the usual blind eye." The British schooner HMS St. John that was assigned to Narragansett Bay, seized the sloop Rhoda carrying a cargo of molasses, which sailed inbound to Newport, from Surinam in South America. Under orders of local officials in Newport, a group of Rhode Islanders took control of Fort George on Goat Island, in the Newport harbor, and several rounds were fired upon HMS St. John. The British schooner averted the unexpected hasty response and successfully fled the harbor as the 20-gun warship HMS Squirrel arrived in the bay. The shots became one of the first direct acts of rebellion against the British government in the Americas. Two days later, after sundown, the sloop Rhoda "got under Sail and carried off by Persons unknown." A reward was posted for the capture of the offenders, but no one made an effort to take the bounty.
That same year the British naval ship, the HMS Maidstone, sailed to Rhode Island for the purpose of forcibly impressing [naval conscript, draft] seamen into the British Royal Navy, which caused an uprising amongst the colonists. A similar incidence occurred when a British brigantine sailed into the Newport harbor and pressed men into naval service. The following evening, a mob of about five hundred men seized one of the HMS Maidstone's boats. They paraded it through Newport before setting the boat on fire in front of the court house. In 1769, the British sloop HMS Liberty was also seized and burned after it made attempts to suppress smuggling.
The British revenue schooner HMS Gaspée, stationed in Narragansett Bay, was on similar duty in aiding the enforcement of customs collections, checking and inspecting the cargo of each vessel that went in, and out, of the bay. It got to the point that the arrogant behavior of her commander, who in many cases exceeded his authority, greatly disturbed the colonists. On 9 June 1772, HMS Gaspée chased the packet boat Hannah, and ran it aground. By nightfall, a party of men of the secret vigilante organization "Sons of Liberty", from the Colony of the Providence Plantation, descended down the river in boats and confronted the ship's crew before they were able to free Hannah; the crew and the ship's commander was captured in the process, and the ship was set on fire, momentarily blowing up.  This incidence became known as the Gaspée Affair; such little effort was made to ensure that this affair was done secretly.
On 10 May 1773, when the Tea Act (1773) was enacted by the British Parliament, immediate upheaval of events unfolded in British America, forming many resistance movements throughout the colonies. The Tea Act was objected for a variety of reasons, especially because the colonists believed that this act, as well, violated their given rights as English citizens to be taxed only by their own elected officials that represent the colonies. Momentarily, many American began to protest, developing an embargo against imports any territory of Kingdom of Great Britain. In every British American colony except the Province of Massachusetts Bay, protesters were able to force the tea consignees to resign, or to return the tea to England. Most of the heat was concentrated on the monopolized East India Company that was British government-protected.
In late November, the tea ships sailed into the Boston Harbor by which the leaders of the protesters imbued a resolution to the captain of Dartmouth, along with the other merchant ships–the Eleanor and Beaver, to return back to whence they came without paying the import duties. However, by the beset of Royal Governor Thomas Hutchinson, he refused to grant permission for the merchant ships to leave without paying the dues; the British law required tea shipments to unload and pay the duties within twenty days or customs officials could confiscate the cargo—a law that Hutchinson was committed to enforce. On 16 December, in an act of a direct action protest, a group of 30 to 130 men—poorly disguised as Mohawk Indians—boarded the three vessels and dumped all tea into the water, marking the iconic event known as the Boston Tea Party, a key event in the growth of the American Revolution.
In response to the 'Boston Tea Party', the British government responded with the Intolerable Acts [Coercive Acts] (1774), and the Boston Port Act, which ultimately closed all the commercial trading in Boston: not until the East India Company had been repaid in full for the tea destroyed. Also, other acts created privileges by increasing the boundaries of what was then the Province of Canada (present day Quebec and Ontario), granting its citizens free practice of the Roman Catholic faith (which was a relative issue that the majority of colonists in Massachusetts had been declined in the past by Parliament). It was hoped by Parliament that these punitive measures would make an example of the Bostonians, and the rest of the Province of Massachusetts, in an effort to dissipate the trend of Colonial resistance.
The First Continental Congress met in Carpenter's Hall in Philadelphia, from September 5, to October 26, 1774. Of all the 56 delegates elected by the people from the colonies, only the newest province, the Province of Georgia did not send delegates due to seeking aid from England in pacifying the area of Native Americans. The colonies that were representing illustrated determination to show the combined unity of authority to Great Britain. Convening the Continental Congress in 1774, its representatives members petitioned the British monarch for repeal of the acts. Although the colonies sought different intentions, they all agreed that the King and Parliament must understand the grievances of the colonies and that the government was supposed to be established for the good welfare of its citizens, not for mere empowerment and gentry; to give unrelenting support of legal rights to its British citizens, not just in the American colonies but other territories around the world as well. The series of affairs in British America caused great concern to King George and the British Parliament for a considerable amount of time before the initial outbreak of the Colonial rebellion.
- 1 19 April 1775: The American Revolution
- 2 26 Aug 1775: Resolution of Naval Affairs
- 3 5 Oct 1775: The Naval Committee
- 4 28 Nov 1775: Navy Rules and Regulations
- 5 14 Dec 1775: The Marine Committee
- 6 1776–1777
- 7 1777–1778
- 8 1778–1779
- 9 1782–1783
- 10 References
19 April 1775: The American Revolution
On 19 April 1775, about a force of 700 British Army regulars and a small force of Royal Marines were sent to destroy a cache of weapons and supplies in the town of Concord. The militiamen of local towns, and bands of Minutemen confronted the British forces and shots were exchanged in the small town of Lexington. The battles of Lexington and Concord sparked the beginning of the American Revolutionary War. The American rebels began blockading the narrow land access to Charlestown and Boston, starting the siege of Boston. When the delegates of each Provincial Congress of the Colonies convened again on 10 May 1775, comprising the Second Continental Congress, they chose to adopt the militias and formed it into the new Continental Army on 19 June, and unanimously elected George Washington the next day as its Commander-in-Chief. A set of naval constraints were established when the Continental Congress recognized that in order to prevent the British army from restoring Crown rule and further occupation into British America, they would have to resort to a naval war. Although this realization has consumed the Continental Congress, they remained reluctant to support a naval campaign against the world's strongest fleet.
As the newly appointed commander of the Continental Army, George Washington was desperate for firearms, powder, and provisions; he opted to supply his own force from the matériels from captured British military transports. To further expand his fleet, he also resorted to the maritime regiment of the Massachusetts militia, the 14th Continental Regiment (also known as the "Marblehead Regiment") to help muster in ranks. This unique regiment subsequently folded into Washington's army in January 1776.  The Marblehead Regiment was entirely composed of New England mariners, providing little difficulty in administering crews for Washinton's navy. His decision to create his fleet came without difficulties in recruiting new rebel naval forces, for the siege of Boston stirred the war along the entire coast of New England. The Royal Navy concentrated its vessels in the New England open waters, while its smaller warships raided the coastal towns and destroyed rebel military stores for supplies and provisions; and to punish the colonials for their rebellion—in accordance to the Proclamation of Rebellion that was chartered by King George. In response, several small vessels were commissioned by the governments of Massachusetts and Connecticut by the summer of 1775, authorizing the privateering against British government ships.
