History Of The Old Navy

History Of The Old Navy

The United States Navy has been the country’s source of protection from the sea since the late 1700s. Since the 1920s, the U.S. Navy has achieved the status of the world’s largest navy. From the old days with sailing ships fighting in the American Revolution to the new modernized ships protecting American borders, the U.S. Navy has a rich history as old as the nation itself.

Up until the 1880s, the Navy was relatively small and not modernized. To capture this period of the “Old Navy,” here is a timeline depicting the early history of the U.S. Navy:


Oct. 13, 1775 is the official birthdate of the Navy, but the United States began its naval actions on June 12 of that year. On that day, in order to fight off the British, the Rhode Island assembly commissioned the Rhode Island Navy which served as America’s first navy.

From 1779 to 1783, the resilient American Navy began to win battles even though it was comprised of mostly average citizens. A huge reason that the U.S. Navy was able to contend with the far-superior British counterpart was their new alliance with the French. In 1783, the Revolutionary war ended, and the Navy subsequently disbanded as there was no further apparent need.

Piracy, a French aggression and a newly revitalized need for national defense resurrected the Navy on March 27, 1794. As a result of the Quasi-War, an undeclared war between the U.S. and France, the nation created the Department of The Navy on April 30, 1798 to better manage naval affairs. 


In the early 1800s, pirates from the North African Coast were blocking shipping lanes. President Jefferson sent the Navy and landed marines; successfully bringing safety to trade and shipping.

In 1812, the U.S. Navy would be needed once again. The War of 1812 featured a British fleet of over 600 ships against the U.S. Navy who only had 16. Despite these overwhelming odds, the U.S. tenaciously fought and defeated the British fleet. Famous in these battles was the USS Constitution, the oldest American war vessel, which took cannonball fire from the British only to see the rounds bounce off, earning it the nickname "Old Ironsides."

On Sept. 10, 1813, about 25 percent of the American crew on Lake Erie was African-American—the Navy was the only branch that did not prohibit African-Americans from enlisting. This battle on Lake Erie, although not fought in the seas, was one of the most significant battles of the war. This Navy victory pushed the British out of Detroit and the Great Lakes.

From there, the U.S. Navy continued to assist in matters both small and large for the remainder of the century:

  • From 1815 until 1839, more pirate attacks flooded the Mediterranean, and all were ultimately stopped in their tracks by the Navy.
  • In 1846, the Navy assisted in the Mexican-American war by capturing California.
  • From 1861-1865, the U.S. fought in the Civil War. The Confederates created the torpedo, and the Union established the use of effective innovative blockades.
  • After the Civil War, the Navy again saw a decline. The era of the “New Navy” began in 1882.

Honor The Navy

This timeline featured only the first era of Naval activity in the U.S. Members and Veterans of the Navy continue to carry the tradition of excellence today as they have fought to defend the country. A really easy way to honor veterans of the Navy and other branches of the military is to donate any unwanted vehicle to Vehicles For Veterans.

Vehicles For Veterans is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization that benefits disabled veterans. When you donate your unwanted vehicle, Vehicles For Veterans provides free towing and a great tax deduction. This easy process takes the hassle away from getting rid of a vehicle, while freeing up space for you and helping veterans. Donate today by calling 1-855-811-4838 or by filling out an online donation form.

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