Tag Archives: David Farragut

Warship Wednesday, May 26, 2021: Baked New Hampshire

Here at LSOZI, we take off every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1833-1954 period and will profile a different ship each week. These ships have a life, a tale all their own, which sometimes takes them to the strangest places. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, May 26, 2021: Baked New Hampshire

Courtesy of the Naval Historical Foundation; Collection of W. Beverley Mason, Jr., 1962. U.S. Naval History and Heritage Command Photograph. Catalog #: NH 51182

Here we see the lead ship of the Ossipee-class sloop of war, USS Ossipee, off Honolulu in the then-Kingdom of Hawaiʻi during the Kamehameha dynasty, with her crew manning the yards, in early 1867. Our sloop would range far and wide in her naval service, including damming the torpedoes and coping with fainting Russian princesses.

Built for the budding war between the states, the four vessels of the Ossipee-class were wooden-hulled steam-powered warships of some 1,200 tons, running some 207 feet long overall. With a ~140-man crew, they were designed to carry a 100-pounder Parrott pivot gun, an 11-inch Dahlgren shell gun, a trio of 30-pounder rifles, six 32-pounders, and a couple of 12-pounders, giving them the nominal rank of a 13-gun sloop.

Class leader Ossipee was laid down at Portsmouth Naval Yard in Kittery, Maine in June 1861, just as the Army of the Potomac and the Army of the Shenandoah were being formed, while her sisters USS Adirondack, USS Housatonic, and USS Juniata, were subsequently laid down the Navy Yards in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia, respectively and near-simultaneously.

A good sketch profile of the class in their Civil War layout. USS Housatonic, Wash drawing by R.G. Skerrett, 1902. NH 53573

The class was named for geographical features i.e., mountains and rivers, with Ossipee being the first (and thus far only) Navy warship to carry the name of the Ossipee River that runs through New Hampshire and part of Maine.

Ossipee Falls, Ossipee, N.H. LC-DIG-stereo-1s13770

Commissioned on 6 November 1862, Ossipee spent a few months with the North Atlantic Squadron before shipping south on 18 May 1863 to join Farragut’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron off Mobile, Alabama. While operating in the Northern Gulf, she pulled off a hattrick of captures, hauling over the schooner Helena on 30 June and the blockade runners James Battle and William Bagley two weeks later, with the latter two packed with cotton and headed abroad.

Damn the Torpedos!

On the early morning of 5 August 1864, Ossipee was part of the 14-vessel task force assigned to sweep Mobile Bay, pushing past Battery Powell and Forts Gaines and Morgan at the mouth of the Bay, despite the threat of underwater torpedoes (mines).

Plan of the battle of August 5, 1864. [Mobile Bay] From Harper’s Weekly, v. 8, Sept. 24, 1864. p. 613, via the LOC CN 99447253. Ossipee is marked No. 11 on the plan, taking the Bay mouth aside from the gunboat USS Itasca.

About those Torpedos
 
The Confederates sowed dozens of fixed mines of several types in defense of Mobile Bay, with at least 67 of the “infernal devices” across the mouth of the Bay alone. (See: Gabriel Rains and the Confederate Torpedo Bureau: Waters, W. Davis, Brown, Joseph, for more details than below). 

An example of the Confederate Type 7 Frame-fixed torpedo (mine). Some 28.5-inches long and 12.2-inches across, they weighed 440-pounds of which just 27 of that was black powder explosive charge. Using a Type G1A adjustable triple Rains-pattern primer style torpedo fuze, these cast iron mines were set into a wedge-shaped frame and typically laid in sets of three with the thought that, if the first was missed, a passing ship would possibly hit the second or third or, if spotting the last in the chain, attempt to back off and run over the first. The rebels used what Brig. Gen Gabriel J. Rains, head of the Confederate Torpedo Bureau, described as a “Torpedo Mortar Battery” at Mobile, some 60 feet long and 35 feet wide, constructed of these frame-type mine arrays. Towed into place once constructed, it was angled from the bottom of the sea bed with the fuzed shells facing just under the surface of the water at low tide.

An example of a Confederate Fretwell-Singer-type torpedo, common to Mobile Bay, at the Fort Morgan Museum.

