- The California Military Museum
- Preserving California's
- California Naval
- The Pacific Squadron
- By Aurora Hunt
- The following article is taken from Aurora
Hunt's book, The Army of the Pacific; Its operations in California,
Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, Nevada, Oregon, Washington,
plains region, Mexico, etc. 1860-1866, under the chapter
The Pacific Squadron of 1861-1866.
- The Pacific squadron of the 1860's played
a most important role in world affairs by maintaining peace in
the Pacific. Ships of all sea-going nations then sailed the Pacific
and dropped anchor in the harbors. Some in pursuit of legitimate
commerce, others with ulterior motives. Secretary of the Navy,
Gideon Welles, 1861-1869, viewed the situation with considerable
anxiety and repeatedly directed the commander of the squadron
to move his vessels to the ports where international difficulties
How preposterous it would now seem if the secretary of the navy
would issue orders to stoke up the furnaces and unfurl the sails
of six small wooden vessels and patrol the Pacific ocean. Yet
the six sloops-of-war, USS LANCASTER, USS SARANAC,
USS WYOMING, USS NARRAGANSETT and USS CYANE
comprised the entire Pacific squadron of 1861.
The total strength of all six represented an insignificant amount
of tonnage, horsepower, guns and men in comparison to the fleet
of today. The sum of their tonnage was less than seven thousand;
the guns numbered about one hundred, and not even one thousand
men manned the little fleet. Traveling at the rate of eleven
to thirteen knots an hour, they cruised along the coast from
San Francisco to Panama; they sailed as far north as Alaska and
south to Chili. They visited Hawaii to guard the whaling fleet.
Along the coast of China and Japan they protected the United
States commerce from piratical Chinese junks. Even Australia
and the South Seas were included in their itinerary.
One half of the vessels were old and had been in service from
twelve to twenty-four years. The CYANE was the oldest
and possessed the most illustrious and colorful record. This
was her third trip to the Pacific having been present on two
different occasions. First, when Commodore Jones prematurely
raised the flag over Monterey in i842 and again four years later
when formal possession was taken.
It was amazing how much was accomplished with so little-with
only these six small vessels. But the cooperation of the army
with the navy increased the efficiency of the small fleet. Gideon
Welles was well aware of the defenseless position of the Pacific
coast and sought the assistance of Simon Cameron, secretary of
war. Orders were promptly issued to both army and navy commanders
on the Pacific coast Io aid each other in preventing the Secessionists
from gaining a foothold in Lower California or elsewhere on the
The shipment East of war materiel had so depleted the supplies
at Mare island and Benicia that great difficulty was encountered
in furnishing the essential equipment for the protection of the
West. The Pacific Mail Steamship company applied to General Edwin
V. Sumner for four 32-pounder guns to be mounted on their steamers
in service between San Francisco and Panama. General Sumner supplied
the guns and ammunition but called on Captain William Gardner,
commanding Mare island, to lend the carriages. In return, General
Sumner lent a 24-pounder gun to Mare Island and ordered a company
of soldiers to guard the powder magazine where but two watchmen
stood guard. The soldiers remained on duty there for six months
when they were replaced by a company of marines from the LANCASTER,
March 14, 1862.
As a further precaution against enemy activities, Commodore
J. B. Montgomery ordered the WYOMING, the NARRAGAMSETT
and CYANE to cruise along the coasts of Mexico and California
for the protection of the mail steamers and their heavy shipments
of gold. Commodore Montgomery in his flagship, LANCASTER,
then sailed to Panama to meet dispatches from the Navy department.
The force in the Pacific remained unchanged in 1862 with the
exception that the WYOMING was detached and sent to the
East Indies and Commodore J. B. Montgomery was succeeded by Rear
Admiral Charles E. Bell. This decrease in the strength of the
squadron, together with the concentration of the fleet on the
southern coast, left the Columbia river and the northern coast
vulnerable to attack.
