I grew up many years in Long Beach California. That was a busy Navy town during the Vietnam War times. In the apartment complexes my folks had us in housed many Navy families. Navy families carried heavy burdens as, usually, Dad shipped out to sea for six months or more at a time and the Mom’s and kids struggled to get along. While many other branches had that same burden, some families could be at home station in Europe and other places.
So, this is a salute to our Navy family at the Hut. This last Friday the 13th in 1775 the Navy was founded. The Continental Congress voted to fit out two sailing vessels, armed with ten carriage guns, as well as swivel guns, and manned by crews of eighty, and to send them out on a cruise of three months to intercept transports carrying munitions and stores to the British army in America.
This was the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy grew and as such constitutes the birth certificate of the navy. To understand the momentous significance of the decision to send two armed vessels to sea under the authority of the Continental Congress, we need to review the strategic situation in which it was made and to consider the political struggle that lay behind it.
In October 1775 the British held superiority at sea, from which they threatened to stop up the colonies’ trade and to wreak destruction on seaside settlements. In response a few of the states had commissioned small fleets of their own for defense of local waters. Congress had not yet authorized privateering. Some in Congress worried about pushing the armed struggle too far, hoping that reconciliation with the mother country was still possible. Yet, a small coterie of men in Congress had been advocating a Continental Navy from the outset of armed hostilities.
Congress let this plan lie on the table until 13 October, when another fortuitous event occurred in favor of the naval movement. A letter from General Washington was read in Congress in which he reported that he had taken under his command, at Continental expense, three schooners to cruise off Massachusetts to intercept enemy supply ships. The commander in chief had preempted members of Congress reluctant to take the first step of fitting out warships under Continental authority. Since they already had armed vessels cruising in their name, it was not such a big step to approve two more. The committee’s proposal, now appearing eminently reasonable to the reluctant members, was adopted. The Continental Navy grew into an important force. Within a few days, Congress established a Naval Committee charged with equipping a fleet.
Over the course of the War of Independence, the Continental Navy sent to sea more than fifty armed vessels of various types. The navy’s squadrons and cruisers seized enemy supplies and carried correspondence and diplomats to Europe, returning with needed munitions. They took nearly 200 British vessels as prizes, some off the British Isles themselves, contributing to the demoralization of the enemy and forcing the British to divert warships to protect convoys and trade routes. In addition, the navy provoked diplomatic crises that helped bring France into the war against Great Britain. The Continental Navy began the proud tradition carried on today by our United States Navy, and whose birthday we celebrate each year in October. Salute to John!
Don’t forget our regular meetings continue the first and third Thursdays of the month at 7:00 PM. Monday morning Koffee Klatch meetings in October are still scheduled for biscuits and gravy and always a cup of Joe (coffee to the civilians).
Keep your eye on the weather in case things have to be postponed. That will be most likely if the storms bring strong winds and lightning. If you are a veteran come on by. If you have a good story it may end up in print. Also keep up with us at website “americanlegion142.org”.