|Title||Not merely for defense the creation of the new American Navy, 1865–1914|
Between 1865 and 1882 the United States Navy experienced both a quantitative and qualitative decline. The navy faced dramatically reduced appropriations following the Civil War as it returned to its traditional peacetime missions and fleet dispositions. Those missions included the promotion and protection of American commerce, protecting American citizens and their property overseas, and acting in support of national policies. The navy accomplished these missions by dispersing its ships, singly and in small squadrons, to areas around the world where America had interests. Beginning in 1873 a series of war scares convinced American naval officers that the navy had fallen hopelessly behind the navies of other countries. A revolution in naval technology, which had begun in the 1860s, continued at an accelerating rate. Officers argued that navy could no longer fulfill its missions and desperately required rehabilitation. Concerned officers called on Congress to build a larger, modern navy. Their efforts bore fruit with the authorization of the ABCD ships in 1883. As the navy rebuilt, furious debates racked the officer corps. The proper role of technology lay at the heart of most of the debates. One of the most serious revolved around the use of steam power. The navy had been using steam power in an auxiliary role since the 1840s. At issue in the 1880s was whether it should remain an auxiliary power source or assume a primary role. The answer had profound strategic ramifications. An all steam navy would require coaling stations in its areas of operation. For those stations to be of use in wartime they would have to be sovereign U.S. territory. Another debate addressed the navys core missions. By the 1890s the navy had defined a new national security mission and a new force structure centered on battleships. Despite their apparent success, proponents of naval expansion found they had limited influence. Funding never matched requests, resulting in the creation of an unbalanced fleet with an inadequate logistical infrastructure.
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