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Naval Warfare

USS Raleigh

32-Gun Sailing Frigate Warship [ 1776 ]

USS Raleigh began service with the United States Navy in 1776 before falling to the British - and serving under the crown - in 1778.

Authored By: Staff Writer | Last Edited: 09/23/2016 | Content ©www.MilitaryFactory.com | The following text is exclusive to this site.

USS Raleigh was part of the Continental Congress' maneuvering to produce a viable American Navy to face the might of British power at sea during the War of American Independence (1775-1783) from the Empire. She was authorized on December 13th, 1775 and constructed under the direction of Thomas Thompson who would become her first captain. The keel was laid on March 21st, 1776 near Kittery, Maine and she was launched on May 21st of that year.

The vessel was constructed as a three-masted 32-gun frigate carrying 32 x 12-pounder cannon along her sides (alternative armament may have been 26 x 12-pounders and 10 x 6-pounders). Her crew numbered 180 officers and sailors and structural dimensions included a length of 131.5 feet, a beam of 34.5 feet, and a draught of 11 feet. She took on a conventional design for tall ships of the period with a deep, stout hull and multi-level internal arrangement. Due to her use of sails, her endurance was limited only by crew fatigue and available food stores. Her figurehead was Sir Walter Raleigh.

In August of 1777 she joined USS Alfred and sailed towards the French coast but not before encountering a schooner carrying counterfeit money destined for Massachusetts. The vessel in question was burned along with her criminal cargo while the ships moved along their intended route. In September, the pair encountered a British brig and claimed her. Among her cargo were details of her accompanying convoy which were used by the Americans to close in on the remainder of the enemy flotilla. USS Raleigh took on HMS Druid and managed to damage her before being driven away by approaching British ships.©MilitaryFactory.com
In December of 1777, USS Raleigh was resupplied at L'Orient, France (along with Alfred) and continued down the African coast in search of more British prey. They captured an enemy vessel off the coast of Senegal before crossing the Atlantic to reach Caribbean waters and the Lesser Antilles. It was here that Alfred was taken as a prize by the British - Raleigh could do little but run and returned to American northeast shores for April 1778.

With new captain John Barry at the helm and refitted for additional service in the ongoing war, USS Raleigh was placed back into sailing action in September. The ship then engaged a pair of British warships sighted along the horizon after leaving for Portsmouth, Virginia. The British turn the tables and gave chase to Raleigh to which a short-ranged gun battle lasting hours erupted - nightfall forced the ships to break off the engagement for the interim. The enemy then resumed the battle which led to Raleigh's purposeful grounding along the shoreline. A majority of its crew fled into the woods to avoid capture while an attempt to burn the ship failed under intense enemy fire.

Following her abandonment, the British took control of Raleigh and awaited high tide in an effort to float her. This came on September 28th which allowed her to be repaired and reconstituted for service into the Royal Navy as HBMS Raleigh. She continued under this new guise throughout the remainder of the American Revolution and participated in the surrender of Charleston, South Carolina following a siege lasting from March 29th to May 12th, 1780. She then sailed for England where she was decommissioned on June 10th, 1781 at Portsmouth where her remnants were sold off during July of 1781 - bringing a formal end to her tenure on the seas.©MilitaryFactory.com
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United Kingdom (as HBMS Raleigh); United States; Colonial America
Operators National flag of the United Kingdom National flag of the United States
Colonial America
National Origin
Hull Class
USS Raleigh

Offshore Bombardment
Offshore bombardment / attack of surface targets / areas primarily through onboard ballistic weaponry.
Offshore strike of surface targets primarily through onboard missile / rocket weaponry.
Maritime Patrol
Active patroling of vital waterways and maritime areas; can also serve as local deterrence against airborne and seaborne threats.
Airspace Denial / Deterrence
Neutralization or deterrence of airborne elements through onboard ballistic of missile weaponry.
Fleet Support
Serving in support (either firepower or material) of the main surface fleet in Blue Water environments.

131.4 feet
(40.05 meters)
34.4 feet
(10.49 meters)
11.0 feet
(3.35 meters)

Sails across thee main masts.
8.0 knots
(9.2 mph)
Surface Speed
Essentially Unlimited

1 knot = 1.15 mph; 1 nm = 1.15 mile; 1 nm = 1.85 km

32 x 12-pounder guns
26 x 12-pounder guns
10 x 6-pounder guns


Military lapel ribbon for the Cold War period
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Military lapel ribbon for the Vietnam War
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 1
Military lapel ribbon for the World War 2


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