Daily readings about people, places, and events in American history.
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November 4th
The First Ship in the Navy
At the outset of the Revolutionary War, America had no navy. Some colonies kept armed vessels, but the Continental government had no fighting ships. As the war got underway, Congress launched a small Continental Navy, voting to purchase and equip eight ships of war. On November 4, 1775, it acquired a swift, three-masted merchantman called the Black Prince and ordered that the vessel be converted into a warship with 30 cannons.

The Black Prince was soon rechristened the Alfred, named after Alfred the Great, the ninth-century British king regarded as the father of the Royal Navy. (In 1775, despite being at odds with the mother country, most colonists still considered themselves British and were proud to name a ship after an English king.) Many historians consider the Alfred the first ship in the U.S. Navy.

The Alfred was soon joined by the brigs Columbus, Andrew Doria, and Cabot, the schooners Wasp and Fly, and the sloops Hornet and Providence. In early 1776, with the Alfred serving as flagship, the little fleet sailed to the Bahamas and raided two British forts, seizing their cannons, mortars, and gunpowder.

Meanwhile, George Washington was one step ahead of Congress in realizing the need for a naval force that could intercept British ships sailing into Boston with supplies for the king’s army. He chartered the armed schooner Hannah and on September 2, 1775, ordered it to sea in search of British cargo shipping. It became the first in a squadron of eleven vessels, known as “Washington’s Navy,” that the general commissioned to raid British supply ships. Some naval historians regard the Hannah as the first ship of the American navy.

American History Parade
1884
Democrat Grover Cleveland narrowly defeats Republican James G. Blaine in a presidential contest full of mudslinging.

1924
Nellie T. Ross of Wyoming is the first woman to be elected governor.

1939
In Detroit, the Packard Motor Car Company exhibits the first air-conditioned car.

1952
A computer called UNIVAC successfully predicts that Dwight D. Eisenhower will defeat Adlai Stevenson for president in a landslide.

1979
In Tehran, Iranian militants seize the U.S. embassy and 66 American hostages.

1980
Ronald Reagan defeats Jimmy Carter to become the fortieth U.S. president.
This content is courtesy of The American Patriot's Almanac
© 2008, 2010 by William J. Bennett and John T.E. Cribb
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