The USS SHUBRICK was then on duty on the northern coast
and came to the attention of the public on account of the difficulty
over the customhouse at Port Townsend, Washington territory.
In the early part of August 1862., Victor Smith, collector of
customs, arrived in the SHUBRICK to take possession of
the customhouse at Port Townsend. Lieutenant James H. Merryman,
acting collector, declined to turn over the property unless presented
with the evidence for so doing.
The customs collector declined to furnish his papers of authorization
but returned to the SHUBRICK where he selected an armed
guard and demanded that the customhouse should be given up or
it would be entered by force. Lieutenant Merryman was given fifteen
minutes to make his decision. Under these circum- stances, he
turned over the customhouse and papers to Lieutenant Wilson of
the SHUBRICK who receipted for the papers and placed them
Much excitement was caused in Port Townsend by the threatening
attitude assumed by the cutter as her twelve-pounders were trained
upon the port. A warrant was issued for the arrest of Lieutenant
Wilson and Victor Smith, but when the United States Marshal boarded
the SHUBRICK on her return trip, Lieutenant Wilson refused
to obey the warrant and sailed away. A month later the tension
appeared to have been relieved -as both defendants, Smith and
Wilson, consented to undergo a legal investigation for which
the warrants of arrest had been issued on August 11. There was
not one fortified point on the Columbia river at this time. Therefore,
Brigadier General Benjamin Alvord, commanding the district of
Oregon, earnestly requested that an iron-clad be built for service
on the northwestern coast.
The Pacific coast alarmists were no doubt justified in their
anxiety. For at this time the Confederate forces under General
Sibley were already moving up the Rio Grande from Texas; Colonel
Baylor had established his government in the Mesilla valley and
issued his "proclamation"; and both of these Confederate
officers were secretly negotiating with the governments of Sonora
and Chihuahua to secure their cooperation. The Pacific Squadron
was alerted and the USS ST. MARYS ordered to the port
of Guaymas to endeavor to secure the neutrality, if not the assistance,
of the Mexican government.
The USS SAGINAW and the storeship FARALLONES were
added to the fleet in 1863. The engine and the boiler for the
SAGINAW were manufactured at the Union Iron works at San
Francisco and she was ready in the Pacific squadron in March.
She was scheduled to leave immediately for the Guadalupe islands
but the order was soon countermanded as rumors of a conspiracy
to attack Mare Island had been discovered. However, the rumors
proved to be unfounded.
The year 1863 was a year of anxiety for the little squadron
of the Pacific, the forts on shore, and the citizens as well.
Early in March Captain E. W. Travers discovered a plot to outfit
and arm the schooner J. M. CHAPMAN which was to be used
in the service of the rebellion to cruise on the high seas and
commit hostilities upon the citizens, property and vessels of
the United States. He informed Adjutant General Colonel Richard
Drum who conferred with Lieutenant Commander Paul Shirley of
the CYANE, the revenue officers, and the San Francisco
police. A plan was evolved whereby the conspirators could be
Several months previous, Asbury Harpending, the chief instigator,
had gone to Richmond, Virginia, where he received from Jefferson
Davis a letter of marque and a form of bond with instructions
how to use it if any of the prizes were bonded. When Harpending
returned to San Francisco, he made arrangements with twenty year
old Alfred Rubery, a British subject, to purchase a vessel suitable
for their purpose. No doubt the age-old lure of the life of a
pirate appealed to this English youth but his enthusiasm exceeded
his finances. The drafts drawn by him were not honored and the
ownership of a privateer was delayed; yet not for long, as Ridgley
Greathouse joined the conspirators and supplied funds to buy
the J. M. CHAPMAN, a swift ninety-ton schooner.
Guns, ammunition and soldiers' uniforms were purchased and packed
in cases labeled as oil, merchandise, machinery and quick-silver.
Lumber was loaded for berths, a prison room and a lower deck.
