The Continental Navy

The Continental Navy was authorized by the Continental Congress on October 13, 1775. The original intent was to intercept the supply of arms and provisions to British soldiers, who had placed Boston under martial law.

Gen. George Washington had already informed Congress that he had assumed command of several ships for this purpose, and individual governments of various colonies had outfitted their own warships. By the end of October, Congress authorized the purchase and outfitting of 4 armed vessels.

Although the Navy was to play only a minor role in the war, the success of American privateers in interrupting British trade was an important factor aiding the patriot cause.

On December 3, the USS Alfred, USS Andrew USS Doria, USS Cabot, and USS Columbus.

On December 22, 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the naval commander-in-chief, and officers of the navy were commissioned.

In early March 1776, this small fleet, complemented by the USS Providence, and USS Wasp, Hopkins led the first major Naval action of the Continental Navy, against Nassau, Bahamas, where stores of much-needed gunpowder were seized for the use of the Continental Army.

On April 6, 1776 the squadron, with the addition of the USS Fly unsuccessfully encountered the 20-gun HMS Glasgow in the first major sea battle of the Continental Navy.

By this time, Congress had authorized the addition of 13 frigates to the fleet, which were constructed as warships, rather than refitted merchantmen. Some among these vessels would fight in the Battle of Valcour Island.

Guarding American commerce and raiding British commerce and supply were the principal duties of Continental Navy.

Much of its accomplishments is recorded as prizes taken in commerce raiding, which, as was the practice of the time, brought personal gain to officers and crew.

The one ship of the line built for service in the Continental Navy, the 74-gun USS America, was instead offered to France as compensation for the loss of its Magnifique, lost in service to the American Revolution.

The Continental Marines were the colonial Marine force of the Revolutionary War. The corps was formed by the Continental Congress in November 10, 1775 and was disbanded in 1783.

Their mission was multi-purpose, but their most important duty was to serve as on-board security forces, protecting the Captain of a ship and his officers.

During naval engagements Marine sharpshooters were stationed in the fighting tops of the ships’ masts, and were supposed to shoot the opponent’s officers, naval gunners, and helmsmen.

The Marines were used to conduct 2 amphibious landings during the Revolutionary War. They landed twice in Nassau, in the Bahamas, to seize naval stores from the British.

The first landing, led by a Capt. Nicholas, consisted of 250 Marines and sailors who landed in New Providence, in the Bahamas; there they wreaked much damage and seized naval stores.

The second landing, led by a Lt. Trevet, landed at night and captured several ships along with the naval stores. A Marine battalion also fought alongside the Continental Army in the Battle of Princeton.

The Continental Marines’ first and only Commandant was Maj. Samuel Nicholas and the first Marine Barracks were located in Philadelphia.

The first recruiting station was a bar called Tun’s Tavern. Four additional Marine Security Companies were also raised and helped Gen. George Washington defend Philadelphia.

Of the approximately 65 vessels (new, converted, chartered, loaned, and captured) that served at one time or another with the Continental Navy, only 11 survived the war.

The Treaty of Paris in 1783 ended the Revolutionary War and, by 1785, Congress had disbanded the Continental Navy and sold the remaining ships.

The frigate Alliance fired the final shots of the American Revolutionary War; it was also the last ship in the Navy. A faction within Congress wanted to keep her, but the new nation did not have the funds to keep her in service, and she was auctioned off for $26,000.

Factors leading to the dissolution of the Navy included a general lack of money, the loose confederation of the states, a change of goals from war to peace, and more domestic and fewer foreign interests

Types of Naval Warship

  • Ship of the Line: A ship of the line was a type of naval warship constructed from the 17th through to the mid-19th century to take part in the naval tactic known as the line of battle, in which two columns of opposing warships would manoeuvre to bring the greatest weight of broadside firepower to bear. Since these engagements were almost invariably won by the heaviest ships carrying the most powerful guns, the natural progression was to build sailing vessels that were the largest and most powerful of their time
  • Brig: A brig is a sailing vessel with two square-rigged masts. During the Age of Sail, brigs were seen as fast and maneuverable and were used as both naval warships and merchant vessels. They were especially popular in the 18th and early 19th centuries. Brigs fell out of use with the arrival of the steam ship because they required a relatively large crew for their small size and were difficult to sail into the wind. They are not to be confused with a brigantine, which has different rigging (a brigantine has a gaff-rigged mainsail, while a brig has a square mainsail with an additional gaff-rigged spanker behind the mainsail).
  • Frigate: A frigate is any of several types of warship, the term having been used for ships of various sizes and roles over the last few centuries.
    In the 17th century, this term was used for any warship built for speed and maneuverability, the description often used being “frigate-built”. These could be warships carrying their principal batteries of carriage-mounted guns on a single deck or on two decks (with further smaller carriage-mounted guns usually carried on the forecastle and quarterdeck of the vessel). The term was generally used for ships too small to stand in the line of battle, although early line-of-battle ships were frequently referred to as frigates when they were built for speed.
    In the 18th century, the term referred to ships that were usually as long as a ship of the line and were square-rigged on all three masts (full rigged), but were faster and with lighter armament, used for patrolling and escort. In the definition adopted by the British Admiralty, they were rated ships of at least 28 guns, carrying their principal armaments upon a single continuous deck, the upper deck, while ships of the line possessed two or more continuous decks bearing batteries of guns
  • Schooner: A schooner is a type of sailing vessel with fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts. The most common type has two masts, the foremast being shorter than the main. The schooner was originally gaff-rigged. Schooners were immediately popular with colonial traders and fishermen in North America with the first documented reference to a schooner in the United States appearing in Boston port records in 1716. North American shipbuilders quickly developed a variety of schooner forms for trading, fishing and privateering.
    Although a schooner may have several masts, the typical schooner has only two, with the foremast shorter than the mainmast. There may be a bowsprit to help balance the rig. The principal issue with a schooner sail plan is how to fill the space between the two masts most effectively. Traditional schooners were gaff rigged, and the trapezoid shape of the foresail occupied the inter-mast space to good effect, with a useful sail area and a low center of effort.
  • Cutter: Cutters were usually the smallest commissioned ships in the fleet. As with cutters in general they were distinguished by their large fore-aft sail plans with multiple headsails, usually carried on a very long bowsprit, which was sometimes as long as half the length of the boat’s hull. The rig gave the cutter excellent maneuverability and they were much better at sailing to windward than a larger square rigged ship. Larger naval cutters often had the ability to hoist two or three square-rigged sails from their mast to improve their downwind sailing performance as well. Navies used cutters for coastal patrol, customs duties, escort, carrying personnel and dispatches, and for small ‘cutting out’ raids. As befitted their size and intended role naval cutters, such as those of the Royal Navy), were lightly armed, often with between six and ten small cannon (or carronades).

USS Alfred
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USS Alfred

USS Alfred 1775 – 1778

  • Complement: 220 officers and men
  • Armament: 20 × 9-pounder guns; 10 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: John Barry, Master (1774-1776); Capt. Dudley Saltonstall (1776); Capt. John Paul Jones (1776-1777); Capt. Elisha Hinman (1777-1778)
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau; Action of April 6, 1776

USS Alfred was the merchant vessel Black Prince, named for Edward, the Black Prince, and launched in 1774.

The Continental Navy acquired her November 4, 1775, renamed her Alfred, and commissioned her as a warship on December 3, 1775.

She participated in two major actions, the Battle of Nassau, and the action of 6 April 1776. The Royal Navy captured her on March 9, 1778, took her into service as HMS Alfred, and sold her in 1782.

She then became the merchantman Alfred, and sailed between London and Jamaica.

USS Alliance
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USS Alliance

USS Alliance 1778 – 1785

  • Complement: 300 officers and men
  • Armament: 28 × 18-pounder long gun; 12 × 9-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Pierre Landais (1778–1780), Capt. John Barry (1780–1783)
  • Operations: Battle of Flamborough Head

Originally named Hancock, she was laid down in 1777 on the Merrimack River at Amesbury, Massachusetts, by the partners and cousins, William and James K. Hackett, launched on April 28, 1778, and renamed Alliance on May 29, 1778 by resolution of the Continental Congress.

Her first commanding officer was Capt. Pierre Landais, a former officer of the French Navy who had come to the New World hoping to become a naval counterpart of Lafayette.

The frigate’s first captain was widely accepted as such in America. Massachusetts made him an honorary citizen and the Continental Congress gave him command of Alliance, thought to be the finest warship built to that date on the western side of the Atlantic.

USS Columbus

  • Complement: 220 officers and men
  • Armament: 18 × 9-pounder guns; 10 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Abraham Whipple
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau; Action of April 6, 1776
USS Columbus
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USS Columbus

Built as a merchant ship at Philadelphia in 1774 as Sally, she was purchased from Willing, Morris & Co., for the Continental Navy in November 1775, Captain Abraham Whipple was given command.

Between February 17 and April 8, 1776, in company with the other ships of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron, Columbus took part in the expedition to New Providence, Bahamas, where the first Navy-Marine amphibious operation seized essential military supplies.

On the return passage, the squadron captured the British schooner, Hawk, on April 4, and brig Bolton on the 5th.

On April 6, the squadron engaged Glasgow. After three hours, the action was broken off and Glasgow escaped, leaving her tender to be captured. Later in 1776, Columbus cruised off the New England coast taking five prizes.

Chased ashore on Point Judith, Rhode Island, March 27, 1778 by a British squadron, Columbus was stripped of her sails, most of her rigging, and other usable material by her crew before being abandoned. She was burned by the British.

USS Andrew Doria

  • Complement: 112 officers and men
  • Armament: 14 × 4-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Nicholas Biddle; Capt. Isaiah Robinson
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau; Battle of Block Island
USS Andrew Doria
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USS Andrew Doria

On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress authorized the purchase of the merchant brig Defiance. The ship was acquired in mid-November and moored in Wharton and Humphreys shipyard in Philadelphia where she was converted into a warship. She was named Andrew Doria after the 16th-century Genoese admiral Andrea Doria.

Under the command of Captain Nicholas Biddle, Andrew Doria departed Philadelphia on January 4, 1776, as a warship in Esek Hopkins’ small fleet of five newly fitted warships (Alfred, Andrew Doria, Cabot, Columbus, and Providence), bound for the Chesapeake Bay.

From April 9 to September 17, 1776, Andrew Doria patrolled the Atlantic coast from Connecticut to Bermuda, capturing a number of British and Loyalist ships.

Andrew Doria was stationed in the Delaware River through the spring and summer of 1777. After Vice Admiral Lord Howe brought his British fleet into the river in September 1777, Andrew Doria was part of the forces charged with defending Philadelphia.

Following the British occupation of Fort Mifflin on November 16, Andrew Doria, with the remaining ships of the Continental Navy, sought shelter under the guns of Fort Mercer, at Red Bank, New Jersey.

With the evacuation of Fort Mercer on November 20, Robinson gave orders the next day for the ships to be burned to prevent capture.

She is most famous for her participation in the Battle of Nassau—the first amphibious engagement by the Continental Navy and the Continental Marines—and for being the first United States vessel to receive a salute from a foreign power.

USS America

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: N/A
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: N/A

On November 20, 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the construction of three 74-gun ships of the line. One of these was America, laid down in May 1777 in the shipyard of John Langdon on Rising Castle Island (now Badger’s Island) in Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

However, progress on her construction was delayed by a chronic scarcity of funds and a consequent shortage of skilled craftsmen and well seasoned timber. The project dragged on for over two years under the immediate supervision of Col. James Hackett as master shipbuilder and the overall direction of John Langdon. Then, on November 6,1779, the Marine Committee named Captain John Barry as her prospective commanding officer and ordered him to “…hasten, as much as will be in your power, the completing of that ship….”

Nevertheless, the difficulties which previously had slowed the building of the warship continued to prevail during the ensuing months, and little had been accomplished by mid-March 1780 when Barry applied for a leave of absence to begin on the 23rd. However he did perform one notable service for the ship. In November 1777, after inspecting the unfinished vessel which was slated to become his new command, he strongly recommended against a proposal, then under consideration, to reduce her to a 54-gun frigate. His arguments carried the day, and the Marine Committee decided to continue the work of construction according to the ship’s original plans.

All possibility of Barry’s commanding America ended on September 5,1780 when he was ordered to Boston to take command of the 36-gun frigate Alliance which had recently arrived from Europe. Over nine months later, on June 23, 1781, Congress ordered the Continental Agent of Marine, Robert Morris, to get America ready for sea and, on the 26th, picked Captain John Paul Jones as her commanding officer.

