Sunday, June 26, 2022


 26 June 2022: Well, as promised, here we are again with part two of the military ships post. We will pick up after the War of 1812 where,if you recall, we mentioned the Peacock capturing an East Indiaman as the final action of the war. Still from the same source, we will now have a look at the next chapter, moving through the Civil and Spanish American Wars. Please recall that the prefix "USS" was not in general use until 1905, so most of the ships shown here would have have been known as the "USS... whatever!"


 The USS Sea Gull [ed: I never knew we had a ship named "Seagull" - not very warlike.] holds the distinction of being the first steam-powered U.S. fighting vessel to see active combat. It spent much of its time in the 1820s fighting pirates that had spent years robbing, sinking, and capturing ships and terrorizing, enslaving, and killing American crews. These maritime ruffians, however, were not the Barbary corsairs of the previous generation—the Sea Gull played a prominent role in the Navy’s campaign to eliminate the dreaded pirates of the Caribbean.


By the 1840s, the United States had dedicated part of its naval fleet to disrupting the illegal Atlantic slave trade decades after America banned the importation of African captives in 1807. The USS Jamestown was one of the most prominent ships in the Navy’s newly formed Africa Squadron. The sloop-of-war captured two slave ships during its time on the mission, which was hampered by the fact that the Navy’s top commander was an ardent pro-slavery Southerner.

Commodore Matthew Perry’s flagship of the West Indies Squadron, the Navy steamer USS Mississippi was one of the most significant vessels of the Mexican-American War in the late 1840s. It took part in several key battles, particularly the decisive Battle of Veracruz, which enabled the Americans to march on Mexico city—Veracruz stands as the Navy’s first major amphibious assault. It later sailed to Japan as part of a mission to convince the secluded nation to normalize relations with the West after three centuries of isolation, which Japan agreed to do after witnessing Perry’s awesome fleet of powerful, modern ships.MIS

In 1861, the Civil War was raging when the Confederacy captured the USS Merrimack—the former flagship of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet—which was undergoing repairs in Virginia when the war broke out. A year later, the rebels rechristened it the Confederate States Ship (CSS) Virginia and outfitted it with powerful guns and heavy armor plating above the waterline. It would soon square off with a Yankee ship in a battle on the Chesapeake that would change naval warfare forever.
Monitor vs Virginia (nee Merrimack)

Just three days after setting sail from Brooklyn, New York, in 1862, the iron-clad, steam-powered USS Monitor stormed into the Chesapeake Bay to protect the Navy’s wooden fleet from the approaching CSS Virginia, which had already sunk several ships en route. They engaged each other at the Battle of Hampton Roads, with both ships bouncing cannonballs off the armored hulls of the other until they both ran out of shells and withdrew in a stalemate. Although the first battle of the ironclads was not consequential, the moment in history was—the confrontation signaled the end of the era of wooden warships as both North and South raced to build newer, better armored vessels.

The arrival of the Monitor and the Merrimack/Virginia changed the face of naval warfare on the water, but the H.L. Hunley revolutionized maritime combat beneath it. Embodying both the potential and the risks of underwater warfare, the experimental Confederate ship Hunley was the first successful combat submarine in history. On February 17, 1864, the cramped and hand-crank-propelled vessel made history when it sank the Navy sloop-of-war USS Housatonic—and itself—with a primitive torpedo.

CSS Hunley with torpedo attached

Just a few short months after it was commissioned in 1864, a monitor-class armored warship called the USS Tecumseh was sunk by the enemy, like so many other vessels during the Civil War. What makes the event historically important is why it sank—the Tecumseh had the misfortune of running into a terrifying new weapon: a naval mine. Cheap, simple, and devastating, sea mines remain the #1 threat to U.S. Navy vessels to this day.

The CSS David was a partially submersible Confederate vessel that was technically a surface ship but that functioned as a submarine. It used spar torpedos—long poles with bombs on the end, essentially—to silently affix explosives to the hulls of wooden ships, which it did with the Navy vessel USS New Ironsides. The attack didn’t do any real damage to New Ironsides, and the David rendered itself useless in the process, but the moment gave birth to naval torpedo warfare.

