By Joshua Riggs
Two hundred and thirty years ago today, with Congressional approval to fund and build 10 cutters, Alexander Hamilton created the United States Coast Guard — then called the Revenue-Marine — to enforce tariffs for the young United States of America, a very necessary duty needed for a budding nation.
The Revenue-Marine came to be known as the United States Revenue Cutter Service due to the centralization and expansion of their duties — as exemplified in 1861, when the cutter Harriet Lane fired the first naval shots of the Civil War during the Battle of Fort Sumter. Harriet Lane was the first in a long line of adaptability from the Coast Guard.
This diversification of duties is not a foreign concept to the Coast Guard. Currently, the Coast Guard carries out law enforcement, navigational aid and training, search and rescue, environmental protection, and homeland security operations.
Whether it’s the ports and shores of Colonial America, the waters of Vietnam in the 1960’s, protecting our coasts today, or saving a boater in rough seas, the 40,992 active duty Coast Guardsman, 7,000 reservists, 8,577 civilian employees, and 31,000 auxiliary members of the Coast Guard are “Always Ready” for whatever mission is next.
With just under 2,000 total vessels and 200 total aircraft, the Coast Guard tirelessly protects America, and will continue to do so. AUSN salutes the men and women of the United States Coast Guard who serve today, and the countless individuals who have served over more than two centuries protecting our nation’s shores. Here’s to another 230 years.
MAIN PHOTO: This painting purports to illustrate the first cutter named Massachusetts but it incorrectly shows the cutter flying the Revenue ensign and commission pennant, which were not adopted until 1799, well after the first Massachusetts had left service. Nevertheless, the illustration does show those characteristics typical of most of the first few generations of Revenue cutters: a small sailing vessel steered by a tiller, with low freeboard, light draft, lightly armed, and usually rigged as a topsail schooner. (US Coast Guard)