Seapower that has fatefully and wonderfully shaped the history of America, from the first settlement in colonial days to the present, has many elements. Among these the Navy properly looms large, and within it the Ship-of-the-Line.

Webster defines a Ship-of-the-Line as:

"A ship of war large enough to have a place in the line of battle."

 This definition needs expansion. The ship of the battleline sailed nobly for centuries as the backbone of fleets. It was the mighty mobile fortress that could hit the hardest blows and take the most punishment-for in war one must expect to suffer as well as to harm.

 In the days of sail the magnificent man of war that made up the battleline came to be called Ships-of-the-Line-matchless in grace, speed, and beauty. When iron and steam replaced wood and sail, the successor that evolved for the sailing ship of the battleline at the turn of the century came to be called battleship.

 In volume I of this series we presented an appendix covering all U.S. battleships. It seems appropriate that we should do the same for the U.S. Ships-of-the-Line.

[THUMBNAIL] Pen-and-ink sketch from deck log of Ship-of-the-Line North Carolina by J.F. Keller, one of her crew, apparently depicts the United States as the Goddess of Liberty and her defending armament including North Carolina. Photocopy from National Archives.




Part I: Historical narrative on development 562
Part II: Authorizing acts in chronological order, followed by individual ship historical sketches
An Act of 20 November 1776 566
America 567
Act of 25 February 1799 (ships not built) 572
Act of 2 January 1813 573
Independence 568
Washington 578
Franklin 580
Columbus (construction delayed, again authorized by act of 29 April 1816, q.v.) 582
Act of 3 March 1813 581
New Orleans 581
Chippewa 581
Act of 29 April 1816 585
Columbus 582
Ohio 586
Delaware 590
North Carolina 592
Pennsylvania 596
Vermont 597
Alabama (renamed New Hampshire, later renamed Granite State) 598
New York 600
Virginia 600
North Carolina class--hull dimensions 602


[THUMBNAIL] Delaware, one of the North Carolina class ships-of-the-line designed by Naval Constructor William Doughty. Oil painting by Rear Adm. J.W. Schmidt - Courtesy of the Artist.


Part I



Great sailing ships-of-the-line, carrying from 64 to over 120 heavy guns on two or three decks, were the tangible symbols of national power upon the seas throughout the 1700's and until the end of the 1830's. These 18th century forerunners of the late l9th- and 20th-century battleships were massive sailing fortresses, formidable under any conditions, but attained their greatest effectiveness when operating in squadrons or fleets. From the earliest period of their history, they were the most powerful means by which the British, French, and other European navies exercised control of the seas-the key to national power, wealth, and survival. They dominated the naval scene until mechanical propulsion appeared in the great steam frigates.

 During the Revolution, ships-of-the-line would have been the ideal means to prevent a strong maritime enemy from controlling American colonial coastal waters, driving the Continental frigates and smaller armed ships to cover, blockading the principal seaports, and opening the way for invasion of the seaboard. The Colonies, however, did not have the means to build major warships in numbers to counter the overwhelming seapower of England. France eventually provided the powerful Navy of ships-of-the-line that cut off British communication with the sea, making possible the victory at Yorktown. As George Washington foretold in writing to Lafayette: "a naval superiority would compel the enemy to draw their whole force to a point . . .," forcing them from conquered territories where, deprived of naval support, they would "be cut off in detail ...."

The American Colonies could not build a fleet of ships-of-the-line to contest British control of the sea but they made a start. On 20 November 1776 the Continental Congress authorized three fast and powerful 74-gun class warships. Of these, one, America, was constructed. She was presented to France shortly before launch in 1782 and did not serve the Continental Navy which passed from existence 3 years later.

Desperately short of funds, the newly founded government for a time tried to dispense with a Navy-though clear-sighted men warned of the need and danger. For example, during the struggle for adoption of the Constitution, James Madison cited a regular Navy as "an indispensable instrument of national policy in dealing with foreign nations ...." Alexander Hamilton urged the creation of a Navy that could at least hold the balance of power in the American hemisphere, and be an instrument to control European colonial interests in the West Indies. He reasoned that even with "a few ships-of-the-line whose intervention would often be sufficient to decide the fate of a campaign," that American diplomats could "bargain to great advantage for commercial privileges." Hamilton pointed out that "a price would be set not only on our friendship, but upon our neutrality." The American diplomat in Paris, Gouvernor Morris, also urged a strong Navy as the effective instrument of foreign policy. He wrote that "we could now maintain 12 ships-of-the-line, perhaps 20, with a due proportion of frigates and smaller vessels." Morris was convinced that such a Navy was necessary to "render ourselves respectable."

The critical need for a Navy in peacetime as well as in war was quickly driven home to Americans in the first years of independence. Although the sea had already played a decisive role in her destiny-a role that would increase through the years-the young United States sold the last ship of the Navy in 1785. Lacking a naval armament, she hoped for good will and amity of world powers. She got indignities, loss, humiliation, and contempt.  

As America grew, her merchant ships ranged the world in foreign trade and made contacts that have become her economy's lifeblood and that of the free world. Her unprotected merchantmen soon suffered. Barbary pirates captured them, enslaving the crews. When the exploding French Revolution brought renewed world war between England and France, the American merchant marine was caught in the typhoon. Seamen were impressed, cargoes confiscated, ships captured, even in U.S. territorial waters in view of citizens ashore.

So the United States, born of the sea, had to rebuild a Navy or accept humiliation and large financial losses. On 27 March 1794, Congress authorized six frigates that would become the keel of the new Navy under the Constitution-a Navy that would have a long and glorious history of service that still expands. Two of these ships built in the 1790's, Constellation and Constitution, still float. The former, under Thomas Truxtun, promptly led in victories over French warships in the western Atlantic and Caribbean during the quasi-war with France that soon made these seas again reasonably safe for our shipping.

Constitution played a somewhat larger role than Constellation in quelling the Barbary corsairs in the early 1800's (she would become even more famous in the War of 1812). Led by Americans of great dedication and valor like Preble, Decatur, Rodgers, the small squadron brought the pirates to terms. The force of seapower wisely and resolutely used, enabled successful negotiations with the several Barbary powers. The American Consul of Tripoli commented on the results: "It must be mortifying to some of the neighboring European powers to see that the Barbary States have been taught their first lesson of humiliation from the Western World."

The inauguration of John Adams brought a strong advocate of a first-class Navy to the presidency. Under his administration, an act was passed for the creation of the Navy Department. He wisely appointed Benjamin Stoddert as the first Secretary of the Navy 18 May 1798. At close of the year, Stoddert reported to Congress on naval objectives to insure "protection of our coasts . . . safety of our important commerce, and our future peace ...." He recommended a Navy of at least "12 ships of 74 guns, as many frigates, and 20 or 30 smaller vessels ...." Congress responded with the act of 25 February 1799 which authorized six 74-gun ships and six sloops-of-war. The money appropriated could not finance both classes of warships and only the sloops were built.

Though the 74s were never completed, construction materials were gathered at six seaports and much design work was done by Joshua Humphreys. His son, Samuel, redrew the design which called for a length between perpendiculars of 183 feet, beam of 48 feet, 6 inches; and depth in hold of 19 feet 6 inches. It was planned to make all guns 32-pounders.  

William Doughty, destined to become a leading 74 designer, assisted in making copies of the revised plan which represented the most advanced American ideas on what a ship-of-the-line ought to be at the turn of the 19th century. They would have ranked with the most powerful ships of their class in the world. If these 74s had been in commission or fitting out, their mere existence might have caused second thoughts in England, preventing some of the major incidents at sea that contributed to the causes of the War of 1812. Their planning helped Benjamin Stoddert to lay the foundation of a strong Navy. Acting on the advice of Joshua Humphreys, he acquired property for their building that led to the development of navy yards and docks along the Atlantic seaboard.