Jones reached Portsmouth on August 31 and threw himself into the task of completing the man-of-war. However, before the work was finished, Congress decided on September 3, 1782 to present the ship to King Louis XVI of France to replace the ship of the line Magnifique, which had run aground and been destroyed on August 11,1782 while attempting to enter Boston Harbor. The ship was also to symbolize the new nation’s appreciation for France’s service to and sacrifices in behalf of the cause of the American patriots.

USS Argo

No further information.

USS Ariel

  • Complement: 130 (peace) and 210 (war)
  • Armament: 2 x 4-pounder + 4 x 3-pounder guns added to the galliards
  • Commanders: John Paul Jones
  • Operations:

HMS Ariel was a 20-gun Sphinx-class sixth-rate post ship of the Royal Navy. The French captured her in 1779, and she served during the Revolutionary War for them, and later for the Americans, before reverting to French control. as well as the British.

The Admiralty on July 3, 1776 ordered Ariel from John Perry & Co.’s Blackwall Yard. Perry & Co. laid down her keel that month and launched her on July 7, 1777. She was commissioned under Captain John Jackson, and cruised in the North Sea in August 1777. After a brief spell off the Norwegian and Danish coasts, she sailed for North America on November 7.

In 1778, she captured several American vessels. While Ariel was under the command of John Becher on March 31, she shared in the capture of the frigate USS Virginia. (The Royal Navy took Virginia into service as HMS Virginia.)

On June 4, Ariel captured the sloop Fanny. Then, on August 27, 1778, she captured the 16-gun “Congress” brig USS ResistanceResistance had sailed from Boston armed for war and in quest of the French fleet. Ariel burnt her.

Ariel also shared in the prize money for a number of vessels captured between January 2 and September 14. These were the sloops Betsy and Polly, brigs M’Cleary, Reprizal, Argyle, and Postillion, the schooner Chelsea, and the snow David.

Ariel then passed under the command of Captain Charles Phipps. Phipps and Ariel captured the American privateer New Broom on October 22, 1778, as well as the schooners Lark and Three Friends. New Broom was armed with 16 guns and had sailed from New London when Ariel and Savage stopped her off Nantucket shoals. The next year, in February, Captain Thomas Mackenzie replaced Phipps.

On September 11, 1779, whilst Ariel was cruising off Charles Town, she sighted a strange sail and approached to investigate, unaware that the French fleet under Admiral d’Estaing had entered the theater. As Mackenzie got closer, he realized that the stranger was actually a frigate, accompanied by two brigs and a schooner, and that she was not responding to his signals. He therefore decided to sail for the Georgia shore. The frigate gradually overhauled Ariel and Mackenzie had no choice but to stand and fight. The enemy vessel was the 32-gun French Amazone. After a 90-minute flight in which Ariel lost her mizzen-mast and all her rigging and sustained casualties of four men dead and another 20 wounded, Mackenzie surrendered Ariel. d’Estaing immediately exchanged the crew of Ariel and Experiment, which he had captured the year before, for French prisoners. The crews of these two vessels then went on to man a variety of British vessels on the station. The French took the captured ship into service as Ariel.

Ariel underwent repair and refitting at Lorient between March and October 1780. The French then lent her to the American Continental Navy in October, where she served briefly as USS Ariel.

John Paul Jones assumed command of Ariel in France. After a brief battle with a British ship, Jones returned to France. Ariel finally reached Philadelphia with her badly needed military stores—which included 437 barrels of gunpowder, 146 chests of arms, a large quantity of shot, sheet lead, and much medicine—on February 18, 1781.

Early in June 1781, Jones turned Ariel over to Anne-César, Chevalier de la Luzerne, the French minister to the United States, who manned her with a French crew for the voyage back to France.

USS Bonhomme Richard

  • Complement: 380 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 28 × 12-pound smoothbore, 6 × 18-pound smoothbore, 8 × 9-pound smoothbore
  • Commanders: John Paul Jones
  • Operations: Battle of Flamborough Head
USS Bonhomme Richard
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USS Bonhomme Richard

Bonhomme Richard was originally an East Indiaman named Duc de Duras, a merchant ship built at Lorient according to the plan drawn up by the King’s Master Shipwright Antoine Groignard for the French East India Company in 1765. Her design allowed her to be quickly transformed into a man-of-war in case of necessity to support the navy.

She sailed in private service until she was purchased by King Louis XVI of France in early 1779 and placed under the command of John Paul Jones on February 4. The size and armament of Duc de Duras made her roughly equivalent to half of a 64-gun ship of the line.

Jones renamed her Bon Homme Richard (usually rendered in more correct French as Bonhomme Richard) in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the American Commissioner at Paris whose Poor Richard’s Almanac was published in France under the title Les Maximes du Bonhomme Richard.

On June 19, 1779, Bonhomme Richard sailed from Lorient accompanied by USS Alliance, Pallas, Vengeance, and Cerf with troop transports and merchant vessels under convoy to Bordeaux and to cruise against the British in the Bay of Biscay. Forced to return to port for repair, the squadron sailed again August 14, 1779. It went northwest around the west coast of the British Isles into the North Sea and then down the east coast. The squadron took 16 merchant vessels as prizes.

On September 23, 1779, the squadron encountered the Baltic Fleet of 41 sail under convoy of the HMS Serapis and HM hired armed vessel Countess of Scarborough near Flamborough Head. The Bonhomme Richard and Serapis entered a bitter engagement at about 6:00 PM. The battle continued for the next four hours, costing the lives of nearly half of the American and British crews. British victory seemed inevitable, as the more heavily armed Serapis used its firepower to rake Bonhomme Richard with devastating effect.

The commander of the Serapis finally called on Jones to surrender. He replied, “Sir, I have not yet begun to fight!” Jones eventually managed to lash the ships together, nullifying his opponent’s greater maneuverability and allowing him to take advantage of the larger size and considerably more numerous crew of Bonhomme Richard. An attempt by the Americans to board Serapis was repulsed, as was an attempt by the British to board Bonhomme Richard. Finally, after another of Jones’s ships joined the fight, the British captain was forced to surrender at about 10:30 PM. The Bonhomme Richard – shattered, on fire, leaking badly – defied all efforts to save her and sank about 36 hours later at 11:00 AM on Saturday, September 25, 1779. Jones sailed the captured Serapis to the Dutch United Provinces for repairs.

Though the Bonhomme Richard sank after the battle, the battle’s outcome was one of the factors that convinced the French crown to back the colonies in their fight to become independent of British authority.

USS Boston

  • Complement: 45
  • Armament: 1 x 12 pounder, 2 x 9 pounders, 8 x swivel guns
  • Commanders: Captain Sumner
  • Operations: Battle of Valcour Island

The first USS Boston was a gundalow built at Skenesborough (present day Whitehall), New York, in 1776, with a crew of 45 for General Benedict Arnold’s short-lived Lake Champlain Fleet. She took part in the Battle of Valcour Island that delayed the British invasion. She was probably commissioned sometime early in August 1776, with a Captain Sumner in command.

Early in October, she moved north with the other 14 ships of the American squadron. On the 11th, they met the vastly superior British squadron off Valcour Island in the northern reaches of the lake. The British discovered them in a shallow bay south of the island and moved in to begin a bombardment. By 11:00 AM, the schooner Carleton and some gunboats had rowed to within gun range to open the shelling. The wind prevented the larger British vessels from getting into the fray.

By 5:00 PM, when the British withdrew for the night, two of the larger American vessels were severely damaged and a third had to be run aground, burned, and abandoned. That night, Boston joined the remainder of the Americans in stealing away toward Crown Point to the south. The British discovered their flight on the morning of the 12th and struck out in pursuit. They did not finally catch the Americans until the morning of the 13th at a point just below Split Rock nearly halfway to their goal. A two-hour running fight ensued. Severely pressed, General Arnold took Congress and four of the gondolas into Buttonmold Bay on the eastern coast of the lake. There, he unloaded small arms and destroyed the vessels by fire to prevent their capture. Boston was destroyed there on October 13, 1776.

USS Boston

  • Complement:
  • Armament: 5 × 12 pdr guns, 19 × 9 pdr guns, 2 × 6 pdr guns, and 4 × 4 pdr guns
  • Commanders: Captain Hector McNeill and Samuel Tucker
  • Operations:
USS Boston
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USS Boston

Boston was commissioned under the command of Captain Hector McNeill. On May 21, 1777, Boston sailed in company with USS Hancock for a cruise in the North Atlantic. The two frigates captured three prizes including the 28-gun frigate HMS Fox (7 June). On 7–8 July, Boston, Hancock, and Fox engaged the British vessels HMS Flora, HMS Rainbow, and HMS Victor. The British captured Hancock and Fox, but Boston escaped to the Sheepscot River on the Maine coast. McNeill was court-martialed in June 1779 for his failure to support Hancock and was dismissed from the Navy.

During the period February 15 to March 31, 1778, Boston, now under the command of Samuel Tucker, carried John Adams to France, capturing one prize en route. She then cruised in European waters taking four prizes before returning to Portsmouth, New Hampshire, October 15. In 1779 she made two cruises (July 29– September 6 and November 23 – December 23) in the North Atlantic capturing at least nine prizes. Boston then joined the squadron sent to assist in the defense of Charleston, South Carolina. There the British captured her when the town surrendered on May 12, 1780. The British took Boston into service as a frigate and named it the HMS Charlestown.

USS Bourbon

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 36-40 guns
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: N/A

USS Bourbon was a frigate in the Continental Navy, named for the House of Bourbon.

During the Revolutionary War, Bourbon was authorized as a 36-gun frigate by the Continental Congress January 23, 1777. Very little else is known about it, but it may have been built at Chatham, Connecticut. Due to the Congress’s financial difficulties, it was not launched until July 31, 1783. In September 1783, still uncompleted, it was offered for sale and presumably sold.

USS Cabot

  • Complement:120 officers and men
  • Armament: 14 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders:Captain J. B. Hopkins
  • Operations:Battle of Nassau

The first USS Cabot of the United States was a 14-gun brig, one of the first ships of the Continental Navy, and the first to be captured in the Revolutionary War.

The brig was purchased in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, during November 1775, outfitted there by Wharton and Humphreys, and placed under the command of Captain J. B. Hopkins.

Sailing with Commodore Esek Hopkins’ fleet, Cabot joined in the expedition against the Bahamas in March 1776, taking part in the amphibious operations against New Providence on March 3. By this bold stroke, men of the fleet seized large quantities of desperately needed military supplies which they carried back to the Continental Army.

Upon the return of the fleet north, Cabot was first to fire in the engagement with HMS Glasgow on April 6. The next month, she made a short cruise off the New England coast, during which she took her first prize. In September and October, again sailing in New England waters, she seized six more prizes.

Cabot stood out of Boston in March 1777, and later in the month, encountered HMS Milford (32-gun). The vastly more powerful British ship chased Cabot and forced her ashore in Nova Scotia. While Cabot’s captain and crew escaped unharmed, the British were later able to get the brig off, and refitted her for service in the Royal Navy.

She stands out as the first American armed vessel to engage an enemy.

USS Champion

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 8 Guns
  • Commanders: Captain James Josiah
  • Operations: N/A

The Continental Navy xebec, Champion, commanded by Captain James Josiah, served in the Delaware River in a force composed of ships of the Continental and Pennsylvania State Navy during the Revolution. It was this force that contested British efforts to establish sea communications with their forces in Philadelphia in the fall of 1777.

After several months of fighting against heavy odds, the American ships attempted to run past Philadelphia. The Pennsylvania State galleys succeeded but the Continental fleet, including Champion, was burned by its own officers on November 21, 1777, when tide and winds turned against them.

USS Columbus

  • Complement: 220 officers and men
  • Armament: 18 × 9-pounder guns and 10 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain Abraham Whipple
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau

The first USS Columbus was a ship in the Continental Navy. Built as a merchant ship at Philadelphia in 1774 as Sally, she was purchased from Willing, Morris & Co., for the Continental Navy in November 1775, Captain Abraham Whipple was given command.

Between February 17 and April 8, 1776, in company with the other ships of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron, Columbus took part in the expedition to New Providence, Bahamas, where the first Navy-Marine amphibious operation seized essential military supplies. On the return passage, the squadron captured the British schooner, Hawk, on April 4, and brig Bolton on the 5th. On April 6, the squadron engaged Glasgow. After three hours, the action was broken off and Glasgow escaped, leaving her tender to be captured. Later in 1776, Columbus cruised off the New England coast taking five prizes.

Chased ashore on Point Judith, Rhode Island, March 27, 1778 by a British squadron, Columbus was stripped of her sails, most of her rigging, and other usable material by her crew before being abandoned. She was burned by the British.