Nonetheless, searching for expert seamen with the skills to serve duties aboard a ship was quite easy during the eighteenth century since British American were notably a maritime class of people. Insomuch, the Colonists' economy greatly depended on the sea, especially in the more industrial colonies of New England. Before the development of America's infrastructure and roads, the most frequent and common mode of transportation for commerce and trade altogether was by water; the whole littoral length of the American eastern seaboard extends more than a thousand miles. During all seasons of the year, whaling and fishermen expertly navigated the northern Atlantic seas, especially from the banks of Newfoundland. This extensive trade likewise had furnished mariners in mastery of seamanship, but it is not certain whether, or not, if any percentage of seamen actually practice maritime warfare. During the Second Hundred Year War, however, letters-of-marque (informal: "legal pirates") and privateering had provided a profitable enterprise for the Americans and it gave many of its seamen the experience which would be valuable to the cause of the American Revolution. Many of the privateers and letters-of-marque would rummage the ocean in search of French or Spanish ships to take as prizes. And illegal piracy became such a huge issue that nearly every merchantman at sea would encourage his crew to sail with vigilance. The "letters-of-marque" issued to merchants allowed his crew to take possession of their defeated foe under legal protection. But it is well aware that there had been those there weren't so fortunate, falling victim to their aggressors. To reflect on all of this, it would apparent that American seamen at the opening of the American Revolution had the training and experience which made them ideally a naval entity. Whatever it shall be, the patriotic cause was the driving force in aiding the resistance against the formidable British forces.
To test the skills of seamanship under the events of war, the first naval engagement of the American Revolutionary War took place in and around the seaport of Machias, in the northern Province of Massachusetts Bay (eastern Maine), on 11–12 June 1775. Two merchant ships arrived in Machias on June 2, accompanied by the British HMS Margaretta, commanded by James Moore. Townspeople ultimately decided to capture Moore and his ship. He was able to escape out of the harbor, but the townspeople seized one of the merchant ships, armed it, and sailed out to meet him. In a short confrontation, they captured his vessel and crew, fatally wounding him in the process. The people of Machias captured additional British ships in the process and fought off large landing force intent on seizing the town. Privateers and private seamen continued to engage in conflicts in and out of Machias, interfering with the British Royal Navy's operations ensuing the Revolutionary War.
On June 15, 1775, the Second Continental Congress asked the New York provincial government to select two men for service in the army: Major General Philip Schuyler, and Brigadier General Richard Montgomery. Brigadier General Richard Montgomery commanded Colonel Benedict Arnold to lead the New England militia forces of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Vermont (the Green Mountain Boys), to seize the strategic post of Fort Ticonderoga and hold the British forces there. Colonel Benedict and his men temporarily eliminated British control of the Finger Lakes, which were held by a flotilla of shallow-draft vessels armed with light artillery. Early as May 1775, the sloop USS Enterprise ushered eighteen men, presumably the Massachusetts militiamen, as marines on the payroll. Later in May, the Connecticut Committee of Public Safety consigned ₤500 to Arnold, the shipment of payment was "escorted with Eight marines..well spirited and equipped,"  although they were actually seamen. They are often referred to as the "Original Eight". Even though there still wasn't a formidable Continental navy as of yet, the individual colonies each had navies and marines of their own. These American colonial marines have no lineage traceable to the Continental Marines, nor the modern United States Marine Corps; nonetheless, they fought the British as American marines as early as May. Units of the Continental Army and groups of militia were sometimes pressed to serve as sailors and naval infantry on ships, purposely serving as marines. In August of 1775, Washington's makeshift naval fleet continued the interdiction of Massachusetts Bay. Being a huge success, by the end of the year he was in command of four warships: the USS Franklin, USS Hancock, USS Lee, and USS Warren.
The colonial marines—Washington's naval fleet, Benedict Arnold's Lake Champlain flotilla, provincial maritime militias, and privateers—made no distinction of their duties as their activities were no different from English customs: marines were basically soldiers detailed for naval service whose primary duties were to fight aboard but not sail their ships. Washington's navy expeditions throughout the remaining months of 1775 suggested that his ship crews of mariner-militiamen were not divided distinctly between sailors and marines; the Marblehead Regiment performed a plethora of duties aboard the warships. However, the Pennsylvania Committee of Public Safety made a dividing line between the sailors and marines when it decided to form a state navy to protect the Delaware River and its littoral areas.
By autumn the British navy concentrated its main armada off the New England coast to blockade any American ships from entering or exiting the territorial waters; delegates from the Rhode Island Assembly pressured [Second] Continental Congress for naval assistance to clear the British navy raiders that had been harassing the Rhode Islanders. Although Congress was aware of British's naval strength and its own financial limitations, it addressed itself reluctantly to the problem of creating a formidable continental navy. They were hesitant to form a national naval force, only positing that they were only able to form such a capable force from Washington's and Arnold's fleets. On 26 August, the Rhode Island Assembly laid before Congress a bold resolution for "the building and equipping of an American fleet, as soon as possible."
The "Resolution of 26 August 1775" declared:
- "…the building and equipping an American fleet, as soon as possible, would greatly and essentially conduce to the preservation of the lives, liberty and property of the good people of these colonies… …to use their whole influence at the ensuing congress for building at the Continental expence a fleet of sufficient force for the protection of these colonies."
- "…the maddest Idea in the World!"—emphasis added.
Even those who were apologetic to the idea found that the proposal was all too perplexing. No would could fathom the slightest idea on how much it would cost to fund an American fleet to be used at the Continental expense.
- 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."
To proffer the assailed British forces in surrendering the city of Boston to the Americans, Josiah Quincy proposed in a letter to John Adams, dated 22 September 1775, to build five forts, three of them on Long Island, including along the Nantasket Roads—the estuaries of the Boston harbor and the narrow inlets—that were defended by British men-of-war. To include, Quincy also thought that:
- "…Row Gallies must be our first mode of Defence by Sea."
Such defense would be used to fire upon the British ships to force them out of the area, enabling them to submerge obstacles to barricade the narrows passage ways without haste. Quincy emphasized his proposal when he strongly implied that no British vessels shall have any access, in or out, of the bay area:
- "…both Seamen and Soldiers, if they don't escape by a timely Flight, must become Prisoners at Discretion."
Intelligence had been received of two brigs sailing from England laden with military supplies bound to Quebec. The Rhode Island delegates presented their information and instructions to Philadelphia on 3rd of October bringing the matter fairly before the body of Congress. The practicability of intercepting these vessels was considered by Congress two day later on October 5, 1775. However, discussion of these instructions were postponed from time to time, and it was several weeks before definite action was taken on them. Strong opposition was developed on the part of a vociferous minority to any participation of the Continental government in maritime warfare; to them it appeared sheer madness to send ships out upon the sea to meet the overwhelming naval force of England. After a lively debate the matter was referred to a committee consisting of John Adams, John Langdon, and Silas Deane. Upon the recommendation of this committee it was decided to instruct Washington at once to procure two Massachusetts cruisers for that service and to request the cooperation of the governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut.
The Rhode Island delegates presented their instructions to Congress October 3 and this brought the matter fairly before that body. Discussion of these instructions was postponed from time to time and it was several weeks before definite action was taken on them. Meanwhile intelligence had been received of the sailing from England of two brigs laden with military supplies bound to Quebec. The practicability of intercepting these vessels was considered in Congress October 5.
A resolution on 5 October 1775, has followed, instructing its delegates from that province in the Continental Congress to introduce legislation calling: "…to use their whole influence at the ensuing congress for building at the Continental expence 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 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.
On the advice of the committee appointed October 5, Congress voted on the 13th to fit out two vessels, one of them to carry ten guns, to cruise three months to the eastward in the hope of intercepting British transports. Another committee of three was appointed to inquire into the expense.
If Congress was yet unwilling to embrace the idea of establishing a navy as a permanent measure, it could be tempted by short-term opportunities. Fortuitously, on 5 October, Congress received intelligence of two English brigs, unarmed and without convoy, laden with munitions, leaving England bound for Quebec. Congress immediately appointed a committee to consider how to take advantage of this 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 cruise to the eastward to intercept any ships bearing supplies to the British army.
