Archive for the 'Ships' Category

May 31

Commemorating the Battle of Midway

Friday, May 31, 2013 12:35 PM

The Battle of Midway, fought near the Central Pacific island of Midway, is considered the decisive battle of the war in the Pacific and one of the most significant events in US Navy history. Through innovative naval intelligence, bold tactics, raw courage, and determination, the US Navy emerged victorious and changed the tide of the war. The victory also had tremendous influence on the ethos of the US Navy and helped set the standard for expectations of today’s Sailors.

Join us online for the Battle of Midway panel “U.S. Navy: The Battle of Midway and the Pacific Today” using a Google+ Hangout scheduled for 2 p.m. EST on Monday, June 3rd. Those interested can participate on the US Navy’s Google+ page at http://www.google.com/+usnavy. Panel will be recorded and available for viewing afterwards at http://www.youtube.com/usnavy.

Please check out our Battle of Midway blog series at www.navalhistory.org from 3-7 June, as we investigate and discuss the innovative intelligence gathering and analysis techniques employed by the US Navy; share stories and experiences of the Sailors and pilots that fought the battle; and share the important lessons learned and the impact the battle had on shaping future Navy doctrine.

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We have a few other surprises planned throughout the week, so be sure to stay tuned to all of our digital properties for additional content.

Web: www.history.navy.mil

Naval History News: www.navy.mil/local/navhist

Facebook: www.facebook.com/navalhistory

Twitter: www.twitter.com/NavyHistoryNews

Naval History Blog: www.navalhistory.org

LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/groups/Naval-History-Heritage-Command-1944509?trk=myg_ugrp_ovr

 

 
May 15

The Legend of the USS ENTERPRISE

Wednesday, May 15, 2013 8:47 AM

 

The month of May historically has been an important time for the USS Enterprise. On May 12, 1938 the USS Enterprise CV-6 was commissioned and on May 18, 1775 the Enterprise I was captured from the British Fleet. These historic May events have led us to take a look at the history of the USS Enterprise, which represents a name that has been a continuing symbol of the great struggle to retain American liberty, justice and freedom since the first days of the American Revolutionary War to today. The most recent ENTERPRISE VIII (CVN 65) is the eighth ship of the Fleet to carry this illustrious name. 

USS Enterprise information is brought to you by the official USS ENTERPRISE Website

 

The Legend of the USS Enterprise

 

ENTERPRISE IEnterprise I

The first Enterprise originally belonged to the British and cruised on Lake Champlain to supply their posts in Canada. After the capture of Fort Ticonderoga by the Americans on 10 May 1775, it became the object of desire in the mind of Benedict Arnold who realized he would not have control of Lake Champlain until its capture. He learned it was stationed at a small British garrison at St. John’s on the Richelieu in Canada, and set out from Skenesborough (Whitehall, New York) in the commandeered sloop Liberty for that place on 14 May 1775. He surprised and captured the British garrison on 18 May, took possession of the 70-ton sloop, and sailed it south to Crown Point. It was named Enterprise by Arnold and fitted out with twelve long 4-pounder carriage guns and ten swivels. About 1 August 1775, Captain James Smith was sent by the New York Provincial Congress to General Philip Schuyler and ordered to take command of “the sloop Enterprise.”

ENTERPRISE II

The second Enterprise was an eight-gun schooner of 25 tons with a crew of 60 men. Granted a letter of marque commission from the state of Maryland, it made a remarkably successful cruise (June-December 1776) under the command of Captain James Campbell. Enterprise was purchased by the Committee of Secret Correspondence of the Continental Congress 20 December 1776. Under the command of Captain Campbell, Enterprise served chiefly in convoying transports in Chesapeake Bay. It was also active in reconnoitering the enemy’s ships and preventing their tenders and barges from getting supplies from the shores of Maryland and Virginia.

ENTERPRISE III

The third Enterprise was a twelve-gun schooner built by Henry Spencer at Baltimore, Maryland at a cost of $16,240.00. It had a length of 84 feet, 7 inches; extreme beam of 22 feet, 6 inches; tonnage of 135, depth of hold, 10 feet; and a complement of 70 officers and men. It was originally armed with twelve long 6-pounders and placed under the command of Lieutenant John Shaw. On 1 September 1812, Enterprise got underway in search for British privateers reported off the coast of Maine. After chasing a schooner to the shore on Wood Island, Enterprise discovered what appeared to be a ship of war in the bay near Penequid Point on the coast of Maine. It immediately gave chase and soon found her quarry to be the British brig Boxer, mounting fourteen 18-pounder carronades, and manned by 72 men. When within half a pistol shot, broadsides exchanged by the two brigs brought death to Lieutenant William Burrows as well as to the British commander, Captain Samuel Blyth. Another broadside was exchanged before Enterprise ranged ahead to cross Boxer’s bow and kept up a deadly fire until the enemy hailed and said they had surrendered but could not haul down the colors that were nailed to the mast. The surviving senior officer, Lieutenant Edward R. McCall, took the prize into Portland where a common funeral was held for the two commanders, both well-known and favorites in their respective services.