William C. Law was hired as captain together with a crew of sixteen
men. Law was reported to have been employed by the Pacific Mail
Steamship company for a brief time.' He was also captain of the
STORM CLOUD but his erratic conduct aroused the suspicions
of his employers who sent an agent to Valparaiso to relieve him
of the command of the vessel for fear he might steal it.
The bill of lading under which Captain Law obtained clearance
for the J. M. CHAPMAN was necessarily false. He swore
that the crew consisted of one captain, one mate, four seamen,
and her manifest was quicksilver, merchandise and machinery.
The port named for clearance was Manzanillo, Mexico, where he
said the men were to engage in mining.
The plans of the pirates were ambitious and extensive. They
first considered the island of Cerros as a suitable base for
their operations, but decided that Guadalupe island offered greater
advantages. Here they planned to. land their men, guns and ammunition,
then go to Manzanillo, transmit a copy of her crew list to the
rebel authorities and return to Guadalupe. Here they would take
on board their men, then uniformed, hoist the Confederate flag
and proceed on their cruise against the vessels of the United
First on their agenda was the capture of one of the Pacific
Mail steamers; next they hoped to recover the two million dollar
treasure from the SS GOLDEN GATE which was wrecked off
the coast of Mexico near Manzanillo. Then they proposed to cruise
down to the Chincha islands and, if their plans were successful,
continue to the China Sea and Indian Ocean.
As they anticipated their booty, they decided how the treasure
should be divided. Ridgley Greathouse was to receive the lion's
share and the others would share in the following order: first,
Asbury Harpending; second, William C. Law; third, Alfred Rubery;
and fourth, Lorenzo C. Libby.
While the conspirators were busy with their plans, the custom
officers and Lieutenant Commander Paul Shirley of the USS CYANE
were keeping a twenty-four hour daily watch on the J. M. CHAPMAN.
On board the steam tug Anashe, the revenue officers and the San
Francisco police kept steam up and fires banked ready for instant
service. Nearby the CYANE crew watched the unusual commotion
on board the J. M. CHAPMAN and the men coming and going
down the wharf all night long before she sailed; saw a lighter
draw up beside the schooner and load supplies on board-supplies
that had not been manifested by the revenue officers.
It was dawn on March 15, 1863, when the J. M. CHAPMAN
lifted anchor and sailed slowly away from the wharf. The water
was calm, the morning clear and mild. Only Greathouse and Libby
were on deck and the vessel looked as innocent and harmless as
any craft that ever left the port of San Francisco. When she
was about three hundred yards from the dock, two boatloads of
armed seamen from the USS CYANE rowed toward the schooner.
The steam tug ANASHE had waited because Captain Law stood on
the wharf calling for the J. M. CHAPMAN to come back for
him. Law had spent the- night imbibing too freely and was so
late that his fellow conspirators left without him. The CYANE
seamen boarded the J. M. CHAPMAN. and captured her
When the schooner was searched her cargo of contraband was soon
discovered and the leaders of the conspirators were ironed and
placed in solitary confinement at Alcatraz. Sixteen men were
found secreted in the hold of the vessel and all were armed with
navy revolvers and Bowie knives. On the floor of the cabin was
found paper, chewed and torn into tiny pieces. One letter disclosed
plans for the capture of the USS SHUBRICK but the scheme
appeared to have been abandoned. Other papers found in the baggage
of Harpending revealed plans for the capture of the United States
forts at San Francisco and Alcatraz; a proclamation to the people
of California to throw off the authority of the United States;
a draft of an oath of fidelity to their cause; and an imprecation
of vengeance on all who should prove false. The oath and papers
were in the handwriting of Harpending but Rubery admitted helping
The conspirators were tried before judge Stephen J. Fields.
Their trial lasted for eight days but it took but four minutes
for the jury to decide that they were guilty of treason. Asbury
Harpending, Ridgley Greathouse and Alfred Rubery were each sentenced
to ten years in prison and a fine of ten thousand dollars. The
other prisoners, members of the crew, were discharged upon taking
the oath of allegiance."'