This committee was the first executive body for the management of naval affairs. It was known as the Naval Committee and the members were John Langdon of New Hampshire, John Adams of Massachusetts, Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Joseph Hewes of North Carolina, and Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina.
Strong opposition was developed on the part of a vociferous minority to any participation of the Continental government in maritime warfare; to them it appeared sheer madness to send ships out upon the sea to meet the overwhelming naval force of England. After a lively debate the matter was referred to a committee consisting of John Adams, John Langdon, and Silas Deane. Upon the recommendation of this committee it was decided to instruct Washington at once to procure two Massachusetts cruisers for that service and to request the cooperation of the governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Elbridge Gerry wrote from Watertown, October 9, 1775, to Samuel Adams, then a member of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia, saying: "If the Continent should fit out a heavy ship or two and increase them as circumstances shall admit, the Colonies large privateers, and individuals small ones, surely we may soon expect to see the coast clear of cutters." (Am. Arch., IV, iii, 993.)
Burnett, Edmund C., ed. Letters of Members of the Continental Congress. Publication № 299. Vol. I (29 Aug 1774–4 Jul 1776). Carnegie Institution of Washington. 216.
316. Samuel Ward, Diary.1
[October 5, 1775.]
5th. Congress according to the order of the day went into a Committee of the whole, etc After some debate a member produced a number of letters from England, which were read, and Captain Read,2 just arrived, and the gentleman to whom the letters were written, desired to attend the Congress. Expresses sent to General Washington, Governor Cooke and Governor Trumbull, to send out several vessels to intercept two transports with powder, etc Encouragement given to the men, etc The vessels to go on the service to be at the risk of the Continent.8
 l Mag. of Am. Hist., I. 551.
2 Probably Capt. Thomas Read of the ship Montgomery, in the service of Pennsylvania. See Pa. Arch., first ser., IV. 745-753, passim, and 769. In June, 1776, he was made captain of the Continental frigate Washington. See the Journals, June 6, Aug. 13, 1776, etc The letters from London concerning the two vessels have not been found, but cf. Force, Am. Arch., fourth ser., III. 148, 255-257.
3 See the Journals, Oct. 5, 6, 13, 17, 30, and Adams's Notes of Debates, Oct . 30, in the Journals, III. 504; also Hancock s letters to Washington and to the Massachusetts council, Force, Am. Arch., fourth ser., III. 950, 951, and Washington to Congress, Oct. 12, read in Congress Oct. 21, ibid., III. 1037 and Writings (ed. Ford), IV. 172, (ed. Sparks), III. 122. Cf. Gerry to Samuel Adams, Oct. 9, Force, Am. Arch., fourth ser., III. 993. See also Gov. Cooke of Rhode Island to Washington, Oct. 10, ibid., III. 1007, and to the Rhode Island delegates, the same day, Staples, R. I. in Cont. Cong., p. 41. See further, the Journals, Nov. 2, 8, 23, 24, 25, 28, 30, Dec 2, 5, 9, 19, 22, 1775; Jan. 7, 16, 25, 30, Feb. 7, 1776. Cf. nos. 329, 336, 354, 390, 395, 396, post. Many years later John Adams wrote in his Autobiography concerning these proceedings:
" On Thursday, October 5th, 1775, sundry letters from London were laid before Congress and read, and a motion was made, that it be
' Resolved, That a committee of three be appointed to prepare a plan for intercepting two vessels which are on their way to Canada, laden with arms and powder, and that the committee proceed on this business immediately.'
" The secretary has omitted to insert the names of this committee on the journals, but as my memory has recorded them, they were Mr. Deane, Mr. Langdon, and myself, three members who had expressed much zeal in favor of the motion. As a considerable part of my time, in the course of my profession, had been spent upon the sea-coast of Massachusetts, in attending the courts and lawsuits at Plymouth, Barnstable, Martha's Vineyard, to the southward, and in the counties of Essex, York, and Cumberland to the eastward, I had conversed much with the gentlemen who conducted our cod and whale fisheries, as well as the other navigation of the country, and had heard much of the activity, enterprise, patience, perseverance, and daring intrepidity of our seamen. I had formed a confident opinion that, if they were once let loose upon the ocean, they would contribute greatly to the relief of our wants, as well as to the distress of the enemy. I became therefore at once an ardent advocate for this motion, which we carried, not without great difficulty. The opposition to it was very loud and vehement. Some of my own colleagues appeared greatly alarmed at it, and Mr. Edward Rutledge never displayed so much eloquence as against it. He never appeared to me to discover so much information and sagacity, which convinced me that he had been instructed out-of-doors by some of the most knowing merchants and statesmen in Philadelphia. It would require too much time and space to give this debate at large, if any memory could attempt it. Mine cannot. It was, however, represented as the most wild, visionary, mad project that ever had been imagined. It was an infant, taking a mad bull by his horns; and what was more profound and remote, it was said it would ruin the character, and corrupt the morals of all our seamen. It would make them selfish, piratical, mercenary, bent wholly upon plunder, etc These formidable arguments and this terrible rhetoric were answered by us by the best reasons we could allege, and the great advantages of distressing the enemy, supplying ourselves, and beginning a system of maritime and naval operations, were represented in colors as glowing and animating. The vote was carried, the committee went out, returned very soon, and brought in the report in these words:
" This committee immediately procured a room in a public house in the city, and agreed to meet every evening at six o clock, in order to despatch this business with all possible celerity." Works, III. 6. See also the extract of a letter to John Langdon, Jan. 24, 1813, in the Journals (ed. Ford), III. 277 n.
Whether Adams was a member of the committee of Oct. 5 is uncertain, for the Journals do not record the composition of the committee. At all events, when a new committee had been appointed, Oct. 13, to carry out the plan which the committee of Oct. 5 had reported, Oct. 6 (the committee had made a first report on the same day on which it was appointed), the first committee ceased to exist. Nor was Adams a member of the second committee. When however the functions of the committee of Oct. 13 were enlarged, Oct. 30, and its membership increased from three to seven Adams was one of the four new appointees. It was this committee of seven which presently came to be called the naval committee, although for a time it is designated in the Journals by such phrases as " the committee for fitting out armed vessels ". See the Journals, Nov. 2, 23, 30, Dec 2, 5, 9, 13, 22, 1775; Jan. 6, 9, 16, 25, 30, Feb. 7, 1776. Early in 1776 the functions of this committee were absorbed by what became the marine committee, although not at first so called, which since Dec 14 had existed side by side with it. See especially the memorandum of Charles Thomson quoted in the Journals (ed. Ford), under Jan. 25, 1776 (p. 90 n) ; also the Journals, Sept. 19, 1776.
Of the origin of the marine committee it is necessary to take note briefly. Before the arrival of the budget of news from London which precipitated the action of Congress Oct. 5 a more deliberate step had been taken to induce Congress to create a navy. On Oct. 3 the Rhode Island delegates presented to Congress an instruction from their assembly, given Aug. 25, especially urging " the building and equipping an American fleet". See the Journals, Oct. 3, 6, 7, Nov. 16, Dec 9, and nos. 343, 304, note 2, post; also Staples, R. J. in Cont. Cong., p. 40. It was the Rhode Island instruction that formed the basis of the discussion recorded by John Adams in his Notes of Debates, Oct. 7 (Journals, III. 485; Works, II. 463). This instruction was taken into consideration Dec 11, and a committee of one from each colony appointed to devise ways and means for furnishing a naval armament. This committee made a report Dec 13, and a new committee, also one from each colony, was appointed, Dec 14, to carry the plan into execution. It is evident that the committee of Dec 14 was from the firs^ regarded as a standing committee on naval affairs, whereas the so called naval committee was appointed for a specific purpose with a limited scope. See no. 395, post. For other comment by John Adams concerning the origin of the navy and his part therein see no. 390, note 2, post. Adams was not a member of the marine committee at any time. For a history of these committees see C. O. Paullin, The Navy of the American Revolution, pp. 35 et seq., 79 et seq.