Following an unsteady peace with the Barbary States in 1805, Jefferson's government abandoned capital ship construction in favor of a "gunboat era." Public apathy to the need for first-class men-of-war soon received just deserts. American shipping became the hapless victim of British warships striving to cut off supplies to Napoleon. Jefferson's odd-hundred gunboats could do little as English warships detained American merchantmen and often impressed the men on board. Diplomatic protests and negotiations, without powerful naval support, resulted in dismal failures. British squadrons, led by ships-of-the-line, soon strangled America from the sea in a second great war with England.

The United States had retained a few seagoing warships. Under the superb leadership of men like Decatur and Hull, through tireless training, and audacious courage of their crews, these ships won stirring victories in single-ship engagements. Likewise, fleets hastily constructed on the Lakes, won the epic battles of Lake Erie and Lake Champlain that had far-reaching influence on the Nation's history, preventing invasion and saving the Northwest Territory.

The War of 1812 triggered legislation that provided the U.S. Navy's first ships-of-the-line, though none completed before the war ended. The Act of 2 January 1813 led to the construction of Independence, Franklin, Washington, and Columbus. Known as the "Independence class," the four were nearly identical in dimensions and armament. But it is not clear that all were built to one master design. Loss of public and private papers of naval constructors render it impossible to determine which person made the leading contribution. They may have been built to the modified 1799 design of Joshua Humphreys.

Independence was the first U.S. Navy ship-of-the-line to launch and the first to make a foreign cruise. She sailed in July 1815 to lead the Mediterranean Squadron in quelling the renewed piracy of the Barbary States. Her career spanned nearly a century in the U.S. Navy. Sister ships also performed notable service. Washington carried diplomat William Pinkney on his successful mission of adjusting American merchant claims against Naples. Franklin was the initial flagship of the newly formed Pacific Squadron protecting the whaling fleet on the Pacific coast of South America. Columbus cruised around the world as flagship of Commodore James Biddle who exchanged the ratified copies of the first commercial treaty with China. She also carried Biddle into Tokyo Bay, paving the way for Commodore Perry's successful mission in opening Japanese ports to American commerce.  

A supplemental act of 3 March 1813 authorized two 74s for service on the Great Lakes. Named New Orleans and Chippewa, their contract was let 15 December 1814. They were laid down in January 1815 at Sacketts Harbor, Lake Ontario, and nearly complete when peace ended their construction. 

A legislative milestone towards an effective force of first-class warships was "An Act for the Gradual Increase of the Navy of the United States," approved 29 April 1816. It provided for nine 74s (including the previously authorized Columbus) and funding of $1 million per year for a period of 8 years. This act also enabled the construction of some of the finest frigates of any sailing Navy which were improvements over famed Constellation and Constitution. It also resulted in building of ships-of-the-line superior in force to those of the same class of any nation.

The resolution of Congress 3 March 1819 required that the 74-gun class ships building be named for States of the Union. Columbus, missed this privilege, having launched only 2 days previously. As the eight other ships-of-the-line neared completion, their names were determined by lot. The names drawn were Alabama, Delaware, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Virginia. All except Pennsylvania were largely complete by 1825.

The policy was to have the 74s in readiness to launch and fit out as national interests might require. As a result, New York and Virginia never launched. Alabama (renamed New Hampshire in 1863) and Vermont were not commissioned until the Civil War when they served as huge floating naval depots for the Federal Blockading Squadron at Port Royal, S.C.  

The stately North Carolina was third launched but the first commissioned of the new 74s. The flagship of Commodore John Rodgers, she laid the keel of our first commercial treaty with Turkey. She and her sister ships alternated as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron that lent stability in times of international turmoil and projected the seapower so vital to support of diplomacy. North Carolina also served as Pacific Squadron flagship, protecting commerce during the war between Chile and Peru. Delaware performed similar service as flagship of the Brazil Squadron. In the war with Mexico, Ohio supported the land-sea assault that led to the surrender of Vera Cruz. She also furnished a landing force for the amphibious expedition against Tuxpan. She finished out the war as flagship of naval operations on the west coast of Mexico, then became flagship of the Pacific Squadron. A British officer called Ohio "perfection of a line of battleship." She was also known as the most beautiful ship that ever floated.

Of the 74s authorized by the act of 29 April 1816, Columbus was nearly identical to the design of Independence. Franklin, and Washington. Samel Humphreys designed and built the titanic four-decker, Pennsylvania. largest sailing ship ever built for the U.S. Navy. The remaining seven warships were designed and built under directions of William Doughty. North Carolina gave her name to this new class as she was first to commission.

In September 1825, Doughty provided a statistical table on the North Carolina class to the Navy Commissioners "showing the difference between the ships building, and their deviations from the draughts." This table is the most authorative contemporary document found on the actual dimensions of the North Carolina class of 74s. "And as the dimensions given by the draught for each ship were correct and approved," wrote Doughty, "it is conceived that the inference would necessarily be that any deviation would be improper." He further remarked on the ship built by Henry Eckford: "As respects the Ohio, it may be remarked that she is about the same length and beam and 2 feet more in depth of hold than the other ships; that with the same weight on board she will draw from 12 to 18 inches more abaft. She will plunge and fall deeper than the others; and be more uneasy at her mastheads."  

Although Joshua Humphreys, his son Samuel and Henry Eckford were outstanding among those contributing to the development and construction of American ships-of-the-line, naval constructor William Doughty stands first. He began his career 23 October 1794 as clerk of the yard for frigate United States building under Joshua Humphreys' supervision in the Philadelphia yard. When the seat of government moved to Washington, D.C., he was appointed naval constructor of the Washington Navy Yard. He remained from 1812 to 1837, advising the Board of Navy Commissioners and drafting leading warship designs including the Navy's new class of "double-banked frigates." The latter were improvements over the famed Constitution-Constellation classes of 1798.  

William Doughty introduced the extreme type of clipper bow into large-sailing warships of the U.S. Navy. This was one measure of his titanic contribution that produced large first-class men-of-war that could bear a heavier weight of armament than comparable classes of foreign navies, and yet still be stable and swift sailing. His life was dedicated in the execution of design and construction in line with his stated conviction that "instead of the ships of our Navy possessing inferior properties to those of same classes of other nations, it is desirable, and indeed of considerable importance, that they should excell in all their principal qualifications...." He was the designer of nearly every outstanding improved class of frigates and sloops-of-war that appeared in the American sailing navy after the War of 1812. The most powerful of all these were his majestic North Carolina class ships-of-the-line-marvels of the naval architecture of their time and mighty projectors of American Nation prestige and power upon the seas.

The dominance of the ship-of-the-line waned with the appearance of shell guns in the great wooden steam frigates, superceded by Monitor who forecast the age of armor and steel leading to the super-dreadnaughts of the 20th century.


Part II




[THUMBNAIL] This first American authorization for Ships-of-the-line resulted in the construction of America.



 America was the only ship built of three fast and powerful 74-gun class ships-of-the-line authorized by the Continental Congress 20 November 1776. A sister ship was to have been built at Philadelphia but that city fell into British hands before work commenced. Another ship had some work done at Boston but there is no indication that her keel was actually laid.

 America's keel was laid May 1777 in John Langdon's shipyard, Portsmouth, N.H. She was designed by Joshua Humphreys but major alterations during construction are credited to John Langdon, master builder Col. James K. Hackett, master shipwright William Hackett, and John Paul Jones. Capt. John Barry was ordered to superintend her construction 6 November 1779. Lack of funds and materials delayed progress until 25 June 1781 when the Continental Congress ordered her completion as soon as possible. The following day, by unanimous ballot, Congress elected John Paul Jones as prospective commander of America.

 John Paul Jones found America largely uncompleted and without construction funds to the point that carpenters faced discharge by John Langdon. He was determined to retain the carpenters, at his own expense, if need be. Jones secured the financial arrangements to continue construction.

