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U.S. Navy Department

City: Washington

State: District of Columbia

Upon the recommendation of President John Adams, Congress created the U.S. Navy Department on April 30, 1798, to oversee the operation and maintenance of the U.S. Navy. The Secretary of the Navy headed the department, and assumed responsibility for naval affairs from the U.S. War Department, which had administered the navy since 1789. The War of 1812 demonstrated the need for naval professionals in administering the navy, and in 1815, Congress established a board of navy commissioners, consisting of three senior naval officers, to assist the secretary. In June 1834, Congress gave the Navy Department jurisdiction over the reorganized U.S. Marine Corps. In 1842, Congress reorganized the department, abolishing the board of naval commissioners and replacing it with five technical bureaus. The bureaus created were responsible for navy yards and construction; construction, equipment, and repairs; provisions and clothing; ordnance and hydrography; and medicine and surgery. Technical bureaus remained a feature of the department through the Civil War.

"An Act to Establish an Executive Department, to be Denominated the Department of War," 7 August 1789, Statutes at Large of the United States 1 (1845):49-50; "An Act to Establish an Executive Department, to be Denominated the Department of the Navy," 30 April 1798, Statutes at Large of the United States 1 (1845):553-54; "An Act to Alter and Amend the Several Acts for Establishing a Navy Department, by Adding Thereto a Board of Commissioners," 7 February 1815, Statutes at Large of the United States 3 (1846):202-3; "An Act for the Better Organization of the United States' 'Marine Corps'," 30 June 1834, Statutes at Large of the United States 4 (1846):712-14; "An Act to Reorganize the Navy Department of the United States," 31 August 1842, Statutes at Large of the United States 5 (1856):579-81; Dudley W. Knox and R. W. Daly, "Navy, Department of the," Dictionary of American History, rev. ed. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1976), 5:17-18.