The Confederate Rains “keg type” mines were made from everything from Demi jugs, beer barrels, and even 1,500-gallon boilers in at least one case, with conical ends fitted. Waterproofed with pitch and tar, they were anchored in place and used with chemical/pressure style fuzes or could be command-detonated via an electrical circuit ashore.

 
Heeling Tennessee

Besides the mines, Farragut had to face off and do combat with the fearsome albeit semi-complete Confederate ironclad ram CSS Tennessee. During the engagement, Ossipee suffered 1 killed (SN Owen Manes) and 7 wounded, mostly with splinter wounds, against the fleet’s total losses of 135 dead (including 94 who went down with the Canonicus-class monitor USS Tecumseh, one of 43 American vessels sunk by rebel mines in the conflict) and 88 sent to the surgeon.

At the end of the morning, Farragut’s fleet had lost Tecumseh to causes still not fully known but captured the gunboat CSS Selma with 90 officers and men as well as the battered CSS Tennessee, with 190 officers and men aboard to include Confederate ADM. Franklin Buchanan. Tennessee’s skipper, CDR James D. Johnson, was a prisoner on Ossipee by dusk on the 5th. Just out of Farragut’s reach, the sinking gunboat CSS Gaines lay grounded and abandoned.

Ossipee went down in history as being the last Union ship to get a bite at Tennessee, moving in to ram the rebel ironclad in the final moments before Johnson poked up a white flag from her wheelhouse. Unfortunately, the momentum of the sloop continued under Newton’s first law of motion and collided with the surrendered beast.

Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. Line engraving after an artwork by J.O. Davidson, published in “Battles and Leaders of the Civil War”, Volume 4, page 378. Entitled “Surrender of the Tennessee, Battle of Mobile Bay”, it depicts CSS Tennessee in the center foreground, surrounded by the Union warships (from left to right): USS Lackawanna, USS Winnebago, USS Ossipee, USS Brooklyn, USS Itasca, USS Richmond, USS Hartford, and USS Chickasaw. Fort Morgan is shown at the right distance. NH 1276

“Capture of the Confederate ram Tennessee” Artwork by J.O. Davidson, depicting the surrender of CSS Tennessee after the Battle of Mobile Bay, 5 August 1864. U.S. Navy ships depicted include monitor USS Winnebago and sloop USS Monongahela, in the left background; sloop USS Ossipee “in collision with Tennessee”, in the center; monitor USS Chickasaw “lying across the stern of Tennessee”, in right foreground; gunboat USS Itasca, in the right distance; and flagship USS Hartford further to the right. NH 42394

Once Mobile had been neutralized as a rebel port, Ossipee continued her service in the Gulf enforcing the blockade off Texas and was in Union-held New Orleans in April 1865 when the side-wheel steam ram CSS Webb, darted out of the Red River and made a break for the sea via the Mississippi and gave pursuit along with other vessels with the nimble Webb ending her run burned out and abandoned by her crew.

The Webb Running the Blockade, by William Lindsey Challoner, Louisiana State Museum

To the Frozen North

Laid up briefly after the war, Ossipee was one of the luckier of her class. Sister Adirondack had been lost on a reef in the Bahamas in August 1862 while looking for blockade runners. Sister Housatonic made naval history (in a bad way) by becoming the first warship sunk by an enemy submarine when CSS H.L. Hunley took her to the bottom with her off Charleston, South Carolina, 17 February 1864. Only Juniata, who had spent most of the Civil War ranging the seas in search of Confederate raiders, remained.

The 11-gun Ossipee-class steam sloop USS Juniata in 1889, Detroit Photo. Via LOC. Her class included the ill-fated USS Housatonic.

Like Juniata, Ossipee would soon see more of the earth than the Gulf of Mexico and Eastern Seaboard.

Recommissioned 27 October 1866, she was sent to the Pacific to show the flag from Central America to Alaska, then a Tsarist territory.