Congress let this plan lie on the table until 13 October, when another fortuitous event occurred in favor of the naval movement. 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, now appearing eminently reasonable to the reluctant members, was adopted.
The Continental Navy grew into an important force. Within a few days, Congress established a Naval Committee charged with equipping a fleet. This committee directed the purchasing, outfitting, manning, and operations of the first ships of the new navy, drafted subsequent naval legislation, and prepared rules and regulations to govern the Continental Navy's conduct and internal administration.
Early October, Congress members, such as John Adams, and colonial governments pushed Congress in creating a navy, however small. To examined the possible of establishment of a national navy, a naval affairs committee was appointed on 5 October, called the Naval Committee (predecessor to the Committee on Naval Affairs of House and Senate).
On 13 October 1775, Second Continental Congress authorized expenditure of $100,000 to the Naval Committee the fitting of four converted Philadelphia merchantmen as warships for the new proposed Continental fleet: USS Alfred, USS Andrew Doria, USS Cabot, and USS Columbus. By end of the year in December, the Continental fleet included the addition of two smaller vessels, the USS Hornet and USS Wasp. In January 1776, two new ships were fitted and commissioned, the USS Providence and USS Fly; making it eight ships for sea service. Despite the drawbacks of lack of funding in financing, the Continental Navy was formed.
On the advice of the committee appointed October 5, Congress voted on the 13th to fit out two vessels, one of them to carry ten guns, to cruise three months to the eastward in the hope of intercepting British transports. Another committee of three was appointed to inquire into the expense. October 30, 1775, is an important date in naval legislation. Congress resolved to arm the second of the vessels already provided for with fourteen guns and also authorized two additional vessels which might carry as many as twenty and thirty-six guns respectively, "for the protection and defence of the United Colonies." By this vote Congress was fully committed to the policy of maintaining a naval armament. On the same day a committee of seven was formed by adding four members to those already appointed (Jour. Cont. Congr., October 6, 7, 13,17, 30, 1775.) This committee was the first executive body for the management of naval affairs. It was known as the Naval Committee and the members were John Langdon of New Hampshire, John Adams of Massachusetts, Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Joseph Hewes of North Carolina, and Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina
October 30, 1775, is an important date in naval legislation. Congress resolved to arm the second of the vessels already provided for with fourteen guns and also authorized two additional vessels which might carry as many as twenty and thirty-six guns respectively, "for the protection and defence of the United Colonies." By this vote Congress was fully committed to the policy of maintaining a naval armament. On the same day a committee of seven was formed by adding four members to those already appointed (Jour. Cont. Congr., October 6, 7, 13,17, 30, 1775.)
In 1775, the Royal Navy numbered 268 warships, and by the end of the year it grew to a fleet force of 468 ships; its naval personnel increased during the war from 18,000 to 10,000. By contrast, the Continental Navy—including the state navies—had managed to maintain as much as over 50 commissioned warships by winter of 1776–1777, which it fell in numbers thereafter; its manpower most likely achieved no greater than 3,000 sailors and marines.
In November the Naval Committee purchased four merchant vessels under the provisions of October 13 and 30, to be converted into men-of-war. These vessels, as named by the committee, were the ships Alfred and Columbus and the brigs Cabot and Andrew Doria. The first was named in honor of the supposed founder of the English navy, the second and third for famous discoverers, and the fourth for the great Genoese admiral. Other vessels were authorized and purchased from time to time, the first of which was a sloop called the Providence (Adams, iii, 12; Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1938; .Jour. Cont. Congr., December 2, 1775.)
|Esek Hopkins, Commodore|
|First Fleet Admiral|
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The bombardment of Norfolk, Virginia by British raiders pressured the congressmen of the southern colonies (whose votes were essential to the Continental navy's creation) for assistance from Congress. Previous autumn, British and Tory ships organized by John Murray, the British Governor of Virginia, had been ravaging the shores of the Chesapeake Bay and the approaches near Hampton Roads. The Second Continental Congress issued its first commission of naval officers; Congressman Stephen Hopkins, the co-chairman of Naval Affairs and the Marine Committee, requested to the other Congress members in appointing his brother, Esek Hopkins, who was a veteran master merchantmen and a Commodore of the Rhode Island Navy, as the "Commander-in-Chief of the Fleet of the United Colonies". As a result, on 22 December 1775, the Marine Committee commissioned Esek Hopkins as Commodore in the Continental navy. He was immediately given command of a flotilla of five ships: USS Alfred, USS Andrew Doria, USS Cabot, and USS Columbus, and USS Providence, comprising the entirety of the navy, as of date 9 January 1776; the first squadron in the Continental fleet.
Meanwhile, November 2, 1775, the Naval Committee had been given power by Congress to "agree with such officers and seamen as are proper to man and command " the vessels they had purchased and were fitting out. On the 5th the committee selected Esek Hopkins, an old sea captain of Providence and brother of Stephen Hopkins, for the command of this little fleet (Field's Life of Hopkins, 78.) December 7 John Paul Jones "was appointed Senior Lieut. of the Navy." (Jones MSS., October 10, 1776; Sands's Life of Jones, 33.) On the 22d the Naval Committee "laid before Congress a list of the officers by them appointed, agreeable to the resolutions of Congress, viz: Ezek Hopkins, Esqr., commander-in-chief of the fleet. Captains, Dudley Saltonstall, Esqr., of the Alfred, Abraham Whipple, Esqr., of the Columbus, Nicholas Biddle, Esqr., of the Andrew Doria, John Burrows Hopkins, Esqr., of the Cabot. 1st lieutenants, John Paul Jones [etc.] . . . Resolved, That the pay of the commander-in-chief of the Fleet be 125 dollars per calendar month. Resolved, That commissions be granted to the above officers agreeable to their rank in the above appointment." In addition to those named above there were in the list four other first lieutenants, five second lieutenants, and three third lieutenants (Jour. Cont. Congr., November 2, December 22, 1775.) This is the beginning of a list of officers for the Continental navy which, in the course of the war and including marine officers and those commissioned in France, contained nearly three hundred and thirty names (See Appendix VI.) There were in addition medical officers, pursers, midshipmen, and warrant officers of whom no lists have been preserved. The largest number of petty officers, seamen, and marines in the navy at any one time may have been about three thousand.
When it came to selecting commanders for ships, Congress tended to be split evenly between merit and patronage. 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.
It has generally been supposed that the intention of Congress in making Hopkins commander-in-chief was to give him the same rank that Washington held in the army. It seems more likely, however, that Congress merely meant to give him command of this particular fleet. The wording of his appointment by the Naval Committee and of the resolutions quoted above, together with the fact that each of the captains was assigned, also by resolution of Congress, to a specified vessel, would indicate this. Stephen Hopkins, writing to Esek November 6, 1775, says: "You will perceive by a letter from the Committee, dated yesterday, that they have pitched upon you to take the Command of a Small Fleet, which they and I hope will be but the beginning of one much larger." (Hopkins, 78.) A resolution of Congress dated January 2, 1778, states that Hopkins "was appointed commander in chief of the fleet fitted out by the Naval Committee." (Jour. Cont. Congr., January 2, 1778.) He does not appear to have been mentioned officially and authoritatively, that is to say by the Naval or Marine Committee, though he was once by a special committee (Sands, 310.), as the commander-in-chief of the navy. In addition to his own fleet, several other Continental vessels cruised in 1776, which do not seem to have been under his orders (see ch. V) Hopkins was an elderly man at this time, having been born in 1718. He had spent much of his life at sea and was a privateersman in the French and Indian War (Hopkins, ch. i.)
