Esek Hopkins - Commander of the Continental Navy

Esek Hopkins - Commander of the Continental Navy

Esek Hopkins was given command of Continental troops in Rhode Island early in the American Revolution. Having made his living sailing merchant ships and working as a privateer, he was quickly tasked with creating the Continental Navy.

Commodore Hopkins lead the fledgling Navy out of Philadelphia with eight ships.

Esek was instructed to survey the British ships in the Chesapeake and, if possible, attack them.  If this could not be done, he was free to do what he thought best for the Cause.

Hopkins’ vessels sailed down to see what they were up against.  Maybe it was possible…


It was the British Navy alright.  In all its might.


Commodore Hopkins decided to take his little fleet and sail to the Bahamas.

They went to Nassau, then called New Providence, where they attacked one of the island’s forts.  They managed to get troops on the ground and take the fort.

This was the first landing of U.S. Marines on foreign soil.

Hopkins loaded his ships with all the weapons and ammunition available and set sail for Rhode Island.  They needed to get the supplies to the Continental Army.

Return Voyage

As they passed Long Island, the Navy had a run in with the Brits.  They were able to take two ships.

Unfortunately the real prize, the Glasgow, got away.

In this battle his son, John Burroughs Hopkins, was injured while captaining one of the ships.

Luckily, the encounter gave Esek more supplies to bring to George Washington.


After his return, Hopkins was censured by Congress for failing to attack in the Chesapeake.

This was mostly due to politics and infighting in Congress.   Hopkins was defended by many, including John Adams, Benjamin Franklin and John Hancock.

In hindsight, Hopkins did exactly what he should have.  If the Navy attacked the British in the Chesapeake, they may have been slaughtered.

The victory in Nassau brought the Continental Army much needed supplies at an early stage in the war.  This is what he should be remembered for.

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