Following the “folly” of U.S. Secretary of State William H. Seward’s treaty with Russia for the purchase of what would eventually become the 49th state for $7.2 million in gold, Ossipee was dispatched from San Francisco in September 1867 to affect the transfer. Accompanied by the third-rate gunboat USS Resaca (9 guns), who had been in Alaskan waters since August, the two vessels were on hand of the transfer on Castle Hill at Sitka (then population: 1,500) on October 18, 1867. There, Prince Dmitry Petrovich Maksutov, commissioner of the Tsar and Russian Governor of the territory, formally transferred all of Alaska to Brig. Gen. Lovell H. Rousseau, commissioner for the United States.

Ossipee’s skipper, Capt. George F. Emmons, would chronicle the transfer in his journal which is now in the Alaska State Archives as is Maksutov’s calling card given to the good captain.

Some 200 American troops, in Yankee blue, stood at attention across from a smaller number of Russian soldiers on opposite sides of the flagpole with the Russian flag dropped, and the American raised to a slow 21-gun cannon salute from Ossipee and the Russian coastal battery. Princess Maria Maksutova was famously supposed to have fainted during the transfer, as the Russian flag became stuck during the ceremony and had to be removed rather unceremoniously, although Emmons’s account dispels the fainting trope.

Old Glory Rises Over Alaska by Austin Briggs, showing Prince Maksutova and his parasol-equipped wife under the flagpole near the Tsar’s riflemen. Maksutova, who was a trained naval officer, fought during the Battle of Sinop and the siege of Petropavlovsk in the Crimean War, remained in Sitka for a year to help close things out. He died an admiral in his St. Petersburg home in 1889.

Post-Alaska

USS Ossipee in her 1873-78 configuration, with her 11-inch pivot gun mounted between the main & mizzen masts. NH 45369

Following the Sitka transfer, Ossipee would spend several years in the North Atlantic squadron. It was during this period that one of her crew, SN James Benson, would earn a rare peacetime Medal of Honor with his citation reading “Onboard the USS Ossipee, 20 June 1872. Risking his life, Benson leaped into the sea while the ship was going at a speed of 4 knots and endeavored to save John K. Smith, landsman, of the same vessel, from drowning.”

Ossipee would pick up the two-year-long Selfridge Expedition to the Isthmus of Darien (Panama) which we have covered before.

Darien Selfridge Survey. The First Reconnoitering Expedition, upon its return from the Isthmus of Darien Survey, No. 1 Commander Selfridge. No. 2. Captain Houston, USMC. No. 3. Lieutenant Goodrell, No. 4. Lieutenant Commander Schulze, No. 5 P.A. Surgeon Simonds, No. 6 P.A. Paymaster Loomis, No. 7 Lieutenant Jasper, No. 8 Mr. Sullivan Asst C.S., No. 9 Lieutenant Allen, USMC: NH 123343

Ossipee was involved in the 1873 Virginius affair with Spain after the fact, towing the notorious vessel back after the Spanish released it while her filibustering/insurgent crew would remain in custody in Havanna.

USS Ossipee in her configuration of 1884-89, with her 8-inch rifled pivot gun, mounted forward of the stack. NH 45054

USS Ossipee photographed in her 1884-89 configuration. NH 45370

Following more time in ordinary, Ossipee would once again ship off for the Pacific, remaining on Asiatic station from April 1884 to February 1887 when she arrived back in New York.

On her return, she was visited by E.H. Hart, a New York-based photographer who catered to postcard companies, and he captured her crew and decks in time. Her log held at the time that she was a 3rd rate sloop of 8 guns.

USS Ossipee Berth Deck, Cooks, in 1887. Photographed by E.H. Hart, 112 E. 24th St., New York. Note cooking gear, sausages in the roasting rack at left, tins of beef (one from New Zealand), bread, man peeling potatoes, a black sailor with bowl, coffee cups, and bearded Marine. NH 2860

USS Ossipee, Ship’s officers pose by her poop deck ladder, at the time of her arrival at New York from Asiatic service, February 1887. Note Gatling machine gun at left. CDR John F. McGlensey is in the center, in a forked beard. NH 42938

USS Ossipee, Inspection of the crew, at the time of her return from Asiatic service, February 1887. CDR John F. McGlensey, is in the right-center, beside the small boy. Note marines at left, and pumps in the lower center. NH 42939