ENTERPRISE IV

The fourth Enterprise was a schooner built by the New York Navy Yard where it launched on 26 October 1831. Its length between perpendiculars was 83 feet, molded beam 23 feet, 5 inches; depth of hold 10 feet and tonnage 197. It was armed with ten 24 and 9-pounder guns. The schooner was placed in commission on 15 December 1831 when Lieutenant Commander Samuel W. Downing assumed command. Its original complement was nine officers and 63 men.

ENTERPRISE V

The fifth Enterprise was a steam corvette with auxiliary sail power. Its hull was built of live oak in Portsmouth Naval Yard by John W. Griffith. It was launched 13 June 1874 and placed in commission 16 March 1877, Commander George C. Remey in command. The ship measured 185 feet between perpendiculars, breadth, 35 feet; depth of hold, 16 feet, 2 inches; tonnage 615, and displacement 1,375 tons. It had a speed of 11.4 knots and a complement of 20 officers and 164 men. Its original armament was one 11-inch moth bore, four 9-inch broadside guns, one 60-pounder pivot, and 1 short Gatling gun.

ENTERPRISE VI

 

Enterprise VI

The sixth Enterprise was a 66-foot motor patrol craft purchased by the Navy on 6 December 1916. It was placed in the service of the Second Naval District on 25 September 1917 and performed harbor tug duties at Newport, Rhode Island. It shifted to New Bedford, Massachusetts, on 11 December 1917 for operations inside the breakwaters and was transferred to the Bureau of Fisheries on 2 August 1919.

 

ENTERPRISE VII (CV 6)Enterprise CV 6

 

The seventh Enterprise (CV 6) was the first of the Enterprise ships to receive the nickname of Big ‘E’. Other nicknames included the Lucky ‘E’, the ‘Grey Ghost’ and the ‘Galopping Ghost’. CV-6 became the sixth aircraft carrier to join the U.S. Navy fleet upon its commissioning as a Yorktown-class carrier. It had an overall length of 827 feet and displaced more than 32,000 tons of water. Enterprise fought in many of the key Pacific theater battles of World War II, and was one of only three American carriers commissioned prior to World War II to survive the war (along with USS Saratoga and USS Ranger).

Enterprise was ordered to serve in the Pacific fleet in April 1939, and was sent underway to conduct training and transport Marine Fighter Squadron 211 (VMF-211) to Wake Island in November 1941. Big ‘E’ was returning to the Hawaiian island of Oahu on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941 when it received news of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Enterprise became one of the first ships to respond to its nation’s call to war and went on to earn 20 battle stars, the most for any U.S. warship in World War II, for the crucial roles it played in numerous battles including Midway, Guadalcanal, Leyte Gulf, and the ‘Doolittle Raid’ on Tokyo. Japanese forces announced that the Big ‘E’ had been sunk in battle on three separate occasions throughout its Pacific campaign.

After its legendary World War II service, the first Big ‘E’ was decommissioned on Feb. 17, 1947 as the most decorated ship in U.S. naval history.

ENTERPRISE VIII (CVN 65)

 

 Enterprise VIII (CVN 65)

In 1954, Congress authorized the construction of the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the eighth U.S. ship to bear the name Enterprise.

The giant ship was to be powered by eight nuclear reactors, two for each of its four propeller shafts. This was a daring undertaking. for never before had two nuclear reactors ever been harnessed together. As such, when the engineers first started planning the ship’s propulsion system, they were uncertain how it would work, or even if it would work according to their theories.

Materials used by the shipyard included 60,923 tons of steel; 1507 tons of aluminum; 230 miles of pipe and tubing; and 1700 tons of one-quarter-inch welding rods. The materials were supplied from more than 800 companies. Nine hundred shipyard engineers and designers created the ship on paper, and the millions of blueprints they created, laid end-to-end, would stretch 2400 miles, or from Miami to Los Angeles.

