Tuesday, February 18, 2014

USS Galena

Figure 1:   USS Galena photographed circa the later 1880s or early 1890s. The original print identifies this ship as USS Alliance, which it is not. The letter "G" on the bow of the embarked boats (on davits aft, and in water amidships) show her to be Galena. Other recognition features for this class include the quarter galleries and the six broadside gun ports aft of the single pivot port. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 2:  USS Galena dressed with flags, circa the later 1880s. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 3:   USS Galena off Boston, Massachusetts, circa 1880. There are several three-masted schooners in the background, at left. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 4:   USS Galena photographed circa the later 1880s or early 1890s. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Figure 5:   USS Galena's mizzen topmen, with a pet goat and bird circa the 1880s. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image. 

Figure 6:   USS Galena's African-American sailors, circa the 1880s. US Naval Historical Center Photograph. Click on photograph for larger image.

Named after a city in both Kansas and Illinois, the 1,900-ton USS Galena was a wooden steam screw sloop that was built by the Norfolk Navy Yard at Norfolk, Virginia, and was commissioned on 26 August 1880. The ship was approximately 216 feet long and 37 feet wide, had a top speed of 9.5 knots, and had a crew of 214 officers and men. Galena was armed with six 9-inch smooth-bore cannons, one 8-inch gun, and one 60-pounder cannon.

After her shakedown cruise was completed, Galena left Hampton Roads, Virginia, on 19 December 1880 and headed for the Mediterranean, reaching Gibraltar on 12 January 1881. She visited ports in southern France, Spain, Portugal, Turkey, and Greece before moving on to the west coast of Africa. The ship also made port calls at the Canary, Cape Verde, and Madeira Islands.

Galena then returned to the Mediterranean and on 7 April 1881 arrived at Kastro on the island of Chios in the Aegean Sea.  The ship remained there until 15 April, with the crew helping the local population deal with the terrible results of a severe earthquake. Galena’s doctor went ashore to treat the wounded and her crew assisted in clearing rubble. The ship’s steam launch also transported relief supplies from the ship to the town. Galena then went on another mercy mission on 10 June 1882, when she arrived at Alexandria, Egypt, to evacuate American citizens and personnel from the American consulate who were fleeing major civil unrest on shore. After transferring 135 Americans to a chartered Italian passenger ship (which later brought these people to safety), Galena left Alexandria on 11 July for operations along the eastern coast of South America.

From 19 October 1882 to 31 January 1883, Galena served as the flagship of Rear Admiral P. Crosby, the commanding officer of the American naval forces in the South Atlantic. Galena then went to New York City and arrived there on 10 September 1883. Based in New York City, the ship was ordered to patrol along the east coast of the United States and in the Caribbean. Galena also made trips to Aspinwall, Columbia (now Colon, Panama) and Key West, Florida.

On 11 March 1885, Galena arrived at Aspinwall from New Orleans, Louisiana, to protect American lives and property during a major revolution that threatened to disrupt traffic over the Isthmus of Panama. These were the days before the construction of the Panama Canal, so any major political unrest on the Isthmus had serious consequences on international commerce there. On 30 March, after a group of rebels seized the Pacific Mail Line steamer Colon, Galena and her crew regained possession of the steamer and returned the ship to its owners on the same day. The next day, Galena sent a landing force of sailors into the town of Colon to restore order after much of the town was burned down by rebels. Galena’s landing force managed to save part of the town and all of the property belonging to the Pacific Mail Company. On 10 April, USS Tennessee arrived with 600 Marines to assist Galena in keeping the Isthmus open to commerce. The American sailors and Marines also enforced treaty obligations until order was restored in May.

Galena left Colon on 9 June 1885 and arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on 26 June to begin several months of patrol duties along America’s east coast. Galena then sailed to the Atlantic coast of Columbia (now Panama) on 27 November 1885 for service in the Caribbean. On 14 February 1886, Galena went to St. Andrew Island, located 114 miles off the east coast of Nicaragua, to investigate the detention of the American cargo ship City of Mexico. Finding that United States neutrality laws had been violated by the steamer, Galena seized City of Mexico and brought her under a prize crew to Key West, where the steamer was turned over to the US Marshal.

Galena returned to New York City on 23 May 1886 to participate in naval exercises off the coast of New England. After sailing to the fishing banks near Newfoundland, Canada, Galena went back to Portsmouth, New Hampshire. The ship left Portsmouth on 15 December 1886 to visit ports in the West Indies and Colombia. This cruise lasted until 18 April 1887.

From April 1887 to the beginning of August 1888, Galena spent most of her time patrolling off the east coast of the United States and Canada. But from 18 August to 15 September 1888, Galena was sent to protect American interests at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, which was in the midst of massive political turmoil and rioting. After returning to New York City for a few months, Galena returned to Haiti in December 1888 as the flagship of a naval squadron under the command of Admiral Stephen B. Luce, Commander-in-Chief of the US Navy’s North Atlantic Squadron. Luce’s warships arrived at Port-au-Prince on 20 December and discovered that the American steamer Haytien Republic had been seized by Haitian authorities. After seeing Luce’s warships anchored in their harbor, along with Luce’s determination to use them, Haitian authorities soon surrendered Haytien Republic to the force under Admiral Luce.

Galena arrived at Key West, Florida, on 19 January 1889. On 16 February, Rear Admiral Bancroft Gherardi relieved Admiral Luce as Commander-in-Chief of the North Atlantic Station. Gherardi continued using Galena as flagship for this naval force and left the following day to Haiti. After spending several months protecting American interests in Haiti, Gherardi returned to New York City on 29 May, where he transferred his flag to USS Kearsarge on 15 June.

After undergoing an overhaul in New York City, Galena returned to Haiti on 6 September 1889 and relieved Kearsarge as flagship. On 6 October, at the tiny island of Navassa off the coast of Haiti (which was claimed by both Haiti and the United States), Galena took on board nine ring leaders of a riot and then sailed to Baltimore, Maryland, where they were turned over to the custody of the US Marshall on 25 October. Galena went back to the New York Navy Yard in New York City for additional repairs before sailing on 3 December to Key West to serve, once again, as Admiral Gherardi’s flagship. After making additional visits to Haiti, Galena was relieved as flagship by USS Dolphin on 14 February 1890. Galena left Key West on 25 May and arrived at New York City on 1 July.

Galena was decommissioned in New York City on 23 July 1890 and remained there until 12 March 1891, when she was towed by the tug Nina to the Portsmouth Navy Yard to be fitted with new boilers. Unfortunately, the next day both ships ran aground on a beach roughly one mile south of Gay Head, on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. Galena was salvaged under a contract with the Boston Tow Boat Company and arrived at the Portsmouth Navy Yard on 6 April 1891. However, it was determined that repairing the ship would be too costly, so USS Galena was stricken from the Navy List on 29 February 1892. The ship was sold to E.J. Butler of Arlington, Massachusetts, on 9 May. Her final fate is unknown.