A United States Coast Guard cutter
is any vessel operated by the United States Coast Guard
that is over 65 feet in length.
History of the USCG cutters
The Revenue Marine
and the Revenue Cutter Service
, as it was known variously throughout the late 18th and the 19th centuries, referred to its ships as cutters. The term is English in origin and refers to a specific type of vessel, namely, "a small, decked ship with one mast
, with a gaff mainsail
on a boom
, a square yard and topsail
, and two jibs
or a jib and a staysail
." (Peter Kemp, editor, The Oxford Companion to Ships & the Sea; London: Oxford University Press, 1976; pp. 221-222.) By general usage, that term came to define any vessel of Great Britain's Royal Customs Service
and the term was adopted by the U.S. Treasury Department
at the creation of what would become the Revenue Marine. Since that time, no matter what the vessel type, the service has referred to its vessels with permanently assigned crews as cutters.
The first ten cutters
In 1790, Congress authorized the Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton, to create a maritime service to enforce customs laws (1 Stat. L. 145, 175; 4 August 1790). Alternately known as the system of cutters, Revenue Service, and Revenue-Marine this service would officially be named the Revenue Cutter Service (12 Stat. L., 639) in 1863. This service was placed under the control of the Treasury Department.
Current USCG cutter classes and types
Historic USCG cutter classes and types