USS Ossipee, Ship’s firemen posed by the boiler room hatch, with mascot puppy, 1887. Note breeches of 9-inch Dahlgren guns at left. NH 42940

USS Ossipee, Ship’s apprentices posed beside the engine room hatch, 1887. Note fancy bulwark paint and molding work; belaying pins holding running rigging; Gatling gun shot rack for 9-inch guns and carriage for a 3-inch landing force gun. Also ramrods and other heavy ordnance gear on bulwarks. NH 42941

USS Ossipee, Crew at quarters for inspection, February 1887, upon her arrival at New York from the Asiatic station. Marines are at the left. NH 42942

USS Ossipee, Men of the starboard watch, posed by the engine room hatch, looking forward, 1887. Note mascot puppy; engine order plaque on hatch coaming; a man with a telescope on the bridge; wire rope ladder to the shrouds; 9-inch round shot in the rack. NH 42943

USS Ossipee, Men of the port watch, posed by the engine room hatch, looking forward, in 1887. Note bugler at left, coal scuttle on deck, and cowl ventilator. Also, note landing force 3-inch gun carriage on deck. NH 42944

USS Ossipee “Equipping for distant service,” hoisting out a boat and landing force gun. This view was taken at New York Navy Yard upon her return from the Asiatic station in February 1887 and may show her being un-equipped for home service. NH 42945

USS Ossipee, “Abandoned ship,” showing her cluttered decks after her return to the New York Navy Yard from the Asiatic station in February 1887. Photo looking forward from her poop deck. Note: 9-inch Dahlgren guns, pumps, hatches, and tarpaulins over hammock rails. NH 42946

USS Ossipee ship’s officers, circa 1887-1888. Her Commanding Officer, CDR William Bainbridge Hoff, is in front left-center, with coat open. Note 9-inch Dahlgren gun at right. NH 42947

USS Ossipee crew At Quarters, circa 1887-88. Note black sailor in the right-center; gun crews by their weapons at right, Marines with Trap-door Springfield rifles, drummers, dog on deck, and hammocks stowed in hammock rails over the bulwarks. NH 42949

USS Ossipee general Muster on board, circa 1887-88. The ship’s Commanding Officer, CDR William Bainbridge Hoff, is in the center, leaning on the grating rack. Note Marine sentry at the gangway, hammock stowage, and large percentage of black sailors among the crew at left. NH 42950

USS Ossipee practice with a spar torpedo, rigged abeam, February 1887. NH 42952

USS Ossipee ship’s Marine guard in formation circa the 1880s. NH 58911

With the old wooden-hulled ship increasingly anachronistic in the new steel Navy, Ossipee was decommissioned at Norfolk on 12 November 1889 and sold there on 25 March 1891 to Herbert H. Ives.

Epilogue

Ossipee’s only sister to make it out of the Civil War, USS Juniata, would famously circumnavigate the globe in 1882-85 under the command of young CDR George Dewey, but her fate was coupled to Ossipee in the end, being sold off to Mr. Ives on the same day in 1891, who no doubt got a deal.

Ossipee is preserved in maritime art

W.M.C. Philbrick (American, 19th Century) Profile View of the U.S.S. Ossipee

Likewise, her muster rolls and logs are extensively preserved and digitized online in the National Archives as are numerous items in Alaska archives.

Finally, every October 18th is regularly celebrated in “The Last Frontier,” as Alaska Day, complete with a reenactment ceremony and parade in Sitka.

Specs:
Displacement 1,240 t.
Length 207′
Beam 38′
Draft 16′
Depth of Hold 16′ 10″
Speed 10kts
Complement 141
Armament
one 100-pdr Parrott rifle
one 11″ Dahlgren smoothbore
three 30-pdr Dahlgren rifles
six 32-pdr
one heavy 12-pdr smoothbore
one 12-pdr rifle
Propulsion Sails/Steam

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Happy 207th, Herr Freeman, of Mobile Bay (in)Fame(y)

While poking around Pascagoula’s Greenwood Cemetery (I have tons of childhood/teenage stories about this place logged in my time as a “Goula Boy,” but I digress) last week, I paid my respects at the grave of longtime area resident, Martin Freeman, MOH.

