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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
805 KIDDER BREESE SE -- WASHINGTON NAVY YARD
WASHINGTON DC 20374-5060
The Establishment of the Department of the Navy
The 200th anniversary of the establishment of today's Department
of the Navy is 30 April 1998.
The United States Navy traces its origins to the Continental
Navy, established during the War of Independence by the Continental
Congress on 13 October 1775, which date we observe as the Navy Birthday. After the War of Independence,
the ships of the Continental Navy were sold off, and the seamen
and officers let go.
The Constitution of the United States, ratified in 1789,
empowered Congress "to provide and maintain a Navy."
In the year 1794 Congress first acted on that power, in response
to international crises, by authorizing the procuring and manning
of six frigates.
Three of those frigates, USS United States, USS
Constellation, and USS
Constitution, were completed and launched in 1797.
From 1794 until 1798, administration of the naval affairs
of the United States was the responsibility of the Department
On 30 April 1798, Congress established the Department of
the Navy. They did this in order to meet the need for an executive
department responsible solely for, and staffed with persons expert
in, naval affairs, on the eve of the commencement of armed hostilities
with the naval forces of France, the conflict known as the Quasi-War.
Benjamin Stoddert, a Maryland merchant who had served as
secretary of the Continental Board of War during the American
Revolution, became the first Secretary of
Birth of the Navy of the United States
Historic U.S. Navy Regulations
28 April 1998