Three years and nine months after construction began, Enterprise was ready to present to the world as “The First, The Finest” super carrier.

The newly-christened Enterprise left the shipyard for six days of builder and Navy pre-acceptance trials. Its escort during the trials, destroyer Laffey, sent this message; “Subject: Speed Trails. 1. You win the race. 2. Our wet hats are off to an area thoroughbred.” When the Big “E” returned to port, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral George W. Anderson, Jr., stated enthusiastically, “I think we’ve hit the jackpot.”

After years of planning and work by thousands the day finally arrived. At the commissioning of Enterprise, the world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, Secretary of the Navy John B. Connally Jr. called it a worthy successor to the highly decorated seventh USS Enterprise of World War II. “The fighting Gray Lady, as it was called, served in such well-known battles as the raid on Tokyo and the Battle of Midway.” Secretary Connally went on to say, “The new Enterprise will reign a long, long time as queen of the seas.”

In October 1962, Enterprise was dispatched to its first international crisis. Enterprise and other ships in the Second Fleet set up quarantine of all military equipment under shipment to communist Cuba. The blockade was put in place on October 24, and the first Soviet ship was stopped the next day. On October 28, Soviet leader Krushchev agreed to dismantle nuclear missiles and bases in Cuba, concluding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the closest the U.S. and USSR have ever come to nuclear war.

In the Fall of 2001, Enterprise aborted her transit home from a long deployment after the terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington D.C., on Sept. 11, and steamed overnight to the North Arabian Sea. In direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Big ‘E’ once again took its place in history by becoming one of the first units to respond in a crisis with its awesome striking power. Enterprise expended more than 800,000 pounds of ordnance during the operation. The ship returned to home port at Naval Station Norfolk November 10, 2001.

Following several more deployments and an extended shipyard period that began in 2008, Enterprise embarked on its 21st deployment in January 2011, during which the carrier supported operations Enduring Freedom, New Dawn and multiple anti-piracy missions. During its six-month tour of duty, Big ‘E’ made port visits to Lisbon, Portugal, Marmaris, Turkey, the Kingdom of Bahrain and Mallorca, Spain.

Big ‘E’ became the fourth aircraft carrier in naval history to record 400,000 arrested landings on May 24, 2011. The milestone landing was made by an F/A-18F Super Hornet piloted by Lt. Matthew L. Enos and Weapon System Officer Lt. Cmdr. Jonathan Welsh from the Red Rippers of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 11.

On November 25, 2011, Big ‘E’ celebrated its 50th birthday, making the carrier the oldest active duty ship in the U.S. Naval fleet. After 25 deployments and 51 years of active service, ENTERPRISE was officially inactivated December 1, 2012 and is currently undergoing an extensive terminal offload program leading up to her eventual decommissioning. For more than two centuries, ENTERPRISE Sailors have set the standard for excellence aboard the eight ships to proudly bear her name, and will continue to do so upon the future commissioning of the ninth ENTERPRISE (CVN 80).

 

 
May 3

The More Things Change, the More They Stay the Same

Friday, May 3, 2013 7:45 AM

The level of significance and strategic use of Airships has fluctuated since their introduction to service in the U.S. Navy in the early part of the 20th century. However, it’s mode of operation and deployment is similar to the days of old and they still play a vital role in today’s modern Navy.

USS Los Angeles

USS Los Angeles (ZR-3), moored to USS Patoka (AO-9), off Panama during Fleet Problem XII, circa February 1931.
Photo #: NH 73285

 

1931: The USS Los Angeles (ZR-3) was a rigid airship built in 1923–1924 in Friedrichshafen, Germany but was surrendered to the US Navy by the German Government as part of the war reparations from World War I. The ZR-3 went on to log a total of 4,398 hours of flight, covering a distance of 172,400 nautical miles (319,300 km) traveling to places in both the Pacific and the Atlantic. It served as an observatory and experimental platform, as well as a training ship for other airships. The USS Patoka (AO-9) was a fleet oiler named after the Patoka River and was made famous as a tender for airships.

