From the earliest days of colonization, the vast forest resources of the new land produced the raw materials for shipbuilding, and many towns sprang up at the mouths of rivers whose hinterlands provided the necessary timber. American sailors became skilled at high-seas trips. Whalers out of Nantucket and Martha`s Vineyard brought valuable cargos back to New England and Yankee Clippers were the fastest sailing ships on the China trade.
The military era of sail began to close with the American Civil War, when the advantages of ironclads like the Monitor became apparent. Commercial sailing remained vibrant for many more decades, as the wind was a free source of energy, but eventually fossil fuels supplanted wind for both commercial and military purposes.
What remains is recreational and sporting, with events like the America`s Cup still capable of capturing the imagination of the sporting world.