Where was the Navy born?

Today’s post comes from National Archives Office of Strategy and Communications staff writer Rob Crotty.

Beverly, Massachusetts, birthplace of the American Navy? Courtesy Beverly Historic Society
Beverly, Massachusetts, birthplace of the American Navy? (Courtesy Beverly Historical Society)

Tomorrow there will be a spirited debate at the USS Constitution Museum in Boston, Massachusetts. The Archivist of the United States, David Ferriero, will be there. So will senior archivist Trevor Plante. They are convening at the museum that honors the world’s oldest floating commissioned Navy vessel to settle once and for all a centuries-old debate: where was the Navy born?

We here at POH want your input. We’ve laid out the arguments for each town that claims it is the true birthplace of the Navy. We need you to read them and then cast your vote or add your two cents into the mix. You can either respond on our blog here, on our Facebook page, or on Twitter with the hash tag #navybirth.

Let the debate begin!

Sign advertising Whitehall, New York, as the "birthplace of the United States Navy" (Whitehall Chamber of Commerce)
Sign advertising Whitehall, New York, as the “birthplace of the United States Navy” (Whitehall Chamber of Commerce)
  • Machias, Maine, June 1775: two small sloops armed with woodsmen capture the Royal Navy schooner Margaretta.
  • Beverly, Massachusetts, September 1775: George Washington authorizes a ship, Hannah, to harass British supply ships.
  • Marblehead, Massachusetts, September 1775: The Hannah is outfitted with a Marblehead crew, and owned by a Marblehead resident.
  • Providence, Rhode Island, October 1775: The small state’s delegates are the first to propose a resolution to build and equip an American fleet.
  • Philadelphia, October 13, 1775: the Continental Congress votes to outfit two sailing vessels. This is the original legislation out of which the Continental Navy was born.
  • Whitehall, New York, Summer, 1776: Benedict Arnold conducts naval attacks on British interests on Lake Champlain, using ships constructed at Whitehall.

4 thoughts on “Where was the Navy born?

  1. The city of Brotherly Love get my vote. Folks been stealing ships and cargo for a real long time, but without some sort of congressional mandate we’ll call them privateers.

  2. The Naval History and Heritage Command addresses this question at its website at this address:


    The U.S. Navy considers its birthplace to be in Philadelphia on October 13, 1775 when the Continental Congress established the Continental Navy. The first incident in Maine was that of woodsmen and the next two in Massachusetts were those of the Continental Army. The U.S. Navy considers its birth to be the birth of the Continental Navy, not actions of the Continental Army.

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