Alfred Rubery soon secured his release as President Lincoln
granted him a pardon with the proviso that he would leave the
country thirty days after January 20, 1864, the date set for
his release. President Lincoln explained that his reasons for
the pardon were that Rubery was a subject of Great Britain and
but twenty years old; and furthermore, the pardon had been re-
quested by John Bright, English statesman, and Lincoln deemed
it a mark of respect to the Englishman. His explanation appears
to contain a conciliatory note-or perhaps a hint of appeasement.
The rest of the traitors were confined at Alcatraz but a few
months as President Lincoln issued his Amnesty proclamation December
8, 1863 granting full pardon to all political prisoners upon
the condition that they take and keep the oath of allegiance.
Therefore, the traitors demanded their release from Alcatraz.
Under habeas corpus proceedings they were granted trial February,
1864, and given their freedom. Yet it was with the greatest reluctance
that judge Hoffman did so, for, said he, "The crime was
grave, and Greathouse had long been a citizen of California."
The schooner J. M. CHAPMAN was sold as a war prize and
the money divided between the United States and the informer,
Captain E. W. Travers. The officers and crew of the USS CYANE
objected and brought suit for their share of the prize as they
were the first to board the J. M. CHAPMAN. The case was
decided against the seamen as the judge ruled that the case of
the J. M. CHAPMAN was not piratical in the meaning of
the term as defined by the laws of nations. Her crime was treason
under the act of August 5, 1861. The third section of that act
provided that any person, who supplied information leading to
the arrest and conviction of traitors, would be entitled to share
equally with the United States in any property so acquired. The
crew of the J. M. CHAPMAN were allowed one month's salary
as they were judged innocent of all charges and entitled to their
But at this same time there were other ships anchored in San
Francisco harbor, which had come not as enemies, but as friends.
Alexander II of Russia sent six warships to visit the Pacific
coast to demonstrate his friendship for the United States and
his marked respect for President Abraham Lincoln. Between these
two men there existed a common bond of sympathy and understanding.
Both were opposed to slavery. In 1861 Alexander II freed twenty-three
million serfs and less than two years later, Lincoln issued his
Emancipation proclamation (January 1, 1863).
While the Russian fleet was anchored in the bay, the United
States navy and army officers, the mayor of San Francisco, and
many prominent citizens entertained the Russian officers at the
Union hall, November I7, 1863.
This friendly gesture on the part of Russia was in direct contrast
to that of her neighbor, Japan. An American steamer, the PEMBROKE,
was fired upon by the Japanese on July 11, 1863, for in spite
of their new treaty with the United States, they were still suspicious
of foreign vessels passing near their shores.
A few days later while the USS WYOMING was cruising through
the straits of Shimonoseki, the Japanese land and naval guns
opened fire. The WYOMING returned the fire and the battle
continued for an hour. The Japanese bark, DANIEL WEBSTER,
the brig, LANRICK, were sunk and the steamer LANCEFIELD
was damaged. All three vessels had been purchased from the United
States. The WYOMING lost four of her crew and seven were wounded.
The sum of $125,000 from the Japanese Indemnity fund was eventually
paid to the officers and crew after years of delay and negotiations
(March 31, 1874).
The first iron-clad that served in the Pacific was the USS CAMANCHE, an Ericsson Monitor of
1857 tons. She was built at New York by Francis Secor and when
completed, she was disassembled and shipped on board the AQUILA
to San Francisco. The AQUILA left New York May 29, 1863,
and arrived at San Francisco November 10, almost six months en
route. The AQUILA broke from her moorings during a heavy
gale on November 16. She was rescued and berthed at the Hathaway
wharf, but on the same day, CAMANCHE and all, she sank
in the mud at the bottom of the bay. Captain Allison of Benicia
made an unsuccessful attempt to raise her and after three weeks
abandoned his efforts.
