History - What happened on March 3, 1776?
A Brief History
Between March 3rd and 4th, 1776, the Continental Navy and Continental Marines, the forces that would become the United States Navy and United States Marine Corps, conducted the first amphibious operation in US military history when a raid on Nassau in the Bahamas was conducted, known as The Raid on Nassau or sometimes called The Battle of Nassau.
The Raid of Nassau was a naval operation and amphibious assault by American forces against the British port of Nassau, Bahamas. The raid was designed to resolve the issue of gunpowder shortages and resulted in the seizure of two forts and large quantities of military supplies before the raiders drew back to New England
Back then, Marines would man the rigging and provide small arms fire on enemy ships, like today’s snipers. Marines also served as boarding parties and as a landing force for amphibious raids, as in the Raid on Nassau.
Under the command of Samuel Nicholas, 210 Marines executed the Raid on Nassau along with 50 sailors. The force had been transported to Nassau by six ships (2 frigates, two brigs, one schooner, and one sloop). The action is considered one of the first combat actions of the US Navy and US Marine Corps. The objective of the raid was to seize gunpowder, arms, and munitions from the British stockpiles in the Bahamas, of which Nassau was the chief city and capital. When the initial landing at the port failed to achieve surprise, a new landing spot was chosen, and the landing force was landed unopposed.
The failure to achieve surprise resulted in the British evacuating much of the gunpowder stores to a ship that escaped since the US Navy commander failed to post warships to block the port. The landing force took over the local fort and, the next day, marched into the town of Nassau and occupied the place, removing all the munitions and gunpowder (38 casks) they could find. British militia men (110 of them) were not all that enthused about resisting, and many had deserted. The Marines stayed two weeks in Nassau gathering military booty, and the fleet sailed home safely.
On July 28, 1979, The Battle of Nassau was memorialized by the US Navy and US Marine Corps by the naming of an amphibious assault ship, the USS Nassau LHA-4, in honor of the action. (The previous USS Nassau CVE-16 was named after the waters outside of Nassau, Nassau Sound.)