History tells us that the first ship named after the continents west of Europe was an armed English merchantman named H.M.S. America. She was taken into naval service in 1650 and served until 1654.
Then, in 1749, a shipyard in Portsmouth, NH launched a 44-gun frigate called H.M.S. America. Soon after being launched, the Royal Navy renamed this ship H.M.S. Boston and was paid off in 1756.
The third Royal Navy ship named H.M.S. America was a 64-gun ship third rate ship of the line built in England. FYI, first raters had 100 – 120 cannon, second raters 90 – 98 and third raters had a main armament of 64 – 80 guns.
Launched in 1777, the third H.M.S. America had 64 guns – twenty-six 24-pounders on her lower gun deck and 18 on its main deck. The ship participated in the Battle of the Chesapeake in September 1781 in which the Royal Navy’s defeat paved the way for Cornwallis’ defeat and ultimately independence. It fought the French navy again in the British victory in the 1782 Battle of the Saintes off the island of Dominque in the Caribbean. Later, during the French Revolutionary Wars, this H.M.S. America was part of an expedition to South Africa to help the Dutch defend its colony. In 1800, the ship ran aground on reef in the Azores. Heavily damaged, it was turned into a prison ship before being broken up in 1807.
Also laid down in in 1777 was a 74-gun design by John Langdon in Kittery, ME. It was one of three third raters authorized by Congress and the only one built. During its construction, Navy Captain John Barry recommended that the ship be “cut down” to a 54-gun fourth rate ship of the line.
Equipped 12- and 18-pounders, the ship was under-armed. By the time the Continental Navy launched the ship, the Royal Navy was fitting its third and fourth raters with 18- and 24-pounders.
Weather, shortage of money and workers led to delays. Its first captain was supposed to be John Paul Jones but once the Continental Navy ship of the line America was ready for sea, the Continental Congress decided to give the vessel to the French as a gift and symbol of its support. The ship’s service in the French navy was short and three years after delivery, surveyors found enough dry rot to since dismantle the ship. See Blog Post 6/20/2019 – https://marcliebman.com/the-unusual-hist…st-u-s-s-america/ )
However, a Téménaire-class ship named America and armed with twenty-six 36-pounders, 30 18-pounders and 16 8-pounders was commissioned into the French navy in 1788. Captured by the Royal Navy at the battle known as the Glorious First of June, the French ship America was renamed H.M.S. Impéteux since the previously mentioned H.M.S. America was still in service.
The last Royal Navy ship to be named America was another 74-gun ship of the line. Launched in 1810, the 1758-ton ship was very heavily armed based on the lessons learned by the Royal Navy in its battles with the French and Spanish Navies in the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars.
This H.M.S. America had twenty-eight 32-pounders on its lower gun deck, twenty-eight 18-pounders on its upper gun deck. On its quarterdeck the Royal Navy mounted four 12-pounders and ten 32-pounder carronades. Up in the forecastle, two 12-pounders and two 32-pounder carronades could be fired at the enemy. Aft on the poop deck, the third rater had six 18-pounder carronades. This ship was the last in the Royal Navy to carry the name America and served until it was broken up in 1867.
For the record, after the American Revolution, the first ship in the U.S. Navy to carry the name America was a racing yacht pressed into service in 1862. Since then, the U.S. Navy renamed the seized the German ocean liner SS Amerika in 1917 and turned it into a troopship. It was not until 1965 that the U.S. Navy had another ship on its roster named America. That’s when the Kitty Hawk-class carrier, America (CV-66) was commissioned. It served in until 1996. Today, LHA-6, a large amphibious assault ship carries the name U.S.S. America.
Photo, courtesy of the Musée de la Marine is of the French Navy ship Achille which was a sister ship to the 74-gun America built in 1788.