10 Nov 1775: The Continental Marines
The Second Continental Congress convened on 9 November 1775, consulting the Naval Committee to send an amphibious expedition to Halifax in Nova Scotia. Having launched land expeditions toward the St. Lawrence River months earlier, Congress was convinced that sending marines to fight at sea and engage military operations ashore were paramount in destroying an important British naval base, and to procure enemy provisions and supplies, if possible.
On 10 November 1775, the Naval Committee was directed by Congress to raise two marine battalions at the Continental expense. Also, Congress decided the marines will not only be used for the Nova Scotia expedition but for subsequent service thereafter. Henceforth, the Naval Committee established a network of appointments for offices; paymaster, commissions, equipment, etc., for establishing a future national corps of marines.
Despite the Continental Navy being older, which its establishment dates 13 October 1775, in contrast to the Continental Marines, on 10 November 1775; and its gap between the disbanding–reestablishment , on 27 March 1794, in contrast to the Marines, on 11 July 1798. Marines have taken the position of precedence, awarded due to seniority of age, because they historically and consistently maintained their official birthday as "10 November 1775", while the Navy had no official recognition of 13 October as their birthday until 1972.
The two battalions of Continental Marines, however, never officially became resolved. Congress was greatly depending on Washington's cooperation for the Nova Scotia expedition and were planning to draw them from Washington's army, but Washington was unenthusiastic about the plan as he did not want to lose any men from his own ranks, suggested instead to Congress to recruit unemployed seamen for the proposed marine battalions to garrison at the Brooklyn and Philadelphia Navy Yard (which at the time was the Nation's first capital city [before moving to the District of Columbia]). Congress agreed on the decision.
On 28 November 1775, Congress issued its first commissions to Samuel Nicholas, as senior Captain becoming the first Commandant of the United States Marine Corps, and to Lieutenant Isaac Craig. In a letter form of officer commissioning, Congress has written to each: "...to raise a company of marines", informing that he and his junior officers are responsible in recruiting willing men to serve as marines aboard the pending Continental fleet. It was common visage for navy and marine captains to recruit sailors and marines before being issued their ship for duty aboard. Nicholas' family were tavernkeepers, his prominence came not from his work but from his leadership in two local clubs for fox-hunters and sport fishermen. Historian Edwin Simmons surmises that it is most likely Nicholas was using his family tavern, the "Conestoga Waggon"[sic], as a recruiting post
An advertisement in the Pennsylvania Gazette (a newspaper later owned by Ben Franklin), on July 11, 1734 ran an ad for the "Sign of the Conestoga Wagon", a tavern in Philadelphia. In those days not many people could read so taverns usually had signs that had a shape that people would recognize. They may have had words on the sign but the important part was that people who couldn't read would recognized the shape, know it was a Conestoga Wagon and realize this was the tavern known as the Sign of the Conestoga Wagon. This suggests that the Conestoga was a familiar shape that lots of people would recognize.
From the book, The Marine Corps Story, by J. Robert Moskin, 1992, Little, Brown and Company "...The two battalions were never raised; but on November 28, the Congress commissioned thirty-two year old Capt. Samuel Nicholas, a Philadelphia Quaker, and innkeeper and a blacksmith's son, as the first Marine officer. A hundred volunteers, recruited in Rhode Island, arrived at Philadelphia by December 5...probably signed up in Robert Mullan's Tun Tavern."
And, from the book, The United States Marines A History, by Edwin Howard Simmons. 1998, Naval Institute Press:"...According to legend, the recruiting rendezvous was Tun Tavern, but it is more likely that it was the "Conestoga Wagon", a tavern owned by the Nicholas family on Market Street between Fourth and Fifth Streets."
And, from the book, Marine Corps Book Of Lists, Albert A. Nofi, 1999, Combined Publishing:"...Eight Hoary Old Marine Corps Legends That Are Not True."
The first Marine recruiting station was established in Tun Tavern, in Philadelphia, the proprietor of which was so adept at securing recruits, by liberally plying them with drink, that he was made a captain in the Corps. Alas for "romance," the story is untrue. It probably got its start from the fact that Samuel Nicholas, effectively the first Marine Commandant, actually did own a tavern in Philadelphia, the "Conestoga Waggon", which apparently served as his headquarters for a time. However the owner of the Tun Tavern did become a Marine officer, about a year after the creation of the Corps, which probably gave rise to the legend. Although the standing legend in the United States Marine Corps today places its first recruiting post at Tun Tavern.
As Congress struggled for affordable and charitable vessels for the marines, Captain Nicholas searched Philadelphia for willing men to fill his ranks. However, the sailors and marines were expected to pay for themselves with the income produced from captured British prize ships, as Congress lacked the ability to fund the naval organization; making it very portentous for the future of the Continental Navy and Marine Corps. The length of service was one year, which was the same for the Continental army. The pay was the same as for the common sailors; the pay for a marine private in 1775 was $6.66 a month; the officers and non-commissioned officers were also same as those of the army and navy. The Continental service greatly depended the financial stability of Congress, whose paper currency was so valueless that it almost cease to circulate by 1779. Moreover, both state and Continental sailors and marines found in contrast that service aboard a privateer gained much more charm; which consisted of lesser duties and discipline than of the regular naval services. Plus, a privateer captain may split the entire value of his prizes between the owner of the ships (if borrowed) and the crew. However, both Continental and state navies had to divide no more than half their prize money, and the remainder when into the treasures of the associated states', or of Continental Congress. To the hundreds of small privateers that sailed the North Atlantic, the American naval forces found it increasingly difficult to take prizes, let alone influence the outcome of the war.
Ten additional Marine officers were appointed by Captain Nicholas, the majority of officers and enlistees were Philadelphian small merchants and businessmen, skilled tradesmen and workers, and unskilled laborers. Even there were some that were acquainted to those in Congress or in the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety. The primary duties of the officers were recruiting and persuading men to enlist, most officers were commissioned due to the fact that their most important qualification was knowledge of working the local taverns and other hot-spots of the working class. The officers would sweep through the city for potential recruits, accompanied by drummers borrowed from the Philadelphia Associators, a city militia. Nicholas and his officers might had some maritime experience, but it is unlikely that they were skilled mariners.
Borrowing from the Royal Marines of Great Britain, the practices and printed instructions were outlined in the "Rules for the Regulations of the Navy of the United Colonies." It was intended that the American marines would provide the same services as British and Netherlands Royal Marines.
established. On the 25th captures of British ships of war, transports, and supply vessels were authorized and the several colonies were advised to set up prize courts. The apportionment of the shares in prizes was prescribed. In the case of privateers all the proceeds went to the owners and captors; in the case of Continental or colony cruisers two thirds of the value of a prize when a transport or supply vessel, one half when a vessel of war, went to the government, while the captors took the rest. November 28, "Rules for the Regulation of the Navy of the United Colonies" (See Appendix II) were adopted. These early navy regulations were brief, relating chiefly to discipline and prescribing the ration and pay. The rules provided for courts martial, but not for courts of inquiry; there was much subsequent legislation on the subject of naval courts. Pensions for permanent disability and bounties, to be awarded in certain cases, were provided for, the necessary funds for which were to be set apart from the proceeds of prizes. The rules of November 28 were framed by John Adams and were based on British regulations. Adams was a leader in all this early legislation and the part he took in the founding of the Revolutionary navy was important and influential (Jour. Cont. Congr., November 10, 17, 23, 24, 25, 28, 1775; Adams's Works, iii, 7-11; Am. Arch., IV, v, 1111.)
