How Britain's Royal Navy lost the American Revolutionary War

John Adams took an active role creating the Navy’s regulations and commissioning its officers. Wikimedia

3. The Continental Congress authorized the construction of 13 frigates to form the nucleus of the navy

Congress authorized the construction of 13 frigates, all of which were put under construction, but lack of money and British intervention meant that only eight were completed and put to sea. None of them survived the war in American hands. While they were in service, they had several notable successes against the British in engagements between warships. In June, 1777, the American frigate Hancock captured the British frigate Fox, assisted by another American frigate, Boston. Hancock was later captured by the British, and despite professed British contempt for American built ships, entered into the Royal Navy as HMS Iris.

Fox was also recaptured by the British, but in 1778 was taken by the French after France’s entry into the war. All along the American coastline, American ships encountering British of equal size gave good accounts of themselves, and the swarms of privateers leaving American ports and hidden anchorages overwhelmed the British Navy’s ability to protect merchant shipping. The Royal Navy was forced to enlarge the squadrons protecting the financially critical sugar plantations in the Caribbean, drawing ships away from blockading ports along the east coast. By the second year of the war it was apparent that the world’s largest navy was not large enough.