Her construction was delayed by an ever present shortage of funds from the Continental Congress and a shortage of skilled craftsmen. However the major factor was the lack of stock piles of well-seasoned timber. American timber was slow in coming, thus becoming a highly sought after commodity eventually being sold green on the world market. The keel was finally laid down but her actual construction dragged on for over two years under the master shipbuilder Colonel James Hackett and the supervision of John Langdon. In November of 1779, the Marine Committee (or Navy Department as it is known today) sent Captain John Barry to oversee the ships construction progress. His orders stipulated he was to press the project forward as quickly as his power would allow to have the ship finished. His presence was not making did not make much headway with the shipwrights and months continually passed without much progress. By March 1780, Barry could not see the end of this assignment and ultimately applied for a leave through the Marine Committee - a request eventually granted. To Barry's fortune, and perhaps not understood at the time, he was posted to command the best ship in the Continental Navy - the 36-gun frigate USS Alliance - which had recently returned home from Europe.
Congress became restless with the pace of the shipwrights building of America and paid the bill which pressured Langdon to finish forthwith. In late June of 1781 Capt. John Paul Jones was picked by the Maritime Board to become the commanding officer of the unfinished America. Jones was having the cannon placed when he received word that Congress decided to present the ship to King Louis XVI of France to replace the French ship of the line Magnifique which had run aground trying to enter Boston harbor and had been destroyed in August of 1782. This was a political decision to show gratitude to the French crown for her support for America in the independence war against Britain. Jones' disappointment was deep but he continued to press on and finish this first American ship-of-the-line. On November 5, 1782 she was completed and with ropes in place drifted into the Piscataqua river. Once fitted out with rigging and sail the French Captain of the lost frigate Magnifique, M.Ie Chevalier de Macarty Martinge, took command and departed Portsmouth on June 24, 1783, reaching France some 23 days later.
The America served under the flag of France for only a short time. Three years later a maritime French commission inspected her and sadly reported she was unfit. The inspection indicated that dry rot had progressed beyond a reasonably priced repair. In all probability the rot occurred due to her construction from green unseasoned timber. She was scrapped for her sail, cannon and all usable metal parts. A new French warship was built and named America.
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