USS Confederacy

  • Complement: 260 officers and men
  • Armament: 28 × 12-pounder guns and 8 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain Seth Harding and Captain Nicholson
  • Operations: N/A
USS Confederacy
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USS Confederacy

USS Confederacy was a 36-gun sailing frigate of the Continental Navy in the Revolutionary War. The British Royal Navy captured her in March 1781, took her into service for about half-a-year as HMS Confederate, and broke her up in 1782.

She was launched November 8, 1778 at Chatham (Norwich?), Connecticut, and towed to New London to be prepared for sea. From May 1 to August 24, 1779, she cruised on the Atlantic coast under the command of Captain Seth Harding. While convoying a fleet of merchantmen, on June 6, she and Deane captured three prizes, drove off two British frigates and brought the convoy safely into Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

On September 17, 1779, Confederacy was ordered to carry the French Minister and his family back to France. Later John Jay, the first American Minister to Spain, his secretary, and family were added to the passenger list. During the passage on November 7, 1779, Confederacy was completely dismasted and almost lost, but managed through the skillful seamanship of Captain Harding to reach Martinique early in December. After repairs, she returned to convoy duty. Captain Nicholson replaced Harding in on October 20, 1780.

Confederacy was homeward bound from Cape Francois in the West Indies in 1781 with military stores and other supplies and escorting a fleet of 37 merchantmen, when on April 14 she encountered HMS Roebuck (44-gun) and HMS Orpheus (32-gun) off the Delaware Capes. The British ships forced Confederacy to strike her flag. Most of the merchantmen she was escorting escaped. Many of her crew were sent to the old prison hulk Jersey, though some ended up in Mill and Forton prisons.

The Royal Navy took her into service as HMS Confederate, under the command of Captain James Cumming. He paid her off in September 1781. She was broken up at Woolwich in March 1782.

USS Congress

  • Complement: 80 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 2 × 12-pounder guns, 2 × 18-pounder guns, and 4 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: Battle of Valcour Island
USS Congress
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USS Congress

USS Congress was a row galley that served the Continental Navy during the American Revolution. The galley – which was rowed by oarsmen instead of using sail – had the distinction of serving the young American Navy for only a week before being scuttled after combat with the British.

The galley built at the direction of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold at Skenesborough, New York, in 1776 for a fleet intended to impede British advance southward on Lake Champlain. Joining Arnold’s fleet on October 6, 1776, Congress, and her crew of 80, served as flagship during the Battle of Valcour Island on Lake Champlain, fought on October 11-13 of that year. During the first day’s lengthy engagement she fought valiantly, but suffered extensive damage to her hull, mast, and yards, at the hands of the vastly superior British force.

On October 12, the American Continental Fleet, hopeful of further delaying the enemy as well as escaping to Crown Point, New York, slipped through the British line under cover of darkness, only to be overtaken the following day at Split Rock. In the ensuing engagement, Congress was so shattered that Arnold was obliged to run her ashore and set the ship ablaze.

Although more than 20 of her crew were killed and Congress herself was destroyed, the mission of the ship and the fleet was accomplished. The British, their advance delayed until the season was too late for land operations, withdrew to Canada. The Americans used the time thus gained to equip and train the Army which defeated the next British invasion attempt, at Saratoga, New York, on October 17, 1777.

USS Congress

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 26 x 12-pounders guns and 2 x 6-pounders guns
  • Commanders: Captain Grenell
  • Operations: N/A

USS Congress was a 28-gun frigate of the Continental Navy that was scheduled to participate in the Revolutionary War against the British. However, while being outfitted prior to her first sailing, the British approached and the Americans set her afire in order to prevent her capture.

Before her outfitting was completed, the British occupied the approaches to the Hudson River and extended their control of the environs throughout 1777. The infant Continental Navy suffered the destruction of Congress in October 1777 to prevent her seizure by the enemy.

USS Deane (Hague)

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 24 × 12-pounder guns, 8 × 4-pounder guns, and 2 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain Samuel Nicholson and Captain John Manley
  • Operations: N/A

The Continental Navy frigate USS Deane, named after American commissioner to France Silas Deane, was built at Nantes, France, and brought to the United States in May 1778 to be prepared for sea. She was named Hague in 1782, and was taken out of commission in 1783.

Under the command of Captain Samuel Nicholson of the Continental Navy, Deane sailed from Boston January 14, 1779 with Alliance for a cruise in the West Indies. She returned to Philadelphia 17 April with one prize, the armed ship Viper. On July 29, she joined with USS Boston and two ships of the Virginia Navy guarding a convoy of merchantmen out to sea and continuing on for a five-week cruise which netted eight prizes, including four privateers, the packet Sandwich, and the sloop-of-war HMS Thorn. The frigates arrived at Boston September 6 with 250 prisoners after one of the most notable cruises of the Continental Navy.

During the winter and early spring of 1781, Deane cruised with Confederacy and Saratoga in the West Indies. In May, Lloyd’s List reported that the rebel frigates Dean and Protector had captured John and Ashburner from Lancaster to St. Kitts, and a ship sailing from Glasgow to Jamaica with 900 barrels of beef and a quantity of dry goods, and had taken them into Martinique.

Deane again cruised with Confederacy and Saratoga in the West Indies in 1782, capturing four prizes. In April 1782, she captured the cutter HMS Jackal. After two more cruises in the Caribbean, one in September 1782 and the other in 1783, she was renamed Hague in September 1782 (perhaps because of false accusation against Deane that was current at the time).

USS Delaware

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: N/A
  • Commanders: Captain C. Alexander and John Barry
  • Operations: N/A

The first USS Delaware of the United States Navy was a 24-gun sailing frigate that had a short career in the Revolutionary War as the British Royal Navy captured her in 1777.

She was built under the December 13, 1775 order of the Continental Congress in the yard of Warwick Coates of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, under the direction of the Marine Committee. Upon her launching in July 1776, Captain C. Alexander took command.

Delaware served in the Delaware River, joining with Commodore John Hazelwood’s Pennsylvania state ships in operations which delayed the British Fleet in approaching Philadelphia and supplying the British Army. When the British took possession of Philadelphia September 26, 1777, Delaware, now under the command of John Barry, in company with several smaller ships, advanced upon the British fortifications which were being erected and opened a destructive fire while anchored some 500 yards from shore.

On September 27, she went aground on the ebb tide and came under the concentrated fire of the British artillery. After a brave defense against overwhelming odds, Captain Alexander was compelled to strike his colors. Delaware was taken into the Royal Navy.

USS Diligent

  • Complement: 50
  • Armament: 14 × 4-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Lieutenant Phillip Brown
  • Operations: Penobscot Expedition

British Lieutenant Thomas Wabeoff assumed command of HMS Diligent in April 1779, and she was under his command and cruising off the coast of Delaware in May 1779, looking for American privateers. She had captured one American vessel when at daybreak, on May 7, Walbeoff sighted a strange sail. He sailed towards the vessel, which turned out to be the Continental Navy’s sloop Providence.

The three-hour engagement began with a broadside and volley of small arms fire from Providence. Eventually, Walbeoff struck. Diligent had lost 11 men dead and 19 wounded; Providence had four killed and 10 wounded.

The Continental Navy took Diligent into service, commissioning her under the command of Lieutenant Phillip Brown. Diligent cruised with Providence for a short time.

Diligent and Providence then were assigned to Commodore Dudley Saltonstall’s squadron, which departed Boston on July 19 and entered Penobscot Bay on July 25. The Americans successfully landed an armed force that attempted to recapture Castine, Maine. The initial British force consisted only of some troops and three sloops. However, an overpowering British squadron arrived and the American effort failed completely.

On August 14, her crew ran Diligent ashore and burned to prevent the British capturing her. Providence met the same fate.

USS Dolphin

  • Complement:
  • Armament:
  • Commanders: Lt. Samuel Nicholson
  • Operations:

The first Dolphin was a cutter in the Continental Navy.

Dolphin was purchased in February 1777 at Dover, England, and outfitted for use in the Continental Navy at Nantes, France. She was placed under the command of Lieutenant Samuel Nicholson and sailed from St. Auzeau, France on May 28, 1777 with Reprisal and Lexington, in a squadron commanded by Captain Lambert Wickes in Reprisal.

During a cruise off Ireland, this squadron captured and sent into port eight prizes, sank seven, and released three, throwing British shipping circles into an uproar. A 74-gun British warship gave chase to the squadron and Reprisal drew him off to enable the other ships to reach port safely. Dolphin arrived at Saint-Malo, France, June 27, 1777 where she was repaired and converted into a packet ship. On September 19, she put into the Loire for further repairs.

Owing to diplomatic protests by the British that American vessels should not be allowed to use neutral ports to prey upon British shipping, Dolphin was seized by the British.

USS Duc de Lauzun

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 20 cannon
  • Commanders: Captain John Green
  • Operations: N/A

USS Duc de Lauzun was an armed transport vessel of 20 guns that served the Continental Navy from 1782 when she was bought until 1783 when she was sold in France.

Formerly a British customs ship, USS Duc De Lauzun was purchased in October 1782 at Dover, England, and outfitted in Nantes, France.

USS Effingham

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 26 x 12-pounders guns and 2 x 6-pounders guns
  • Commanders: Captain John Barry
  • Operations: N/A

USS Effingham, a 32-gun frigate of the Continental Navy named after The 3rd Earl of Effingham, was built at Philadelphia in 1776 and 1777, and Captain John Barry was ordered to command her. When the British took possession of Philadelphia in September 1777, Barry was ordered to take the uncompleted ship up the Delaware River to a place of safety.

On October 25, General George Washington asked for the crew of Effingham for use in the fleet, and two days later the ship was ordered sunk or burned. Effingham was sunk on 2 November just below Bordentown, New Jersey, to deny her use to the British. She was burned to the water’s edge by the British on their way north from Philadelphia on May 9, 1778.


  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 6 × 9-pound guns
  • Commanders: Lieutenant Hoystead Hacker
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau

USS Fly was an eight-gun sloop in the Continental Navy. She was part of a squadron that raided the port of Nassau and engaged the 20-gun HMS Glasgow.

Fly, one of the eight former merchant ships fitted out by the Naval Committee between November 1775 and January 1776, was purchased in Baltimore, Maryland under Congressional authorization of a small tender or despatch vessel for the fleet. A schooner, often referred to as a sloop, she was first commanded by Lieutenant Hoystead Hacker.

Early in 1776, Fly joined the squadron of Commodore Esek Hopkins off Reedy Island at the head of Delaware Bay, and on February 17, sailed with this force for its historic cruise to New Providence, America’s first amphibious operation. Two nights out, Fly fouled the sloop USS Hornet, who was forced to return to port. Fly, however, was able to rejoin the squadron off New Providence March 11, finding that the operation had been a great success, and that a large quantity of military stores sorely needed by the Continental Army had been taken.

Heavily laden with the valuable supplies, the fleet departed New Providence March 17, and on April 4 arrived off Long Island where it took two small British ships of war and two merchantmen. Two days later, the squadron engaged the British sloop-of-war HMS Glasgow, damaging her so badly that she fled into Newport Rhode Island, leaving her tender to be captured. On April 8, the fleet arrived at New London, Connecticut to land the captured military stores.

Fly patrolled off New London to learn the strength of the British Fleet until June, when she was detached to carry cannon from Newport to Amboy, New Jersey, where she was blockaded briefly by the British. Later in 1776, she cruised the New Jersey coast to intercept British ships bound for New York City. In an encounter with one of these in November, a number of Fly’s men were wounded, and she was damaged to the extent that she had to put in at Philadelphia to repair and refit.

Ready for active service early in 1777, Fly convoyed merchantmen to sea, carried dispatches, and protected American ships in Cape May Channel. During the later part of the year, she was one of the Continental ships working with the Pennsylvania Navy to defend the Delaware River. In November, when the British Fleet and powerful shore batteries forced the evacuation of Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer, giving the British control of the river, Fly and the other Continental ships were burned to prevent their falling into the hands of the British.

USS General Gates

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 8 guns
  • Commanders: Captain John Skimmer
  • Operations: N/A

USS General Gates was a brigantine of the Continental Navy active in 1778 and 1779. Built as the merchant brigantine Industrious Bee in 1764 at Bristol, England, for operations by Clapman & Co., the British ship was captured on August 29, 1777 by Captain John Skimmer in the Continental schooner USS Lee, while bound from Gibraltar for Newfoundland. The ship was purchased on December 19 by the Navy Board at Boston, fitted out with 18 guns, and renamed General Gates, Captain John Skimmer in command.

General Gates sailed from Marblehead on May 24, 1778, joining privateer brigantine Hawk off Cape Ann to cruise on the Newfoundland Banks. After capturing the ship Jenny and brigantines Thomas and Nancy, the two ships parted company early in August. Thereafter, General Gates captured the schooner Polly.