The underwriters' agents took over the job of raising the AQUILA
and sent from New York a professional wrecking crew, the Coast
Wrecking company, consisting of ten wreckers and four divers
under command of Captain Israel E. Merritt. They arrived January
17, 1864, to learn that Charles W. Hathaway and George P. Baker,
proprietors of Hathaway wharf, had filed suit for wharfage and
storage from November 16, 1863 to January 13, 1864, and had placed
an attachment on the AQUILA and cargo. Peter Donahue gave
a bond to release the attachment so that the wreckers could begin
All legal entanglements being settled, the contractors constructed
a derrick and began removing the cargo before raising the AQUILA.
The government property which consisted of about two hundred
tons of shot and shells, and two fifteen-inch guns, was landed,
cleaned, and sent to Mare Island. The winter storms delayed the
work somewhat but the last piece of the iron-clad was rescued
June 8, 1864.
Peter Donahue, president of the Union Iron works, had contracted
with the government to reassemble the CAMANCHE and launch
her. The original contract for building the iron-clad was for
$585,000 in gold or legal tender. When the vessel was assembled
at New York $340,000 was advanced. The contractors had given
$100,000 cash as security for the fulfillment of their contract
and in addition a bond for $400,000. The total insurance on the
AQUILA and cargo was $600,000 of which $340,000 was on
the CAMANCHE and distributed among twenty-two insurance
companies, the policies varying from $5,000 to $35,000. The work
of reassembling was begun July 13 and the CAMANCHE was finally
launched November 14, 1864, one year after her arrival. The presence
of the iron-clad in the Pacific allayed the fears of the people
and gave assurance of their adequate protection. The board of
supervisors of San Francisco city and county passed a resolution
(No. 4092) in which they thanked the contractors, Donahue, Ryan
and Secor for the completion of the CAMANCHE.
The CAMANCHE continued to make the headlines for more
than ten years as repeated attempts were made to collect from
the several insurance companies through litigations extending
from 1870 to 1880. San Francisco city and county were also involved
as $71,166.66 had been paid to Peter Donahue to redeem his note
at the Bank of California for $60,000 with interest, which had
been given to pay the claim of the wrecking company to eliminate
any delay in completing the CAMANCHE. The insurance policies
had been signed over to the board of supervisors with the assurance
that the damages would be promptly paid by the various insurance
companies. Out of the $60,000 only $7,897.53 was paid.
The mechanized warfare of the new iron-clads called for new
methods of defense. So a novel plan for protection of San Francisco
harbor was submitted to Governor Leland Stanford by Adjutant
General William C. Kibbe in his report of December 3, 1863. To
adequately fortify the harbor it was proposed to construct revolving
iron towers at each side of the Golden Gate. These towers to
be one hundred feet in diameter and pierced for two tiers of
guns with ample space for thirty guns in each tier. Casemated
guns were planned for the foundation of the towers. When the
towers were completed, massive chains would be laid across the
entrance to the harbor. These chains would be drawn up by windlasses
operated by steam engines. The chains would be designed to check
the speed of any enemy vessel and bring it under fire of the
guns in the towers. Kibbe contended that if the towers could
be built and other approaches to the city fortified, the navies
of the world could be kept out of the harbor.
After the capture of the J. M, CHAPMAN, demands were
made on the War department for additional protection for San
Francisco harbor. Accordingly Brigadier General Reno E. De Russy,
chief topographical engineer of the department of the Pacific,
submitted a plan (June, 1863) for a secondary line of defense
which called for fortifications at Fort
Point, Lime Point, Alcatraz Island, Rincon Point and Yerba Buena Island. General De Russy was
seventy-three years old at this time and spent the remainder
of his life in the construction of the defenses of the harbor.