14 Dec 1775: The Marine Committee
While recruiting was one issue, armaments and supplies was the most important issue in procuring for the Continental sailors and marines. They competed for scarce weapons with the Pennsylvania navy and the Philadelphia Associators. On 14 December 1775, the Continental Congress established a permanent Marine Committee to aid in drafting plans in expanding the Continental Navy and to supervise the construction of vessels and procurement of naval equipment. The Marine Committee is the forerunner of the United States Department of the Navy of today. It would supersede the duties of the Naval Committee; which the majority of the personnel were also appointed in the same office of Congress's new Committee of Naval Affairs. The Marine Committee contained thirteen members, one for each colony, included important figures, such as John Hancock (MA) as chairman, Stephen Hopkins (RI) as co-chairman, Robert Morris (PA), and Samuel Chase (MD). Committee of Naval Affairs would oversee the Marine Committee on matters concerning naval expeditions and projections. It exercised legislative, judicial, and executive powers. However, the lack of an administrative head and of actual authority over the states, impeded the Marine Committee as they did Congress.
The events already related took place under the stress of circumstances, most of them unauthorized by Continental or Provincial Congress. It is now necessary to interrupt the narrative of naval operations in order to sketch briefly the various sources of authority and the administrative systems under which acted the different classes of vessels throughout the course of the war. These classes were: First, Continental vessels; second, the state navies; third, the privateers, commissioned either by the Continental government or by the various states, and in some cases by both (In the preparation of so much of this chapter as relates to the administration and organization of the American naval forms, Paullin's Navy of the American Revolution has been closely followed. See also Am. Arch., IV, iii, 1888-1904, 1917-1957; Works of John Adams, ii, 462-464, 469, 470, 479-484, iii, 6-12.)
Public vessels cruising under Continental authority comprised not only the Continental navy, strictly speaking, including vessels fitted out in France, but also the fleets organized by Washington in Massachusetts Bay in 1775 and later in New York; by Arnold on Lake Champlain in 1776 and by Pollock in 1778 on the Mississippi River.
17 Dec 1775: The Thirteen Frigates
Three days later, the Marine Committee requested Continental Congress to authorize the construction of thirteen frigates; outfitted with five ships of 32-guns, five of 18-guns, three of 24-guns. It would supplement the warships already in service. Although Congress saw the purpose of using a national naval force to protect colonial merchant trade and commerce from the British blockaders, since it was played a big part in funding the American Revolutionary War. Congress and the state assemblies believed that the Continental navy should only be used for special missions, or other urgency and importance; state navies and privateers would malignity fight the naval battles of the Revolutionary War. Congress accepted the program on the recommendation that the construction of the frigates be decentralized and apportioned accordingly: Province of New Hampshire (one), Province of Massachusetts Bay (two), Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations (two), Connecticut Colony (one), Province of New York (two), Province of Maryland (one), and Province of Pennsylvania (four). The Marine Committee planned the first of the frigates to be fitted for the sea service by March 1776. However the difficulty of recruiting seamen (sailors and marines), getting funding for ship construction, and the getting past the British blockade. None of the thirteen Continental frigates sailed to sea in 1776. And all were either captured, or destroyed, between 1777–1781. While the marines were finally armed, they were not equipped with standardized uniforms.
By 17 December 1775 Congress had authorized the construction of 13 new frigates, rather than refitting merchantmen to increase the fleet. Five ships (USS Hancock, USS Raleigh, USS Randolph, USS Warren, and USS Washington) were to be rated 32 guns, five (USS Effingham, USS Montgomery, USS Providence, USS Trumbull, and USS Virginia) 28 guns, and three (USS Boston, USS Congress, and USS Delaware) 24 guns. Of the eight frigates that made it to sea, all were captured or sunk.
USS Washington, USS Effingham, USS Congress, and USS 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 31 March 1778, in another attempt, she ran aground near Hampton Roads, where her captain went ashore. Shortly after, HMS Emerald and HMS 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. 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.
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 27 September 1777, USS 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.
USS Warren was blockaded in Providence, Rhode Island, shortly after her completion, and did not break out of the blockade until 8 March 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 15 August 1779 to prevent her capture.
USS Hancock, captained by John Manley, managed to capture two merchantmen as well as the Royal Navy vessel HMS Fox. Later on 8 July 1777, however, the Hancock was captured by HMS Rainbow of a pursuing squadron, and became the British man of war Iris.
USS Randolph took five prizes in her early cruises. In 7 March 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.
USS Raleigh, under the command of Captain John Barry, captured three prizes before being run aground in action on 27 September 1778. Her crew scuttled her, but she was raised by the British who refloated her for further use in the name of the Crown.
USS 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 USS Providence who had taken 14 prizes in her own service under Captain Abraham Whipple) in the fall of Charleston, South Carolina on 12 May 1780.
The final frigate to meet her end of Continental service was the USS Trumbull, which had not gone to sea until September 1779 under James Nicholson, had gained acclaim in bloody action against the Letter of Marque HMS Watt. On 28 August 1781, she met HMS Iris and General Monk and engaged. In the action, USS Trumbull was forced to surrender to the former American naval vessels (the General Monk was the captured Rhode Island privateer USS General Washington, itself recaptured in April 1782 and placed in service with the Continental Navy).
Of the members of the committee of thirteen chosen December 14, 1775, "for carrying into execution the resolutions of Congress for fitting out armed vessels," ten had served on the committee of twelve which had recommended building the frigates and five had been members of the original Naval Committee. This new committee, consisting of one representative from each colony, became the second executive body for the administration of naval affairs. It was called the Marine Committee and was at first constituted as follows: Josiah Bartlett of New Hampshire, John Hancock of Massachusetts, Stephen Hopkins of Rhode Island, Silas Deane of Connecticut, Francis Lewis of New York, Stephen Crane of New Jersey, Robert Morris of Pennsylvania, George Read of Delaware, Samuel Chase of Maryland, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Joseph Hewes of North Carolina, Christopher Gadsden of South Carolina, and John Houston of Georgia. The membership changed from time to time. The Naval Committee continued in the meantime to occupy itself in fitting out the small fleet of vessels purchased for the service and placed under the command of Commodore Hopkins, and to prepare for an expedition which was being planned. January 25,1776, although the Marine Committee had already taken charge of general naval affairs, Congress voted to leave the direction of this fleet to the Naval Committee, which soon afterwards, this duty being accomplished, ceased to exist (Jour. Cont. Congr., January 25,1776.) The Marine Committee employed agents to supervise the construction of the frigates in the distant colonies, taking charge itself of those at Philadelphia. Before the end of the year 1775 the organization of a Continental navy was achieved.
In the course of time the mass of details connected with naval administration became too much for the Marine Committee easily to handle. Prize agents in the various seacoast towns were appointed to superintend the trial and condemnation of the prizes taken by Continental cruisers. Most of the prize agents were also Continental agents, in which capacity they performed various other duties of a naval sort. John Bradford at Boston had the most important of these agencies (Am. Arch., V, ii, 1113, 1114.) For the further relief of the Marine Committee and at their suggestion, Congress appointed three persons, November 6, 1776, "to execute the business of the navy, under the direction" of the committee. This body of three was known as the Navy Board and the men appointed to serve on it were John Nixon and John Wharton of Pennsylvania and Francis Hopkinson of New Jersey. The lack of maritime knowledge and experience among members of Congress was keenly felt at this time. William Ellery of Rhode Island, who had recently become a member of the Marine Committee, wrote home to his friend William Vernon, November 7, 1776, "The Conduct of the Affairs of a Navy as well as those of an Army We are yet to learn. We are still unacquainted with the systematical Management of them." (Publications of R.I. Hist. Soc., viii (January, 1901), 201.) April 19, 1777, another committee of three was authorized, to take charge of naval affairs in New England; the men selected for this board were William Vernon of Rhode Island, James Warren of Massachusetts, and John Deshon of Connecticut. The first of these boards was then called the Navy Board of the Middle Department or District, the second the Navy Board of the Eastern Department, or they were called the boards at Philadelphia and at Boston respectively (Jour. Cont. Congr., April 23, November 6,1776, April 19,1777.)