On August 3, 1778, she intercepted the brigantine Montague under Captain Nelson, who defended his ship in an epic engagement of five hours. After expending her ammunition, Montague resorted to firing “every piece of iron of all kinds that could be rammed into the tube of the cannon,” including jack knives, crowbars, and even the captain’s speaking tube. A double-headed shot from General Gates crashed into Captain Nelson’s cabin. Taking it up, Nelson fired it from one of his own guns. “This shot striking a swivel gun on the State’s brig divided, and one part of it glancing instantly killed the active and brave Captain Skimmer.” It was two more hours before Montague struck her colors and capitulated to General Gates with Lt. Dennis in command. General Gates returned to Boston Harbor with prizes Polly and Montague on August 31, 1778.

General Gates departed Boston on November 14  in company with Providence for Nova Scotian waters. She captured the schooner Friendship off Casco on December 4 and two days later, parted by a gale from Providence, subsequently cruised in West Indian waters. She captured schooner General Leslie off Bermuda in the first part of February 1779, then joined Hazard at Martinique. Together, they captured brigs Active on 16 March and Union the following day.

General Gates returned to Boston harbor on April 13, 1779, so unseaworthy from battering gales that her crew, at times, had despaired of ever reaching port. She was ordered sold on June 2, 1779. In August, she was loaned by the Navy Board to the Deputy Commissary of Prisoners at Boston to convey prisoners to New York. On completion of this mission, she was sold.

USS Hampden

No further information.

USS Hancock

  • Complement: 290 officers and men
  • Armament: 24 × 12-pounder guns and 10 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain John Manley
  • Operations: N/A

The second Hancock was one of the first 13 frigates of the Continental Navy. A resolution of the Continental Congress of British North America 13 December 1775 authorized her construction; she was named for John Hancock. In her career she served under the American, British and French flags.

Hancock was built at Newburyport, Massachusetts, and placed under command of Captain John Manley on April 17, 1776. After a long delay in fitting out and manning, she departed Boston, Massachusetts in company with Continental frigate Boston, May 21, 1777. On May 29, they captured a small brig loaded with cordage and duck. The next day, they encountered a convoy of transports escorted by British 64-gun ship HMS Somerset which set sail to close Hancock. Manley was saved by clever and well-timed action of Boston, which forced Somerset to give up the chase by taking on the transports.

After escaping from Somerset, the two frigates sailed to the northeast until June 7 when they engaged the Royal Navy’s 28-gun frigate HMS Fox, which tried to out-sail her American enemies. Hancock gave chase and soon overhauled Fox, which lost her mainmast and suffered other severe damage in the ensuing duel. About an hour later, Boston joined the battle and compelled Fox to strike her colors.

Hancock spent the next few days repairing the prize and then resumed cruising along the coast of New England. East of Cape Sable, she took a British coal sloop which she towed until the next morning when the approach of a British squadron prompted Manley to set the coal sloop ablaze and leave her adrift. The British frigate HMS Flora recaptured Fox after a hot action.

Boston became separated from Hancock, which tried to out-sail her pursuers. Early in the morning of July 8, 1777, the British were within striking distance. Rainbow began to score with her bowchasers and followed with a series of broadsides. Hancock was thus finally forced to strike her colors after a chase of some 39 hours. She had 239 men of her crew aboard, 50 some being on Fox. She also had Captain Fotheringham of Fox and 40 of his people on board. The rest were on Boston and a couple of fishing vessels.

USS Hornet

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: N/A
  • Commanders: Captain William Stone
  • Operations: N/A

The first USS Hornet was a merchant sloop chartered from Captain William Stone in December 1775 to serve under Stone as a unit of Esek Hopkins’ Fleet.

Hornet fitted out at Baltimore, then sailed with Hopkins fleet on February 18, 1776. Outside the Virginia Capes, she ran afoul of USS Fly and was unable to accompany the fleet for the amphibious assault on New Providence. She patrolled in the Delaware Bay for nearly a year, then ran the British blockade to convoy merchantmen to Charleston. Documents of service are incomplete after this time but it appears that Hornet fell into British hands on the coast of South Carolina in the summer of 1777.

USS Independence

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: ten guns
  • Commanders: Captain John Young
  • Operations: N/A

USS Independence was a sloop in the Continental Navy. Acting as a dispatch boat, she was sent to France on a diplomatic mission – carrying important dispatches. While there, John Paul Jones embarked on her, and she received additional salutes to the American Republic from the French.

In September 1776, she cruised under Captain John Young along the Atlantic Ocean coast to the Caribbean Sea to guard American merchant trade in the West Indies.

In mid-1777, she sailed for France, arriving at Lorient in late September with important diplomatic dispatches. She captured two prizes en route and disposed of these in France before the Royal Navy could interfere.

She was in Quiberon Bay on February 14, 1778 when John Paul Jones in the Ranger received the first national salute to the flag—the first official recognition of the American Republic by a foreign power. The following morning, Jones embarked in Independence and again exchanged salutes.

Independence soon sailed for the United States. She was wrecked on the bar on April 24, 1778 while attempting to enter Ocracoke Inlet, North Carolina.

USS Indien

No further information.

USS Lexington

  • Complement: 110 officers and men
  • Armament: 14 × 4-pounder guns, 2 × 6-pounder guns, and 12 × swivels
  • Commanders: Capt. John Barry, Capt. William Hallock, and Capt. Henry Johnson
  • Operations: Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet
USS Lexington
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USS Lexington

The first USS Lexington of the Thirteen Colonies was a brigantine purchased in 1776. The Lexington was an 86-foot two-mast wartime sailing ship for the fledgling Continental Navy of the Colonists during the American Revolutionary War.

Originally named the Wild Duck, Abraham van Bibber purchased her for the Maryland Committee of Safety, at St. Eustatius in the Dutch West Indies in February 1776. She soon got underway for the Delaware Capes and reached Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on March 9  with a cargo of sorely needed gunpowder for the patriot forces. Four days later, the Marine Committee purchased Wild Duck, renamed her Lexington after the Battle of Lexington, and turned her over to Wharton and Humphry for fitting out.

Commanded by Capt. John Barry, Lexington dropped down the Delaware River on March 26 and slipped through the British blockade on April 6. The following day, she fell in with British sloop Edward, a tender to the frigate Liverpool. After a fierce fight which lasted about an hour, Edward struck her colors. Lexington took her prize into Philadelphia and as soon as the ship was back in fighting trim, Barry put to sea again. On April 26, Lexington encountered Sir Peter Parker’s fleet sailing to attack Charleston, South Carolina. Two of the British ships gave chase on May 5 off the Delaware Capes. HMS Roebuck and Liverpool chased Lexington for eight hours and came close enough to exchange fire with the American ship before Barry managed to elude his pursuers and reach Philadelphia safely.

Lexington and Reprisal dropped down the Delaware to Cape May on the 20th, there joining Wasp and Hornet. Liverpool stood off the Delaware Capes preventing the American ships from escaping to sea. On June 28, Pennsylvania’s brig Nancy arrived in the area with 386 barrels of powder in her hold and ran aground while attempting to elude British blockader Kingfisher. Barry ordered the precious powder rowed ashore during the night leaving only 100 barrels in Nancy at dawn. A delayed action fuse was left inside the brig, which exploded the powder just as a boatload of British seamen boarded Nancy. This engagement became known as the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet.

On July 10, Lexington slipped to sea. On the 27th, she captured Lady Susan, a ship of Lord Dunmore’s Tory Fleet which operated out of the Chesapeake Bay. This privateer was commanded by William Goodrich, a member of the notorious Tory family which had plagued the shipping of Virginia and Maryland. (Richard Dale, one of seven members of the Lady Susan crew who signed on Lexington, later won fame under John Paul Jones.) Early in September, Lexington took another sloop, Betsy. About a fortnight later, lightning struck Lexington forcing the brigantine home for repairs. Lexington anchored off Philadelphia on September 26, and two days later Barry relinquished command.

With repairs completed, Lexington, Capt. William Hallock in command, got underway for Cape Francois to obtain military cargo. On the return voyage, British frigate Pearl overhauled the brigantine just short of the Delaware Capes December 20 and captured her. The commander of the frigate removed Lexington’s officers, but left 70 of her men on board under hatches with a prize crew. But by luring their captors with a promise of rum, the Yankee sailors recaptured the ship and brought her to Baltimore.

Lexington, now with Capt. Henry Johnson in command, sailed for France 20 February 1777 and took two prizes before reaching Bordeaux in March. In France, the brigantine joined Reprisal and Dolphin for a cruise seeking the Irish linen fleet scheduled to leave Dublin early in June. The American ships, commanded by Capt. Lambert Wickes, got underway May 28 and were carried far to westward by heavy winds. Approaching Dublin from the north they entered the north channel June 18 and hove to off the Mull of Kintyre.

During the next four days, they captured nine prizes, sinking three, releasing one, and retaining five. Heading south again on June 22, they took and scuttled a brig before arriving off Dublin Bay. The next morning, they took another brig and released a ship bringing sugar, rum, and cotton from Jamaica. After placing prize crews on both vessels, they resumed their voyage around Ireland. On the 24th, they stopped and released a smuggler and the next day took their last prize, a snow.

When they sighted ship-of-the-line HMS Burford near Ushant on the June 26, the American ships scattered and made their way individually to safety in France. Lexington remained at Morlaix, a Brittany fishing village, throughout the summer, hemmed in by British warships. However, France, under strong British diplomatic pressure, ordered the American ships out of French waters September 12. Lexington got underway the next morning but made little headway because of light wind. She lay becalmed near Ushant on the morning of 19 September when British 10-gun cutter HMS Alert, commanded by John Bazely, came into view. In the ensuing fight, Lexington’s rigging was seriously damaged precluding flight. When the American brigantine ran out of powder, Captain Johnson reluctantly struck his colors.

USS Montgomery

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 24 guns
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: N/A

USS Montgomery was a three-masted, wooden-hulled sailing frigate and one of the first 13 ships authorized by the Continental Congress on December 13, 1775. She was built by Lancaster Burling at Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; launched late in October 1776; but, because of the British capture of New York City during the Battle of Brooklyn and the closing of the Hudson River, was never completely finished and was later destroyed. To prevent its capture and use by the British, the frigate was burned on October 6, 1777.

The Montgomery was named in honor of fallen General Richard Montgomery.

USS Mosquito

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: N/A
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: N/A

USS Mosquito was a sloop of four guns purchased at Philadelphia late in 1775 for the new Continental Navy. She patrolled the Delaware River until her crew destroyed in the Delaware River in 1778 to prevent her capture.

USS Pallas

No further information.

USS Pigot

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: N/A
  • Commanders: Captain Talbot and Captain Clarke
  • Operations: N/A

HMS Pigot was condemned as a prize of war on November 25.

General John Sullivan received the consent of the Rhode Island authorities to acquire some vessels. He bought Pigot in November, and the sloop Argo the next spring. The Americans took Pigot into service with Talbot as her captain. She served until 1779 and was sold in 1780. A Captain Clarke had replaced Talbot, who went on to command Argo. Governor Greene of Rhode Island, but then at Philadelphia, instructed William Ellery to have Clarke sail Pigot to Providence and that she be sold there as she was too rotten and too dull a sailer to warrant retaining in service, and it would be too expensive to refit her. Legend has it that she was subsequently burned.

USS Providence

  • Complement: 6 officers, 22 seamen, 26 Marines
  • Armament: 12 × 4-pounder guns and 14 × railside swivel guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Abraham Whipple, Capt. John Hazard, Capt. John Paul Jones, Capt. Hoysted Hacker, and Capt. John Rathbun
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau and the Penobscot Expedition
USS Providence
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USS Providence

USS Providence was a sloop in the Continental Navy, originally chartered by the Rhode Island General Assembly as Katy. The ship took part in a number of campaigns during the first half of The Revolutionary War before being destroyed by her own crew in 1779 to prevent her falling into the hands of the British after the failed Penobscot Expedition.

Katy was purchased by Rhode Island October 31, soon after she returned to Providence. Late in November, she sailed for Philadelphia carrying seamen enlisted by Commodore Esek Hopkins in New England for Continental service. She arrived on December 3 and was immediately taken into Continental service and renamed USS Providence.

Captain Whipple assumed command of USS Columbus, a larger ship, and Captain John Hazard was placed in command of Providence, later formalized by a commission from Congress dated January 9, 1776. The ships joined a squadron being formed by Congress under the command of Commander in Chief of the Fleet of the United Colonies Esek Hopkins.

On January 5, 1776, Congress ordered Hopkins to sail for Chesapeake Bay and clear waters there of a fleet organized the previous autumn by Governor Dunmore of Virginia. These English and Tory ships had ravaged the shores of the bay and the rivers which empty into it. Once Whipple’s ships had completed this task, they were to move south and clear the Carolina coast of British shipping, then sail North to Rhode Island to perform a similar service.

