The Continental Navy
was authorized by the Continental Congress
on October 13
. The original intent was to intercept the supply of arms and provisions to British soldiers who had placed Boston under martial law. 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. Congress by the end of October authorized the purchase and outfitting of four armed vessels, of 10, 14, 20, and 36 guns. On December 3
, the Alfred
, Andrew Doria
, and Columbus
. On December 22
, 1775, Esek Hopkins was appointed the Naval Commander-in-Chief, and officers of the Navy were commissioned. With this small fleet, complemented by the Providence
, and USS Wasp (1775)
, Hopkins led the first major Naval action of the Continental Navy, in early March, 1776
, against Nassau, Bahamas, where stores of much-needed gunpowder were seized for the use of the Continental Army
. On April 6
the squadron, with the addition of the 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 thirteen frigates to the fleet, which were contructed 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 America, was instead offered to France as compensation for the loss of its Magnifique, lost in service to the American Revolution.