 Jones made substantial alterations in the design plans. These and other changes leave unclear the dimensions and armament of America as built and fitted-out. According to one account, attributed to Jones, her tonnage was 1,982; length on upper gun deck, 183 feet 6 inches; extreme breadth, 50 feet 6 inches; and depth of hold, 23 feet. Lower deck armament was reported as 30 long 18-pounders; on her upper deck: 32 long 12-pounders; on her quarter deck and forecastle: 14 long 9-pounders. Classed as a 74-gun ship-of-the-line, America was to have been manned by 626 officers and men. Her figurehead, planned by Jones, was the Goddess of Liberty, crowned with laurels. Her right arm was raised with the forefinger pointing to heaven as if appealing to that high tribunal in behalf of the justice of the American cause. Her left arm bore a blue shield, studded with 13 silver stars.

In the spring of 1781, Jones learned the British planned to destroy America on the stocks. He provided workmen extra pay to stand guard and took his turn every third night as officer of the guards. The townspeople of Portsmouth also aided. On several nights boats in the river reconnoitered close enough to draw gunfire. Jones feared that a landing force from blockading warships would blow up America.

 America neared completion in the fall of 1782 when several hundred men, some from Jones' former commands-Ranger and Bon Homme Richard, were selected for her crew, Richard Dale, first lieutenant. Meanwhile, French ship-of-the-line Magnifique ran upon the rocks of Boston Harbor and was wrecked. As Jones contemplated salvaging Magnifique's armament to make America a more powerful ship, the Continental Congress 3 September 1782, presented America to King Louis XVI as a mark of gratitude for French assistance in the War for Independence.

John Paul Jones continued supervising America's construction until launch, 5 November 1782. On that day, the first American ship-of-the-line which Jones kind envisioned as the pride of the American Navy, was turned over to Chevalier de Martique, former commander of the wrecked Magnifique.

America completed fitting out at Portsmouth, then sailed for France 24 June 1783. She reached Brest in 3 weeks, had brief French naval service, then was laid up at Brest until ordered broken up in 1786.

[THUMBNAIL] America, the only liner built of those authorized by the first American legislation. Presented to France prior to launching, she did not commission in the Continental Navy. Oil by Blunt, 1835. Courtesy of the Marine Historical Association, Inc., Mystic, Conn.

[THUMBNAIL] John Paul Jones, prospective commander of America, expresses disappointment at proposal to give her to France. [Part 1]

[THUMBNAIL] John Paul Jones, prospective commander of America, expresses disappointment at proposal to give her to France. [Part 2]

[THUMBNAIL] FIRST SECRETARY OF THE NAVY BENJAMIN STODDERT (1798-1801). "It is time we should establish a National Character. Let that character be a love of country and jealousy of its honor, and in seamen also veneration for our Flag." - Benjamin Stoddert, 14 July 1798. Painting by E.F. Andrews.
Ships of the line authorized by the above act were designed by Joshua Humphreys. Their construction materials were collected at six seaports but their building did not progress further. This act also authorized six sloops but provided only a million dollars which would not finance both classes of warships. The sloops were given preference and the 74's were never built.

[THUMBNAIL] This act authorized the first ships-of-the-line to commission in the U.S. Navy. Though four were authorized, only three were laid down under this act: Independence (first launched), Franklin, and Washington. The fourth ship, Columbus, was delayed because of the British plunder of Washington Navy Yard. She was again authorized by the act of 29 April 1916 and is considered a sister ship of the other three.

SHIP OF-THE LINE Independence

Independence was the first to launch and the first to make a foreign cruise of any ship-of-the-line of the U.S. Navy. She was one of "four ships to rate not less than 74 guns" authorized by Act of Congress 9 January 1813. Her sister ships were Franklin, Washington, and Columbus. She launched 22 June 1814 in the Boston Navy Yard, immediately took on guns, and was stationed with frigate Constitution to protect the approaches of Boston Harbor. Her design was identical to Franklin and Washington: Length, 190 feet 10 inches; extreme beam, 54 feet 71/2 inches; tonnage, 2,243; draft, 24 feet 4 inches; and a complement of 790 officers and men. Their original armament was 30 long 32-pounders of 0.55 hundredweight; 33 long 32-pounders of 0.50 hundredweiglht; and twenty-four 32-pounder carronades.  

The lower deck gun ports of Independence came too near the water with all her armament, provisions and complement on board. Some of her heavy guns were exchanged for the lighter 24-pounders of Constitution to help remedy her deep draft. After trials, it was necessary to further increase buoyancy by landing "a considerable weight of carronades, spars, provisions, water, and other articles of equipment."  

The Navy Commissioners ordered Independence not to sail with a view of converting her to a "razee" to improve her efficiency. Before the order reached Boston, she sailed 3 July 1815 under command of Capt. William M. Crane. She wore the broad pennant of Commodore William Bainbridge commanding the second squadron dispatched to deal with the renewed piratical acts of the Barbary ~States. Her lower deck ports were caulked in to overcome the problem of her deep draft in crossing the Atlantic.

 Commodore Bainbridge deplored the proposal to razee Independence for "such a process would have spoiled one of the finest two deck ships in the world." "It is true," he wrote the Navy Commissioners, "the ship is built too shallow a depth for her other dimensions, which makes her lee guns in action rather low . . ." But Bainbridge continued: "You may sir, be assured of one fact; that there is not an officer or seaman on board the Independence who would not willingly engage in her (with all her faults) any ship of two deck that floats." He stated that Independence was a ship of superior stability who was able to outsail the fastest frigates of her squadron. Bainbridge proposed to raise her gun decks but would not be a party to altering one line of the design that might affect her superior speed, handling, and stability.

 Peace with the Barbary States had been enforced by the squadron under Stephen Decatur by the time Independence entered the Mediterranean. But she led an impressive show of American naval might before Barbary ports that encouraged them to keep the peace treaties concluded. Having served adequate notice of rising U.S. seapower and added to the prestige of the Navy and the Nation, she returned to Newport 15 November 1815. Economy measures reduced her status to that of station flagship for Commodore Bainbridge until 29 November 1819. She then was station flagship of Commodore John Shaw until placed in ordinary at Boston in 1822.

 The controversy continued as to whether Independence was capable of performing "services indispensible [sic] for a 74 at all times." Surveys were held with the warship carrying 5 months provisions, water for 700 men, stores, and her original heavy armament. Some of the scuppers of her lower gun deck ports sank beneath the water.

Naval constructor William Doughty reported that "Independence carries her guns too near the water to 'enable her to perform the services indispensible [sic] for a 74 at all times with certainty,'because, in blowing weather, she could not fight her lower lee guns and would therefore be liable to be captured by a ship of inferior force . . .". On the other hand, Oliver H. Perry wrote that "Commodore Chauncey, Captain Creighton and several other officers of rank and reputation, were clearly of opinion that no vessel could surpass the Washington and I see little or no difference between her and Independence."

[THUMBNAIL] Survey of Independence--Extract from Navy Commissioners propsal to Secretary of the Navy that Independence be surveyed by experienced shipwrights and naval officers to determine "what are her defects and the best remedy for them." Letter of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] Extract from seven-page survey report, William Doughty to Navy Commissioners--National Archives Record Group 45.

In this report, Doughty refers to pages 139-140 of "Steele's Elements and Practice of Naval Architecture" citing trial results of Formidable (98 guns), Barfleur (78 guns) and Bombay Castle (74 guns) to show British opinion that a ship-of-the-line "should carry her lowest port still more than 4 feet 6 inches above water, and that a ship has the advantage over another of the same utility, in proportion as she carries her guns higher to a certain extent." He proposed altering Independence to give added height to her guns, either by raising her decks or "to reduce the number of guns by cutting off her spar deck." He also details the method of performing the proposed alterations. With wry humor, he supports the Commissioners' view over ranking Navy officers, realizing both parties were engaged in a contest to gain control in deciding final design and armament of U.S. Navy warships.