Providence and her consorts departed Philadelphia early in January but were delayed by ice and did not get to sea until February 17. Hopkins deemed it unwise to cruise along the southern coast and led his little fleet to Abaco in the Bahamas, which they reached on March 1 and staged for a raid on New Providence. The next day, they seized two sloops on which Hopkins placed a landing party of 200 marines and 50 sailors. The Americans went ashore unopposed on the eastern end of New Providence at mid-morning of the 3rd, under cover of the guns of Providence and Wasp. They advanced toward Fort Montagu which opened fire, interrupting the invaders’ progress. The defenders spiked their guns and retreated to Fort Nassau. The next day, Nassau surrendered and gave the Americans the keys to the Fort. Hopkins then brought his ships into the harbor and spent a fortnight loading captured munitions before heading home on March 17.

Off Block Island on April 4, Hopkins’ ships captured the schooner Hawk belonging to the British fleet at Newport, Rhode Island, and took the brig Bolton at dawn the next day. That evening, the Americans added a brigantine and a sloop to their list of prizes, both from New York.

About 1:00 AM. on April 6, USS Andrew Doria sighted HMS Glasgow, a 20-gun sloop carrying dispatches from Newport to Charleston, South Carolina. The American fleet engaged the enemy ship for 1.5 hours before she turned and fled back toward Newport. After daylight, Hopkins ordered his ships to give up the chase and headed with his fleet and prizes for New London, where they arrived on the 8th.

On May 10, John Paul Jones assumed command of Providence with temporary rank of captain. The ship made a voyage to New York, returning about 100 soldiers to the Continental Army whom Washington had lent to Hopkins to help man the American fleet, then Jones hove down the ship to clean her bottom. She sailed again on June 13, escorting Fly to Fishers Island at the entrance to Long Island Sound. En route, he saved a brigantine bringing munitions from Hispaniola from the British frigate Cerberus.

Providence next escorted a convoy of colliers to Philadelphia, arriving August 1. A week later, Jones received his permanent commission as captain. On the 21st, Providence departed the Delaware Capes to begin an independent cruise and, in a few days, took the brigantine Britannia and sent the whaler into Philadelphia under a prize crew. On September 1, daring seamanship enabled Jones to escape from the British frigate Solebay. Two days later, Providence captured Sea Nymph, carrying sugar, rum, ginger, and oil, and sent the Bermudan brigantine to Philadelphia. On the 6th, Providence caught the brigantine Favourite carrying sugar from Antigua to Liverpool, but HMS Galatea recaptured the prize before she could reach an American port.

Turning north, Jones headed for Nova Scotia and escaped another frigate on September 20 before reaching Canso two days later. There he recruited men to fill the vacancies created by manning his prizes, burned a British fishing schooner, sank a second, and captured a third besides a shallop which he used as a tender. Moving to Ile Madame, Providence took several more prizes fishing there before riding out a severe storm. The whaler Portland surrendered to Providence before she returned to Narragansett Bay 8 October.

While Providence was at home, Hopkins appointed Jones the commander of Alfred, a larger ship and the Commander in Chief’s flagship on the expedition to the Bahamas. Shortly thereafter, Capt. Hoysted Hacker took command of Providence. The two ships got under way November 11. They took the brigantine Active after ten days and the armed transport Mellish the next day, carrying winter uniforms and military supplies for the British Army. On the 16th, they captured the snow Kitty. Providence had been troubled by leaks which developed during bad weather on the cruise, so she headed back for Rhode Island and arrived at Newport two days later.

The British seized Narragansett Bay in December 1776 and Providence retired up the Providence River with other American vessels. Providence ran the British blockade in February 1777 under Lt. Jonathan Pitcher. She put into New Bedford, then cruised to Cape Breton, where she captured a transport brig loaded with stores and carrying two officers and 25 men of the British Army, besides her crew. She made two cruises on the coast under command of Capt. J.P. Rathbun, and sailed from Georgetown, N.C. about mid-January 1778, again bound for New Providence in the Bahamas but this time alone. On January 27, she spiked the guns of the fort at Nassau, taking military stores including 1,600 pounds of powder, and released 30 American prisoners. She also made prize of a 16-gun British ship and recaptured five other vessels which had been brought in by the British. On January 30, the prizes were manned and sailed away. Providence put into New Bedford with her armed prize.

During the early part of April 1779, Providence was ordered to make a short cruise in Massachusetts Bay and along the coast of Maine. She later sailed south of Cape Cod and captured the brig HMS Diligent, 12 guns off Sandy Hook on 7 May. She fired two broadsides and a volley of muskets during the engagement and Diligent was forced to surrender, with mast rigging and hull cut to pieces. Providence then was assigned to Commodore Saltonstall’s squadron which departed Boston July 19, 1779 and entered Penobscot Bay 25 July. Providence was destroyed by her crew, along with other American vessels in the Penobscot River on August 14, 1779 to prevent her falling into the hands of the British towards the end of the failed Penobscot Expedition.

USS Providence

  • Complement: 170
  • Armament: 26 x 12-pounder guns and 6 x 4-pounders guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Abraham Whipple
  • Operations: N/A

The second Providence, a 28-gun frigate, built by Silvester Bowes at Providence, Rhode Island, by order of the Continental Congress, was launched in May 1776.

After being blockaded in the Providence River for more than a year, the new frigate, under command of Captain Abraham Whipple, ran the British blockade on the night of 30 April 1778, returning the heavy fire of the British frigate Lark and damaging that vessel, then fighting a running battle with another vessel of the British blockading force. She sailed directly for France, arriving at Paimboeuf May 30 to procure guns and supplies for Continental Navy vessels under construction. She sailed from Paimboeuf 8 August and six days later, joined frigate Boston at Brest, France. The two ships sailed back to America August 22. They took 3 prizes on the return voyage and Providence arrived Portsmouth, New Hampshire, October 15.

Transferred to Boston to seek a crew, Providence sailed from Boston June 18, 1779 as flagship of Commodore Abraham Whipple, cruising eastward in company with Ranger and Queen of France. In the early morning of mid-July, the squadron was in a dense fog off the banks of Newfoundland and fell in with a Jamaican fleet of some 150 sails. The vessels remained with the enemy fleet all day without causing alarm. They took 11 prizes, many by quietly sending boats to take possession. The squadron slipped away with their prizes during the night. They sent 8 of the prizes, valued together with their cargo at over a million dollars, into Boston and Cape Ann. The Squadron returned to Boston and November 23 sailed from Nantasket Roads, first cruising eastward of Bermuda, arriving at Charleston, South Carolina December 23 to defend that city.

Providence, with other ships of Commodore Whipple’s Squadron remained for the defense of Charleston and was one of the ships taken by British when that city fell, May 12, 1780. She subsequently served in the British Navy until sold in March 1783.

USS Queen of France

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 28 guns and 24 x 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Joseph Olney and Capt. John Rathbun
  • Operations: Siege of Charleston

USS Queen of France was a frigate in the Continental Navy. She was named for Marie Antoinette.

Queen of France was an old ship purchased in France in 1777 by American commissioners, Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane, and fitted out as a 28-gun frigate. She was in Boston Harbor by December 1778.

In a squadron commanded by Captain John Burroughs Hopkins, Queen of France, commanded by Captain Joseph Olney, departed Boston, Massachusetts March 13, 1779. She cruised along the Atlantic coast as far south as Charleston, South Carolina to destroy small armed vessels operating out of New York to prey upon American shipping. Near dawn April 6, some 16 miles east of Cape Henry, Virginia, they sighted schooner Hibernia, a 10-gun privateer, and took her after a short chase.

At about the same time the next morning, the American warships saw a fleet of 9 sails and pursued them until catching their quarry that afternoon. Ship Jason, mounting 20 guns and carrying 150 men, headed the list of seven prizes that day, including also ship Meriah — carrying 10 six pounders and richly laden with provisions and cavalry equipment — brigs Patriot, Prince Ferdinand, John, and Batchelor, and finally schooner Chance. Hopkins ordered his ships home with their prizes, and Queen of France reached Boston with Maria, Hibernia, and three brigs on the 20th.

While Queen of France was in Boston, Captain John Rathbun relieved Capt. Olney in command of the frigate. She sailed June 18 with Providence and Ranger. She fell in with the British Jamaica Fleet of some 150 ships near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland about the middle of July. In the dense fog, the American warships pretended to be British frigates of the convoy’s escort and, sending boarding parties across by boats, quietly took possession of eleven prizes before slipping away at night. Three of the prizes were later recaptured, but the eight which reached Boston with the squadron late in August were sold for over a million dollars.

Queen of France departed Boston with frigates Providence and Boston, and sloop Ranger, on November 23 and cruised east of Bermuda. They took 12-gun privateer Dolphin on 5 December before arriving Charleston, on the 23rd.

Queen of France was sunk at Charleston to avoid falling into British hands when that city surrendered May 11, 1780.

USS Racehorse

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USS Raliegh

  • Complement: 180 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 32 x 12 pounders, 26 x 12 pdrs, and 10 x 6 pdrs
  • Commanders: Captain Thomas Thompson and John Barry
  • Operations: N/A

USS Raleigh was one of thirteen ships that the Continental Congress authorized for the Continental Navy in 1775. Following her capture in 1778, she served in the Royal Navy as HMS Raleigh.

Raleigh, a 32-gun frigate, was authorized by Continental Congress on December 13, 1775. Built by Messrs. James Hackett, Hill, and Paul under supervision of Thomas Thompson, the keel was laid on March 21, 1776 at the shipyard of John Langdon on what is now Badger’s Island in Kittery, Maine. She was launched on May 21, 1776.

With a full-length figure of Sir Walter Raleigh as figurehead, Raleigh put to sea under Captain Thomas Thompson, who also supervised her construction, on August 12, 1777. Shortly thereafter, she joined Alfred and sailed for France. Three days out, they captured a schooner carrying counterfeit Massachusetts money. Burning the schooner and her cargo, except for samples, the frigates continued their transatlantic passage. On September 2, they captured the British brig, Nancy, and from her they obtained the signals of the convoy which the brig had been escorting from the rear. Giving chase, the Americans closed with the convoy on September 4, 1777.

Raleigh, making use of the captured signals, intercepted the convoy and engaged HMS Druid. In the ensuing battle she damaged Druid, but the approach of the remaining British escorts forced her to retire.

On December 29, 1777, Raleigh and Alfred, having taken on military stores, set sail from L’Orient, France, following a course that took them along the coast of Africa. After capturing a British vessel off Senegal, Raleigh crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the West Indies. On March 9, 1778, in the Lesser Antilles, Alfred, some distance from Raleigh, was captured by the British ships HMS Ariadne and HMS Ceres. Raleigh, unable to reach Alfred in time to assist her, continued north and returned to New England early in April 1778.

Accused of cowardice and dereliction of duty for not aiding Alfred, Captain Thompson was suspended soon after reaching port. On May 30, 1778 the Marine Committee appointed John Barry to replace him as captain.

Barry arrived in Boston to assume command on June 24 only to find his ship without crew or stores and the Navy Board not wholly in support of the manner of his appointment. His reputation and character, however neutralized the ill-will of the Marine Committee, drew enlistments, and helped to obtain the stores.

On September 25, Raleigh sailed for Portsmouth, New Hampshire with a brig and a sloop under convoy. Six hours later, two strange sails were sighted. After identification of the ships as British the merchant vessels were ordered back to port. Raleigh drew off the enemy. Through that day and the next, the enemy ships HMS Unicorn and HMS Experiment pursued Raleigh. In late afternoon on the 27th, the leading British ship closed with her. A 7-hour running battle followed, much of the time in close action. About midnight, the enemy hauled off and Barry prepared to conceal his ship among the islands of Penobscot Bay.

The enemy, however, again pressed the battle. As Raleigh opened fire, Barry ordered a course toward the land. Raleigh soon grounded on Wooden Ball Island, part of Matinicus. The British hauled off but continued the fight for a while, then anchored. Barry ordered the crew ashore to continue the fight and to burn Raleigh.

A large party, including Barry, made it to shore. One boat was ordered back to Raleigh to take off the remainder of the crew, and destroy her, however the British again fired on the ship, striking the Continental colors. The battle was over. All three ships had been damaged, Unicorn particularly so. Of the Americans ashore, a few were captured on the island, but the remainder, including Barry, made it back to Boston, Massachusetts, arriving on October 7.

USS Randolph

  • Complement: 315
  • Armament: 26 x 12 pdrs; 10 x 6 pdrs
  • Commanders: Capt. Nicholas Biddle
  • Operations: Battle of Barbados
USS Randolph
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USS Randolph

The first USS Randolph was a 32-gun frigate in the Continental Navy named for Peyton Randolph.

