American History Military Research

Navy Before Country

The history of the U.S. Navy is longer than the history of the United States. It’s even longer than the idea of the United States.

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The history of the U.S. Navy is longer than the history of the United States. It’s even longer than the idea of the United States.

Back in 1775, the Colonists (Americans) were fed up with their rights as part of the British Empire being trampled, so they decided to fight for those rights. From Maine to Georgia, the Continental Army took up arms against the British Army.

However, there was one small problem: the British Navy. At the time, the British Navy controlled the seas and could ferry troops and supplies with ease. It could also cut off any supplies or aid the Colonists could receive.

It was in this climate that on October 13, 1775, in Philadelphia, the Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels with crews and guns. Its mission: to intercept munitions ships supplying the British Army. That legislation created the beginning of what was to become the U.S. Navy.

Just like the challenge it was to create a new nation, the birth of the U.S. Navy was not an easy one. Some members of Congress were hesitant to escalate the conflict, hoping to reconcile with Britain. That hesitancy seems a bit strange because Congress had created the Continental Army, issued money to support the troops, and was working to establish relations with foreign countries.

Congress spent the early part of October 1775 debating the possibility of creating an American fleet. The proposal on the table was to ask states to intercept British munitions ships and outfit two American ships. On October 13, Gen. George Washington sped up the passage of the measure with a letter informing Congress he had obtained three schooners at Continental expense to do just what the resolution on the table was asking. Two more wasn’t too much to ask because Washington was already sailing the ocean with Continental ships.

The U.S Navy had been born — nine months before the United States of America.

The birth of the U.S. Navy is a fascinating part of Revolution-era research. Genealogy records from the time would provide families an interesting look into their bloodlines.

Massachusetts Revolutionary War Soldiers & Sailors, 1775-1782 (Free Lookup)
Pictures of United States Navy Ships (1775-1941)


Will Moneymaker

Will established Ancestral Findings in 1995 and has helped genealogy researchers for over 25 years. He is also a freelance photographer, husband of twenty-eight years, father of four children, and has one grandchild.