The Continental Navy: a timeline

Important Dates in the History of the Navy

  • 26 Aug 1775: Creation of the Rhode Island State Navy.
  • 5 Sep 1775: Commissioning of the Hanna, officially under the control of the Army.
  • 13 Oct 1775: The Continental Congress authorized the outfitting of two ships, for “intercepting vessels coming out with stores and ammunition.” This date is recognized as the birth date of the American Navy.
  • 18 Feb 1776: The first American Squadron launched.
  • 1779: Famous defeat of the Serapis by John Paul Jones.
  • 1783: Disbanding of the Continental Navy.

Governance of the Navy:

  • Jan 1776-Dec 1779: Marine Committee
  • 28 Oct 1779-1781: Board of Admiralty
  • 1781: Department of the Marine

Records of these organizations can be found in the Journals of the Continental Congress and the Papers of the Continental Congress.


  • John Lehman, On Seas of Glory: Heroic Men, Great Ships, and Epic Battles of the American Navy (New York: The Free Press, 2001), 14, 32-33.
  • Craig L. Symonds, The U.S. Navy: A Concise History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2016), 5-6.
  • George C. Daughan, If By Sea: The Forging of the American Navy – From the Revolution to the War of 1812 (New York, Basic Books, 2008), 203.
  • “U.S. Navy,” Maritime History of Massachusetts ( accessed 16 November 2022).

Published by Bryna O'Sullivan

Proprietor of Charter Oak Genealogy, Bryna O'Sullivan specializes in assisting clients with lineage society applications and with French to English genealogical translations.

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