On June 12, 1775, the first navy officially commissioned in the American colonies was the Rhode Island Navy. It was commissioned to have armed ships tasked with actively fighting against the British.
On October 13, 1775, the Continental Congress officially established the Continental Navy to help in their war for independence against Great Britain. Today’s US Navy recognizes this date as their official birthday.
On September 23, 1779, John Paul Jones won a decisive naval battle against the British far from American shores. Jones was commander of the Bonhomme Richard and was involved in the Battle of Flamborough in the North Sea. When the British captain of the HMS Serapis asked Jones to surrender, he replied with his now famous response:
“I have not yet begun to fight.”
The battle raged on and Jones proved victorious over the British and won the victory. Many consider Jones as the Father of the US Navy and ironically, he is often referred to as the Father of Russian Navy as well.
In the latter days of the Revolutionary War, most of the crew aboard Continental Navy ships were Citizen Sailors, which is considered to be the foundation of today’s Navy Reserve. In many instances, they were no match against the experienced and professional British Navy, but with the help of the French and their ships, we began to gain an upper hand and started sinking a number of British ships and ending their blockade of the colonies.
On March 27, 1794, Congress passed the Naval Act due to the increased threat of piracy. The act commissioned the construction of 6 new warships, one of which was the USS Constitution, also known as Old Ironsides because of how so many cannon balls bounced off the hull during the battle with the British ship, HMS Guerriere on August 19, 1812. The USS Constitution is the oldest commissioned ship of the US Navy still afloat. It is still listed as ‘active duty’ serving as a special duty historical museum.
On April 30, 1798, the Department of The Navy is formed. One of the main reasons for the formation of the new department was over how the Department of War handled the Quasi-War with France.
During the War of 1812, British ships outnumbered American ships 50-to-1, but many American ships held their own and won a number of victories, including control of the Mississippi River.
On June 1, 1813, the famous line ‘Don’t give up the ship’ were uttered by American Captain James Lawrence of the USS Chesapeake during a battle with the HMS Shannon. Lawrence was fatally wounded in the battle and spoke these works to his officers and crew who went on to victory, capturing the Shannon. Lawrence’s words are an important part of Navy lore and have been repeated countless times since.
On September 10, 1813, the US Navy won one of its most important battles, but it was not fought at sea. Commandant Perry and his fleet of American ships defeated the British on Lake Erie. This victory played an important role in the British ceding over control of Detroit and the Great Lakes to America.
Between 1846-1848, the US Navy plays an important role during the Mexican-American War. They placed a very successful blockade around Mexico which helped capture California from Mexico.
On this day, October 10, 1845, Secretary of War George Bancroft established the US Naval School and located it at Annapolis, Maryland. During many of the battles, US Navy officers were trained on board ships but not necessarily well or formally educated. Bancroft sought to change that with a Naval Academy where midshipmen would receive a 4-year formal training. The original 50 midshipmen attended courses in navigation, mathematics, gunnery, steam, chemistry, English, French and philosophy.
In 1850, the US Naval School was renamed the US Naval Academy.
During the Civil War, the US Naval Academy was moved to Newport, Rhode Island.
In 1865, the US Naval Academy returned to Annapolis and has remained there ever since.
In 1976 the US Naval Academy made history when it began admitting females.
Anyone wishing to attend the US Naval Academy to meet the following requirements:
“Candidates for admission must be between 17 and 22 years old and meet certain physical and educational qualifications. An applicant must obtain a nomination to be considered for an appointment. The following are the sources of nomination: the President of the United States; the Vice President; U.S. Senators and Representatives; and the representatives of the District of Columbia and the U.S. territories. Special appointment categories include children of deceased and disabled veterans or of military or civilian personnel who are prisoners of war or missing in action, foreign students, regular U.S. navy and marine corps, U.S. navy and marine corps reserve, honor graduates of military and naval schools and ROTC, and children of Medal of Honor recipients.”
Sources for the above includes: History of USNA; Birth of the U.S. Naval Academy; United States Naval Academy; Records of the United States Naval Academy [USNA]; United States Naval Academy; Navy Timeline; U.S. Naval History and Roles