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Auxiliary Steam Packet Ship Massachusetts, 1845
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Design:        Auxiliary steam packet (ship rig)
Displacement (tons):        776 (tonnage), 1,168 (displ.)
Dimensions (feet):        160.0' deck x 32.2' e x 16.0' max
Original Armament:        Unknown (1849)
Later armaments:        9 guns (1854);
6-32pdr (1863)
Complement:        --
Speed (kts.):        8
Propulsion (HP):        170
Machinery:        Two cylinders, 25" diameter by 36" stroke. 1 Ericsson hoisting screw.

AF Name Acq. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
-- MASSACHUSETTS (later FARALLONES) 1 Aug 49 Samuel Hall -- 1845 1 Aug 49

AF Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
-- MASSACHUSETTS (later FARALLONES) Feb 67 -- 15 May 67 Sold --

Class Notes:
The Boston merchant ship owner Robert Bennet Forbes was a firm believer in an alternative type of steam vessel, which was primarily a sailing ship but which had a small auxiliary steam engine for use when winds were unfavorable or in restricted waters. With compact machinery and coal capacity for only part of the voyage such a ship had a lot of internal space. This concept found little favor in America, where steamers with full engine power were preferred, but Forbes experimented with it by building three auxiliary steamships in 1844 and 1845. The first two, the schooner MIDAS and the somewhat larger bark EDITH (q.v.), were built for the Oriental trade, which was Forbes' primary interest. The largest and last of the three, the ship-rigged MASSACHUSETTS, was designed for the New York and Liverpool trade in the North Atlantic. In appearance she was a typical packet ship of the period except for a small smokestack aft of the mainmast. Her direct-acting condensing engines, like those of EDITH, were built by Hogg & Delamater of New York from designs by Capt. John Ericsson. They had two cylinders at right angles to each other, 25" bore by 36" stroke, and developed 170 horsepower, a very low figure that was typical of auxiliary steamers. Consequently her two "wagon" boilers, each 14' long and 7' wide and 9' high with 1 furnace, burned only 9 tons of anthracite coal per day. Her hoisting screw propeller was of the same type as in EDITH. The space occupied by the machinery in the lower hold was only 47' long from the sternpost, leaving most of the hold available for cargo. Her more than 30 cabin passengers were accommodated in her poop, which ran forward of the mainmast, while her second cabin and steerage passengers were accommodated in her between-decks. Her displacement on trials when new was 1,168 tons at 14' draft producing about 170 nhp and 8 knots under ideal conditions. After receiving new boilers and a new screw in 1854 she ran new trials at a displacement of 1,428 tons and a draft of 16' producing 240 nhp, of which 213 went to the screw, and 6.9 knots. Her average speed in service between July 1854 and September 1855 was 4.86 knots under steam alone and 7.18 knots under steam and sail combined.

MASSACHUSETTS made only two round trips on her intended New York to Liverpool route. Her first eastbound crossing, beginning around 15 September 1845, lasted 17 and 1/2 days, of which 11 were under steam, and proved that she could not hope to compete with the four full steamships of the Cunard Line, which had already been maintaining regular sailings to Boston for five years. The return crossing, departing Liverpool on 22 October 1845, was even slower, 28 days, practically all under sail because the Welsh coal taken on at Liverpool would not burn in her grates. The second round trip, which ended at New York on 4 March 1846, was just as disappointing because rough weather made the use of steam impossible. She was then sent to the East Indies. On her return Forbes probably recovered his entire investment in auxiliary steamers by chartering and then selling both EDITH and MASSACHUSETTS to the War Department for use in the Mexican War. MASSACHUSETTS was reportedly sold on 16 October 1846, it is unclear whether this is the charter or sale date. During the conflict she carried General Winfield Scott to Vera Cruz and then served as his flagship during the taking of the city.

In 1848 MASSACHUSETTS was sent to the Pacific and on 1 August 1849 she was transferred ty the War Department to the Navy at Mare Island, California. The Navy listed her as a "steamer, less than 1st class," with no guns. In 1849 the Secretaries of War and the Navy had appointed a joint commission of three army engineer officers and three naval officers to plan the defenses of the Pacific Coast. Embarked in MASSACHUSETTS but delayed on account of enlisted desertions to the gold mines, the commission did not begin its surveys until 1850. The officers examined San Francisco Bay, the mouth of the Columbia River in Oregon Territory, and San Diego Bay. MASSACHUSETTS departed San Francisco on 12 August 1852, arrived at Norfolk, Va., on 17 March 1853, and decommissioned the following day. There her boilers were replaced with two of a different type and the six-bladed, 9.5' diameter Ericsson screw was replaced by a five-bladed 10.5' diameter expanding pitch propeller.

After this refit MASSACHUSETTS was listed as a "screw steamer, 3d class," with 9 guns. Recommissioned on 2 May 1854, she sailed for the Pacific on 5 July 1854 and arrived at Mare Island on 8 May 1855. During June and July 1855 she cruised the coast between San Francisco and the Columbia River, and on 25 August she sailed for Central America, showing the flag from Mexico to Nicaragua, and then returned to San Francisco on 9 January 1856. An Indian uprising having occurred in October 1855 along the coast of Puget Sound, Washington Territory, MASSACHUSETTS departed Mare Island on 17 February 1856 with guns and ammunition for Seattle and then operated in Puget Sound and the Straits of Juan de Fuca for more than a year, visiting ports throughout the region. She returned to Mare Island on 9 April 1857 and was decommissioned on 17 June 1857 and placed in ordinary.

On 5 January 1859 the Secretary of the Navy ordered the Commandant of the Mare Island Navy Yard to fit out MASSACHUSETTS for transfer to the War Department. She was turned over to the Army in May 1859 and during the next several years cruised Puget Sound "for the protection of the inhabitants of that quarter." The Quartermaster General of the Army ordered her retransferred to the Navy on 27 January 1862 and, without being restored to the Navy List, she was placed in ordinary at Mare Island to be surveyed.

MASSACHUSETTS was then converted from a "steamer" into a sailing storeship. Her propulsion machinery was removed and in January 1863 she was renamed FARALLONES, another MASSACHUSETTS having been purchased in May 1861 for wartime use as a supply ship. Now with a bark rig, FARALLONES commissioned on 17 June 1863 as a storeship for the Pacific Squadron. In March 1864 she was based at Acapulco. She decommissioned at Mare Island in February 1867 and was sold at San Francisco to Moore & Co. on 15 May 1867 for $15,000 in gold. As a merchantman her name was changed to ALASKA and she carried grain from San Francisco to Liverpool until she was wrecked at Callao, Peru, on 24 July 1871 or, according to other accounts, on the Chilean coast in 1874.

Ship Notes:
AF Name Notes
-- MASSACHUSETTS (later FARALLONES) Ex Army MASSACHUSETTS, ex merc. MASSACHUSETTS. Sold on 15 May 67. Merc. ALASKA 1867, wrecked 1871.

Page Notes:
AF        1849
Compiled:        07 Jul 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013