KEY WEST, Florida (April 24, 2013) Military Sealift Command-chartered vessel HSV 2 Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K Aerostat. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released)

KEY WEST, Florida (April 24, 2013) Military Sealift Command-chartered vessel HSV 2 Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K Aerostat. (U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Corey Barker/Released)

2013: The Military Sealift Command’s high-speed vessel Swift (HSV 2) with a tethered TIF-25K aerostat gets underway from Key West, Florida on 24 April to conduct a series of at-sea capabilities tests to determine if the aerostat can support future operations in the U.S. 4th fleet area of responsibility. The TIF-25K, which can be deployed and operational within a few hours of arrival on site, supports not only communications and intelligence gathering but also surveillance and reconnaissance activities. The HSV 2 is a non-commissioned, hybrid catamaran originally leased by the Navy as a mine countermeasure and sea basing test platform. It is now primarily used for fleet support and humanitarian partnership missions and its home port is Naval Amphibious Base Little Creek in Norfolk, VA.

 
Apr 29

CSS Alabama Britten Shell and Box

Monday, April 29, 2013 3:09 PM

CSS Alabama, a screw sloop-of-war, was commissioned by the Confederate States of America during the Civil War. It was built in Liverpool, England and launched on 24 August 1862. Alabama served the Confederate Navy as a commerce raider and captured more than 60 vessels during her two year storied career.

On 19 June 1864, Alabama left port in Cherbourg, France to engage the USS Kearsarge. Approximately an hour after the first shot of the battle had been fired Alabama began to sink. The commander of Alabama, Raphael Semmes, then surrendered and the ship’s survivors were rescued by Kearsarge and the British yacht Deerhound.

Semmes on Alabama

The wreck site of Alabama was discovered in 1984 by the French Navy mine hunter Circe, and an agreement was created between the French and United States governments to form a committee that would oversee any archaeological work on the site.

Several artifacts were recovered from the wreck site of Alabama, including a wooden box housing a shell which has been of particular interest. This is in part due to the unique nature of this set of artifacts. While it is not unusual to find shells, discovering a box built to house a single shell is not common. The box and shell are both currently being housed and studied at the Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory.

The box and shell were found in excellent condition and received prompt conservation treatment at the Conservation Research Laboratory at Texas A&M University. A lack of oxygen and cold temperatures both contributed to the exceptional state of preservation of the artifacts.

Alabama 021

The 7-inch Britten pattern shell and wooden box recovered from the CSS Alabama.

Research revealed that the shell is a 7-inch Britten pattern shell. Britten projectiles were patented in Great Britain in 1855 by Sir Bashley Britten. Britten’s patent for a new shell also introduced an innovative method for attaching sabots to shells in an attempt to increase the accuracy of the weapon. Both the Union and Confederate forces used Britten shells, however only the Confederate States purchased the shells in large calibers.

Information regarding the box, however, has proven more difficult to uncover. General references to boxes for shell and other ordnance storage have been found in multiple sources. These resources include the ordnance manuals for the Confederate and United States Navies as well as the writings of the chief foreign agent for the Confederate States, James D. Bulloch. However, research about the exact origins and purpose of the Alabama box is ongoing.

Alabama 023

Another view of the shell and box displaying the damaged portion of the box.

Specific information about the cargo and equipment aboard Confederate ships is frequently difficult or nearly impossible to find with the current sources available. Precise data was often not recorded for wartime security or has been destroyed over the years. For example, Confederate leaders were careful to not provide specific information regarding the sources of their supplies. In a letter discussing the purchasing of supplies and ships for the Confederate Navy, Bulloch wrote to a colleague, “The fear that this letter may fall into wrong hands induces me to withhold the names of the contractors.”

While the box and shell remain a bit of a mystery, conservation will be the key to uncovering more of their secrets. Only through proper conservation can we continue to research, study, and analyze vital artifacts.

 
Apr 18

Operation Praying Mantis, 18 April 1988

Thursday, April 18, 2013 6:40 AM

On 14 April 1988, watchstanders aboard USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) sighted three mines floating approximately half of a mile from the ship. Twenty minutes after the first sighting, as Samuel B. Roberts was backing clear of the minefield, she struck a submerged mine. The explosive device tore a 21-foot hole in the hull, causing extensive fires and flooding. Ten Sailors were injured in the attack. Only the heroic efforts of the ship’s crew, working feverishly for seven straight hours, saved the vessel from sinking. Four days later, forces of the Joint Task Force Middle East (JTFME) executed the American response to the attack: Operation Praying Mantis. The operation called for the destruction of two oil platforms being used by Iran to coordinate attacks on merchant shipping. On 18 April, the coalition air and surface units not only destroyed the oil rigs but also various Iranian units attempting to counter-attack U.S. forces. By the end of the battle, U.S. air and surface units had sunk or severely damaged half of Iran’s operational fleet. Navy aircraft and the destroyer Joseph Strauss (DDG 16) sank the frigate Sahand (F 74) with harpoon missiles and laser-guided bombs.

