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
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 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
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.
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.
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 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 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 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
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. 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 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 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.
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.
In effect, Farragut will be a part of Hartford forever.
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
(Commissioned to 1863)
twenty 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
twenty 20-pdr muzzleloading rifles
one or two 12-pdr
twenty-four 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
one 45-pdr muzzle loading rifle
two 30-pdr muzzleloading rifles
one 100-pdr muzzle loading rifle
eighteen 9″ Dahlgren smoothbores
one 30-pdr muzzle loading rifle
three 13-pdr howitzers
ship’s small arms locker and a few small deck-mounted guns (57mm 6-pdrs) for training until 1912.
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