From the very beginning, New London was a seaport. Located midway between Boston, Massachusetts and New York City and situated on the shores of both the Thames River and Long Island Sound, New London was a center of the U.S. Coast Guard, a commercial whaling city for 80 years in the 19th century (a record surpassed only by New Bedford and Nantucket, Massachusetts), and a major U.S. Navy homeport during the 20th century into the present.
In the 18th Century, commercial ports like New London supported the plantation system in the islands of the West Indies, where the major crop grown was sugar. Following the War of Independence (1776-83) when the Continental Navy was disbanded in 1790, Coast Guard revenue cutters were the only national maritime service. The Acts establishing the Navy in 1798 also empowered the President to use the revenue cutters to supplement the fleet when needed.
The Coast Guard traditionally performed two
roles in wartime. The first was to augment the Navy
with men and cutters. The second was to undertake special
missions for which the Coast Guard is uniquely skilled.
For example, during the Quasi-War with
Augmenting the Navy with shallow-draft craft evolved out of the War of 1812 into a continuing wartime responsibility. During the opening phases of the war, Secretary of the Treasury Albert Gallatin addressed Congress. He said, "We want small, fast sailing vessels...there are but six vessels belonging to the Navy, under the size of frigates; and that number is inadequate." During the last two centuries, cutters have been used extensively in "brown water" combat. A cutter made the first capture of the war. One of the most hotly contested engagements was between the cutter Surveyor and the British frigate Narcissis. The Surveyor was captured. The British Captain wrote to Captain Samuel Travis on the following day.
In 1868, the Navy first became involved in
1915, the Navy expanded its presence in
the Naval Submarine Base at