Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Protecting the Seas

This is one in a series of posts on the history of the U.S. Navy.

The United States Navy has a long history of protecting commerce on a global scale. In fact, this tradition dates back almost to the very beginning of the Navy itself. The Continental Navy was established by order of Congress on Friday, October 13, 1775, and the first Navy of the United States was established in 1794, with the first warships (USS Consitution, USS Constellation and USS United States) being authorized the same year and launched in 1797. First administered by the Department of War, the Department of the Navy was established on April 30, 1798.

The new nation lost no time in exercising the power of the navy. On this day in 1800, Captain Edward Preble arrived in Batavia, Java in the U.S.S Essex to escort American merchant shipping through the dangers of the Far Eastern seas. As a nation based on free commerce, the United States understood the necessity of protecting its merchant fleet.

The Essex's Commanding Officer would be the same Captain Preble who later would be promoted to Commodore and command the American task force in the first Barbary war. During his period of command, Commodore Preble oversaw the burning of the captured frigate USS Philadelphia and secured a treaty with the corsairs of Morocco.

Preble also was responsible for many of the Navy's rules and regulations, and his officer coprs included many of the early heroes of the Republic, including Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge, Isaac Hull and David Porter. Preble's career and life were shortened due to illness, but he established a tradition of discipline and professionalism that has endured to this very day.

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