Maritime Monday for February 24th, 2014: Ship of State 2; Military Vessels Named After US Presidents

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February 23, 2014


HMS President (1918)

Formerly HMS Saxifrage, was a Flower-class anti-submarine Q-Ship completed in 1918, and is one of the last three surviving warships of the Royal Navy built during the First World War. In 1922 she was moored permanently on the Thames at Blackfriars, and became a Royal Naval Reserve Drill ship for sixty-five years.

Her new name, HMS President, was inherited from the first London naval reserve Drill ship: the “Old President” of 1832-1903, whose name celebrated the capture of both the French frigate Président in 1806, and the American ‘super-frigate’ USS President in 1815.



George Washington had several vessels named after him before he died in 1799, including at least four in the 1770s and one in 1798, one in 1814 as well as an armored cruiser, a submarine and an aircraft carrier in the 20th century.


brigantine similar to USS Washington, 1776

USS Washington (1775)  was a  160-ton schooner named Endeavor, which was acquired by the Continental Navy during the American Revolution and converted to an armed brigantine. Renamed Washington, the schooner was fitted out at Plymouth, Massachusetts.

On November 3, 1775, Washington’s charter was consummated, and she was authorized to operate off the New England coast between Cape Cod and Cape Ann in the hope of disrupting British shipping.

She served for only a short period of time before being captured by the British. Upon inspection by the Royal Navy, she was deemed unsuitable for operations on the high seas, and was left to rot in Boston.


Row Galley on the Ohio River; Marines of the 1700’s by Colonel Charles Waterhouse USMC 

The second USS Washington was a large highly maneuverable row galley, with a crew of 60, that was placed into service under the control of the Continental Congress in 1776.

In the autumn of 1775, the Rhode Island General Assembly ordered the construction of two row galleys, Washington and Spitfire, During the winter and spring of 1776, these galleys operated in Narragansett Bay, protecting the colony’s shipping, carrying troops, and covering foraging parties seeking supplies.

In July, the galleys were sent to New York City to join the tiny flotilla George Washington was fitting out on the Hudson River. On the afternoon of 3 August, Washington served as flagship during an attack on the Royal Navy’s warships Phoenix and Rose.

frigateDuring the engagement, four Americans were killed, and 14 others were wounded. On the British side, Phoenix was hulled twice and suffered substantial damage. There are no further records of Washington and her sister galleys after the British captured Manhattan Island late that summer.  more

The third USS Washington was a frigate laid down in 1776.  When British forces advancing on Philadelphia in 1777 during the American Revolutionary War threatened to capture her, and she was scuttled incomplete on 2 November.  Her bottom was salvaged and sold in Philadelphia. more

abv rt:  32-gun frigate USS Randolph, built at Philadelphia under the same construction program and similar to the Washington

lateenThe fourth ship to be named Washington — a lateen-rigged, two-masted galley—was built on Lake Champlain at Skenesboro, New York, in the autumn of 1776. On 6 October 1776, the galley joined the small fleet established and commanded by Brigadier General Benedict Arnold.

After the Battle of Valcour Island, Washington struck her colors and was captured by the British. Whoops!  more


18 Gun Sloop-of-War, c 1814

The USS George Washington (1798) was built in 1793 as a merchant vessel in Providence, R.I., and was purchased by the Congress on 12 October 1798.  Sent in early December to Dominica, in the West Indies, to join a squadron charged with protection of American commercial interests battling the many French privateer’s preying on US shipping and commerce.  She returned to the United States in October 1799 for extensive repairs, and was fitted to carry stores and timber to Algiers.

After calling at Italian and French ports, she returned to Philadelphia about 15 April 1802. George Washington was sold in May 1802 by the Navy agent in Philadelphia. more


US Navy ship-of-the-line c 1837

USS Washington (1814) was a US Navy ship of the line built at the Portsmouth Navy Yard. After fitting out, she sailed for Boston and later to Annapolis, Maryland, arriving May 1816. For the next two years, the ship-of-the-line operated in the Mediterranean as flagship of the American squadron, providing a display of force to encourage the Barbary states to respect American commerce.

Placed “in ordinary” in 1820, the ship remained inactive until broken up in 1843.


a US sailing frigate c 1798-1849

USS Adams (1799) named for John Adams, second president of the United States, was originally built as a  28-gun frigate in 1799, converted to a corvette in 1809 and later back to a frigate in 1830. In June 1812, Adams was cut in half amidships and lengthened 15 feet in the course of being completely rebuilt as a sloop-of-war.

