Peace Keeper or Ban Hammer-it's up to you; IDMBT#9
Staff member
The following was originally published in October of 1999 by the then Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Jay Johnson, as part of his birthday message to the fleet.

Enjoy - and happy birthday!

On Friday, 13 October 1775, meeting in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels armed with ten carriage guns and send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America. This, the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew, constitutes the birth certificate of the Navy.

To understand the significance of this decision we need to review the strategic context in which it was made and consider the political struggle that lay behind it.

Americans first took up arms in the spring of 1775, not to sever their relationship with the king, but to defend their rights within the British Empire. By that fall, Royal institutions from Maine to Georgia had been forced out and revolutionary governments put in their place. Congress created a Continental Army, issued paper money, and formed a committee to negotiate with foreign countries.

Still, the Royal Navy of Great Britain controlled the seas, threatening to stop the colonies' trade and destroy American ports. A small group of men in Congress, led by John Adams of Massachusetts, advocated a Continental Navy from the outset of armed hostilities. For months, he and a few others agitated for the establishment of an American fleet. They argued that a fleet would defend the seacoast towns, protect vital trade, retaliate against British raiders, and make it possible to get arms and stores from neutral countries.

Still, the establishment of a navy seemed too bold a move for many in Congress. Some Southerners believed that a fleet would protect the trade of New England, but would not help the southern economies. Most of the delegates did not consider the break with England as final and feared a navy implied sovereignty and independence. Others thought a navy a hasty and foolish challenge to the mightiest fleet in the world. When Rhode Island’s delegates laid before Congress a bold resolution for the building and equipping of an American fleet, Samuel Chase of Maryland called it “the maddest Idea in the World.†The proposal went down in defeat.

Two days later Congress received intelligence that two unprotected British ships carrying arms for the army in Canada had left from England. A committee of pro-navy New Englanders outlined a plan for equipping two armed vessels to cruise “to the eastward†to intercept any ships bearing supplies to the British Army. Meanwhile, General George Washington reported he had already used Continental funds to contract three schooners to cruise off Massachusetts and intercept enemy supply ships. Thus, since the Americans already had armed vessels operating at sea, it was not such a big step for Congress to approve the outfitting of two more. On 13 October, Congress adopted the committee’s proposal and the Continental Navy was born.

In October 1775, Congress established a “Marine Committee†charged with equipping a fleet. This committee directed the purchasing, outfitting, manning, and operations of the first ships of the new navy, drafted naval legislation, and prepared rules and regulations to govern the Continental Navy’s conduct and internal administration.

Over the course of the War of Independence, the Continental Navy sent to sea more than fifty armed vessels of various types. The Navy’s squadrons and cruisers seized enemy supplies and carried correspondence and diplomats to Europe, returning with needed munitions. They took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, some off the British Isles themselves, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. In addition, the Navy provoked diplomatic crises that helped bring France into the war against Great Britain.

The Continental Navy began the proud tradition carried on today by our United States Navy, whose birthday we celebrate each year on 13 October.


Squirrel Master
Donating Member
Thanks for the post MC. As a Navy vet, I found it interesting. My first commanding officer was Cdr. John Paul Jones Jr. His great, great grandfather was know as the father of the navy.

Don Hardcastle

Busa Ridin' Sailor (ret)
Donating Member
Thanks for the post Shawn. Her is another tid bit of trivia. John Paul Jones was also the father of the Russian Navy.


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