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USS John Hancock as rebuilt in 1853
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Class:        JOHN HANCOCK
Design:        Navy surveying steamer
Displacement (tons):        382 tons
Dimensions (feet):        165.5', 151' pp x 22' x 13' mx
Original Armament:        2 guns
Later armaments:        --
Complement:        --
Speed (kts.):        9
Propulsion (HP):        --
Machinery:        Oscillating engine (very compact). 1 screw

AG Name Ord. Builder Keel Launch Commiss.
-- JOHN HANCOCK -- NYd Boston 1852 24 Feb 53 19 Mar 53

AG Name Decomm. Strike Disposal Fate MA Sale
-- JOHN HANCOCK 23 Aug 56 -- 17 Aug 65 Sold --

Class Notes:
This bark-rigged screw steamer was built using parts (mainly the engines and the midship section) taken from an earlier JOHN HANCOCK, a 113-foot steamer built at Boston in 1850 for the triple purpose of water boat, anchor hoy, and steam tug for the Boston Navy Yard. Her machinery, consisting of two oscillating non-condensing engines (cylinders) of 20-inch diameter and 21-inch stroke, was made at the Washington Navy Yard under the direction of William M. Ellis, Chief Engineer of that yard, from the designs of Charles W. Copeland of New York. An Act of Congress of 3 Aug 52 ordered a survey of the Bering Straits, North Pacific Ocean, and China Seas, which were "frequented by American whaleships and trading vessels in their routes between the United States and China," and in the middle of October 1852 the first JOHN HANCOCK was hauled into the ship house at the Boston Navy Yard and a new bow and stern of improved model were fitted for the purpose of making her a war steamer of the third class to be used in this expedition, which was named the Ringgold-Rodgers Surveying Expedition after its commanders. The new hull was designed by the Chief Naval Constructor and built under the supervision of Mr. Pook, the Naval Constructor at the Boston Navy Yard. JOHN HANCOCK (II) was 38 feet longer than the original yard tug and her tonnage was increased by 152 tons. Her engines were the same as in the first JOHN HANCOCK, but they were altered to low pressure and fitted with a condenser and their stroke was increased to two feet. The rebuilt ship was scheduled to be completed and ready for sea by 1 January 1853. Speeds of 8 knots in smooth water and 6 knots in ordinary weather at sea were expected. Her designed draft at the load waterline (500 tons) was 10.5'.

JOHN HANCOCK (II) served between 1853 and 1855, initially under the command of Lt. John Rodgers, as a steam tender in surveying operations in the North Pacific and the Bering and China Seas. She returned to San Francisco on 19 Oct 55. From March to August 1856 she cruised on the Pacific coast for the suppression of Indian disturbances in Washington Territory. After that she was in ordinary at the Mare Island Navy Yard until 1865 when she was sold.

JOHN HANCOCK (I), despite her small size and designed purposes, was hardly a stay-at-home. Soon after launching on 26 Oct 50 she was manned temporarily and dispatched to aid in quelling some "Negro riots" at New Bedford, Mass. In 1851 she served as a practice ship for midshipmen at the U.S. Naval Academy, and later that year she was given a brass six-pounder on wheels and sent on a cruise to the West Indies to assist in the suppression of filibustering by some Americans in the island of Cuba. Returning home in October 1851, the stormy weather having proved too dangerous for her, she was placed in ordinary at the Boston Navy Yard where she was broken up in 1852 to provide materials for the new surveying ship. She measured 230 tons, 113' pp x 22' x 8', and had a brig rig and a crew of 20 men.

The Ringgold-Rodgers Surveying Expedition consisted of four ships besides JOHN HANCOCK: the sloop of war VINCENNES, the brig PORPOSE, the store ship JOHN P. KENNEDY (q.v.) and the 95-ton schooner FENIMORE COOPER. The latter was the New York pilot boat SKIDDY until she was purchased by the Navy in January 1853 for the expedition. Her specifications and origins are unknown and no illustrations of this small schooner have been located. Commissioned on 21 March 1853, she took an active role in the expedition, charting archipelagos and passages in the East Indies and South China Sea and later searching the Aleutians for a missing whaling ship. After carrying supplies between the Mare Island Navy Yard and San Francisco for three years she began another surveying voyage on 26 September 1858, among other things claiming French Frigate Shoals for the United States on 4 January 1859. This voyage and her Navy career ended when when she grounded in a typhoon near Yokohama on 23 August 1859 and was abandoned as beyond repair.

Ship Notes:
AG Name Notes
-- JOHN HANCOCK Sold at auction at Mare Island 17 Aug 65 for $16,750.

Page Notes:
AG        1853
Compiled:        19 Jun 2013
© Stephen S. Roberts, 2002-2013