This Day in History: Give Me a Fast Ship

the maddest Idea in the World to think of building an American fleet

Mr. Samuel Chase, the delegate from Maryland truly believed it to be a mad idea. Yet, 241 years later, the Navy that could not begin or compare is considered one the greatest Navies in the world. And while there were those in the 2nd Continental Congress who would support a Navy, none were as strong or determined, than Mr. John Adams.



John Adams

Yes, John Adams, the lawyer who had no experience in the ideas of the Navy, let alone War would become the father of the United States Navy. While there was a committee when the Navy would be established, most and if not all of the documents of how the Navy should be run were written by John Adams. He was Henry Knox of the Congress when it came to his inexperience.


The idea of the Patriots having their own Navy had been there since the 2nd Continental Congress convened. John Adams knew, just as the majority of the New England delegates that they would lose the War if they did not have a Navy. In October of 1775 the British Navy was superior of the seas. They not only threatened (and sometimes did) stop up the colonies’ trade and tried (or did) wreck destruction on seaside settlements. Colonies created their own individual navies to combat with the British Navy. Yet, the Congress had yet to authorized the idea of privateering (which for those have never seen such term, it is nothing like piracy). John Adams and other supporters of a Continental Navy pushed that if a Navy was put together it would help: defend the towns on the coast, protect the vital trade, retaliate against the British raiders, and also be in a sense ambassadors to find neutral nations whom we could make deals and trade arms and stores.

The Congress felt creation of a Navy was too bold, they were still teetering between reconciliation and independence. The Southern delegates were said to be timid to the idea because they felt the Navy was only for the protection of the New England colonies and not them. On October 3rd, 1775 Rhode Island tried to push the resolution on the creation of a Navy, but it was faulty  and vague in what would be done for the creation and objective of the Navy. Congress was still not going for the idea of a Navy until October 5th, 1775.

On that day they received intelligence that two English brigs, which were both unarmed and without a convoy were laden with munitions, left England and bound for Quebec. Congress wanted to take an advantage of this intelligence created a committee of mainly New Englanders (including John Adams). The committee resolved this: the governments of Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island be requested to dispatch armed vessels to lay in wait for the British brigs. They also outlined a plan for equipping Congress of two armed vessels to travel eastward (more like upwards) to intercept any ships bearing supplies to the British Army (which at the time were in Canada and New England). Congress shuffled their feet on the issue until on Friday, October 13th, 1775.

A letter was brought to Congress that was from Commander of the Continental Army, George Washington. In this letter he reported that he had taken under his command and at the Continental expense, three schooners to cruise off the coast of Massachusetts to intercept enemy supply ships. George Washington pretty much pushed them into a corner and since they had already had vessels cruising in their name, they decided there was no reason not to add two more vessels. John Adams and the committee’s proposal was adopted. John Adams dream of a Continental Navy became reality.

0326qej86448Continental Navy though had a some difficult sailing, they were an important force in the American Revolutionary War. In the course of the war the Navy sent over 50 armed vessels into the seas. 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 trade routes and convoys.

The birth of the Navy brought forth many naval heroes such names as John Barry, John Paul Jones, Nicholas Biddle, and more. The United States Navy began with such terrible odds, but preserved through it. And so, on this day of its adoption by the Congress the Navy calls forth its birthday. Some bases and installations will be having in the coming weeks a big dinner known as the Navy Ball. Think of it as an Adult Prom for the Navy. Sadly, I will not be attending one of these parties due to the fact the base we are located at celebrates a different birthday, that of the Submarine force. I will recommend if you wish to learn more about the Continental Navy there is an amazing book, Give Me a Fast Ship by Tim McGrath.

Happy Birthday United States Navy!