Adams ran aground on the Isle au Haut on 17 August 1814 and was damaged seriously. Skillful seamanship aided by a rising tide managed to refloat the ship and despite heavy leaking she made it into the Penobscot River and reached Hampden, Massachusetts (now part of Maine). There on 3 September 1814, during the Battle of Hampden, she was scuttled and set ablaze to prevent capture by a British squadron supporting the British offensive operations in Maine.

more (hashtag #fuckyeahMaine)

Sunset Over Tripoli

“Sunset Over Tripoli” by Richard Lane
USS Constitution & USS John Adams

USS John Adams (1799) was built for the United States by the people of Charleston, South Carolina, and sailed (on or about) 1 October for Cayenne, French Guiana, to operate against French privateers based at that port. In January 1800, she began operations against French privateers patrolling the West Indies.

Placed in ordinary in Charleston in mid-January 1801, and in late June sailed to Washington, D.C. where she was laid up.

As the Quasi-War with France drew to a close, President Adams reported on the Navy to Congress:

The present Navy of the United States, called suddenly into existence by a great national emergency, has raised us in our own esteem; and by the protection afforded to our commerce has effected to the extent of our expectations the objects for which it was created.



Sackets Harbor Trip

Thomas Jefferson, third President of the United States, had one ship named in his honor before his death

USS Jefferson (1814) built at Sackett’s Harbor, New York, for service on Lake Ontario. Launched 7 April 1814.

jeffersonpsychMost of the guns for the new American ships had not reached Sackett’s Harbor by 19 May when the British fleet arrived off the American base and began a strict blockade.  Jefferson finally sailed on 31 July and arrived off Niagara on 5 August.  With Sylph and Oneida, she blockaded several English vessels inside the river while the rest of the fleet sailed on to Kingston to challenge the main English squadron.

She was on blockade duty off Niagara for over a month. On 12 September, a severe storm arose, which before abating three days later, almost swamped the brig. Ten of her guns were thrown overboard in the struggle to save the ship. Jefferson rejoined her fleet on 17 September and operated with it during the remainder of the navigation season. Toward the end of November she was laid up for the winter.

Peace obviated Jefferson‘s planned return to commission in the spring. She apparently remained in ordinary until sold on 30 April 1825.

Brig HMS Moira Hotly Engaged

“Le navire britannique Earl of Moira change des tirs avec le navire amricain USS Madison, sur le lac Ontario”: Brig HMS Moira Hotly Engaged: painting by Peter Rindlisbacher

Also built at  Sackets Harbor, New York; USS Madison was a US Navy corvette named for James Madison, fourth President of the United States. She saw active duty in the War of 1812 as part of Commodore Isaac Chauncey’s Lake Ontario Squadron. After the end of the war, Madison, a fast ship-rigged vessel that was not considered very safe to operate, was laid up at Sackets Harbor until sold in 1825.

more: War on the Lakes in the War of 1812


Morris-Taney class US Revenue Cutter (shown: Ingham)

USRC Jackson (1832) – one of 13 cutters of the Morris-Taney Class, they were the backbone of the Revenue Cutter Service for more than a decade. Named for Andrew Jackson, the seventh President of the United States, and built at the Washington Navy Yard in 1832; they were designed on a naval schooner concept for roles as diverse as fighting pirates, privateers, combating smugglers, and operating alongside naval forces.

oldhickJackson cruised along the coast to discourage smuggling operations and to assist distressed shipping. A year later, she operated briefly in the Chesapeake Bay before heading south to support Army and Navy operations along the coasts of Florida and Georgia during the Seminole War.

In addition to observing the activities of Indians as she cruised along the shore, she also inspected other cutters; their stations, and lighthouses. She also performed service at Baltimore, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and New York City.

Soon after the beginning of the American Civil War, the ship entered the New York Navy Yard to receive armament. She departed New York on 26 April 1861 and sailed for Baltimore on 10 September; serving at that port for the duration of the conflict. Jackson was sold in Baltimore in October 1865. (rt:Old Hickory)

hard times tokens

(hard times tokens) featuring ships; left: Van Buren, 1837 rt: Webster, 1841 (see full size)

VanBurenAnother Presidential cutter was the USS Van Buren (1839), a schooner named after the eighth man to hold the office.

She was laid out in 1839 in Baltimore, Maryland, and was reportedly fully constructed and ready for sailing on 29 November of the same year. She was commissioned a few days later, and entered the Revenue Cutter Service on 2 December 1839.

When the Second Seminole War began in 1835 she became part of the Mosquito Fleet and served mainly as a river vessel in support of the United States Army forces battling the Seminole on land. Following the outbreak of the Mexican–American War in 1846,  Van Buren was ordered to the Gulf of Mexico, where in July 1846, she joined a United States Revenue Marines squadron and aided in a blockade of Mexico’s eastern coast; stationed off the coast of Veracruz.

On 4 October, the Van Buren was declared unseaworthy, and ordered to New York where she was decommissioned and sold on 1 June 1847 for $1,200.


HMS President on the River Thames


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