The CSS Shenandoah was still terrorizing Yankee whaling ships in the Pacific Ocean several months after the Confederacy surrendered before its captain was informed that the Civil War had ended—the Shenandoah fired the last shots of America’s bloodiest conflict in the summer of 1865.

CSS Shenandoah

The moment signaled not only the end of the Civil War but the end of the “Old Navy” era of American military history. Between 1865-1882, the Navy went into a long period of decline from being the second-largest seaborne force in the world behind only the British Empire to an impotent organization in charge of only a few dozen vessels in 1880.

The 1882 launch of the USS Puritan represented an American awakening to the sorry state of its naval forces and the beginning of a mad scramble to catch up before the world passed it by. The rebirth of the U.S. Navy was spurred by the 1873 Virginius Affair, a tense diplomatic standoff that occurred after the Spanish captured the American ship Virginius in Cuba and executed some of its crew. Although the Spanish Navy was a shell of its former self, it became clear to the American military that the hollowed-out U.S. Navy couldn’t answer the Spanish threat or effectively project power overseas.

The “New Navy” era, which would culminate with the U.S. Navy emerging in 1945 as the world’s largest and most potent maritime force, began in 1885 with the launch of the USS Chicago. The largest of the original three protected cruisers authorized by Congress at the start of the “New Navy” initiative, its commission represented a sea change in sea warfare. Signaling the end of the iron age of naval combat, the USS Chicago was one of the Navy’s first four steel ships.

In 1892, the United States Navy commissioned the first modern battleship in American history—the USS Texas. Although it took so long to build it was already outdated by the time it was finished, it—along with the armored cruiser USS Maine, commissioned just one month later—represented a great leap forward in naval engineering and capability.

The simmering tensions between the United States and Spain came to a boil on February 15, 1898, when the USS Maine exploded and sank in Havana Harbor. Although it’s now known that the sinking was almost certainly the result of an internal explosion, it was presumed at the time that Spain was the culprit and the moment served as the catalyst for the Spanish-American War.


OK, we'll stop here for this week and hopefully, in the next issue, we'll finish the subject. American Independence Day looms, so the next issue may be delayed a day or two.

 Until next time, 

                                   Fair Winds, 

                                         Old Salt




Monday, June 20, 2022


 20 June 2022: Well, we mentioned in the previous post that we might skip a week for the continuation of the Greatest U.S. warships story and here we've done it. But this story from Great Britain crossed my desk and I had to share it while it was still viable.From SWNS news, a totally crackers sailor (in our opinion) is going to try and cross the Atlantic in essentially a wash tub! Apologies for the quality of the sound in the video - apparently the reporter has yet to discover mic covers!



A dare-devil dad hopes to break a world record by sailing 1,900 miles across the Atlantic Ocean - in his self-built boat that's just ONE METRE long. Andrew Bedwell, 48, who will set off from Newfoundland, Canada, in May next year, compared the journey to being “stuck in a wheelie bin, on a rollercoaster for 90 days”. The mariner came up with the idea after reading a book by current record holder Hugo Vihlen, who made the perilous passage in a 1.6m (5ft 4inch) boat 30 years ago. His fibreglass boat - which is half a metre shorter and has a top speed of 2.5mph - is a modified version of a ship that another ex-record holder, Tom McNally, designed. During Andrew's expected three-month crossing, he'll survive off a protein-rich substance that's moulded around the internal walls of the cockpit to save space.[ed: yuck!] The thrill-seeking father-of-one admitted his wife thinks he’s “crackers” but said he wanted to achieve something “amazing” before he turned 50. He said: “I always like to have a real challenge on the go - although my wife quite often feels I’m crackers - but I said before I’m 50 I want to have done something amazing. “All my life, I’ve done unusual challenges, and it’s slowly got more and more important to myself to get smaller and smaller and smaller.” And speaking about his purpose built tiny boat, "Big C", he said: “I think a space rocket would have more room. "This is like being stuck in a wheelie bin, on a rollercoaster for 90 days - and that’s what it could be in the worst-case scenario.” Andrew, of Scarisbrick, Lancs., delivers yachts around the world and works as a sail maker. He has spent most of his life embarking on nautical adventures. He previously sailed non-stop around Britain and has taken his small 6.5 carbon racing yacht across the Atlantic and up to the Arctic Circle. But as he got older, Andrew says he became fascinated by seafarers who’ve attempted to cross oceans in incredibly small, recording-breaking vessels. He said: “I bought Hugo Vihlen’s book, ‘A Stormy Voyage of Father’s Day’ – that’s about the current world record holder, who has held it since 1993. “That kind of started it all off and since then, it has been a slow but very definite kind of route to try and break his record.” Andrew took over three years to complete the fabrication work with his team on his boat, which measures just 3.5m (11.4ft) tall and has sail area of just 8m.