In the spring of 1864 a conspiracy to capture the California
mail steamers was discovered. S. R. Mallory, secretary of the
Confederate navy, ordered Captain T. E. Hogg and his command
to take passage on board the SS SAN SALVADOR and to capture
her after reaching the high seas. Having secured the steamer,
he was instructed to arm her and attack the California trade
and the whalers in the North Pacific.
Captain Hogg went to Havana and while there the American consul,
Thomas Savage, learned about his plans and notified Rear Admiral
George F. Pearson at Panama. The passengers boarding the steamers
at Panama were carefully watched and when the Hogg party were
discovered aboard the SS SAN SALVADOR, a force from the
USS LANCASTER arrested them and brought them to San Francisco.
Here they were tried by a military commission and sentenced to
be hanged. Later, General Irvin McDowell commuted their sentences
to life imprisonment for Captain Hogg and ten years for the others.
To prevent any further attempts to seize Pacific coast shipping,
General Irvin McDowell ordered each passenger on board American
merchant steamers to deliver every weapon in his possession to
the officers of the ship. In order that there would be no evasion
of this order, every passenger and his baggage was searched.
In addition, all officers were armed for the protection of their
ship and themselves.
Sympathy for the resistance of the Mexican republic to the French
occupation caused an embarrassing situation at San Francisco
in the summer of 1864. In April of the same year, Placido Vegas
left Mazatlan for San Francisco. He was instructed with a special
mission by the Constitutional government of the Republic of Mexico
and supplied with funds for the purchase of arms and other military
supplies. Upon his arrival he professed to have interviewed Governor
F. F. Lowe who expressed his sympathy for the safety of the Mexican
nation and offered his personal cooperation. (Governor Lowe denied
the allegation.) Vega also interviewed Thomas Brown, collector
and special agent of the U.S. treasury, W. B. Farwell, head of
marine office, and Edward F. Beale, Corps of U.S. Engineers.
Vega insisted that he faithfully followed the instructions of
these officials and did everything with the ut most caution lest
he compromise the neutrality of the United States. General McDowell
discovered the plot and the officers engaged in the conspiracy
were suddenly relieved from their positions. Cruisers were dispatched
in pursuit of Vega's loaded vessel which was overtaken and convoyed
to Benicia for safe keeping. A large quantity of arms and munitions
were also seized at Half Moon bay after they had eluded the customhouse
Charles James who succeeded Thomas Brown as collector of the
port of San Francisco, was the subject of a scathing rebuke from
Edward F. Beale. Said he, "I thoroughly appreciate your
sensitive and conscientious moral scruples regarding the false
oath the captain of a schooner would have to make in order to
secure the clearance of his vessel. . . I also question who
is entitled to the most respect. He who committed a crime to
save a republic, or he who cannot be bullied, wheedled, coaxed,
or cajoled into doing so."
Vega repeatedly and earnestly requested General McDowell to
release the arms and munitions intended for the Mexican republic.
He said: "In regard to my whole conduct, you will be satisfied
that I came with- out disguise of any kind, relying upon the
fact that we were defending the same institutions.
As it was possible at first to send goods by merely taking care
that no one should be compromised, and when at a later date,
other articles were detained at the customhouse, they were nevertheless
placed at my disposal the next day. I gained the greatest confidence
and kept on making extensive purchases for cash and on credit,
only to see my goods held without knowing when they would be
released. Great expense has been incurred for vessels lying idle
and enough has been paid to buy them outright. Even if the cargo
is never received I shall have to pay the freight." General
McDowell explained that the shipment of arms was a direct violation
of Lincoln's order and refused to permit any war materiel to
be shipped to Mexico.
In spite of the vigilance of the Pacific squadron and the troops
on shore, rumors persisted that privateers were being outfitted
at San Francisco. Secretary of State William H. Seward ordered
an inquiry by the War department to determine whether or not
any vessels were being built to serve as privateers under letters
of marque f rom President Juarez of Mexico, and which would be
used in depredations on French commerce.
