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USS Despatch (1873-1891)
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Design: Steam yacht, 1873
Displacement (tons): 560 displ.
Dimensions (feet): 174.0' pp x 25.5' x 12.3' mn
Original Armament: 3-20pdr Parrott BL (1873)
Later armaments: 1-3" BLR, 2-20pdr BLP (by 1887; 1-3" BLR (1888)
Speed (kts.): 12.6
Propulsion (HP): 518
||23 Nov 73
||28 Oct 91
||10 Oct 91
The steam schooner yacht AMERICUS was designed and built by the firm of George Steers of Brooklyn, N.Y. for Henry C. Smith, a New York stockbroker, who had ordered Steers to build the "largest and handsomest yacht afloat." Soon after the vessel was delivered Smith fell victim to the financial panic of September 1873 and had to place the yacht up for auction at New York. The Navy paid $90,000 for her, a fraction of the $250,000 paid by Smith to build her. Her length overall may have been 200'.
During the 1870s DESPATCH cruised along the Atlantic coast and in the West Indies. She made her debut during the 1873 VIRGINIUS affair, and in 1877 she carried the American Minister to Constantinople during the Russo-Turkish war. She then remained at the Turkish capital for 13 months to support the American Embassy and show the flag during the crisis. Between 9 Jul 79 and 8 Jun 80 she was out of commission at the Washington Navy Yard receiving new boilers. On 9 Nov 80 she stood down the Potomac with the President and his cabinet on board, and from that time to late 1890 she made many cruises as Presidential yacht. The last was on 11 Aug 90 when she sailed with the Vice President and his party on board.
In February 1891 DESPATCH was condemned. Old and out of repair, with machinery weakened by constant use and boilers almost played out, she was to be replaced by the new despatch vessel DOLPHIN. In August 1891 she carried the Secretary of the Navy on a cruise along the New England coast to review the fleet. On 9 Oct 91 she was summoned from New York to Washington to embark the President and the Secretary of the Navy for one final cruise, but the transit took her into a severe coastal storm and on 10 Oct 91 the yacht was wrecked on Assateague Island, Maryland. The wreck was sold for salvage 12 Nov 91.
||Ex yacht AMERICUS. Wrecked off Assateague Island, Md., wreck sold 12 Nov 91
Compiled: 01 Jan 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013