 click below to see the boat: (double click then click the link that opens)


We told you he was bonkers - he even admits it! We are wishing him well, but submit he will be a candidate for rescue before he's half way!

  Until next time,  

                                      Fair Winds,

                                            Old Salt

Monday, June 13, 2022


 12 June 2022: Last week we talked about one of the more famous - and certainly significant - ships in the U.S. naval service. This weeks post will take a look at the more significant vessels to fly the U.S. flag from the American Revolution to today. Obviously, that is a huge and lengthy subject so we'll be doing it in several posts; this one and perhaps two more depending on how long they turn out to be. We will try to do it on successive weeks (for purposes of continuity) but sometimes we need a "palette cleanser" to improve the next course. So, stay tuned and we'll see how the story unfolds as well as where the interest of our readers lie. This lengthy research was done by "Stacker" at WUN (an on line service). At the outset, let me offer that the articles all refer to American ships as "USS" (United States Ship), but as we have mentioned before, that prefix didn't occur until the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt in 1905. Prior to then, ships were designated by their design/purpose/rig, i.e. United States Frigate Constitution or U.S Schooner Hannah. So, as you read this and the follow on, keep that fact in mind.


 If a sailor in 1530 magically teleported through the future to the dawn of the American Revolution in 1775, he likely would have been able to get a job aboard a ship in the Continental Navy. Of course, he would have encountered new technologies, new instruments, and new terminology, but the vessel’s riggings, sails, components, cannons, and functionality would have been most familiar. But if a sailor in the Continental Navy teleported the exact same 245 years through the future to 2022 and landed on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier or a nuclear submarine, he might as well have landed on a spaceship.

The nearly 2 1/2 centuries from when the original colonies first began organizing for maritime battle against their British oppressors to today have witnessed the greatest evolution of naval warfare in human history. The United States and its Navy have fought 12 major wars in those 245 years. That’s an average of a major war every 20 years—not to mention countless actions, security missions, skirmishes, and standoffs.

Each war introduced new naval technology, new tactics, new weaponry, and most importantly, new ships. What started as a single vessel commissioned by frustrated colonists has grown into roughly 300 ships and more than 300,000 personnel in a fighting organization that has dominated the world’s oceans unchallenged for 75 years.

Using government sources like the U.S. Navy’s own archives, as well as historical accounts, news reports, museum databases, and official records of individual ships, Stacker profiled 50 of the most important and consequential warships in American history. Some vessels on this list stand out for their incredible records in battle. Others are noteworthy for the new technologies they introduced. All, however, have earned a place as floating tributes to America’s military preoccupations, technological ingenuity, and ability to project power and enforce its will in the as tensions rose in the run-up to the Revolutionary War, the British launched a campaign to harass, stop, board, search, and seize American merchant ships, nowhere more aggressively than off the shores of Rhode Island. 

In June 1775, the tiny colony’s legislature authorized the conversion of the Katy—a former whaling, merchant, and privateer ship—to be armed, outfitted, and transformed from a sloop to a sloop-of-war. The ship that would go on to become the U.S.S. Providence was charged with the modest task of single-handedly defending Rhode Island against the British Empire, whose invincible navy had ruled the world’s seas since defeating the Spanish Armada at the end of the 16th century.