Construction of the first Randolph was authorized by the Continental Congress on December 13, 1775. The frigate, designed by Joshua Humphreys, was launched on July 10, 1776, by Wharton and Humphreys at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Captain Nicholas Biddle was appointed commander of the Randolph on July 11, and he took charge of the frigate in mid-October.

Twice, after her repairs had been completed and as she was about to get underway, the frigate was kept in port by lightning-splintered mainmasts. Meanwhile, the ship, undermanned when she left Philadelphia, was losing more of her men from sickness, death, and desertion.

Recruiting was stimulated by bounty, and Randolph was finally readied for sea – this time with her masts protected by lightning rods. She departed Charleston on August 16 and entered Rebellion Road to await favorable winds to put to sea. Two days later, a party from the frigate boarded merchantman Fair American, and impressed two seamen who earlier had been lured away from Biddle’s ship.

Inshore winds kept Randolph in the roadstead until the breeze shifted on September 1, wafting the frigate across Charleston Bar. At dusk, on the 3rd, a lookout spotted five vessels: two ships, two brigs, and a sloop. After a nightlong chase, she caught up with her quarry the next morning and took four prizes: a 20-gun privateer, True Briton, laden with rum, for the British troops at New York; Severn, the second prize, had been recaptured by True Briton from a North Carolina privateer while sailing from Jamaica to London with a cargo of sugar, rum, ginger, and logwood; the two brigs, Charming Peggy, a French privateer, and L’Assomption, laden with salt, had also been captured by True Briton while plying their way from Martinique to Charleston.

Randolph and her rich prizes reached Charleston on the morning of 6 September. While the frigate was in port having her hull scraped, the president of South Carolina’s General Assembly, John Rutledge, suggested to Biddle that Randolph, aided by a number of State Navy ships, might be able to break the blockade which was then bottling up a goodly number of American merchantmen in Charleston Harbor. Biddle accepted command of the task force, which, besides Randolph, included USS General Moultrie, USS Notre Dame, USS Fair American, and USS Polly.

The American ships sailed on February 14, 1778. When they crossed the bar, Biddle’s ships found no British cruisers. After seeing a number of merchantmen to a good offing, the ships proceeded to the West Indies hoping to intercept British merchantmen. After two days, they took and burned a dismasted New England ship which had been captured by a British privateer while headed for St. Augustine, Florida. Thereafter, game was scarce. They encountered only neutral ships until Polly took a small schooner on March 4bound from New York to Grenada. Biddle manned the prize as a tender.

On the afternoon of March 7, Randolph’s lookouts spotted sail on the horizon. At 9:00 PM, that ship, now flying British colors, came up on the Randolph as the largest ship in the convoy, and demanded they hoist their colors. The Randolph then hoisted American colors and fired a broadside into the British ship, mistakenly believing the ship to be a large sloop. The stranger turned out to be the British 64-gun ship of the line, HMS Yarmouth.

As a 64-gun, two-deck line-of-battle ship, Yarmouth had double the number of guns as Randolph. Yarmouth’s guns were also significantly heavier, mounting 32 pound cannons on her main deck, 18 pounder guns on her upper deck and 9 pounder guns on her quarterdeck and forecastle, giving her almost five times the weight of shot that Randolph could fire. The Randolph and General Moultrie engaged Yarmouth until the Randolph’s magazine exploded with a blinding flash. The Yarmouth was struck with burning debris up to six feet long, which significantly damaged her sails and rigging as well as killing five, and wounding twelve.

The damage caused to Yarmouth’s sails and rigging prevented her from pursuing the remaining South Carolina ships which slipped away in the darkness.

The loss of the Randolph resulted in the deaths of 311 of her crew, with 4 survivors.

USS Ranger

  • Complement: 140 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 18 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. John Paul Jones (1777–1778) and Lieutenant Simpson
  • Operations: Siege of Charleston
USS Ranger
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USS Ranger

The first USS Ranger was a sloop-of-war in the Continental Navy in active service in 1777–1780; she received the second salute to an American fighting vessel by a foreign power. She was captured in 1780, and brought into the Royal Navy as HMS Halifax. She was decommissioned in 1781.

Ranger (initially called Hampshire) was launched May 10, 1777 by James Hackett, master shipbuilder, at the shipyard of John Langdon on what is now called Badger’s Island in Kittery, Maine; Captain John Paul Jones in command.

After fitting out, she sailed for France on November 1, 1777, carrying dispatches telling of General Burgoyne’s surrender to the commissioners in Paris. On the voyage over, two British prizes were captured. Ranger arrived at Nantes, France, December 2, where Jones sold the prizes and delivered the news of the victory at Saratoga to Benjamin Franklin. On February 14, 1778, Ranger received an official salute to the new American flag, the “Stars and Stripes”, given by the French fleet at Quiberon Bay.

Ranger sailed from Brest April 10, 1778, for the Irish Sea and four days later captured a prize between the Scilly Isles and Cape Clear. On April 17, she took another prize and sent her back to France. Captain Jones led a daring raid on the British port of Whitehaven, April 23, spiking the guns of the fortress, and burning the ships in the harbor. Sailing across the bay to St. Mary’s Isle, Scotland, the American captain planned to seize the Earl of Selkirk and hold him as a hostage to obtain better treatment for American prisoners of war. However, since the Earl was absent, the plan failed.

Several Royal Navy cruisers were searching for Ranger, and Captain Jones sailed across the North Channel to Carrickfergus, Ireland, to induce HMS Drake of 14 guns, to come out and fight. Drake came out slowly against the wind and tide, and, after an hour’s battle, the battered Drake struck her colors, with three Americans and five British killed in the combat. Having made temporary repairs, and with a prize crew on Drake, Ranger continued around the west coast of Ireland, capturing a stores ship, and arrived at Brest with her prizes on 8 May.

Captain Jones was detached to command USS Bonhomme Richard, leaving Lieutenant Simpson, his first officer, in command. Ranger departed Brest 21 August, reaching Portsmouth, New Hampshire on October 15, in company with Providence and Boston, plus three prizes taken in the Atlantic.

The sloop departed Portsmouth on February 24, 1779 joining with the Continental Navy ships Queen of France and Warren in preying on British shipping in the North Atlantic. Seven prizes were captured early in April, and brought safely into port for sale. On June 18, Ranger was underway again with Providence and Queen of France, capturing two Jamaica men in July and nine more vessels off the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Of the 11 prizes, three were recaptured, but the remaining eight, with their cargoes, were worth over a million dollars when sold in Boston.

Underway on November 23, Ranger was ordered to Commodore Whipple’s squadron, arriving at Charleston on December 23, to support the garrison there under siege by the British. On 24 January 1780, Ranger and Providence, in a short cruise down the coast, captured three transports, loaded with supplies, near Tybee, Georgia. The British assault force was also discovered in the area. Ranger and Providence sailed back to Charleston with the news. Shortly afterwards, the British commenced the final push. Although the channel and harbor configuration made naval operations and support difficult, Ranger took a station in the Cooper River, and was captured when the city fell on May 11, 1780.

USS Reprisal

  • Complement: 130 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 18 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Lambert Wickes
  • Operations: Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet

USS Reprisal, 18, was the first ship of what was to become the United States Navy to be given the name promising hostile action in response to an offense. Originally the merchantman brig Molly, she was purchased from Robert Morris by the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress on March 28, 1776, renamed Reprisal, and placed under the command of Captain Lambert Wickes.

Reprisal dropped down the Delaware River from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, some time during the latter part of June. Before the Continental armed brig Nancy, six guns, slipped out to the Atlantic, six British men-of-war had sighted and chased her as she was returning from St. Croix and St. Thomas with 386 barrels of gunpowder for the Army. In order to save her, her captain ran her ashore. Captain Wickes, with the crew of Reprisal, aided by Captain John Barry with the crew of USS Lexington, were able to keep off boats from HMS Kingfisher and to save about 200 barrels of powder. Before quitting Nancy, they laid a train of gunpowder which, when Nancy was boarded, blew up killing many British sailors. In the engagement, Wickes’ third lieutenant, his brother, Richard Wickes, lost his life. This engagement became known as the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet.

Reprisal cleared the Delaware Capes on July 3. During that month, Captain Wickes captured a number of vessels in the West Indies, and, on July 27, had a sharp encounter with HMS Shark off Martinique, beating her off and escaping into port. She returned to Philadelphia on September 13.

On October 24, 1776, Wickes was ordered by Congress to proceed to Nantes, France, in Reprisal, taking to his post Benjamin Franklin, who had been appointed Commissioner to France. Reprisal afterwards was to cruise in the English Channel. En route to France, Reprisal captured two brigs, reaching Nantes on November 29. Reprisal was the first vessel of the Continental Navy to arrive in European waters. She set sail again about the middle of January 1777, cruising along the coast of Spain, in the Bay of Biscay and in the mouth of the English Channel. On February 5, Reprisal captured the Lisbon packet, two days out of Falmouth, after a hard fight of 40 minutes, in which two officers of Reprisal were seriously wounded and one man killed. Five other prizes were captured on this cruise, which ended on February 14.

After taking his prizes into Port Louis, Wickes sailed for L’Orient, but was ordered to leave in 24 hours by the French authorities, who had been stirred to action by the bitter remonstrances of the British Government. Wickes, however, claimed Reprisal had sprung a leak and should be careened for repairs. He received permission to make his repairs and by excuses was able several times to defeat the intentions of those in charge of the port while he made ready for another cruise.

In April 1777, Reprisal was joined by the Continental vessels Lexington (16 guns), and Dolphin (10 guns), these three vessels constituting a squadron under the command of Wickes. The American Commissioners in Paris now planned to send the squadron on a cruise along the shores of the British Isles. Leaving France the latter part of May 1777, they cruised around Ireland during June, July, and August. On June 19, they took their first prizes—two brigs and two sloops. During the following week, they cruised in the Irish Sea and made 14 additional captures, comprising two ships, seven brigs and five other vessels. Of these 18 prizes, eight were sent into port, three were released, and seven sunk, three of them within sight of the enemy’s ports.

On September 14, 1777, Reprisal left France, for the United States. About October 1, Reprisal was lost off the banks of Newfoundland and all 129 on board, except the cook, went down with her.

USS Repulse

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USS Resistance

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USS Retaliation

No further information.

USS Revenge

  • Complement: 50 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 4 × 4-pounder guns and 4 × 2-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain Seaman
  • Operations: Battle of Valcour Island

The first USS Revenge was a Schooner in the Continental Navy. Revenge was built in the summer of 1776 by Colonel Jeduthan Baldwin at Fort Ticonderoga, New York.

The schooner, commanded by a Captain Seaman, joined the flotilla commanded by General Benedict Arnold at Crown Point. She got underway at sunset on August 24 and headed north along the New York shore of Lake Champlain. Two days later, when Connecticut lost a mast during a storm, Revenge towed the damaged gundalow out of danger of grounding. In the weeks that followed, the ships maneuvered on the lake enabling the green crews, for the most part made up of landsmen, to learn the ways of the sea.

Meanwhile, the British were building a fleet farther north, and were preparing to challenge Arnold for control of the lake. Naval supremacy would enable the King’s troops assembled in Canada to drive down the strategic Lake Champlain-Hudson River corridor to New York. Success of this British strategy would cut the American colonies in two, beginning a dismemberment process by which the “redcoats” could defeat the “rebels” in detail and restore Royal authority in North America.

The two forces met on October 11 in the Battle of Valcour Island, fought in the strait between Valcour Island and the lake’s western shore where Arnold had stationed his ships. In the action, the outgunned Americans suffered a tactical defeat, but won a great strategic victory by delaying the British advance for a year – a year in which the Americans strengthened their Army enough to capture General Burgoyne’s expeditionary force at Saratoga.

After the battle of Valcour Island, Revenge and the other remaining American ships retired farther up the lake. Only Revenge, another schooner, two galleys, and a sloop reached the protection of Fort Ticonderoga. She remained on the upper lake until she was taken early in July 1777 when a British force under General Burgoyne captured Fort Ticonderoga. However, some sources indicate that the schooner may have been burned and sunk to prevent capture.

USS Sachem

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 10 guns
  • Commanders: Capt. Isaiah Robinson
  • Operations:

The first Sachem was a sloop of war in the United States Navy during the Revolutionary War.