Before orders reached General Irvin McDowell, he had already
seized and held the steamer COLON said to have been built
for the Peruvian government. The seizure was later approved by
the secretary of war and his additional orders provided that
all the material for building war marine of every description
was required for the use of the United States government, and
nothing of the kind could be purchased or taken from the United
States, especially on the Pacific coast. Government priority
of the 1860's.
The Peruvian government protested against the seizure of the
Colon and demanded that the vessel be released. The Federal government
was slow to act and the order to release the "Colon"
was not issued until March 14, 1865, more than six months after
the seizure. In the meantime the case had been the subject of
an investigation by a grand jury and an opinion rendered that
there was no cause for the detention of the COLON.
While attention was being focused on San Francisco harbor, events
of international concern were taking place on the coasts of Mexico
and South America. The French fleet had blockaded the Mexican
ports but permitted the Pacific Mail Steamship company to use
the harbor of Acapulco as an intermediate depot. Rear Admiral
Bell found it expedient to station one of the United States men-of-war
at that port to protect the property of the company and to assure
the safety of the passengers.
On board each steamer there was stationed a detachment of California
Volunteers. Companies H and K, 6th Infantry, California Volunteers,
were stationed at Benicia Barracks at this time and furnished
the guard for the steamers UNCLE SAM and the CONSTITUTION.
The Volunteers were also detailed to guard the magazine at Benicia
and allow no vessel to come within two hundred yards. One evening
a schooner anchored about fifty yards off shore. When ordered
off, it showed no signs of moving. The guard fired three rounds
of ball cartridges at the schooner, forcing her to lift anchor
and change her base farther down toward San Francisco.
Whether it was an accident, commercial rivalry, or political
differences that caused the S.S. YOSEMITE to ram the S.S.
WASHOE, it was the occasion for calling out extra guards
from the Sixth Infantry, California Volunteers. The young soldiers
stood guard at the Benicia wharf while the boats came and left,
but said the volunteer, "There was no disturbance of any
kind, not the first symptoms of a row." He was probably
a bit disappointed that there was no excitement.
About the middle of April 1864, Rear Admiral Bell left Acapulco
in his flagship, USS LANCASTER, and sailed south to Callao
where he arrived May 25. Trouble had arisen between Peru and
Spain over injuries to Spanish subjects and in retaliation Spain
seized the Chincha Islands.
It was imperative that the fleet of the United States vessels
engaged in the guano trade on those islands receive adequate
protection, so Rear Admiral Bell remained there from May 25 to
October 5. He then sailed north to Panama where he was relieved
of his command of the Pacific Squadron by Rear Admiral George
F. Pearson, October 25.
The USS NARRAGANSETT cruised to Puget sound, the straits
of Juan de Fuca, and to Victoria, where the English authorities
representing Queen Victoria, assured the U.S. naval commander
that there would be no violation of English neutrality. When
the NARRAGANSETT returned to San Francisco, she was ordered
to the Atlantic coast, and the new USS WATEREE joined
the Pacific squadron, thus maintaining the same strength of the
In the spring of 1865 the Pacific coast shipping was again thrown
into panic when news arrived about the damage committed by the
SHENANDOAH. In October 1864, she had sailed from London
flying the British flag under the name of SEA KING. A
few months later she unfurled the Confederate States flag and
sailed as a privateer under the command of James L. Waddell.
She destroyed over a million dollars worth of whalers and merchant
vessels and then sailed for European waters when word was received
that the war was over. The USS SUWANEE and the USS SARANAC
of the Pacific Squadron were sent in pursuit of the privateer
but they were too late their enemy had fled.
Special precaution was taken by the war department to examine
all passports of foreigners arriving at the port of San Francisco.
An officer was ordered to examine all passengers and refuse to
permit any one to land without a passport. An exception was made
regarding passengers coming direct from New York or from Oregon.