Photo: Chris Eger

Born 18 May 1814 in the Prussian port city of Stettin (Szczecin, Poland, today), he took to the sea early in life, and by his late teens, he was in the states where he married a fellow German immigrant and started a family.

Living on the Gulf Coast, he was a well-known Mobile and Pascagoula area (Grant’s Pass/Horn Pass) bar pilot who had the misfortune of being captured in the late summer of 1862 while fishing off Mobile Bay by the Union’s West Gulf Blockading Squadron, under the command of RADM David Farragut (another man with longstanding ties to Pascagoula) and, despite Freeman’s “protests of not being interested in the war and only wanting to fish, was engaged by the fleet as a civilian pilot.”

Fast forward to the Battle of Mobile Bay in August 1864, and Freeman was aloft in the rigging of Farragut’s flagship, the steam sloop-of-war USS Hartford, so he could better see the changing bars and currents at the mouth of the sometimes treacherous (and mine-strewn) bay then issue course corrections as needed.

Farragut’s report of the battle mentions Freeman to the Navy in glowing terms:

The last of my staff, and to whom I would call the notice of the Department, is not the least in importance. I mean Pilot Martin Freeman. He has been my great reliance in all difficulties in his line of duty. During the action he was in the maintop [elevated platform on main or middle mast], piloting the ships into the bay. He was cool and brave throughout, never losing his self-possession. This man was captured early in the war in a fine fishing smack which he owned, and though he protested that he had no interest in the war and only asked for the privilege of fishing for the fleet, yet his services were too valuable to the captors as a pilot not to be secured. He was appointed a first-class pilot and has served us with zeal and fidelity, and has lost his vessel, which went to pieces on Ship Island. I commend him to the Department.

His service was so influential to the battle that he was a civilian recipient (later serving as an Acting Volunteer Lieutenant, a rank he was only issued in October 1864) of the MOH, a rarity. Only eight other civilians– to include a fellow pilot in Navy Civil War service, John Ferrell– hold that honor.

Freeman’s citation, issued 31 December 1864:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pleasure in presenting the Medal of Honor to Mr. Martin Freeman, a United States Civilian, for extraordinary heroism in action as Pilot of the flagship, U.S.S. HARTFORD, during action against Fort Morgan, rebel gunboats and the ram Tennessee, in Mobile Bay, Alabama, 5 August 1864. With his ship under terrific enemy shellfire, Civilian Pilot Martin Freeman calmly remained at his station in the maintop and skillfully piloted the ships into the bay. He rendered gallant service throughout the prolonged battle in which the rebel gunboats were captured or driven off, the prize ram Tennessee forced to surrender, and the fort successfully attacked.

The Pilot for the USS HARTFORD at the Battle of Mobile Bay, Aug 5, 1864. Photo by Robira, New OrleansDescription: Courtesy of I.B. Millner, Morgantown, NC. Catalog #: NH 49431

His name would be listed as the only officer besides the master aboard the 4th rate gunboat USS Sam Houston in 1865.

Freeman continued his service after the war, even successfully fending off a court marshal lodged against him in 1866 while at the time the seniormost officer aboard the gunboat USS Cowslip (which had raided Biloxi Bay during the war).

Eventually, Freeman became the USLHS lighthouse keeper on Horn Island, off Pascagoula, which is now part of Gulf Islands National Seashore, from 1874 to 1894. His wife Anna and son, Martin, Jr., were listed interchangeably as assistant keepers. The light changed from an old old screw-pile lighthouse offshore to one located on a hill actually atop the island in 1887.

This image from 1892 almost certainly shows Freeman and his wife, Anna, as well as one of his children. NARA 26-LG-36-70

A closer look. Note the rarely-seen USLHS uniform and cap. 

It was while at Horn Island, tending his light and watching the Gulf, that Freeman penned a private letter about the famous battle he was a part of to a fellow veteran that eventually made it into the New York Times and caused some heartburn as Freeman made the record clear that he was in the rigging with the good Admiral that day, higher aloft than Farragut. For such a sin as to point out a historical fact, he was chastised in responding letters published by the Times from those who felt he was trying to besmirch the Admiral’s legacy.

