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56 Navy of the United States

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56. NAVY OF THE UNITED STATES. The American navy came into existence in 1775 after the close investment of Boston by Wash ington had cut off all supplies to the British troops, save such as might arrive by water. To intercept these, some small vessels were armed and manned by New England seamen, first under the auspices of Rhode Island and Con necticut, and afterward by authority of the Congress which organized a Naval Committee with John•Adams at its head. These little craft not only deprived the enemy of succor, but captured enough prizes to furnish the colonial army with war material, without which it could r.ot have continued hostilities.

Early History.— In 1776 the navy had 31 cruisers mounting 586 guns, and no less than 136 privateers Mounting 1,360 guns had also been fitted out. Including the flotilla on Lake Champlain, the government war vessels in serv ice during the PZevolution numbered in all 64, carrying a total of 1,242 guns. This force cap tured 196 vessels worth about $6,000,000, and the privateer auxiliaries, numbering 792, mounting over 13,000 guns, took 600 British ships, valued at $18,000,000. Insurance on British bottoms rose from 2 to 15 per cent. This unprecedented destruction was one of the strongest arguments which led to peace.

The Hancock, Randolph, Raleigh and other cruisers authorized by Congress were excellent ships, and the Alliance and Confederacy built toward the close of the war had no superiors afloat. They were mainly armed with 4- to 18 pounder guns. Progress, however, stopped when independence was achieved, and the ves sels were sold and men discharged. In 1794 a law re-establishing the navy under the Secretary of War was enacted and six frigates authorized. Of these, three were constructed, the Constitu tion, 44 guns, 1,576 tons; Constellation, 36 guns, 1,265 tons; and United States, 44 guns, 1,576 tons. The Constitution is still afloat. Three were abandoned and the material sold. Under the pressure of French spoliation, however, the navy was increased and at the beginning of the quasi-war with France in 1798 it aggregated 22 ships with 456 guns and 3,484 men. This little force during the two and a half years of hostilities captured 84 French armed vessels mounting over 500 guns. The military disci pline of the navy here begins: the American officers, largely recruited from merchantmen, learned from the commanders of the British war vessels in the West Indies the traditions and customs of the older service. Then also

came in the carronade or short gun, with little penetrating but great smashing power. At the end of the French War, another reduction of the navy took place. The theory that ships and guns could be called into existence when needed, as easily as log cabins, even at that early day, had become well rooted. Accordingly after cutting our force down to 15 vessels, we deemed it wise to present the Dey of Algiers. with 26 barrels of silver dollars and the fine frigate Crescent to induce him to let our commerce alone. Tripoli in her turn, being thus encour aged, demanded special blackmail. Thereupon the navy, once more rejuvenated, not merely de stroyed the Barbary pirates, but emerged from the war in 1805 a sea power hereafter to be taken into account in the world's diplomacy. It was during these campaigns that disciplinary routine was so highly perfected by Commodore Edward Preble that it has remained with little substantial :.iteration to the present day. It was then also for the first time that the American navy was accorded all the formal honors of a national service by the war-ships of other countries.

War of 1812.— When the War of 1812 with Great. Britain began, the navy had 17 ships ag gregating 15,300 tons and carrying 442 guns and 5,025 men. It had no yards, no docks, no ade quate means of any sort for repair or refitting. The British navy, fresh from the victories of Trafalgar and the Nile, had over seven times this force on the North American station alone. Within seven months the United States ships had reduced three British frigates to wrecks and taken 500 merchantmen result which astounded the world. The Constitution, 55 guns, destroyed the Guarriere in 40 minutes and the Java in one hour and 55 minutes, and the United States, 54 guns, dismantled the Mace donian, 29, in about an hour and a half. The subsequent sloop actions were almost equally decisive. The noteworthy fact of these duels was the destructive character of the American fire— which literally tore the British ships to pieces and converted their decks into slaughter houses. Three prominent factors contributed to success.

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