With further experience it became apparent that the Marine Committee was too large and its members too deficient in special knowledge of naval science to admit of prompt, capable, and expert handling of the affairs entrusted to them. In October, 1776, John Paul Jones wrote to Robert Morris (Am. Arch., V, ii, 1106; Sands, 55) that efficiency in naval administration could only be obtained by the appointment of a competent board of admiralty. William Ellery wrote to William Vernon, February 26, 1777: "The Congress are fully sensible of the Importance of having a respectable Navy and have endeavoured to form and equip One, but through Ignorance and Neglect they have not been able to accomplish their Purpose yet. I hope however to see One afloat before long. A proper Board of Admiralty is very much wanted. The Members of Congress are unacquainted with this Department. As One of the Marine Committee I sensibly feel my Ignorance in this Respect." (Publ. R. I. Hist. Soc., viii, 204.) For three years, however, little was done in the way of improving administration except the appointment of the navy boards and agents. Finally, October 28, 1779, upon the recommendation of the Marine Committee a Board of Admiralty was established by Congress. This was a body of five members, two of whom were to be members of Congress, while the other three, called commissioners, were to be men possessing a knowledge of naval matters. A quorum of three was necessary for the transaction of business. The Marine Committee then came to an end, but the navy boards at Philadelphia and Boston and the navy agents were retained under this reorganization (Jour. Cont. Congr., June 9, October 28, 1779.)
Commodore Esek Hopkins's fleet—along with marine detachments of 230 men—departed Philadelphia on 4 January 1776. Samuel Nicholas's Continental marines embarked onto five vessels for their maiden voyage, this was the first naval expedition for the Continental Navy-Marine Corps. The Marine Committee given them the task to patrol the southern American coastline to intercept and clear any presence of British troops along the Delaware River, and Chesapeake Bay, then return north to New England and perform similar services. However, for reasons that remain a controversy, Hopkins disregarded his orders and sailed for the Caribbean Islands instead. During this expedition, Hopkins ordered Nicholas's marines ashore epitomizing the first amphibious landing, also for the first time, the infamous command: "Land the landing force!", has been used in America's history. Their efforts allowed Washington's Continental army to be supplied with matériel, gunpowder, and arms. Naval stores were greatly needed at all times and the Marine Committee took measures to obtain them in the West Indies, the depot for European goods of that kind. Ships of war were largely employed for their transportation.
Heavily laden with the valuable supplies, Hopkins's fleet departed New Providence on 17 March 1776. By summer of 1776, Hopkins's squadron returned to Philadelphia. Most of the sailors and Marines were riddled by diseases, desertion, and resignation of officers. The Continental Congress struggled to find more crews to man the Navy's ships; throughout the autumn and winter of 1776, the Marine detachments were moved from vessel to vessel and were temporarily reinforced by the Continental Army and militia.
While Hopkins and Nicholas were sailing the Atlantic and Caribbean, Congress authorized the Marine Committee to purchase two more brigantines for the Continental Navy. The Marine Committee purchased brigantine Wild Duck, from the Maryland Committee of Safety and renamed her USS Lexington, commemorating the battle in Lexington which took place earlier on 19 April 1775. The brigantine Lexington was turned over to "Wharton and Humphrey's Shipyard" in Philadelphia for fitting for Continental service. John Barry was commissioned as a Captain in the Continental Navy, dated March 14, 1776; along with this commission went command of the brig USS Lexington, his first warship. The Marine Committee of the Continental Congress purchased merchantman Molly on 28 March 1776; renamed her USS Reprisal and placed under the command of Captain Lambert Wickes. These two vessels were to be used to supplement the efforts of the Pennsylvania Navy, and the Continental vessels, in clearing the lower approaches of the Delaware River from British raiders. Congress approved the Marine Committee's request for new officers; fourteen new officer were commissioned in the Continental Marine Corps; also as a result, they appointed a ship captain and four new additional Marine officers for each vessel, all of whom by March 1776 had recruited enough enlisted marines to serve aboard the ships.
When Commodore Hopkins and Nicholas's Continental marines reached New London, Connecticut, on 8 April, from the New Providence expedition, the Americans were at first welcomed as heroes. However, many of the officers of the American squadron voiced dissatisfaction with Hopkins. The officers of both the navy and marines that had to serve with Hopkins had difficult times dealing with his aggressive ego. Samuel Nicholas was promoted to Major on 25 June. With notification of his promotion he was ordered to report to the Marine Committee. The Committee detached him from USS Alfred and ordered him to remain in the city, "to discipline four companies of Marines and prepare them for service as Marine guards for the frigates on the stocks." Having recruited and thoroughly organized for companies, he requested arms and equipment for them. Elsewhere, USS Alfred, under command by John Paul Jones, continued to raid British commerce while the rest of Hopkins's squadron awaited repairs or more crewmen. Congress however, was utterly disappointed in Commodore Esek Hopkins's disobeying of orders. Dissatisfaction with the achievements of the fleet, and its subsequent inactivity in Rhode Island, led to an investigation by Congress. Censured for disobedience of orders, Hopkins returned to the fleet.
Also on the same day [25 June], Robert Mullan (whose mother was the proprietor of Tun Tavern and most likely used it as his recruiting rendezvous) received his commission as Captain. Capt. Mullan played an important aid in recruitment of enlistees for Marines aboard the Continental navy fleets, he became by legend, the first 'Marine Recruiter'. Captain Mullan's roster lists two black men, Issac and Orange, in his company; another historical recording of one of the first black American Marines.
On 16 November 1776, the brigantine USS Andrew Doria, commandeered by Captain Isaiah Robinson, sailed to the Dutch island of Sint Eustatius, in the Netherlands Antilles of the West Indies. Upon arrival, Captain Robinson issued a "11-guns salute", Governor Johannes de Graaff of Sint Eustatius responded by firing the cannons from Fort Oranje. The gun salute gained such great publicity because the it was the first international recognition of the independence of the United Colonies (the United States). This historical event inspired the title for Barbara Tuchman's 1998 book, "The First Salute: A View of the American Revolution".
Captain Isaac Craig accepted a commission as a captain in Colonel Thomas Proctor’s Pennsylvania Regiment of Artillery (later becoming the 4th Continental Artillery under General Washington). While with the Army, he was in the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11th, 1777, and the Battle of Germantown. On October 4th, 1777. He continued to serve throughout the war with the army under General Washington. Captain Robert Mullan's company returned to Philadelphia as prisoner guards after they found that there was no ship to man, disbanding in April 1777. Many would also return to Philadelphia in the spring to become part of the detachments of the new Continental galley USS Washington [the third ship to be named as such] and the frigate USS Delaware. Meanwhile, Hopkins fleet again set out at sea in the Atlantic, on 29 May 1776, the Continental sailors and Marines aboard brigantine USS Andrew Doria captured two British transports, with each bearing an infantry company. Hereafter, Hopkins's squadron patrolled the coast of New England as far north to Nova Scotia for the rest of the spring of 1776.