 Independence remained in ordinary until 1836 when she was razeed or cut down to one covered fighting deck with poop and forecastle. She was armed with eight 8-inch shell guns and forty-eight 32-pounders as her configuration gave way to that of a very large frigate. The razee proved to be one of the fastest and most powerful frigates of the U.S. Navy.

[THUMBNAIL] The first ship-of-the-line to commission in the U.S. Navy was Independence. This pen-and-ink sketch is from her logbook cover for 1837 when she recommissioned as a "Razee." Photocopy from National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] RAZEE INDEPENDENCE. Painted by Rear Adm. J.W. Schmidt for presentation to the new attack aircraft carrier Independence (CVA-62). Courtesy of the Artist.

 Independence recommissioned 26 March 1837 and departed Boston 20 May 1837 as flagship of Commodore John B. Nicholson. On board for her record passage across the Atlantic to England was the Honorable George Dallas, Minister to Russia. She arrived at Portsmouth, 13 June 1837, witnessing the accession of Queen Victoria to the throne before sailing for Copenhagen. She brought Mr. Dallas into Cronstadt 29 July 1837. Her deck log records: "At 11, His Majesty the Emperor of Russia visited the ship." Two days later, a steamboat arrived to convey Mr. Dallas and his family to St. Petersburg.

 Having received marked social courtesies from the Russian Government, Independence departed Cronstadt 13 August 1837 for Rio de Janeiro, where she became flagship of the Brazil Squadron to guard American commerce along the eastern seaboard of South America. This duty continued into the spring of 1839 when Commodore Nicholson attempted mediation to end the war between France and Argentina. He reported 22 April 1839 that: "I volunteered, as I conceived it a duty I owed to my country, as well as to all neutrals, to endeavor to get peace restored that commerce should be allowed to take its usual course. In accordance of the feelings of humanity at least. I hope my endeavors will be approved by the Department . . . I see no probable termination of this war and blockade which is so injurious to the commerce of all neutrals . . .!'.

 Independence returned north to New York 30 March 1840. She was laid up in ordinary until 14 May 1842 when she became flagship of Commodore Charles Stewart in the Home Squadron. Basing at Boston and New York, she continued this service until placed in ordinary 3 December 1843. She recommissioned 4 August 1846 and the Nation was at war with Mexico as she departed Boston 29 August for the coast of California. She entered Monterey Bay 22 January 1847 and became flagship of Commodore William B. Shubrick, commanding the Pacific Squadron.

 Independence assisted in blockade of the Mexican coast, capturing Mexican ship Correo and a launch 16 May 1847. She supported the capture of Guaymas 19 October and landed bluejackets and marines to occupy Mazatlan 11 November 1847. She later cruised as far as Hawaii, arriving at Honolulu 12 August 1848. She returned to the east coast at Norfolk 23 May 1849 and decommissioned there 30 May.

 Recommissioned 7 July 1849, Independenee departed Norfolk 26 July to serve as flagship of the Mediterranean Squadron under Commodore Charles W. Morgan. She was the first U.S. warship to call at Spezzia, Spain, arriving 23 May for an enthusiastic welcome. She returned to Norfolk 25 June 1852 and was placed in ordinary at New York 3 July 1852.

 Independence recommissioned 4 September 1854 and sailed from New York 10 October to become flagship of the Pacific Squadron under Commodore William Mervine. She reached Valparaiso 2 February 1855, ranging to San Francisco and Hawaii the following years. She entered the Mare Island Navy Yard 2 October 1857 and decommissioned the 19th. The razee commissioned as a receiving ship at Mare Island 4 September 1858, temporarily shifting her berth only once to San Francisco, off Mission Rock (9 November 1867 to 17 February 1869). She decommissioned at Mare Island 3 November 1912 and her name was struck from the Navy list 3 September 1913.

 Independence did not depart Mare Island until 28 November 1914. Having been sold to John H. Rinder, she was towed to the Union Iron Works, San Francisco, Calif. On 5 March 1915, she docked at nearby Hunter's Point. Some repairs were made and a plan formulated to use her as a floating restaurant for the Panama-Pacific Exposition. A permit was granted but the plan was never executed. On the night of 20 September 1915, Independence was burned on the Hunter's Point mudflats to recover her metal fittings. The sturdy veteran of the days of wooden sailing ships and iron men had survived more than a century, 98 years of which were spent in the U.S. Navy. Thus closed the career of the first ship-of-the-line to commission in the U.S. Navy.


SHIP OF-THE-LINE Washington  

[THUMBNAIL] Launch of Ship-of-the-Line Washington, Navy Yard, Portsmouth, N.H. -- 1 October 1814. Artist unknown Courtesy of "The Old Print Shop", New York, N.Y.

Washington, named for our first President, was one of "four ships to rate not less than 74 guns", authorized by Act of Congress 2 January 1813. She was of the same dimensions and armament as reported for Independence. Her keel was laid in the Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H. May 1813. She was the second U.S. Navy ship-of-the-line to launch, going down the ways 1 October 1814. Capt. Isaac Hull supervised her building and Capt. Thomas MacDonough completed her fitting out. She commissioned 26 August 1815, Capt. John Orde Creighton, commanding.

Washington departed Portsmouth 3 December 1815 for Long Island and Boston, then came off Annapolis 15 May 1816. Her deck log of 21 May records: "At half past Meridian His Excellency ,James Madison, the President of the United States and Lady, accompanied by the Secretary and Commissioners of the Navy, came on board to visit the ship, on which occasion the yards were manned, and they were saluted with 19 guns and three cheers."

 Washington anchored near the mouth of the Potomac River 5 June to embark the Honorable William Pinkney. She sailed the 8th as flagship of Commodore Isaac Chauncey, commanding the Mediterranean Squadron. After calling at Gibraltar she reached Naples 14 July 1816. William Pinkney debarked 25 July on his special mission of adjusting claims of American merchants against Naples. Following completion of the negotiations, she sailed with the squadron from Naples Bay 30 August 1816.

[THUMBNAIL] Flagship Washington leads the Mediterranean Squadron from the Bay of Naples, 30 August 1816. Pen-and-ink sketches on this deck log page details order of sailing, Line Abreast and Line Ahead, of the entire Mediterranean Squadron. Photocopy from National Archives.

 Washington remained in the Mediterranean for nearly 2 years, leading her squadron in a show of strength that encouraged Barbary States to respect the rights of American ocean commerce. She was again in the Bay of Naples 12 August 1817 when visited by Prince Henry of Prussia. Commodore Charles Stewart in Franklin. relieved Commodore Chauncey 1 February 1818 at Syracuse Harbor. The warship called at Messina and again cruised the Barbary coast before departing Gibraltar 23 May with about 40 merchant ships bound to the United States.

 Washington reached New York 6 July 1818 and was visited by Vice President Daniel D. Tompkins the 8th. The following day, her deck log records: "At 8 a.m., hoisted the colors half mast in token of respect to the remains of General Montgomery who fell at Quebec during the Revolutionary War which were this day to be interred in the city. At 10, while the procession was moving, commenced firing minute guns." She continued as flagship of Commodore Isaac Chauncey at New York until placed in ordinary in 1820. She remained inactive until broken up in 1843.



 Franklin, named for Benjamin Franklin, was one of "four ships to rate not less than 74 guns" authorized by Act of Congress 2 January 1813. Her keel was laid in the Philadelphia Navy Yard in 1814. She was built by naval constructor Samuel Humphreys and launched 21 August 1815. Her dimensions and armament were identical to that reported for Independence.