Those who came from Vancouver Island required passports and an
officer boarded all vessels at Cape Disappointment to see that
this order was enforced.
In 1865 the Pacific squadron was increased to eleven vessels
by the addition of the USS POWHATAN, USS NYACK,
USS MOHONGO, USS TUSCARORA and the storeship FREDONIA.
Secretary of Navy Gideon Welles recommended even greater increase
to protect the expanding commerce of the Pacific.
Peace came to the Atlantic seaboard at the close of the war
but on the Pacific the sound of the warning of "hands off"
and "non-interference" of the Monroe Doctrine was lost
in the deafening roar of the French guns at Acapulco and those
of the Spanish at Valparaiso and Callao.
By repeated requests and warnings Secretary of the Navy Gideon
Welles finally secured six more vessels for the Pacific squadron,
raising the number to seventeen vessels in 1866. The fleet was
divided into the North Pacific and the South Pacific squadrons.
The North Pacific squadron embraced the coast of North America
and the Sandwich islands (Hawaiian) anct was under the command
of Rear-Admiral Thatcher who hoisted his flag at San Francisco
on August 6, 1866. The following vessels were allotted to his
Squadron: USS VANDERBILT, flagship, USS PENSACOLA,
USS SARANAC (temporarily), USS SUWANEE, USS MOHONGO,
USS JAMESTOWN, USS LACKAWANNA, USS MOHICAN,
USS RESACA and USS SAGINAW.
The limits of the South Pacific squadron extended from Panama
to Cape Horn and all the way to Australia. The seven vessels,
USS POWHATAN (flagship), USS TUSCARORA, USS WATEREE,
USS NYACK, USS DACOTAH, USS FARALLONES,
and USS FREDONIA, assigned to this division, were obliged
to cover a wide area, yet they included the trouble spots on
their cruises and were at Valparaiso when the Spanish bombarded
that city March 31, 1866. They followed the Spanish men-of-war
to Callao and stood menacingly near until the Spanish withdrew.
Included in the new arrivals in the Pacific in 1866 was the
iron-clad USS MONADNOCK, the first monitor to make the
journey around the Horn on her own power, but she was the second
one to serve on the Western coast. Three years previous the USS
CAMANCHE had made the same journey but she was dismantled
and carried aboard the SS AQUILA.
The USS VANDERBILT, which was presented to the United
States by Cornelius VANDERBILT, accompanied the USS MONADNOCK
on her long journey to the Pacifiic and was present at the bombardment
of Valparaiso. All the duties of the VANDERBILT were not
of a belligerent nature for she conveyed Queen Emma on her return
journey from San Francisco to Hawaii, October 22, 1866.
In addition to the war-time duties of the fleet, the old vessels
aided in ocean surveying to chart their course through the treacherous
seas. Through a special act of congress the USS SAGINAW was detailed
to help the Western Union Telegraph company lay a cable on the
At the close of the war many of the vessels were sold as surplus
property; others were wrecked; some of these small wooden sloops
remained afloat for half a century or more. The USS CYANE
was the oldest of the squadron of the 1860's and although she
was put out of commission after thirty-four years service, she
was not sold until she had reached the half century mark. The
selling price of the worthy old sloop was but three thousand
dollars which probably represented her value as scrap. From Canada
to Peru lie the wrecks of other vessels of this early Pacific
squadron. The USS SAGINAW was wrecked on the rocks off
Ocean island. She had been stationed at Midway during the improvement
of the entrance of the harbor' Five members of her crew rowed
a thousand miles to Kauai island for help. After thirty-one days
in their open boat with scant rations and under a tropical sun,
they sighted the island. Before they could land, a severe storm
capsized their boat and all of the crew except William Halford
were drowned. The remainder of the crew stranded on Ocean island
were rescued. The squadron of the Pacific contributed much to
the safety of the long Pacific coast line and by close cooperation
with the army of the Pacific maintained peace on the western
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