The Continental brigantine Lexington, commanded by Captain John Barry, captured the sloop HMS Edward, a tender to British frigate HMS Liverpool, off the Delaware Capes on April 7, 1776, after a fierce, one-hour fight. Lexington escorted her prize to Philadelphia where Edward was libeled on April 13, condemned on April 29, and purchased by the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress on May 2. Renamed USS Sachem, the sloop was fitted out under the direction of 17-year-old Joshua Barney who received his commission as a lieutenant while the ship was being prepared for sea. Shortly before Sachem was ready for action, Captain Isaiah Robinson assumed command of the sloop.

On July 6, Sachem, carrying dispatches for Barry who was patrolling the mouth of the bay, dropped down the Delaware. The orders directed Barry to put to sea in Lexington. Since Barry declined the suggestion that the two ships cruise together, they parted after clearing the capes. On August 12, Sachem fought brigantine, Three Friends, for over two hours before the British letter of marque surrendered.

Robinson sent the prize to Philadelphia for adjudication and, since Sachem had suffered substantial damage in the battle, she followed Three Friends into port for repairs.

After Sachem was back in fighting trim, she was placed under the direction of the Secret Committee which handled procurement matters for the Continental Congress. Few details of her subsequent operations have survived. It is known that she sailed for the West Indies on March 29, 1777 carrying dispatches for William Bingham, the Continental agent in Martinique. These letters were duplicates of earlier messages which had gone astray when the frigate Randolph was diverted to Charleston, South Carolina for repairs after losing two masts.

It is said that Sachem was burned in the Delaware River the following autumn to avoid capture by the British, but evidence to substantiate this claim is scant.

USS Saratoga

  • Complement: 86 officers and enlisted
  • Armament: 16 × 9-pounder guns and 2 × 4-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain John Young
  • Operations:

USS Saratoga was a sloop in the Continental Navy. She was the first ship to honor the historic Battle of Saratoga. Saratoga was built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania by Warton and Humphries. She was begun in December 1779 and launched on April 10, 1780.

On the afternoon of September 9, a lookout spotted a sail to the northwest. By then, Captain John Young had managed to get Saratoga into fighting shape. He headed his ship toward the unknown sail and set out in pursuit. By twilight, he was close enough to see that his quarry was a brig flying British colors. Some two hours later, Saratoga had closed within hailing distance and learned that the chase was the Royal Navy’s brig, HMS Keppel, and not about to surrender. Saratoga opened fire with a broadside and was quickly answered by the Keppel, opening an inconclusive, three-hour battle.

During the action, due to gale force seas, coinciding with her insufficient ballast, the Saratoga’s guns were unable to inflict any serious damage to the Keppel. After Captain Young’s repeated efforts to close to boarding distance of the Keppel and the British brig evading those efforts, and midnight approaching, Young ordered the helmsman to end the chase and head for home.

On September 12, as Saratoga approached Cape Henlopen, she came upon the Sarah, a British ship bound for New York laden with rum from the West Indies. The merchantman surrendered without resisting, and the two ships proceeded into the Delaware. They anchored off Chester, Pennsylvania, the following afternoon where the Sarah was promptly condemned and sold, along with her cargo, which brought the continental treasury funds desperately needed to refit the frigate, Confederacy, for sea.

The Saratoga spent three days at Chester, where she replenished her stores and took on additional iron for ballast before heading back down the Delaware toward the open sea and another cruise. On September 25, off the Jersey highlands, she came upon the Elizabeth, which had been taken in Chesapeake Bay several weeks before by British privateer, Restoration. The Saratoga captured the 60-ton American brig, and Captain Young sent the brig to Philadelphia under a prize crew.

On October 11, she spotted two sails far off her port bow. The Saratoga was due east of Cape Henry when she began the chase. As she closed the distance between herself and her quarry, Captain Young ordered his helmsman to head for the open water between the enemy ships which proved to be the large, 22-gun letter of marquee ship, Charming Molly, and a small schooner, the Two Brothers. When the Saratoga was between the two English vessels, Captain Young ordered the Charming Molly to surrender, but she refused to do so. After the Saratoga had fired a broadside into the Charming Molly, a boarding party, led by Lt. Joshua Barney, leapt to the merchantman’s deck and opened a fierce hand-to-hand fight which soon compelled the British captain to lower his colors.

An American prize crew under Lieutenant Barney promptly took the place of Charming Molly‘s British skipper, officers, and tars. Captain Young then set out after the fleeing sloop the Two Brothers which, when overtaken, surrendered without resistance. The second prize, Two Brothers, promptly headed for the Delaware for libeling in Admiralty court in Philadelphia.

From the prisoners captured on the Charming Molly, Captain Young learned that she and the Two Brothers had been part of a small merchant fleet which had sailed from Jamaica and had been scattered by the recent storm. As soon as his crew had finished temporary repairs to Charming Molly‘s battle-damaged hull, the Saratoga began to search for the remaining merchant fleet, a ship and two brigs. About mid-day on 11 October, a lookout saw three sails slowly rise above the horizon dead ahead, and another chase began.

As the Saratoga approached the strangers, Captain Young ordered his helmsman to head between the ships. As she passed between the enemy vessels, she fired both broadsides, her port guns fired at the Elizabeth, and her starboard muzzles belched fire and iron at the brig Nancy. The enemy’s shots passed above the Saratoga, causing only minor damage to her rigging while the first American salvo knocked the Nancy out of action and did substantial damage to the Elizabeth, which surrendered after taking another volley. Meanwhile, the other brig raced away; and Captain Young, being busy with his two new prizes, allowed her to escape free of pursuit.

At dawn, near Cape Henlopen, a sailor aloft reported seeing two unknown sails, one dead ahead and the other several miles off her port quarter. The first was later identified as American brig, Providence which was at that time a British prize heading for New York. The second ship was the 74-gun British ship-of-the-line, HMS Alcide. Despite the proximity of the British man-of-war, Captain Young set out after the Providence and recaptured her after about an hour’s chase. Captain Young quickly put a prize crew on board the Providence and then the Saratoga got underway for the Delaware.

On the morning of October 20, favorable weather enabled the Saratoga to put to sea escorting her 12 charges. The next afternoon, after one of the merchantmen signaled that an unknown sail had appeared, Saratoga set out to investigate. Within two hours, after seeing the British ensign flying from her mast, the Saratoga had reached within firing range and sent a warning 4-pounder shot across the stranger’s bow. Instead of surrendering, the British privateer, Resolution, maneuvered to attack. The ships fired at the same instant, Resolution’s gunners fired high and only did superficial damage to the Saratoga. The Saratoga‘s broadside damaged the Resolution‘s hull and superstructure and forced her to surrender.

On the morning of January 9, 1781, off the coast of then England’s loyal province of East Florida, the Saratoga captured a 20-gun letter of marquee the Tonyn in a fierce battle. On the 16th, Saratoga captured, without resistance, an armed brig, the HMS Douglas. On March 18, a lookout high over the Saratoga‘s deck reported two sails far off to westward, the Saratoga left the convoy in pursuit of the strangers. About mid-afternoon, she caught up with one of the fleeing ships which surrendered without a fight. Captain Young placed an American crew on board the prize and got underway after the second ship. Midshipman Penfield, commander of the prize crew, later reported that as he was supervising his men’s efforts to follow the Saratoga, the wind suddenly rose to fearful velocity and almost capsized his ship. When he had managed to get the snow-rigged merchantman back under control, he looked up and was horrified to learn that the Saratoga had vanished.

After numerous successful victories and prizes, Saratoga disappeared, lost at sea. The Saratoga‘s fate remains a mystery.

USS Serapis

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USS Surprise

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 10 × 4-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain Benjamin Dunn
  • Operations:

Surprise, the first American naval ship of the name, was a sloop that the Continental Navy purchased in 1777. The Royal Navy had purchased a vessel named Hercules in 1776 and renamed her HMS Racehorse. USS Andrew Doria captured Racehorse in 1776 and the Americans took her into service as Surprise. Her crew destroyed Surprise on December 15, 1777 to prevent the Royal Navy from recapturing her.

Surprise was ordered in April 1777 to join the brigantine USS Andrew Doria and sloop Fly in clearing the Cape May channel of British ships. On May 2, the Harwich packet Prince of Orange was taken in the English Channel by the USS Surprise, Captain Gustavus Conyngham. The latter vessel had been bought at Folkestone, and, with glaring disregard of French neutrality, had been equipped at Dunkirk. On the Surprise‘s return to Dunkirk, the prize was seized and restored to Britain, though it was believed at the time, not without some reason, that the British Government, anxious to avoid a dispute with France, had purchased from Conyngham his capture.

Surprise was stationed in the Delaware River through the spring and summer of 1777. After Vice Admiral Lord Howe brought his British fleet into the river in September 1777, Surprise was part of the forces charged with defending Philadelphia. Following the British occupation of Fort Mifflin on November 16, Surprise, with the remaining ships of the Continental Navy, including Andrew Doria, sought shelter under the guns of Fort Mercer at Red Bank, New Jersey. With the evacuation of Fort Mercer on 20 November, Captain Isaiah Robinson of Andrew Doria gave orders the next day for the crews to burn their ships to prevent their capture. This was done shortly thereafter.

USS Trumbull

  • Complement: 200
  • Armament: 24 × 12-pounder guns and 6 × 6-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Capt. James Nicholson and David Jewett
  • Operations:

The second Trumbull was a three-masted, wooden-hulled sailing frigate and was one of the first of 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on of December 13, 1775. They were superior in design and construction to the same class of European vessels in their day. Its keel was laid down in March or April 1776 at Chatham, Connecticut, by John Cotton and was launched on September 5, 1776.

Nicholson did not receive his cruising orders until the following spring. Late in May 1780, Trumbull sailed for her first foray into the Atlantic. Action was not long in coming. At 10:30 AM on June 1, 1780, Trumbull‘s masthead lookout sighted a sail to windward. In order to remain undetected for as long as possible, the frigate furled her sails until 1130. Then, upon ascertaining the strange ship’s size, Trumbull then made sail and tacked towards, what soon proved to be the British letter-of-marque Watt, of 32 guns. During the battle, Nicholson’s crew lost eight killed and 31 wounded; Watt suffered 13 killed and 79 wounded. Both badly battered, Trumbull and Watt separated and retired.

On 8 August 1781, Trumbull — the last remaining frigate of the original 13 authorized by Congress in 1775 — eventually departed from the Delaware capes in company with a 24-gun privateer and a 14-gun letter-of-marque. Under their protection was a 28-ship merchant convoy. On August 28, 1781, lookouts on the American ships spotted three sails to the eastward; two tacking to give chase to the convoy.

At nightfall, a rain squall struck with terrific force and carried away Trumbull‘s fore-topmast and her main topgallant mast. Forced to run before the wind, the frigate separated from the convoy and their escorts, and soon found herself engaged with the frigate HMS Iris (the former Continental frigate Hancock), and the 18-gun ship HMS General Monk (the former Continental privateer General Washington). Even with the “utmost exertion,” the wrecked masts and sails could not be cleared away. Knowing he could not run, Nicholson decided to fight.

Trapped, Trumbull beat to quarters, but three-quarters of the crew failed to respond, and instead fled below. Undaunted, Nicholson bravely gathered the remainder. For one hour and 35 minutes, Trumbull and Iris remained engaged; General Monk soon closed and entered the contest as well. “Seeing no prospect of escaping in this unequal contest,” Nicholson later wrote, “I struck...”. Eleven Americans were wounded and five killed during the engagement before Trumbull surrendered. Iris reported that she had lost one man killed and six wounded, while Trumbull had two men killed and 10 wounded.

Trumbull, by this point almost a wreck, was taken under tow by the victorious Iris to New York. However, because of her severe damage, the British did not take the frigate into the Royal Navy;

USS Vengeance

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USS Virginia

  • Complement: 315
  • Armament: 24 × 12-pounder guns, 6 × 4-pounder guns, and 6 swivel guns
  • Commanders: Capt. James Nicholson
  • Operations: Penobscot Expedition

The first USS Virginia was a 28-gun sailing frigate of the Continental Navy, a ship with a short and unfortunate career. She was one of 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on December 13, 1775, laid down in 1776 at Fells Point, Maryland, by George Wells, launched that August, and commissioned in the spring of 1777, Captain James Nicholson in command.

The newly commissioned frigate’s first orders directed her to attempt a run through the strong British naval blockade at the mouth of Chesapeake Bay and then if successful, to head south to the West Indies and cruise in search of English merchantmen. However, her first sortie failed, as did four subsequent attempts to get to sea which she made in May, October, November, and December 1777. These successive failures frustrated Virginia’s restive crew, and many deserted to join the numerous privateers scattered about the wharves of nearby Baltimore.

