USS Decatur (1839)
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|Laid down:||date unknown|
|Acquired:||1839 at New York Navy Yard|
|Commissioned:||circa 16 March 1840|
|Decommissioned:||20 June 1859|
|In service:||March 1863|
|Out of service:||1865|
|Fate:||sold, 17 August 1865|
|Length:||117 ft (36 m)|
|Beam:||32 ft (9.8 m)|
|Complement:||150 officers and men|
USS Decatur was a sloop-of-war in the United States Navy during the mid-19th century. She was commissioned to protect American interests in the South Atlantic Ocean, including the interception of ships involved in the African slave trade. Decatur served in both the Mexican-American War and the American Civil War.
The sloop-of-war was named in honor of Commodore Stephen Decatur (1779–1820), one of the United States Navy's greatest heroes and leaders of the first two decades of the 19th century.
Decatur, a large sloop of 566 tons, was built in 1838 and 1839 at New York Navy Yard. She was outfitted with heavy guns and manned by a crew of 150 officers and enlisted men.
South Atlantic Ocean operations
Commanded by Commander H. W. Ogden, she sailed from New York 16 March 1840 for duty with the Brazil Squadron, returning to Norfolk, Virginia 28 February 1843. Her second cruise, from 5 August 1843 to 3 January 1845 was with the African Squadron for the suppression of the slave trade. She was placed in ordinary during 1845 and 1846.
Mexican-American War operations
Although she was too large to ascend the Tuxpan River, 14 of her officers and 118 men accompanied Commodore Matthew C. Perry's expedition to attack Tuxpan. She also furnished 8 officers and 104 men for the capture of Tabasco from 14 to 16 June. She continued to cruise in Mexican waters until 2 September when she sailed for Boston, Massachusetts, arriving 12 November.
Atlantic Ocean operations
Rejoining the African Squadron, Decatur cruised on the northwest coast of Africa on the lookout for slave ships and protecting U.S. interests from 2 February 1848 to 15 November 1849. After a period in ordinary she sailed from Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for duty with the Home Squadron, cruising off the Atlantic Coast and in the Caribbean until arriving at Boston 21 August 1852 where she was decommissioned for repairs.
Recommissioned 12 July 1853 Decatur joined a Special Squadron to guard the fishing interests of American citizens in North Atlantic Ocean waters, returning to Boston in September to prepare for distant service. After searching for the missing merchant ship San Francisco in the Caribbean in January and February 1854, she sailed from Norfolk 16 June to join the Pacific Squadron.
Pacific Ocean operations
After a stormy transit of the Straits of Magellan, she called at Valparaíso, Chile, arriving 15 January 1855, then visited Honolulu from 28 March to 23 June. Sailing on to Washington Territory, Decatur entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca 19 July.
On her way to Seattle, on 7 December 1855, Decatur ran aground on rocks at Restoration Point, Bainbridge Island, Washington Territory. Had she not righted herself with the incoming tide, the fate of Seattle might have turned out very differently. Decatur remained in the Pacific Northwest to deter Native American outbreaks, providing support to the settlers in the Battle of Seattle (26 January 1856) (Decatur Senior High School in Federal Way, Washington was named after her to honor this defense). She cruised to San Francisco, California between 2 August and 27 September 1855 for supplies.
On 13 June 1856, she arrived at Mare Island Navy Yard for repairs, and on 8 January 1857, sailed for Panama, touching at Central American ports for the protection of U.S. interests. She sailed 3 June to Nicaragua to evacuate U.S. citizens connected with the filibustering expedition of William Walker to Panama, where she arrived 5 August. She cruised off Panama, Peru, and Chile until 23 March 1859 when she was ordered to return to Mare Island.
Civil War service
She was decommissioned at Mare Island 20 June 1859 and remained in ordinary until March 1863 when she was fitted as a defensive floating battery and stationed off San Francisco.
She was sold at Mare Island 17 August 1865.
- List of sloops of war of the United States Navy
- List of sailing frigates of the United States Navy
- Bibliography of early American naval history
- This article incorporates text from the public domain Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. The entry can be found here.
- Binnie, Mabel Fisken. "In Search of Bainbridge Island" (map). Dec 1932.