It wasn’t just Farragut up there…

In the end, Freeman’s old injuries sustained from an explosion of a mine at Fort Morgan in September 1864 forced him to move his family ashore from Horn Island to Pascagoula in early 1894, where he died on 11 September 1894 at the residence of his son-in-law, Alf Olsson. His subsequent funeral was reportedly well-attended. 

His family still lives in the area and his grave is well-maintained, with the vintage gravesite covered by a concrete slab, likely in the 1960s as part of state regulation, and a new VA marker installed. (Photo: Chris Eger)

With Mississippi only a decade or so off from Reconstruction, his obituary in the Pascagoula Chronicle-Star only mentioned his lighthouse service, omitting his wartime record of accomplishments, but does speak well of him.

He was kind and hospital to all who visited the light-house and his jovial disposition won for him a host of friends. He was charitable, and brought up his children in the fear of the Lord.

Incidentally, the beautiful Horn Island light was swept into the Gulf in 1906, taking its keeper at the time, Charles Johnsson, along with his wife and teenage daughter with it.

As for Farragut, an admiral who has had five different warships named in his honor, Pascagoula remembers him fondly as well, and his family also lives in the area.

Farragut has long had a banner across from the Jackson County Courthouse.

Warship Wednesday November 6th Farragut’s G Ride

Here at LSOZI, we are going to take out every Wednesday for a look at the old steam/diesel navies of the 1859-1946 time period and will profile a different ship each week. – Christopher Eger

Warship Wednesday, November 6th Farragut’s G Ride

capture-of-new-orleans-by-union-flag-officer-david-g-farragut-julian-oliver-davidson

Here we see the 225-foot long 40-gun screw sloop of war USS Hartford as she appeared in 1862 when leading the US fleet under the command of Flag Officer (Admiral) David G Farragut up the Mississippi River. The Hartford is the tall ship in the center, mixing it up with a rag-tag group of rebel ships in the night as she steams upriver past Forts Jackson and St Phillips at the far left and right. The ship alongside is the Confederate ironclad CSS Manassas that was too slow to keep up with the swift Hartford. This is a photograph of the classic painting by Julian Oliver Davidson entitled “Capture of New Orleans by Union Flag Officer David G Farragut“.

Here we see a A 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore naval gun and crew in the stern pivot position of USS Miami, 1864. The Hartford carried 20 of these bad boys, each of which could fire a 75-pounds shell over 3400-yards, which was devastating for the time.

Here we see a 9-inch Dahlgren smoothbore naval gun and crew in the stern pivot position of USS Miami, 1864. The Hartford carried 20 of these bad boys, each of which could fire a 75-pounds shell over 3400-yards, which was devastating for the time.

Built at Boston Naval Yard, Hartford was commissioned on 27 May 1859. A powerful ship, she carried 20 impressive 9-inch Dahlgren guns another twenty 20-pdr rifles, and a few 12-pounders that could be landed ashore. Her 300 man crew could fight, land up to 100 person naval party ashore for raids, and steam the sloop with her combined coal-fired boiler-driven screw powered by two horizontal double piston-rod engines coupled with a sail rig at speeds over 13-knots. With her range virtually unlimited due to her hybrid propulsion, she spent the first two years of her life sailing the Orient and Africa, showing the flag.

Hartford leading the Gulf Squadron up the Mississippi

Hartford leading the Gulf Squadron up the Mississippi

When the Civil War broke out, Hartford was recalled home and arrived in Philadelphia by the end of 1861. After a short refit, she was placed under the command of Farragut who used her as the flag-ship for his West Gulf Blockading Squadron. On April 24, 1862, Hartford hung a red lantern on her mast in the darkness of predawn and led the ships of the squadron up the heavily defended Mississippi River, deep into Confederate history. Forcing the river mouth as seen in the painting above, the Hartford arrived in New Orleans the next day and started the task of cutting the Confederacy in two. This was finally accomplished in July 1863 after the Vicksburg campaign, in which Hartford remained as flagship. During the campaign the ship suffered much damage from shore batteries, snipers, and fire-barges, even having about a quarter of her above-water hull charred black.