Franklin departed Philadelphia 20 October 1817 and stood out from Cape Henlopen the 28th, Master Commandant Henry E. Ballard commanding. She carried Ambassador Richard Rush to Great Britain, reaching Cowes, 17 November 1817. From there she sailed for the Mediterranean as flagship of Commodore Charles Stewart who relieved Commodore Isaac Chauncey as commander of the Mediterranean Squadron at Syracuse Harbor, 1 February 1818. She returned to New York 24 April 1820.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line Franklin rounding Portovenere, near La Spezia about 1819. Courtest of Mr. E. Wheeler Barto.

Franklin again sailed on a foreign cruise 11 October 1821. The flagship of Commodore Charles Stewart, she spent some time at Rio de Janeiro, then rounded Cape Horn for Valparaiso, Chile, arriving 6 February 1822. She and schooner Dolphin formed the newly designated Pacific squadron watching over the American whaling fleets and other national interests along the Pacific coast of South America. She stood out of Callao, Peru, 5 May 1824, and returned to New York 29 August.

Franklin was placed in ordinary 14 September 1824 and was inactive until the summer of 1843 when she became a receiving ship in the Boston Navy Yard. She shifted to the Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H., in 1852 and was ordered broken up 16 August 1853. Such parts as might be sound were to be used in construction of a new steam frigate. But little more than her name was lent to the new warship laid down in 1854 and completed near the close of the Civil War.

SHIPS-OF-THE-LINE New Orleans and Chippewa

[THUMBNAIL] This act of 3 March 1813 lead to the near completion of two ships-of-the-line on the Great Lakes--New Orleans and Chippewa.

 New Orleans and Chippewa were the names assigned to two ships-of-the-line nearly completed in accordance with the act of 3 March 1813 which authorized the President ". . . to have built, or procured, such a number of sloops of war, or other armed vessels, to be manned, equipped, and commissioned, as the public service may require, on the lakes . . ." Their keels were laid down in January 1815 at Sackett's Harbor, Lake Ontario, N.Y., under terms of a contract let 15 December 1814 to Henry Eckford and Adam and Noah Brown. The contract provided that the "master shipbuilders . . . will build or cause to be built as is hereafter set forth, two ships-of-the-line to carry from 74 to 100 guns each as Commodore Chauncey may direct, and one frigate of the largest class for use of the said United States, viz: Said vessels to be built at some proper place at Sackett's Harbor or its vicinity-and said Henry Eckford and Adam and Noah Brown do hereby promise to use every exertion in their power to have the said vessels ready to be launched in the spring or as early as the ice will permit and if possible by the 15th of May next . . ."

 The warships were nearly complete (said to have been runup in 42 days) by the time peace with England was proclaimed in March 1815. According to records kept in the Office of the Board of Navy Commissioners, New Orlear~ and Chippewa were "building at Sacketts Harbor when peace was concluded in consequence of which their further progress was arrested. Their extreme length of keel was recorded as 204 feet, breadth of beam from outside to outside, 56 feet; tonnage, 2,805; number of guns 87-to mount 63 long 32-pounders and twenty-four 32-pounder carronades.

 The "Niles Weekly Register" of 18 March 1815 described New Orleans and Chippewa by reporting "600 carpenters at Sackett's Harbor had made great progress in the building of a ship to carry 98 guns and another of 74 when the building was arrested by news of peace." A week later the same publication described them as "two lake monsters to carry 102 and 110 guns, now planked over."

 Chippewa remained on the stocks until sold for scrapping 1 November 1833. She may have taken her name from Chippewa, Lake Ontario, the scene of a hard fought battle won by the Americans 5 July 1814.

New Orleans apparently was named for the famous battle of the War of 1812. She remained on the stocks, housed over, until sold 24 September 1883 to H. Wilkinson, Jr., of Syracuse, N.Y. Her name had been carried on the Navy list for almost 70 years.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line New Orleans on the stocks at Sackett's Harbor, Lake Ontario, New York, in 1883. Note that a portion of the shiphouse remains. Photograph from the Jefferson County, New York, Historical Society.



[THUMBNAIL] Builder William Doughty comments on the old custom of Punch Drinking by ship's carpenters on raising the frame of Ship-of-the-Line Columbus.

 Columbus, named for the discover of America, was originally authorized by Congress 2 January 1813 but British plunder of the Washington Navy Yard delayed construction. The act of 29 April 1816 authorized "nine ships, to rate not less than 74 guns each, including the one [Columbus] authorized by the act of 2 January 1813." Columbus had near the same dimensions as Independence, Franklin, and Washington but was more heavily armed. All are generally referred to as the Independence class.

 Columbus was built by naval constructor William Doughty in the Washington Navy Yard. Her keel was laid in May 1816 and she launched 1 March 1819. Records of the Board of Navy Commissioners show Columbus measured 191 feet 10 inches, between perpendiculars; breadth of beam from outside to outside, 53 feet 6 inches; molded beam, 52 feet; depth of hold, 21 feet 10 inches; draft of water forward, 24 feet draft of water aft, 25 feet; ballast iron, 315 tons, and ballast shingle, 100 tons. Her original armament is recorded as 92 guns: 68 long 32-pounders and twenty-four 42-pounder carronades.

 Columbus commissioned 29 November 1819, Master Commandant John H. Elton, commanding. She departed Norfolk 29 April 1820 as flagship of Commodore William Bainbridge and led the Mediterranean Squadron in cultivating relations to enhance the honor and prestige of the Nation. She returned to Boston 23 July 1821 and was placed in ordinary.

 Columbus recommissioned 28 April 1845 in the New York Navy Yard. Commanded by Capt. T. W. Wyman and flagship of Commodore James Biddle, she departed New York 4 June 1845 for the most notable cruise of her career. She carried diplomat Alexander H. Everett who was to relieve Caleb Cushing as American Commissioner to China. Accompanied by sloop-of-war Vincennes, she called at Rio de Janeiro where Everett became ill and departed for home. The diplomat transferred his instructions to Commodore Biddle who exchange the ratified copies of the first American commercial treaty with China in elaborate ceremonies near Canton 31 December 1845. Biddle established the American legation there and remained to aid national diplomacy with China until 14 April 1846 when relieved by Dr. Peter Parker.

 Commodore Biddle carried documents authorizing the American Commissioner to make the first official contact with the Japanese Government. As Caleb Cushing had departed for home, Biddle determined to conduct the negotiations. He sailed from Chusan Island in Columbus 7 July 1846 and reached Tokyo Bay the 19th. The proposal to open certain Japanese ports to American commerce was not met with favor. Columbus departed Tokyo Bay 29 July for Hawaii, thence to Valparaiso, Chile, arriving 3 December 1846.

[THUMBNAIL] Departure of Columbus and Vincennes from Tokyo Bay, 19 July 1846. Drawn from sketches by John Eastly.

 Proceeding north, Columbus came off Monterey 2 March 1847 to support Mexican blockade operations until departing San Francisco 25 July. She was bound to Norfolk, arriving 3 March 1848 and decommissioned the 15th. Columbus had logged 69,000 miles since sailing from New York 4 June 1845. Remembered by many as the most successful of our early ships-of-the-line, Columbus lay at Norfolk until 20 April 1861 when she was burned to the waterline to prevent her falling into Confederate hands.

[THUMBNAIL] This act authorized a "New United States Navy" of first-class warships including nine ships-of-the-line. Among those buillt were "The Stately North Carolina, the gigantic Pennsylvania and Ohio--"The most beautiful ship that ever floated."



[THUMBNAIL] ORDER FOR NAMING SHIP-OF-THE-LINE Ohio. Secretary of the Navy's instructions to the Board of Navy Commissioners outlining procedure for selecting names of ships-of-the-line and directing the Board to select the name for the ship building at New York. The Resolution of Congress of 3 March 1819 provided that ships-of-the-line be namd for States of the Union. Photocopy from letters of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] SHIP-OF-THE-LINE Ohio IS NAMED FIVE DAYS BEFORE HER LAUNCHING. Commodore John Rogers reports the name Ohio has been selected for the "74 building at New York" and details the procedure followed by the Board of Navy Commissioners in selecting the name by lot. This procedure continued for others ships-of-the-line after the Secretary wrote the Board: "The mode being designated, no deviation can take place." Photcopy from letters of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.

