USS Portsmouth (1843)

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USS Portsmouth in 1896
USS Portsmouth in 1896 (John S. Johnston, photographer)
Career Union Navy Jack
Name: USS Portsmouth
Builder: Portsmouth Navy Yard
Launched: 23 October 1843
Commissioned: 10 November 1844
Decommissioned: 14 July 1878
Struck: 17 April 1915
Fate: Sold, and destroyed, 6–7 September 1915
General characteristics
Type: Sloop-of-war
Displacement: 1,022 long tons (1,038 t)
Length: 151 ft 10 in (46.28 m)
Beam: 37 ft 3 in (11.35 m)
Draft: 16 ft 6 in (5.03 m)
Propulsion: Sail
Complement: 200 Naval officers and enlisted, 27 Marines
Armament: • 18 × medium 32-pounder guns
• 2 × Paixhans 64-pounder shell guns

The second USS Portsmouth was a wooden sloop-of-war in the United States Navy in service during the mid-to-late 19th century. She was designed by Josiah Barker and built in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on the lines of a French-built privateer. She was described as an improvement over the USS Saratoga built in the same shipyard a year earlier. The Portsmouth was launched at the Portsmouth Navy Yard on 23 October 1843 and commissioned on 10 November 1844, with Commander John Berrien Montgomery in command.

Service history[edit]

Mexican-American War, 1845–1848[edit]

The Portsmouth was an important ship during the Mexican-American War, when her crew liberated the town of Yerba Buena, whose name was changed to San Francisco in 1847. She set sail on 25 January 1845 from Norfolk, Virginia, on a cruise around Cape Horn to join the Pacific Squadron under the command of Commodore John D. Sloat. En route, she made stops in Rio de Janeiro, Valparaiso, Callao, the Sandwich Islands, and Acapulco. To prevent the possibility of Great Britain acquiring California, she was initially engaged in protecting San Francisco Bay by watching the movements of British vessels off the California coast. After the declaration of war with Mexico, a detachment of Marines under the command of Second Lieutenant Henry Bulls Watson rowed ashore and raised the American flag over Yerba Buena on 9 July 1846, seizing California for the United States. The plaza where this occurred in San Francisco is now called Portsmouth Square in honor of the Portsmouth and is located in Chinatown. The Portsmouth remained in San Francisco Bay until November 1846 when she was sent to San Diego. During 1847, the Portsmouth was assigned to blockade Mexico's west coast. On the morning of 3 January 1848, the Portsmouth finally got underway for the cruise back to the United States east coast.

Henry Bulls Watson's Marines of the USS Portsmouth proceding ashore on July 9, 1846 to hoist the American flag at Yerba Buena, San Francisco

West Africa, 1848–1851[edit]

Returning to Boston in May 1848 she departed again on 29 August and sailed east to the African coast. There until 1 February 1849 she patrolled with Royal Navy ships to suppress the slave trade. Between September 1849 and May 1851 she again cruised off the West African coast, returning to Boston on 26 June.

Pacific, Africa, 1851–1861[edit]

Six months later Portsmouth left Boston for duty in the Pacific. On 5 April 1855 she returned to the east coast for overhaul at Norfolk and on 3 May 1856 got underway for the Pacific again. Under Commander Andrew H. Foote she reached Batavia 94 days later, whence she sailed to China. There she participated in the engagement with the Barrier Forts of Canton on 16–22 November 1856. Ordered home in January 1858, she remained at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, until sailing for Africa again for a three year tour, 1859–61.

Civil War, 1861–1865[edit]

USS Portsmouth in full sail

Portsmouth refitted at Portsmouth between September and December 1861, then sailed for the Gulf of Mexico and duty with the Gulf Blockading Squadron. By the end of February 1862 she had captured two blockade runners off Texas. In April she participated in operations against Forts Jackson and St. Philip, then from May 1862 to August 1865 operated as station ship at New Orleans.

South America, Pacific, 1865–1878[edit]

Continuing her varied career after the American Civil War Portsmouth served as quarantine vessel at New York, 1866–67; cruised off Brazil and Africa, 1869–71; carried relief personnel to Brazil in early 1872; and participated in survey assignments in the eastern Pacific, 1873–74. In 1875 she conducted a cruise off the west coast of Latin America and on 14 July 1878 was decommissioned as a cruiser and assigned as a training ship for boys. On 25 July 1876 at Mare Island Naval Shipyard, Boatswain's Mate Alexander Parker attempted to rescue a shipmate from drowning, for which he was later awarded a Medal of Honor.[1]

Training ship, 1878–1915[edit]

In 1878 Portsmouth returned to the east coast, arriving at Washington, D.C. on 16 February. In March she sailed to France, returning in December to resume training ship duties on 17 January 1895, first with naval apprentices, then with the New Jersey Naval Militia, until March 1911. It was during this time Fred J. Buenzle had served aboard the Portsmouth, as noted in Bluejacket; An Autobiography, a part of the Classics Of Naval Literature series. Three of her crewman earned the Medal of Honor during this period for jumping overboard to rescue fellow sailors: Seaman Henry C. Courtney and Boatswain's Mate Thomas Cramen on 7 February 1882 and Boatswain's Mate Francis Moore on 23 January 1882.[2] Portsmouth was then loaned to the Public Health Service, Quarantine Station, Charleston, S.C. to serve as a boarding launch. She was struck from the Navy List on 17 April 1915 and subsequently sold.

Portsmouth was taken to Governors Island, Boston Harbor, and burned on the night of September 6–7, 1915, the culmination of a South Boston carnival. The event was well attended by politicians and others, and a fireboat siren shrieked a salute as flames poured out of her empty gun ports.

The Portsmouth was adopted as the logo for Bank of America by Amadeo Giannini, the bank's founder. This was likely due to the ship's history of liberating San Francisco, then called Yerba Buena[citation needed]. See "http://www.worthpoint.com/worthopedia/bank-of-america-service-pin" an example of this logo.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.

  1. ^ Robeson, George M. (June 9, 1876). "General Order, No. 215". General orders and circulars issued by the Navy Department (Washington, D.C.: United States Government Printing Office) (1863–1887): 150. Retrieved August 11, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Medal of Honor Recipients - Interim Awards, 1871–1898". Medal of Honor Citations. United States Army Center of Military History. August 5, 2010. Retrieved August 11, 2010. 

Coordinates: 43°04′44″N 70°44′26″W / 43.0788°N 70.7405°W / 43.0788; -70.7405