02396v

Then on 5 August 1864, the ship again led the fleet into the hell that was Mobile Bay. Secured by Fort Gaines at Dauphin Island to the East and Fort Morgan on Gulf Shores to the West, the Bay itself was strewn with submarines, naval mines (called torpedoes), the ironclad warship CSS Tennessee, and other fears. With the fleet at risk, Farragut lashed himself to the masts of Hartford and directed the fleet from the rigging with his force of will and a megaphone.

The deck-plate that Farragut stood on before ascending the rigging of the Hartford, preserved at the Fort Gaines museum.

The deck plate that Farragut stood on before ascending the rigging of the Hartford, preserved at the Fort Gaines museum.

When the monitor USS Tecumseh blew up, rolled over, and sank in the muck of Mobile Bay, the fleet began to falter. It was believed that the new warship had struck and been holed by a rebel torpedo. Then came Farragut’s cry of “Damn the Torpedoes, full speed ahead.”. At that, the Bay entrance was passed, leaving the Forts to fall from infantry assaults from their landward sides, and Mobile closed for business to blockade runners.

Admiral Farragut and the USS Hartford's Capitan Percival Deayton, USN, aboard the ship in 1864. Deayton was Hartford's 6th captain. Her last , CPT Earl Peck Finney Sr in 1923 was her 23rd. No less than a dozen of the men who walked the decks of Hartford at the Battle of Mobile Bay that year would become recipients of the Medal of Honor.

Admiral Farragut and the USS Hartford’s Captain Percival Deayton, USN, aboard the ship in 1864. Deayton was Hartford’s 6th captain. Her last, CPT Earl Peck Finney Sr in 1923 was her 23rd. No less than a dozen of the men who walked the decks of Hartford at the Battle of Mobile Bay that year would become recipients of the Medal of Honor.

After the Civil War, Hartford was sent to the Pacific, becoming the head of the new Asiatic Squadron. She would spend the next 34 years on the West Coast between China and California, with stops at virtually every port in between. In 1880, she was given the barely used twin non-condensing back-acting steam engines of the scrapped  Milwaukee-class river monitor USS Keywadin, which doubled her power plant. Her original bronze screw was replaced by a new one, but the Navy did not throw this old prop away. We’ll get to that later.

The Hartford at sea in 1905, nearly 50 years young

The Hartford at sea in 1905, nearly 50 years young

The Hartford was one of the few Civil War-era ships that the Navy maintained into the 20th Century. Remember, by 1865 the US fleet had swollen to where it was arguably the largest and most modern in the world, with more than 671 ships including the most up-to-date collection of all-gun, all-armored, steamships. However, the nation soon divested itself of more than 90% of its naval list within a decade. Even though she was not the most modern in the fleet, Hartford, famous for her time with Farragut and capable of miserly travels on her sail suite, was retained not only on the list but in active service while her would-be replacements were broken up for scrap.

Gun drill, 1905. Note the long barreled flap holsters for Colt 38 revolvers

Gun drill, 1905. Note the long-barreled flap holsters for Colt 38 revolvers and the two 57mm Hotchkiss guns trained out to sea.

By the dawn of the 20th Century, the old screw frigate was over forty years at sea but was still a service. Rebuilt and sent to the East Coast, she spent twelve years from 1899-1912 as the unarmed seagoing training ship for Naval Academy midshipmen as well as new bluejackets and goats. Although the ship was almost all original above deck, her Civil War-era engines had been replaced by a pair of modern 1000-hp compound engines coupled to their own boilers. They did still turn the same single screw installed in 1880 however and would for another half-century.

Ships inspection 1905

Ships inspection 1905

With the Navy moving from sail and coal to oil, she found herself a solid anachronism and by 1913 was reduced to a dockside receiving and barracks ship in Charleston South Carolina, moored just a mile from Fort Sumter, like two bookends to Civil War that had happened more than fifty years before. There she endured World War One, still in commission and serving as a floating headquarters for the local Naval District. In 1928 she was decommissioned, having given 69 years of famous service. The Navy held on to her as floating equipment without either masts or engines, giving her the official hull number of IX13. She was towed first to Washington Naval Yard in 1938, then to Norfolk in 1945, with the ultimate goal of turning her into a floating and restored museum alongside the old USS Olympia, Dewey’s flagship during the Battle of Manila Bay. During this time she was largely gutted and her hull repaired in preparation.

