13 October 2011

13 October - US Navy Birthday

"Resolved, That a swift sailing vessel, to carry ten carriage guns, and a proportionable number of swivels, with eighty men, be fitted, with all possible despatch, for a cruise of three months, and that the commander be instructed to cruize eastward, for intercepting such transports as may be laden with warlike stores and other supplies for our enemies, and for such other purposes as the Congress shall direct.

That a Committee of three be appointed to prepare an estimate of the expence, and lay the same before the Congress, and to contract with proper persons to fit out the vessel.

Resolved, that another vessel be fitted out for the same purposes, and that the said committee report their opinion of a proper vessel, and also an estimate of the expence."  Source.

Today in 1775, the Continental Congress authorized, by the above resolutions, "the procurement, fitting out, manning, and dispatching of two armed vessels" along with a committee to oversee the same.   The United States Navy dates its founding from that day.

You'd think that something as reasonable as ships to protect our shores would be at the forefront of any discussion, especially considering how much coastline the original 13 colonies (and their neighbors) had, but this was still 1775.  Independence was a hotly-contested issue, and certainly not a foregone conclusion, especially by those who hoped that showing the British Crown we were serious about defending our rights as British subjects would lead to a reconciliation (and life returning to normal).  There were privateers occasionally doing some damage, but their actions could be disavowed as needed. An authorized Navy could not be disavowed, and the whole thing smacked of real provocation, with no hope of reconciliation.

You can read here a detailed essay on the background and situation which led to this legislation, and find links to images and histories of some of the vessels of the Revolutionary War here.

And for your enjoyment, check out this 1777 map of Narragansett Bay, done for the British army by a helpful Loyalist to show, among other things, "the works and batteries raised by the Americans".   (Yep.  Little Rhody was right at the forefront of agitating for a Navy, because we knew those British ships had to be stopped out there away from our coastline.  Unfortunately, too little, too late, as Newport, Bristol, and Warren found to their cost.)

This is a screen capture.  You can see the whole map in great detail at the David Rumsey Map Collection website.


When the Widow wore a uniform, such as that pictured here - yes, children, ichthyosaurs roamed the seas, to the detriment of our wooden dugouts - we were still called WAVES - Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Service.  That transitioned (along with an update in uniform) to WIN (Women In the Navy), making the old joke "Join the Navy and ride the Waves" obsolete.  Sailors are an inventive bunch, though, and a little change in acronym doesn't stop them.  I won't sully your ears.

But barring that, and too many funerals, and too many goodbyes, and WAY too many times getting shot at - this sailorette enjoyed her tours.

--------------    GO NAVY!    --------------