Ohio was the first launched of a new class of ships-of-the-line designed by naval constructor William Doughty. She was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid in November 1817 and she launched at the New York Navy Yard 30 May 1820. "A more spendid ship I never beheld," said an English naval officer who visited Ohio in 1826 while she lay in ordinary at New York. Owing to economy measures, she remained in ordinary until 1837 when she shifted to the Boston Navy Yard to complete fitting out. She commissioned 11 October 1838, Capt. Joseph Smith, commanding, and sailed the 17th to be armed at New York.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line Ohio. From Brady's Kedge Anchor.

 Ohio was built by naval constructor Henry Eckford who modified the Doughty design in her construction. She was nearly identical to sister ships of "North Carolina class": Alabama (renamed New Hampshire); Delaware, New York, North Caolina, Vermont, and Virginia. Doughty would later complain: "And as the dimensions given by the draught for each ship were correct and approved, it is conceived that the inference would necessarily be that any material deviation would be improper." He had furnished Henry Eckford instructions ranging from deck plans to the mode by which a round house was to be installed. "As respects the Ohio," wrote Doughty, "it may be remarked generally that she is about the same length and beam and 2 feet more in depth of hold than the other ships; that with the same weight on board she will draw from 12 to 18 inches more, abaft, and will carry her guns as high from the water, but being sharper both forward and abaft, she will plunge and fall deeper than the others and be more uneasy at her masthead." Ohio was certainly a handsome ship, being a remarkably good sailer and a good seaboat as well. It was said that she handled like a frigate, so splendid were her sailing qualities.  

A record of Ohio's original armament was not found. There is partial indication in her deck log for 27 October 1838: ". . . received on board 64 breeches and carriages for the lower and main deck guns." Bureau of Ordnance Gun Register shows her armament in 1845 as follows: Spar deck: two 32-pounder cannons and twenty-four 42-pounder carronades. Main deck: thirty-two 32-pounder cannon. Lower deck: thirty-two 42-pounder cannon. In January 1847 some new guns were received and her armament is recorded as follows: Spar deck: four 8-inch shell guns of 53 hundredweight, four 32-pounders of 57 hundredweight and twelve 32-pounders of 42 hundredweight. Main deck: four 8-inch shell guns of 63 hundredweight, twenty-eight 32-pounders of 60 hundredweight. Lower deck: four 8-inch shell guns of 63 hundredweight and twenty-eight 42-pounders.  

The flagship of Commodore Isaac Hull, Ohio departed New York 6 December 1838. Under the command of Capt. Joseph Smith, she made passage through rough seas to Gibraltar in just 21 days with a speed average of about 12 knots. One of her officers wrote the editor of the Boston Transcript: "I never supposed such a ship could be built-a ship possessing in so great a degree all the qualifications of a perfect vessel of war." The Niles National Register of 3 October 1840 reported the observations of an English captain in the Royal Navy: "The Ohio is the perfection of a line-of-battleship." She led a squadron in the Mediterranean having a mission not unlike the powerful 6th Fleet of today, lending stability in time of international turmoil, showing the flag, and protecting our growing maritime commerce. She returned to Boston 17 July 1841 and decommissioned there 3 August.  

Ohio again commissioned at Boston 7 December 1846, Capt. Silas H. Stringham, commanding. She put to sea from Norfolk 1 March 1847 and joined the bombarding fleet off Vera Cruz the 22d. Some of her seamen and marines landed 24 March 1847 to man shore artillery in cooperation with the Army assault that led to the surrender of Vera Cruz. Three hundred of her sailors and marines, led by 15 Officers, were transferred to steam frigate Mississippi to participate in the successful riverine expedition against Tuxpan. She departed her station off Sacrifice Island, near Vera Cruz, 9 May 1847, and reached New York 7 June. There, she embarked U.S. Minister to Brazil, David Todd, for transport to Rio de Janeiro.

 Ohio sailed from New York 26 June 1847, remaining at Rio de Janeiro 7 August to 7 December 1847, before rounding Cape Horn for the Pacific Station. She arrived at Valparaiso, Chile, 20 January 1848. The following day she became the flagship of Commodore Thomas ap Catesby Jones who had charge of naval operations on the west coast of Mexico. She sailed 28 January 1848 for service at Callao, Peru, thence direct to Mazatlan, Mexico, arriving 6 May. On the 18th, she landed Lt. Henry Eld with one midshipman and 60 men to assist occupation of the city. Artisans skilled in building log houses were also sent ashore. All returned by 17 June as the occupation ended under terms of the peace treaty.

 Commodore Jones was relieved 19 August 1848 by Commodore Cornelius K. Stribling. As flagship of Stribling's Pacific Squadron, Ohio cruised north to San Francisco and to Samoa and Hawaii. She returned to the Boston Navy Yard 25 April 1849, decommissioned 3 May 1850, and served there as a receiving ship until placed in ordinary 28 October 1875. She was sold at Boston 27 September 1883 to Israel L. Snow. Her tonnage was 2,757. Dimensions of Ohio appear in naval constructor William Doughty's statistical table on the North Caolina class (q.v.) page 602.

[THUMBNAIL] Ohio was the first named and launched of the ships-of-the-line named for States of the Union. She was admired as the best designed liner to serve the U.S. Navy. Photograph--Courtesy of Rear Admiral A. Farenholt. [Shown housed over and with reduced, ornamental rig.]

Ohio was resold and towed to Peconic Bay, Long Island, New York. Before she was broken up, the "perfection of a line-of-battleship" was visited by thousands of sightseers. Her figurehead of "Hercules" was acquired by the owners of Canoe Place Inn, Hamptons Bay, Long Island. When Canoe Place Inn passed out of existence in 1954, "Hercules" moved to the Village Green of Stony Brook, Long Island, N.Y.

[THUMBNAIL] "Hercules"--Figurehead of Ship-of-the-Line Ohio.



 Delaware was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. She was built to the design of William Doughty by naval constructor Francis Grice in the Norfolk Navy Yard. Her keel was laid August 1817 and she launched 21 October 1820.

 Delaware's station bills for 1834 show her armed with 90 guns: lower deck: thirty-two 42-pounders; Main deck: thirty-two 32-pounders; Spar deck: twenty-four 42-pounders and two 32-pounders. A Bureau of Ordnance gun register of 1846 records: Lower deck: four 8-inch chambered cannon, reamed up from 42-pounder cannon in 1841 and twenty-eight 42-pounders; Main deck: four 8-inch chambered cannon of 63 hundredweight and twenty-eight 32-pounders; Spar deck: two 32-pounders and twenty-two 42-pounder carronades.

 Delaware remained in ordinary until 27 March 1827, then fitted out under Capt. John Downs. The Governor and Maryland Legislators visited her at Annapolis 18 January 1828. She sailed 10 February to base at Port Mahon, Minorca, Balearic Island, arriving 4 April 1828. After transporting passengers and cargo to Leghorn, she returned to Port Mahon to become flagship of Commodore William M. Crane, 22 April. She continued cruising with the Mediterranean Squadron until she passed Gibraltar 20 November 1829 en route to Norfolk, arriving 2 January 1830.

 Delaware entered the Norfolk Navy Yard 16 January and decommissioned 10 February 1830. The Norfolk Navy Yard drydock first went into operation with her docking 17 June 1833, its pumping machinery being operated by steam. All American Navy were fitted with heaving down wharves but only the Norfolk yard had a drydock at that time.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line Delaware entering the drydock at Norfolk, 17 June 1833. The yard drydock first went into operation with this docking of Delaware, its pumping machinery being operated by steam. All American Navy Yard were fitted with heaving down wharves. But Norfolk Navy Yard was the first to have a drydock. Photocopy of Lithograph--from a sketch on stone by J.G. Bruff.

