The U.S. Navy: 9 Major Things You Need To Know

U.S. Navy

U.S. Navy

The following are 9 major things you absolutely need to know about the U.S. Navy, which dates back to the late 18th century.

George Washington is largely considered the Father of the U.S. Navy

In addition to his numerous feats of accomplishments, Chief Commander of the Continental Army General George Washington is generally regarded as the father of the U.S. Navy. Washington is believed to have transformed a group of tiny fishing schooners into the nation’s first warships. The Father of the Nation reasoned that those fishing boats, if properly handled, could be deployed as stumbling blocks in Great Britain’s shipping lanes.

Owing to how urgent the task was, George Washington is believed to have bypassed the Continental Congress in setting up those make-shift warships. With rally cries from the likes of John Adams (2nd president of the United States), an official approval from Congress for the establishment of the Navy came in October 1775.

George Washington

Founding Father General George Washington is generally seen as the father of the U.S. Navy as well

The USS Hannah was one of the first ships made

There is a wide consensus among historians and Navy experts that the Hannah was in deed the one of the first armed ships George Washington used to carry out the task of disrupting British trading lines. The name is believed to have come from one of the daughters (Hannah Glover) of the boat owner (John Glover of Massachusetts). The crew for the USS Hannah largely came from Glover’s hometown Marblehead, Massachusetts. This founding vessel, which was commanded by Nicholson Broughton, sailed from the coast in Beverly, Massachusetts on September 5, 1775. About a month into its activities, and after disrupting the activities of over 50 British ships, the Hannah’s time on the sea came to an end after it was run aground by a barrage of fire from the British sloop Nautilus. The vessel was subsequently decommissioned by George Washington.

It is unknown what became of Hannah. Some historians state that the schooner was destroyed by the British after it had been decommissioned and renamed Lynch. Others say, the ship was sold by the British and later used as merchant vessel.

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John Barry was the first commissioned officer of the Navy

Some scholars and historians have argued that the true owner of the title “Father of the U.S. Navy” should go to John Barry. Not only was Barry the first commissioned naval officer, he was also the first flag officer in the service. Barry served as a faithful courier for President George Washington. He served bravely in several battles, including the battles of Trenton and Princeton.

Interestingly, the other two contenders for the title of “Father of the U.S. Navy” were all called John – President John Adams and John Paul.

The Continental Navy was miles behind the British Royal Navy

As the Revolutionary War raged on, the Continental Navy did indeed struggle to keep up with the overpowering British Navy (the Royal Navy). Had it not been the naval support received from the French, General Washington’s makeshift flotilla would most likely have been crushed by the Royal Navy. For example, the French Naval presence was very crucial during a naval battle in September 1781 around the Chesapeake Bay. The British ultimately capitulated (at Yorktown) just a month after that naval battle.

The Continental Navy was de-funded after the Revolutionary War

After the dust settled on the Revolutionary War, the Founding Fathers quickly had to tighten their belt and institute cuts across the colonies. The Continental Navy was one of the first areas to see those cuts. The leaders of the nation reasoned that the Navy had served its purpose hence many of the ships were sold and the proceeds used to shore up other areas of the economy.

The U.S. Navy was resuscitated to quell pirates in the Mediterranean Sea

USS Constitution

USS Constitution partook in the bombardment of Tripoli in 1804 | Painting by Michele Felice Cornè

Prior to America gaining independence from the British, the American colonies’ merchant ships were largely under the protection of the Royal Navy. Upon attaining independence, all those protection evaporated. The U.S. merchant ships had to fend for themselves on open seas. Many of those ships became the target of ruthless pirates off the North African coast lines and along the Mediterranean Sea. Such was the severity of those pirate attacks that American sailors and crew men counted themselves lucky to escape with their lives.

The U.S. responded to those attacks by bringing back its navy. Rather than pay huge ransoms to those pirates, the monies were channeled into the U.S. Navy. In 1794, the U.S. Congress gave funding (under the Naval Act of 1794) for the construction of six frigates.

Did you know: To this day, one of the six warships constructed in 1794 – the USS Constitution – can still be seen afloat at the Boston Harbor (although it is way past its battle capabilities).

Many of those pirates along the North African coast posed an even bigger threat because they were supported by tribal chiefs in Tripoli. The U.S. dispatched the Navy to the area to bring an end to those malicious activities. In 1805, the U.S was able to bring the city of Derna under its control after a brief skirmish. Ultimately, the U.S. Navy’s presence in the area brought some level of sanity, allowing merchants to sail unimpeded.

The U.S. Navy could only boast of 16 warships in 1812

U.S. Navy

USS Constitution exchanges fire with Guerriere during the War of 1812

Considering how resources in the fledgling nation was spread thin, the U.S. had a minuscule 16 warships. Compared to Great Britain’s number (over 600), the U.S.’s 16 warships was a drop in the ocean. It was a forgone conclusion on who was going to coming out tops on the sea when the War of 1812 broke out. Luckily for the U.S. the British Royal Navy was distracted in Europe, fighting against the Napoleon and the French. Regardless, the Royal Navy still had more than enough naval power to inflict significant damage on the United States during the War of 1812. Britain easily imposed blockades along a large section of the Atlantic.

Regardless, some U.S. Navy vessels had quite the fight in them, allowing them to dominate in areas around Lake Champlain and Lake Erie.

The U.S. Navy was called into action to enforce the ban on importation of slaves

With each passing decade, the issue of slavery in America grew more and more controversial, almost like a sore thumb sticking out of the collective hand of our nation. In 1807, Congress, perhaps in a bid to wean the nation off the horrific business of slave trade, placed a ban on the importation of slaves into the country. As it is common with any ban, some unscrupulous people still went ahead to smuggle droves of slaves into country. The U.S. Navy was then called to nip in the bud those illegal imports. Initially, the U.S. Navy patrols were not as far-reaching as Congress would have expected.

It was not until 1842, when the U.S. and Great Britain agreed to coordinate their efforts in policing the shores of West Africa in a bid to end the barbaric slave trade.

Six future U.S. Presidents served in the U.S. Navy during WWII

Between 1961 and 1993, all but one occupant (Ronald Reagan) of the White House had served bravely in the U.S. Navy. Americans certainly fell in love with those men from the Navy. For example, John F. Kennedy (35th president of the United States) served as a torpedo boat commander in the Solomon Islands. His successor, Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ), was stationed in the Southern hemisphere (Australia and New Zealand) to gather vital information for the Navy. Then there was President Richard Nixon, who was a logistics supervisor in the U.S. Navy in WWII. Nixon’s successor – Gerald Ford – served as an assistant navigator on a number of aircraft carriers in the Pacific theater. After graduating from the Naval Academy, President Jimmy Carter was stationed in one the Navy’s submarines. And finally, George H.W.Bush, America’s 41st President, flew over 50 combat missions for the U.S. Navy.

Named after President Gerald Ford, the USS Gerald R. Ford is regarded by many as one of the most most advanced nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

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