By early January 1778, the desertions had become so numerous that Virginia was unable to leave the docks. This situation prompted a series of ugly exchanges between Capt. Nicholson, his executive officer Lt. Joshua Barney, and the governor of Maryland Thomas Johnson. New recruits were finally procured through the auspices of the Maritime Committee of the Continental Congress, enabling Virginia to attempt another run past the blockade in mid-January. This latest dash went smoothly until HMS Emerald sighted Virginia near the Chesapeake capes. The British frigate pursued the Americans back towards Baltimore. Virginia tied up behind a water battery and chain stretched across the northwest branch of the Patapsco River, Md., between Whetstone Point and later Lazaretto Point, where she took on board 20 more seamen.

Later that month, when Capt. Nicholson again tried to run the blockade, he sent Lt. Barney ahead in the schooner Dolphin to reconnoiter the positions of the British warships. Dolphin sighted a large patrol vessel in Tangier Sound but outran her. Before meeting with Virginia, the schooner recaptured a Baltimore sloop taken earlier. On the basis of Lt. Barney’s report, Capt. Nicholson decided to abandon this latest attempt to get to sea and returned to Baltimore.

Virginia lay at anchor at Baltimore for two months repairing and reprovisioning. During this time, Barney was dispatched to York, Pennsylvania, to explain Virginia‘s predicament to the Maritime Committee; and he returned in March with orders to make another attempt to get by the British as soon as possible.

Virginia left Baltimore late in March in obedience to the Maritime Committee’s orders. Nicholson’s plans called for Virginia to sail first to Annapolis, to pick up a bay pilot promised by Governor Johnson. Completing this, the frigate and pilot vessel weighed anchor off Annapolis on March 30 and proceeded down the bay, plotting a night passage into the Atlantic. However, early on the morning of March 31, Virginia grounded with a tremendous crash on the so-called Middle Ground between the capes, opposite the city of Hampton, Virginia. With a strong wind blowing astern, the surf pounded the frigate and forced her over. Her rudder snapped before she could be cleared and was soon lost. Once in the channel, Virginia was anchored and repairs begun.

At dawn, lookouts spotted Emerald and her fellow frigate HMS Conqueror approaching from seaward though Virginia‘s guns remained undamaged, Capt. Nicholson ordered his barge broken out and went ashore with the ship’s papers. Later that morning, the American frigate surrendered to Capt. Caldwell of Emerald. A Congressional court of inquiry into the fiasco cleared Capt. Nicholson of blame, and all the officers of the unlucky frigate saw action later during the Revolution.

Virginia herself was soon repaired and eventually purchased by the Royal Navy for use as the 32-gun frigate HMS Virginia. She was placed in service along the American coast and participated in the Penobscot Expedition of 1779 and the capture of Charleston, South Carolina, in 1780. At the end of the war she was condemned and sold.

USS Warren

  • Complement: 250
  • Armament: 12 × 18-pounder guns, 14 × 12-pounder guns, and 8 × 9-pounder guns
  • Commanders: Captain John B. Hopkins and Captain Dudley Saltonstall
  • Operations: Penobscot Expedition

USS Warren was one of the 13 frigates authorized by the Continental Congress on December 13, 1775. With half her main armament being 18-pounders, Warren was more heavily armed than a typical 32-gun frigate of the period. She was named for Joseph Warren on 6 June 1776. Warren was burned to prevent capture in the ill-fated Penobscot Expedition in 1779. Warren was probably set afire by her crew on either August 14, 1779 in the Penobscot River, above the Bagaduce peninsula.

Built at Providence, Rhode Island by Sylvester Bowers, Warren was probably one of the first two of the 13 frigates to be completed. The other was the Rhode Island-built frigate Providence. However, difficulties in manning the two ships and the British occupation of Newport, Rhode Island made the tricky task of getting the vessels out to sea doubly difficult.

Although the ship was bottled up in the Providence River, Commodore Esek Hopkins broke his pennant in Warren early in December of 1776. Hopkins was ordered to prepare for sea as soon as possible to cruise the upper half of the eastern seaboard to interdict British troop and logistics shipping traveling the Rhode Island to Virginia route. Hopkins’ flagship nevertheless remained anchored in the Providence River for nearly a year afterward. As a result, Hopkins was suspended by the Marine Committee of the Continental Congress for his lethargic performance. Warren, blockaded in Narragansett Bay, did no cruising.

Aided by strong winds out of the north with masking snow, Warren, now under the command of Captain John B. Hopkins, finally slipped through the British blockade on February 16, 1778, taking minor damage from HMS Somerset and HMS Lark on her way out Narragansett Passage. Hopkins had orders to proceed to a free port, but the men were not dressed for the blizzard conditions so the captain headed to warmer southern waters and began hunting prizes on the open sea.

Warren took two on her first cruise: within sight of Bermuda she took the ship Neptune, bound from Whitehaven, England to Philadelphia with a cargo of provisions, and also took the snow Robert, heading for Bristol from Saint Eustatius on false Dutch papers, carrying flaxseed and fustic. The Continental frigate put into Boston on March 23 and prepared for another cruise to the West Indies but found manning the ship near-impossible. She finally conducted a second cruise off the eastern seaboard in the autumn, sailing for a time in company with the Massachusetts State Navy ship Tyrannicide in September.

Warren remained at Boston into the winter of 1778 and apparently did not sortie again until March 13, 1779. The frigate under now-Commodore John B. Hopkins, departed in company with Queen of France and Ranger for a cruise off the northeastern coast. The squadron took the armed schooner Hibernia as a prize on April 6.

Good fortune smiled upon them even more the following day. At 4:00 AM, American lookouts sighted two “fleets” of ships. One contained ten vessels and the other, nine. Warren and her two consorts set upon the nine-ship group to windward and, by 2:00 PM, had captured seven of the nine. The British convoy had been bound from New York to Georgia. The catch included two ships, four brigs, and a schooner. Most of the prizes were richly laden with provisions for the British Army. Warren towed the brig Patriot from April 10, bringing her triumphantly into port.

Initially, Congress expressed great pleasure with Hopkins’ exploit, but its satisfaction soon soured. The Marine Committee charged Hopkins with violating his orders, maintaining that he had returned to port too soon and had not sent his prizes to the nearest port. As a disciplinary measure, the Committee relieved Hopkins, suspended him from the Navy, and gave his command to Captain Dudley Saltonstall. The latter decision would have sad repercussions for both ship and her new commander.

While Warren lay at Boston, fitting out for further operations, the British established a base on the Bagaduce peninsula, near the present site of Castine, Maine, in mid-June 1779. This British intrusion into the figurative back yard of the Massachusetts colony could not go unchallenged. Thus a large—but unfortunately uncoordinated—force was assembled in hope of evicting the newly established British. Saltonstall became the naval commander, in Warren, and was given 19 armed vessels and some 20 transports with which to project the Continental invasion.

USS Gen Washington

No further information.

USS Washington

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 26 x 12-pounders guns and 10 x 6-pounders guns
  • Commanders: N/A
  • Operations: N/A

USS Washington was a Continental Navy frigate laid down in 1776 but never completed.

Washington was among thirteen frigates authorized to be constructed for the new Continental Navy by an Act of Congress of December 13, 1775, and among four to be built at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The act called for all thirteen ships to be ready for sea by March 1776. Official designs were drawn up for the ships, but credit for their design is a matter of dispute, with Joshua Humphreys, John Wharton, and Nathaniel Falconer all being possible designers. In any event, plans had been drawn up and copies made of them by February 2, 1776, too late for the ships to be completed by March 1776.

The design of the 32-gun frigate USS Randolph, also built at Philadelphia under the same construction program, probably to the same design as Washington – the two ships may even have been sisters – provides insight into the design of Washington, which has not survived. Randolph‘s design appears to have been inspired by British 36-gun frigates of the period. This resulted in a ship with a similar beam and depth of hold to the 36-gun British ships, but longer than the 36-gun frigates of the time, and thus oversized for her rate – much in the way the French Navy built oversized ships at that time. Randolph was planned to be somewhat more lightly built than the British frigates that inspired her design, with a broader frame spacing and a much more raked bow, but with less freeboard.

The thirteen ships were named on June 6, 1776. Washington, built by Manuel Eyre, Jehu Eyre, and Benjamin Eyre, was launched on August 2, 1776. She was not yet completed when British forces advancing on Philadelphia in 1777 during the Revolutionary War threatened to capture her, and she was scuttled incomplete on November 2, 1777 to prevent capture. The portion of her hull remaining above water was burned in May 1778, while her bottom was salvaged and sold in Philadelphia.

USS Wasp

  • Complement: N/A
  • Armament: 8 × 2-pounder guns and 6 × swivel guns
  • Commanders: Capt. William Hallock
  • Operations: Battle of Nassau and Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet
USS Wasp
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USS Wasp

The Continental ship USS Wasp was originally a merchant schooner named Scorpion, built at Baltimore, and purchased by the Continental Navy late in 1775, the first US naval ship to be given that name. She was outfitted at Baltimore during the winter of 1775–1776; and commissioned in December 1775 or January 1776, Capt. William Hallock in command.

Wasp set sail from Baltimore on January 14, 1776 in company with Hornet and a convoy of ships bound for the Delaware Capes. By virtue of their voyage to meet Commodore Esek Hopkins’ squadron at the Delaware Capes, Wasp and Hornet appear to be the first ships of the Continental Navy to get to sea. They joined Hopkins’ squadron on February 13; and, four days later, the first American squadron to put to sea began its maiden voyage.

Interpreting his orders rather liberally, by ignoring those portions which related to operations in the Chesapeake Bay and along the southern coast of the colonies, Hopkins led his fleet directly to the Bahamas. The ships, minus Hornet and Fly, arrived at Abaco in the Bahamas on 1 March, and Hopkins began laying plans for the raid on New Providence. The fleet ran in to attempt a landing at the port of Nassau but failed to achieve surprise. The landing, therefore, went forward several miles to the east of the town. Wasp and Providence covered the Marines as they went ashore, but their guns never fired because the landing was not opposed.

That afternoon, the landing force took Fort Montague and the following day captured the town of Nassau and Fort Nassau. They took a large quantity of cannon—close to 90 pieces, and 15 brass mortars—but the governor had managed to foil the mission in its primary objective by spiriting away the bulk of the gunpowder which had been stored there. Hopkins had to settle for 24 casks of powder out of the 174 originally stored there. The cannon and other military stores captured, however, more than justified the enterprise.

The fleet remained at Nassau for about two weeks loading the booty of war. So large was the take that several local ships had to be pressed into service to carry the materiel back to North America. Hopkins’ squadron finally hoisted sail on 17 March and set course for New England. Wasp, however, parted with the main fleet and made her way independently back to the Delaware capes and thence into port at Philadelphia, where she arrived on April 4.

After repairs at Philadelphia, Wasp returned to duty in the Delaware River and Bay. On May 5, two British men-of-war, the 44-gun HMS Roebuck and the 28-gun HMS Liverpool, entered the bay with several prizes. In the face of these two formidable enemies, Wasp retreated into Christiana Creek, but came out again on the 8th to join a force of galleys in attacking Roebuck after she had run aground. During the ensuing engagement, the Continental schooner captured the British brig Betsey and took her into Philadelphia where the British officers were placed in jail.

The schooner continued to operate on the Delaware River and Bay and along the nearby Atlantic coast for the remainder of her career. On June 28, she engaged in the Battle of Turtle Gut Inlet to salvage the cargo of Nancy. Near the end of the year, she took three more prizes—Leghorn Galley late in October, Two Brothers in December, and an unnamed sloop that same month. She also recaptured Success, an American ship previously taken by HMS Roebuck.

Into the fall of 1777, Wasp continued her operations in the vicinity of the Delaware Capes until November when she and four other ships unsuccessfully engaged the British force under Admiral Sir Richard (“Black Dick”) Howe. Philadelphia had already fallen to Admiral Howe’s brother, General Sir William Howe, late in September, but American forces retained control of the river below the city until losing that engagement. Following the clash, Wasp was run aground, set afire, and destroyed when her gunpowder exploded.

Pay Scale for Sailors:

The pay of the officers and men per calendar months:

  • Captain or commander, $32
  • Lieutenants, $20
  • Master, $20
  • Mates, $15
  • Boatswain, $15
  • Boatswain’s first mate, $9.50
  • Boatswain’s second mate, $8
  • Gunner, $15
  • Gunner’s mate, $10.66
  • Surgeon, $21.33
  • Surgeon’s mate, $13.33
  • Carpenter, $15
  • Carpenter’s mate, $10.66
  • Cooper, $15
  • Captain’s or Commander’s clerk, $15
  • Steward, $13.33
  • Chaplain, $20
  • Able seamen, $6.66
  • Captain of marines, $26.66
  • Lieutenants, $18
  • Serjeants, $8
  • Corporals, $7.33
  • Fifer, $7.33
  • Drummer, $7.33
  • Privates [of] marines, $6.75
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