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Continental Navy

vessels, naval, board, congress, prizes and british

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CONTINENTAL NAVY. During the summer and fall of 1775, the British attempts to subdue resistance in the colonies on land was supplemented by harrying their shipping and coasts by sea. Several merchant vessels were made prizes in violation of law. Glou cester was fired on, and Bristol bombarded to obtain provisions. Most of the colonies equipped armed vessels for themselves and com missioned privateers. On 5 October news came that two British transports were on the way to Quebec with military stores; and as our armies needed these worse than the British, Congress on the 13th appointed a board of three (Silas Deane, John Adams — afterward replaced by Christopher Gadsden — and John Langdon) to fit out two swift armed vessels and intercept these or any other store-ships. This board was the Navy Department of the Revolution for a time; it was turned into a marine committee, marine board, etc., with under boards called the Continental Naval Board, Board of Admiralty, etc. On 18 October Falmouth (now Portland) was bombarded and set on fire; and on the 30th two more and heavier vessels were author ized. The naval committee was doubled and made general managers of naval matters, sub ject to final decision by Congress, which ap pointed the officers down to third lieutenant the ((patronage) question being as burning here as in the Continental army. The beginnings of the American navy were curiously inauspicious for a nation of skilful and daring seamen, and for a body with so brilliant a subsequent record. The officers were largely incompetent, and the men mutinous. A brilliant exception was Captain Manly of the schooner Lee, who cap tured several prizes, including a brig loaded with heavy guns, mortars and tools. Finally, on 25 Nov. 1775, Congress gave up the grisly pretense of being at loyal peace with Great Britain, and declared all ships of war employed against the colonies, and all supply tenders for them, lawful prize; authorized privateering and colonial courts to try prizes; adopted rules and regulations for a Continental navy; and on 13 December directed the marine committee to build and fit out five 32-gun frigates, five 28's and three 24's, by April next. These were esti

mated to cost $866,666.66, and were to be built at the leading colonial ports from Portsmouth to Baltimore, and elsewhere (Norfolk, Charles ton, etc.), if thought advisable. Other vessels might be bought and equipped. On 22 Decem ber Esek Hoplcins was made commander-in chief. Among the first lieutenants was John Paul Tones. On 9 November two battalions of marines were authorized. By January eight cruisers had been collected at Philadelphia, and Commodore HopIcing started on a cruise, but was detained six weeks by. the ice, and only got clear 17 February. He had been instructed to °annoy the enemy's ships %won the coasts of the Southern Statee; but finding nothing of Dun more's squadron, sailed to New Providence in the Bahamas, where a quantity of British mil itary supplies were stored, stormed the place, and carried off a quantity of stores and 80 cannon, besides the governor and some leading citizens as hostages. On his return he fell in with some armed vessels, which he captured, and the 20-gun frigate Glasgow, which, after a spirited fight, escaped. Congress held an in quiry into Hopkins' conduct in June, decided that he had exceeded his instructions, censured him and finally dismissed him. This did not encourage enterprise, and naval service became unpopular. No new naval commander was ap pointed, the President afterward being given that rank. The vessels, however, did some clever work, and captured many prizes; but the greater part of this service was accomplished by privateers. At the time of the Declaration of Independence our navy consisted of six regularly built war vessels and 19 merchantmen with naval armament, the whole with 422 guns. Against this the Bntish had 78 men-of-war, with 2,078 guns.

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