Tuesday, January 3, 2012
Figure 1: USS Adams moored off Vallejo, California, in mid-March 1898, shortly before the ship was placed out of commission at the Mare Island Navy Yard. US Navy photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 2: Adams class steam sloop at anchor in what appears to be a Far Eastern port, circa the later 1870s or the 1880s. Ships of this class included USS Adams (1876-1920), USS Enterprise (1877-1909), USS Essex (1876-1930), USS Alliance (1877-1911) and USS Nipsic (1879-1913). US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 3: Adams class steam sloop in port, probably in the vicinity of New York City, circa the 1880s. Photographed by E.H. Hart, 1162 Broadway, New York City. Ships of this class included USS Adams (1876-1920), USS Enterprise (1877-1909), USS Essex (1876-1930), USS Alliance (1877-1911) and USS Nipsic (1879-1913). US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 4: USS Vandalia (1876-1889) fitting out in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, circa early 1876. Behind her, at right, is USS Adams, also fitting out. In the distance is the Navy Yard's receiving ship, USS Ohio. Steam sloops like Adams and Vandalia made up the backbone of the US Navy until the steel warships of the “New Navy” started being commissioned in 1886. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Figure 5: Closer view of USS Vandalia (1876-1889) fitting out in dry dock at the Boston Navy Yard, Massachusetts, circa early 1876. Behind her, at right, is USS Adams, also fitting out. In the distance is the Navy Yard's receiving ship, USS Ohio. Steam sloops like Adams and Vandalia made up the backbone of the US Navy until the steel warships of the “New Navy” started being commissioned in 1886. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.
Named after President John Adams, the 1,375-ton USS Adams was the lead ship in a class of single-screw, wooden-hull, bark-rigged steamers. She was laid down by Donald MacKay in February 1874 at Boston, Massachusetts, and was commissioned on 21 July 1876 at the Boston Navy Yard. Adams was approximately 185 feet long and 35 feet wide, had a top speed of 9.8 knots, and had a crew of 190 officers and men. The ship was armed with one 11-inch gun, four 9-inch guns, and one 60-pounder Parrott rifle.
After being commissioned, Adams spent most of her time visiting ports along America’s east coast. On 12 March 1877, Adams arrived at Norfolk, Virginia, and stayed there for five weeks. Then on 21 April, the ship set sail for duty on the South Atlantic Station. Adams arrived at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, on 2 June and over the next three months patrolled along the Brazilian coastline. On 8 September, Adams left Rio de Janeiro and headed south to the Strait of Magellan. Along the way, she made stops at Montevideo, Uruguay, and Buenos Aires, Argentina. Adams arrived at the Strait of Magellan on 12 November and remained there almost a month to assist Chilean government officials at Sandy Point during a mutinous situation there on board a ship. Adams resumed her voyage on 8 December and arrived at Valparaiso, Chile, on 14 December.
On 1 January 1878, Adams left Valparaiso and headed for Callao, Peru, to join the US Navy’s Pacific Station. The ship remained at Callao from 11 January to 5 February and then reached Panama on 21 February. Adams stayed at Panama for three months and then left for the island of Samoa, which had just completed negotiations with Washington on a treaty of “amity and commerce” between the United States and that island kingdom. Adams arrived at Apia, Samoa, on 28 June and remained there for roughly a month until the treaty was finalized. After the treaty was signed, Adams left Samoa and sailed back to Valparaiso. She remained there until late November. The ship continued making stops at ports in South and Central America, as well as Mexico, until the summer of 1879. Adams then headed for San Francisco, California. She arrived there on 19 July and entered the Mare Island Navy Yard two days later for a lengthy overhaul.
Adams completed her overhaul on 3 February 1880. She returned to the Pacific Station and made frequent trips to Mexico, Costa Rica, and Peru. The ship returned to San Francisco on 12 July and then re-entered the Mare Island Navy Yard on 28 July 1881. After that, Adams continued patrolling the waters off Mexico and Central America until 13 May 1882, when she returned to the Mare Island Navy Yard for yet another overhaul.
On 12 September 1882, Adams left San Francisco but instead of heading south, like she normally did, the ship headed north for Alaska. Adams reached Sitka, Alaska, on 1 October and remained in the northern Pacific for almost 23 months. During her stay in Alaska, Adams primarily monitored the seal fur industry and regulated the relations between the native Indian and Eskimo populations and the large number of traders, trappers, prospectors, sealers, and whalers that had established themselves in that area since the United States purchased the territory from Russia in 1867. Adams patrolled Alaskan waters from her base at Sitka until late in the summer of 1884. On 19 August, the gunboat departed Sitka and headed south along the coast of North America. Adams arrived in San Francisco on 27 August and went into the Mare Island Navy Yard the following day. On 20 September 1884, Adams was placed out of commission at Mare Island. She remained inactive for more than a year. On 2 November 1885, Adams was re-commissioned at Mare Island and spent the next month preparing for an extended tour of duty patrolling the waters of South and Central America.
