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USS Southery in May 1902
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Design: Cargo, 1889
Displacement (tons): 2,068 gross, 3,100 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 302.75' oa, 288.0' pp x 38.8' x 21.5' mn
Original Armament: 2-3pdr (1898)
Later armaments: 1-6pdr (1900);
Speed (kts.): 9
Propulsion (HP): 1,300
Machinery: Vert. inverted triple expansion, 1 screw
||16 Apr 98
||R. Thompson Sons
||27 May 89
||2 May 98
||1 Sep 33
||1 Sep 33
||1 Dec 33
In May 1889 the shipyard of Robert Thompson & Sons at Southwick, Sunderland, England, launched the cargo ship SOUTHERY to the order of Messrs. Culliford & Clark of Sunderland and London. She had a clipper stem and was built on the web-frame system, having a short poop, raised quarterdeck, long bridge to foremast, and topgallant forecastle. Schooner rigged, she had four large hatches, four steam winches, steam windlass, and steam steering gear. The captain and officers were berthed in the poop and the engineers in the bridge just aft of the engine room. The topgallant forecastle was fitted up for the accommodation of the crew and firemen. Her engines were built by George Clark of Southwick.
This British vessel ran ashore and was abandoned on 15 Apr 94 on Alacrane Beach, a guano island in the Gulf of Mexico owned by an American citizen. She was floated and taken in tow for the port of New York by the American wrecking tug TRITON. On the way the tug ran short of coal and put into Key West for a supply. While the tug was coaling a heavy gale on 14 May 94 caused the SOUTHERY to drag anchor onto a submerged wreck. Pulled off, she resumed the tow to New York but sank in the harbor there because of the injuries suffered at Key West. She was libeled for salvage and sold by the United States marshal to Mr. Lewis Luckenbach of New York for $13,500. He then floated and repaired her and made her a seaworthy vessel. The rebuilt ship was initially granted U.S. registry under the intended name JOHN W. WEBER but the license was revoked when rival shipowners protested. SOUTHERY was renamed LONOCONING in 1897 with E. N. Hoffmann as her registered owner but reverted to SOUTHERY in 1898.
On 12 Mar 98 the U.S. Secretary of the Navy appointed a Naval Board on Auxiliary Cruisers to select and purchase civilian vessels for Navy use in the impending war with Spain. The Board initially focused on potential auxiliary cruisers and on tugs and yachts, but by the end of March it also had orders to find six colliers, two repair ships, and two distilling ships. On 11 Apr 98 three members of the Board inspected the British steamship SOUTHERY at Erie Basin, Brooklyn, and although English-built and flying the English flag, she was considered suitable and was purchased. The New York Times reported the next day that her purchase would complete the fleet of colliers according to the present plans. The others were SATURN, LEBANON, NIAGARA, STERLING, and MERRIMAC. At the end of April the Department instructed the Board to find more colliers, and ultimately between 2 Apr 98 (SATURN) and 30 Jun 98 (NERO) the Navy acquired twenty ships for use as colliers plus three more as distilling ships and one as a repair ship.
The Navy's qualifications for efficient colliers included a carrying capacity of 2,000 or more tons of coal, a speed of 12 or more knots, thorough seaworthiness, as little draught of water as possible, and the capability of being armed sufficiently to protect themselves against privateers, armed transports, and small gunboats. The vessels purchased as colliers were all of the merchant-ship type, and, in order to render their character more difficult to ascertain, their general appearance was not changed. They were fitted with towing appliances, as most of them were powerful vessels, capable of towing disabled ships of war should it become necessary. 15 vessels were purchased and employed on the Atlantic Coast and two more, NERO and BRUTUS, were purchased for use on the Pacific coast and in convoying ships to Manila. In addition NANSHAN was acquired in the Far East, HECTOR was captured from the Spanish, and SCIPIO was acquired but not placed in service. These vessels were purchased outright, manned by a naval force, and provided with batteries for repelling attacks from privateers. Notwithstanding the many difficulties which developed, there was at no time any complaint of lack of coal.
SOUTHERY was sold to the Navy by Edward Luckenbach. Her cargo coal capacity was 3,000 tons. After service along the Atlantic coast she was decommissioned at Norfolk on 18 Feb 99. Converted there to a prison ship, she was first moved to Boston on 6 April 1902 and then in early July 1903 to Portsmouth, N.H., serving as a prision ship in both locations. She was housed over at Portsmouth in or before July 1908, and the small cruiser TOPEKA served as her auxiliary from 1908 to 1916. When the United States entered World War I SOUTHERY, still at Portsmouth, received on 27 Apr 17 half of the first draft of recruits from the Great Lakes Training Station and, for five months, trained them intensively. She returned to duty as a prison ship on 25 Sep 17 and was so employed until 7 Nov 18, when she became receiving ship at the Portsmouth (N.H.) Navy Yard. On 16 Apr 22 Southery moved to the Boston Navy Yard and assumed duty there as receiving ship on 26 Apr 22. She was decommissioned at Boston on 1 Sep 33 and sold to the Boston Iron & Metal Co., Baltimore, Md. for $2,112.00 on 1 Dec 33 for scrapping. In 1922 Navy file clerks assigned her the file symbol IX-26, although the ship was long gone when these IX symbols became formal hull numbers in February 1941.
||Ex merc. SOUTHERY, ex LONOCONING 1898, ex SOUTHERY 1897 (completed Jun 89). Scrapped at Baltimore ca. 1933.
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013