Towards the end of the year 1776 some of the thirteen frigates authorized by Congress in December, 1775, were nearly ready for service. The Raleigh's keel was laid at Portsmouth March 21 and just two months later she was ready to enter the water. "On Tuesday the 21st inst. the Continental Frigate of thirty-two guns, built at this place under the direction of John Langdon, Esq., was Launched amidst the acclamation of many thousand spectators. She is esteemed by all those who are judges that have seen her, to be one of the compleatest ships ever built in America. The unwearied diligence and care of the three Master-Builders, Messrs. Hacket, Hill and Paul, together with Mr. Thompson under whose inspection she was built, and the good order and industry of the Carpenters deserve particular notice; scarcely a single instance of a person being in liquor, or any difference among the men in the yard during the time of her building, every man with pleasure exerting himself to the utmost; and altho' the greatest care was taken that only the best of timber was used and the work perform'd in a most masterly manner, the whole time from her raising to the day she launched did not exceed sixty working days, and what afforded a most pleasing view (which was manifest in the countenance of the spectators) this noble fabrick was compleatly to her anchors in the main channel in less than six minutes from the time [of] the run, without the least hurt; and what is truly remarkable, not a single person met with the least accident in launching, tho' near five hundred men were employed in and about her when ran off." (New Hampshire Gazette, May 25, 1776, quoted in N. H. General Rec., January, 1907.)
On September 21 the Marine Committee directed that the frigates Boston, Captain Hector McNeill, and Raleigh, Captain Thomas Thompson, should be fitted out as expeditiously as possible, and these vessels were ordered to cruise in Massachusetts Bay and to the eastward, in search of the British frigate Milford. October 23 these orders were modified by joining with these two vessels the frigate Hancock, and instructions were issued for Captains Manley, McNeill, and Thompson: "You are hereby directed to act in concert and Cruize together for the following purposes and on the following stations. Your first object must be to inform yourselves in the best manner possible, if any of the British men of war are Cruizing in the bay of Boston or off the Coast of Massachusetts, and all such you are to endeavour with your utmost force to take, sink, or destroy. Having effected this service you are to proceed together towards Rhode Island and there make prize of or destroy any of the enemies Ships of war that may be found Cruizing off the Harbour or Coast of Rhode Island. The Prizes you make are to be sent into the nearest Port. When you arrive at Rhode Island, if Commodore Hopkins should not be already sailed on his Southern expedition and the two frigates built in that State should not be ready for the Sea, in that case you are to join Commodore Hopkins and proceed with him on the said expedition, producing those orders to him to justify the measure. But if the Rhode Island frigates should be ready for the sea, there will be no Occasion for you or either of you to go Southward. And you will then proceed, taking with you any Continental Vessel that may be at Rhode Island and ready, if Commodore Hopkins should be sailed before you come there, and proceed to Cruize against the enemies Ships & Vessels that may be found off the Coast between the Harbour of Newport and the Banks of Newfoundland. We have no doubt from your zeal and attachment to the cause of America that you will execute this service with all possible dispatch and vigor, and so bid you heartily farewell." (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 39.) The frigate Randolph, built at Philadelphia, was put under the command of Captain Biddle and was expected to sail before the end of the year. For one reason or another, however, chiefly, no doubt, the difficulty of manning the ships and the British blockade, no Continental frigate got to sea in 1776 (Am. Arch., V, ii, 428, 1200, iii, 826, 827, 1198, 1254, 1332, 1484; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 21, 22, 23, 24 (September 21, 1776.)
In October the Reprisal was placed at the disposal of the Committee of Secret Correspondence of Congress and the Lexington, Andrew Doria, and Sachem were put under the orders of the Secret Committee; these were two distinct committees. These vessels, in addition to other duties, carried important dispatches. The Reprisal was ordered to take Franklin, who had been appointed a commissioner to France, to his post; and afterwards to cruise in the English Channel. She sailed about the 1st of November and anchored in Quiberon Bay a month later; two small prizes were taken during the voyage. Franklin went ashore at Auray, and made the best of his way to Paris, where he arrived December 22 (Mar. Com. Letter Book, 34, 35 (October 17, 18, 1776); Pap. Cont. Congr., 37, 75, 83, 95 (October 24, 1776) ; Am. Arch., V, ii, 1092, 1115, 1197-1199, 1211-1213, 1215, iii, 1197.)
The Lexington, Captain William Hallock, went to the West Indies in the service of the Secret Committee of Congress and on her way back from Cape Francois, in December, was captured off the Delaware capes by the British frigate Pearl. About this time there were six British ships in this vicinity or stationed in the bay, which at the end of the year was closely blockaded. A lieutenant and a small prize crew were put on the Lexington and seventy of her own crew were left on board. The same evening these prisoners recaptured the ship and, though without officers to direct them, took her safe into port (Am. Arch., V, iii, 1484, 1486; Mag. Amer. Hist., March, 1878, narrative of Lieutenant Matthewman; Port Folio, June, 1814, memoir of Commodore Dale.)
Under orders dated October 17, 1776, the Andrew Doria, Captain Isaiah Robinson, sailed for the Dutch island of St. Eustatius for a cargo of military supplies. Upon arriving at that place and anchoring in the roads, November 16, the Andrew Doria fired a salute of eleven guns, which was returned by the fort with two guns less, as for a merchantman. This has been called the first salute given the American flag in a foreign port, but about three weeks before this an American schooner had had her colors saluted at the Danish island of St. Croix. In response to a British complaint the salute to the Andrew Doria was disavowed by the Dutch government and the governor of St. Eustatius was recalled. The Andrew Doria, having taken on the stores for which she was sent, sailed for Philadelphia. On the return voyage, near Porto Rico, she captured the British twelve-gun sloop of war Racehorse after an engagement of two hours. A few days later another prize was taken, but was recaptured. The Andrew Doria and Racehorse arrived safely in port (Barney, 47-51; Amer. Hist. Rev., viii (July, 1903), 691-695; N. E. Mag., July, 1893; Mar. Com. Letter Book, 34; Pap. Cont. Congr., 28, 173 (March 28,177
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 to 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 likeminded agents, Continental officers were afforded the ability to receive commissions, 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 her neutrality by seizing USS Dolphin and USS Surprise. 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 USS Ranger but only now saw the opportunity for higher command. The French loaned Jones the merchantman, Duc de Duras, which Jones refitted and renamed USS Bonhomme Richard as a more powerful replacement for the USS 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 1500 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. The 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 it was fortuitous.
On 23 September 1779, Jones' squadron was off Flamborough Head when the British men-of-war HMS Countess of Scarborough and HMS Serapis bore down on the Franco-American force. The lone Continental frigate, USS Bonhomme Richard engaged the HMS Serapis. In a particularly bloody, destructive fight, the English captain called out to inquire if the USS Bonhomme Richard had struck her colors. Jones cried out, "I have not yet begun to fight!" Upon raking the HMS Serapis, the crew of the USS Bonhomme Richard led by Jones boarded the English ship and captured her. Likewise, the French frigate D'Pallas captured her prize the HMS Countess of Scarborough. Two days later, the USS Bonhomme Richard sank from the overwhelming amount of shock she took from the struggle.
The action stuck out as an embarrassing defeat for the Royal Navy, who suffered the capture of two of her vessels in her own home waters.
In a like fashion, the French loaned the Continental Navy the use of the corvette USS Ariel. The one ship-of-the-line built for service in the Continental Navy, the 74-gun USS America , was instead offered as a gift to France on 3 September 1782 in compensation for the loss of Le Magnifique in service to the American Revolution.
At the end of the Revolution in 1783, both the Continental Navy and Marines were disbanded in April. Although individual Marines stayed on for the few American naval vessels left, the last Continental Marine was discharged in September. In all, there were 131 Colonial Marine officers and probably no more than 2,000 enlisted Colonial Marines. Though individual Marines were enlisted for the few American naval vessels, the organization would not be re-created until 1798.
- Middlekauff, Robert (1985). The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763–1789. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 241. ISBN 978-0195162479.
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