The history of the Continental navy covers a period of ten years extending from 1775 to 1785. During this time various organs of naval administration were employed by the Continental Congress and its successor, the Congress of the Confederation; these two bodies successively constituted the federal government of the Revolution, and their chief duties consisted of the providing, organizing, and maintaining of an army and a navy. The first armed vessels that sailed under Continental pay and control were a little fleet fitted out by Washington in the ports of Massachusetts in the fall of 1775. These vessels were manned by soldiers and commanded by army officers, and were designed to weaken the army of the enemy by capturing his transports which were carrying supplies and troops into Boston. Washington derived his authority for procuring and fitting out the fleet from his commission as commander-in-chief of the Continental army. On the evacuation of Boston by the British in March, 1776, Washington removed his army to New York, and here in April he began to equip a fleet similar to the one he had fitted out at Boston. Altogether these two fleets numbered a dozen vessels.
The Administration of the Continental Navy of the American Revolution
By Charles Oscar Paullin, Author of the "Navy Of The American Revolution"