 

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

The main building of the Iranian Sassan oil platform burns after being hit by a BGM-71 Tube-launched, Optically-guided, Wire-guided (TOW) missile fired from a Marine AH-1 Cobra helicopter

A laser-guided bomb dropped from a Navy A-6 Intruder disabled frigate Sabalan (F 73), and Standard missiles launched from the cruiser Wainwright (CG 28) and frigates Bagley (FF 1069) and Simpson (FFG 56) destroyed the 147-foot missile patrol boat Joshan (P 225). In further combat A-6s sank one Boghammer high-speed patrol boat and neutralized four more of these Swedish-made speedboats. One Marine AH-1T Sea Cobra crashed from undetermined causes, resulting in the loss of two air crew. Operation Praying Mantis proved a milestone in naval history. For the first time since World War II, U.S. naval forces and supporting aircraft fought a major surface action against a determined enemy. The operation also demonstrated America’s unwavering commitment to protecting oil tankers in the Arabian Gulf and the principle of freedom of navigation.

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

The Iranian frigate Is Sahand (74) burns after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

An aerial view of the Iranian frigate Is Alvand (71) burning after being attacked by aircraft of Carrier Air Wing 11 from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65).

Sources: Edward J. Marolda and Robert J. Schneller Jr., Sword and Shield: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf War (Washington, DC: GPO, 1998), 37-8; Michael A. Palmer, On Course to Desert Storm: The United States Navy and the Persian Gulf (Washington, DC: GPO, 1992), 141-46; unpublished draft material from Mark Evans’ forthcoming naval aviation chronology.

For more information on Operation Praying Mantis,
visit the NHHC website:
http://www.history.navy.mil/Special%20Highlights/OperationPrayingMantis/index.html

 

 
Mar 25

The Conservation of Enfield Rifle Barrels from USS Tulip

Monday, March 25, 2013 9:32 AM

The Naval History and Heritage Command’s (NHHC) Underwater Archaeology Branch (UAB) manages the Archaeology & Conservation Laboratory which is primarily tasked with the documentation, treatment, preservation, and curation of artifacts from US Navy sunken military craft. Artifact conservation is an integral part of any archaeological investigation and allows for the long-term study, interpretation, and preservation of irreplaceable submerged cultural resources.

Recently, the Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been treating a group of Enfield rifle barrels from the wreck site of USS Tulip. Purchased by the Union Navy during the Civil War, Tulip, a steam-screw gunboat, joined the Potomac River Flotilla in 1863. Tulip was tasked with towing, transporting and landing soldiers, supporting Union communication, and maintaining the Union blockade of Confederate ports. The vessel later sank off of Ragged Point, Virginia on 11 November 1864 after her defective starboard boiler exploded. The sinking claimed the lives of 49 of the 57 sailors on board.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel Before Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip and her associated contents, like all US Navy sunken military craft, remain property of the US government regardless of the passage of time or location, and are further protected from unauthorized disturbance or artifact removal by the Sunken Military Craft Act (SMCA). Many of the artifacts from Tulip are a painful reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving these archaeological sites. The Tulip artifacts were removed without permission in an unmethodical manner and did not receive conservation treatment after recovery. Because of this, many artifacts which were likely very well preserved at the time of recovery became seriously deteriorated due to unmitigated corrosion and dry storage in a non-climate controlled environment. Archaeologists have also lost the valuable information that is conveyed by documented artifact provenance on an underwater site.

After a two year effort by the Maryland Maritime Archaeology Program, over 1,500 artifacts, previously removed from the wreck site of USS Tulip in the late 1960s, were returned to the US Navy and sent to NHHC for conservation. The artifact collection includes military uniform components, navigation equipment, ceramics, personal items, medical items, ship’s hardware, tools, ordnance and artillery including the Enfield rifles. These particular rifles were manufactured by the Royal Small Arms Factory in Enfield (London), which was owned by the British government and produced weaponry such as rifles, muskets, and swords. The rifles were a popular weapon with both Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War for their accuracy and reliability. Both the Union and the Confederate armies purchased Enfield rifles from the British to outfit their troops.

