Tuesday, December 29, 2009

USS Ranger (later Rockport, Nantucket)

Figure 1: USS Ranger (1876-1940) drying sails while moored off the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, in December 1899. Torpedo boats in the right distance are USS Davis (Torpedo Boat # 12) and USS Fox (Torpedo Boat # 13). This ship served under the names Ranger (1876-1917), Rockport (1917-1918) and finally Nantucket (1918-1940) during her naval career. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2: Oil painting of USS Ranger by T.G. Purvis, London, England. From the family of Lt. Commander Samuel J. Miller, USCG, via his grandson, James R. McGihon. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3: Drawing by Fred S. Cozzens of USS Enterprise (1877-1909), at left, and USS Ranger (1876-1940), as published in "Our Navy -- Its Growth and Achievements," 1897. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4: USS Solace (1898-1930), with white hull, and USS Scindia (1898-1925, later renamed Ajax) at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, circa 1899. USS Ranger (1873-1940) is moored in mid-channel, at the far left. Courtesy of the San Francisco Maritime Museum, San Francisco, California, 1970. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5: USS Ranger on 6 July 1913, Algiers. Courtesy “Conway's All the World's Fighting Ships 1860 – 1905.” Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 6: USS Nantucket (PG-23, later designated IX-18) as a training ship for the Massachusetts Nautical School, circa 1933. In this view, she has changed little since her construction fifty years before. She has a barkentine sail rig, but her navigating bridge is just forward of her funnel, adding a modern touch to her elderly appearance. US Navy photograph. Click on picture for larger image.

USS Ranger was a 1,020-ton, iron-hulled, steam-powered ship with a full auxiliary barkentine sail rig. She was built by Harlan and Hollingsworth at Wilmington, Delaware, and commissioned at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on 27 November 1876. Ranger was approximately 177 feet long and 32 feet wide, had a top speed of 10 knots, and had a crew of 138 officers and men. The ship was armed with one 11-inch smooth-bore cannon, two 9-inch smooth bores, and one 60-pounder gun.

Initially, Ranger was assigned to the Atlantic Station and was based at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, until 8 March 1877. After that, she was assigned to the Asiatic Station and was converted for use in the tropics as a gunboat. Ranger left New York on 21 May 1877 and arrived in Hong Kong on 24 August 1877, traveling via Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, the Suez Canal, and the Malacca Straits. Ranger remained with the Asiatic Station until the fall of 1879, protecting American lives and property throughout the Far East. She eventually was ordered to return to the United States and arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard, California, on 24 February 1880. While there, she was converted into a survey vessel.

From 1881 to 1889, Ranger was assigned to hydrographic survey work off the coast of Mexico, Baja California, Central America, and in the northern Pacific region. At times, she also functioned as a conventional gunboat in the waters off Central America. Ranger temporarily was decommissioned from 14 September 1891 to 26 August 1892 at the Mare Island Navy Yard, but was re-commissioned to assist in the protection of American seal fisheries in the Bering Sea. On 31 January 1894, Ranger returned to protect American interests in Central America and stayed there until she was decommissioned once again on 26 November 1895.

Ranger was re-commissioned on 1 November 1899 and resumed her previous duties as a survey ship off Mexico and Baja California. She also returned to Central America, where political turmoil seemed to erupt on a continuous basis in that troubled part of the world. She again was decommissioned from 11 June 1903 to 30 March 1905, but this time at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard, Washington.

Ranger was re-commissioned and left Puget Sound on 16 April 1905 and returned to the Asiatic Station, arriving at Cavite in the Philippines on 30 May. Because of constant maintenance troubles, Ranger was decommissioned at Cavite on 21 June 1905. She remained there until being re-commissioned on 10 August 1908. Ranger left Cavite on 16 August and returned to the United States via the Suez Canal and the Mediterranean. She arrived at Boston on 12 December and immediately was decommissioned.

On 26 April 1909, Ranger was loaned to the State of Massachusetts as a school ship. Her name was changed to Rockport on 30 October 1917 and then changed again to Nantucket 20 February 1918. While serving as Nantucket, she functioned as a gunboat for the First Naval District during World War I. She also was used as a training ship for US Navy midshipmen. Nantucket was designated PG-23 in 1920, and then was re-designated IX-18 on 1 July 1921 and was returned to Massachusetts as a school ship. She served in this capacity until 11 November 1940, when she was transferred to the Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, New York, also for use as a school ship. The old warship was finally struck from the Navy list on 30 November 1940, after serving this nation in various capacities for an amazing 64 years.