After the Revolutionary War and the creation of the United States, the first Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton set up the US Revenue Marine and US Revenue Cutter Service. In 1790 at the very beginning, the service was set up to help protect against smuggling, to collect customs duties and taxes, and to make sure that US Goods were getting through to market over the high seas.
After being known by both names, the service was united as the US Revenue Cutter Service during the Civil War in 1963. It’s the oldest seagoing service; it was in use during the years that the Navy was decommissioned from 1790-1798. The same acts that gave the first Continental Navy power and responsibilities also gave duty and responsibility to the US Revenue Cutter service, and set up its job to supplement the US Navy during time of war, which survives to this day. If the President or the Congress directs the US Coast Guard serves as a division of the US Navy during time of war or other national need or emergency.
During the late 1790s the Revenue Cutter Service worked to prevent the trading of illegal slaves from Africa to the United States. The US Revenue Cutter Service from 1794 to the year 1865 captured almost 500 slave ships in the 75-year period. The Revenue Cutter service also worked very diligently to enforce the order by President Thomas Jefferson who had closed the ports of the United States to European trade by an embargo. The first shots at sea that were fired were by the US Revenue Cutter Service at the steamer “Nashville,” at the siege of Fort Sumter.
A little known contingent of the US Revenue Cutter Service split off during the Civil War, and formed the Confederate Revenue Marine. After the Civil war most of the officers and men of the Confederate Revenue Marine either retired or went back to active service with the Union and the US Revenue Cutter Service.
The development of the state of Alaska was partly assisted by the US Revenue Cutter Service. The service actually brought the first reindeer herds to Alaska and later during the Gold Rush at the Snake River during 1900 the Revenue Cutter service returned destitute miners back to Seattle from the Alaskan Yukon.