On Oct. 30, 1775, a Naval Committee was established by the Continental Congress. By the end of the war, 65 ships had served in the American navy, which primarily operated to disrupt British commerce. In the years since, the American navy has grown to be the most preeminent force in the world, and an important part of the ability of the United States to project power around the globe.
One of the most famous captains in the American Revolutionary navy was John Paul Jones. At the time, the British Navy was almost as dominant as the American one is today. Battles with British warships were usually lopsided. On Sept. 23, 1779, the British ship the Serapis overran and engaged Jones’ Bonhomme Richard. In the midst of the battle, badly damaged, it was said that the British commander asked Jones if he was ready to surrender. “Surrender?” Jones replied. “I have not yet begun to fight!” The Americans then boarded and captured the Serapis.
Such stories helped to boost morale, and create a spirit of determinedness which still pervades the American military. The Navy Jack, “Don’t Tread on Me” flag symbolizes this, and variations on it are still used by the Navy.
- Can you imagine a time when the United States was not the dominant military power in the world? What do you think it is like to be a citizen of a country without a strong military? Better? Worse? What difference does it make?
- China, today, is seeking to dominate more and more of the sea, and in particular a large portion of the South China Sea. Do you think it is important for the United States to defend the freedom of the seas?
- The attitude of John Paul Jones exemplifies a kind of American “spunk.” Do you think other countries have similar legends in their history? What might be some examples? Or do you think this is a particularly American mindset?
25, Oct. 2018 Navy, “Dont’ Tread on Me” flag [Digital image]. Retrieved from <goo.gl/images/Tk5Nm5>.