America was the first ship of the line built for the Continental Navy, but she never saw service there, being given to France after launching.

On 9 November 1776, the Continental Congress authorized the construction of three 74-gun ships of the line. One of these was America, laid down in May 1777 in the shipyard of John Langdon on Rising Castle Island (nowBadger's Island) in Kittery, Maine, across the Piscataqua River from Portsmouth, New Hampshire.

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