USS Fenimore Cooper (1853)

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History
United States
Name: USS Fenimore Cooper
Namesake: James Fenimore Cooper, noted American author, was born in Burlington, New Jersey, 15 September 1789 and served as midshipman in the Navy between 1 January 1808 and 6 May 1811
Laid down: date unknown
Christened: as the New York City pilot boat Skiddy
Acquired: January 1853
Commissioned: 21 March 1853
Decommissioned: 13 August 1859
Struck: 13 August 1859
Homeport: New York City, San Francisco, California
Fate: Abandoned in a typhoon in Tokyo Bay, Japan
General characteristics
Type: Schooner
Displacement: 95 tons
Length: not known
Beam: not known
Draft: not known
Propulsion: Schooner sail
Speed: not known
Complement: not known
Armament: Three guns

USS Fenimore Cooper (1853) was a schooner assigned as a ship’s tender to accompany a surveying expedition. After departing from Hampton Roads, Virginia, and navigating the Cape of Good Hope, the expedition traveled throughout the Pacific Ocean accumulating hydrographic information from the South China Sea to the Bering Strait in the Arctic and Alaska.

Subsequently, Fenimore Cooper performed supply operations based out of San Francisco, California, before once again returning to her Pacific Ocean survey work, which continued until she was destroyed in a typhoon off Yokohama, Japan.

Commissioned in 1853[edit]

Fenimore Cooper was a US Navy schooner named for James Fenimore Cooper. She was the New York pilot boat Skiddy until purchased by the Navy in January 1853. She was commissioned 21 March 1853, Master H. K. Stevens in command.

Pacific Ocean survey operations[edit]

Fenimore Cooper was acquired for use as a ship's tender for the Surveying Expedition to the Bering Strait, North Pacific, and China Seas commanded by Commander C. Ringgold, and later, Lieutenant J. Rodgers.

The expedition of five ships, led by USS Vincennes, sailed from Hampton Roads, Virginia 11 June 1853 for the Cape of Good Hope and the Orient. Fenimore Cooper and two other ships charted archipelagos and passages between Batavia and Singapore and from Java northward to the South China Sea until June 1854, when she rejoined the flagship at Hong Kong. Through that summer, the expedition cruised the coast of China, joining the East India Squadron in protecting American interests.

Searching for survivors[edit]

Returning to its surveys in September 1854, the squadron sailed northward to Petropavlovsk, where the ships separated. Vincennes penetrated the Arctic, while Fenimore Cooper searched the Aleutians unsuccessfully for information concerning the fate of the men of the whaler Monongahela, missing since 1853.

Returning to the United States, Fenimore Cooper called at Sitka, Alaska, then Russian territory, in what her commanding officer believed to be the first visit ever paid by an American naval ship to that port.

San Francisco supply operations[edit]

Fenimore Cooper arrived in San Francisco, California 11 October 1855, and through the next three years, carried supplies between Mare Island Navy Yard and San Francisco.

Reassigned to survey duty[edit]

Once more assigned to survey duty, she sailed from San Francisco 26 September 1858 to chart the shipping lanes between the U.S. West Coast and China. She made a thorough examination of numerous small islands and reefs in the vicinity of the Hawaiian Islands, and finding a deposit of good quality guano on French Frigate Shoals, took possession of them for the United States 4 January 1859.

The schooner sailed on to take soundings and make observations in the Marianas and the islands south of Japan.

Lost in a typhoon[edit]

On 13 August she arrived in Kanagawa Bay off Yokohama, where on the 23d she was grounded during a severe typhoon. All her men and most of the stores, instruments, charts and records of survey were saved, but the ship was found not worthy of repair, and abandoned. Her commanding officer and many of her crew returned to the United States in the Kanrin Maru.

References[edit]

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