Realizing that the Katy wouldn’t be able to fend off the British empire on its own, George Washington began personally procuring more capable ships. The first among them was the schooner Hannah, which Washington bought on Aug. 24, 1775—it captured its first Royal Navy sloops just a few weeks later in early September. The first armed naval vessel to fight in the Revolution and the first to sail under Continental control, the Hannah is considered the founding vessel of the U.S. Navy.


The second of those first two ships was the Cabot. After sailing out of Boston it soon ran into the HMS Milford, a far more capable British vessel. After being forced aground in Nova Scotia, it became the first American ship ever to fall into enemy hands when the British captured it and refitted it for service in the Royal Navy.

 The United States Navy recognizes Oct. 13 1775, as its birthday the day that the Continental Congress authorized the creation of a single, unified navy instead of a patchwork of fleets controlled by individual colonies. It authorized the purchase of two ships to conduct raids on the British, the first of which was the converted merchant brig Andrew Doria, which would soon fight in the Battle of Nassau, the first major maritime combat of the Revolution. The Continental Navy was born.

Andrew Doria

The era of the Continental Navy came to an end when the expensive fleet was disbanded after the Revolutionary War. The last of the commissioned Continental warships was the frigate Alliance, which fired the last shots of the American Revolution.


More than a decade into America’s infancy as a country, it became clear that the pirates known as the Barbary corsairs, who terrorized merchant ships from their North African strongholds, understood only the language of force. No longer under the protection of Great Britain, American vessels were fair game to the relentless pirates, whose campaign of terror, kidnapping, and extortion compelled the U.S. Congress to pass the Naval Act of 1794. The act authorized the construction of what are now known as the ‘Original Six’ frigates of the United States Navy, which would sail under the title United States Ship (USS): USS President, USS Constellation, USS Chesapeake, USS United States, USS Congress, and the most storied ship in American naval history, the USS Constitution.

First launched in 1797, the USS Constitution remains the world’s oldest commissioned ship still afloat and is the official Ship of State of the United States of America. The timbers of the three-masted heavy frigate’s hull were so thick that cannonballs frequently bounced off of them, giving the Constitution its famous nickname “Old Ironsides.” With an other-worldly battle record in the Barbary Wars, the Quasi-War with France and, most notably, the War of 1812, the Constitution represents America’s earliest ability to project force in distant lands—the undefeated ship was never boarded or beaten in battle.

The USS Essex was another prime example of excellence in the early “Old Navy”—as America’s pre-1882 fleet is now called—tallying significant battle success in the Quasi-War with France, the First Barbary War, and the War of 1812. The frigate was the first American ship to sail around the notoriously perilous Cape Horn to the open Pacific Ocean, where it terrorized Great Britain’s whaling fleet. Its success became a burden, however, when the British finally dedicated two of its best ships to hunting down the Essex, which they eventually captured and pressed into the service of the Crown.


 The USS Independence was the U.S. Navy’s first ship of the line, the biggest, most powerful warships of the day. The Independence was part of a large and heavily armed squadron that the Navy sent to North Africa to end the reign of the Barbary Coast Pirates once and for all. When the squadron arrived in Algiers after taking several Algerian ships on the way, the intimidation factor alone was enough to force the enemy to accept a peace agreement, guarantee U.S. trade rights in the region, and return the men and ships they had captured.

Built in the closing days of the War of 1812, the Demologos was a wooden floating battery designed to defend New York Harbor from the British Navy. An otherwise unremarkable vessel, it represents a before-and-after moment in the history of naval warfare as it was the first warship ever to be propelled by a steam-powered engine.


The War of 1812 came to a close when the sloop-of-war USS Peacock captured East India Company brig Nautilus in the last naval action of the conflict. The U.S. Navy wouldn’t capture another enemy ship until World War II. The Peacock also holds the distinction of being the first ship the United States ever outfitted for scientific exploration when it was sent to explore and survey the farthest reaches of the mighty Pacific Ocean.


I have to offer that some of these ships were new to me and while obviously significant, are pretty obscure. We all learn something new. So, that gets us through the War of 1812; next up will be Spanish American War and beyond. So, watch for that in the coming weeks. Until then,

                                                 Fair Winds,        

                                                   Old Salt