 Delaware recommissioned 15 July 1833, Capt. Henry E. Ballard, commanding. President Andrew Jackson visited the 29th and she departed Norfolk the next day for New York. She sailed 14 August, calling at Cherbourg and Gibraltar en route to Port Mahon, where 5 November 1833 Captain Ballard turned over command to Capt. John B. Nicholson. She ranged from Port Mahon to such seaports as Toulon, Marseilles, Naplex, Alexandria, Beirut, Tripoli, and Malta. Sailing from Gibraltar 13 December 1835, she touched the Danish West Indies before return to Norfolk 16 February 1836. She decommissioned 10 March 1836.

 Delaware again commissioned at Norfolk 7 May 1841, Capt. C. T. McCauley, commanding. She departed 1 November and arrived in Rio de Janeiro 21 December 1841. Flagship of Commodore Charles Morris, she crused the coasts of Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina during the political unrest in those countries until 19 February 1843. She then departed Rio de Janeiro for Port Mahon, arriving 19 April to again serve in the Mediterranean. She returned to Norfolk 4 March 1844 and decommissioned the 22d.

 Delaware lay at Norfolk until burned to the waterline 20 April 1861 to prevent capture by Confederates. Her tonnage was 2,633. Her dimensions appear in William Doughty s statistical chart of the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602. Alias "Powhatan" and "Tecumseh," her figurehead of the celebrated chief of the Delaware Indians, "Tamanend" is revered by U.S. Naval Academy midshipmen as the god of their passing examination mark.


SHIP-OF-THE-LINE North Carolina  

North Carolina was the third launched but the first commissioned of a new class of ships-of-the-line designed by naval constructor William Doughty. She was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. The Resolution of Congress 3 March 1819 specified that ships of her rate be named for States of the Union. Her sister ships were Alabama (renamed New Hampshire), Delaware, New York, Ohio, Vermont, and Virginia.

 North Carolina was built by naval constructor Samuel Humphreys at the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Humphreys' own design was approved by the Navy Commissioners provided that timbers had not already been cut to William Doughty's design. But the timbers had been cut and Humphreys was content with permission to make alterations while following the dimensions of the Doughty design. The nature of these alterations are not clear but they were apparently minor. After completing North Carolina, Humphreys was permitted to build a ship-of-the-line of his own design-the gigantic Pennsylvania.

 North Carolina's keel was laid February 1818. She launched at Philadelphia 7 September 1821 and was fitting out at Norfolk 24 June 1824 when Master Commandant Charles W. Morgan was ordered to command. She was pierced for 102 guns and is said to have originally mounted a total of ninety-four 32-pounder and 42-pounder guns. A Bureau of Ordnance Register shows her armament in 1845 as follows: Spar deck: two 32-pounders, twenty-four 42-pounders, two 9-pounders on board temporarily as signal guns, one 6-pounder carronade, and one boat gun. Main deck: four 8-inch chambered cannons, four 8-inch guns reamed up from 42-pounder cannon-"These guns were reamed up at the West Point foundry in 1841 and are considered of doubtful value," twenty-four 32-pounder cannon. Lower deck: thirty-two 42-pounder cannon.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line North Carolina. Oil by Rear Adm. J.W. Schmidt--Courtesy of the Artist.

[THUMBNAIL] SHIP-OF-THE-LINE North Carolina. Watercolor attributed to Warren. From the Bailey Collection No. 425. The Mariners Museum, Newport News, VA.

 On 15 December 1824, North Carolina became flagship of senior officer of the Navy, Commodore John Rodgers. She also carried captain of the fleet, Capt. Daniel T. Patterson, 10 lieutenants, 34 midshipmen, and a full quota of staff officers. Matthew C. Perry was her senior lieutenant. Several of her midshipmen would later become famous Navy leaders-Samuel F. DuPont, Thomas O. Selfridge, and S. P. Lee. Before sailing from Hampton Roads on her first foreign cruise, 26 March 1825, Commodore Rodgers entertained visitors including President James Monroe. Attorney General William Wirt said of North Carolina: "Genius at her prow and energy on her deck, her country asks no nobler representative on the ocean."

 "The stately North Carolina" departed Hampton Roads 27 March 1825 and reached Gibraltar after a boisterous passage of 33 days. She led the Mediterranean Squadron guarding our merchant commerce during the war between Turkey and Greece. She was also instrumental in establishing the friendly relations and prestige that paved the way for our first commercial treaty with Turkey which opened the principal ports of the eastern Mediterranean and those of the Black Sea to American commercial traders.

 Commodore John Rodgers in North Carolina, successfully sought out the Admiral of the Turkish Fleet to find out whether the Turkish Government was willing to make a treaty, the terms acceptable and the methods of negotiations preferred. He also let it be known that the United States sought trade with all Turkish ports on an equal footing with the most favored nations, free ingress and egress to the Black Sea which had been closed, except to favored European nations, since the capture of Constantinople in 1453, and permission to appoint consuls to any Turkish ports. He thus laid the keel of our first commercial treaty with Turkey.

 The mighty ship-of-the-line cruised throughout the Mediterranean until 18 May 1827, then sailed from Port Mahon for return to Hampton Roads, 28 July 1827. She was placed in ordinary at Norfolk until decommissioned 30 October 1836 to fit out for duty on the Pacific station. She became flagship of Commodore Henry E. Ballard 26 December 1836 and departed Hampton Roads 12 January 1837 for the west coast of South America.

 North Carolina arrived at Rio de Janeiro 4 March, called at Montevideo and Buenos Aires, then rounded Cape Horn to reach Callao, Peru, 26 May 1837. Commodore Ballard assumed command of the Pacific Squadron protecting our merchant commerce at a time when a war was raging between Chile and Peru, further complicated by strained relations between the United States and Mexico. In North Carolina, Ballard provided the qualities of traditional naval leadership emphasized more than half a century later by Secretary of State John Hay: "I have always felt relieved when a naval officer has arrived on the scene because he always kept within the situation."

 North Carolina continued as flagship of the Pacific Squadron until late March 1839 and returned off Sandy Hook, N.J., 27 June 1839. She became a receiving ship at the New York Navy Yard until decommissioned 7 September 1865. A demonstration of the triumphs of naval architecture the American genius was capable of producing, she was one of the most popular ships of her time. Often called "The stately North Carolina," she was sold 1 October 1867.

 North Carolina's figurehead was a bust of Sir Walter Raleigh which was presented to the State in July 1909. Her tonnage was 2,633 and she was designed for a complement of 820 officers and men. Dimensions of North Carolina appear in naval constructor William Doughty's statistical table on the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602.

[THUMBNAIL] "The stately North Carolina was the first commissioned of the liners named for States of the Union and gave her name to the new class. The above is a pen-and-ink sketch by J.F. Keller, one of North Carolina's sailors who has incorporated his name in the sketch. Photocopy of Deck Log Cover--National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] North Carolina (BB-55), first of the U.S. Navy's 20th Century super-dreadnoughts. She continued the name of illustrious predecessors reaching back to 7 September 1820 when another super-dreadnought of that day, Ship-of-the-Line North Carolina was launched in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. North Carolina (BB-55) is now a memorial. She is enshrined at Wilmington, N.C. as shown in this photo.


SHIP-OF-THE-LINE Pennsylvania

 U.S. ship-of-the-line Pennsylvania, named for the State of Pennsylvania, was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. She was designed and built by Samuel Humphreys in the Philadelphia Navy Yard. Her keel was laid in September 1821 but economy measures slowed construction so that she did not launch until 18 July 1837. The largest sailing warship ever built for the U.S. Navy, she had four complete gun decks of which three were covered. Her hull was pierced for 136 guns.

