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Thesis (M.A.)—University of Nebraska—Lincoln, 1951. Department of History.


Copyright 1951, the author. Used by permission.


The Continental Navy is a naval organization which does not exist today, but one from which our present naval organization evolved. Numerous scholars believe the Continental Navy was worthless as a military instrument.They are quick to point out that the British Navy captured more Continental vessels than were lost to the Americans.Many people have no knowledge at all of the Continental Navy; unlike the present American Navy, it was not a recognized institution.

Best known for its countless failures, the Continental Navy was—in terms of today’s standards—unsuccessful. There were some positive aspects of this organization, however.The strategy of the best military leads, on land or at sea, was to keep the enemy busy, even if they were unable to completely defeat their opponent.As long as a ship flying the American flag remained at sea, the British were forced to keep an expensive navy at sea.British merchant ships needed convoy protection from American raiders, and it was a costly business to defend their own ships.

Despite this strength, the Continental Navy had far too many faults to be successful.The navy kept the British preoccupied at best; more often than not, ships were lost.The navy was controlled by too many people.It needed to be unified under one leader, but hope was lost before a leader was selected.The management of the navy led to problems going ignored and unsolved.

The Continental Navy, does, however, have some value. If it were not for the Continental Navy, our nation would not have learned from past mistakes and grown a military power.The present day U.S. Navy and Marine Corps would not have later developed into the powerful forces they are today, had it not been for the failure of the Continental Navy.

Advisor:John Richard Alden