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

USS Tulip Rifle Barrel and Ramrod After Conservation Treatment

The Archaeology & Conservation Lab has been able to conserve and preserve several of the USS Tulip Enfield rifle barrels. To prevent further corrosion on the barrels, conservators used a process called Electrolytic Reduction (ER) to remove the corrosion-causing compounds from the artifacts, effectively stabilizing them. The barrels were then carefully cleaned and coated with a solution which bonds to the iron and creates a protective film on the surface of the barrels. After all the barrels have received conservation treatment, they will be temporarily stored in the curation spaces in the Archaeology & Conservation Lab with the hope to eventually place them on exhibit.

 
Feb 20

February 20, 1815: The Capture of HMS Cyane and Levant by the USS Constitution uder Captain Charles Stewart

Wednesday, February 20, 2013 1:00 AM

This article, written by Naval Constructor C. W. Fisher, U. S. Navy was published in the February 1917 issue of Proceedings magazine, entitled “The Log of the Constitution, Feb. 21-24, 1815: The Capture of the Cyane and the Levant .

 

025 Capture of Cyane and Levant NH 86692-KN

The Capture of the Cyane and Levant by U.S. frigate Constitution

 

Enclosed herewith is a blueprint of an extract from the log of the U. S. frigate Constitution, dated February 21 to February 24, 1815. This brief extract includes a description of the action between the Constitution and British vessels Cyane and Levant. As an example of most admirable seamanship, excellent control, fine tactics, and a happy as well as forceful style of recording important events, I consider this brief extract to be of sufficient value to warrant its being published for the “information and guidance” of the navy to-day. It would be hard to find a better model than this modest record of a most unusual and courageous action.

 

Log of the Constitution001

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution002

Remarks &c. continued, Tuesday February 21, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution003

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Wednesday February 22, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution004

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq., Commander on a Cruise, Thursday February 23, 1815

 

Log of the Constitution005

Remarks &c. on board U. S. frigate Constitution, Charles Stewart Esq. Commander on a Cruise, Friday, February 24, 1815

 
Dec 5

December 5, 1843: The Launch of the U.S.S. Michigan

Wednesday, December 5, 2012 1:00 AM

 This article was originally published as “Our First Iron Man-of-War” in 1949 by Captain Frederick L. Oliver in Proceedings magazine.

WHAT is probably the oldest iron ship in the world today, and one of the first iron men-of-war built, is approaching the end of a career that exceeds the century mark by a few years.

In 1841 Congress authorized the construction of a side-wheel steam man-of-war for use on the Upper Lakes, to match the British naval strength in those waters.

The use of iron in shipbuilding at that time was a subject as contentious as the adoption of steam propulsion and the propeller proved to be in subsequent years.

In England the dwindling supply of ship timber had promoted the matter of iron shipping, but in the United States a contrary thought prevailed, and it was not until about the time of the Civil War that the Navy really turned to iron ships.

No record is available of the influence which brought about the adoption of iron for the ship built at Erie, and the construction at Pittsburgh shortly thereafter of a second ship from the same material; but log-rolling was as prevalent then as now, and Pennsylvania politicians probably supplied the incentive.

The construction at Erie of the U.S.S. Michigan involved difficulties quite comparable in some respects to those which beset Oliver Hazard Perry’s shipbuilding efforts at the same port some 30 years previously.

Practically nothing was known at that time in this country about designing an iron ship, or the technique of fabricating the unfamiliar material. Nor were other than the most primitive construction facilities available at Erie.

As a result, the lines adopted for the Michigan were those of the sailing ship of the period, and the frame was designed to afford the requisite structural strength without recourse to the strength available in the hull plating, providing a hull so strong that, despite years of abuse, it is structurally sound today.

I-beams being unknown at the time, the ribs were made from T-bars, and the longitudinals were built-up box structures about 12 inches by 24 inches in cross section. In all there were five longitudinals, the keel being the only one projecting beyond the skin of the ship. Three of the longitudinals ran the full length of the ship and two were beneath the machinery spaces. The hull plates were all shaped by hand, and the rivet holes were punched by the same means.

The hull material was wrought iron made by the charcoal process in Pittsburgh and carted to Erie. The purity of this material is attested by the fact that the metal is still in excellent condition.

It is related that many citizens of Erie considered an iron ship an anachronism, consequently throngs were in attendance on the afternoon of December 5, 1843, to witness the launching and satisfy their curiosity about the ability of the ship to float.

All they saw was a ship that stuck on the ways and could not be persuaded to move. Strange to say, during the night the ship relented of its perversity and was found afloat at daybreak the following day, having launched itself.

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