Legislative Branch

Guide to Senate Records: Chapter 4

Table of Contents

Chapter 4. Records of the Committee on Armed Services and Its Predecessors, 1816-1986

Records of Committees Relating to Defense, 1816-1988 from Guide to Federal Records in the National Archives of the United States

Committee records discussed in this chapter:
Records of the Committee on Coast Defenses, 1885-1911

4.45 The Committee on Coast Defenses was established on March 13, 1885, by Senate resolution at the beginning of the 49th Congress. While it is unclear precisely why the committee was created, naval warfare was undergoing major changes during the mid-1880's as a result of the development of steel-hulled warships and torpedo boats, and perhaps the Senate was becoming increasingly concerned about the vulnerability of the U.S. coastline and major port cities. The committee was terminated on April 18, 1921, as part of a major committee reorganization of the Senate committee system.

4.46 There are committee papers, 1891-1901 (2 in.), for the 52d, 54th, and 56th Congresses and petitions, memorials, and resolutions of State legislatures referred to the committee, 1885-1911 (3 in.), for the 49th through 62d Congresses, excluding the 51st, 57th-58th, and 61st. The committee's period of greatest activity was the 1890's, when it considered proposals to provide for the testing and manufacture of new weapons, such as R.J. Gatling's steel, high-power rifled guns for coast defense (52A-F5), the Berdan ironclad destroyer (52A-F5), and the Lewis Range and Position Finder (54A-F6). Its other concerns centered around the purchase of land and appropriations for coastal fortifications. There is also a report of the damage to coast defenses near Galveston, TX, by the hurricane of 1900 (56A-F5). Most of the petitions and memorials referred to the committee were sent by mercantile organizations and major port city governments.

Bibliographic note: Web version based on Guide to the Records of the United States Senate at the National Archives, 1789-1989: Bicentennial Edition (Doct. No. 100-42). By Robert W. Coren, Mary Rephlo, David Kepley, and Charles South. Washington, DC: National Archives and Records Administration, 1989.