Thursday, May 30, 2013

USS Gunboat 135-Ship Model


Editor's Note: HRNM summer intern Brian Sagedy composed this article.

Shown here is the museum model of USS Gunboat 135. It is located in the museum’s War of 1812 gallery.   Built by Tom Hershey, he formerly worked for Department of the Navy as a master ship model builder. Specifically, his job was to build models of proposed new Navy ships and also built models as a hobby.
Gunboats were to be the mainstay of the U.S. Navy from 1803 to 1812.  Rather than spend money on frigates and sloops, President Thomas Jefferson believed that gunboats were more economical to build and maintain.  He also believed that it fit his agrarian outlook of the United States.  This outlook was decidedly against a large, permanent fleet. 
Congress authorized the construction of over 180 gunboats beginning in February 1803.  They were built at various points along the Atlantic Coast and Lakes Ontario and Champlain. Naval officers oversaw construction of the gunboats, and Naval agents dispersed funds and supplies. Most gunboats were form 45’ to 70’ in length, 16’ to 18’ in beam, and sloop- or schooner-rigged and were designed more for fighting not for sailing. They relied on sails or oars for propulsion in the water.
Master ship designer Josiah Fox designed 135 and workers in Philadelphia constructed her.  She was a small galley fitted with a sloop rig and two guns. The type of guns varied, between two 24-pounders and/or 32-pounder smooth bore cannons.  The gunboat's hull dimensions were sixty feet on deck, sixteen feet, six inches at the beam, and six feet, six inches in depth. 
Once finished, the Navy stored 135 at the Philadelphia Navy Yard, since gunboats deteriorated quickly once put into service. Secretary of the Navy Paul Hamilton in 1809 reported to Congress saying, “the sails, and standing and running rigging, at present belonging to those laid up will, probably, at the end of one year, be so much injured as to be unfit for use.” Naval officers and men aboard them disliked gunboats. They were sluggish in their movements and utterly useless except in perfectly calm waters.
The Navy commissioned the vessel for the upcoming war with Britain and assigned her to join the gunboat flotilla already present in Hampton Roads. During the War of 1812's Battle of Craney Island , the Navy’s sixteen gunboats placed themselves across the Elizabeth River, with 135 anchoring the line on the far right side. 

1 comment:

Bob Lechleitner said...

Bull nosed and wallowing. We had trim , agile schooners at this time, so why did we build these floating buoys? Committees do not build speed, they embrace entropy!