Adams left San Francisco on 2 December 1885 and, after making several stops at Mexican ports along the way, arrived at the port of San Jose, Guatemala, on 4 January 1886. For the next 16 months, Adams “showed the flag” along the western coast of Latin America. But on 15 May 1887, Adams left Acapulco, Mexico, and set a new course for the Hawaiian Islands. The ship arrived at Honolulu, Hawaii, on 14 June.
After spending several months in Hawaii, Adams left on 2 October for Samoa. Adams reached Apia Harbor on 19 October. At that time, Germany was making moves to increase its influence in Samoa, but regular visits by American warships such as Adams discouraged the Germans from taking over the island. Adams remained in the area until 1 February 1888, when she returned to Hawaii. She arrived at Honolulu on 27 February and remained there until mid-May. On 14 May, Adams returned to Samoa and remained there until 6 December, when she began her journey back to the United States. After making a stop at Honolulu, the ship arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 1 February 1889. After being placed out of commission from 25 March to 22 April 1889, Adams was re-commissioned and sent back to Hawaii, arriving at Honolulu on 4 July.
Adams assisted in maintaining American control over the Hawaiian Islands. While there, a small insurrection group tried to overthrow the king that was installed by American business and missionary interests in Hawaii. Although a local militia unit put down the rebellion, a landing party from Adams went ashore and established itself in the vicinity of the American legation. The Hawaiian government restored order quickly without the necessity of American military intervention, so the landing party was sent back on board Adams the following morning.
On 4 August 1889, Adams left Honolulu and returned to Samoa. She remained there for the next nine months, serving as the American station ship there and making periodic visits to other islands. On 2 May 1890, Adams left Samoa and returned to the United States, via Hawaii. She arrived at the Mare Island Navy Yard on 25 June 1890 and was decommissioned on 31 July. After almost 20 months at Mare Island, Adams was re-commissioned on 23 March 1892. She left San Francisco on 12 April 1892 and returned to Sitka, Alaska, to monitor the seal fur industry there. By 17 December, the ship was back at Mare Island and underwent yet another overhaul before she set sail once again for Hawaii. By 12 April 1893, Adams was on her way back to Hawaii. However, this time the warship was going to observe conditions and protect American lives and property during a period of domestic and political unrest. The political situation in Hawaii had worsened since Adams’ last trip there. A revolution had taken place in January of 1893, where the faction that favored annexation by the United States overthrew the native Hawaiian monarchy, replacing the government of Queen Liliuokalani with a republic. Adams arrived in Honolulu on 26 April 1893 and remained there for almost a year, making sure that the outcome of the political events there favored the United States.
On 15 April 1894, Adams left Honolulu and returned to Alaska after making a stop at Port Townsend, Washington, for some repairs. After patrolling the sealing grounds off Alaska for several months, Adams returned to San Francisco and Mare Island on 12 September. Adams was once again placed out of commission on 16 November 1894.
After more than 13 months of inactivity at Mare Island Navy Yard, Adams was placed back in commission there on 24 December 1895. What followed were a few more tours of duty in Hawaii, which included a training cruise for recruit apprentices in February 1897. On 30 April 1898, Adams was decommissioned once more at Mare Island, but was re-commissioned on 7 October of that same year. But time was catching up to Adams and with newer, more powerful, steel gunboats now being produced, her days as a warship were numbered. From then on, Adams was used primarily as a training ship, making many more trips to Hawaii, Samoa, and Alaska. On one of those training cruises, Adams left Samoa on 17 June 1907 and returned to the United States by way of the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean Sea, and the Atlantic Ocean. On 21 November 1907, while Adams was completing the last leg of her journey home, the Navy Department decided to loan her to the State of Pennsylvania as a training ship. The ship arrived at League Island, Pennsylvania, on 19 December 1907 and was decommissioned there on 31 December 1907.
Turned over to the state of Pennsylvania on 20 August 1908, Adams served as a school ship for the Public Marine School at Philadelphia until she was returned to the US Navy on 6 February 1914. On 1 May, the ship was loaned to the State of New Jersey and used as a training ship for that state’s naval militia. Adams continued to be used as a training ship for New Jersey naval militiamen until after the United States entered World War I in 1917. Re-commissioned on 27 August 1917, Adams served as a station ship in the Delaware River until well after the end of the war. USS Adams was decommissioned for the last time on 5 August 1919 and was sold in August 1920. The old warship served briefly as a merchant ship before being broken up in either 1921 or 1922.
USS Adams was one of the last wooden gunboats built by the US Navy before the advent of the all-steel warships. And even as newer, larger, and much more powerful steel gunboats were being built in the 1890s, ships like Adams were still used to “show the flag” and defend American lives and property around the world. Adams’ career spanned roughly 43 years and in that time she patrolled off the coasts of Mexico, South and Central America, Hawaii, Samoa, and Alaska; and when her days as a gunboat were over, she was used as a training ship. Adams proved that even though she was one of the last ships in the US Navy with a wooden hull, she still was a tough warship that could be used for numerous jobs over many years.