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Quasi-War with France

The actions of Mediterranean pirates caused Congress in 1794 to provide a Navy for the protection of commerce. Subsequently, depredations by the privateers of Revolutionary France against the expanding merchant shipping of the United States led to an undeclared war fought entirely at sea. In this quasi-war the new US Navy received its baptism of fire. Captain Thomas Truxtun's insistence on the high standards of crew training paid handsome dividends as the frigate Constellation won two complete victories over French men-of-war. U.S. naval squadrons, operating principally in West Indian waters, sought out and attacked enemy privateers until France agreed to an honorable settlement.

During the Quasi-War with France (1797-1801), eight cutters (one sloop, five schooners, and two brigs) operated along the southern coast and among the islands of the West Indies. The two brigs and two of the schooners each carried 14 guns, and 70 men. The sloop and the other schooners each had 10 guns and 34 men. Eighteen of the twenty-two prizes captured by the United States between 1798 and 1799, eighteen were taken by unaided cutters. Revenue cutters also assisted in capturing two others. The cutter Pickering made two cruises to the West Indies and captured 10 prizes, one of which carried 44 guns and was manned by some 200 sailors, more than three times its strength.



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