After her decommissioning in 1928, she became a barracks and receiving ship for another decade. Basically a floating hotel (BQ) for sailors between berths.

After her decommissioning in 1928, she became a barracks and receiving ship for another decade. Basically a floating hotel (BQ) for sailors between berths. Note her decks built up to accommodate another row of berths and how high she sits in the water, not needing cannon, coal, or rigging anymore.

This was not to be and the mighty old warship eventually filled slowly with water over time and settled on the harbor in 1956. She was raised and scrapped the next year, not feasible of being repaired. Still, a marked piece of naval history, hundreds of relics from the old girl were salvaged. This puts her as one of the most visitable ships that do not exist in the country as parts of her are scattered from coast to coast to coast.

During WWII she sat at Norfolk, her transition to a museum ship put off indeffinatly by the war. Note that her masts have been stepped at the deck level.

During WWII she sat first at Charleston, then at Norfolk, her transition to a museum ship put off indefinitely by the war. Note that her masts have been stepped at the deck level.

Forgotten and neglected, the Hartford settled in the muck along the Virgina coast and sank in 1956, right at 100 years after her keel was laid.

Forgotten and neglected, the Hartford settled in the muck along the Virginia coast and sank in 1956, right at 100 years after her keel was laid.

Her bow figurehead is at her namesake city of Hartford Connecticut at the State Capitol while her ship’s bell is in the clock tower there. One of her anchors is across town at the University of Hartford while two of her Dahlgren guns are at Trinity College in town.

At Mobile, where Farragut damned the torpedoes, one of her anchors is on display in the central parade ground of Fort Gaines, which had fired shots at her in the Battle of Mobile Bay. Inside the museum, there is a brass deck plate that the Admiral walked upon.

One of Hartford's anchors on the parade ground at Fort Gaines. During the Battle of Mobile Bay the sloop fired her guns into where her anchor now lay.

One of Hartford’s anchors on the parade ground at Fort Gaines. During the Battle of Mobile Bay, the sloop fired her guns into where her anchor now lay.

The ship’s capstan is in a place of honor at the Farragut Naval Academy at St Petersburg Florida while a hatch-cover is used as a coffee table in the Superintendent’s Office at Annapolis.

Her Civil War-era cannon were removed in a refit in 1887 and sold to Bannerman’s in New York for their value as scrap. Instead of torching them, Bannerman sold them for a slight profit to veterans groups and villages who wanted a tie to the past. A few of these guns were still listed in that company’s catalog as late as the 1940s.  Several of these guns, at least 14, are preserved on city greens, town halls, and museums across the country from New York to Maryland to Michigan to California. It is believed that some of these were used to build a breakwater on Bannerman’s Island, where they can still be seen today.

Her wheel and fife rail is at the Museum of the Navy in Washington DC and other relics are found all around the Washington Naval Yard while her billethead is in nearby Newport News as the Mariner’s Museum. Finally, the bronze used to create the statue of Farragut in downtown Washington DC was drawn from the ship’s screw that was removed in 1880.

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In effect, Farragut will be a part of Hartford forever.

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Specs:
Displacement: 2,900 long tons (2,947 t)
Length:     225 ft (69 m)
Beam:     44 ft (13 m)
Draft:     17 ft 2 in (5.23 m)
Propulsion:     Steam engine and Sails, changed several times from 1859 to 1899.
Speed:     13.5 knots (25.0 km/h; 15.5 mph)
Complement: 310 officers and enlisted
Armament:

(Commissioned to 1863)
twenty 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
twenty 20-pdr muzzleloading rifles
one or two 12-pdr
(June 1863)
twenty-four 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
one 45-pdr muzzle loading rifle
two 30-pdr muzzleloading rifles
(June 1864)
one 100-pdr muzzle loading rifle
eighteen 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
one 30-pdr muzzle loading rifle
three 13-pdr howitzers
(after 1887)
ship’s small arms locker and a few small deck-mounted guns (57mm 6-pdrs) for training until 1912.

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