Thursday, April 26, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: Copper Spike from USS NEW HAMPSHIRE, c. 1820

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

In keeping with our recent blogs about USS New Hampshire (1864), the ship-of-the-line that served as an apprentice training ship at Newport from 1881-1891, we found another interesting artifact in the museum's collection.

The copper spike shown here was one of the many fasteners used in the construction of the USS Alabama (later renamed New Hampshire) at the Portsmouth Navy Yard from 1819 to 1825. The 9 ½ inch spike, stamped with the mark “US," is made by Revere and Sons Copper Company. The firm started by Paul Revere in Canton, Massachusetts, was awarded a contract to supply the United States Navy with copper spikes, sheeting and deck nails in 1816. Copper was considered the preferred metal for fasteners and fittings below the waterline due to its resistance to rust.

 On July 27, 1922, the USS Granite State (formerly USS New Hampshire), caught fire and sunk off the coast of Manchester, Massachusetts. After a destructive fire ended her long service with the New York State Naval Militia, Granite State was sold for salvage. The ship was en route from New York City to Eastport, Maine, when another fire sunk the vessel off the southwest corner of Graves Island. The wreck, a popular diving spot for many years, has yielded fasteners, timbers, and other items which now reside in museums and private collections.

Gift of Clifford Larsen                                                                                       2003.11.01

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Artifact Spotlight: USS NEW HAMPSHIRE Stein, c. 1900

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Last week's blog post focused on the local street and field named for ship-of-the-line USS New Hampshire (1864). This week’s artifact spotlight is on a bone china drinking stein which is also a part of that ship's history. The stein is adorned with the crest of the First Naval Battalion New York Naval Militia. In 1893, after her service in Newport as the apprentice training ship ended, The U.S. Navy loaned New Hampshire to the New York State Naval Militia for use as an armory and training vessel. The ship was renamed Granite State and continued service to NY until she burned in 1921.

Manufactured by New York's Chittenango Pottery Company  between 1897 and 1904, the stein has a silver plate lid and was reportedly used in the wardroom.   Visitors can see the artifact currently on display in the museum's Training Station Exhibit.                                                                                              

Gift of Rear Admiral Louis A. Gillies               78.18.01

Monday, April 16, 2012

Education Update: A Naval Viewpoint on the Civil War

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

Dressed in his period uniform of a naval lieutenant, author Chuck Veit entertained the Eight Bells Lecture audience last Thursday, April 5, 2012. Mr. Veit is the president of the Navy & Marine Living History Association and has recently written a book A Dog Before a Soldier: Almost-lost Episodes in the U.S. Navy’s Civil War.

In his introduction, Mr. Veit faulted historians for ignoring the contributions by the U.S. Navy on the rivers and high seas and choosing instead to view the Civil War as a land war with a navy that played only a blockading role along the coast of the Confederacy. To illustrate his points, he gave specific examples of battles and referenced numerous primary and secondary sources to document his assertions. These documents included personal diaries, logbooks, newspaper stories, drawings, and legislative archives.

Coincidentally, the day of the lecture was at the sesquicentennial of the Battle of Shiloh. One hundred and fifty years ago on April 6-7, 1862, at Pittsburg Landing, Tennessee, the Union and Confederacy met and after two days there were 23,000 men killed, wounded, or missing. Up to that time, it was the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. By war’s end, it would rank as the sixth bloodiest battle. Although a tactical win for the Union, the North bore the brunt of the casualties. Shiloh, which means “place of peace” in Hebrew, could have easily been a Confederate victory had it not been for the naval gunboats that shelled Confederate positions, pinning them down and thus allowing Union forces to bring fresh troops into position.

Malvern Hill, Hampton Roads, Fort Butler, and the capture of New Orleans are but a few of the examples cited in the book that support the author’s point of view, one shared by many of the senior army officers, most notably Ulysses S. Grant. The book is not to deny the sacrifice of the many men in the armies of the North and South, it is to bring out that the U.S. Navy played a more critical role in the Civil War than is generally recognized.

The next Eight Bells Lecture is scheduled for April 19 and will have Mike Matheny from the Army War College discussing his book Carrying the War to the Enemy: American Operational Art to 1945. For those interested in attending, please contact the Naval War College Museum at 841-2101 for reservations.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Naval Namesakes: Hampshire Drive

---Amy King, Curatorial Volunteer

Many streets, buildings, and institutions in Rhode Island are named to honor the Narragansett Bay area’s rich naval heritage. This regular feature to the museum’s blog provides a brief look at the people, places, and events behind the names.

USS New Hampshire (1864) Flagship of the Apprentice Training Squadron

Hampshire Drive on Naval Station Newport is named for the 74-gun ship-of-the-line USS New Hampshire.  The ship, originally named Alabama, was laid down at Portsmouth Naval Yard and completed for launch in 1825. Renamed New Hampshire, she was finally launched in April 1864 and commissioned for service during the Civil War.
Apprentice seamen marching towards South Point.
New Hampshire is moored at the end of the dock.
 In 1881 the USS New Hampshire became the flagship for Commodore Stephen B. Luce's Apprentice Training Program in Newport. Luce and others established an apprentice system to formally educate young boys and improve the overall quality of naval recruits.  The boys needed parental permission and criminals were not allowed to apply. New Hampshire, docked at “South Point” on Coasters Harbor Island, was the home of these boys for a six-month period before each was assigned to a training ship. In nearby buildings the teenagers were instructed in seamanship and gunnery as well as reading, writing, arithmetic, and history.

The street is not the only namesake of the old ship-of-the line at the naval station. In 1976 the base erected a small stone tablet at the corner of Knight Road and Porter Avenue (South of Hampshire Drive and north of South Point). The marker names the area New Hampshire Field. Now a parking lot, this section once served as a drill field for recruits, an athletic field, a barracks, and a swimming pool.

After being decommissioned in 1892, the New York State Naval Militia used the vessel as a training ship and renamed her Granite State. In 1921, she caught fire and sank in the Hudson River. The hull was sold as salvage in August 1921. While under tow to the Bay of Fundy, Granite State sunk once again off Half Way Rock located in Massachusetts Bay.

Street Sign Image by Christina Anderson
Images Courtesy of the Naval War College Museum