 Shell guns were replacing cannon by the time Pennsylvania was fitting out. She is said to have originally mounted sixteen 8-inch shell guns and 104 32-pounders. A Bureau of Ordnance Gun Register for 1846 records her armament as follows: Spar deck: two 9-pounder cannon and one small brass swivel. Main deck: four 8-inch chambered cannon received from Norfolk in 1842, and thirty-two 32-pounder cannon. Middle deck: four 8-inch chambered cannon received from Norfolk in 1842, and thirty 32-pounder cannon. Lower deck: four 8-inch chambered cannon and twenty-eight 32-pounder cannon.

 Pennsylvania measured 210 feet between perpendiculars; had a molded beam of 56 feet 9 inches, depth of hold, 24 feet 4 inches, tonnage of 3,105; and, a designed complement of 1,100 officers and men.

 Pennsylvania shifted from her launching site to off Chester, Pa., 29 November 1837 and was partially manned there the following day. Only 34 of her guns were noted as having been mounted 3 December 1837. She stood downriver for Newcastle, Del., 9 December, to receive gun carriages and other equippage before proceeding to the Norfolk Navy Yard for coppering her hull. She departed Newcastle 20 December 1837 and discharged the Delaware pilot the 25th. That afternoon she sailed for the Virginia Capes. She came off the Norfolk dry dock 2 January 1838. That day her crew transferred to Columbia.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line Pennsylvania. Designed and built by Naval Constuctor Samuel Humphreys, she was the largest sailing warship ever built for the U.S. Navy. She had four complete gun decks, three of which were covered.

 Pennsylvania remained in ordinary until 1842 when she became a receiving ship for the Norfolk Navy Yard. She remained in the yard until 20 April 1861 when she was burned to the waterline to prevent her falling into Confederate hands.


 Vermont was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid in the Boston Navy Yard September 1818 and she remained completed on the stocks from about 1825 until 1848. It was then discovered that her covering shiphouse was so near the yard boundary that there was danger from fire should the contigous private buildings be set aflame. "I therefore directed that the ship should be launched and secured from injury," wrote Secretary of the Navy Mason, "until the wants of the service would require her to be fitted out for sea."

 Vermont launched 15 September 1848 but did not commission until 30 Jannary 1862, Comdr. A. S. Baldwin, commanding. Her original armament was four 8-inch shell guns and twenty 32-pounders.

 Vermont departed Boston 24 February 1862 to serve as a stores or depot and receiving ship for the South Atlantic Blockading Squadron at Port Royal, S.C. She was relieved by New Hampshire (ex-Alabama) 29 July 1864 and sailed next day to become a receiving ship at New York until decommissioned 30 September 1865. She again served as a receiving ship at New York 1 July 1884 to 31 August 1901. Her name was struck from the Navy list 19 December 1901 and she was sold at New York 17 April 1902.

[THUMBNAIL] Ship-of-the-Line Vermont.

 Vermont's tonnage was 2,633. Her dimensions appear in naval constructor William Doughty’s, statistical table on the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602.



(Renamed New Hampshire, later Granite State)  

A1abama was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid in the Portsmouth Navy Yard, N.H., in June 1819, the year the State of Alabama was admitted to the Union. Though ready for launch by 1825, she remained on the stocks for preservation until needed for service during the Civil War. Her name was changed to New Hampshire 28 October 1863 and she launched 23 April 1864 to be fitted out as a stores and depot ship of the Federal Blockading Squadron. Her original armament was four 100-pounder Parrott rifles and six 9-inch Dahlgren smooth bore guns.

 New Hampshire commissioned 13 May 1864, Commodore Henry K Thatcher, commanding. She sailed from Portsmouth 15 June and relieved sister ship Vermont 29 July 1864 as store and depot ship at Port Royal, S.C. She returned north to Norfolk 8 June 1866, serving as a receiving ship there until 10 May 1876 when she again departed to base at Port Royal. She resumed duty at Norfolk in 1881 but soon shifted to Newport, Rhode Island. She became flagship of Commodore Stephen B. Luce's newly formed Apprentice Training Squadron, marking the commencement of an effective apprentice training program for the Navy.

[THUMBNAIL] New Hampshire (ex-Alabama at Newport, R.I. The last surviving American Ship-of-the-Line, she was lost to the sea in July 1922. Courtesy of National Archives.

 New Hampshire was towed from Newport to New London, Conn., in 1891 and was receiving ship there until decommissioned 5 June 1892. The following year she was loaned as a training ship for the New York State Naval Militia which was to furnish nearly a thousand officers and men to the Navy during the Spanish-American War.

 New Hampshire was renamed Granite State 30 November 1904 so that her State name could be assigned to a newly authorized battleship. Stationed in the Hudson River, she continued training service throughout the years leading to World War I when State naval militia were practically the only trained and equipped men available to the Navy for immediate service. They were mustered into the Navy as National Naval Volunteers. Secretary of the Navy Josephus Daniels wrote in his "Our Navy at War": "Never again will men dare ridicule.the Volunteer, the Reservist, the man who in a national crisis lays aside civilian duty to become a soldier or sailor-They fought well. They died well. They have left in deeds and words a record that will be an inspiration to unborn generations."

Granite State served the New York State Militia until she caught fire and sank at her pier in the Hudson River 23 May 1921. Her hull was sold for salvage 19 August 1921 to the Mulhollund Machinery Corp. She refloated in July 1922 and was taken in tow to the Bay of Fundy. The towline parted during a storm, she again caught fire while under tow and sank off Half Way Rock in Massachusetts Bay.

 The tonnage of Alabama was 2,633. Her dimensions appear in naval constructor William Doughty's statistical table on the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602.



 New York was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid March 1820 in the Norfolk Navy Yard. She was ready for launching, should national interests require, as early as 1825. She remained on the stocks until 20 April 1861 when burned to the waterline to prevent her from falling into Confederate hands. Her design tonnage was 2,633. Her dimensions appear in naval constructor William Doughty's statistical table on the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602.



Virginia was one of "nine ships to rate not less than 74 guns each" authorized by Congress 29 April 1816. Her keel was laid May 1822 in the Boston Navy Yard and she was largely complete by 1825. For economy, she was preserved on the stocks to be launched should national interests require. She remained on the stocks until broken up in 1884. Her design tonnage was 2,633. Her dimensions appear in naval constructor William Doughty's statistical table on the North Carolina class (q.v.) page 602.

[THUMBNAIL] From the time the Board of Navy Constructors first formed in 1811, William Doughty was their principal advisor in ship design and construction. It was common practice for the Board to give Doughty inquiries from naval constructors and others. He prepared replies and instructions which were then forwarded by the Board to the different building yards. This service by Doughty continued into 1836. Letters of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] William Dougty gives directions and plans for altering the curved upper headrails of the ships-of-the-line to that of the "present British mode of straight rails." The American liners were originally designed to have curved upper headrails but the design change to straight rails was ordered by the Board of Navy Commissioners in 1820. Letters of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.

[THUMBNAIL] NAVAL CONSTRUCTOR WILLIAM DOUGHTY. "Instead of the ships of our Navy possessing inferior properties to those of the same classes of other nations, it is desirable, and indeed of considerable importance, that they should excell in all their principal qualifications." Courtesy of the Peabody Museum of Salem.

[THUMBNAIL] Statistical chart on hull dimensions of the North Carolina class ships-of-the-line. Photocopy from letters of the Board of Navy Commissioners--National Archives.


[THUMBNAIL] Sketch of Ship-of-the-Line North Carolina. Copied from a journal of a cruise in the Pacific by Midshipman A.D. Harrel, 1837-39.

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These histories are taken from Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships (US Naval Historical Center, 1959-1991). The histories may not reflect the most recent information concerning the ships' status and operations.

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